There is one name one can’t escape every time the topic of psychedelic therapy comes up in Mexico – Dr. J. “Transcendental,” “life-changing,” and “beyond my wildest dreams” are the type of phrases people use to describe the experiences she has guided them through. Naturally, this sparked my interest..
This piece will be structured in three parts. Firstly, I will walk you through my experience, then you will be able to read an interview with Dr. J and lastly, I will share about my integration process with Anna Pao Cova, a close friend and college of Dr. J. and what has happened since the therapy. I often say that life is precise and in the following article, you will see why this statement is so accurate. So, I invite you to come with me on a journey of my recent psychedelic exploration and learn more about the inner workings of my mind.
Since the beginning of August, I have been going through a transitory and difficult time. A lot of questions about where my life was going and what city I wanted to live in were preoccupying me strongly. To me, it seemed like a mild quarter-life crisis or, as someone recently told me, the beginning of Saturn return. I often heard that 27 is a difficult year, although I never actually thought it would be for me. Boy, was I wrong.
Having gone through weeks of inner turmoil, I decided, as a few times before in my life when at a crossroads, to turn to plant medicine. I have done many macrodoses in the past but never with a therapist by my side. “This is the moment,” I thought, clearly in need of external help and guidance to get me out of the funk I found myself in.
As fate would have it, I met Dr. J at an art opening in the days that followed that decision. I approached her without a second of hesitation, introduced Funga and myself and told her there and then that I would love to experience her magic and write a piece on her. She responded with great receptiveness and agreed that it would be a lovely thing to collaborate. I couldn’t believe my luck!
Fast forward a month, on a beautiful November Sunday, I am standing in my sweat pants, slightly nervy but incredibly excited, ringing her doorbell. We had previously had discussions on the phone about my intentions for the psychedelic therapy. Intentions are a central aspect when you are working with psychedelics with wants of therapeutic benefits. It is important to have them very clear but not to attach expectations to them. They are a lovely guide throughout the experience, but one should not forget that in the end, the medicine will take you where you need to go and that that was the journey you were meant to have.
After a tour of her wonderful house full of psychedelic paraphernalia, we entered the room where it would soon begin. On the nightstand, she had the chocolate psilocybin mushrooms, a facemask, mineral water, tissues and some gummies (for the comedown) already waiting.
I sat down on the bed (which soon became the most comfortable one I had ever lain in), repeated my intentions to Dr. J, and ate the medicine after placing my eye mask. Dr. J started the session with a meditation followed by music and it wasn’t long until I went down the rabbit hole.
Music plays a very central role in a psychedelic therapy session. “It has been suggested that brain regions recruited during music listening overlap at least partially with brain regions altered by the administration of psychedelics, particularly parts of the brain that govern processing of emotions.” The eye mask is also a key aspect because taking away the sense of sight forces you to look inward rather than be distracted by visuals that catch your attention.
The first thing that stood out to me was how beautifully curated the songs were, a mixture of classical but electronic sounds from Nils Fram and Joe Beving to Brian Eno and Olafur Arnalds. The speakers also took the sound to another level, giving me the feeling of being fully encompassed by it. I remember lying there and enjoying the slow loss of control while crossing the bridge. Soon, I began to think of all the blessings in my life, a huge feeling of gratitude coming over my body that is very characteristic of all my trips. It is another reason I think plant medicine is such an incredible thing because it reminds you to live in that state of gratitude and, in my experience, brings you back to the things you have rather than the things you lack.
After about an hour and a half, tears streaming down my face, Dr. J softly brought me back into the room by telling me that the massage therapist had arrived and we were moving to a massage bed. “Sound good?” she says. I can’t think of anything that could sound better.
I want to pause here momentarily and point out how spectacular this part of the therapy is. Dr. J has curated a group of massage therapists who know not only how to do amazing energy work but who really understand how to handle the patients in this most hyper sensitive state. It is not an easy task to be able to do that and the wonder is not lost on me. I had the loveliest woman work on my whole body for two hours while I was reaching the peak of my experience. I could feel how the pain from certain blockages in my body was slowly being released. I went deeper and deeper into my thoughts, waves of beautiful realizations washing over me. It really took the whole thing to another level, and not only do I feel that trauma and negativity were released from my system, but I think that by working on the body while being in another dimension, one is able to integrate it better in the following days and weeks.
