Plant medicine has been used for centuries by indigenous cultures worldwide as a way to connect with the divine, foster spiritual growth and the relationship with our natural world and one another; traditional plant medicine practices are rooted in sacred reciprocity. In recent years, the western world has developed a bigger interest in plant medicines, not only for healing and spiritual purposes but also for the promise of change these medicines can bring to the current mental health crisis.
Those who have experienced the healing power of plant medicines know that, by opening ourselves up to them, we can access a level of guidance and support that, for many, is difficult to find through conventional therapy or other healing modalities. Beyond that, fostering our connection to these plants and nature brings us back to remembering the interconnectedness of our world and how we move through life in it.
The idea of sacred reciprocity seems to be an increasing topic of discussion in the psychedelic space but more often than not, the term is used without a full grasp of what it actually means. Yes, it is important to remember that our relationships with plant medicines are reciprocal and we must honor the years of traditions and sacredness connected to these medicines and their stewards. True sacred reciprocity, however, doesn’t start or end there.
In this article, we’ll explore the meaning behind sacred reciprocity and how a deeper understanding of it can strengthen your microdosing practice as well as your relationship with the plant medicines you choose to work with.
What is Sacred Reciprocity
The term sacred reciprocity originates from the word ayni, from the Quechua language. Ayni is an all-encompassing word for gratitude, reverence, honor, and reciprocal living. It is not just about giving back but about understanding that there is a sacred balance of give and take throughout all of existence. Sacred reciprocity entails being in balance with all, not just a transactional thing that happens between individuals but an intrinsic web of exchange between all living beings and our world.
As Amánda Efthimiou beautifully explains: “In my perspective, sacred reciprocity is founded on our relational responsibility to others and to our natural world. Reciprocity is the acknowledgement of our inherent interconnectedness and the embodiment of respect, trust, and right relationship while we promote the long-term sustainability of our internal and external environments.” Amánda is a director at El Puente, a non-profit foundation that implements new reciprocal models of intercultural convergence through projects supporting indigenous communities. Through her work, she raises awareness of the importance of reparation and giving back to these communities.
To fully understand sacred reciprocity, we need to remember that when we connect with plant medicine we are also opening ourselves up to a deeper connection with the natural world. When we are able to create a relationship with a plant, the plant will teach us back. And when we come to see ourselves as part of a larger ecosystem and no longer separate from it, we embody the cyclical and spiral nature of reciprocity in our lives.
Why Is Sacred Reciprocity Important?
As we gain a deeper knowledge of spiritual identity and sacred reciprocity, we can begin to reflect more upon the dynamics that affect our inner and outer worlds. In the psychedelic space, this conversation starts with a more honest look into the dynamics that are at play between westerners and indigenous communities.
True reciprocity with indigenous peoples doesn’t mean simply giving them money or inviting them to speak at conferences. It means including them in conversations and acknowledging their struggles and the impact western society had and has had in their lives until this day. It means, firstly, reparations, so we can stop viewing indigenous peoples and their cultures as resources to be exploited. Reciprocity cannot happen until we can actually engage in dialogue on what these reparations can look like. To do this, we need to develop a relationship with mutual commitment, engagement, understanding, friendship, and love.
Sacred reciprocity also means respecting the plants and acknowledging the gifts they share with us. It is a commitment to examining what we are doing, how we are doing it, and understanding our actions’ direct impact and effects on these communities worldwide.
“I always begin by listening. Listening within to understand my deepest intentions with the practice, and also committing to listening to the cultures that have originated the ritual of using such medicines: how do they wish for these medicines to be used and spoken about? For me, it’s also about being impeccable with my word: what I share with others when referring to engaging with traditional ceremonies held by indigenous people, for example. I’m very intentional with whom, how, and where I choose to engage with plant medicine, and I’ve learned to ask more questions of facilitators about the medicine’s origin and preparation.” says Amánda.
