CW: Mentions of global events and uprisings that include harm and violence
We are on a collective mushroom journey.
Mushrooms, as in psilocybin, as in magic ‘shrooms, as in our 1 billion-year-old Indigenous ancestors and teachers, are the slender stems that purposefully punch through the earth’s surface. Arriving from an underground network of memory, called the mycelium, they are guided towards the light wearing chiffon pleated caps to hold and spread the carried wisdom of existence. Over the years, ‘shrooms have been traced back to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and ancient Greek societies, as well as found in cave carvings and rock statues in Spain, Mayan and Aztec ruins in Central America, and Australia. Some say the evidence isn’t definitive, but I believe it.
When you ingest psilocybin, often, you immediately feel sick. The plant, now your guide and partner in growth, clears the way to enter realms of seeing, knowing, feeling, and being, beneath the surface, and far from this physical reality. For 15-30 minutes, it trudges through the muck, the thick layer of story and belief, coping and fear, imprinted on our membranes that hold us in a pattern of living as is. As natural decomposers, mushrooms locate decaying matter in the body, bringing it to the surface to be felt, contended with, and ultimately, transformed into nourishment.
Mushrooms have been the single most transformational, healing, and generous teacher of my life. I say this definitively because mushrooms have not held back. They have not tiptoed around my loyal resistance, and they have refused to not let me see all of me: the pain that I stubbornly cling to, the bullshit that I indulge in, the glow up that is uniquely mine, and the profound love that I am wrapped in.
Let me put it this way, the last mushroom journey that I took was in September 2019. It lasted 6 hours, and I have been processing it for over 18 months. At one point, I ran outside our wooded sanctuary in the Muskoka woods, somehow found a single, lone mushroom on the grass field, and fell to my knees begging for the courage to see this moment through. Eventually, I was crying in ecstatic gratitude that these plants, these morsels of fungi that we sometimes eat in pasta on a Monday night, were here for us, for me, holding my hand towards merging with the breathtaking and brain-breaking truth of the universe. My new normal started immediately after that journey.
There are these interstitial moments during a mushroom journey when your ground is uprooted and overturned. All of the pieces of your tightly woven ego start to unravel, and what you thought to be true becomes in flux, hanging in the air like a newborn’s mobile. Here, in the disarray, there is space to see that which was not visible before.
Then the questions begin. So many questions.
How did I not see this? What does this mean about who I think I am? Also, who I am? Who will I be after this and what does this mean for the decisions that I have made thus far? Am I dying? I don’t want to die. How do I live in this world with this knowledge? I don’t want to know. Who will I be on the other side? What has to end now, and can I live without it? Why does changing my mind feel terrifying? I’m losing control. What will happen if I let go of this belief? I can’t let go. I have to let go. Who am I? Am I loved? I am so loved. How can we be this loved? Wow, we are this loved.
This process of acknowledging, reckoning, feeling, healing, and reshaping, while floating in an undefined space between what you thought you knew and what you are now learning, can be rough. It’s often called a journey, but it can feel like an odyssey across multiple terrains of emotionality. Here, disconnection from reality can become so severe, the most important tool is to try to find grounding, which can look like: touching your body, drinking water, taking a poop, reminding yourself of your name and the names of your family members, how old you are, where you are and where you were 24 hours prior, remembering what your intention was, and reciting the mantra central to Vipassana meditation: it arises to pass, it arises to pass. You get the point.
I say we are in a collective mushroom journey because it grounds me. It helps me make sense of the nearly weekly waves of upheaval, grief, and reckoning across the globe as we contend with the horrifying impact of abusive power that uses our differences across race, religion, gender, class to dehumanize, suppress, control, kill.
Elderly fear and protection / Mass job loss / PPE shortages / Trump neglect / Anti-Asian Racism / Evictions / Pandemic isolation / Indian migrant deaths / Essential workers rights / Overworked Essential Workers / Canceled events / Superspreader events / Anti-maskers / No touch / Small businesses closing / Mental health crisises / Black death / Us vs. Them / Police murders / Kids stuck indoors / Factory worker deaths / Paid sick leave / Trans murder / Protest ‘looting’ backlash / Teachers breaking / Ableist policy / Encampment evictions / Anti-Blackness uprising / Working moms overwhelmed / Anti-vaxxers / Asian elderly death / Derek Chauvin / Police killing Indigenous people / Billionaires richer / Capitol Hill storm / India mass death / More Black death / Brazil mass death / Palestine occupation / Indigenous children bodies found / Stolen Land / Residential schools / Colonial gaslighting / Reopening anxiety
With each wave, there are overwhelming feelings of anger towards the psyche of whiteness, the dizzy gaslighting from colonial organizations, including the US, Canada, and Britain, and the fatigue with power structures relentlessly upholding power structures. We post on social media, email government representatives, mention the event on a zoom call and sit quietly with each other in the senselessness. We absorb the backlash of an opposing view operating in self-preservation, unwilling to expand their scope of humanity and collectivity. We judge ourselves — have I done enough? why haven’t I done more? what do I do now? and judge each other — why are they silent? why don’t they care? how could they say that? can we still be friends? can I still work here?
