4 Principles of Psychedelic Harm Reduction

Breaking Down of Zendo Project’s Harm Reduction Principles

The Zendo Project is an organization that has the objective to provide a safe space for psychonauts going through challenging psychedelic experiences and other psychological emergencies with the mission to make these challenges meaningful and constructive.

They are also focused on providing resources to those who want to help others have a safe trip.

Zendo Project’s mission statement is compatible with Cabbanis and today we break down their four principles for dealing with a challenging psychedelic experience.

The Zendo Project Mission Statement:

Zendo Project’s mission:

  1. Create a Supportive Space

    Provide a supportive space for Guests undergoing difficult psychedelic experiences or other psychological emergencies in order to transform potentially traumatic experiences into valuable learning opportunities, and to reduce the number of drug-related psychiatric hospitalizations;

  2. Train Volunteers

    To provide an environment where volunteers can work alongside one another to improve their therapeutic skills and receive training and feedback;

  3. Make the Psychonaut Self-Sufficient

    To demonstrate that the psychedelic community can take care of its own without the need for law enforcement-based policies.

With this, the psychonaut community can start to work it’s way to the light as we recover from the damages of the war on drugs.

As a community, we must provide to people who want to explore their minds and reality with the support of psychedelics with a safe and supportive environment to healthily face even the most challenging mystical experiences.

And with this, we can also train others to serve as a safety-net to those going through difficult psychedelic landscapes.

Within these challenges, there are four principles that the Zendo Project underlined to help the psychonaut to navigate and help others navigate the sacred journeys.

Backed by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), Zendo Project came up with four points for the psychonaut to always keep in mind for a safe trip:

Four Principles of Psychedelic Harm Reduction

  1. Create a safe space
  2. Sitting, not guiding
  3. Talk through, not down
  4. Difficult is not the same as bad

Each one of these points are paramount for a sustainable and fruitful psychedelic voyage.

psychedelic harm reduction
Standing, Percy Cross, 1870-1931, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

Here I want to break down each one of the points of the Four Principles of Psychedelic Harm Reduction defined by the Zendo Project initiative:

1 – Create a Safe Space:

For a psychedelic trip to be meaningful and stress-free, the psychonaut must be relaxed and present in spirit and body.

In order to achieve this, it’s important that the mind explorer takes proper care of the place in which they trip.

The psychonaut wants to find a place in which they feel familiar and safe. They must be comfortable enough so that they know that they will not be interrupted by someone unexpected.

It’s also important that in this safe space you are able to freely express yourself and change your state at will.

This means that if you want to sit down and relax, you have a designated space to do this; if you want to go around and be expansive you must also have a designated space for this.

Find a place in which you are completely safe and comfortable.

2 – Sitting, not guiding:

This point is for the trip sitter. If you are with your friends during a psychedelic trip and they are having a challenging experience this point is key.

Sitting – not guiding – is important because as a support, the sitter must not try to force a way upon the psychonaut, rather they should aim to serve as a safety net.

The sitter must be there for logistical reasons and to help with external factors.

As a sitter, understand that you should not try to conduct the trip. Know that the psychonaut is responsible for where they go with the trip, your job is to simply be there for your friend.

3 – Talk through, not down:

As the psychedelic trip goes, the experienced psychonaut will have its own set of beliefs about what the psychedelic trip should be.

It’s also common to have your own ideas about what the universe is and what the truths of life are.

When we see a friend having a challenging trip our first instinct is to show our point of view and try to force them out of their own “misconceptions”.

This is inappropriate for two reasons:

  • You Don’t Know What The Truth Is;
  • You Can’t Force Others to Think Like You;

If you truly believe in something, then give your friend the courtesy of finding this truth on their own.

This means that you should not talk down to them, you should aim to explore with them in real-time.

Your words should be exploratory and not judgmental.

4 – Difficult is not the same as bad

psychedelic bad trip solution
Lawrence Alma-Tadema -This work is in the public domain.

To me, this is the most important point.

Making the distinction between difficult and bad is key because during a challenging psychedelic experience we may doubt our ordinary consensus about what is bad and what is good in the sense that we don’t know what the normality of things are.

In this way, during a challenge in the psychedelic landscape, the psychonaut may think that they are having a bad time.

When someone considers themselves to be having a “bad-trip” the consciousness separates from the present and starts self vigilating.

This state of the breaking of the fourth wall is the first step to panic.

Especially when we think that something may be wrong and all our senses are “warped” by the metabolization of the psychedelic substance.

To deal with this, specialists recommend that you don’t make the mental classification “I’m having a bad trip!”.

Instead, understand that challenging is not bad.

As a matter of fact, the biggest the psychedelic challenge, the biggest the rewards.

Knowing that you are not having a bad trip, but instead, you are just facing a big challenge is a good way to keep our spirits grounded and present.

Presence is key to dealing with a psychedelic experience. We must explore the challenge in real-time and dig into what we are experiencing.

You will be unable to do this if you are invigilating yourself and classifying your experience as bad.

Have a Good Trip!