“Randiah,” the spiritual healer called to me in the darkness. “Come with me. I want you to meet God.”
I raised my eyebrows so high it felt like they would detach from my forehead. My face couldn’t seem to figure out how to express the excitement, skepticism, and curiosity simultaneously running through my mind. I followed the healer, Princella, to a glass door. The curvy, brown-skinned woman with a messy bun of locs stood in front of it, peering outside into the night.
With an arm embracing me, she pointed at the sliding doors and asked, “What do you see?” Standing there, reflected in the dark and slightly obscured by the rain-spattered glass, I saw myself.
Now, I’m not here to tell you that I’m God in a religious sense. I am here to share the story of my first journey with the natural medicine psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms. And I’m here to try to explain how I was able to release trauma on the way to realizing my true self.
In March, I joined a three-day plant medicine retreat hosted in Detroit by three spiritual healers: medicine woman and celebrity chef at B*tch I’m Vegan Princella “Vizion” Zeno, yoga and meditation teacher Lisa Hillary Johnson, and certified plant medicine practitioner Amanda Elise.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been used to connect with the Earth, the divine, and other realms of consciousness since early humanity. Ancient civilizations in Central America, mainly the Mayans and Aztecs, have use documented as far back as 1,500 BCE.
Now it’s 2022, and entheogenic fungi and plants — including psilocybin, ayahuasca, peyote, dimethyltryptamine (aka DMT), and mescaline — have been decriminalized in cities across the country, including Ann Arbor Detroit. Activist groups Decriminalize Nature and Students for Sensible Drug Policy have filed a ballot initiative to legalize the possession and adult use of these plants across Michigan, aiming to bring the issue to voters in 2024.
I joined the retreat hoping for answers to my very human problems — how to start a relationship with my absent father at 31 years old and whether or not to end things with my romantic partner at the time — but the medicine showed me something far deeper.
No part of this story has been fabricated, and the re-telling of the journey is to the best of my memory.
My stomach grumbled as I drove up the winding road toward the Airbnb where the retreat was to take place on a Friday evening. We had all been asked to do a three-day fast of only grapes and water prior to the retreat, and I was starving.
Participants began to arrive and congregate around the dining room table, asking who was a first-timer, who wasn’t, and fielding awkward getting-to-know-you questions. Princella’s husband Zeno came and sat down next to me.
“Randiah, I’ve heard so much about you,” he said. “I heard that you’re going to be writing about the retreat. How did that come about?”
“To be honest, I feel like it just sort of appeared to me,” I replied. “That’s how my life goes. The universe puts whatever I need in front of me at the appropriate time, and I just run with it. Also, Instagram.”
He felt like such a kind and welcoming presence. All of them did. When I finally met Princella, Lisa, and Amanda in person after corresponding through email and Zoom for a month, I felt like I had known them my entire life. Like there was a mutual understanding of what was about to take place. Like our souls recognized each other, and there was nothing but love.
When it was time for the ceremony to begin, we gathered in our all-white attire in an open dining room with yoga mats on the floor where we would lay for a meditation. Before ingesting any medicine, however, we wrote our intentions on white glass candles, lit them, and placed them on the mantle. They would remain there for the duration of the weekend.
We began by receiving hapé, a medicinal herb powder traditionally used by Amazonian tribes in rituals and rites of passage. The powder is stuffed in the end of a wooden pipe, which is placed underneath the nostril. The person administering the hapé — typically a shaman, but in this case Amanda — blows at the other end, sending the powder up your nose. It’s then repeated on the other nostril.
As soon as Amanda blew into the pipe it was like fire traveling up to my brain. It writhed through my nose into my skull, flames licking wildly to reach around my mind, grabbing it like a malevolent hand and squeezing. I let the fire spread down the back of my neck as she blew into the other nostril. You have two options when confronted with such discomfort — react or sit and feel. I chose to sit with it, allowing the sensation to come and pass eventually, as all things do.
Next the ritual of psilocybin began. We each plucked a hair from our head and mixed it with sacred tobacco in a bowl, committing ourselves to receiving the wisdom beheld by the plant medicine. We gave thanks to the Earth, to the ancient technology that we were about to receive in our physical vessels.
I downed the concoction of five grams of mushrooms, lemon juice, and water, and it was awful. The sour lemon combined with the mushroom’s earthiness was enough to make me gag, but I forced it down. Afterward, we laid on the floor for a sound meditation led by Lisa to take us into the deeper realms of consciousness.
Immediately, when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was floating through space, traveling to other dimensions and timelines. I saw a reality in which my then-partner and I got married and had children. I saw another reality in which we broke up. Somehow they both existed simultaneously.
Everything exists, a voice spoke within me. Everything is real. Everyone is you. All realities are true.
As I flew through constellations, bouncing from stars and planets, I felt all the energy in the cosmos. We all come from the same cosmological field and when we strip away the labels we’ve created to define who we are, we are part of the same whole.
I opened my eyes to make sure I hadn’t moved. I was still here, on Earth, in this house in Detroit with Lisa, Princella, Amanda, and the other participants. How much time had passed? Was the house real? Or were all the galaxies and expansiveness of space the true reality? real?
I had to sit up. To ground myself and glue my butt to the floor to stay present, or else I may have dissipated like stardust into the expansiveness of space.
The next time I closed my eyes, I found myself in the past. I saw my mother’s trauma. I saw my partner’s trauma. I saw everything that I knew intuitively, but had never been able to verify. I felt their emotions, an overwhelming sadness and pain.
Someone screamed. Not in the past, but in the present. In the house in Detroit where my physical body sat. I opened my eyes as the screams turned into agonizing wails.
Go to her, the internal voice spoke once again.
I hesitated at first, until my legs began moving underneath me beyond my control. In the living room another participant was lying on the couch, releasing through sound, purging through cries. I sat by her side. My physical body and my consciousness were separate and disconnected. I felt my hands come together in prayer as I whispered, “It’s OK, let it out.” Somehow, I understood what her cries were communicating without words.
What seemed like minutes, hours, days later Princella’s voice pulled me out of the daze, telling me to go with Zeno, who led me back to the room where we started our initial meditation.
“Thank you,” he whispered. “You were called to do this.”
To do what? Was I there to help? To lead others on their journey? What about my journey? What innate knowledge did I unknowingly possess? I felt in that moment Zeno was no longer the human entity I had met earlier. He was a spirit guide and we had entered the spirit realm.
I stood in the middle of the room watching over the other retreat attendees, making sure they were safe. I was no longer traveling through time — I had arrived in this moment as a protector. Everyone has their part to play, and I felt overwhelmingly that my role was as the healer.
“It’s your turn, Randiah. Come on in here,” I heard Princella say. Her voice is what tethered me to this realm, to this version of simultaneous reality.
Immediately, when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was floating through space, traveling to other dimensions and timelines.
I started to go toward her voice in the living room, but I had to use the bathroom and somehow my consciousness detached once again. I was lost in darkness, or perhaps it was light. A light in darkness that wanted to swallow me. But there is no difference between the dark and the light; it’s just a matter of being able to see.
Wait. Where am I? How much time has passed? Wasn’t I supposed to meet Princella?
Suddenly, she appeared.
“Did you get lost?” she asked. I had, though I had been standing still in the same spot. Lost in an eternal feedback loop.
She led me to the bathroom, where I avoided looking at my face in the mirror, afraid of what I might see. Upon exit, I got “lost” again in the basement, scanning the room, not entirely sure what I was looking for.
“Randiah,” Princella called to me in the darkness. “Come with me. I want you to meet God.”
I followed Princella to the glass door she stood in front of, peering outside into the night. With an arm embracing me, she pointed at the sliding doors and asked, “What do you see?”
“This is a trick question,” I answered, laughing, after what seemed like an eternity of racing thoughts. In reality, it’s more likely that only a few minutes had passed.
What did I see? I saw a blanket of grass covering the backyard. I very clearly saw a stack of decorative rocks. But most importantly, I saw myself. Am I God? Or are the rocks and the grass God? Though I couldn’t bring myself to utter the words out loud at the time, I now know the answer is all three.
“Do you know that you are an ancient African queen,” Princella said. We were back upstairs on the couch. She had taken a larger dose of psilocybin than any of us, saying it would allow her to see what we were dealing with on the higher realms of consciousness. There’s a reason her nickname is “Vizion.”
“Your soul is so old,” she told me. “It’s been here since the beginning, and has lived so many lives. But this time, she said, ‘We ain’t doing this again.’”
Not doing this again meant to transcend. I laughed with my eyes half closed at her words, fighting the way my essence was being pulled between the present moment and somewhere else in time. I wanted to talk with her in this timeline, but I couldn’t.
Then Princella said something that snapped me, or at least a version of me, back to this reality.
“I want to talk to eight-year-old Randiah,” she said.
I rifled through my memories, looking for an eight-year-old version of me, but there was nothing.
“You don’t have to find her. She’s always there,” Princella said. “What happened to you when you were eight?”
A grin I didn’t recognize spread across my face as my mouth formed the words in a defiant tone.
“I don’t want to go there right now.”
Though they came from me, the words were not my own. It was as if someone else was talking.
“It’s not about me. It’s about you,” my subconscious said to Princella.
Then the veil of my conscious mind reappeared as if a spell had been lifted. We were no longer in the timeless void. My subconscious — my scared eight-year-old self — did not want to be called forth, so she put up a wall to fade back into the darkness. I was myself again — the present-day version of myself.
Eventually, Lisa and Amanda joined us on the couch. We laughed. We talked. We broke our fast with gluten-free bread. We snuggled up to each other and talked loudly like old friends having a reunion. Occasionally, someone would leave to check on the other retreat attendees and come back. That couch was our communal space where our souls — who had perhaps always known each other, even though our human bodies hadn’t previously met in this life — sought refuge.
Around 5 a.m. I retired to bed, not sure how to make sense of it all.
