Guide for Guides

Guide for Guides : Ethical Extreme Psychedelic Spaceholding

Spaceholding Skillbuilding unifying Transpersonal Somatic Psychology + Festival Frontline Risk Reduction 

For ‘Attunement Academy’

By : Altered-State Accompaniment Angel : Alexa ‘ X RAZMA’

V. 21.6.2

{ { active editing draft Gdoc } }

Guide for Guides

Ethical Extreme Psychedelic Support 

Spaceholding Skillbuilding unifying Transpersonal Somatic Psychology and Festival Frontline Risk Reduction 

For ‘Attunement Academy’

By the Altered-State Attunement Angel : aleXa ‘X RAZMA’

V. 21.3.18

Disclaimer : This book is intended as an informational guide and should not be a substitute for professional medical care or therapeutic treatment. Any application of the material set forth in the following pages is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility. Neither the author nor the publisher can assume any responsibility for physical, psychological, legal or social consequences resulting from the ingestion of psychedelic substances or their derivatives. While the author and publisher have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to its accuracy or completeness. In addition, this book contains no legal or medical advice; please consult a licensed professional if appropriate.

Real-life scenarios :

What would you do if ?

It is your first time not on shift exploring an over 27,000-person transformational festival when 10 feet directly in front of you on a crowded dusty pathway, a tall young man drops to the ground. You rush over instinctively and ask “Are you ok?” as he repeats “DMT, DMT, LSD, LSD” in an unceasing loud loop, continuing to shout in response to questions such as “What is your name?” and “Do you know where you are?”. Suddenly, he shouts, “The lake, I have to go in the lake” and takes off sprinting directly in the direction of the lake. 

What would you do if ?

You are summoned to the event Gate late at night right before a huge storm, where there is a large nude older man fearful of any who approach -brandishing an umbrella to keep all at bay – on two doses of ‘the strongest acid I’ve ever had’. You are tasked with safely transporting him to the event Sanctuary space because no one knows what to do with him. You have to find his ticket, which apparently is in his wallet – but he does not have a shred of clothing on where the wallet could be…

What would you do if ?

You are called out to a scene just before dawn as the last resort for a vomiting woman looping and lashing her limbs out at her campmates who are trying to support her.

What would you do if ?

You are in the staff lodge when a terrified humanimal is brought in by two Peer to Peer support volunteers. The supported participant immediately collapses in the doorway, wide eyes darting around, and they start fighting // biting their concerned caregivers. 

What would you do if ?

You are resting around the camp fire when a campmate says ‘we need a green dot Ranger’ and they inform you that a stranger has locked themselves in the private composting toilet and is covering it with graffiti and making a mess. 

Can you think of a scene in which you were at the edge of your experience ? What principals or knowledge steered you and those you were caring for towards a safer state ? 

In Guide for Guides { G4G } I will share what worked in these scenarios, as well as what we can do as a community to proactively make situations like these significantly less likely or manageable when they do occur. Finally, I seek to provide you with additional grounded and scientifically researched techniques that will support you in growing your spaceholding skills. Thank you for looking out for one another.

Author Bio and Reasons for Writing

              I am a 15+ year veteran teacher of risk reduction, writing this guide from a mounting sense of responsibility– each year, due to the growing publicity of the psychedelic movement, there are more people out there experimenting with mind-altering substances, often either with inexperienced sitters, or no sitter at all {please at the very least find a friend and have them read this guide!}. Having a trained sitter drastically decreases the likelihood of negative outcomes {eg. not risking your life unnecessarily because you have a reality anchor} and can reduce fear and paranoia significantly {via knowing someone is there specifically watching out for your wellbeing}. In G4G { Guide for Guides – my shorthand for this tome} I distill years of school from both graduate education in transpersonal somatic psychology and in my lifetime of psychedelic risk reduction work and training. Additionally I share new methods I developed where I found gaps in our schooling. I seek to share the skills necessary for ethical psychedelic spaceholding to increase access to safe and supportive sitters and thus reduce risk and alleviate unnecessary suffering. I have been working in psychedelic risk reduction at increasingly complex levels of organization / production for 15 years now and want to share what we have learned over this time. In G4G I generate a meta-perspective on expert-level spaceholding – having taken every training I could find in risk reduction and blending it with controlled container ‘ceremony’ skills and a graduate level background in transpersonal somatic psychology. This well-balanced foundation is also enriched by new tools I have developed from my ‘in the wild’ work at gatherings of all stripes and sizes on the ‘festival frontlines’ of entheogenic exploration. I have been called the Navy SEAL / Green Beret / Special Ops of Psychedelic Spaceholding and I want to share my hard-won wisdom to make the healing that is possible with psychedelics safer and more accessible to all. Additionally, I am known in the field as someone who has a special capacity to work with those in ‘post-verbal’ spaces, and I will share my innovative insights in how to communicate directly to another person’s nervous system to convey to them that they are safe, even if they are past the point of being able to understand or participate in verbal communication.

              My earnest hope is that most of the time Journeyers and those who care for them will have an easier time then the scenarios that spawned the techniques developed in the trenches from the trying tales in this tome. However, I believe that anyone who is purporting to be able to hold space needs to at the very least to be aware of what has happened in the past, and thus could happen again, and to be prepared to the best of their ability to deal with the potential for extreme situations. As we say as Burning Man Rangers ‘expect nothing, prepare for everything’. Worst case is that everyone will have overprepared. Best case is that the lines of inquiry in this tome will lead to clearer and more harmonious interpersonal relating. Risk reduction calls for us to be aware of the potential for harm, try as best we can to steer away from unnecessary hazards, prepare for the worst, do what we can to encourage the best, and make informed decisions. As a spaceholder, you are responsible for the well-being of those that are putting their trust in you.

              Finally, this guidebook goes beyond assuming a spaceholder’s positive intent / ‘mindreading’ and actively aims to equip you with the tools necessary to have clarifying conversations, encourage ethical behavior, and to evaluate your spaceholder. Although I have chosen to focus specifically on the container of psychedelic spaceholding, these principals can be applied to any situation in which people are holding space or creating transformational experiences {eg. VR / AR / XR experiences, installation art, immersive experience design, breathwork, hypnosis, regression, attachment work, coaching, etc}.

I am grateful that you are investing time in caring for your fellow humanimals compassionately and hope this tome helps make healing more accessible.

Choice of terminology

           I deliberated extensively on what terms to use for the one who is caring for someone during an experience before settling on Spaceholder as a wider umbrella term which includes both Peer to Peer, Guide, and Therapist contexts. The term Guide here implies a duty of care more advanced than simply ‘spaceholding’ and feels more accessible than terms such as Guardian, Tripsitter, Sitter, or Adult. The term I settled on using for the one being stewarded / cared for through an experience as ‘Journeyer’ over more clinical terms such as patient or client. I also acknowledge that not all situations in which someone is Journeying or needing support involve psychedelics {our brains and bodies produce endogenous neurotransmitters after all!} so terms such as psychonauts or tripper also did not seem to fit. I am eager to expand our vocabulary and terminology and wish we had more words for roles / relationships.  

Encounter Environments :

There are two main categories of environments you will find yourself in as a Spaceholder : Informal or ‘In the Wild’ { usually a Risk Reduction / Peer to Peer context } and a Controlled Ceremonial Container { there is additional personal responsibility if taking on a role + responsibility or title of Guide, or the certification / licensure designation requiring term ‘Therapist’ }. 

Controlled Ceremonial Container

              A controlled ceremonial container is often the most ‘typical’ scenario that comes to mind when most people think of spaceholding, in which there is opportunity to pre-arrange details and agreements for the session. This type of {at least partially} pre-planned situation is in contrast to Spaceholding ‘In the Wild’ in which you may not know anything about the person you are safekeeping at all {Spaceholding ‘In the Wild’ will be covered later as it is a more challenging context and it is preferable for comprehending the basics before adding additional complexity}. 

Screening

Screening is an ethical matter for several reasons including the need for : due diligence, informed consent, conscientiousness in working within your scope of practice, and openness to referrals or finding a better spaceholder fit for the needs of the journeyer.

Informed Consent : Physical / Psyche Risk

Part of screening is determining the experience level of your Journeyer with altered states of consciousness and their level of self-knowledge. If your Journeyer is psychedelic-naïve it is essential to share the potential risks and benefits openly and to receive preemptive consent in case of extreme reactions. Although the stereotype is for first time or neophyte Journeyers who have not yet swum in the deep end to have an unexpected experience in this new realm, seasoned psychonauts {= wide-roaming explorers of the mind} can also be taken for unexpected rides, so it is always wise to discuss preferred courses of action ahead of time in case challenge arises.

Nocebo / Instilling Fear

 Each spaceholder has to find the personal balance within their practice between informed consent as to presenting the risks of psychedelics while not excessively invoking a ‘nocebo’ effect. A ‘nocebo’ effect is “a harmless substance or treatment that when taken by or administered to a patient is associated with harmful side effects or worsening of symptoms due to negative expectations or the psychological condition of the patient”. [1]

 A helpful direction to orient when it comes to disclosure is a movement away from brash blustery overconfidence in a psychedelic panacea and towards a reasoned conversation about how to mitigate risk, and what to do in case of emergency. One way to cover the topic of the potential for extreme situations in a constructive way is to ask your Journeyer what they would want you to do for them in case they need extra care. One example of a form this can take is in the ‘Ego Death Living Will’ section later in this tome.

{ Spiritual Emergencies and journeys on the more intense side of the spectrum are covered in the section : ‘Extreme Experiences’ }

Consent around Capability / Capacity : Working within your Scope of Practice

              When asked to hold space in a controlled ceremonial container / pre-planned way, best practice recommends meeting in person or at the very least having several phone or video calls a month before the session {ideally several months in advance so that the material can be worked on in therapy, dreams, and other technologies of the subconscious}. In the initial conversation the Guide should seek to determine if they are good fit to work together with the Journeyer, in that the Guide feels capable of supporting the Journeyer’s specific inquiry/inquiries via being informed and comfortable about the main areas of exploration {eg. someone who is of a pro-life political orientation Guide for someone who seeks to find compassion for their choice to have an abortion would not be a good fit}.

Even with alignment of the Journeyer’s primary intention and the Guide’s skill set, there are also two possibilities that may diverge the team from the pre-planned path of focus: there may be another topic that emerges to the fore as unexpectedly salient for the Journeyer within the session, or there may also be an eruption of a buried issue to the surface that the Journeyer may not have even been consciously aware of {such as childhood abuse that was suppressed}.

For example, I once had a Journeyer who wanted to work on their self-confidence and self-sabotaging behaviors which we discussed extensively ahead of session, but once we got into a session space, they felt a visceral trust in me and ended up sharing details of abuse and trauma from their childhood that they had never shared with anyone else. Fortunately, I am not only deeply trauma informed but I also have knowledge about how to work with attachment wounds that I called upon to navigate what was a more advanced situation then initially discussed.

