[3-min read] Q&A with Charlotte James, Medicine Woman & Educator
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As a medicine woman, Charlotte James is all for your personal healing. But as an educator, she says it’s time we focus on the bigger picture.
We talked to Charlotte about how her heritage prepared her for a healing relationship with plants, harmful practices in the modern psychedelic space, and simple steps anyone can take to join the revolution for collective liberation.
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Q&A with Charlotte James, Medicine Woman & Educator
How did psychedelics first enter your life, and what was the first insight or lesson you took from them?
I first smoked cannabis on my 14th birthday with my cousin. Although that first experience was challenging, I've always been curious and interested in exploring altered states of consciousness. Plants have always been a part of my family's lineage, and I see them as potential allies in my life.
My exploration continued in college with MDMA at a techno concert. Living in Bolivia, I tried LSD for the first time and started to see the veil that separates our world from some other place. My interest in psychedelics continued to grow, and I eventually had my first ceremonial experience with Kambo and Bufo in 2018.
I'm Afro-Caribbean and Germanic, and my family has always been open about using cannabis as a sacrament and medicine. My dad practiced Rastafarianism, and my mom is a horticulturalist, so spending time outdoors and in relationship with nature was a big part of my upbringing.
Recently, I've been engaging in intentional healing and integration, which has allowed me to reflect on past experiences and see how they were benefiting me, even if I wasn't aware of it at the time. Cannabis helped me manage my generalized anxiety, and MDMA allowed me to experience joy in my body and express emotions in a way that was difficult for me before. These experiences gave me distance from my body dysmorphia and general discomfort with my identity.
What does it mean to fold intersectional social justice work into a psychedelic healing practice. What would good look like?
My teacher recently said to a peer of mine, "maybe focus less on doing so much good and focus more on doing less bad." This stuck with me because it's important to be aware of how we might not be treating ourselves and others well, based on the ways we’ve been socialized.
In our individualistic society, healing is often focused on the mind, body, and soul. But ancestral and indigenous healing practices also emphasize community and the environment. These practices are earth based and recognize our responsibility to the collective and our home.
My work is focused on bringing community and the planet into our understanding of healing, and using our intentions to call for healing for all beings, not just ourselves. That’s what true liberation requires.
What are some of the most harmful practices that are commonplace in psychedelics today, when it comes to supporting diverse communities?
One harmful practice in psychedelics is spiritual bypassing, where people ignore the social and systemic issues that contribute to harm and suffering.
I also see a lot of what I would call manifestations of white supremacy culture, such as rushing and scaling without questioning the capitalist structure. There are programs where you can train to serve ayahuasca over a weekend, which really underestimates the gravity of the work. People are naming themselves shamans without understanding the responsibility it is to hold somebody's physical, mental, spiritual health in mind. There’s a lot of cultural appropriation and capitalization, which are parts of neo-colonization.
Understanding the historical context of how the world has ended up in this place is crucial to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
It seems that a lot of the burden of change falls on professional healers and therapists. What can everyday people, who might be passionate advocates for psychedelics, do to usher in our collective liberation?
Anyone can start by looking at how they've internalized oppressive systems and narratives, and how they might be projecting oppression out into the world. Take a closer look at your relationships, your community, and your own healing journey. Question who you're doing this work for, and what vision and purpose you're calling in. Ask yourself what role you play in the revolution for collective liberation.
It's important to be aware of where you might be responsible for replicating harm. Then you can actively work towards dismantling and rebuilding a new way of being.
Tell us about your upcoming Psychedelic Liberation Training. Who should consider registering?
The Psychedelic Liberation Training is a training for therapists, practitioners, and space holders who want to become stewards of collective liberation through their practice. The third cohort starts on June 6 and registration is currently open.
The training includes foundational language, guest community presenters, and lectures on working with different communities in the psychedelic space, such as the queer and neurodivergent communities, and centering Blackness. It also includes a call to action on your role and commitment to collective liberation and provides tools for practicing decolonization work in your everyday life.
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DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. The use, possession, and distribution of psychedelic drugs are illegal in most countries and may result in criminal prosecution.