Sacred Reciprocity, WOOP & The El Puente Foundation - An Interview with Amánda Efthimiou
In this new interview for Amplify, we invited Amánda Efthimiou to join us in a conversation about sacred reciprocity, right relationship in the psychedelic space, and our new partnership with the El Puente Foundation as a means to incorporate sacred reciprocity in our platform and mission.
Amánda’s work weaves mental health, psychedelic science, and sacred traditions. She is a Director of El Puente, a non-profit foundation that implements new reciprocal models of intercultural convergence through projects supporting Indigenous communities. Amanda founded Integra, which designs integration programs for companies, retreat centers, and facilitators that work with altered-state experiences. She received her MSc in Neuroscience & Psychology from King’s College, London focusing on integrating plant-based therapies with psychotherapy in mental health treatment.
Check out the full interview below:
WOOP: Hi Amánda, thanks for joining us in this conversation. Could you please share a bit about yourself and your work in the psychedelic field with our readers?
Amánda: I’m a mental health and psychedelic wellness advocate, where I explore the intersection of psychedelic science, integration, sacred activism, and philanthropy. Throughout my career, I’ve bridged health, art, and science with technology and community. I moved into this field because I experienced firsthand the transformation and healing that can happen when exploring altered states of consciousness.
What’s alive in me now is this powerful meeting of industry and impact within the psychedelics sector. The link between purpose and profit is front and center of my work at El Puente Foundation, which offers reciprocal models of intercultural convergence through the support of Indigenous communities.
After receiving my MSc in Neuroscience from King’s College, London with a focus on the effects of integrative therapies using psilocybin with psychotherapy, I entered the field professionally when I joined Woven Science, which invests in and incubates companies in psychedelic wellness. I gained a bird’s eye view of the industry, which included the infrastructure needed to provide safe and accessible mental health care using psychedelic medicines.
I soon noticed a gap in structuring and facilitating psychedelic integration, so I founded Integra, which works with organizations, retreat centers, and facilitators in designing integration journeys that help people find meaning and healing from their experiences with altered states of consciousness. Overall my mission within the psychedelics field is to help people reconnect to themselves, to others, and to their environment with integrity and purpose.
WOOP: What is sacred reciprocity?
Amánda: In my perspective, sacred reciprocity is rooted in our relational responsibility to all the life forces that sustain us on this planet. It’s an acknowledgment of the inherent interconnectedness of all living beings with the natural world. It means embodying the values of resilience, trust-building, and right relationship while promoting the long-term sustainability of our internal and external environments.
The word “reciprocity” in psychedelics is complex and loaded with contradiction. Some might use this term to describe a fair exchange of giving back for attaining something of equal value. For many, reciprocity might imply that the act of giving back reduces discounts or excuses any impact of what’s been taken away, oftentimes without permission, by force, or originating in a colonizer identity that is only now being confronted and rejected by the public. The psychedelics sector needs to first acknowledge that they’ve taken away what wasn’t theirs in the first place, and that reparations need to be made before discussing any kind of mutual models of exchange.
WOOP: What does it mean to respect the knowledge that is not from your lineage and that you might not understand?
Amánda: Often what I explore with people who find themselves potentially replicating the rites and rituals of other cultures, especially after experiencing plant medicines in a ceremonial context, is this question of one’s own unique ancestry. Regardless of where we’re from, we all share this truth that we have ancestors and we are the ancestors of future generations. In this way we share a responsibility, regardless of who we are or where we come from, to defend our position within this lineage and ensure we’re providing a safe and healthy place for the people who will come after us.
With sacred plant medicines, we may find ourselves immersed in a context that is entirely new to us. How we engage with such experiences requires deep reverence and respect, as we may humbly consider it a privilege to be invited to witness and participate in the sacred traditions of another culture. Our lived experience does not imply that we have the right to replicate such rituals for ourselves, not without prior consultation or formal initiation. We all come from a lineage, and the invitation is in learning how to first honor our own ancestral traditions and form our own unique relationship with the practice of ritual and ceremony.