Thus, as a Guide, it is ideal to have an in-depth screening and rapport building period with your Journeyer so you can get a sense for what may come up {even if ‘unlikely’ or not the chosen focus of the session}. This allows you to both gain knowledge about the Journeyer and develop the interpersonal trust to dig deeper, such as by observing patterns across various facets of the Journeyer’s life and sharing these perspectives if the Journeyer wishes for that type of Spaceholding – which we will discuss more extensively in the ‘Presence Philosophies’ section of this tome *.

Unanticipated deep traumas can certainly surface without anyone expecting them, and therefore I also believe it is essential for all Spaceholders to be wise in the ways of recognizing trauma reactions and supporting those who may be in the throes of a PTSD flashback {Post Traumatic Stress Disorder}. There is more information about how to support those reliving Trauma States in the ‘Trauma Support’ section **. Unexpected excavation of buried trauma material occurs frequently during psychedelic journey support ‘In the Wild’, as people in a party context find themselves suddenly contending with unacknowledged or repressed material brought to the fore by psychedelics.

How much shared life experience between the Guide and Journeyer is necessary?

It can speed understanding and rapport-building to find a Guide that has significant shared life experience overlap as you are more likely to be intimately aware of the details about what they lived through, and you may have a shared vocabulary or lexicon. It can be a disheartening challenge to source a Guide that you feel understands you when you have an intersectional, marginalized, or complex identity and history. An immense driving force for me in writing this tome is to increase accessibility to these healing spaces via teaching Spaceholding skills such that peers will be more equipped to support peers of unique backgrounds. There are only so many psychedelic therapists, and barriers to entry into that field remain high.

What to do in cases of a lack of shared personal experience

              Do not let lack of shared personal experience be the only reason to automatically cause you to refer your Journeyer to another Guide, especially if you already have long-standing rapport with your Journeyer {such as growing up with them in childhood}. Explore educating yourself in the life experiences of your Journeyer and how to support them via books, lectures, courses, and films in the subject material relevant to this history of the Journeyer. Ask your Journeyer what materials they specifically recommend you take in as a potential guide.  Contrary to expectation, there may be profound reconciliation to be found for the Journeyer in feeling the supportive presence of someone who is on ‘the other side of the equation’ {such as a cis het female bodied Journeyer who has a close cis het male bodied friend she feels safe with Spaceholding for her while she unwinds the patterns of patriarchy}. It is important to note that a less mutual / harmoniously resonant match may result in an ‘activating pairing’ which is more likely to go sideways, so two Guides would be recommended in these instances. 

A related point when it comes to Journeyer backgrounds which include trauma is that ideally the Guide is only holding space to the level of their training. For example, if the Journeyer has a trauma history that includes intergenerational incest and the Spaceholder has no experience in how to provide support to someone who has experienced this ongoing level of embodied and emotional abuse, the Spaceholder should refer the Journeyer to someone who has training in how to support the recovery of incest survivors. If obtaining training or referring out to someone who has experience is not possible, at the very least, the Spaceholder should deeply educate themselves in the literature available on the topic as a proxy for training. Specifically, this gap between providers of care and Journeyers may occur due to the lack of access to psychedelic therapist of diverse backgrounds at this time, which may require reaching out to friends with similar backgrounds to engage in more of a peer to peer spaceholding context. 

Refusal to Refer

As a Guide, it is essential for you to feel comfortable and capable to say no to sitting with the Journeyer if either you or they do not feel you are the best fit. There are a few common reasons that saying no to Spaceholding can be challenging. You may feel as though this person has no one else to turn to, that you are the only one who can help this person, or you may even have a ‘savior complex’ that becomes activated. You may be the Journeyer’s close friend and really care for them, or you may think you know what’s best for them {which can turn paternalistic}. It is good to acknowledge these often disowned parts of ourselves as healers and to be doing personal shadow integration work to not allow these patterns to rule our behavior. 

Some problematic Guide energies that may occur are :

Never Saying No

Care Vulture / Caretaking Attachment Orientation 

If you find yourself unable to say no {to a client, to a session, to delaying supporting someone else when you need to take care of your needs}, it may mean you have a compulsion towards caretaking, which may have evolved as a survival strategy due to the way in which you were raised and the subsequent attachment patterns that are your basic interpersonal neuronal wiring {for more information about this look into psychological ‘Attachment Theory’}. These behaviors may also indicate a lack of boundaries. Speaking from the lexicon of psychology, searching for additional information about differentiation, transference, and countertransference may be helpful {the skills of knowing what is yours to own and what is not yours}. The opposite side of this enmeshment would be not taking on any responsibility for the effect that you are having on others, which is discussed below. 

If you are over-identified in your personal narrative as a ‘master healer’ 

If you always think you know what is right for someone else, this is your ego being overly attached to a narrative / identity of yourself as a healer. This egotistical mindset, when carried too far promotes a paternalistic attitude and ‘knowing what’s best’ for someone else which creates a toxic power imbalance. With a caveat that you can have a sense due to experience that something has usually been more effective in the past for most people you have encountered, but if you are not open to feedback that you may be incorrect, that is when the dynamic turns problematic. An especially insidious manifestation of this can also move into the realm of ‘spiritual bypassing’ in which you are not acknowledging the role that you are playing in effecting a situation through lack of dedication to your own personal self-development work {search terms for additional research include : projection, transference, countertransference, gaslighting, and gaslight worker}. This self-absorbed path can also cause a guru or narcissistic type of energy to grow unchecked. Additionally, this type of egoic growth can lead to a runaway situation in which you abdicate accountability structures and decide that you no longer need to be seeking mentors, holding yourself responsible for your impact on others, or seeking feedback to improve.

            Remember that your main work as a spaceholder is to create a space of safety and consideration that allows the Journeyer’s inner healer to emerge and gain strength and confidence.  You are not the only one making the healing happen {can you feel the power dynamic in this mindset?}, you are merely creating the container of care to support the client’s own wholeness to emerge.  For more insight into what a healthy Guide energy feels like, please read the ‘

Financial gain 

 Additionally, if you are motivated by the allure of the ‘cool’ aura around this work, or are attached to be able to ‘handle anything’ without assistance, you will be unlikely to turn anyone down, even if someone you know may be a better fit for what the client is needing. This will also make you less likely to ‘kick it sideways’ or call for help even though it may be needed {such as in a medical emergency}. As a generalized rule, the Journeyers needs should take precedence over your preferences / personal view of yourself {within reason for your own sense of safety}, and when this is not the case there is a clear ethical snarl that is worth untangling.

Additionally, over time you will find that there are many unglamorous aspects to Psychedelic Spaceholding which may include cleaning up bodily fluids, long hours of focused attention on someone else, holding a space of non-judgement and no shame, consoling people in the depths of their depression / existential dread / fear of death, and seeing people in a lot of physical or emotional pain that you may be powerless to remove. This in addition to considering the high level of responsibility a Spaceholder takes on when as the guardian of someone’s psyche and physical body, the unpleasant conversations called for when needing to hold others accountable to their intentions, and broader ethical responsibilities to the field – there is a lot of  ‘invisible’ caregiving that needs to be considered in this emotional endurance work.

Financial need

If for your survival you need to be taking on only paying psychedelic spaceholding clients this sets up a power dynamics that encourages dependency on clients going into multiple sessions, the pursuit of more clients, and a sense of needing to take every client. Although many spaceholders find it appropriate to ask for donations or arrange energetic compensation for their time / energy / expertise, be wary of creating a situation in which you are depending on Psychedelic Spaceholding to live as it can easily create a profiteering situation in which finances are prioritized over ethics due to a survival drive. 

You do not know your triggers

Knowledge and examination of one’s personal triggers is necessary to hold the deep compassionate space that may be called for in a session.

As an academic example, while I was enrolled in my master’s program in transpersonal therapy at the California Institute of Integral Studies {CIIS}, the idea of self-knowledge around personal therapist triggers when sitting with a client was repeatedly impressed upon us. Insofar as the therapist has a trigger around sexual assault, animal cruelty, pedophilia, racial violence, gender violence…etc…and the client desires to explore these aspects of themselves as a victim {or even victimizer}, the therapist needs to be aware of their bias and potentially refer the client elsewhere if the trigger is ‘hot’ or active enough to interfere with their ability to be present without projection or transference. Thus, there are likely some situations in which a particular Spaceholder may not be a good fit for that particular Journeyer such as when the Spaceholder has a trigger related to what the Journeyer wishes to work on.

When the Spaceholder’s characteristics are a trigger

Another situation in which the Spaceholder / Journeyer combination may not be the best fit is when the physical characteristics of the Spaceholder are related to the trauma of the Journeyer {eg. potential Spaceholder is a large Caucasian male, when Journeyer has experienced sexual assault at the hands of a large Caucasian male}. Over time as a relationship of trust develops and the material has been explored in a way that discharges some of the energy around it, the Journeyer may determine that it would be beneficial to have space held for them by someone who is reminiscent of their violator, but this needs to be carefully and clearly discussed, in so far as it greatly increases the risk of an adverse reaction as the likelihood of re-traumatization is significant.

Conversely, if both the Journeyer and Spaceholder feel capable of taking on a more advanced case, this may be an opportunity to directly address a past pattern in depth. Please be aware that this is ‘playing with fire’ in that triggers and projections will be actively brought to the fore, so it is recommended to bring in another Spaceholder in this process as the potential for the situation to become muddled is high.

Screening for Contraindications

Screening is essential to ensure the safety of the participant{s} and to make sure there are no contraindications to the specific ally / compound chosen, interactions with other medications / supplements, or latent or active psychological conditions that may be exacerbated or emerge based on family history. 

Psychedelics are not for everyone, and are specifically contraindicated for people who are already psychologically destabilized {eg. experiencing unmanaged overwhelming mood swings, suicidal ideation, actively manic…}.

There is also the risk for intense psychological experiences to activate latent destabilization factors, for example, Journeyers with schizophrenia in their bloodline are contraindicated for any type of technology that may trigger a psychotic episode, such as psychedelics, or even breathwork!

 Even something as seemingly benign as meditation is contraindicated for those who have significant embodied trauma.  {citations  : https://www.acesconnection.com/blog/meditation-may-aggravate-trauma-mindful-action-is-a-better-alternative

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/mindfulness-meditation-and-trauma-proceed-with-caution-1021154

Fortunately, trauma-informed meditation is shifting awareness in the field.

Ideally with a rigorous screening process the Spaceholder can preemptively steer the prospective Journeyer away from what has the high potential to be a negatively life-impacting psychedelic scenario with long term consequences, instead directing the Journeyers search for healing into another methodology that is of a lesser risk profile, such as expressive arts therapy.

Initial screening for contraindications can be done via requiring a Spaceholder Questionnaire {an example of such can be found below}, with the findings corroborated though subsequent meetings in person or via phone calls.

              Sample Spaceholder Questionnaire

Spaceholder Inquiries / Logistical Intake

{Answers Required}

What is helpful for me to know about you in a spaceholding context?

Do you have any allergies to food, medication, plants, seasonal pollens, animals?

