Psilocybin: A Brief Introduction


Humans have an ancient relationship to the intoxicating effect of psilocybin. Produced in active quantities in dozens of mushroom species, Psilocybin cubensis is the most widely used psychoactive mushroom in the Americas and has been used for centuries in ancient cultures. The popular use of psilocybin is rather new to United States culture, beginning in the 1950s, entering into hippy culture, suppressed by the War on Drugs, then re-emerging recently as part of the psychedelic renaissance, which is focused increasingly on its medicinal use in psychopharmacology.


Acute effects of psilocybin last about four to five hours, and people describe its effect as “visionary,” “revelatory,” “mystical,” “expansive,” “interconnected” and “ineffable.” The results following their use include a sense of “awakening,” a greater self-compassion and compassion for others, and a more flexible, novel approach to one’s self and to the world one encounters.

It’s generally accepted that the nature of a person’s psychedelic experience is dependent on the “set” of a person’s mind when they consume a given psychedelic and the “setting” of the environment around them when they take their trip. In fact, Timothy Leary, likely the most famous proponent of psychedelics, wrote that ““The drug dose does not produce the transcendent experience: the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting.”

Holding Space

This is why psychedelic practitioners describe their work as offering a “container” or “holding space,” their efforts focused on offering the most hospitable setting for the people they help. Psilocybin use can be highly disorienting and distressing if the experience is not properly held by compassionate and listening practitioners, by sound, physical space, and physical comfort.

We hold space at Cardea through the use of vibrational instruments and sound, believing what modern neuroscience confirms what ancient healers and ceremonialists have known for centuries – that sound and vibration play an essential – not an incidental – role in deepening psychedelic experiences. We also assist our guests in achieving an optimum mind-set for their journey, offering individual sessions with us prior to the retreat, during it and following when they return home.

Key to a Key

At Cardea, we think of psilocybin as a “key to a key,” meaning it opens the door to a vital human process that already exists in all of us: this is the capacity to play. Play wakes us up, bringing us to our own experience of our lives coursing through us, and to our encounter with the lives of other living things and beings. And we see it as a sister mindset to contemplation, the process at the center of personal change and growth.

There’s a lot that happens at our retreats and it’s all created and facilitated by our founders, who are individuals with decades of experience in the areas of psychedelics and human transformation. Our common base: creating an environment that fosters play.


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