Sacred earth medicines like psilocybin and ayahuasca, contain a regenerative, mind-expanding nature. They have been cultivated for millennia, revered in their ability to not only alter our consciousness but change our minds. The mystical experiences produced by psychedelics have the ability to create long-lasting changes in our perception not only of the external world but of ourselves. Traditionally, gratitude has been a part of the practice in working with mind-altering plants and its development is seen throughout the psychedelic diaspora.
What is Gratitude
Gratitude can present itself in many forms– giving thanks for receiving, appreciating aspects of life, or becoming aware of the gifts and kindness. Though gratitude is much more than a way of thinking, it’s a way of experiencing. As stated in Gratitude and the Science of Positive Psychology, gratitude is “an attitude toward the giver, and an attitude towards the gift, a determination to use it well, to employ it imaginatively and inventively in accordance with the giver’s intention.” It can be both a feeling and a natural trait. It involves first becoming aware that one has received something positive and then recognizing an external source for that outcome. With psychedelics, these mind-expanding experiences may change how we see and experience our day-to-day lives and how we recognize the positive, further cultivating a sense of gratitude.
The Medicine Way
Psychedelics have created mystical experiences that have lasting beneficial changes in personality, behaviors, values, and attitudes. One study involving psilocybin reported positive, long-term changes in users’ relationship to nature. Traditionally, the connection between these medicines and reverence and gratitude for these plants intertwine. Some plant extracts such as tobacco, coffee, and cannabis extracts are sacraments in indigenous cultures. During the ceremony, shamans may honor and communicate directly with the plant. The Ayahuascaros, for example, channel healing chants or songs called incaros, which communicate directly with the spirits of the plants and animals of the jungle. Mind-altering plants are usually a part of an integrated complex of interrelationships between nature and consciousness. With sacred earth medicines held in high regard during ceremonial and traditional use, gratitude is a practice of experiencing the medicine.
Psilocybin, Ayahuasca, & Iboga
Plant Medicines like psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and iboga have gained substantial interest in the west for their ability to produce quantum change. Quantum changes are experiences that suggest spontaneous and profoundly meaningful experiences that often result in personal growth. These changes can impact a wide range of emotions, moods, cognitions, and behaviors. With books like “How To Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan, the curiosity of the effects of psychedelics on personal transformation, mind expansion, and human potential has become mainstream. Many researchers are now studying the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics and their ability to influence personal growth.
Studies on psilocybin have demonstrated just how literal psychedelic effects are on mind-expansion in discovering how psilocybin rewires the brain. Psilocybin works in the same area of the brain studies have shown cultivates gratitude. The medial prefrontal cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex are connected to experiencing and expressing gratitude. When gratitude is expressed, lasting changes in the prefrontal cortex improve sensitivity to future feelings of appreciation. Psilocybin works by activating serotonin receptors, most often in the prefrontal cortex.
Studies conducted on the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression show changes in that region of the brain. This region is the part of the brain that affects mood, cognition, and perception. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that psilocybin leads to mystical experiences that can create long-term psychological benefits when used cooperatively with meditation. The study also noted positive changes in interpersonal closeness, cultivating gratitude, life purpose, forgiveness, and attitudes toward death and coping.
In recent years, the use of ayahuasca for enlightenment and spiritual growth among Westerners has grown. Some ceremony participants report spiritual experiences that also lead to long-term, positive perspective shifts. The experience can produce a profound sense of self-awareness and change of view regarding personal issues and beliefs. Equally, iboga, a hallucinogenic African shrub, has been used traditionally in ceremonial and spiritual contexts to support the participants’ journey towards deeper awareness and gratitude. Also known for its use in treating addictions, Iboga users have reported powerful insights and a newfound understanding of personal matters, feeling a greater connection to the world around them. With this, these generous entheogens can be a powerful tool for personal transformation.
Simply put, psychedelic integration is the digestion process of a transcendental journey. It’s the synthesis of the mind and body after experiencing a non-ordinary state of consciousness. This process of exploring and sharing challenges and insights often resources gratitude in making meaning post-journey. During this process, some clients report feelings of gratitude toward their psychedelic experience and towards themselves. Many have displayed changes in their perspective, feelings of connectedness, and deeper understanding and meaning of life.
A study published in 2020 explored the role gratitude plays in the integration of self-transcendent experiences or STE’s. These are experiences that go beyond those of everyday life. This study found that the participants with a gratitude practice or who were consciously cultivating gratitude further supported the integration of their STEs. Not only can these medicines aid in acquiring a sense of gratitude, but the appreciation generated during mind-expanding experiences may also help support the embodiment, integration, and understanding of an initial journey. Gratitude widens the perceptual field and helps us build an objective view of the opportunities within it. Harnessing these sacred medicines’ capacity to generate quantum change could be a catalyst for cultivating long-lasting gratitude.
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