Do you have any medical conditions {eg. high blood pressure, epilepsy} ?

Are you sensitive to any supplements or medications? Do you know your neurochemistry / neurotypical patterns {eg. high/low seratonin}?

What medications are you taking?

What supplements/herbs are you taking?

What is your mental health history?

How is your current mental health?

What is the mental health history of your genetic line {most especially of importance is any blood relatives with schizophrenia or related conditions} ?

Do you have any preferences for how you are related to {eg. Pronoun preferences, prefer phone over email when possible, able to understand self-dialogue with greater clarity via writing/speaking} ?

If you go into a non-verbal space, how do you prefer to be supported ?

What are ways that you enjoy becoming comforted (eg. head/hair being pet, arm around the shoulder, heavy blanket, verbal acknowledgement that someone is present with you) ?

What helps you feel connected (eg. eye contact, words of affirmation) ?

Do you have any patterns it would be useful to know (eg. needing to feel very welcomed into things, that if you are solo for more than 30 minutes you would like to be checked in on, feeling smothered if not allowed to be silent and quiet for long periods of time) ?

What are your triggers? How do you prefer these to be interacted with (avoided, gently questioned/ leaned into, etc.) ?

Do you have any injuries? Body traumas?

What is your trauma history?

What are your common interrelation patterns / roles (eg. fixer, helper, mediator, avoidant / anxious / fearful attachment) ?

What is your experience with altered states of consciousness {eg. birth, breath work, out of body experiences, near death experiences}?

What is your history with transformational experiences {planned/unexpected, what helped with integration, what spaceholder actions were helpful, can you extrapolate any patterns from your experiences, what helped you through any challenging moments}?

What is your experience with extreme states of feeling / sensation {eg. Bodily injury, emotional overwhelm, anxiety}?

What are your feelings around death?

If you thought you were actively dying what would you do? How could you be reassured / made to feel peace?

Do you find yourself sensitive to consciousness altering compounds {eg. stimulants {caffeine} or depressants {alcohol} } ?

What helps you fall asleep or wind down?

What types of music, artists, songs, or sounds uplift you or make you feel at home?

What would your perfect playlist for a transformational journey sound like {please feel free to create this playlist!}?

Are there any scents, foods, clothes, or sensations that comfort and ground you {eg. Lemon, a favorite robe or heavy blanket} ?

Who are your emergency contacts?

Under what conditions do you want them contacted?

Have you told them what you are doing and that you may contact them {it is recommended you inform them ahead of time if you can, but if you cannot please mention why not – eg. they would disapprove due to their religious background, they have no experience with altered states and would be concerned for my safety…}?

Under what circumstances would you want emergency services contacted ?

Do you desire ego death? {If yes, mandatory to answer ‘So you want to experience Ego Death?’ and ‘Ego Death Living Will’ addendum in the ‘Extreme Experiences’ section }

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Optional but highly encouraged 

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Recommended for Reflection & Journaling

{answers beneficial for your own work but not required to be shared – although if you feel comfortable, sharing is encouraged}

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Intention prompts :

Journaling on the questions that call your inspiration forth helps crystalize your intention / inquiry – feel free to choose your favorite(s) and focus on those.

 You may also wish to create a vision / mood / art board  for what you desire for your experience {feel free to combine mediums – collage via cutting out photographs, writing, drawing, mixed media}.

It is recommended to write out a phrase to your future self while you are in the transformational experience in case of difficulty {eg. This too shall pass, remember you ancestors supporting you, you are physically safe – surrender}.

PAST WORK

Who are your guardians, allies, ancestors spirits ?

What patterns are you seeking to let go of ?

How have these patterns helped you survive in the past ?

What does the new pattern feel like in your body?

How will you embody the new pattern, what helps you remember the new form?

What roles do you enjoy playing ? What roles do you wish you could play more ?

What do you wish you could tell your past self?

How does your shadow express itself, what forms does it take, what are its character traits? When it shows up how do you acknowledge & integrate it ?

What would it look and feel like to embody the drama of the stories you are letting go of / stepping into through performance ? How can you turn up the dial on emotion to ‘fully feel to free’ it ? What would turning your trauma into drama look like?

Are there any wounds you are protecting that are binding your energy? How can you let them go ?

What keeps you from vulnerability, intimacy, play ?

What stories are you telling about yourself ?

Creating an altar : If you were to make an altar, what would you put on it?  {eg. natural objects of significance to you, stones, healing tools, art, photographs of loved ones, candles, feathers, flowers, adornments} {you are strongly encouraged to make this altar and spend time with it regularly}. 

PRESENT WORK

What are you seeking to explore?

What parts of yourself do you want to know better?

What are you praying for help with ?

What mantras / phrases help you feel supported?

What actions from others, objects, people, activities make you feel supported?

Who are your current prominent allies (animal, plant, mentors, teachers) ?

What grounds you (food, touch, words, questions, affirmations) ?

What creates safe sanctuary space for you ?

How does immediate integration of insights manifest in your body and actions {what does it feel and look like} ?

How do you need to be seen ?

What wants to be seen in relationship ?

How can you give yourself the love that you seek from others?

What would it look like if you gave yourself more permission?

What outcome would make this experience a success in your eyes?

What creates sacred space for you ?

What movements/action patterns/activities help your energy move?

FUTURE WORK

What archetypes do you wish to embody?

If everything could be as you wish, what would happen – what would this look and feel like (multisensory) ?

What reminders will help you embody the realizations of the new way you are exploring (visual, movement, sound)?

What would your future self say to you?

In what signs & sigils does your future self communicate to you?

What is your new story ?

TRANSPERSONAL WORK

What is your life’s purpose?

How does spirit speak to you?

When would heaven on earth look and feel like to you?

What would a ‘dreams coming true’ field look and feel like to you?

How would it be to see as god/spirit/the underlying field sees?

How would it be to see as medicine sees?

How is your relationship to God / spirit?

How is your relationship to yourself ?

How is your relationship to : friends, family, lover{s} , community, and world?

How can you embody sacred innocence ?

What is life’s plan for you ?

What is your life’s purpose ?

What is your birthright?

What did you do as a child {what could captivate you} ?

How can you know as spirit knows?

How can you choose grace in life?

How can you be the vibration of your choice?

How can you live as divinely intended ?

What are the desires of your sacred heart?

What helps you know you are living in divine timing ?

 How will you know you are in alignment with your life’s purpose?

How will the reminders come across to get in closer alignment?

How do you relate to your dreams?

              Contraindications

Although psychedelics are “known to be generally safe” (as the lethal toxicity of these compounds is typically far higher than the active dosages) there are “potential risks and contraindications” for any mind-altering experience2.

Psychedelics are strongly contraindicated {not recommended – extremely high risk of adverse effects} if :

You have blood relatives with serious destabilizing mental health conditions, especially schizophrenia or dissociative conditions.

In the case of the following conditions in which psychedelics are not recommended, if you still proceed with choosing to partake of a psychedelic experience, the need for a more experienced ‘sitter’ educated in supporting you in your condition becomes even more paramount.

Psychedelics are also not recommended / more risky if :

Your or your blood relatives experience mood disorders {such as bipolar disorder}.

Altered states of consciousness are inherently destabilizing to ‘base’ consciousness, and are also not recommended if :

Basic set and setting are not great {eg. somewhere where you feel unsafe or unwelcome, somewhere where you cannot control the temperature / level of sound, a place where you do not have access to the things you know you need to take care of yourself such as a bathroom or shower}. 

You do not have a support network to help you integrate the experience, or somewhere you can go to recover and stabilize for at least a week

You are feeling a high degree of fear that is causing you to have a bodily reaction.

Specific situations that are not following best practice {other choices may be more effective} :

Using Ketamine with someone who has a history of dissociative trauma experiences.

In case of the following it is best to delay the session until there can be more time spaciousness / trust building / better set and setting : 

There is ‘not enough time’ to do screening, preparation, or reflection on intention. 

The Journeyer has only heard scary tales about psychedelics / bad trips and is very fearful .

The spaceholder is unable to create a situation when risks are mediated due to physical constraints { eg. there is not a space where someone can lay down and move around }.

If the Journeyer needs to be driving or operating heavy machinery while still altered, or very likely will to need to be {eg. street sweeping early tomorrow morning, needing to travel or return home to sleep }

There is pressure around time {eg. only have a certain amount of time for this experience that does not include a day of integration afterwards}

There is pressure around work needing to be done soon {eg. have a lot of stressful activities the next day that you need to be fully functional for}

If the Journeyer is pursuing a higher dose experience or ego death but is significantly scared of surrendering and does not trust the spaceholder fully. The key to peaceful ego death or an easeful high-dose session is surrender – this is why trust is needed between Spaceholder and Journeyer – the Journeyer must trust that the Spaceholder has their best interests at heart and actually has the ability to protect their physical body from harm. There are methods to build trust between Spaceholder and Journeyer over time and more mild ways to upack fear around surrender then jumping in to a high dose psychedelic experience when there is not significant rapport already present. 

Classic Risk Reduction

Know your body 

know your mind 

know you substance 

know your source

From Erowid.org – a deep resource on all things altered states. Please utilize that resource and support them as you can. 

If what you are ingesting is a natural material, know the lineage of the use of that medicine and how it is traditionally used. Additionally, support those who have been tending to that lineage and the places that it grows. Make sure you are not contributing to overharvesting { as is currently the case with the Sonoran Desert Toad being overharvested for 5-Meo DMT }. 

If applicable, get a test kit {or better yet, kits, as not all kits are equally effective} to check for the purity of what you are ingesting. Dancesafe is a good resource to order test kits from.

Know where you are getting your allies / compounds from, if there is variation ask how strong this batch is. Always try a smaller amount of a new batch with a sitter before you give it to others or take what is your typical dose. 

Deciding on Dose

Deciding on Dose

There are big differences between holding space for Journeyers on low / medium / high / heroic doses. There are significant steps up to risk as the dosage increases. If someone is explicitly desiring an ego death experience, or they are working with a dosage that is likely to lead to this result {and considering the likelihood of altered state experiences to activate existential thoughts} having pre-negotiated ‘Ego Death Living Will’ agreements are essential. This type of document acts as a ‘Living Will’ for the Ego of the Journeyer to pre-consent to what actions they desire to have taken in the event of a partial, complicated, challenging ego death in which they may no longer be present as a ‘rational individual’. An ‘ego-death living will’ is the only way to get consent from someone’s ego for actions taken while their ego is absent. Otherwise, any action you take towards the Journeyer may be committing a consent violation that will need to be addressed once the ego returns to the Journeyer’s body. 

So you want to experience Ego Death?

Ego death is a spectrum : everything from the mild experience of losing yourself in a daydream, or when you are engrossed in a book / movie to an experience of losing all sense of boundaries and having a visceral experience of becoming the whole universe. 