Had it all been real? How could I have traveled through space, experiencing the future and the past, if I was inside that house in Detroit? Why does it feel like I know Amanda, Princella, and Lisa from past lives? What happened to me when I was eight?
On the second night, Lisa led us in a meditation to unlock blocked energy in the seven chakras after we drank the psilocybin. I told Princella I wanted a slightly higher dose this time so I could go deeper.
During the meditation, I had the same sense of floating, except I wasn’t traveling through time because time had ceased to exist. When we got to the throat chakra, where Lisa told us to release whatever sound we were holding back, I cried out in despair. I started fighting and flailing around on the floor, bawling, and reaching out for help.
My memory is sparse, but eventually someone was able to calm me down and I slipped back into those lower realms of consciousness. I felt a faint feeling of bliss, as if I was bathing in light, but something was holding me back, preventing me from experiencing it fully.
I got up from the floor, trying to find a comfortable spot away from the other participants. I wanted to be alone, to find out what was truly ailing me. I came to lie down on the couch, feeling that something about my energy was off. I wasn’t myself. There was a burning in my chest that belonged to someone else. It was someone else’s pain that I had been carrying, someone else’s energy that had attached itself to me. Now it needed to leave.
The burning in my chest intensified and I had to get the fire out. With my eyes closed, I began to dig into my chest and symbolically pull out whatever was inside.
“This is not mine,” I said out loud as I tossed the foreign presence to the side.
Someone came and put their hand over my heart.
“My pain is not there,” I said to them, placing my hand on top of theirs, guiding their touch to my womb. “My pain is here.”
As I held their hand over my womb, chills began to travel down my body, turning into an electric shockwave. I nearly screamed at the person, “Don’t touch me!” The words weren’t really for them. I was reliving a memory.
“I needed to say that,” I said to her. And I yelled it over and over again, kicking and screaming. “Don’t touch me! Get out!”
I didn’t regain any concrete memory of what happened when I was eight but I felt it energetically in my body. It was as if that experience had been following me, lurking in the shadows my entire life.
Princella and Zeno rushed to my side, waving incense and chanting over me. As I opened my mouth and breathed in the scent, I began to feel more at ease, but something still wasn’t right. Something was still stuck inside that needed to come out. I felt as if I would vomit. Purging isn’t uncommon for psychedelic trips.
I asked someone to lead me to the bathroom. I didn’t want to open my eyes, because that would bring me back to the physical realm and I wanted to stay in the energetic realm where time was an illusion, so I could experience and heal my pain. As we walked, flashes of white, glowing light illuminated the way.
Someone asked if I wanted them to turn on the light. “No,” I replied. “I am the light.”
I felt a faint feeling of bliss, as if I was bathing in light, but something was holding me back, preventing me from experiencing it fully.
I sat alone in the bathroom, hunched over the toilet bowl. As I opened my mouth to vomit, an inhuman sound, which I have never heard or imagined my voice could sound like, came out. It was a low, guttural howl that wouldn’t stop. There was no use fighting it. I clutched at the toilet, tears streaming down my eyes as I expelled the sound, like something crawling out from my bowels.
Lisa burst in and wrapped her arms around me.
“He’s gone,” I said.
I didn’t know who he was, but I felt somehow lighter. Lisa and I laughed, we turned my name into a song and she told me she loved me. It was a moment of pure joy and I felt finally free, but I needed to go outside so I could feel the earth.
Lisa led me outside and I gasped as my feet touched the wet grass, rain gently touching my skin. I could feel the connection between myself and the Earth, and all living things on the planet. I clutched Lisa’s shoulders and said, as if I were making a confession, “I am the Earth. I am the sky. I am the dirt. I am the trees. Everything that exists here, exists within me.”
I was led back into the house where I lay down to bask in this interconnectedness. Lisa placed white candles around me and left me covered with a blanket. I felt pure bliss, absolute love, and everlasting peace. I wanted to stay in that moment forever with my eyes closed, taking it all in. Why would you want to return to normal life where there is so much suffering and sadness after experiencing such a loving presence?
Princella came to me and I held her hands.
“How does it feel to know that you are God?” she said to me. I smiled and I cried silent tears that seemed neverending. How do you describe a feeling that’s indescribable?
“Repeat after me,” she said. “I am love. I am peace. I am he. I am she. I am we.”
I could finally be at peace.
On the last day of the retreat, we decompressed from our respective journeys. Princella gave a vegan cooking lesson, we talked about using mushrooms for manifestation, and we hula-hooped in the sun, allowing our bodies to move freely.
I still don’t fully understand what happened to me. What I do know, however, is that God is within all of us. God is a universal consciousness, an inner knowing from the cosmos that connects all life — human, animal, plant, or otherwise.
A beautiful thing happens when we are able to break the seal of human consciousness and connect with this divine energy. It is always there within us and once you have tapped into it, you cannot return to a mundane existence.
The solutions to the human problems that plague us are within, too. Subconsciously, we know — just as I already knew the answers to my questions before taking the medicine. The questions themselves weren’t the real issue, it was that I didn’t trust myself enough to accept answers that were uncomfortable. Now I do.