It has happened before that when I have done such a high dose (this was 4.5 grams of psilocybin), I find it difficult to hold onto all the thoughts that come. However, I believe that the body is wise and your subconscious is being changed even if you don’t remember. This was the macrodose, and I strongly credit this to the massage and Dr. J’s guidance before, during and after, where I have seen the strongest upward climb of positive perspective shifts.
Before the session, Dr. J asked me for three songs that meant something to me and made me the happiest every time I listened to them. She scatters them throughout her playlist in precise moments that she chooses. My first song, White Gloves by Khruangbin, came on just as the massage was ending and I thought I would explode from joy and the emotion of it all. It was a moment that I will hold in my heart forever.
After the massage therapist left, Dr. J came back (she sits in a chair in the corner of the room) and I went back into bed. I remember thinking then how lovely and nurturing her presence felt and how much of a professional she is. Having this therapy with a woman is something very special because of the motherly energy that is able to be given to the patient in such a vulnerable state. It is a deep human craving and need and the comparison that came to me was a feeling of what I imagine it was like in the womb, protected and warm.
After an hour of more introspection, while the medicine is slowly going down, she opens up the possibility to speak about the experience and go over intentions. What I liked was that it really felt up to me if I wanted to talk or not. She never pushes you to do anything that you don’t feel like doing, which I think is so important. However, as usual, I did feel like talking and we had a wonderful conversation about the journey and some other things. When I was ready to land, Dr. J put on another meditation and gave me some gummies to help with that and also to take any anxiety away. It was the perfect ending.
In the last few months, Mexico City had lost a bit of the charm and beauty I had seen in it when I first arrived, which really bothered me. However, on my Uber ride home, I looked out of the window and saw the city in such a special light again. As I mentioned before, instead of focusing on the bad and being annoyed at the chaos and disorganisation, I appreciated that aspect of the city and fell back in love with the method that seems to make the madness work. La Roma, my neighborhood, never looked so good. I’m grateful for that reminder.
At home, I spent more hours debriefing, many further realizations coming to my head, and eventually went to bed, exhausted but very content.
Below, please find my interview with Dr. J:
Could you describe when and how your first transcendent psychedelic experience was?
My first experience with psychedelics was in 2018 when I was in Israel. I was already doing a lot of research around psychedelics, but I hadn’t had any experience in the past. Out of nowhere, I was in a bar talking about DMT and the Spirit Molecule when I was introduced to a Psychocorporal Therapist who had just gotten Changa (DMT) and offered me a session. The next day, I went to him and had a session. It was pretty intense and I couldn’t really understand what was happening, so my decision was to ask him for some DMT to smoke alone in my apartment. I started exploring my own brain, and it was profound.
It happened at a time when I was breaking up with my boyfriend and my father was diagnosed with cancer. I remember seeing an entity enter my womb during that experience, and that month, I didn’t have my period, which was very shocking to me. I went straight into an operation room and had surgeries done by all these entities. I had a deeper understanding of my father getting sick, and these voices were telling me that I should be the daughter, not the doctor. It was very intense but so peaceful at the same time and it made me understand how easily you can get therapy from a substance in a very short period of time.
How has your relationship with psychedelic exploration changed since becoming a therapist?
Initially, I was very open and curious and just wanted to try everything everywhere. I was giving a lot of psychedelics to my friends and was flowing from ceremony to ceremony. I was even doing it recreationally, to explore by myself in my own room.
The more I studied, the more I gained respect for the substances, and I also felt this very, very deep wisdom inside me saying that if I was going to be a responsible therapist, I had to have coherence and integrity around my practice. Something very responsible came over time, and I changed my relationship with psychedelics to something more profound, spiritual, and therapeutic.
When I started, I was doing it because I felt I was lacking presence in my relationships, and psychedelics were giving me that – a lot of connection! And the more I did them, there was a point that I felt I was not present anymore and uncomfortable, so I switched to really needing nothing. One of my mottos while doing this was “less is more.” Not needing so much in every aspect of my life, not needing that many material goods and complicated food, for me, it was this road of needing less and less and less. That also included psychedelics to enter this space of presence and just being where I was.