If as a Journeyer you want to experience Ego Death, it is recommended that you seek out a practitioner who has experience in extreme spaceholding. The following ‘Ego Death Living Will’ will aid the Journeyer in expressing their wishes for how their physical and psychic body is cared for during the potential absence of their ego. This ‘Ego Death Living Will’ will also take the guesswork out for the Spaceholder seeking to support someone in this intimate and vulnerable state of consciousness. 

Ego Death Living Will

Why do you desire to experience ego death?

What do you predict this would look and feel like for you?

What is your experience with death?

Have you ever had a near death, out of body, or grave bodily harm experience?

What helped you in that extreme experience?

If you have not had an experience like this, what was the most fearful experience of your life?

What helped you handle it?

What would you do if your existential frameworks / sense of meaning disappeared?

How would you rebuild motivation and meaning in your life?

What support systems to do you have in place in case you are needing additional support after an ego death experience?

What type of resources do you have in case you need to take a sabbatical to recenter?

What integration resources do you have?

If you are in a state where you are in a passive post-verbal state {such as catatonia}, in that you cannot communicate / do not respond to questions, what do you want your Spaceholder to do?

If you are in an agitated post-verbal state, what do you want your Spaceholder to do?

If you are in an actively violent state {either dangerous to yourself or others}, what do you want your Spaceholder to do?

If you wish to be restrained in any circumstances? If so, what type of restraints {eg. having someone sit on your pelvis and hold your arms to your chest, humane restraints, straightjacket}? How would the restraint ideally be accomplished {eg. initially giving you an option to voluntarily enter into restraints, explaining why this is being done, using as little force as necessary, starting with more basic restraints and then ramping up}?

Do you have an active living will, what are the directives on it? If not, it is strongly recommended you create one, either officially or unofficially. The main questions to consider are the situations in which you would like life-saving measures taken, and how long these would continue in the case of a situation such as a coma. 

Internal // External Emergency Services 

Who are your Emergency Contacts, their relationship to you and how they can be contacted ? 

Do they know you are going into this experience? Is there any way you can tell them?

Under what circumstances do you want your Emergency Contacts contacted ? {be as specific as possible, and indicate if in which different situations you would like different folx contacted}

Under what circumstances would you want emergency services to be contacted?

If possible, who do you want to stay with you in the emergency room / hospital? Who would you want contacted from your emergency contact list if you were brought to the emergency room? If you were brought to a psych ward ? If you were 5150 ed {involuntarily committed to a psych ward} ?

Spaceholder Responsibility

              Are you prepared, and do you have the capacity, as a Spaceholder to step into the responsibility of the outcome of your session with the Journeyer? This may involve extensive integration, helping the Journeyer find meaning in their life after an existential emergency, nursing them back to mental health if they experience a depressive dip, and/or being their primary source of support. The less of a network of support the Journeyer has, the greater the likelihood that they will need to mostly lean on you. As the Spaceholder you should be prepared to take on responsibility for the Journeyer’s wellbeing. If you do not feel capable of doing so, please strongly reconsider holding a ceremonial container for this Journeyer. If you are doing volunteer work {especially in a context such as a festival} there is inherently less of a sense of responsibility as you are donating your time ‘in the wild’ and not administering compounds {in so far as you are not the active agent causing and thus needing to take responsibility for the outcomes of administering}. Even in a volunteering context it is wise to consider that the Journeyer will bond to you, as they may be going through the most profound experience of their life, and to prepare for the possibility that the Journeyer may desire additional contact after the initial aid they receive. Journeyers who experience profound changes in consciousness may feel as though you are the only person who understands and who they can connect to, so be prepared for the possibility of lifetime attachment.

              For example, even after a decade of time has passed since I originally held space for Journeyers experiencing a paranoid / suicidal existential crisis ‘in the wild’ I am still in touch with them and providing sporadic support.

              Consider what level of responsibility for the Journeyer’s wellbeing you are ready and able to take on and only operate to that level of work / title as a Spaceholder. In a Risk Reduction Peer to Peer context, ideally the agreements around level of care and follow up are laid out in the Sanctuary Space guidelines.

Roles // Titles invoke different levels of responsibility

           There is a step up in responsibility that occurs between a Risk Reduction / Peer to Peer setting, and when one enters into the role / title of a Guide. There is an even larger step up, one that is backed by a board, licensure, and certification in the designation ‘Therapist’. Not sure what your Journeyer is expecting or wants? Ask! I have been well served in conceptualizing Guiding as an agreement that the Journeyer wants the spaceholder to have the option of playing a more active role in the experience, with the concurrent step up in responsibilities for the outcome of their actions. 

Spaceholder Roles and Responsibilities

Spaceholding philosophies

There are significant philosophical differences between the spaceholding ethos of risk reduction organizations, including : Burning Man Green Dot Rangers, Zendo, Strangers, White Bird, ‘Angels’ / ‘Guardians’ at smaller gatherings, DanceSafe, PLUR…etc.

           As a psychedelic community it is to our benefit to bring the multiple forms of providing support into clear consensual discussion with the Journeyer who can then decide the styles / philosophies / methodologies which are most beneficial to aid in their healing process. This is the turning point in the Psychedelic Renaissance in which we move past underground harm / risk reduction to aboveground benefit enhancement, and the way we can do so ethically and in a non-paternalistic manner is to allow the Journeyer to make a decision based on informed consent of the potential risks and benefits of any particular methodology.

In an individualized pre-arranged spaceholding setting, it is helpful to have the Journeyer go through the following Spaceholder Negotiation and Menu of Spaceholding Offerings so you everyone can be on the same page around philosophies, and the Journeyer can pre-consent to specific actions. 

Spaceholder Negotiation

              Use the Menu of Spaceholding Offerings below as a Yes / No / Maybe rating list for the Journeyer to give knowledge of their preferences / pre-consent to any actions being taken by the Spaceholder on their behalf. The Journeyer can write how open they are to a specific technique on a 1-10 scale, and also include detail if there are any conditional consent factors to consider {eg. ‘Ask me if it’s ok in the moment before you do this; if I am in a post-verbal state, narrate why you are taking a specific action even if I do not verbally respond}. The answers to this list will reveal not only the Journeyer’s preferences, but also their expectations for the style of the session and may reveal heretofore unexamined trauma around trust, attachment, or certain types of relating {which can aid the Journeyer in their search for self-knowledge}. This preemptive list format lets the Journeyer reflect on and decide in an unpressured spacious environment what they are // not comfortable with. An additional bonus to the Menu format is that the Spaceholder can add specific talents that the Journeyer would not know of to this list to seed creative ideas and synergistic solutionary thinking. Finally, through the utilization of methodologies like these, we can create agreements that shed light on all of the potential proceedings preemptively so there are no shadows for shady predatory behaviors to cloak themselves in unscrupulous justifications {for more information on this issue please go to the Consciousness Consent ** section}.

Menu of Spaceholding Offerings

Journeyer Inquiry : how much personal space do you prefer? Will this change as you get to know someone?

Spaceholder Style // Form : 

  1. Nonphysical Neutral Non-Active Presence


Impartial Silent witness


           The most passive / stripped down Spaceholder role is simply ‘bodywatching’ the Journeyer’s physical wellbeing. For both safety and peace in the piece of your mind whose main focus is to keep you safe, it is helpful to have someone watching your body if you are going on a deep journey. Externalizing this role to someone you trust allows your ego {the part of your mind whose sole purpose is to be concerned with / manage your well being} to relax it’s death grip on your psyche, knowing it is in the calming presence of someone who has been assigned this task can help create spaciousness between the narrative it holds of who you have been and that which you are becoming in the course of the Journey and throughout integration.

Having a Spaceholder present in your journey can create : more easeful surrender into states where the ego is not dominant, a reduction in paranoia / panic, a secure attachment figure who acts as a reality anchor in case anything goes sideways, and a ‘reality anchor’ – someone in a baseline, rational, sober mind state to act as a sounding board for an action {eg. you would like to call an ambulance because your heart is beating loudly and you think you are in a medical emergency, but your Spaceholder listens to your pulse, determines it is within a normal range, and offers the suggestion that you are physically ok and you are hearing your heartbeat more loudly due to increased auditory sensitivity}.
           Ideally the Spaceholder will have knowledge of basic first aid and a kit for such, emergency contact information for the Journeyer, information about the Journeyer’s allergies, access to medications necessary to manage an allergic reaction {eg. epinephrine or an Epi-pen}, Naloxone spray, a pulse reader / blood oxygen level monitor, and the knowledge of what a normal pulse level is as opposed to one that is elevated {and when to consider calling in emergency personnel}. Fortunately, both Naloxone {brand name Narcan} and Epinephrine {brand name Epi-pen} are now much more readily available {for how to find them please see the Resources section at the end**}.

In addition to these staples, it is important for the Journeyer to disclose if they have medical conditions that are relevant to the activities of the Journey or that may come up, so that the supplies needed to potentially care for them are on hand, such as those who have a history of fainting have smelling salts available.


2. Reality reflector / anchor 

Another common, and recommended, role for the Spaceholder to take is as a ‘consensus reality anchor’. This may involve, when asked, sharing the ‘clock time’ and other ‘default reality’ or baseline facts about the shared environment. 

The form that this role takes can also be affected by whether you are prioritizing a hands-off risk reduction approach or if your Journeyer desires a benefit enhancement / minimization of suffering experience. For example, there are some schools of sitting in which the Journeyer is solely witnessed by the Spaceholder in a space of permission of being welcome to actively hate themselves and express this hate while the Spaceholder witnesses this stoically without response. This is why a ‘yes / no / maybe’ list such as this which helps to designate desired roles for the spaceholder is helpful to allow the Journeyer to contemplate and discover the form of spaceholding that the Journeyer perceives that they need to allow their own inner healer to emerge. Personally, unless told otherwise, my spaceholding style gravitates towards reducing the amount of suffering in the world whenever possible, which I have been reprimanded for in a harm reduction space utilizing a more dispassionate sitting style as being ‘too involved in the participant’s experience’. Call me a care vulture, but I find it challenging to witness suffering and not offer to alleviate it. Thus, the recommendation of giving the decision to the Journeyer 

Curious > Correct

           There is a commonly shared framing across several different schools of risk reduction that it is not worth ‘convincing’ a Journeyer that their reality frame may not be grounded in ‘consensus reality’. I would agree, in so far what is more important is not whether or not the purple dragon your Journeyer is seeking is ‘real’ {aka convincing them to match what you are perceiving}, but that the value in them sharing that they are seeing a purple dragon lies in knowing what it represents for the Journeyer and why it is coming up at this time. This is a good example of how to navigate what your Journeyer is sharing with curiosity rather than leading with in/validation of their reality. Choosing a perspective of curiosity over logistical evaluation of ‘objective truth’ becomes even more relevant when the Journeyer is sharing something that is in their mind that you cannot externally validate, but perhaps instinctively makes you uncomfortable. Philosophers have had some interesting dialogues on the topic of ‘what is truth’, and most schools of risk reduction find it helpful to adopt the perspective that ‘if your Journeyer thinks it is real, for all intents and purposes it is real to them’, and thus to use the energy of your attention to respond to it as though it is real { even if you have to think about it as a ‘role play’ or theatrical enactment, and always with the caveat that behaving as though it is real would not be putting anyone in harm’s way or causing unnecessary suffering }. It is recommended that you engage in role plays so that you can practice prioritizing a frame of curiosity over correction. Additionally, as always whenever possible, ask your Journeyer ahead of time the way in which they may prefer to be interacted with regarding this frame. 

