Psychedelics in the Hudson Valley PART 1: An Interview with Beth Weinstein
The Hudson Valley has long had a history as a hub for psychedelics, social change makers, and creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. Let’s begin with Woodstock, speaking to the original festival, as well as the vibrant and influential “turn on, tune in, drop out” culture that bloomed in its wake in the eponymous town and far beyond, inspiring and connecting musicians, artists, writers, fashion and counterculture conversation for decades. Meanwhile, in Millbrook, just 15 miles up the road from Poughkeepsie, is a rambling and stately 64-room Victorian mansion that was once home to Timothy Leary (who originally coined the phrase “turn on…”) and Richard Alpert (known later as Ram Dass), among many others. In the early 60s, these famed explorers of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) began experimenting with psychedelics at Harvard, exploring the edges and architecture of consciousness, and founding the Harvard Psilocybin Project. It was at the Hitchcock Estate (originally Daheim) in Millbrook, drenched in a kaleidoscope of experiences with some other 30 or so adults more “constantly” in the mix and their gaggles of children, that Leary founded a church: the League for Spiritual Discovery (or L.S.D.). This was formed with the hopes of maintaining the legality of this psychedelic sacrament on the basis of religious freedom. On that grandiose swath of 2500 acres, often naked, high and free, or within the tired elegance of those long abandoned rooms, things were being redefined in every way. The stockbroker that had funded it all, William Mellon Hitchcock, heir to the Andrew Mellon family fortune, lived out a deconstructionist fantasy in that modern-day castle, amidst an ever-shifting flow of young intellectuals, artists and musicians. In its reclaimed rooms, surrounding waterfalls and bucolic meadows, the question was raised and defended: should hallucinogens be legal?
While psychedelic and altered state experiences have been used routinely in indigenous and traditional cultures globally for millennia, Western medicine and mainstream culture are only recently rediscovering and validating the true healing capacities of such sacred plants as psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote, Tabernanthe iboga, huachuma, and others, as well as LSD, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) and Ketamine. The wave of research on these pathways is in full tilt and the results are impressive and irrefutable. In placebo-controlled studies on psilocybin mushrooms, ketamine, and others, the results are staggering (upwards of 85%) as lasting treatment for anxiety and depression, PTSD, addiction and so much more. All this, plus the boon of helping to deepen or find a sense of purpose, open creative channels, heal generational trauma and inspire a sense of connectedness to one’s own body, the earth/nature, Spirit, as well as to others.
Today, a new fleet of ground-breaking intellectuals, and spiritually and culturally intrepid adventurers in the Hudson Valley are working with, and advocating for, the legalization of psychedelics. These include ancient technologies and plant medicines as well as manufactured entactogens (like MDMA and LSD) to catapult true healing and balance from the inside out. Many of these practitioners are also offering nourishing menus that include sound healing, breathwork, yogic + energetic practices, nutrition, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), somatic work and more.
Meanwhile, the celebrated psychedelic artists, Alex and Allyson Grey, just opened the doors of their new 12,000-square-foot psychedelic and visionary art center Entheon, Sanctuary of Visionary Art at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, on June 3rd on the full-moon anniversary of the husband and wife’s first wild LSD trip some 47 years ago. The New York Times expressed that the work and spaces are focused “on the artists’ psychedelic spiritual insights and mystical states of consciousness.” Allyson Grey explains it this way: “I call it social sculpture — bringing a community together around visionary art for the purpose of uplifting people.”
TUNING IN with Beth Weinstein…
INSIDE + OUT recently had the good fortune to sit down with Beth Weinstein, a spiritual business coach helping newer and aspiring psychedelic pioneers, coaches, healers, therapists, spiritual teachers, and similar transformational leaders to “align with your purpose and grow your business so you make your living doing what you love while making a difference in the world.” Here in PART 1 of our delicious and in-depth 3-part interview, Beth shares thoughts on legalization, how psychedelics can help inspire, heal and connect, integration and more. Finally, we are also excited to share some Psychedelic Resources in PART 2 and PART 3 along with more of Beth’s hard-earned insights.
So now it’s time to get comfy.
Nestle yourself in a lovely spot (preferably with a view of, or immersed in nature) and let’s step on a magic carpet ride together through some of the tougher stuff… and onto some of the rewards.
INSIDE + OUT: What are your thoughts on the legalization of hallucinogenic plant medicine?
