My desire to try a hallucinogenic led me to Silo Retreats, a guided psilocybin experience that promises to coax out your best self.
rowing up with a constant barrage of anti-drug campaigns, I was convinced at a young age that any drug, including pot, would plunge me into a world of destitution, addiction, and other ailments. Fast forward several decades, and the ups and downs of life have taken their toll. Like many other Gen Xers my age, I am not living the fulfilled life of purpose I thought I’d be. As legalization and acceptance of marijuana became widespread, I heard more about how it helps those who have cancer. If this kind of plant medicine is good for those suffering, I wondered if other plant medicine could be as helpful?
Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, a hallucinogenic drug. Psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug, which is not approved for medical use. But research has shown psilocybin to be effective for those suffering with mental health, PTSD, and a host of other issues. Though I’m not one to jump into experimentation without much thought, my desire to try a hallucinogenic led me to Silo Retreats, a guided psilocybin experience that promises to coax out your best self.
Oregon lawyer Mike Arnold founded the relatively new Silo Wellness. A doctor friend of his treats terminally ill cancer patients and opioid addicts with the use of Psilocybin therapy. These “micro doses” bring peace to cancer patients and can aid in reversing drug addiction. A natural medicine with no addictive qualities? Intent on getting this into the hands of as many people as possible, Arnold began the process of creating retreats in Jamaica, where mushrooms are legal. His hope is this proof of concept can pave the way for normalizing such retreats in the United States.
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“I wanted to create a place for folks that wouldn’t normally try this experience, to feel safe and listened to,” explains Arnold. “I flew to Jamaica and asked the first Rasta man I saw to take me to a place with mushrooms, and before I knew it, I was walking through cow pastures picking up mushrooms through cow manure.” Within two years, Arnold had found and hired a mushroom cultivator in Jamaica.
This was, after all, a wellness retreat, not a psychedelic spring break.
I soon booked my first psychedelic retreat in Jamaica with more excitement than trepidation. Before booking my magic mushroom experience (though you’ll never hear Silo facilitators refer to as anything other than “plant medicine”), I had a thorough call with the Silo Wellness team to determine if I’d be a good match for the retreat. There is a vetting process of sorts before you book your experience. According to Silo’s customer service agent Josh Wilson, “Our pharmacologist Dr. Parag Bhatt will reach out to you to review your information. This process helps to identify any contraindications or co-morbidities with your medical history and/or medication list as well as clarify your purpose for the ceremonies.”
While many associate Jamaica with Rastafarians and ganja, there is a connection in a subset of the Rasta community to psilocybin and an overarching embrace of plant medicine as a whole. In fact, Silo Wellness taps the Rastafarian community to facilitate the psilocybin retreats. One of the facilitators at the retreat goes by “First Man” and has been involved with plant medicine for years. After connecting with Silo Wellness, he was asked to lead the retreats in Jamaica, where he takes guests through the plant medicine ceremonies.
“We wanted to engage the Rastafarian community for this [retreat], and not just do the neo-colonialist thing and profit from it,” says Arnold. Retreat leaders who hold the ceremonies are Rastafarians, “Queen Eye” and “First Man” were two of our leaders. With years of experience in plant medicine (ganja, psilocybin, and even ayahuasca), they are able to guide participants through the experience, even taking part in it themselves at a lower dosage, to stay on par with the participants’ experience. Each retreat is managed by a group with years of psilocybin experience.
After arriving in Montego Bay, I met my psilocybin-curious cohorts, and we boarded the private coach that would take us up a dusty, pothole-filled road to a mountain top plantation where our four-day magical retreat would begin. There were five of us in total, although the max capacity of a Silo Retreat is 15 people. We were in good hands with three facilitators, all well experienced in plant medicine ceremonies. Each day began with a hearty vegetarian breakfast and continued with yoga practice and plenty of time for reflection and journaling. This was, after all, a wellness retreat, not a psychedelic spring break.
Over the course of a four-day retreat, we experienced two psilocybin “trips.” These trips are known as ceremonies that begin with the setting of an intention and the goal of curing people of whatever ails them. When I asked First Man how many trips are ideal, his response was: “I really can’t say; some people are cured within one ceremony. Others take several. It just depends on the person.”
In case the dosage isn’t a good match for the recipient on the first night, it can be adjusted to give them the best experience. Most of us received a higher dosage the second night. Ceremonies begin in the evening, though most everything operates on island time. Music, an important theme in any psilocybin Rastafarian retreat, was integral throughout our ceremonies. Serenaded by Rasta songs like “Mother Earth,” it emboldened the connection of plants and nature as a focal part of our journey. Rain forced us under a covered patio during both ceremonies, although I’d rather have been sitting under the twinkling stars. A fireside sage cleanse for each participant kicks off the evening while the sounds of soft, delectate drum beats soothed us. Setting intentions is optional, with the option to say yours aloud to the group or keep it private.
Our psychedelic journey began with a heartfelt thanks to one another and to the plant medicine. After about 45 minutes, an altered-yet-peaceful state sets in. I could feel the music becoming part of my being, and as I closed my eyes, the colorful theatrical event set in. The first ceremony left me envious of my fellow participants, several of whom claimed to see their ancestors while others described watching the stars in a way I’d never seen them.
However, my second ceremony proved much more exhilarating and memorable. Because my dosage was higher the second evening, I was able to slip into my trip with ease. A seemingly innocuous bed of plants turned into a fun puppet show, and the entire structure surrounding me was a spaceship of sorts soaring through the universe as these puppets entertained me with song and dance. I even took it upon myself to get up to glimpse the stars, a wonderment of color, communicating with each other and allowing me to be an insider in their nighttime show.
While I never did see any ancestors as I had hoped, I did come away with a more peaceful feeling. First Man said the childlike experience I had was a fantastic one. As he explained, we tend to build up barriers and walls based on our experiences, but it is only as a child that we are our truest selves. My childlike trip—replete with puppets and spaceships—can be interpreted as a shedding of those insecurities and walls that have built up over time.
In the end, I feel calmer, happier, and more purposeful in the weeks following the retreat. So, this is my brain on drugs? Everyone should experience this long-lasting euphoria. If you’re ready for a guided journey to wellness and self-discovery, you can book a Silo Retreat here. The $3,000+ experience includes hotel, meals, and two psilocybin ceremonies.