3. Researcher 

It should go without saying that the Spaceholder should thoroughly research the ally / compound being ingested, keeping knowledge of the standard/average duration curve of the experience in the forefront of their tracking mind {and ideally written out in a notebook in front of them, with the clock time of intake noted, and the ‘math’ of the different stage lengths calculated from there }. This presearch { = pre + research } thus informs the Spaceholder to be able to accurately convey when the peak or plateau of the Journey experience is likely occurring, approximately how long until it will occur, and when it has with statistical likelihood passed {especially important to note when considering taking a booster dose}. A solid resource to consult to compile a typical dose / duration curve is from Erowid.org . It is important to mention that factors such as the weight of Journeyer, their muscle mass, fat/muscle density, how hydrated the Journeyer is, whether they have been fasting, if they are female bodied / taking hormones –  what phase of their hormone / menstrual cycle they are in, what time of day it is, any other supplements the Journeyer is taking, and all of the other factors regarding set and setting also come into play into altering the dose / duration curve from the ‘average standard’ {the ‘Deciding on Dose section has more information on this topic**}. 

Additionally, even if a booster is not being considered, when the Journeyer is seeking assurances at what part of the average intensity curve they are {eg. This is really intense, am I peaking, or is it going to get stronger?’}, well-grounded information can be provided. Finally, informed with the dosage / duration response curve for the ally / compound ingested, in the case the Journeyer has forgotten they have taken a compound, the Spaceholder can provide data-grounded assurances that the Journeyer  has taken a compound {eg. the Journeyer has not lost their mind / they are not going insane} and will return to baseline in x-hours {how-ever-many hours based on the curve}.

3. Nature Guide / Transport

The Spaceholder can also act as a transporter of the Journeyer via a vehicle and then accompany a Journeyer on a hike or natural excursion which is significantly safer than hiking alone. The Spaceholder can be responsible for researching the area, terrain, and timeline beforehand in addition to carrying a map and other emergency supplies. 

4. Documentor / Recorder

The Spaceholder can also passively participate in gathering external data points for the Journeyer through documentation. At its least intrusive level this could involve physically writing down notes on paper or in a notebook. At a more involved level this could also include managing an audio or video recording device, if desired by the Journeyer. Responsibility for testing the devices and making sure they are capturing the recording should be accomplished via a ‘test run’ making sure the sound is audible on the recorder before the session {additionally – have enough batteries and the capacity to charge them for the duration of the session and integration portion}. You can also include an understanding that if the Journeyer decides mid-Journey that they do not wish for the documentation they previously agreed to, that they can revoke their content at any time {one of the principals of Consciousness Consent is that an agreement made sober can be changed when altered, with the exception to harm against self, others, or property}. 

Especially important moments to document may include : noting dose, amount{s}/time taken and any boosters, details regarding significant somatic or energetic reactions at various time stamps {especially changes in breathing or agitation, if they occur}, repeated phrases, and realizations / revelations. The Journeyer is also invited to specifically ask that a particular phrase be written down at any time. 

The notes taken throughout the session by the Spaceholder can then be read during the Integration portion of the experience and will allow the Journeyer to relive and repeat details which increases the likelihood of immediately integrating the insights received. More detail on this practice can be found in the Integration section.** 

Active presence / More involved

Another creative option, to the comfort of the Journeyer, and based on the skills of the Spaceholder, is to take photographs of the Journeyer before / during / after the Journey. This involves a lot of attunement between the Journeyer and Spaceholder in trusting that the moment is right to unearth a camera in a sensitive state. The benefits of a series of photographs at different moments in time may provide insight into where the Journeyer is holding patterns of tension in their body, reveal physical correlates to psychic openness, and can serve as another Integration ARTifact to facilitate incorporating insights gleaned. A picture of the Journeyer at a radiant moment of realization can then act as a somatic sigil bringing the Journeyer back to how that moment of time felt in the Journeyer’s body . 

           With sufficient rapport between Spaceholder and Journeyer, videography can also be employed to create an even more immersive Integration ARTifact. Moments to consider capturing include : when engaged in a cathartic release, spontaneous mudras / movement patterns, and a testimonial to yourself afterwards to help with integration and keep the memory of what was learned fresh and alive and able to be replayed / encapsulated. 

5. Body Barometer

           Bodies are more alike than they are different.

A useful perspective for Spaceholders to take is not trying to minimize or ignore their physical needs {such as by holding a full bladder, or maintaining an uncomfortable physical position for an extended period of time}, but instead to use them as data points to help the Journeyer further settle into their body. Additionally it is worth repeating here that the Journeyer is in a heightened perceptual state which will cause them to pick up on your subtle signs of discomfort, whether consciously or subconsciously, which they then may inaccurately ascribe to their impact on you. 

For example, if there is a Spaceholder that is holding onto a full bladder, this produces tension patterns and tightness in the body of the Spaceholder that the Journeyer may interpret as due to a verbal disclosure they are making / just shared, which then causes the Journeyer to become self-conscious or judgemental that they are causing the tightening reaction, when in fact the tightening in the body of the Spaceholder is due to their biological need to void their bladder. 

As a fascinating aside, if you are finding that attribution errors are frequently coming up within the session, you may find it worthwhile to research internal / external loci of control and how it relates to your Journeyer’s attachment styles to further illuminate fruitful avenues for them to explore in their healing journey.  

           Instead of the Spaceholder attempting to minimize or disappear discomfort in their body, they can use their body as a barometer to have an experience of embodied empathy as to what the Journeyer may also be experiencing. 

Body Barometer in practice : 


Spaceholder monitors their own body state and makes recommendations to change the setting or environment :
I notice I am feeling a bit chilly as the sun has set, and am going to go get my sweater, want me to get your coat for you?
I am feeling thirsty and notice that you have not drunk anything in the past two hours, can I get you a glass of your beverage of choice while I get some water for myself?
I am noticing that the humming of the dryer is distracting me and putting me a bit on edge, can I turn it off while we are in this room?
I am really needing to go to the bathroom, do you need to go too?

Other environmental alterations to consider via your Body Barometer : room temperature, sun exposure, biting insects, brightness of light, ambient noises, stuffiness of air in room

Another related but distinct practice is called ‘Body Mirroring’ which is covered in the ‘Spaceholding Techniques’ section.**

The following roles are on the more ‘active’ side of the Spaceholding spectrum :

6. Narrator

The role of narrator comprises analyzing or calling attention to what is happening as it happens. This immediacy is imminently valuable because feedback is best when timely, and through the trusting rapport between spaceholder and journeyer we can utilize present patterns as a living learning laboratory, drawing attention to reactions in real time. Narration works well when the Spaceholder can filter for signals particularly salient to the Journeyer’s focus for the session. 

With your Journeyer, discuss : In what types of scenarios would you like a more passive Spaceholding witness to break silence ? At what level do you prefer them to engage – merely as a mentioning or as a more involved inquiry ? For example : 

If the Spaceholder notices you are tense in your body {such as balling up your fists or holding yourself in a rigid manner}, do you want them to neutrally mention this physical reaction to bring it to your attention?

Do you want your sitter to ask questions about such somatic signals {a more probing presence}? How often would you like this information – approximately – every 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, hour, or whenever there is a change? Feel free to change your mind anytime during the session and course correct, this is just a starting point to allow your Spaceholder to understand how important pointing out this data is to you.

Crossing into the territory of benefit enhancement : Would you welcome suggestions for your comfort or physical wellbeing, for example if you have not drunk water in many hours, do you want your Spaceholder to make a recommendation towards hydration? Would you like your Spaceholder to fetch you the water?

On a more involved therapeutic inquiry side, would you want your Spacholder to : ask why you might be exhibiting a certain physical behavior, in curious questions mode? Would you be served by your Spaceholder noticing details, pointing out patterns, or making suggestions of possible connections between aspects of your past / old patterns / current behaviors ?

On the furthest side of the interaction / involvement spectrum, would you like your spaceholder to aid you in helping you create a new narrative or story in the moment, or co-creating a new pattern that they then subsequently encourage?

Another lighthearted and even humorous variation could be a Spaceholding narrator that is a predominantly playful presence, a rhyming storybook narrator, or a colorful character that resonates with you from the clown / trickster archetype. Perhaps you would like the Spaceholder to emphasize a ‘not knowing’ or seeing through baby-eyes beginner’s mind direction, as a ‘curious child’, or that you are compassionate peers / kids exploring together.

Benefit Enhancement Active Presence

In addition to the previously noted opportunities for specific roles to slide on the scale from a safety baseline of Risk Reduction into Benefit Enhancement, here we move further into active involvement beyond solely ‘body sitting’. Benefit enhancement involves both the Spaceholder and Journeyer noticing how the Journeyer can be better supported and extending ‘invitations without expectations’ phrased via open-ended offers. { read the power dynamics / consent sections for advanced asking skills for maximum consent, such as giving someone an ‘out’ **}

           What is Benefit Enhancement { BE } ?

Benefit Enhancement began as a cheeky response from those of us in the longtime Risk Reduction community asking where we can grow from beyond ‘Harm Reduction’. { Risk Reduction was originally termed ‘Harm Reduction’ but I am moving away from that term as it implies there is inherently harm which thankfully is not the case}. Risk Reduction is the stable, safe, and grounded foundation from which Benefit Enhancement can spring. 

7. BE {Benefit Enhancement} Pro-Active Presencing : reducing suffering 

Nonphysical Pro-Active Presencing with a focus on reducing suffering includes reading the energy of the Journeyer and intervening when the Spaceholder senses the Journeyer’s discomfort in the situation could be minimized or ameliorated by the Spaceholder making an offer. When orienting towards the direction of benefit enhancement, it is strongly recommended whenever possible to inquire with the Journeyer if the intervention is an enhancement from their perspective. Some instructions in old school ‘Harm Reduction’ philosophy believe that everything provides learning, even difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging experiences, and instruct Spaceholders to interact as little as possible in the Journeyer’s experience. I depart from this default orientation, to advise you to let your Journeyer decide the type of support that they are seeking for that particular session. 

An active presence with an eye towards reducing suffering might look like : changing the environment – turning the thermostat up if the Journeyer is shivering, providing blankets, changing / turning down the music if the Journeyer is covering their ears and curling up, asking others who are being loud within earshot to reduce their volume or move farther away.

Other tasks orienting towards Benefit Enhancement to consider include : fetching items – blanket, coat, robe; if the Journeyer is changing positions in a way that may be indicating physical discomfort, the Spaceholder can offer to create a more comfortable nest with additional pillows / squish / fluff. 

