Why It’s Important To Set An Intention For Your Psychedelic Journey — And How To Do It
“Show me what I need to see.”
“Help me heal my past traumas.”
“How can I cultivate more joy in my life?”
Yep, you guessed it. These are all potential psychedelic intentions for working with psychedelic medicines.
Establishing a firm intention for psychedelic work can allow you to unlock new insights, heal deep-rooted traumas, gain clarity on your future, and understand more about the nature of consciousness.
However, with so much talk about “setting intentions” and “being intentional,” both within and outside of the psychedelic world, it can be confusing as to what is actually meant by this — and how you go about it.
Let’s get clear on what intentions are, why they are so important, and how you can find them if they’re not clear to you.
What Is A Psychedelic Intention?
In essence, an intention is something you seek to learn, understand, heal, or change. Your psychedelic intention should reflect the most pressing matters in your life — it’s essentially what you’d like help with from the medicine.
It might be linked to aspects of your relationships, behavior patterns, past traumas, your vision for your future self, or simply exploring the nature of your mind.
While many people may have intentions to heal deep traumas and/or painful experiences, it’s not necessary to have something specific you want to heal to journey with psychedelics. Others embark on this journey with the intention of personal development, and some seek to explore the limits of the psyche. These are valid intentions as well.
“There are no wrong intentions, as long as it’s connected to a feeling coming from your heart,” says Dr. Catalina Munar Guerrero, MD, ceremonial assistant, and founder of PAMI, an integration support program.
Importantly, an intention is not an expectation for the experience. While your intention can help guide your experience — as we’ll get into shortly — the medicine may deem other matters to be more important to address. It’s important to stay open to this and understand that the medicine may have another destination that’s more important for you right now.
Now that we’ve established what a psychedelic intention is — why is it so important to have one?
The Importance Of Having An Intention
Having a psychedelic intention can mean the difference between a psychedelic journey that turns into a distant memory, and a meaningful experience that acts as a catalyst for real change in your life.
In many ways, your journey or ceremony begins once you decide why you’re doing it. “Connecting with your intention daily leading up to a ceremony can help generate energetic momentum,” says Ivaylo Govedarov, sacred medicine facilitator and founder of Colibri Garden.
In turn, this helps you get the most out of your experience as you’ve already done a lot of energy work.
And once it’s time to journey or sit in ceremony, your intention can help guide the experience. If you feel like your journey is lacking direction, or you feel scattered or scared, coming back to your intention can help you receive the insights you’re looking for.
You can also do this by creating a dialogue with the medicine and directing your intention at it once the peak of the experience has leveled out, and you’re feeling a little more grounded. This is a good point to bring specific questions to the medicine and stay open to whatever answers may come your way.
“The intention is also a way to direct your attitude while connecting with the medicine,” says Dr. Munar Guerrero, who provides medical consultation at various yagé retreat centers in Colombia. “The intention allows us to stay humble, be ready to receive, and gives us the reassurance that the information we receive will be what we need, not what we want,” she adds.
According to Dr. Munar Guerrero, when it comes to Master Plants, “having an intention is necessary to be able to connect with the plant from your heart, not your mind, to break out of your ego and receive its ancestral wisdom.”
In moments of resistance or doubt, coming back to your intention can act as an anchor and help you remember why you decided to embark on this journey. Should you feel stuck or lost, repeating your intention (or a shortened version) in your head can help you stay centered in stormy waters.
For example, perhaps your intention was about healing part of your inner world. Repeating the mantra “I am healing” could help you stay connected to your why and grounded in the experience.
Another helpful anchor to use during a psychedelic journey is Bill Richards Ph.D.’s affirmation — which many Johns Hopkins’ psychedelics studies use: “let go, be open, trust the process.” This mantra is especially helpful in reminding you to not resist or avoid whatever comes your way.
In general, you can’t go wrong entering into a journey with an intention of gratitude, and expressing that gratitude during challenging parts of the experience. Even in the most difficult moments, saying “thank you” to the medicine can be a great way to welcome in, and not resist, what it is showing you.
The psychedelic intention can also prove helpful in the integration process.
Perhaps you didn’t receive the clear insights you were looking for, or you were left with more questions about your experience. Focusing on what you wanted to get out of the journey and using that to interpret your experience post-session or ceremony can help give meaning to what you experienced and understand why what came up, came up.
How To Set A Psychedelic Intention
Many people feel a call to commune with a psychedelic medicine, but don’t yet have clear exactly what their motivation is. While they may simply be curious as to what a certain substance feels like, or has to offer, it’s helpful to dig a little deeper and uncover some areas for exploration.
Govedarov of Colibri Garden suggests conducting a “life audit” prior to engaging in a psychedelic medicine journey. This entails rating different life categories out of 10 and exploring areas for improvement in categories that score the lowest. He also suggests asking oneself the questions: What would I like more of in my life? What is something that I’m doing, that I know I should not do?
These simple questions can help you establish the kinds of changes you’d like to make, and thus set intentions around those changes.
You might also want to work on your intentions with a therapist or coach who is familiar with psychedelic work. Practices like journaling, meditation, and breathwork may also help you uncover certain insights that you have stored beneath the surface.
Ultimately, your intention should be positive and relate to the present moment. Using stems such as “show me”, “help me”, and “teach me” can be useful in achieving that.
If once doing these practices, you’ve found multiple things that you would like help with, try to distill them down to between one and three core intentions. It’s better to address the underlying beliefs, thoughts, or traumas that are driving certain behaviors, rather than the behavior itself.
Intentions should not only be set to make the most out of psychedelic experiences, but also in every day life. Living in an intentional way can help us stay focused on our goals and conscious of potentially harmful behaviors or decisions.
And, when it comes to psychedelics, the intention is foundational to maximizing your experience — and it warrants due consideration before you embark on a journey. After setting your psychedelic intention, you will be better equipped to navigate the seas of your consciousness, and more likely to gain the clarity you’re seeking.