WOOP: Why are so few companies placing the importance of sacred reciprocity, or the concept of mutually giving back in gratitude to those whom we have taken so much from, at the forefront of their initiatives?
Amánda: The first step here is raising awareness of the implications of participation in the development of an industry that is being driven by the meeting of the opposing forces of big pharma with the ancestral use of these medicines more often derived from substances found in nature. There’s no easy solution. It requires a total mindset shift about marrying purpose with profit without engaging in extractive and destructive practices.
The positive news is that more organizations are becoming aware of this responsibility and are making a slow, steady, and meaningful impact, which is why the work of El Puente Foundation and its peers in the space – such as the Indigenous Medicine Conservation (IMC) Fund and Chacruna Institute – is so critical. But the work doesn’t stop with non-profit organizations: more for-profit companies within the psychedelics sector need to step up and invest time and resources into fueling the reciprocal models being explored within the ecosystem.
WOOP: Can you tell us a bit more about El Puente and how the non-profit engage with indigenous communities?
Amánda: El Puente Foundation is a nonprofit that supports indigenous communities in their relationship with regenerative projects and enterprises focused on the use of their traditional medicines. Our mission is to facilitate access and benefit-sharing with Indigenous people around the world and to channel fair grants and investments into meaningful projects. El Puente, which means "the bridge" in Spanish, connects Indigenous communities with organizations by creating participatory processes and projects that follow our pillars of Sovereignty, Education, Regeneration, and Reciprocity.
When we formed, reciprocity wasn’t front of mind for most researchers and entrepreneurs exploring teacher plants and related medicines. Even for those engaged with indigenous voices, it was about beneficiaries and donations rather than sovereignty and mutual relationships. It is an ongoing intercultural process to understand what decolonization actually means, to work with respect and care by nurturing our interconnections, not only with the communities and ecosystems empowered this way but also with other organizations involved, as well as deeply ourselves.
WOOP: In what ways WOOP and El Puente will be collaborating to give back to indigenous communities and bring more awareness to these topics?
Amánda: El Puente also serves as a vehicle for the psychedelics sector which is aligned with our mission to develop new reciprocal models of intercultural convergence through projects supporting Indigenous communities. We’re honored that WOOP has committed to dedicating its reciprocity funds towards El Puente. With aligned partners like WOOP, we can bring more awareness to the public about the tremendous opportunities for creating self-sustainability and resiliency among indigenous communities that steward sacred plant medicines.
As a woman working in the psychedelics ecosystem, I’m also thrilled to share resources and ideas on the WOOP platform about how as women we can contribute to the critically important discussion of using psychedelics ethically and responsibly.
WOOP: How do you believe the psychedelic movement at large can engage in meaningful reciprocity?
Amánda: We can start with the simple yet often neglected practice of listening. Listening first to the groups of people from whom the psychedelic movement has engaged in extractive behavior. It takes a concerted effort to decolonize our patterns, to shift away from this limited perspective of “giving back” as the quick-fix solution, and to instead focus on supporting and advocating for both simple on-the-ground efforts and comprehensive programs that aim to do the least harm possible.
We can all take part in this movement, even if we’re not actively engaging with companies and NGOs that work with Indigenous communities, with reforestation projects, or with ecosystem regeneration. At an individual level, we can commit to spreading the word and donating directly to the efforts of nonprofit organizations like El Puente that are working on the ground respectfully and that aim to comply with the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) process as recognized by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
People can also contribute to the philanthropic arm of community organizations like WOOP, which then distributes those resources to vetted organizations. And at a very fundamental level, we can start by being impeccable with our word - with how and what we say when we speak about our engagement with traditional ceremonies held by Indigenous people. We can be more intentional with our experience by asking more questions to facilitators about the medicine’s origin and preparation while being more conscious about how and where we choose to participate with such medicines.
If you wish to further connect with Amánda, feel free to reach out to her via Linkedin or check out her website. If you want to learn more about the El Puente Foundation and other ways to support its mission, check out its website or donate here.
Women on Psychedelics (WOOP) is now a partner of the El Puente Foundation. Our objective with this partnership is to raise more awareness of sacred reciprocity, and indigenous communities, and ecosystem support.