The line between risk reduction and benefit enhancement can be blurred when considering suggestions such as hydrating or going to the bathroom. Keeping track of how long it has been since the Journeyer has had water or has relieved themselves can help prevent the discomfort and danger of dehydration. Sometimes offering a hydrating beverage beyond water can help inspire imbibing – such as a warm tea. 

The final roles / modes of Spaceholding are the most intimate and thus require the most conversation up front. 

8. Active Positive Presence { Maximum Benefit Enhancement }

Introducing new stimuli, engaging in EcoRegulation if the Journeyer is stuck in a loop. 

Making suggestions for a change of scenery – going for a nature walk, or activity – reminding journeyer that music, artmaking supplies are available


Nonphysical Positive Presence
Guiding grounding practices
Going outside and putting bare feet on the earth


Grounding visualizations – energy cord going into earth, rooting into core of planet, darkness draining into earth, light coming into crown
Eating / drinking / going to the bathroom


9. Therapeutic Role

How does a good Guide behave?

A good Guide gets themselves out of the way by listening intently to the guide inside the Journeyer and working to strengthen the Journeyer’s relationship with their own inner knowing.

A good Guide resonates with your inner guide.

At heart, a psychedelic Guide is an external force attuning to and amplifying your personal internal guide, working to strengthen your relationship to your own inner knowing. A Good Guide is a hollow reed – an instrument waiting to be played by the winds of your wisdom emerging. Thus, a guide is eager to encourage your expression, and once attuned, a Guide can resonate as a tuning fork for your new truth. This interpersonal intimacy provides an impetus for integration, as the Guide can then serve as an accountabilibuddy for your new understandings.

When it comes to repatterning, a Guide is indispensable for compassionate witnessing for when you may be falling into the rut of an older groove due to the inertia of the past and can then gently steer you back towards a more beneficial pattern you have committed to. Although immediate integration of insights is a goal to strive for, please be kind in forgiving yourself for when you end up following the older canyons of habit, as they can carve crevasses measured in the depths of many years in comparison to fresh new rivulets of repatterning. Integration is a lifelong practice in pattern-remaking and involves steering yourself in new directions consistently. Over time, as water wears paths in stone, you will find that your new natural inertia moves you towards effortless embodiment of your evolutionary insights. Until then, lean upon your guide and social supports to hold yourself accountable to your new path.

Pro Spaceholding tips


Putting a bit of salt in the water helps remineralize it {if reverse osmosis or distilled water for example} and create the conditions for more ready uptake of hydration in the body

Ginger tea before the journey can preemptively remove any potential nausea or stomach upset {eg. particularly useful for mushrooms which can cause digestive discomfort}. 

If you find your Journeyer is experiencing muscle cramps {such as Charlie horses in the calves} or general tense muscles, a Magnesium elixir {such as CALM} can help the muscles fully relax. Magnesium’s moniker is ‘the relaxation mineral’ as it is essential for proper muscle function, necessary for keeping muscles loose and flexible. Be careful with internal dosage, as too much magnesium can cause diarrhea. An effective alternative method for absorbing magnesium is through the skin, soaking in an Epsom salt tub, or if there is not a full tub available, a foot bath. Epsom salts have a high magnesium content, and magnesium is most readily absorbed through the skin.

Discomfort due to a full bladder, trip magnifies that sensation does not know the cause but suddenly feels anxious and tense because they are tensing their bladder.
Food
Pre-planning of nourishment before, during, and after
Typically appetite will be diminished, but having fruits, sprouted nuts and seeds, and easefully digested items on hand can be helpful for restoring energy or grounding the Journeyer. 

Nausea 

Occasionally hunger can come across as nausea if the Journeyer has been fasting, it has been a long time since they have eaten, or they are exerting themselves strenuously.

Needing more oxygen, going outside, opening a window

Unnecessarily struggling, benefit enhancement, 

Techniques List 

Have the Journeyer fill out from 1-10 how much they would appreciate any technique used, and if it is conditional {eg. only hold my hand if I ask you to and extend it outward}. 

Eye gazing

Audible relaxed breathing

There is one particular technique that I initially developed by accident {have never read of it specifically in the HR literature} and then realized it works like magic that I currently teach widely as ‘if you remember just one thing’ which is Audible Relaxed Exhalation. If the participant is agitated to a degree of active or potential harm to self or others and other techniques are not working {or even before reaching this point, Audible Relaxed Exhalation can be used as a de-escalation technique}, is not necessarily helpful to ‘command’ or direct them to ‘Breathe slowly and deeply’ which they may either not be able to understand {if in a post-verbal state}, or take as a kind of threat/power play/paranoia about control. Instead, breathe deeply and audibly yourself, specifically with a relaxed sigh upon exhalation, such as if you have had a full day and you are now relaxing with your feet up by the fire with a mug of tea. This is a sort of contented at peace sigh communicates directly to the nervous system of the participant that there is someone who is calm and relaxed and breathing deeply next to me that is not scared, thus, my body is safe and I can relax too {without saying a word}. If they ask what you are doing, great, invite them in saying ‘I noticed I was feeling tense and this is what i do to relax would you like to join me’. 

Reading aloud from {pre-planned} books of importance for Journeyer

Guided meditation

Skills to practice before the Journey 

and to call upon if there is a need for relaxation, letting go or surrender during the session


Classic full body relaxation starting from toes to top of head, can be pre-recorded {*pre-preparation*}
Presence to breathing

Presence to sensations, the experience of noticing them then letting them fall away

Visualization to seek out guides, allies, colors, poses/positions of power, objects of power

Somatic visualization / Deeper into experience of moving through something : body focused, following sensations where they are in the body as they move, diving into them, describing them in rich language {hot/cold, intensity, size, metaphor}, the Spaceholder encourages you to go more into the movements, shaking, moving the lantern of your attention to different parts of your body, amplifying whatever is happening

Trauma-Informed Spaceholding

Providing choice

Resolving trauma

Past resolution
Writing a letter to communicate what the Journeyer was not able to in the moment to the person{s} that need to hear it
Witnessing / guiding through an ‘in the chair’ exercise in which the Journeyer speaks to the people they need to clear with directly as through they are there

Verbal somatic trauma release guiding
If you are working specifically to release a particular trauma and you have had {pre-preparation} conversations hearing the details of the story, the Spaceholder can help guide the Journeyer in re-experiencing and re-writing the tale of trauma through what had previously been a not successful ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ into a successful one
This is ideally done with a somatic therapist, someone trained in somatic experiencing, or someone who has read through the work under ‘Somatics’ in the Resources section. **
Loving Eye Gazing

Role play
Family constellations – Spaceholder role play family members

Flipping role – Spaceholder takes identity of Journeyer, Journeyer takes on role of challenging person to find understanding and compassion for their perspective
Spaceholder takes on identity of difficult person, Journeyer can practice speaking their truth
Works especially well if the Journeyer is scared of a particular situation – they can use this type of experiential exposure therapy as practice


Trauma drama : different flavor of spaceholding, more from a trickster / clown humorous frame, amplifying all aspects, turning up the dial to ridiculously overblown to allow the issue to be fully seen, felt, and expressed so that the energy/trigger around it can discharge, acting as if you are on a reality TV show and you need higher drama for ratings / as if you are in a play / movie so the audience really feels it


Live medicine music
Spaceholder shares the medicine / folk songs of their lineage {eg. Lithuanian folk songs, South American medicine songs, drumming, holding a beat}
Turning forks / singing bowls / sound healing

Intention reminders
More involved then a narrator, the Spaceholder, when inspired by intuition or the circumstances are relevant, reminds the Journeyer of their intention, the patterns they are reprogramming, any re-steering out of common thought loops {eg. self-defeating} that have been previously discussed

Intention setting, strengthening, and reminding


Tending sacred smoke – if appropriate for the setting, tending a sacred fire, candle, essential oil diffuser {could be a candle diffuser or of water depending on the climate, temperature, and risk profile/safety precautions}, or coal upon which resins or woods are burned {frankincense, palo santo, sage}
Holding ritual space
Cleansing the space that is to be worked in, and the implements that may be used in the work
Cleansing Spaceholder{s} and Journeyer{s} as they come into the space

Journeyer stating their intention aloud
Calling upon guides, allies, ancestors, giving gratitude for presence of the land, honoring the peoples who have stewarded the environment
Water rituals : Imbuing water with intention, steam bath cleansing, shower cleansing, water anointment, pouring water into open mouth for Journeyer and stating blessings
Fire ritual : burning letters and other objects that no longer serve

Earth ritual : putting bare feet on earth to ground, burying objects that no longer serve
Energy work on Journeyer

Guiding artmaking / co-creation
Making a nature altar

Creating an altar together before the session

Nature therapy walk with narration

Divination / magical practices {if the Spaceholder is a magical practitioner and Journeyer is open to this work}
Banishing rituals

Circle of protection

Making talismans / amulets {good for Integration}

10. Physically Supportive Presence

Safe loving touch is a healing tool that is specifically helpful to incorporate into attachment work.


Light touch : benefits include being able to measure skin temperature directly, monitoring pulse directly, monitoring muscle tone / responsiveness to physical stimuli directly, easy way to ground
Grounding
Can put pressure on the feet

Light pressure on the temples / head

Hand holding
Consistent presence in a way that is welcome and non-threatening or invasive to most people
Hair petting
Many people feel soothed when their hair is pet, combed, or brushed rhythmically
Skin petting
Light traces on the outer edge of the Journeyer’s body can help physically remind them where they end and the world begins
Hugging
Two hearts and chest cavities in contact allows the electromagnetic fields of the heart to overlap
Soothing sensation play : Feathering, hair spider on scalp, petting with soft fabric
Medium Touch
Light or Medium Bodywork
Hands, elbows used on surface/fascia/top musculature of journeyers body 1-5 on intensity scale of 1-10
Laying side by side
Both on backs, side of ribcage to side of ribcage, side bodies connected
Both on side, one as big spoon one as little spoon, curled in fetal position with side body contacting ground possible
Listening to heartbeat
Journeyer laying on back, sitter lays with head on chest, or vice versa

11. High Touch {recommended to only engage in these ways if you are trained in the somatic arts}

  • Inversions
    Either from a hard point or on the back of the Spaceholder {if they are trained in contact improv / SomaSenZ bodwork}
  • Assisted stretching
    Old injury work

    Diet consultations {often comes up when the Journeyer witnesses what the Spaceholder is eating and asks why}
  • Bodywork ceremony / surgery
  • Human gravity blanket
    Journeyer laying on back, sitter, lays with heart over their stomach

    Journeyer lays on stomach, sitter lays on top of them as human gravity blanket stomach down, adjusting weight as needed
  • Physical trauma release hands on guiding
    Wrestling, fighting, allowing the previously unsuccessful trauma response to complete with a win for the body and nervous system {expert training in somatic trauma therapy needed}