Where is the bottom of the shadow of humanity? Is there one? Probably not.
The general counsel when preparing for a mushroom journey is ‘set and setting,’ which means why you are doing it (intention), where you are doing it (safe sanctuary), and who you are doing it with (relationships of love and trust). In this collective ceremony of uncovering, our intention is truth and liberation and we are doing it in our homes (if we have them) and through our screens, with those who have awakened to systems of oppression, and are unwilling to continue this way. Through hashtags, tweets, and IG threads, we are building collective cultural power and knowledge.
Like a mushroom journey, in the uncomfortable process of revelation, there is so much beauty. The beauty of seeing the truth and holding it in your hand, after periods of denial and refusal despite it poking at you and circling your periphery. The beauty of being witnessed in the story of your pain and the delicate process in which it begins to morph into power and resolve. The beauty of feeling closer and more intimate with those who have dared to travel to the underworld together. The beauty of these waves also grounds me - and how so many communities, have found deeper solidarity with each other in the fight for safety and freedom.
BLM as the largest social movement in human history
‘Not your model minority’ declarations
Banging pots for workers
Paid sick leave as united rage
Universal basic income
Tiktok + baking
Mutual Aid + Collective care networks
Disability justice + accessible worldbuilding
10-day Isreal / Palestine bridge building on Clubhouse
Collective mourning for Indigenous babies
Holding the beauty with the shadow is so confusing though, in the same way, having a morning coffee while missiles are being fired, and laughing about Bennifer, while the remains of 215 Indigenous children’s bodies were found, makes no sense. Holding the beauty and the fight, despite the clap back and continued resistance to meaningful structural change, is tough on the heart.
This collective mushroom ceremony is teaching us to move beyond ‘mind supremacy’ because the mind simply can not process what we are experiencing. In fact, the mind is the site of brainwashing. There is no explanation or story that can justify the harm being revealed; that can console the weight of loss. The healing has to happen through the body because the body is the site of violation, directly and inter-generationally, and where memory rests like the dust on the top of a mantel. The body has been hijacked as the tool for oppression, and it is through the body where pain will transform into power.
The discombobulating experience of contending with systemic oppression is realizing that not everyone has the belief that all human life is worthy of liberty, and that the primal instinct for safety often looks like dangerous expressions of control, power, and violence. Why can’t they see what I see? Why don’t they see me? It is this dissonance and harrowing contradiction that only the body can hold as an uncomfortable truth that will undoubtedly expand our allegiance to love as a politic, love as the only way that may make some semblance of sense.
Soon, mushrooms as a healing guide will be available to more people, as legalization slowly and surely sweeps across states and countries. With legalization, a ‘safer’ and more ‘acceptable’ container for talking about mystical and healing experiences will emerge, removing the taboo of ‘drugs,’ even if the risk of co-optation from its sacred Indigenous roots loom. How divine is it that the forces have aligned to have plants, the keepers of our breath, usher all of us into a new era, exactly when we need it the most? Plants are as desperate for our evolution as we are.
Some draw the distinction between a ‘good trip,’ and a ‘bad trip,’ but the more astute may note, ‘you always have the trip you need.’ If we believe that mushrooms are our ancestors and our lineage is always evolving towards liberation, then this moment is meant to make us really good future ancestors. If we believe the stench of what has been left to rot under the rug, must be cleaned, cleansed, and detoxed, then we are exactly where we are supposed to be.
It is really hard sometimes. But this is what grounds me.
Bring our children home: If you live in T’karonto, Idle No More and Porcupine Warriors are organizing a March at Queen’s Park on Sunday @ 2 pm to hold ceremonial space for the 215 children’s bodies found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Watch this tender statement by former Senator, Murray Sinclair and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
Artwork: This moving collaborative dance piece, called ‘Not Your Model Minority,’ directed by Ming-Bo Lam.
Currently Reading: Inferno by Catherine Cho - a mesmerizing and harrowing memoir and account of experiencing post-partum psychosis.
Public play: My pals at FromLater launched the game, ‘Directions to Nowhere in Particular’ in collaboration with the Bentway. The offers a series of creative prompts to reimagine how we see and navigate public space. I’ve already told them if I write a book, I might have to steal this name.
More Reading: This absolutely infuriating piece by Jesse Kline in the National Post about privatizing public parks, because they are ‘dog toilets’ and ‘overtaken by the homeless’ and could be better used for ‘real estate,’ and instead ask people to pay a fee for parks. I share this, not because it’s delightful, but to stay awake to the conservative agenda, which is always: create chaos, distract people, and privatize under the radar. I’ll balance it with this Harpers Bazaar piece on TikTok creator houses in case you ever wonder who you would be if you were born as GenZ (I think about this all the time).