Updated: Aug 31
It's been a few years since I decided to consciously change my views on death. I read articles and books on spirituality, and I often seek to experience the death of my own ego through extraordinary states of consciousness. Additionally, for the past year of my life, part of my work has consisted of helping clients navigate through grief.
Death is our most repressed consciousness, it inheres our condition as the primordial fear. But no matter how much we try to steer clear of the dialogue, death is one thing that binds us all. In my 30 years of life, I've experienced death and grief more often than most people my age should. The death of close ones seemed to be a repeating pattern in my life.
Even though I consider myself to have good emotional intelligence and all the tools needed to navigate these waters by now, I guess some waves will always hit you hard, no matter how good of a swimmer you might think you are.
Despite my views on death having changed and my full acceptance of it as a natural cycle of life, my emotional body still tells me otherwise. I still feel the abandonment that follows. That feeling of being left behind and alone. So it was with the intention of closing part of that wound that I joined a sacred space looking for healing. The healing of what is, perhaps, the deepest core wound that I have.
And that sacred space, led and held by women, gave me much more than I anticipated.
It's been ages since I started what feels like a never-ending journey toward healing my abandonment wounds, but it was only a few months ago that I began examining the ways I have abandoned myself.
As I drank the psilocybin tea in the first ceremony I was filled with discomfort and awareness of the barriers I have built against women being too close to me. In less than an hour in ceremony, I observed how I could easily hold space for others in their vulnerability but how difficult it was for me to allow myself the trust to be vulnerable in front of them.
As the psilocybin traveled through my body, a realization occurred to me: because I had never fully perceived safety and trust from my own mothers, it was very difficult for me to be open to receiving that from any other woman. Part of me was longing for sisterhood and soul connection, while another part was still aching and building walls.
During the next four hours of that journey, I found myself grieving the mothers I never had. Reliving the pain I have felt many times before and the weight of the emotional backpack I've been carrying for as long as I can remember. Cycles of blame, guilt, and shame. Feelings of unworthiness, abandonment, and not being enough.
When the ceremony ended that evening, I was resistant to sharing and tempted to hide away in my room. I felt ashamed for not being able to show up in the way I wanted to. I also felt a stomach ache that would last for the next four days, bringing me even more discomfort. But somehow, unbeknownst to me, psilocybin magic was already bringing healing into my body, and on the next day, I felt more open to connecting than I had on the days before.
What makes a group retreat experience so special is not only what unfolds during the plant medicine ceremonies but also all the heart-opening moments that happen in between. A lot of the healing occurs during the sharings and other workshop activities with people’s willingness to be open and vulnerable with one another. We let ourselves be seen and heard. We hold the space for the other in their rock bottom and their full splendor. And we see how incredible they are before they can even see that in themselves.
On the last day, when I sat for the final ceremony - the bridging of both worlds - I felt I was surrounded by all these powerful women looking gorgeous in their most beautiful dresses. Empowered by them, I felt ready to take in whatever difficult emotion that journey could bring and whatever ache in my stomach I’d still have to feel.
After drinking the tea, nausea and then the pain started to grow. But this time, psilocybin spoke to me and said: You know this pain already; you have been carrying it with you your entire life. How about we put it aside, just for a little while?
Wait, I can put it aside?
The pain in my stomach started to dissipate as I was filled with a sense of joy and lightness. I felt a warm sensation in my belly. As I opened my eyes, the sunlight was entering the ceremony room through a small window in the ceiling, and it was directly touching my belly. At that moment, I felt held by the sun and the natural world, and my whole journey started to transform into an appreciation for my life, its hardships, and its beautiful serendipities. Appreciation for those who shaped me into the woman I am today and the woman I am still to become.
As the ceremony continued, there was a special moment when the shamana sat in front of me. I gazed deeply into her eyes, recognizing someone familiar. And just like that, it was no longer her eyes I was looking into but my own grandmother's. She then leaned toward me in silence to hug me, and my whole body felt that it was the hug I wasn’t able to give my grandma when I saw her for the last time in the hospital.
My grandmother had passed away a month prior to this retreat. As I burst into tears, I felt her warmth engulf me. And at that moment, I felt more connected to her than I ever did when she was alive.
Grief, like a psychedelic journey, isn’t something we get over. It’s something we go through. We swim in the waves. We let ourselves be moved by it, allowing it to crack us open until we become soft and malleable in its hands. When it releases its hold on us, we find ourselves changed and transformed. Becoming anew. Teaching us, day by day, to turn grief into a living symbol of our love.
Because of years of feeling hurt, my vision was blurred, and the lenses through which I saw my grandmother were also filled with pain. For a long time, I could only see her shadows, her darkness, her weaknesses, and her sorrows. And how much those reminded me of my own. But with the magic of psilocybin, for the first time since I was a child, I could again see and feel her light. A light that hasn't left me since.
Our world is a living spiritual being. The ancient philosophers and alchemists recognized this, referring to the spiritual nature of the Earth as the anima mundi, or "Soul of the World." They saw the world's soul as a pure ethereal spirit that pervades all of nature, the divine energy that embraces and energizes all life in the universe.
The “Soul of the World,” I think to myself while I watch purple and orange colors fill the sunset sky at the end of the day. Today was one of those days I truly missed being able to talk to her. But as I looked into the sky and felt the last rays of sunlight, a warm feeling ran through my body. A gentle reminder that we are all a part of that same soul. A gentle reminder that she was there with me all along.
As she always will be.
Note from the author: Being in a woman-only container was an essential piece for this chapter of my healing journey, and I'm very grateful for how timely it was to take part in the magical container created by Awaken the Medicine Within. If you would like to know more about their retreats, check out more information here. About the author: Jessika Lagarde is an experienced plant medicine facilitator, integration coach, educator, and Women On Psychedelics Co-founder. Jessika provides one-on-one coaching, sessions, and group ceremonies for women going through life transitions, such as grief, career change, relationship break-ups, motherhood, or moving countries. Check out her website and offers here.