Beth Weinstein: I have some very mixed views on legalization. Number one, I believe in what many call “cognitive liberty.” I believe that humans should have the right to use or put into their bodies, whatever substances that they want to experience for consciousness expansion, in a safe way. I also believe in safety and harm reduction, meaning: don’t put yourself in harm and don’t put others in harm. Definitely consider others first and foremost. Don’t go driving; don’t do something dumb. Make sure you’re in a safe “set and setting,” meaning in a good place. I do believe human beings should be free to work with sacred plant medicines, any psychedelic substances or any other mind-altering substances how they would like. So I believe in legalization, and that it should have never been illegal in the first place.
The concern I have with some of the legalizations that are happening is what has been coming along with that. It’s still very new and there’s still a lot being figured out, like in Colorado and Oregon, for example. I have a lot of compassion for this process. We are babies; we have never been in this place in human evolution where there’s been such a desire for the expansion of consciousness and healing like there is today. The availability and the number of different psychedelics that are considered to be “scheduled” substances (meaning illegal) here in most of the U.S.
We just have to acknowledge that this is new territory–even though they were “legal” at one point in the past. We now have many different substances and different levels of accessibility. We now have the internet. It’s just a different world, so we have to acknowledge where we’ve come from and that the whole psychedelic space is very new on some level, even though it’s ancient. One of the biggest concerns I have about legalization is regulation. I believed the original intention for legalization was to let human beings take their healing into their own hands, be able to freely go work with a therapist, go to a ceremony or work with any kind of indigenous medicine without feeling the need to hide it or be threatened by the law…possession, serving, whatever.
With the discussion of and the beginnings of regulation, there’s a lot of concern about whether legalization is going to allow people to practice in the ways of indigenous medicine carriers. Are they going to be able to continue their work without being prosecuted? For someone who has studied under different lineages to help hold space as modern-day facilitators and to work with, let’s say, Ayahuasca, iboga, psilocybin, san pedro, huachuma, or kambo- are these medicine carriers (once legalized) not going to be allowed to practice because they are practicing outside the boundaries of regulation? White or non-white facilitators, it doesn’t matter. And just to note that kambo and huachuma are technically legal, but I’ve heard there are gray areas around those. Peyote is another discussion…
Anyway, so let’s imagine: “Now you can’t pour Ayahuasca unless you get Ayahuasca from these three pharmaceutical companies.” Well, that I completely disagree with, and I pray to God that this is not the direction we’re going in, but this is my number one concern. There are a lot of others out there who fear that it’s going to be like this and that’s like another form of colonization… but of indigenous medicine. For example, if there’s a regulation of psilocybin, then the questions are: which kind of psilocybin, who are you buying it from and what amount are you allowed to get? Remember, all this is still being figured out. Colorado (legalization) was just passed a few months ago; this is quite new. Even in Oregon, it’s taken three years to get to where they are today, and only just now they’ve graduated from the first round of training, as in psilocybin therapy training.
My concern is that regulation is going to mean not real freedom, but rather more control of various substances and plants. Previously, the intention was that we wanted people to be able to just have the right to work with these medicines and heal. But now if, let’s say, there’s a regulation that you’re only allowed to buy psilocybin from these specific three pharmaceutical companies that hold patents to their strains of psilocybin…, ugh. And by the way, I don’t personally believe that anyone should be able to patent strains of psilocybin, but there are strains of psilocybin being patented right now, and it’s just unfortunate.
The whole belief I come from is that plants are sacred Earth medicine that is available to all beings. Who are we to say that only three or four or five or however many companies or government entities or regulated pharmaceutical entities or x number of holding companies, should be the ones that get to be in charge of how we choose to expand our consciousness or heal?
Do you think the bills on the table to legalize in New York will pass?
Yeah, maybe; it’s the direction we’re going. I don’t think we can really stop the momentum. I think the problem is trying to figure out the details. In the cannabis industry, there’s definitely been a lot of regulations and mishaps in how the legalization of cannabis has gone. So there is some concern with the psychedelics world that maybe it’s going to go the same way.
Would you like to speak about the subject of the criminalization of shamans?
This has been happening all over in terms of criminalization, and by the way, I wouldn’t even call them shamans. I would call them curanderos or medicine carriers because there are shamanic practitioners that are not what we would call “medicine shamans.” And then there are people who may facilitate and hold space for medicine that are definitely not shamans and that’s actually the majority.
But yeah, criminalization is happening in many parts of Europe right now, and there are still a lot of indigenous medicine carriers in jail in Mexico today, or at least recently. It’s kind of the same issue: who are we to say that this person from Peru who has been practicing for 35 years and who studied under a lineage of, for example, four different medicine carriers who have been practicing a lineage for the last, you know, hundreds of years… who are we to put them in jail?
