You watched Goop’s episode on magic mushrooms, now what?

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Gwyneth Paltrow is no stranger to controversy. Her wellness brand, Goop, has instigated everything from outrage (claims that jade eggs can increase orgasmic potential) to eye-rolls and dismay and after the company claimed that underwire bras might cause breast cancer. The lifestyle brand looks to “highlight alternative medicine practices” and has often been called out for promoting dodgy information.

When The Goop Lab aired on Netflix, the internet was intensely divided on the six-episode series, which explores alternative forms of medicine. The first episode, “The Healing Trip” is about the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs, specifically psilocybin.

Given Goop’s reputation, we were curious how the company would explore and explain their experiences. Luckily, they let some prominent experts do a fair amount of the talking. In comparison to some of their wilder, unfounded aforementioned claims, the episode was an approachable entry point for someone unfamiliar and curious about magic mushrooms. 

One team member wanted to “feel more like her authentic self”;”

Most of the episode is dedicated to members of the Goop team going to Jamaica (where magic mushrooms aren’t prohibited) to take part in a healing ceremony at a retreat-style setting. It wasn’t all that interesting for someone well-versed in psychedelics or seeking to learn about from a science-based approach, however, it did present an opportunity to essentially watch a group of people experience personal breakthroughs (as if you, as the viewer, were a fly on the wall of a therapy session meets slumber party).

One team member wanted to “feel more like her authentic self”; another wanted to have a “psychospiritual experience”; another wanted to address the issues that arose from the death of her father.

Considering that Rise Wellness Retreat (RWR) is also in Jamaica and that our mandate is centered on the potential of psilocybin for healing, we eagerly tuned in.

Here are some of our takeaways.

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What happens at a mushroom retreat — and could it be for you?

Before the group drinks a three-gram mushroom tea mixture, they are told the rules: “The only thing we don’t do is get sexual with each other, and we don’t take our clothes off, but other than that anything goes.”

Let’s pause there for a second.

We agree that sexual contact is strictly prohibited, and that’s where the Goop members’ experiences and something you might experience Rise Wellness Retreat are similar. However, we feel it’s necessary to expand on the “anything goes” part so you can determine if RWR might be for you.

The effects of magic mushrooms take 20 to 40 minutes to begin and can last up to 6 hours. The experience that follows is unique for each person. RWR has comprehensive protocols based in harm reduction, and combined with our integrative wellness program and daily microdose formula, we offer a gentle introduction to the experience of psychedelic therapy.

The Goop Lab episode didn’t indicate how long it took for the tea to kick in but it shows them settling into their cozy and colourful surroundings, lying on the floor with earbuds in or with their eyes closed. They are encouraged to let go of all the things that hold them to the idea of who they are — name, gender, job title — as they patiently (and nervously) wait for the effects.

When it comes to macrodosing (doses of 1+ grams of dried mushrooms that may cause disorientation, profound introspection, and intense emotional experiences) we work in smaller groups. Our macro facilitators have years of experience in dosing and creating a safe environment and vibes. Feeling supported from the beginning of a psychedelic trip to the end, whether micro- or macrodosing is an important part of the full experience.

Will Siu, a psychiatrist interviewed by Paltrow during the episode, explained that psychedelics can sometimes lead to “bad trips” — which in turn can lead to mental breaks. Even “bad trips” — or as we see them, facing personal challenges — can present an opportunity for learning, deep reflection, and healing. It was good to see that there were resources immediately available to help the group navigate the cascade of emotions that eventually rolled in.

Soon there was laughter, tears, childlike observations about the world (“look at the sky!”) or the desire to be held. The guides pressed on their hearts and “held space” (allowed them to share their feelings without jumping in with solutions) as they enjoyed the journey

Can psychedelic mushrooms help treat depression and anxiety?

Much of the interest we’re currently seeing in the decriminalization of psychedelics is in the potential of psilocybin and MDMA in the treatment of depression. The episode included a couple of interviews with participants in recent research studies of that nature. One study found psilocybin reduced depression and anxiety in patients with cancer; a veteran participated in a study that found MDMA-assisted psychotherapy reduced symptoms in patients with PTSD. There was also commentary from a woman who microdoses psilocybin, saying that it drastically improved her mood.

People microdose for a number of reasons, such as, improved mood, enhanced creativity, stress relief, neuroplasticity potential, relationship building, anxiety relief, empathy and compassion work, pain and more. The woman who lost her dad claimed she experienced five years of therapy in five hours. Another member said this type of healing ceremony could be therapeutic for workplace teams to feel connected. When Paltrow’s assistance arrived back at the office from Jamaica, he told her that he felt more open.

It would have been powerful to check-in with the people who participated in the ceremony a couple of months later to see how they were affected. After-care and integration are key components of a psychedelic experience of that caliber, especially for first-timers and those specifically seeking healing.

The day after the group participated in the ceremony, one of the guides explained how they could integrate the mushroom-based learnings back into their everyday life. If they felt themselves sliding into depressive or negative thinking, they were advised that the place they want to stay in isn’t in Jamaica, it’s within themselves. They were told to conjure how they felt in the moments when they released. RWR focuses on providing guests with the ability to bring the experience home with them through sensory and muscle memory, including a personal workbook and journal, aromatherapy, sound therapy, recipes and resources.

Why a retreat?

There are two main components believed to influence a trip: set (your mindset and expectations) and setting (environmental factors like who you’re with and where you are).

Given that the participants were at a retreat, their environment was perfectly curated for comfort.

The effects of magic mushrooms are highly personalized, and therefore, are expressed in a varied array of new experiences through altered and unusual perceptions. Some people have claimed the episode on magic mushrooms was “boring” because, generally, watching other people experience something profound isn’t all that outwardly interesting. Most of what was happening was internal and personal. Therapeutic and spiritual benefits can include a sense of euphoria, enhanced creativity, connection to nature, and a distorted sense of time. That is difficult to portray on-camera.

What’s next?

It’s still early days for psilocybin therapy. However, with research and retreats seeing a surge, one can’t help but wonder whether psilocybin can help replace SSRI’s and treat depression and anxiety.

Mark Haden, executive director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in Canada, which helps to fund and conduct research into drugs including MDMA and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), spoke with Paltrow and chief content officer Elise Loehnen during the episode.

Mark Haden, executive director for MAPS in Canada, speaks with Irie Selkirk, founder of RWR

The main takeaway from the episode might be something Haden said: the surface has only just been scratched and research into psychedelics has the potential to be a tool that is used widely.

It’s for this reason that RWR is science-based, and uses the most current research while working with leading researchers on psychedelics in therapeutic formats. Magic mushrooms have the potential to shape lives in profound and enduring ways, and science can help guide that.
Specialized retreat centers are safe spaces outside of one’s typical world and routine that provide a legal means to explore the possibilities of psychedelics in a guided environment, which includes activities, trip-sitters (like the guides in the Goop episode), and decompression routines. It is the opportunity to relax and enjoy the sensations of going inward, or exploring the outer world, from a new perspective. As we say at Rise Wellness Retreat: get away; find yourself.

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