In the face of escalating climate, economic and mental health crises, millions are seeking legal, safe ways to experience magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and other psychoactive plant medicines to bring meaning, solace and remedial solutions
As the world grapples with unprecedented natural disasters, economic meltdown and mental health crises, retreats using magic mushrooms (containing psilocybin) and other psychedelic medicines are experiencing a major surge in popularity as people search for meaning and healing and actively seek solutions to our escalating global problems.
While psychedelics were outlawed in 1968 following widespread recreational use in the 60s, research over the last 20 years highlighting the therapeutic and mental health benefits of drugs like psilocybin and LSD has generated a resurgence of interest, creating fertile ground for Michael Pollan’s groundbreaking 2018 book How to Change Your Mind - and follow up 2022 Netflix series - to catapult these powerful substances into mainstream awareness.
Legalisation is also progressing: Australia became the first country to legalise psilocybin for medical use in July, Awakn Life Sciences opened its first psychedelic psychotherapy clinic in London in 2022, and psychedelic therapy is now legal in the US states of Oregon and Colorado with other states and countries set to jump on the bandwagon.
Hailed as a new travel trend in 2023, psychonauts across Europe are flocking to The Netherlands as the only country on the continent where psychedelics can be experienced legally due to a loophole in the law.
Jennifer Tessler, Director and Founder of Alalaho, which – operating in The Netherlands – pioneered the first legal psychedelic retreats in Europe from 2016 (initially under the banner of the UK Psychedelic Society), says:
“Since Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind millions of people have been seeking out ways to experience psychedelics in a legal and safe way to catalyse healing, growth and mystical experience. Psychedelic medicines can expand your perception, bring new insights and awaken past memories as well as your innate wisdom to heal your trauma. They give you access to a wellspring of inner resources that can help you shift stuck patterns and unwanted behaviours and support you to reconnect with your innate joy, your connection to the natural world and to The Great Mystery of Life.
“Alalaho was borne out of a desire to effect change in the face of our global environmental, social and mental health crises. Often people on our retreats report feeling a deep sense of belonging and interconnectedness with nature and with other people, which can awaken an impulse to care more for others and to take action to protect our environment and our shared lives on this planet.”
While magic mushrooms are actually now illegal in The Netherlands, Alalaho’s retreat participants are afforded a legitimate psilocybin experience by ingesting mushroom truffles, the mycelial body of the fungi found in clumps underground. The retreats are held in beautiful rural retreat venues cushioned in nature, where ‘Set and Setting’ - the vital determining factors for an optimum psychedelic journey - are carefully optimised to support participants to let go into a receptive, trusting state of mind.
To deepen the experience, Alalaho’s retreats bring a unique psychospiritual and heart-centred approach, buoyed by exercises and tools from the Western clinical model, somatic and transpersonal psychology, as well as from Buddhism and shamanic practices.
Tessler - who brings to this rich mix her background as a transpersonal psychotherapist and 15+ years intensive training in Tibetan Buddhism and meditation - will be launching a new Alalaho psychedelic retreat for meditators in May 2024 in collaboration with the UK Psychedelic Society, which will explore the synergy between contemplative practices, non-ordinary states of consciousness and therapeutic work.
Dr Lauren Macdonald, a survivor of stage IV cancer - who having experienced profound healing during an Alalaho retreat went on to train as a guide before joining Alalaho’s facilitation team - says:
“My life has been forever changed by the retreat. I’d hoped the experience would help me feel less fearful of dying, but it’s given me so much more - it has helped me come back to life. I feel more connected to myself, friends, family and our beautiful, fragile planet. I now see how alive and awe-inspiring nature and the world around us is. I have also learned that it’s through connection – with oneself, with Spirit, with nature, and with each other – that healing and transformation happens.”
As public perception of psychedelics shifts, many celebrities have started to speak out about how psychedelic medicines have transformed their lives, from Joe Rogan, Elon Musk and Gwyneth Paltrow to Mike Tyson, Harry Styles and Miley Cyrus. Exalting the powers of peyote, Sting has described how “the meaning of the universe cracked open”, and Prince Harry has credited both psilocybin and ayahuasca for helping him deal with mental health issues.
Many refer to the skyrocketing fervor surrounding psychedelics as ‘The Pollan effect’, with some critical of the hype engendered as millions turn to these drugs as a miracle cure for innumerable ills.
Jennifer Tessler says:
“Psychedelics create peak experiences which are not a fix all panacea, and it would be unhelpful for people to expect to return from a psychedelic retreat in a state of bliss, cured of all their problems. The reality is more complex, the retreats can be challenging, sometimes shining a light on emotional wounds or traumas which keep us blocked and need healing. However, with proper integration to deepen any arising insights, complimented with some useful holistic practices, they can provide profound, long lasting change.”
The next Alalaho retreats take place 18-22 October and 7-10 December. For more info & bookings visit: