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Essential Support Roles for Psilocybin Mushroom Journeys: Custodian, Steward, and Anchor of Presence

Expanding our professional practices into psychedelic work demands a deeper understanding of the essential roles we play as space holders, supporters, and stewards. In this blog, we delve into three fundamental roles in psilocybin mushroom journey support – Custodian, Steward, and Anchor of Presence – shedding light on their significance and offering insights into how you can embrace and cultivate these vital qualities within yourself. 


These roles are not just labels; they provide a framework for creating a secure container for journeyers, ensuring a supportive environment conducive to exploration and introspection. While we will be highlighting the aforementioned roles throughout this piece, it is important to note that these are not the only roles that exist. Instead, these are foundational roles that we believe must be cultivated before advancing to more intricate skills, recognizing them as indispensable pillars in psilocybin-assisted therapy or support services. In other words, these three roles are crucial, forming the base for supporting psilocybin mushroom journeys and, from there, we can build more advanced guiding or therapeutic skills on top of them. We recommend against trying to jump into guiding work or applying therapeutic modalities to mushroom journeys first without cultivating a strong foundation as a custodian, steward, and anchor of presence.


By understanding and embodying the roles of Custodian, Steward, and Anchor of Presence, practitioners can cultivate the necessary expertise to guide individuals through the altered terrain of mushroom journeys with empathy, wisdom, and effectiveness.



What is a Custodian of Mushroom Journeys?



A custodian is an individual who proactively supports the journeyer throughout their experience, being responsive to the process as it unfolds. In this role, we help prepare the journeyer mentally and physically and ensure the physical environment is conducive to what is always a somewhat unpredictable experience.  




What is your Role as a Custodian During Psilocybin Mushroom Journeys?



At Elemental Psychedelics, we consider ourselves custodians partly because it encourages a humble mindset. We are not shamans or healers - we are not the ones conducting the healing work. We identify as healers only in the sense that we engage in our own healing work within ourselves, but not because we’re healing other people. We all have the potential to be healers for ourselves, but we use the term custodian because it helps put our role into perspective. We are there to support an existing process for someone, not to create or deliver a healing process. 


In mushroom journeywork, the healing process doesn't revolve solely around mushrooms; it includes a variety of other healing modalities that individuals should ideally engage in alongside mushroom and psychedelic work. 


Custodian work starts well before the journey itself. As individuals supporting psychedelic experiences, we take on the role of custodian for the space, which often involves preparatory tasks. This includes how we prepare clients before the session begins as well as prepare the physical space we will be using. During preparation, we spend time explaining how the body can move through the journey with as much ease as possible. Something that we do during these prep sessions is normalize the physical experiences and the fact that sometimes, these medicines can induce a downward purge (in addition to nausea and vomiting), leading to an urgent need to use the bathroom. By addressing this during the preparation session and having all the necessary supplies available (for example, vomit bags, wet wipes, and so on), we are ensuring that clients are mentally prepared for such occurrences and that such possibilities are okay and normal. As custodian of the space, you might help the journeyer to the bathroom, re-arrange pillows, clean up messes, and bring tissues. All of this is actually a really important aspect of our role, as it allows the journeyer the possibility to more fully let go into their journey, knowing that the physical space around them is taken care of.  Being thoughtful and prepared for multiple possibilities in the journey space is crucial in this context and an important aspect of good custodianship.




What is a Steward of Mushroom Journey?






The essence of a Steward is an individual who nurtures a personal connection with both visible and invisible living forces, recognizing their position within a broader network of responsibility. As stewards, we emphasize the importance of keeping our egos in check and navigating our paths with as much humility as we can muster. To embody the essence of a genuine steward in the context of a mushroom journey, we serve as empathic witnesses to the organic unfolding of the journey and hold reverence for both the medicine and the individual's own inner intelligence.


Serving as a steward goes beyond trip sitting as a custodian of the physical space; it involves respecting and trusting the inherent natural process and wisdom of the mushroom journey. It is about being comfortable with not knowing, not controlling, not forcing. This role demands a delicate balance of guidance, humility, and a deep understanding of the interconnected relationship between the journeyer, the medicine, and the larger cosmic web. It requires us to develop our own relationship with the natural animate world or whatever we deem sacred.



What is your Role as a Steward During Psilocybin Mushroom Journeys?


As our co-owner, Dori, describes: I like to think of an analogy I once heard, I believe from a Cherokee individual, shared on a podcast I was listening to about the human role in relation to the planet. The speaker explained that there are people who believe that if we just left the Earth alone and we just allowed it to be wild and free and if humans left the planet, the planet would be in much better shape. This speaker said that this belief is not necessarily true because humans are part of the ecosystem and their role is to be stewards of the earth and make sure that the gardens don't overgrow, or that vines don't choke trees, or that too many deer don’t overgraze certain lands. Instead, he suggested that our job is to help maintain balance with nature. 


This idea of stewardship demonstrates that when we act as stewards, we are supporting a process as it’s naturally unfolding. We are part of the ecosystem and we have a responsibility within it. In other words, we’re honoring that a process itself has its own wisdom and we’re empathically witnessing and supporting this wise natural process as it unfolds.  Stewardship is not the idea that “I’m here to support you to create the best circumstances for the most desirable outcome for this unfolding.” Certainly, nature contains the wisdom and systems to take care of itself, but human beings have the opportunity to support and honor these processes through humility and deep listening.  In my mushroom support work I use the wisdom that is offered through my personal relationship with the medicine and the elements to listen and hear what wants to be stewarded as part of this journey and this larger psychedelic movement.


This is why it’s important, as a steward, to have a relationship with that which we are stewarding. From our perspective, it is important that whoever is holding space has a relationship with the mushrooms so that they can listen and know how best to support the unfolding of this medicine with somebody. If there is no relationship from the steward with nature or with the journey process, the steward will not be able to listen as intelligently and allow for the natural wisdom to unfold.


Therefore, part of being a steward is being in deep relationship with that which we are supporting in its unfurling. For some people, that might mean being in deep relationship with the mushroom itself, with the elements, and/or with other animate forces or beings of nature. 


It is also crucial that the steward doesn’t become overwhelmed by their own idea of what’s right - which happens in our world quite often -  where human beings think, "No, this is what nature needs; we must build this dam;," because they've lost connection with listening to the wisdom of the land. Consequently, they start doing what they believe is right without being in relationship.


Therefore, we must be mindful not to get overly bogged down or be unable to hear the wisdom of the medicine and the unseen worlds, providing the input and information necessary to honor what happens during journey space. If we only listen to our egos and what we think is right without establishing a deep relationship with the unseen worlds, mushroom medicine, and the animate forces of nature, we cease to be stewards. Instead, we become operators of our own egoic legend fueled by our personal traumas, hurts, and larger cultural programming.


Hence, the more we can step aside and cultivate a profound relationship with mushrooms, unseen forces, and nature, the better we can listen and be guided by what is calling from those other spaces. This allows us to create a strong container for the journey, but even beyond that, this helps us stay on path, the best we can, as stewards of the larger cultural movement of increasing access to plant and psychedelic medicines.



What is an Anchor of Presence in Mushroom Journey?





So lastly we have the anchor of presence which aligns with the idea of stewardship.  


How do we become good stewards? 


We have practices.  


Practices that keep us energetically clear and able to listen. Able to get quiet. And to respond and to abide by the wisdom that's available in the unseen worlds and in the natural world. Practices to help us get the ego out of the way and to not become judgmental of someone's journey because we believe we have an idea of what healing is supposed to look like for them. Practices that help us stay clear and mindful of any possible attachment to ego-driven ideas, such as that mushrooms are supposed to help this person heal.


We define the role Anchor of Presence as someone who learns and engages in their own consistent practices to keep their personal energetic space clear. They sit, witness and offer comfort and support from a non-judgmental place of compassion and pure presence.



What is your Role as an Anchor of Presence During Psilocybin Mushroom Journeys?


As a topic we will go more in depth on during our Mushroom Myths and Misconceptions: A Webinar for


Psychedelic Professionals taking place on March 6th, mushroom medicine is not going to act the way you want it to act. It’s not going to heal the way you think it's supposed to heal. The best we can do is cultivate ourselves as a stoic anchor of presence who trusts that this medicine is working for the highest potential of all and we probably have no idea what that actually looks like or means. 


Even though you cannot see that outcome, the trusting relationship that you have developed with the unseen world and animate forces helps you remain calm and grounded no matter what happens in the journey. Whether nothing happens, or someone's having a really hard time, or someone's having an ecstatic experience, you remain unattached to the outcome and the meaning. You are fully present and accepting. You are calm and unhurried. The only way to do this is to practice and deepen your own relationship with the forces you are regularly working with in your own life. Unfortunately, we cannot just show up as an anchor of presence because we intellectually want to do so. It's a practice, it's a lifestyle, it's a way of being that we must cultivate over time. 


And so all of this is important to consider when we're holding space: We are holding a physical and an energetic container. As a good custodian we are prepared to maintain the physical safety and comfort of the space, but we do not decide what happens within that container. We simply hold clear, grounded, and protected energetic space for whatever wants to come through to be communicated through the medicine and through our own clear channel of presence. 


Final Thoughts



Embarking on the exploration of psychedelic support roles reveals not just labels but dynamic responsibilities that guide individuals through the intricate landscapes of psychedelic journeywork. The Custodian, Steward, and Anchor of Presence embody important roles, each contributing to the creation of a strong container for potentially transformative experiences.


As Custodians, we humbly acknowledge our role in supporting existing processes, ensuring physical and mental preparation, and facilitating a comfortable and well-prepared environment for individuals to navigate their journeys. 


The Steward role unfolds as a commitment to maintaining balance in the ecosystem, mirroring the intricate dance of nature. By cultivating a trusting relationship with unseen forces, mushrooms, and the natural world, stewards honor the wisdom of ongoing processes, offering support without imposing preconceived notions. This role underlines the importance of avoiding becoming overwhelmed by personal ideas of what's right, emphasizing the necessity of listening to the wisdom of the animate forces.


Our roles as an Anchor of Presence highlight the significance of consistent practices to keep our personal energetic space clear. This role requires a calm and grounded presence regardless of the journey's unfolding. By practicing this in our own lives, we become conduits for the highest potential outcomes, detached from personal judgments, and fully present for the journey.


To delve deeper into these roles and enhance your effectiveness as a psychedelic support person, consider joining us for workshops and training sessions at Elemental Psychedelics. These opportunities are designed to deepen our insights, offer safely held containers for your own firsthand medicine experiences, and build a grounded, supportive community to foster growth in your journey as a space holder and journey supporter. Embrace these roles, cultivate a mindful approach, and contribute to the transformative potential of psychedelic experiences for all who feel called to this work.


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