Microdosing and Sacred Reciprocity
How, then, can we cultivate a relationship with plant medicine and our microdosing practice in a way that reflects true reciprocity? I believe it starts with closely examining how we live and move through our day-to-day lives. If you want to enhance your experience with plant medicine, you have to bring in and acknowledge the sacredness of being with yourself, the sacredness of your life, and the sacredness in the way you show up in relationship with others and the plant itself.
When we begin looking into our day-to-day experiences and observe the ways in which we are not in alignment with this idea of reciprocity, we can then start working towards that. Here are some guidelines to reflect on:
Before you dive into your microdosing practice, it’s important to set an intention for the experience. Intention setting acts as a spiritual guiding principle to open up the space for healing, connection, and clarity. This may also provide an opportunity to ask for guidance and express gratitude to ecologies, your ancestors, and the wisdom keepers of the medicine you will be microdosing with.
An intention is an invitation, such as “I am open to welcoming new perspectives and understanding” or “I am open to cultivating deeper relationships with myself and others.” Once you have set your intention, write it down and keep it somewhere close by as a reminder while you practice.
“Microdosing begins as an individual experience, and we can practice reciprocity by setting the intention to look at our inner processing as the foundation of the actions we might take when we integrate our experiences with others and with our outer environment”, says Amánda, “before your journey begins, the invitation can be to create your own unique relationship with the ritual of microdosing, and apply the values of sacred reciprocity to that process.”
The Power of Ritual
The definition of ritual varies, but it truly means to intentionally take time for yourself, using tools that make sense to you and help you pause. Your morning routine can be a ritual, for example, that could include reading, meditation, self-care, and breathing, among other practices.
“How, when, and where you will take your microdose? What are the ways in which this journey you’ve chosen will tend to your heart, mind, and spirit in order to inform tangible actions that will affect your relational responsibility with the outer world?” Amánda highlights, “In the past, I have used microdosing as a biannual ritual to mark the beginning of the fall and the spring seasons. I’ve used microdosing in this way as an anchor for nature’s cycles and to amplify my existing integration and reflection practices that I designed to help guide me through these seasonal transitions.”
Other rituals, such as prayer, chanting, or breathwork help to open up the pathways for our bodies to more deeply access and integrate the medicine. They assist you in creating presence and awareness with how you interact with the plant and cultivate your ability to be in the present moment.
The Inner and the Outer Relationships
Microdosing is about slowing down, tuning in more often, and your ability to pause and be with yourself. It’s about cultivating reverence for your time and how you spend it. When you take the time to just be, you gain a broader sense of awareness of your inner and outer world and the ways you relate to others and your life experience.
More than that, microdosing is a relationship. When you bring this practice into your life a good self-inquiry to make is:
- What does it mean to be in a ‘right relationship’ with this plant medicine?
- What do you do with your teachings?
- How do you extend respect to the medicine?
- How do you give back to the world what this medicine is giving you?
When we guide our practice with these questions we start to embody reciprocity in our lives and we then understand the language of nature and what it truly means to move respectfully through Earth.
Sacred Reciprocity Is About Balance
One of the main characteristics of experiences with plant medicines and psychedelics is the remembering of our interconnectedness, of our common truth of oneness, and of how our actions have a direct or indirect impact on others and the world we live in. These medicines teach us not only about our individual wounds but also about our relational and collective wounds. This also opens up space for us to reflect upon what exactly we are trying to heal; perhaps, they open us up to something bigger than ourselves.
Nature teaches us that our lives are part of a circular story, that we are one piece of a much larger whole and a marvelous web of life. Reciprocity is a beautiful way of translating that into how we walk through this Earth and restoring the balance that we’ve once lost with ourselves and our planet.
About the Author: Jessika Lagarde is a Brazilian plant medicine facilitator, storyteller, climate activist, and Women On Psychedelics co-Founder. Jessika’s environmental work and psychedelic path have made her more aware not only of the crisis of our planet but also of how human disconnection is a direct cause of it. All of her work is informed by taking action in a way that serves the Earth and our human collective, in hopes of mobilizing inner healing toward outer action. To learn more about her offerings, check her website.