Introducing: Dream State Collective
education, conversation & integration of psilocybin in DC and beyond
It’s been a month since I unloaded some of my fears about the fate of American democracy and bringing a child into this world onto you. Thank you to everyone who reached out with words of support and kindness while I was *going through it.* Well… we’re still going through it over here, but I actually don’t feel like talking about depressing things today; I feel like talking about tools to help cope with depressing things. That’s right, folks. Today I’m talking about psilocybin aka magic mushrooms aka shroooooooms.
Are you getting shivers just thinking about shrooms? Rolling your eyes? Experiencing a ping of nostalgia for that one time in college when…. Feeling as though “yeah, this is definitely not for me. hard pass.” ? Well before you decide that you know everything there is to know about anything, just hear me out.
These aren’t your grandmother’s magic mushrooms
Psilocybin (the active compound in psilocybe mushrooms aka magic mushrooms) has been shown by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to create a state of hyperconnectivity between brain networks, foster an increase in neurogenesis (the creation of brain cells), and drastically alter thought pathways.
Current promising research on the potential for psilocybin to treat mental health conditions such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, drug dependencies, and to assist individuals facing life-threatening diseases is part of the groundswell of renewed interest being hailed a “psychedelic renaissance.”
Historically, however, most of the funded research and development of plant-based science has excluded BIPOC individuals, despite the fact that a vast proportion of plant medicines originated within these communities. As the current cultural moment brings global awareness to the issues of police brutality, systemic racism and race-based trauma, there is a vital need to find ways to promote equity and access for BIPOC individuals to participate in the plant medicine movement.
Over the past few years, I have become both personally and professionally interested in the therapeutic application and potentials of psilocybin within the mental health field. I have about a million more things to say about this, but for now, I want to introduce you to a new project I am working on: Dream State Collective.
Earlier this year, I received a grant from Plant Medicine Coalition — a nonprofit organization based in D.C. that supports plant medicine research and education. Under this program, D.C. residents and organizations were encouraged to apply for funding for a variety of educational and community building activities related to psychedelic plant medicines.
With the recent passage of Initiative 81 in DC, this is a pivotal moment in time for psilocybin and other plant medicines in our nation’s capital. And yet, there remains a void in public discourse surrounding the safe use and integration of plant medicines for DC residents.
Dream State Collective is a digital and in-person space to promote a philosophy of plant medicine integration that includes: the preparation for a psilocybin experience, as well as conversations, and education about whether to engage in an experience. And for some who have had a difficulty journey, integration may also include making meaning of that experience and regaining a sense of mental wellness. Another element of integration is integrating the experience into the larger community. Through shared community resources, speaking events, virtual and in-person integration circles, the goal is for collective healing to become a tenant of the overall experience. And as a way to further support the DC community, this project will eventually offer curated integration packages that consist of legal artisanal goods from local DC makers to aid users in their psilocybin experiences.
I know that for some people, the idea of even considering using magic mushrooms is terrifying. I also understand that my opinions are pretty unconventional in today’s traditional medical world. However, I think these conversations are so important to continue having, as we try to find alternative, sustainable ways to cope with the many stressors we’re presented with on the reg.
I want to be clear that I’m not advocating for mushrooms to complete replace traditional therapeutic practices, such as talk therapy. However, I do believe that for many people (myself included) talking to a therapist for years on end just to come to one revelation in year 5 of therapy is not cutting it. What is so magical about mushrooms, specifically, is the fact that many people can have life-altering healing experiences with these plants after a single use.
In my dream world, mushroom experiences would be paired with easily accessible, affordable talk therapy, as a way to integrate one’s experience into their daily life. However, the system is not set up to be that kind to those who are struggling most. Just finding a therapist can be an extremely daunting, nearly impossible task (more on this later) and even if you do find a therapist you can afford and vibe with, most therapists are not trained to incorporate one’s psychedelic use into the therapeutic practice. This void in the therapeutic model is a huge reason why I wanted to create the Dream State Collective. Eventually, I hope to offer affordable, accessible consultation services to people who are considering embarking on a mushroom journey, as well as trainings specifically for therapists to support their client’s psychedelic experiences.
And by the way… ingesting plant medicines, specifically mushrooms, for therapeutic purposes is by no means a new concept. It has been repeatedly documented that tribal societies across the globe revere psychedelic mushrooms and have used them in spiritual and therapeutic contexts for millennia. And it wasn’t just tribal peoples who engaged in the use of psychedelic mushrooms: other civilizations such as the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all left evidence suggesting that they too had fondness for fungi as a tool for healing and deep connection.
Does that mean that magic mushrooms are for everyone? Of course not! There are plenty of factors that go into one’s personal experiences with these medicines, and whether they are right for someone to ingest or not. But that’s the case with all medicines! In the same way that a doctor weighs the pros and cons of an anti-depressant before prescribing it, we should also be discussing the pros and cons of taking mushrooms, rather than just writing off the entire plant as being bad news and something to negatively judge.
Because here’s the truth, Ruth: people are going to continue to find and use psychedelic mushrooms, whether they are fully legalized or not. Therefore, I am advocating for us having open, non-judgmental conversations about (1) whether to engage in an experience and (2) how to maintain safety and wellbeing if engaging with mushrooms.
There’s so much more I want to say, but I also recognize this may feel like a lot of information to take in at one time. So let’s pause there. I sincerely hope you’ll consider supporting Dream State Collective in any way that feels right for you, and that you look at mushrooms with a little less fear and a lot more curiosity.
And if you’re in DC this weekend, please join me this Saturday (12/4) from 12-2 pm at Disco Mary for a free community gathering centered around the future healing potential of plant medicines, specifically psilocybin, in DC. I’ll be sharing more about my visions behind Dream State Collective, and want to connect with those who also feel there is an abundance of magic to be made with these plants. Please see info below and RSVP here.