A lot of the issue has been around the transporting of medicines across country borders and international borders. I have different views on why this is happening but there’s been a lot of crackdowns since 2020 and it seems to not make any sense to me that governments around the world would actually want to stop people from healing their trauma, addictions, alcoholism, PTSD, depression and anxiety. Yet this poses a big threat to the pharmaceutical industry. It poses a huge threat, actually, to the entire regulated healthcare system. Which, by the way, is… what?: A multi-billion dollar system that is all headed by a handful of large multinational corporations, which most of our world leaders also have a hand in. So, technically what we’re looking at here is a larger systemic issue of many systems: our healthcare system, our financial system, our government system, our class system, like I could go on and on. And, the interesting piece of this is that sometimes these sacred medicines and psychedelics will wake people up to seeing things a little bit differently and maybe questioning some of the ways things have been for a long time, that maybe haven’t been working. This threatens the systems and the powers that be, which of course, is scary for them. So that is my theory as to why there’s more of a crackdown and more regulation on this.
I don’t want to get too controversial or too political, but this is something we’ll see play out over the next many years, and I think things are going to move quite fast. All I can do is pray for the best. I also do believe that plant medicines in particular, have their own inherent agenda that is coming from well beyond what we can put into words and explanation… like the Earth is speaking and we’re here to listen to the fact that we are all interconnected. And we can’t deny that we’re all in this together, no matter how we see things, no matter what side we’re on, and no matter what we believe in. We’re all living incarnated here on Earth together, dependent on the Earth, the sacred waters, the plants, and the food and the environment and the trees, all of it… to survive. There’s no larger reason for all this.
I’ve actually interviewed some people about this over the years, about why these medicines are increasing in popularity during a time of global crisis, and not just an environmental crisis, but all kinds of crises: of meaning, and we have a healthcare crisis, we have a mental health crisis. We definitely have a financial systematic crisis on a larger scale and it affects all of us because we are a globally interconnected society like never before. I do believe that these plants are here for some kind of communication if… if we’re willing to listen. If we’re willing to integrate and really take the time to slow down and be in communication with these spirits. So there’s a lot to it.
What can you share about plant medicine in the Hudson Valley, as well as where someone might look for experiences?
Well, here’s the thing: technically most of these medicines are still illegal, plant medicines like psilocybin, ayahuasca, and iboga; unfortunately, these are illegal in the U.S. and most places, and they are illegal here in New York State as of today. Obviously, we all know that they’re around, and they’re pretty much found in every country that I know of, though I don’t know if I’ve heard of North Korea yet. But it’s spread across the world in many places. I can’t tell people where to look because it’s illegal and that would put me at risk and it would also put the facilitators at risk, but here’s what I say to people and I’ll send you this blog post that you can reference, but not put anywhere.
If you are really feeling called to work with sacred plant medicines, set an intention, start to pray, and really ask yourself, “What is your intention? Why? Why are you being called to this? Are you really being called? Are you just curious? Are you truly feeling like this is something that will help you? Or are you just looking for the next quick fix? I talk about this a lot, how especially here in America or in the Western world, there’s this desire for things to just be fixed quickly, like a quick and easy fix to everything. Like Amazon.com: I just want to order it and have it at my doorstep tomorrow. You know, like: I want to take this pill and feel better because it’s so hard. And that’s the whole psychiatric industry of antidepressants and anti-anxiety, and all these antipsychotics and other medications: “Just take a pill; you’ll feel better.” Yet we all know they’re not really serving us for the long run, though they may more immediately.
Psychedelics don’t do that (in terms of a quick fix.) I know there’s a lot of belief per the mainstream media that, for example, if you start to microdose you’ll feel better. Like, “Just do some psilocybin, you’ll cure your depression!” Or like iboga will heal your addiction in two days. There are so many claims, but this is not a quick fix. And by the way, neither was and/or is any psychiatric drug. We all know that the Prozacs of the world, yes, while they do help some people, that doesn’t actually get to the root of the problem. That doesn’t actually fix anything; it doesn’t heal. It covers up and maybe makes you feel good for x number of years, but eventually, and we’re seeing more and more of this, there’s resistance, right? Like, there’s a certain level of, “Okay, I’m still not feeling better.” Well, what’s left? It’s getting to the root of the cause of the depression or the anxiety or the trauma or the PTSD or whatever it is. That’s where psychedelics can help… with, and I will emphasize with proper support and integration because here’s the thing: psychedelics don’t necessarily fix everything very often. They even make things worse before they get better, meaning psychedelics will help you see what’s at the root of whatever it is you’re dealing with, the depression, etc. It will not instantly cure depression, but it will help you see what is causing this pattern of depression.
What I would do is pray. Whether you believe in God or spirit or something, or if you’re an atheist, and absolutely believe in nothing at all, still make an intention. Set an intention with the Earth. I would go outside. Go find a body of water or a beautiful tree; ask for what you want, and ask to be guided to help. Sometimes the answer might come through medicine and sometimes it might come through something else. So that’s what I would say if you’re looking for medicine in the Hudson Valley, start to just drop into your heart. Make an intention for being guided to this, watch for the synchronicities, and I’m sure if it’s meant to, you will be guided to the right place.
The other options are legal medicine. So cannabis is now legal; you can find cannabis. You can work with people. There are people out there who do cannabis-assisted healing and different forms of psychedelic-assisted therapy and cannabis-assisted therapy. There’s also ketamine, which is also legal.
There are people in the Hudson Valley area who offer ketamine therapy, but if you just do the ketamine, it’s only going to make you feel temporarily good. You really need someone to guide you through the entire process. To me, it would be a period of at least a few months, if not longer. To put it in perspective, I consider myself highly functional. I am not suffering from any anxiety, depression or PTSD. I do have traumas like everybody, but I have had ongoing integration support to make the most out of my medicine work for like eight years straight. Honestly, before that, I had other kinds of support for probably 10 or 15 years.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it Fate.” —Carl Jung
You speak about “integration,” a word that is thrown around often in spiritual circles now. Can you please define this in a way that feels true for you?
There’s not “one official definition” of what “psychedelic integration” is, although I think of it as how Carl Jung referred to integration, in terms of individuation and wholeness. To stop rejecting parts of our self/psyche/unconscious/personality and bring them forward to be seen and merged into our personality and “day-to-day” life. I’d reference Jung when he said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Since psychedelics can often bring parts of the psyche/unconscious forward and make them conscious in order to get the most evolutionary “benefits” (or healing or growth or whatever you might want to call it) it helps move us towards “wholeness.” Although we are all whole exactly as we are, it’s necessary to “integrate” what was brought up in the psychedelic experiences and work with those insights now that they’re conscious, in order to stop the “unwanted” unconscious (or conscious) patterns to continue to direct your life.
Any particular comments or help with integration and preparation beforehand?
If and when you find the right place and the right time to do psychedelics, make sure you do have proper support for preparation and integration. Here’s the thing: psychedelics don’t really work if you don’t have the support to help you make the most out of the experience. I know people claim to, and I’ve had moments of magical healing, but I always had integration support from, let’s say a coach or a somatic therapist, or healers, or all of the above, or a spiritual guide. You know, someone who understands what the work is that you’re doing and who can help you process the actual psychedelic experience. That is where you will get the benefits. Way back when, I wasn’t always with people who understood my psychedelic path.
Also, there are certain people with certain issues who are actually not great candidates for certain medicine. So this is something where it’s really important to go over this with a skilled integration coach or therapist, or even a psychedelic facilitator because sometimes the psychedelics can make things worse. There’s retraumatization, or there are certain character structures and energetic body patterning types that have certain trauma patternings where the psychedelics could actually make you worse. And that’s just not helpful, right? It’s really important to feel into this.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, and you’re not willing to do the challenging work and the hard work, psychedelics can be quite challenging. I mean, honestly, they’re more challenging than beautiful. They are beautiful, but if I could weigh all the psychedelic experiences I’ve had in my life, there’s always been challenges that have surfaced. And when I say challenges, I choose to see the challenges as something quite beautiful to look at. So I’m pretty good at navigating the challenges. But if you’re not skilled in navigating challenging visions or memories, these things that happened, then it can actually make it really hard on people. But then again, this is where I believe in really mastering your mind and doing the day-to-day work in order to make the psychedelic experience much better. For example, a daily meditation practice or some kind of daily mindfulness practice, getting out into nature, slowing down, taking care of your nervous system, working with someone regularly to be more embodied, getting into your body, some kind of a very skilled embodiment coach or somatic type therapist or coach or healer. So that’s where preparation and integration are so important. It will actually help you make the most out of the psychedelic experiences.
The key is not to just constantly depend on the psychedelics. It’s to be able to learn from them and grow and evolve and integrate them so that you’re just functioning much better. For example, back many years ago, I had what I would call an anxiety problem; I was just always anxious. I wasn’t depressed, but I was definitely stressed out, anxious, not in my body, not present. I went through bouts of not sleeping well, or having so much anxiety that I was drinking too much or using other forms of coping and numbing. And with the help of plant medicines and day-to-day, week-to-week, ongoing integration and somatic support, and support from coaches and healers, I now rarely-to-never have any anxiety. I mean, honestly, I’m just a different person now. My nervous system is completely different than what it was ten years ago.
On your site you state that you aim “to help you move past your blocks and limiting beliefs so that you get clarity in your purpose, embody the authentic truth of your heart, Share Your Unique Medicine, and get your work out in the world so you can make a difference in an impactful and profitable way.” How has/does your work with plant medicine help crystallize and manifest these goals for and with your clients?
Most of my clients–not all, by the way–but most work with some kind of psychedelic or plant medicine, or they have. Meaning, they might consider it part of their growth path, their evolutionary path. But most of these visions that come through are already living inside you, they’re not because of the psychedelic. They’re because they are part of your soul’s blueprint. It was already in you, what you’re here to do.
The work I do as a spiritually centered business coach is partially to help people who are on this path really drop into their hearts and manifest these visions that they get. This is why a lot of people come to me: how do you start to embody this and make it a reality? Maybe even make some massive lifestyle changes? Meaning, a lot of my clients have just quit corporate jobs, or our doctors or nurses, or even entrepreneurs, and are moving into a new business that feels much more aligned with who they really are. I help them integrate the medicine work into this new endeavor that they’re taking and make it a reality through experiential embodied steps and practices.
Half of my work would be tangible action steps, maybe more than half, honestly. Maybe it’s like 60% to 70%. Then there’s always 30% – 50% who are dealing with the human mind and psyche. Especially here in the Western world, there are a lot of fears around, “How am I going to survive? Will I make money? How am I going to pay the bills? I’ve had this corporate job for 20 years and now I have a desire to help people… or be of service or be a coach or a healer. I’m so scared. How am I going to make this happen? I feel like an imposter.”
These concerns like the imposter syndrome, fears, financial fears, worries and concerns are all manifestations of the mind. Part of the work I do is really helping people see things from a higher perspective, seeing them from a different perspective, to really trust in their heart and trust themselves while also taking the tangible action steps to grow a profitable business. You know, it’s not just about, “Oh, feel it, and then everybody will come.” There are actual steps to bring this vision into the 3D and have it really support you. But what I’ve found over the years is that what people struggle with the most is their own beliefs and stories that they’re telling themselves and that they’re constantly making up over and over, like, “Who am I to do this? I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. Who am I to ask for money?” This is part of the work we do. So sometimes if my clients are going into a medicine space, which happens often during our year together, we’ll do some preparation work around certain things that they’re working on. Like, let’s say they’re struggling with imposter syndrome. We will do some preparation work: “How can you explore this with the aid of the medicine space that you’re going into to get some insights and illuminations around your mind and your patterns.”
What’s keeping us stuck and stagnant? What’s keeping us from living our fullest potential and also our fullest dreams? You have to ask, why is it that living dreams are only for certain people and then others are struggling? It’s not just, “Oh, they’re born into it,” or, “Oh, it’s because they have X number of kids.” There’s something deeper there. It’s a big problem in our society where there are a lot of belief systems; there’s a lot of noise. There are people that are not connected to themselves and their hearts. And we’ve all been programmed to believe certain things that are actually not true. So a huge part of my work is helping people do a lot of subconscious reprogramming and also, reprogramming of 20 to 40 years of what we’ve been taught. That’s a lot of work.
Any last advice for someone curious about stepping onto the psychedelic path?
What I recommend is that you set a strong intention in your heart to be guided to the right psychedelic experience or facilitator, therapist, ceremony, etc. and start praying with your intention. I truly believe if you want it and pray with your intention when the Divine agrees that the Timing is right, it will manifest into your reality.
I am happy to refer my clients to a list of incredible psychedelic integration coaches, somatic therapists who also understand psychedelics and other healers, coaches and transformational leaders who understand the psychedelic experience and can help with prep and integration. Note: psychedelic experiences alone are NOT a magic fix. It’s the regular integration and day-to-day practices that provide real lasting healing!
Stay tuned for more of this interesting conversation and local resources in PARTS 2 + 3 of this series…