Summary: Playboy explores the connection between spirituality and psychedelic use, gleaning insight from Zendo Project Director Sara Gael. “Psychedelics have deep roots in spiritual ritual, ceremony, and individual and collective healing. The exploration of spirituality and consciousness through psychedelic use is ancient,” explains Gael.
Originally appearing here.
And, as it turns out, Portland welcomes people like me with open arms.
From a spiritual perspective, there’s a little something for everyone in Portland. For those looking for a more intellectual approach to theology, the spiritual bookstore scene is thriving. Perhaps the most popular is New Renaissance Bookshop, housed in a two-story Craftsman in the city’s affluent Nob Hill district, where you can chat with an Intuitive or Vedic Astrologer in between trying on crystal pendants and browsing a seemingly endless array of spiritual, metaphysical, and New Age texts. But New Ren is hardly the only option in town. It seems every neighborhood has its own library for spiritual seekers. The Raven’s Wing Magical Company is an occult shop tucked between a yoga studio, antique stores, and a few popular brunch spots on the main strip in the suburban Sellwood neighborhood, and Invoke can be found in Southeast with an impressive collection of thoughtfully curated items from spiritual traditions around the world.
But the spiritual opportunities in Portland extend beyond the intellectual—and, for many, those opportunities include pushing the bounds of our current understanding of reality. Substances that have been demonized for decades in the U.S.—like cannabis and psychedelics—are embraced in many circles in Portland as legitimate tools for expanding consciousness and aiding spiritual growth.
“[Cannabis] allows users to break down the perception that we live as isolated beings and opens awareness toward exploring one’s relationship with both spirit and soul,” says Eric Inman, founder of “Depth Experiences Using Cannabis in Nature,” a Meetup group that embraces cannabis as a way of self-discovery through nature. “I think there is certainly an element of spiritual awareness with the use of cannabis… [and] I think that this is something that Portlanders are more open to and aware of. Thus people can be more free and even supported in their exploration of this realm that cannabis helps to move consciousness toward.”
Since cannabis became legal in Oregon in 2015, Portland has seen more groups and events that aim to bridge cannabis and spiritual practices, like Buddha Bud Yoga! (which combines cannabis and yoga) and Mary Jane Fonda’s Mind Workout (which incorporates cannabis into meditation practice).
Portland has also gained a reputation as the “psychedelic underbelly of America”—and, thanks to the prominence of psychedelic culture, it’s also starting to become a place for people to explore higher levels of consciousness through psychedelics and integrate those explorations into their spiritual experience.
While the use of psychedelics as a spiritual practice may seem extreme, it’s actually a tradition that dates back centuries. “Psychedelics have deep roots in spiritual ritual, ceremony, and individual and collective healing. The exploration of spirituality and consciousness through psychedelic use is ancient,” says Sara Gael, director of harm reduction for the Zendo Project, a pro-psychedelics organization that helps transform psychedelic experiences into opportunities for learning and growth.