The Fourth Step in Safe and Responsible use is Application.
Once the educational material and concepts have been made available and the individual has chosen their path to preparation, among the many different methods and facilitators available, the individual can then make an informed choice about the type of entheogen they believe is best for them, and the most effective way for them to approach it. For an experienced person, it might be finding a safe and supportive place in nature, setting up a place to rest as well as clear boundaries for exploration of the area, having a supportive and trusted sitter, and all your basic needs met. For a person new to this work or working with a new entheogen, it might look like partaking in a ceremony with an experienced facilitator who has been recommended by a trusted community member and with whom you’ve had conversations and feel like it would be a supportive environment for you. It also might include working with the support of a trusted mental health professional or an experienced guide and/or having community support around the preparation and integration process. Recognizing that for entheogenic plants and fungi to provide the healing experiences so needed by humanity, one cannot separate the plant from the approach taken. We encourage approaching all entheogenic experiences with care, reverence, and intention.
While different entheogens generally require different applications (for example, ayahuasca is almost always taken with a trained practitioner or in a ceremonial context while psilocybin mushrooms are commonly taken more informally with friends in nature), adhering to basic guidelines can support the experience, in particular attention to a safe set and setting. A safe set means that an individual took important steps to prepare their mindset for the experience, is informed about what the experience will entail, and feels ready to have the experience. A safe setting refers to the facilitation and environment and means that an individual will feel safe, supported, and comfortable during the experience. Each setting will be informed by the needs and preferences of the individual and/or facilitator, but might include setting up an altar with meaningful items, playing music or having instruments available, preparing the general ambiance of the space, having a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and having a trusting relationship with any other people present.
Equally important, and an important lesson learned from the process of decriminalizing cannabis, is the dosage. It is advised to start with small doses to enable each individual to ease their way into the experience and become familiar with the experience before going into high dose experiences.
It is important to say a word here about “bad trips”, better described as “challenging trips”. While attention to set, setting, and dosage reduces their likelihood, challenging trips are possible, and if you work with entheogens regularly, even probable. In the right context, they are welcomed, and ultimately understood as profoundly beneficial and deeply transformative. These challenging experiences are most often caused by an individual coming face-to-face with a personal issue that needs to be confronted to enable further personal growth. This may be unreconciled conflict with a loved one, feelings of guilt, a deep relationship with fear, anxiety, or trauma that must be untangled, feelings of personal failure or lack of self-worth, and so forth. From the perspective of personal growth, these challenging experiences bring psychological material to the surface for healing and integration and are a positive part of the healing process. This process may be difficult, however, and one must be prepared to address challenging reflections and feelings that may emerge. This is where the process of integration is critical and as much a part of the healing process as the actual entheogenic experience.