🫠 Psychonaut POV

[5-min read] Q&A with Tricia Eastman, Medicine Woman & Author

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Tricia Eastman healed her traumatic brain injury and eating disorders with the help of plant medicine. But to her, psychedelics represent something more than just therapy. And they must be protected. That’s the topic of her new book, Seeding Consciousness.

We spoke to Tricia about the three pillars of plant medicine stewardship, why synthetics aren’t an easy fix to the sustainability crisis, and what a Japanese pottery technique can teach us about ourselves.

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Tricia Eastman Psychonaut POV
How did you end up working at the intersection of ancestral wisdom traditions, psychedelics, and healing?

I had no idea this work would be my life’s calling. I’ve always been interested; I even worked at a psychedelic bookstore in my younger years. But then, I moved into the wellness space, where I consulted with spas and hotels to develop holistic beauty and wellness products. My journey took a swift turn after I suffered traumatic brain injury, which led to a mental breakdown. As a high-achiever, I felt so ashamed, so hopeless. In my search for healing outside the conventional healthcare system, I revisited my old friend MDMA, which opened a door to profound spiritual experiences and revelations. It was my call to the hero’s journey.

Inspired in part by Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek, I let go of my conventional life, including a successful real estate investment venture, and fully committed myself to spiritual growth. It was during this period of extensive travel, meditation, and esoteric practices that I started working with Ayahuasca. Even though I'd sensed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics when I’d used them recreationally, my experience with Ayahuasca showed me what a difference a structured and intentional container could make.

A year later, I was invited to work at an ibogaine clinic in Mexico. There, I witnessed and experienced the healing powers of psychedelics within a medically supervised program. Ibogaine helped me overcome deep-seated personal challenges with eating disorders. After a single treatment, I never purged or binge-ate again. Over the years, I've come to appreciate the depth and breadth of healing that can be achieved by bridging ancestral wisdom with modern practices.

What does it mean to be a “steward” of plant medicine, and why is responsible stewardship important?

Stewardship demands a deep understanding and respect for the traditions, processes, and responsibilities that come with using these powerful substances. The first aspect is to recognize the sacredness of these medicines and adhere to the specific instructions that are integral to their use. For example, failing to follow the proper dieta for Ayahuasca can hinder the plant's ability to communicate effectively. If you don’t do your part to prepare, the plant has to do all the heavy lifting, which can decrease the likelihood of having a mystical experience.

The second piece has to do with honoring our lineage holders. As stewards of plant medicine, we have to preserve and respect the traditional practices of our elders and indigenous leaders. Otherwise, they can easily be commodified. Just as it takes time to integrate the profound personal experiences we have with these medicines, it also usually takes years of study and apprenticeship before someone is ready to serve medicine. I think of it like the caterpillar and the butterfly. There’s often a period of complete dissolution and reformation before a true spiritual awakening.

Then, the third and final pillar of stewardship is reciprocity. We have to engage with and support Indigenous communities directly. We can’t shy away from the cultural and ecological implications of psychedelic tourism or plant medicine extraction. Some of the ways we can address these issues are to empower Indigenous-led cultural preservation efforts and create incentives for younger generations to maintain their traditional ways of life. Lastly, stewardship should include the protection of biodiversity, too. Sacred plants exist in symbiotic relationships with their environments. If these ecosystems are threatened, so are the medicines.

What challenges have you faced yourself, either through your nonprofit Ancestral Heart or your company Psychedelic Journeys, in upholding high standards for stewardship?

With Ancestral Heart, our ongoing challenge has been fostering a culture of reciprocity among those we reach. The concept of tithing or giving back, deeply rooted in many spiritual traditions, is so important for the sustainability and accessibility of these medicines for future generations. So far, it’s been difficult to bring the greater collective into this spirit of generosity. The majority of support has come from a small group of dedicated donors who give a lot, rather than everyone just giving a little.

Psychedelic Journeys, on the other hand, faces challenges related to fitting ancient practices into the modern world. One of the biggest misconceptions I see is around the so-called "Vow of Poverty” from ancient Christianity, which says that those on the spiritual path cannot have wealth and abundance. In my opinion, the backlash against the costs of psychedelic therapy overlooks the substantial investments practitioners make in their education, not to mention the operational costs of providing these services. In an ideal world, we’ll have models to make these transformative experiences accessible to a wider audience without compromising on quality or safety. But facilitators have to support themselves, too.

Then there’s another layer of complexity in balancing traditional integrity with the expectations of modern-day clients. Ensuring that our work respects and draws from traditional wisdom while also being adaptable to the needs of those we serve is a tightrope walk. Our approach has always been to stay in close contact with our teachers and lineage holders. That way, we can get their advice or blessing before making intentional shifts.

When it comes to stewardship of traditional plant medicines, how do you see novel and synthetic psychedelics fitting in? Are they a solution to the risks of extraction?

Synthetic forms of substances like ibogaine, mescaline, and 5-MeO-DMT do offer a potential solution to the sustainability issues surrounding natural psychedelic plants, such as iboga and peyote, and the Bufo alvarius toad. By reducing the demand on limited natural resources, we can preserve them for ceremonial use within their indigenous lineages. These communities have a profound connection with their traditional medicines. We should acknowledge and prioritize that.

However, the creation and use of synthetic psychedelics still has to be approached with consciousness and integrity. There are still ways it can go wrong. In the practice of alchemy, which gave rise to modern pharmaceutical development, it wasn’t just the ingredients that mattered; it was also the intention of the alchemist and the methods she used to create the formulation. In the same way, we should be thinking holistically about how psychedelic pharmaceuticals are made. Their manufacturing processes should be environmentally friendly. They should operate with a genuine commitment to healing and transformation, rather than purely profit-driven motives.

These companies should be striving for authenticity. To me, that means every step, from production to distribution, aligns with the highest ethical standards and respect for both the environment and the traditions from which these medicines originate.

Your book, Seeding Consciousness, comes out later this year. Why write it? What do you hope readers will take away from it?

I started writing Seeding Consciousness after receiving a vision during my ibogaine initiation in Gabon in 2018, where I was instructed to share my journey and insights. My hope is to provide a roadmap for those navigating the intersection of psychedelics, spiritual practices, and personal growth. My message isn’t prescriptive or dogmatic. I want to gently nudge readers toward a path that leads to mystical experiences and deeper self-awareness.

The central premise is to reframe the purpose of engaging with psychedelics—not as a quest for healing from specific conditions but as a means to unlock one's creative potential and understand one's purpose in life. I share my own challenges and breakthroughs, such as establishing a retreat center and facing the daunting task of writing, to highlight that the true healing comes from confronting and embracing all parts of oneself.

There’s a metaphor I use in the book: "soul kintsugi." Inspired by the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, the idea is to celebrate our imperfections and integrate our fragmented parts. When it feels like you are broken, you have to collect the pieces and glue them back together. Then you can fill every little crack with gold; that’s self-love. In the end, you’re more beautiful for it. Whenever you see the scar, it’s glowing with light.

Want more from Tricia?

Preorder her book, Seeding Consciousness, and consider supporting the work of her nonprofit Ancestral Heart.

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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.

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