In order to have a successful journey, we need to have the fuel for it. If you don’t you’re going to stall out, or worse yet, crash. Do you feel you have the energy needed to go through this journey?
If you’ve been preparing for the ceremony in some explicit way, it’s likely that you will have the energy to proceed. If you’ve been really busy & frenetic, haven’t had time to prepare, or have done a ceremony recently enough that you still feel sapped from the last one, it’s likely you don’t. Psychedelic experiences can be quite taxing, so having some energetic reserves to tap is really vital for not getting out of whack.
Another important thing to plan for is how much time you’ll need to adequately explore, recover from, and integrate the psychedelic experience.
Each substance has its own unique life cycle. The active effects of some substances can be quite quick, as in the case of DMT whose main effects are often measured in minutes, rather than hours. Other substances, like LSD, can go for several hours, and can hamper one’s ability to sleep. So make sure you’ve set aside plenty of time for the actual experience of working with the sacrament. I once made the mistake once of not scheduling enough time for a mushroom journey and ended up tripping in an Uber on the way home. It was probably weirder for the driver than me, but it was disruptive to need to leave the practice container early.
After the psychedelic experience it’s also helpful to put aside some time to rest & recover. In my experience the short term recovery process takes at least a day, and the longer term recovery (feeling totally back to “normal”) can take up to a week for most people. In the short term it’s good to drink a lot of water, chill, and allow the mind and body to settle. Longer term it’s helpful to not have any major commitments coming just after a psychedelic experience. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend doing 4 journeys over the course of a month, with the last one being less than a week before you’re organizing & hosting a major conference with hundreds of attendees.
In terms of integration, it’s really hard to know how long it might take to fully process the experiences, insights, etc. of a psychedelic experience. Some things may not get integrated at all, but time & experience are the great integrators. Personally, I like to give myself at several months between psychedelic experiences for integration. This isn’t a recommendation, more a recognition that it takes us time to make sense of and embody important insights. If we have too many insights to process, and not enough time to do so, then the reality is that they don’t stick. When people don’t make time for integration it’s usually a sign that they’re chasing the high. That’s not useful when working with these substances in a contemplative manner.
To begin the ceremony we turn our attention to our physical space. The reason being that we want our outer space to reflect & support the inner space we’re looking to bring online during the ceremony.
On a practical level this means picking up and making sure the space is clean and beautiful. It also means setting the appropriate mood, in terms of lighting, sound, & smells. It includes finding a comfortable place to sit during the ceremony and making sure you have space to do other things, like stretch or lie down.
Another important element of the space is a physical focal point to direct one’s attention to (i.e. a simple altar). The altar can be designed in whatever way you’d like, but at a minimum I'd suggest having a candle on it that you can light during this phase. Other things people often like to include are: incense, statues, pictures, flowers, rocks, other natural objects that have some sort of spiritual significance, etc. If you are doing the ceremony with others it’s also nice to co-design the altar. Meaning that everyone contributes something of significance to it.
In the same way that we take care of our space when friends, family, or a lover is coming to visit, so too with this phase of the ceremony we take care of our space and invite in the beloved presence of own deepest intention.