              Packing lists

Journeyer

Journeyer Preparatory Flow

  1. Journeyer answers ‘mission critical’ spaceholding questions
  2. Fill out Spaceholding menu preferences for each item on a scale from 1-10, with specifics if there are conditional consent aspects
  3. Gather materials {see Journeyer materials list}
  4. Keeping a dream/journey journal for at least a week before the session, ideally as soon as you know there is something you want to explore/work on in a Spaceholding session, paying attention to your body, intuitions, cultivating abilities to note subtle sensations, noticing any guides/spirit animals that come into your life during this time of preparation
  5. Preparing the playlists {ideally both Journeyer and Guide create several : one that is uplifting  {classical, world music, sacred sounds from the lineages that the Journeyer or Spaceholder has studied are good for this}, one that is ambient / wordless, and one that is related to any memories / experiences the Journeyer wants to examine {for example if letting go of an old relationship, songs that remind you of that connection}
  6. Cultivate energy – take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, exercise daily (even if just going out for a walk), eat well, engage in a contemplative practice, get deep regular sleep, take your vitamins/supplements
  7. A week before (at bare minimum 3 days) halt the use of other intoxicants, including caffeine and alcohol

Spaceholder Preparatory Flow

  1. Based on the ‘Mission Critical’ Spaceholding questions. Spaceholder researches : any contraindications between medical conditions and the altered state technique, potential supplement reactions, body mass / dose recommendations of supplement based on intentions, refresher on standard duration of journey, access to accurate scale, previous knowledge of strength of this particular batch of supplements
  2. Additional reading on the specifics of the type of development or trauma the Journey is wanting to work on {eg. emotional incest, menopause, end of life anxiety}. Does the Journeyer recommend any specific media resources to help the Spaceholder educate themselves in how to best support the Journeyer?
  3. Spaceholder meta-preparation backend : recording your dreams, getting clear in nature, tending to yourself in self-care so you are at peak energy and presence

Journeyer Packing List

Wear loose fitting clothing, ideally of natural fibers for breathability, wear layers that can be easily removed.

In conceptualizing what to pack, bring items as if you are going on an overnight trip to a place with a wide-ranging climate.

Items to consider packing : warm blanket, comfort objects {childhood stuffed animal, blankie}, books you might like to be read from {children’s books you loved when you were young are recommended, anything uplifting and inspiring}, robe, warm coat, hat, scarf/fabric, blindfold, earplugs, any medications you may need, any supplements you might need {ginger tincture is good for nausea}, towel in case you want to shower, change of clothes in case you need it, photos of family / mentors / loved ones / guides / spirit animals, any objects to create an altar with, hygiene products, essential oils / incense you really like, objects / activities / media that helps ground you

Spaceholder Packing List

Fresh ginger, tea brewing supplies {knife, cutting board, kettle, hot plate, mug}, ginger tincture, ginger capsules, any specific supplements, melatonin, sleep aids, earplugs, eyeshades, warm blanket, warm coat (size to fit Journeyer, oversize is good), any nourishment or self-care objects you need to be sitting for the expected length of the session plus 4 hours, timekeeping device, music playlists, speaker, squish/fluff/bedding, any specific healing implements you use, journal, art supplies, recorder, video/camera if desired by Journeyer {humane restraints & hard points in the case of extreme sessions}

Spaceholder

Upon arrival to the space

          If the space is new to you, inquire with the host as to lights, how to change the temperature, if cooking is ok, where the restroom is, any rules of the space, idiosyncrasies about anything that might be used, and how they prefer it is reset when done.

Specifically ask where you are welcome to roam, how loud you can be and where, and locations that nudity is welcome.

Space preparation

              Preparing the space – know how much sound you can make, soundsystem for music {can be headphones for Journeyer only}. 

Journeyer gives phone and car keys to the Spaceholder. Journeyer shares how to unlock phone if this is needed.

Integration

Reviewing notes taken out loud with Journeier 

Journal Prompts 

INTEGRATION

Are there any images, animal/ plant allies, spirits that emerged in your experience that you can use to anchor your new patterns and insights ?

Are there any words, mantras, memes, phrases, or encapsulated understandings that emerged to help you remember your new way?

Are there any objects, pieces of adornment {jewelry, face/body paint markings, pieces of clothing} , or material(s), colors, actions, movements, activities that will help continuously remind you to deepen into your new way ?

Did any sounds, chants, toning, songs come through this experience you’d like to carry forward into the future?

What is the elevator speech of your experience {3 minute summary} ?

What would help you with your self care? Are there any new practices that emerged from your experience that you would like to incorporate into your routine?

You may wish to create a vision board, journal, write a list, or write out a meditation to place you back in the state(s) that served your growth moving forward from the experience.

 **how to create ego spaciousness – integration and creating a new identity, 

Techniques

Nervous System Nourishment  

If you are working with someone who prefers to self-regulate or if you are needing regulation as the Spaceholder, the following activities can help you self-generate a sense of wellbeing. 

How to Self-Generate Oxytocin 

Solo self-soothing : how to generate oxytocin if you are by yourself :

Oxytocin is the love & bonding hormone. Oxytocin has been linked to wellbeing and reduced stress levels and stimulating mechanisms related to restoration and healing, and thus, contributing long-term to better health profiles and longevity. Oxytocin reaches several important areas in the central nervous system {CNS} and is involved in the regulation of social interactive behaviors, fear, aggression, perception of pain, calm, wellbeing, and stress reactions (by modulating the activity of the HPA-axis and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system). The half-life of oxytocin in the circulation of humans is 30 min (De Groot et al., 1995). A similar half-life has been demonstrated in the cerebrospinal fluid, but might be even longer in different parts of the brain (Jones and Robinson, 1982). [1]

Low oxytocin has been implicated in attachment disorders, compulsive behaviors such as overeating, addictions to gambling/sex, and substance abuse as a type of ‘self-medication to restore oxytocin function’. Low levels of oxytocin have been demonstrated in individuals with borderline disease, certain types of depression, and schizophrenia (for a review, see Kim et al., 2013). Also, some pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and recurrent abdominal pain in children are associated with low levels of oxytocin (Alfven et al., 1994; Anderberg and Uvnäs-Moberg, 2000). In addition, previous experience of traumatic events is associated with an increased incidence of low oxytocin levels or stress related reduction of oxytocin levels (Pierrehumbert et al., 2010). [2]

The psychological clinical literature has demonstrated the following as oxytocin-generating behaviors :

  1. Pleasant Mental Experiences

An invitation to daydream, feed your fantasies, and to pursue small pleasures.

“Oxytocin is released in response to pleasant mental experiences. Such a release of oxytocin may, e.g., be induced by seeing, hearing, smelling, or thinking of well known and loved persons, but also by other pleasant situations (Uvnäs-Moberg, 1998; Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 2005).”

2. Activation of the Somatosensory Nerves

Get moving : Shaking, dance, movement meditations, physical activity, being in nature, deep breathing.

“Oxytocin is also released in response to activation of somatosensory nerves, which mediate non-painful and pleasant (non-noxious) information, e.g., induced by touch, stroking, warmth, and light pressure of the skin (Uvnäs-Moberg and Petersson, 2010).”[3]

3. Touch

Give yourself a massage, dry skin brush, apply lotion or oils to your whole body (especially after taking a bath or shower). Also, breast massage specifically has been shown to release oxytocin.

Areas of the body with more receptors to stimulation include the feet, hands, lips, tongue, and face. Thus high-oxytocin releasing activities are : walking barefoot on the ground, manipulating textured objects with the hands, making physical art (pottery, natural/ found sculpture, drawing, painting), building intricate detailed objects, puzzles.

4. Warmth

A warm coat, cozy sweater, blanket, warm bath, sauna, steam bath, hot tub, turning up the temperature.

“Warm temperature stimulates oxytocin release in rats (Stock and Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988; Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1993a; Lund et al., 2002)”[4]

“As Otto Fenichel has said : ‘to get affection’ means ‘to get warmth’. They are ‘frozen’ personalities who ‘thaw’ in a ‘warm’ atmosphere, who can situ for hours in a warm bath or on a radiator.” [5]

5. Meditation

Gratitude meditations and meditations in which you think of loved ones are particularly effective.

6. Thinking about beloveds

“Oxytocin may even be released by seeing, hearing or by merely thinking of the other beloved person (Carter and Keverne, 2002; Grewen et al., 2005; Light et al., 2005; Holt-Lunstad et al., 2008).”[6]

7. Food intake & digestion

Especially recommended is eating food that is very textually stimulating, or requires a lot of chewing. Foods that involve a lot of manipulation, such as shelling pistachios, or picking up item by item (such as berries) thus involving your hands, doubles the pleasure via the oxytocin released by the numerous nerve endings in the well-innervated fingers.

“Food intake is also associated with oxytocin release and several mechanisms are involved in the oxytocin release induced by ingested food. When food touches the oral mucosa oxytocin is released following activation of touch receptors in the oral cavity and when the ingested food reaches the gastrointestinal tract, gut hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) is released from the duodenum in particular in response to proteins and fat. Sensory fibers of the vagal nerves are then activated by CCK. The sensory vagal nerve fibers relay in the NTS wherefrom neurons project to the PVN, where oxytocin is released both into the circulation and into the brain (for references, see Uvnäs-Moberg and Prime, 2013). Oxytocin can also be released following activation of other sensory nerves originating from, e.g., the oral mucosa (Lupoli et al., 2001), and the gastrointestinal tract (vagal nerves; Stock and Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988)” [7]

8. Suckling / Oral Stimulation / Oral fixations

If you don’t have access to an enthusiastic nipple, some replacements are drinking from a straw, pursing & putting your lips on bottles, pacifiers, drinking warm liquids, bubbly beverages, and sucking on hard candies/lollypops. Other adaptive / neutral activities related to this pathway include chewing gum and applying chapstick / lipstick. 

“Suckling is also linked to oxytocin release as the act of suckling per se induces oxytocin release by activation of touch receptors in the oral cavity (Lupoli et al., 2001). Oxytocinergic mechanisms may be involved in the calming, anti-stress, and growth promoting effects of the suckling in breastfeeding infants, but also in response to sucking of a pacifier (Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1987). It is even possible that the dependency of other types of suckling related behaviors, e.g., smoking of cigarettes and even drinking of alcohol (Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1993b), may involve an oxytocin linked component triggered by the suckling itself and not only by the pharmacological effects of nicotine and alcohol.”[8]

9. Interacting with pets

“Oxytocin levels peak significantly in both dog owners and dogs when they interact and in particular when the owner strokes and caresses her dog (Odendaal and Meintjes, 2003; Miller et al., 2009; Handlin et al., 2011). Oxytocin is however also released when the dogs see and want to approach the owner. Pet ownership is associated with lower blood pressure, serum triglycerides, and cholesterol levels (Allen et al., 2002).” If you have severe attachment problems and are too afraid of humans in order to receive any support from them, studies show that you can receive the same oxytocin benefits from interacting with a friendly dog or having a pet.[9]

10. Seeing friends or pets approach

When interacting with other humans or animals, there are two oxytocin spikes that occur. The first oxytocin peak is induced when seeing and hearing “the other individual” (dog or the human) and is linked to active approach. The second peak occurs in physical contact (petting, shaking hands, giving massage). [10]

11. Self-Pleasuring

Not only does self-pleasuring release oxytocin (with a big release occurring at the moment of orgasm), but self-pleasuring also boosts the immune system !

