Transforming Trauma into Medicine through Sacred Relationship with Self, Spirit and Mother Earth

LSD didn’t come with instructions in 1991.

A small tab of paper bought on the street corners from strangers; the exchange was furtive, fast, and focused on not getting caught in the act. There were no handouts like this one that came with the tincture I procured on Hasting’s street in Vancouver last month. I was speaking on a Medicine Woman Panel at the Sisters in Psychedelics conference and figured I should also check out the local shops. Who knew you could purchase so many visionary tools in a store?

Back in 1991, street corner venders were the norm, it was just what you did, and I loved LSD. First off it was a great deal at ten bucks a tab for a trip that lasted about twelve hours – that was less than a dollar an hour for a good time – whereas alcohol cost way more and was much less insightful. This made sense to a kid that was practically homeless. Secondly it gave me a deep sense of who I am, showing me how my consciousness worked and what I could do to change what I did not like.

My life changed forever with the first tab of acid I dropped – I had one of those moments of pure enlightenment.

Back then I had just gone through a drastic life change. I had left my parents home – or you could say I was kicked out – the week prior. This meant transplanting myself from the shelter of my suburban community, environment, and way of seeing the world, into the cities downtown central core – the hood. An area of town I had never seen before. My identity changed over night as I adjusted to survive my new circumstances. I was excited, terrified, and determined to prove I did not need anyone and would do it ALL by myself.

One November morning in the wee hours of dawn I found myself sitting on my sisters downtown balcony, facing the east direction. After an extremely challenging and traumatising (though adrenaline laced and euphoric) week of adjusting to living on my own I had dropped Acid and was coming down from my first trip. Everything in my life was so new, I had turned sixteen a few days prior and was musing over who I was and what it all meant.

The sun began its daily ritual of illumination, stirring me from my musings and filling me with its light. As it rose, I felt the light within me awaken, it was as if I was one with the sun and connected to the whole universe in a way I did not know was possible.

I sat with my arms wrapped around my knees, in awe with the beauty of my own spirit. How could something so huge, so divine, so holy exist in such a small body, I thought? It was then that I saw my body was in fact in my Spirit, not the other way around. I knew, in that way that we just know things, that I was a part of this Divine Source – all the grace I witnessed through the rays of light in the sky above were part of me. I was not separate from what I loved. I WAS this love. I could see that everything in my life would work out perfect and I knew I could trust this feeling.

This moment of revelation remained with me. Yes, it took time to live and integrate, God only knows I still had a few years of surviving precarious living situations governed by choices I was not mature enough to make – but is true life kept turning out perfect – messy, chaotic, and real.

LSD initiated an awareness within me that I am the light. What I seek is already here. When I had to address the grief and trauma of my mother’s homicide, four years alter, this awareness was already built into the foundation of my being and supported my capacity to be with this most unspeakable tragedy.

This experience of recognising Source within is common in the use of psychedelics. If an individual recognises this and integrates it into daily life, they are no longer rendered powerless by the past. It is not necessary to be part of specific spiritual or religious doctrine to have this experience. It arises as an awareness that there is something more than us. Something greater than who we are AND we are a part of it. Everyone experiences it differently. What matters is that it is experienced.

It is our disconnection from the sense of being holy and sacred that keeps us from feeling holy and sacred and treating ourselves with the love, intention and care we need.

Let’s break this down in layman’s terms, unresolved trauma/grief/suffering create negative stories in our head that operate on a repeat reel. They are fear based and might sound something like this: I am not good enough, they will let me down, I don’t belong, I’m a failure, what if they find out X about me, I am a disappointment, this is too much for me, I can’t do this. There might be a sense of apprehension towards life itself, concluding that all the horrible things which can go wrong – or which have – make it pointless. Much time is spent attempting to control feelings, experience, and life itself.

The discomfort of our unwellness is medicated with whatever takes the edge off or suppresses these overwhelming feelings. Most accepted is alcohol and pharmaceuticals. These particular tools do not solve the problem, they simply repeat the cycle of numbing feelings and ignoring the issue.  