Now, I am really into taking care of the body. For me, the body is a sacred temple, and I don’t want to harm it. Sometimes, I think psychedelics, depending on the moment that you are taking them, can be stressful for the body, and I don’t like to do that unless that stress is going to release more emotional things that will be beneficial later on. As long as it gives me health and release, and I am really looking for it because I have an intention, I go into it, but doing it recreationally makes me very uneasy.
How long have you been a psychedelic assisting therapist and roughly how many patients have you guided?
I have been a psychedelic-assisted therapist for the past six years, and I completely lost count of the patients I see, but it’s much more than a thousand for sure. I had a very strict routine and was doing two sessions a week so that I could rest, but now I have a different lifestyle. I am travelling a lot, usually two weeks out of the month, so during the two weeks that I am in Mexico, I typically give four to five sessions a week, depending on the month.
What does the bodywork during the session help your patients achieve?
I definitely believe that the body is a map of our emotional self. It is the material part of us, and it has many clues of everything happening. During a psychedelic session, which is very mental, we often forget about the body. However, the body keeps the score and has a lot of information!
Sometimes, I see people doing psychedelics and shaking or feeling emotional pain as physical pain. Compassionate touch is a very powerful medicine; I think sometimes that touch can really heal people and help them understand more. I also believe when you feel safe in that touch, you can go deeper in your psychedelic trip and can release. It is a way for the mind also to think it is freeing and unlocking, and may be an act of psychomagic. That is a term coined by Jodorowsky and means that sometimes, when you have that feeling of releasing or touching a point of pain, your psyche will think that you’re actually doing the work. It really helps.
I also studied Ayurvedic Yoga Massage and found a lot of relief when I was getting bodywork and learning yoga. For me, the body is just an amazing machine and such an important part of the process of healing, which I could not exclude while doing these psychedelic sessions.
You are exposed to a lot of energy (some of it not so nice I’m sure). How do you prepare / cleanse yourself?
I am definitely exposed to a lot of energy, which is sometimes very intense. My way of preparing is to have a solid routine. I take time for myself, wake up at the same hour every day, drink lemon with water and my smoothie, exercise usually one or two hours today, have a moment for my meditation, take a shower, and look at my phone straight away so I avoid a possible conflict, I nourish my body and go to bed very early because my mind is very set on the work that I do and being present. That makes me feel safe, contained and so clear in my mind.
I have everything prepared for the session, which also gives me a sense of protection because nothing can go wrong. No stress in my body, so people feel my peace. So planning everything really works for me, having everything under control … in a way (she laughs). The place is clean before anyone comes, and the blanket, the eye mask, the dosage, water, etc. are all in their place.
Of course, I also have people supervising me; they are truly beautiful mentors. Sometimes, when I get very confused or loaded with someone’s energy, where I may feel a projection during therapy, something that triggered my own emotions or history, I visit them. I keep myself in very good and confident relationships with therapists where we can talk. Sometimes, I go to my own therapy or go to my Ayahuasca ceremony. Occasionally, I visit a sweat lodge, do cleanses, and have biweekly massage therapy.
Exercise has also been a great tool for feeling good in my body, making me feel protected. Also, having a clear mind and not going into a lot of stories (I know there are many stories about energy). I feel safe in my own belief system, and my narrative has always been that this is medicine and I’m working. Nothing really scares me; I know what to do and how to ask for help. That has kept me in a very strong line. Of course, I had a period of growth, but now I feel very, very strong. I believe the stronger you are physically, the stronger you are mentally. Eating well, doing exercise, and sleeping well are my keys.
What do you hope to achieve through your work as a guide? Is there an overarching dream?
I want to be a clear mirror for others so they can find their authentic selves and pose the right questions so people can open up, find what they are looking for and connect more into their hearts. That is my desire for everyone.
My own aspiration now is expansion. I want to see more people and build more teams to grow the practice so we can heal many relationships, including healing the relationship with Earth, our home. If people are more connected and more in tune, we create better things for the future, and we are able to have a better quality of life and better quality of dying. We are deepening the time that we are living on Planet Earth.
