The Importance of Integration Circles
Last week I wrote to you about community. I used the word “alchemical” to describe the transformational potential within a community, because community has the capacity to heal and support as well as wound and dis-integrate.
Community is a vital part of our spiritual emergence and integration process, individually and collectively. To quote physician Dean Ornish,
“Anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering, while that which promotes a sense of love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.”
Spiritual emergence, a term coined by psychedelic research pioneer Dr. Stan Grof, describes how expansive and transpersonal experiences that can defy logic and explanation can also act as a catalyst towards embracing our full capacity and purpose in life.
When I was learning about spiritual emergence, I was struck by something: the way your experiences are processed, and the impact they have on your life is dependent on the support you receive with the experience. Or the lack of support you receive.
It is so depressing to think of the many people who have shared their experiences with therapists, doctors, family and friends only to be pathalogized, misunderstood, medicated and even hospitalized. This is what I mean by dis-integrating. I can’t imagine trying to understand a cosmic event that I experienced and being traumatized from asking for help.
Supporting each other through integration circles is vital as more people look to psychedelics and sacred plant medicines for healing and growth.
Recently on The Vital Point Podcast I shared some of my own transpersonal experiences and it was scary AF. Way more scary and vulnerable than I thought.
I shared my experiences with the intention that the listener could feel comfortable in opening up to a supportive community. To let them know that there are people that will listen and hold space for these vulnerable shares so that they can experience an emergence, not an emergency.
Normalizing transpersonal experiences and creating safe spaces to support one another is vital if we are to have a true psychedelic renaissance.
Being involved with integration groups and having supportive friends and therapists (and reading Dr. Grof’s work) have demonstrated that my experiences are not uncommon and that there’s nothing wrong with me.
By sharing my own experiences and being seen I can continue to integrate them into my life rather than hiding them or shaming myself, not to mention writing them off as some sort of psychosis or delirium. My gratitude to Dr. Katrina Michelle for encouraging me to share and holding space during the podcast episode as well as the work that she’s doing to support her clients.
In April of 2022 I was privileged to travel to Florida to help co-facilitate Psilohealth's first Wellness Approachment and offer breathwork, meditation and a guided mindful ice-bath experience for the participants. That event was so nourishing!
Even though I was "working" as a facilitator I received so much from the experience. I wasn’t working with medicine, but I did go through a transpersonal experience that helped me access some deep insights and supported my growth in a profound way.
One of the things that I appreciate about both of them is their belief in the importance and power of community in a holistic and integrative approach to psychedelics. They both talked about this (separately) on The Vital Point Podcast with me last year. And it's not just talk - they are both embodying their values and building community through their organizations.
I have been fortunate to support them in my own way, hosting integration circles through both platforms:
- Monthly free Breathwork and integration with Psilohealth
- On-demand integration circles with Empathic.Health
I’ll close with a quote that stuck with me as I learned about the transpersonal: In his book Psychology of the Future, Dr. Grof quotes Joseph Campbell
“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight”.
I’ll see you in the pool.
About the Author
Jonathan's interest in the transformative power of the breath is driven by his own healing journey. After practicing meditation and mindfulness in the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist traditions for almost 20 years, he rediscovered breathwork during a dark night of the soul and was amazed at the impact the practice had on his life.
After exploring several types of breathwork and working to create his own system, he found Neurodynamic Breathwork and completed an extensive facilitator-training program that was equal parts breathwork, deep personal development, and training in how to hold space for expanded states of awareness and support others through authentic presence.
This training, combined with lessons learned integrating his own extensive experiences with plant medicine helped Jonathan launch his brand “Blue Magic Alchemy ” that provides 1:1 integration and transformation coaching, a podcast, breathwork and meditation circles, and information to support grounded exploration into altered states of consciousness.