A small 11 person study from Germany found that masturbation “confirmed transient increases in adrenaline and prolactin plasma concentrations” and that “sexual arousal and orgasm increased the absolute number of leukocytes, in particular natural killer cells (CD3-CD16+CD56+), in the peripheral blood.” The study concluded that “these findings demonstrate that components of the innate immune system are activated by sexual arousal and orgasm.” [11]

12. Electrical play

“low intensity electrical stimulation releases oxytocin in rats (Stock and Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988; Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1993a; Lund et al., 2002)”[12]

13. Eu-Stress

Eustress is non-paralyzing ‘adaptive’ stress. Low levels of ‘beneficial’ stress that is not overwhelming but motivates active coping behaviors (rather then falling into a lethargic / defeated inactive depression). For example, completing a ‘life purpose project’ that you always put off but would want as part of your legacy.

“In addition, oxytocin may also be released by mental and sensory stimuli that are perceived as stressful. In this case oxytocin is activated in parallel with the stress system and the role of oxytocin in these situations may be to dampen stress responses and facilitate coping behaviors (Neumann, 2002).”[13]

{bonus methods for those not sheltering in place solo}

If you have the good fortune of not being solo, you can also enjoy the following interpersonal interactions that release oxytocin.

Now may be a good time to consider a move to co-habitation, via cooperative, community house, or intentional community.

“Many studies demonstrate that the health profile of people, who live in good relationships, is better than for those who live alone. They, e.g., have lower blood pressure and a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease. They have less infections and the risk for some types of cancer is reduced. People who live in good relationships may even look younger and live longer than those, who live alone.”[14]

14. Platonic touch (cuddling)

“Oxytocin may be released when individuals of both sexes and all ages touch each other, given that the relationship is perceived as positive.”[15]

15. Massage

“Treatment with massage is linked to oxytocin release – pulses of oxytocin can be observed both in the individual receiving massage and in the masseur (gathered by repeated blood samples from Uvnäs-Moberg, 2004). Several positive effects occur during a massage session : levels of anxiety are decreased, the perception of wellbeing is increased and that of pain decreased, and both blood pressure and cortisol levels are lowered. Repeated massage treatments are associated with long-term expression of all these effects (Field, 2002, 2014).

Massage also helps in personal relationships – increasing the ability for friendly interaction, and may even be used to resolve marital conflicts (Ditzen et al., 2007)”[16]

Stay tuned, I am going to be releasing context demonstrating self-massage as well as platonic partner massage via the SomaSenZ mutual massage methodology at www.RAZ.MA

I am also working on creating edutainment ‘raps’ covering self-care / psychology principals in an actionable aurally enjoyable form. Let me know if there are topics you would like me to research & create content about or if you are a beat-maker and would like to collaborate!

Wising you wellness.

RAZ.MA


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[5] Touching : The Human Significance of Skin, Ashley Montagu, 1986, Harper Collins Publishers, pg.102-3

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[9]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290532/

Main References :

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239

and Touching : the Human Significance of Skin by Ashley Montagu

              De-escalation

              Please read the techniques section for methodologies to de-escalate anything from extended unnecessary tension to a concern for harm to self or others

Grounding pressure

              Safe loving touch

              Cradling : don’t be wearing sharp jewelry – go into it as if you are going into a wrestling match, you don’t have that split second to prepare to take of your fragile valuables

Out in the wild

              Scared animal – how to directly speak to the nervous system

                           Audible relaxed breathing {a technique I invested that is not spoken about in any of the literature} – not say ‘breathe deeply, because they may be post-verbal and not understand words

              Fighting – restraint, weight is also grounding

              How to establish trust, maximum consent

                           Narrate what you are doing and why

              Prevent harm

              Stories of chasing a person who was going to go drown themselves

              Follow up if you can provides closure – also helps secondary people taking care of the person {eg. biter taken to zendo bit another person} ]

shaking – especially if you feel yourself going into a freeze state

techniques I have specifically uniquely developed

              grounding

              weight

              audible relaxed exhalation

Trauma-Informed Spaceholding

Ideally be trained in how to hold space for a the particular traumas of your Journeyer

If this is not possible, research the background of your journeyer to be informed in how to hold space for their trauma type.

how not to re-traumatize – basics

post-verbal states

actions that might be necessary if someone is in a scared animal state

restraint

preventing biting, kicking, punching

Spaceholding Ethics

              Trauma-informed : are you trained in holding someone in the depths of their trauma – if not you could deeply damage their psychic trust structures

              You should think of it as you are taking on the responsibility for whatever happens to the person you are sitting for

              Not motivated by finances, donation based, although compensation for time taken for training

              Sexuality and psychedelics

                           It happening, here is how to reduce the risk

              Levels of risk : playing with someone you have already known in different contexts, a sexual context, knowing them from psychedelic contexts, play at a level you have already played with them at, do a dosage you are familiar with, with a substance you are familiar with, don’t go past pre-negotiated boundaries

Shady shamans – sexuality, money

              Why are you attracted towards being a sitter? Money, power, need for self-work, cool, or being humble and grateful and wanting to give back the gifts you were given. Extractive mindset, profit motive or generative desire

              The marketing I am seeing is putting forward earning 50 to 200 dollars an hour, the profit motive needs to not be primary. Its not all easy fun or positive. You need to have extremely high ethics, privileged relationship of trust,

How to vet a Spaceholder

how to include integration within the journey experience

Afterwards : accountabilibuddy follow up – how much responsibility and follow up is appropriate?

chemical restraint – how to directly speak to the nervous system beforehand

thought experiments – what would you do as a good Samaritan? What would you do as a Spaceholder?

This is deep work, forged in an existential fire, you may have to nurture someone back from an existential crisis

High risk high reward, this is psychic surgery not playing doctor. This is not the place to practice your spaceholding skills

Resources


Peter Levine’s body of work

Waking the Tiger

The Body Keeps the Score

The Body Bears the Burden

Polyvagal Theory 

Complex PTSD

Don’t do this Alone 

My Grandmother’s Hands

When the Body Says No

Erowid

MAPS
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide

LSD : My Problem Child 

Zendo Training Manual and videos

Guild of Guides

In the Wild

In the Wild, always keep your senses open. The first step in supporting a Journeyer is knowing that they need support. Ask yourself : Is there anyone who’s actions or demeanor are not matching what would be expected in the context { eg. laying down in the middle of the dance floor } ?

Check in with the person visually, trying to catch their eye and giving a smile and a wave, and then approach and ask ‘are you ok?’ verbally if they are unresponsive and seem out of sorts. It is worth the energy to check in with someone and get a verbal ok then to assume they are fine. 

From the reverse perspective, I, as the strange stretchy somatic bird I am, often behave in ‘unconventional’ ways { such as by hanging upside-down for extended periods of time} and thus have been on the receiving end of many of these good intentioned check ins. I always am grateful to be asked, as I sense the community caregiving that prompts these questions and looking out for each other is an essential part of the social safety net.

            If the person you are checking in on seems out of it, see if you can look around and find their friends. Often, if they are good friends, they will approach you themselves if they see you approaching their friend. If friends do not arrive, ask your charge what their name is and if they know where they are. 

If they are unable to answer coherently, you may need to summon additional support. Do not be afraid to ask those around you for support. We are a compassionate community of care!

Determine if your charge is in a safe place – are they on the ground amid a large crowd where they may get trampled? Are they near the edge of a cliff? Are they high up in the air? Near sharp art / stakes in the ground? Near moving traffic?

If you can reduce the amount of stimulus around your charge, try to do so. This may involve moving away from speakers, turning strobing / blinking lights off, or moving them away from a crowd.

Are there environmental factors that may be affecting your charge’s wellbeing? If it is hot and sunny see if you can take them to the shade. If it is cold and windy at night, see if there is a burn barrel or campfire you can take them to or a blanket or jacket you can loan them.

If your charge’s breath and blood pressure seem stable, try to tune into what they may need – is it hot ? cold {are they shivering} ? late at night ? could they be over / underheated ? do they look dehydrated {dry chapped lips} ? could their blood pressure be low ? are they getting enough oxygen {are their lips blue}? Does their breath smell fruity {could be a diabetic with low blood sugar, ketones create an acetone – nail polish remover type smell} ?

After a basic physical wellness assessment you may choose to find someone with an event radio or take your charge to medical or the sanctuary space.

If there is not such a space and you wish to proceed with offering care the following may prove useful to ask :

What is your name?

Where are you camped?

Where is your home base?

How are you?

Is there anything you need?

Additionally, jotting down a description of them, including clothing and other identifying characteristics such as age, can be helpful in case they run off.

Festival Frontline Support Kit

Even when you are not on shift as a roaming Ranger // Risk Reduction and required to carry the following, you are highly encouraged to carry :

easily digestible nourishment to help with dropped blood sugar, such as a trail bar.

Earplugs

Extra water

Tissues / toilet paper

Plastic gloves / a plastic bag

Lip balm / moisturizer

A way to keep time and make notes {primary could be your phone but there are also moments you will want to leave a physical note somewhere or if case your battery dies}

New book : Festival Frontlines Risk Reduction :: insights from 15 years of altered state aid :: the deep responsibility I feel towards offering informed guidance on the realities of what can happen in altered states, as well as how to reduce the likelihood of ‘worst case scenarios’ & how to navigate them in case of emergency is profound. I teach in person, but not everyone can be present where I do so. Thus, in this tome are life-saving techniques for everyone from solo sitters {please find someone to sit with you!}, first/longtime Spaceholders, all the way to wise words of caution to anyone who is not properly trained/informed & seeking to profit in the ‘wild west’ created by the current trend of increasing visibility /  public sharing of the benefits of psychedelics as medicine. FFRR is stemming from a deep sense of duty being called forth at an extremely rapid pace due to the financed fervor currently occurring in the psychedelic startup space. My hope is that FFRR prevents the harm that is possible when the blind desire of capitalism to profiteer combines with the powerful pandora’s box of psychedelics. Please let me know topics you think would be wise to cover; I am particularly focusing on risk reduction & ethics. My goal is to get a published publicly available ebook out as rapidly as possible, at longest within the month, and the process is on track for such.

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To incorporate

“most bad trips are people resisting what is happening. Their ego is dissolving and it’s scary, it feels like a death, they try to stop it”

“the chances of a bad trip in a guided situation are substantially less”

Challenging trip equal to a bad nightmare to be analyzed

Physiologically, for your body the risks are remarkably low for the classic psychedelics, not mdm pot, lsd psilocybin, dmt, mescaline.  Much less toxic then many of the over the counter drugs in your medicine cabinet. There is no lethal dose 

“irrational exuberance” 

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1 https://breathworkonline.com/contraindications/

2 Psychedelics Today : Trip Integration Journal


[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nocebo