The Psychedelic movement is at an important juncture. Some of the medicines that are at the forefront of the psychedelic for healing revival are chemical (ie-Ketamine, MDMA, LSD) but many are botanical or fungal and are inseparable from their cultural contexts. Present day and historical indigenous cultures have been the stewards of the potent transformational medicines for thousands of years, in some cases much longer. Many people are just waking up to the potential for these medicines and it has thus far, with some exceptions, been a largely extractive and non-reciprocal relationship with these cultures, let alone the earth that sustains them. This posture is harmful and reparations are needed in these instances. As the psychedelic field begins to swell with organizations and companies scaling and systematizing the use of these medicines, reciprocity needs to be scaled and systemized, too.
At The Center for Consciousness Medicine (CCM), we recognize that we are benefiting from Indigenous wisdom that has been generously shared with us by peoples who have suffered greatly at the hands of colonialist, imperialist systems from which we currently benefit. We strive to increase awareness of harm that has been done to the communities we consider our lineage holders by extractive, exploitative, and colonial stances and actions. We also acknowledge that we have blindspots and we take seriously uncovering these hidden biases in our curriculum, methods, research, organization, and interpersonal dynamics. This is a continuous practice for our leadership and staff while we are humbly learning, willing to grow, and committed to acting in alignment with our values.
CCM traces its roots as an organization to a long lineage of interwoven Indigenous healers and psychotherapists. Maria Sabina Estrada is the root lineage holder. Regina Cerrera Carvo, Julia Julieta Casimiro Estrada, Eugenia Pineda Casimiro form one thread. Dr Salvador Roquet and Pablo Sanchez form another. Ralph Metzer from the Western Psychotherapy lineage forms a third strand. It is important to name lineage holders in the context of reciprocity as we do not lay claim to this body of knowledge nor the medicines associated with them. These are our teachers, healers and elders and we stand in gratitude for the privilege of being able to integrate their wisdom with modern therapeutic techniques.
As Francoise outlines in her book Consciousness Medicine, our lineage begins with her training with Julieta Casimiro Estrada and Pablo Sanchez, whom her partner Aharon was studying and working with. She’s spent the past 36 years in relationship with the mushrooms, and the last 22 years in relationship with this lineage. From the beginning, there was awareness that lineage holder, Maria Sabina, had suffered great transgressions, specifically, in having her identity and work exposed to the world without consent. She suffered, her family suffered, her village suffered. Through open dialog, deep friendship and careful, incremental growth, we have been careful not only to ensure that no further damage is done, but that our relationship with our Mazatec teachers, healers and elders is reciprocal. As we embark on building a scalable business (CCM) so that we might share this work with a larger community, as was the wish of the women elders of this lineage, it is more important than ever to remain thoughtful, respectful and honoring of them.
As we strive to achieve and maintain reciprocity, we are aware that we are building our organization in a capitalist, imperialist and classist system that does not honor the reality of interconnection. We urge our students, employees and supporters to reflect on Maria Sabina’s story of exploitation, ask what we might learn from it, especially as psychedelic healing rises in global popularity. As increasing numbers of people awaken to the potential of these medicines it is our further intention to ensure that the exploitative and extractive behaviors of the past are not repeated. It is by design, that reciprocity is the fulcrum on which CCM pivots. At CCM, we are committed to humbling ourselves continually before the plants and the cultures that hold these medicines sacred. We approach this work in the spirit of humility and reverence, as perennial students, dedicated to course correcting when necessary, knowing we will make mistakes while remaining devotional to the work of radically shifting consciousness for the benefit of all beings, sentient and non-sentient.
Reciprocity with the medicine looks like:
It is the intention to scale CCM according to the ideals of balance. Working with the Mazatec peoples has shown us that balance, the key to well-being, is maintained via reciprocity, both human and non-human. By engaging with consciousness expanding plants, fungi and chemical compounds within the therapeutic container, we make ourselves receptive to the messages of interconnection that they offer. When we become aware of our interconnection, we awaken to our natural proclivity to support regenerative and restorative practices with these plants, with ourselves, with each other and with the earth. For this reason, we place a lot of emphasis on preparation, integration and well trained guides. We are passionate about thorough metabolising of the messages these medicines have to offer so that we come away with more than having had an experience. It is our intention and prayer that those who engage the CCM method of psychedelic-assisted therapy, come away with the inner knowing and outer support to be in right relationship with all that is. The therapeutic container serves as a surrogate for the community support inherent in traditional cultures. This ensures the medicines, and the people who use them, will be handled with care and respect.
Reciprocity with Mazatec looks like:
For the last 22 years our co-founders have engaged in an ongoing relationship with a family from the Mazatec lineage. We’ve asked for, and been given, consent to tailor some of the wisdom and teachings of the Mazatec into a culturally appropriate framework for our treatment and training. We continue to share the messages our teachers have wished to disseminate to our students and clients. As we embark on growing and sharing CCM, we’re in the process of establishing a collaborative effort with the locals of Huatla de Jimenez, the Mazatec cultural center. The Mazatec individuals we are in relationship with determine and articulate, in their own voice, what will most support their communities. A percentage of CCM revenue will be reserved for this initiative and we encourage others working with and benefiting from psychedelics and psilocybin, biological or synthetic, to participate.
Going to Mexico to learn from our Mazatec teachers and the medicines they use, has been, and will continue to be, a necessary constant for us as we expand our organization to meet the growing need for healing and transformation. Planned visits to Mexico are done within the context of an invitation and an ongoing intergenerational friendship bond. We do not support or condone the exploitation of the Mazatec peoples or the place they call home.
Reciprocity in action at CCM looks like:
Embedding cultural sensitivity and lineage teachings into the curriculum and staff training at The Center for Consciousness Medicine, including obtaining 501c3 status. Holding these medicines and expanded states of consciousness within the therapeutic container and maintaining rigorous training standards for students is critically important. This is perhaps the greatest way to pay homage to the lineage. Further, we ensure that CCM reaches beyond existing systems of oppression by making training and treatment accessible to all who are interested. CCM’s income-based, sliding scale tuition philosophy ensures no one is turned away on the basis of income. We have a 6-member POC led Diversity and Equity Council where we attune for guidance on best practices for self governance, dissemination and accessibility of this work.
We believe that the Consciousness Medicine approach can be a catalyst for global healing. The Center for Consciousness Medicine seeks to provide an unparalleled standard of care as well as a nexus of industry research to support the global spread of properly used psychedelic-assisted therapy.
Fostering reciprocity in a system that is designed for exploitation will take constant humility, transparency, mindfulness and input/feedback from the community. We will hold open houses and online events around these topics. You can visit our website for events as they begin to happen centerforcom.com or find links on our social media page Center for Consciousness Medicine on Instagram. We value your feedback as we stretch, learn and grow.