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Sitting Safe: Navigating the Evolution of NeoShamanism

Medicine Pacing


The over-consumption behaviors rampant in American culture have leaked into the pursuit of psychedelic and entheogenic medicines. There are no magic bullets or shortcuts to healing or personal evolution through medicine work. A metaphor might be bleach, at small amounts they clean and whiten, and at high amounts they burn and dissolve. They are a tool for the inner purification process and must be used with care. Pacing yourself and giving yourself time to integrate each experience is essential in order to receive the fruits from this work. Rushing from one experience on to the next will not only shortchange the benefits, but can create internal imbalances that place unnecessary stress on the body and overwhelm the nervous system.

Find your minimum effective dose for medicine work. Consider keeping a medicine calendar. The writers of Stealing Fire suggest to have different kinds of experiences that you space out, like daily practices, monthly practices, quarterly practices, and yearly practices. They also suggest to take fasts from all your practices to see what a break might bring up for you and highlight what possible negative dependencies you have formed.

Historically, the use of medicine was limited by the time it took the plants to grow, the seasons to change, and the perishability of the medicine, however, today we have access to greater quantities and varieties of medicines than we should ever consider consuming. We are now entering into a novel time where people have access to medicines from different parts of the world who have little indigenous and medical knowledge of how to safely work with these substances, how they might be used in combination, and how much time is required in between medicines. Each medicine has a time frame that it continues to work within on an individual’s system. This process ranges from days to months from the initial date of receiving the medicine. For example, the African root bark, iboga, stores in fat cells and continues to be released for weeks and even months, whereas smoked DMT is typically used up by the body in minutes. And even though DMT is gone within minutes, it can potentiate medicine experiences a month after using it.

In honor and respect for the wisdom of each medicine, as well as consideration of leaving something behind for our future generations, it is recommended to integrate each individual experience to receive the full healing from the medicine. Peyote and iboga can take 30 years to mature. 5-MeO-DMT from the venom of the Sonoran desert toad can only be harvested during 2 months out of the year, as the toad hibernates underground the other 10 months. These medicines are called sacred, not only because of the healing and spiritual benefits, but because they take time to cultivate, and are precious and incredibly rare.

Some questions to keep in mind are:

  • Have I fully integrated the lessons from my previous transformational work into my everyday life?

  • Am I keeping track of my intentions and goals so I know if I am making progress?

  • Are there other types of healing work I can use that do not involve substances that I could explore before I jump back in?

  • Have I discussed with a friend or mentor about my progress and intentions?

  • Do an ego check. Am I looking outside of myself for solutions that can be found within?

  • Am I relying on the medicine to “purge it out” for me? How can I empower myself?

  • Am I feeling peer pressure/social obligation? - i.e. ‘My friend is sitting now with this facilitator and I want to be with them.’ Or “This facilitator is only in town on this date so I must see them.”

  • Is my facilitator suggesting that I do more work when my gut is saying ‘not yet’?

  • What assumptions about myself and my inner peace am operating under? - i.e. “I need someone/something to heal me.” vs. “I am on a lifelong journey of inner discovery.”

The best guide is in your calm, deep inhale and exhale.

Additional resources:


The Five Phases of Psychedelic Initiation

by Jessica L. Nielson, Ph.D,

“While I have categorized these as different types of psychonauts, I must admit that I view them as more related to the different phases of a psychedelic initiation.” read on…


This article is part of a series on Sitting Safe: Navigating the Evolution of NeoShamanism. Check out the other chapters here: