Blog: Plant Medicine: An Interview with Isa Gucciardi
Q. What led you to develop your new series of workshops on plant medicine?
A. Plants have always been a big focus of interest for me. I started studying Native American herbal medicine when I was 20, and I have studied with some really wonderful teachers. The plants themselves have taught me a tremendous amount. We have other classes where we study the intelligence of plants (Mesa Verde) and explore the use of plants in healing (flower essences, in Advanced Integrated Energy Medicine) here at the Sacred Stream, but I thought it was time now to focus on understanding the intelligence of psychotropic plants in healing.
Q. Why now?
A. A big part of my private practice in Depth Hypnosis and Applied Shamanic Counseling has always been to help people integrate their experiences of mind-altering substances. There has been a recent resurgence in investigating the healing potential of psychotropic plants both in the scientific communities and in the alternative healing communities.
I first started teaching Depth Hypnosis because the demand for Depth Hypnosis services was more than I could meet by myself through my own private practice. I started teaching others the techniques I had developed so that more people could be served. The same thing is happening now around trying to get people the help they need in integrating their experience of psychotropic plants. With the boom in ayahuasca tourism and the ongoing interest in other psychoactive substances, there is a real need for some guidance in working with these plants.
Q. What sort of guidance? Can’t people get guidance by going to a special plant circle?
A. One of the things that can happen when people take mind-expanding substances is that they can be exposed to parts of themselves and their experience that they really were not aware of or had not fully processed. It can be shocking for people to be plunged into experiences they have either forgotten or have wanted to forget – or into experiences of themselves that they may have never imagined. They often don’t know how to make sense of these experiences. If they have ingested mind altering substances in a recreational setting the shock can be even more profound. In this case, there is little or no help available to them.
When people take mind-expanding substances in an ostensibly more controlled setting such as a plant circle led by a shaman, there can be a little better container for the experience. But even then, many of the shamans leading these circles are from other cultures and they may not be in a position to really understand the nature of the psychic imbalances that exist in this culture. Even if they do have an understanding of the psychological challenges that people in this culture are facing, they usually don’t have ongoing relationships with the people who come to their circles, so they are not in a position to help.
Q. What do you mean by “psychological challenges that people in this culture are facing”?
A. One of the most common experiences that people have with psychotropic plants is a revelation of the level of disconnection they have from themselves, others, and/or the world of spirit. People can have experiences where these disconnections are addressed in a healing way through the experience of the plant – but they can also have experiences that do not feel so healing. These experiences can be really tough to understand and integrate. And often, people need help understanding what the plants might have shown them about solutions to problems they become aware of. Often a solution is offered, but they don’t know how to ‘read’ what the plant is showing them.
Q. Is helping people understand what a plant may be showing them something you focus on in your classes?
A. Yes. Definitely. The work at the Sacred Stream is generally focused on understanding experience in altered states of consciousness. All of these states have their own language in which information is transmitted. A big part of being able to work with altered states in an effective way is to be able to translate the experience that is arising in those altered states in a way that makes sense to people in their every day life. The study of these methods of translation has always been a big focus of my work. As you might know, I worked for many years as a professional language interpreter – and I bring those skills to the interpretation of the potential meaning in experience of different altered states. In the Dreams class, for example, we focus on learning the language of dreams in order to help the dreamer understand what the dreams might be trying to communicate. In Depth Hypnosis, we have techniques for translating the experience of the body into language the mind can understand. And in the plant medicine courses, I want to help people learn the language of plants and help them attune to plant intelligence so they can understand the teachings the plants are offering in a way they can integrate into their every day lives.