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[6-min read] Q&A with Undrea Wright, Healer & Founder

Welcome to Tricycle Day. We’re the psychedelics newsletter your great grandparents would want you to read. Respect your elders, alright? 👵 👴 

Undrea Wright had a scary first encounter with plant medicine—and I’m not talking about hallucinations. Now through his organization, The Ancestor Project, he’s figuring out what it means to be a modern day American shaman.

We spoke to Dre about embracing our universal and personal heritage, redefining oppression as a force that affects everyone, and merging ancient and modern healing practices for collective liberation.

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Undrea Wright

Q&A with Undrea Wright, Healer & Founder

What led you to work with Earth medicines, realize the value of ancestral wisdom, and create The Ancestor Project?

I believe these medicines call us to the altar. In my case, the call came when I was 40 years old and about to become a parent. I didn't want to project my personal baggage onto my child or burden them with the toxicity I carried within myself. Despite having practiced meditation, yoga, and martial arts since the age of 13, I was far from attaining enlightenment. I was solely focused on making money and had little trust in other people.

Then, circumstances changed. I left my job in the military, where due to my clearance I’d been subject to routine drug tests. I started hearing people talk about cannabis everywhere, which piqued my curiosity. Trying cannabis for the first time completely blew my mind. That experience led me to try mushrooms a few weeks later. During my mushroom ceremony, I met a green goddess who urged me to seek out “Grandma.”

A week later, I was at my first ayahuasca ceremony. It was an incredibly challenging experience, right from the outset. Even the drive to the ceremony took me through the Confederate flag-ridden Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was my very own “Get Out” moment. When I arrived, I couldn't help but wonder if these genuinely friendly white folks were planning to eat me or engage in some kind of satanic ritual.

But once the ceremony had begun, I fully surrendered to death, and for that I’m grateful. It opened up a profound love for myself and everything else—every human, every being on this planet, and beyond. All the questions I had about my life, my purpose, and my identity were answered simultaneously. At that moment, I realized I needed to share this information with everyone, particularly because I was the only person of color in that space. This medicine is something we all need to be aware of.

You’ve trained with indigenous masters, including leaders from the Amazonian Shipibo-Conibo and Quechua-Lamista lineages. How has your personal exploration of your own ancestry influenced your understanding of their teachings?

Let me explain the reasoning behind calling this entity the Ancestor Project. Many people believe that these medicine traditions are exclusive to specific cultural groups, but that's not true. Humans all over the world have always sought to expand their state of consciousness. In places where entheogens were not available, alternative methods such as cold exposure or embracing darkness for extended periods were used. However, colonization has caused us to become detached from this shared history.

I’ll give you an example related to identity. I have friends who used to identify themselves solely as "white," which concerned me. Whiteness as an identity is a construct that erases the rich lineage and ancestry of individuals, whether they have German, Italian, Irish, or other heritage. If we reconnect with the truth of our ancestry, we find common threads with the Laplanders, the Druids, and other cultures that practiced animism as hunter-gatherers. We haven't forgotten these practices; we’ve just become disconnected from their inherent magic and power.

Shamanism, used as a general term here to describe these practices, is not exclusive to certain groups or individuals. It's accessible to all of us. By fetishizing and appropriating from Indigenous communities, we lose touch with the sacredness that is inherent to all human beings in our relationship with the planet. While different words and techniques may be used within specific traditions, the underlying structure always involves approaching the altar with gentleness, respect, and reverence. It's not solely about taking; it's also about giving back.

In your mission statement, you mention that Sacred Earth Medicine is key in liberating all oppressed peoples. What roles do medicine and ancestral wisdom play in collective liberation?

First, let me clarify what I mean by “oppressed peoples.” I use this term instead of marginalized communities because I don't consider myself marginalized. When I walk into a room, I carry the presence and dignity of a king. There is nothing marginal about me. However, when I speak of oppressed peoples, I refer to those living under systems of colonization and patriarchy prevalent in the West. These cultural viewpoints are inherently violent and toxic, contributing to high rates of anxiety and depression in America. We also have the highest incarceration rates in the world. It's important to acknowledge that all of us are oppressed in some way.

So how do these medicines assist us in collective liberation? Colonization includes a comprehensive indoctrination program that begins when we enter this world. Consider this: What was your name before your parents gave you one? Before societal expectations and identities were imposed upon you? There was an energy signature, a unique way of being and thinking. But upon entering this world, we were burdened with stories, labels, and cultural conditioning. We were taught to raise our hands, accept hierarchies, and rely on a government to control us because we supposedly cannot make wise decisions on our own. Fear of our fellow humans was instilled in us. This process is part of the brainwashing of modern society.

So, let's explore the relationship with ayahuasca, iboga, and sacred mushrooms. Working with these allies increases neuroplasticity and temporarily reduces blood flow to the default mode network, allowing the rest of our brains to engage in a profound internal dialogue. We begin to hear signals amidst the noise and reconnect with our authentic selves—the essence that existed before our parents bestowed upon us stories, names, and expectations. Through this process, we tap into a deep-rooted love for ourselves, enabling us to extend that love to others.

Now, if we come to the altar solely to fix ourselves or optimize personal performance, we miss the opportunity for collective liberation. But if I can guide individuals to the altar and help them establish a right relationship with themselves, we can access the same wisdom and knowledge that resides within each of us. Together, we can effect change and shift our collective consciousness.

You’ve completed MAPS' MDMA-assisted therapy program, and you’re enrolled in a PhD program for transpersonal psychology. How do you combine ancient and modern principles in your approach to healing and transformation?

I believe that the purpose of these medicines is to live a life of ceremony. Ceremony isn't limited to the time when you take ayahuasca or mushrooms; it extends to how you approach your entire life. It involves thoughtfulness, reverence, respect, and the understanding that you're embarking on significant inner work. The aim is to translate the insights gained during these journeys into your daily actions and behaviors.

In the West, people who engage with these medicines are, by definition, privileged. Simply having awareness of these practices sets you apart from the majority of the population. But the same people also face challenges that members of indigenous communities, where sacred medicine is the norm, don’t. When you go home to your usual environment, you may find that family members, friends, and society at large question or judge your choices. That's why integration and preparation are especially important in the West.

To communicate effectively with those seeking support in America, American shamans should offer thorough preparation processes and integration support. Understanding concepts like shadow work and Internal Family Systems can help you speak the right language. Mindfulness training, yoga, somatic releases, and therapy—particularly relational or transpersonal therapy—can help individuals understand their attachment relationships and navigate the cultural context they were raised in.

In your view, how can the transformation of consciousness at the individual level contribute to ending violent conflicts and promoting peace on our planet?

In our culture, there's a strong emphasis on individualism from an early age. We should shift our focus to teaching young people, perhaps through rites of passage, that they are part of a larger tribe. We should highlight the importance of their contributions to the community. Rugged individualism, where one believes everything revolves around them, must be replaced with the understanding that it is about you and all of us.

When you have a respectful relationship with all vital forces, you naturally stop taking actions that cause trauma to yourself and others. Let’s acknowledge our species' inherent need for physical connection. Research has shown that when babies are denied human touch at birth, they face challenges in their psycho-social development. Approaching the altar with a self-centered mindset is misguided because it goes against our nature.

To effectively integrate ancient and modern principles, we must embrace the concept of interconnectedness. Healing and transformation extend beyond the individual and encompass the broader community. By fostering a sense of communal responsibility, respect, and harmony within ourselves and the world, we can create a foundation for true peace and collective well-being.

Want more from Dre? Check out The Ancestor Project’s website to find free downloads, explore private coaching, or contribute to their mutual ceremony fund.

That’s all for today. Before you head off, don’t forget to share, rate, and review Tricycle Day below. Catch ya next time, Cyclists! ✌️

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