I would also love to research more and go deeper into the neuroimmunology path in psychedelics, but all in all, I am very satisfied with where I am right now. My heart is really full from my practice. I love the people I see and am really grateful for all the connections this medicine has brought me.
Part 3 – INTEGRATION:
The next day, I received a message from Dr. J first thing asking me how I was feeling and that I should reach out to Pao for an Integration session. Three days later, I again found myself standing in front of a foreign door, this time in the south of Mexico City, ringing a doorbell.
Pao received me with a huge smile and big hug and invited me into her beyond-beautiful house (pictured above). We sit on cushions on the floor and she tells me that she has been a devoted student for the past 14 years to a variety of Ancient Practices such as Yoga Therapy, Hatha Yoga, Thai Massage, Qigong, and Meditation. Her personal practice has evolved by creating sensory experiences, retreats and psychosomatic therapies, providing patients with roadmaps to live in integrity with their bodies and with the Earth. She is passionate about holding soothing containers for integration and nervous system restoration and often works with exclusively female patients who see Dr. J.
After our conversation, she set me up on her dining room table and brought me paper, watercolors, and crayons. “Researchers found drawing information to be a powerful way to boost memory, increasing recall by nearly double.” I hadn’t drawn since school, so it felt very foreign to me, but in retrospect, I really appreciated the exercise, and it is worth trying.
Something that really stood out to me was that Pao, like Dr. J, were both incredibly generous with their time. I didn’t feel like they were rushing anything. Receiving that from both of them was a true gift I am so thankful for. I really felt a sense of sisterhood and a deep connection with them both, which is one of the most amazing things I take away from this experience. Building a network of like-minded people, especially getting to know more women working in the same field, is a main reason why Funga exists.
After the painting, Pao tells me to go into the garden (barefoot), take in the sun and ground for a moment. She will then meet me in her dedicated room for practice. Her home, in a very protected residential area in Coyoacán, lends itself perfectly to that. I remember how aesthetic everything looked and how perfectly quiet and peaceful it felt. Visiting Pao in this space felt like a break from the noisy city and, truly, like the highest form of self-care.
We started the session with gentle yoga, which ended in a heart-opening posture. She lightly placed a hot blanket underneath my back and neck and let my body fully relax into it. After that, she informed me that my Thai massage was about to begin and started working on me for the next hour and a half, further integrating all the information from my psychedelic experience and the days that followed. She transported me quickly through touch and sound into another place, with many memories and moments from the psychedelic-assisted therapy coming back to me.
Like Dr. J, Pao is a complete professional, using tools she has cultivated and learned from her own experience in such an assertive yet soft way. She knows exactly how to position and work with the body, which she often practices as a yoga teacher and therapist. It was the perfect follow-up and such an important step after taking a high dose of plant medicine.
People often skip over the integration steps of the process, which is something that I really want to highlight on Funga. As I always say, psychedelics are an incredible tool, but only by incorporating integration practices in a disciplined manner will a lasting change be created. Watching Pao build this session for me, with all the different parts, left me feeling incredibly calm, inspired, and reaffirmed in my mission for Funga, which was a big intention for me going into psychedelic therapy. Dr. J and Pao are a power duo and the perfect example of women lifting each other up and, through that, elevating the therapy to a whole other level.
As luck would have it, on the following day, I had a trip planned to Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, which was really the cherry on top. I have always said that the desert is the most energetic and spiritual of the terrains, and in this case, you have the desert and the ocean close by, creating an even stronger sense of magic. The days were filled with fresh and delicious food, yoga, meditation, journaling, and long walks. I felt on top of the world, never better.
The sensation I had since the therapy was that a weight was lifted from my chest. I feel lighter, more like myself again. Something I really struggled with in the past months was anxiety about the unknown and loss of direction. The truth is there will be many moments in life where one needs to learn how to sit in uncertainty and be okay with that. My biggest takeaway is a reassurance that everything will turn out the way it is supposed to and I am now in a better place to navigate what comes next. My energy is higher, more secure and I am confidently trusting the process. Of course, I have moments of relapse, but in my core I am more solid and deep down, I know the best is yet to come.