Psychedelics on the other hand help you to feel, surrender and let go of control. This means the stuff that has been ignored, denied, and pushed under the rug through the years will come up. It gives you an opportunity to face it, respond with appropriate action – be this in the ceremony or as you integrate in day-to-day life – and in time let it go. Your perspective of what has happened and who you are in relation to it changes.

This is the choice between being haunted by your past and anxiously running from what you haven’t dealt with, to facing it. It will never go away until it is addressed for there is no away. Instead it needs to be metabolized, assimilated and released.

At forty-seven my approach to psychedelics has evolved from that young woman sitting on the east facing balcony. Any of the ‘instructions’ I have homed in on is through use, practice, life experience and facilitation. This evolution has included a deep reverence for their use in formal group ceremony with ritual, prayer, and intention, to allow for our connection to Source and honour our sacred relationship with life. What is still the same as that night thirty years ago, is the light, my faith in it, and motivation to guide others to awaken to it.

In supporting group Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Amazon and facilitating Psilocybin ceremonies in Canada there have been the following common denominators with my participants:

  • We are not what has happened to us – and yet we hold the history in our bodies, and it must be addressed, released, and expressed to move forward in our lives. This might mean crying, purging, or wailing aloud. It could be simply seeing the truth of what you have not dealt with in your minds eye and acknowledging it.
  • How we see our world is based upon our projections and assumptions about reality, which are formed through our beliefs. We can change this by changing our beliefs.
  • Psychedelics helps us to see the patterns that keep us stuck.
  • Our spirit rests in the love of our Source. This is who we are. Psychedelics enrich our sensory awareness, reminding us of this connection.
  • We become what we focus on.
  • Meeting fear with intention eradicates the hold it has on our lives. Fear is like a virus; it grows through the attention we pay to it and our focus on it. We have the power to change this and remove its charge. This is liberating.
  • Song, prayer, and group ceremony heal us. They form a template to experience belonging, communion and connection which is foundational for love.
  • Transformation happens when we bring what we learn into the mundanity of daily life. The integration, practice and embodiment are essential.
  • We are One. Any ideology that keeps us separate from another is false. Healing requires us to come home to the truth that there is no “other.” Thus, it is inclusive of forgiveness, compassion, and the realization of the greater interconnectivity of life.
  • Nothing can ever actually hurt who we are – Who we are is invulnerable and eternal.
  • Everything that has happened in our lives is exactly what we came here to learn about.
  • We are responsible for our lives.

It is time for us to choose a different tool and find new avenues to deal with our depression, unhappiness, and unresolved suffering. Our world is suffering in response to us.

The responsible use of psychedelic medicines will transform our human population and bring us into right relationship with ourselves, our planet and each other. And it isn’t’ 1991… there are instructions. Clinical therapists, group ceremonialists and individual sitters that you can choose from, not to mention papers, books and essays to read. There are many psychedelics available, from Ayahuasca, Wachuma, Psilocybin, Iboga, Mdma, and Lsd to others lesser known. Plus there is the option of micro dosing to support daily mental health or larger dose experiences for deeper transformation. Get curious about your own healing journey and do your research.

We need each other. We need to remember that we belong here, and it is our job to show up and participate in LIFE. It is what we came here to do.

Blessings and love

Sarah Salter Kelly

White Raven Woman

Disclaimer – I believe in the safe use of psychedelics with a facilitator who is versed in the experience of holding ceremony or in clinical practice. Having a sacred witness or clinical therapist with experience is essential. I also recognise that psychedelics are not a fit for everyone, so do your homework, investigate contraindications with pharmaceuticals (particularly anti depressants), and determine what is best for you. Note the experience IS often challenging and brings your monsters out from wherever you have hidden them. This means you must be ready to face this and have the necessary supports in place to ensure a healthy mental outcome and integration.