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Deep Dive: The Power of Setting Intentions in Psychedelic Practice

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in this article
  • Introduction
  • Understanding Intentionality
  • The First Step: Formulating Your Intention
  • Fine-Tuning: Crafting the Phrase
  • Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Intentions
  • Multi-Dimensional Intentions: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual
  • Tailoring Your Intention to Your Unique Needs
  • Intentional Vocabulary: Words as Powerful Tools
  • The Role of Intention During the Journey
  • Community and Shared Intentions
  • Flexibility is Key: General Versus Specific Intentions
  • The Post-Journey Phase: Integration and Reflection
  • Learn Through Practice
  • Final Thoughts

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Chemical Collective or any associated parties.


What if the quality of your psychedelic experience could be influenced before it even begins?

One word: preparation

And a key aspect of preparation?

Intention setting.

Crafting a purposeful intention is one way to help prepare and prime yourself, as well as shape and influence the experience. This in turn can influence its outcome in a beneficial way.

An intention can be as vital to the psychedelic journey as a compass is to an explorer. Without a clear intention, a psychedelic session can be like a ship sailing aimlessly at sea.

As explorers of our inner worlds, we have a great opportunity—and dare I say, a responsibility—to be intentional in our psychedelic practices. It’s a mission that can be guided with clarity and purpose when we set intentions for our sessions.

In this article, I’ll discuss the importance of setting intentions, examine the art of formulating personalized intentions, and outline how to employ them before, during, and after your psychedelic sessions. I’ll also shed light on the influence of language in shaping your experience, the historical and cultural significance of intention setting, and offer answers to some questions you may have. 

My aim is to deepen your understanding of this sacred practice and to also provide actionable steps to enrich your own psychedelic explorations.

As always, my intention is to help you improve your ability to safely and effectively work with psychedelics for insight, healing, and growth.

Understanding Intentionality

To embark on a meaningful psychedelic journey, it’s important to set our bearings from the outset.

In much the same way that a ship needs a compass and a map, our psyche can benefit from clear intentions when venturing into psychedelic spaces. A study on predicting responses to psychedelics found that ‘having “clear intentions” for the experience was conducive to mystical-type experiences.’

Why is this so? At the core, it’s about aligning your inner compass. The act of setting an intention can help in gaining clarity on the motivations that led you to take psychedelics in the first place. This allows you to play an active role in setting the course for your journey, whether that course is one of inner healing, nature connection, personal growth, recreation or spiritual exploration.

The First Step: Formulating Your Intention

Why are you taking psychedelics?

Your answer to this question is the seed from which your intention will grow.

Start by contemplating the fundamental question: “What is my motivation?”

Are you seeking therapeutic healing, a burst of creativity, or maybe a profound mystical experience? Understanding your motivation helps in refining it into a more specific intention.

To dive deeper, you can engage with other questions.

  • Why are you doing this? What are you looking for?
  • What is working in your life? What isn’t?
  • What are you struggling with in your life?
  • What would you like to change?
  • What are you curious about? What would you like to learn about?
  • What are you seeking to understand?
  • What are your deepest aspirations?

It can also be useful to use the ‘whys method’ to go deeper.

To do this, you can continually ask yourself, “Why?” until you find a deeper truth or motivation that feels meaningful or purposeful.

For example, if you say you seek happiness, asking ‘why?’ may lead you to realize it’s because you feel unfulfilled in your relationships. Knowing this allows you to create an intention that addresses the root issue, thereby facilitating a more meaningful journey.

In general, your intention should be for something spiritual, rather than material. Like intending to heal or grow, rather than to have more money.

Fine-Tuning: Crafting the Phrase

Once you’ve looked at the multi-layered facets of your motivation, the next step is to get them into a succinct intention. Whether you distill it down to a single sentence like ‘I aim to cultivate self-love’ or a short mantra like ‘I am open to transformation,’ your intention should act as something which brings a level of clarity and certainty.

By doing so, you allow your subconscious mind to focus on what truly matters, opening the door to enriching the outcomes of your experience.

Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Intentions

Intention-setting is not a new-age phenomenon but a time-honored practice rooted deeply in diverse cultural, religious, and philosophical traditions. From mushroom curanderas in Mexico to Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, the ritual of setting an intention is universally acknowledged as a key part of any form of exploring inner experience.

By borrowing wisdom from these traditions, you link your experience to a venerable lineage. It can add a layer of connection and meaning, and remind you that when you embark on this journey, you walk a path many have trod before.

Multi-Dimensional Intentions: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual

When you get into setting an intention, it can be useful to consider it from various perspectives—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Physically, perhaps you seek to feel more grounded, to re-enter your body in a way that day-to-day living often forbids. Emotionally, maybe there are past experiences you’re ready to sift through for hidden gems of wisdom.

Spiritually, perhaps you are seeking a sense of universality. Maybe you are intending for some dissolution of the ego to connect with something greater than yourself.

By considering various aspects when creating your intention, you open up the possibilities for experiences that resonate through different layers of your being.

Tailoring Your Intention to Your Unique Needs

It’s important to remember that your intention is your own, and it should resonate with you at a deeply personal level. If you’re a wordsmith, you might craft a poetic phrase that speaks to you. If you’re a pragmatist, you might opt for a straightforward statement that gets to the point.

You may also find it useful to try phrasing your intention in different ways, allowing you the flexibility to tap into various emotional and cognitive states during your journey.

For example, ‘I am already whole’ might serve as an affirmation, while ‘I invite the experience of wholeness’ could serve as a gentle reminder to remain open to the process of becoming.

Intentional Vocabulary: Words as Powerful Tools

The language we use to frame our psychedelic experiences can also have an effect. Language shapes perception, molds experience, and can direct focus.

When setting your intentions, you’re not merely stringing words together; you’re crafting the lens through which you’ll view your journey.

Words like ‘heal’ might bring associations of repair and renewal. A word like ‘recover’ might signify regaining something lost. The difference in these words can have subtle effects in your psychological disposition leading up to your experience.

The Role of Intention During the Journey

Armed with your carefully crafted intention, you’re better prepared to navigate the unpredictable terrain that psychedelics are known for.

As your session begins, writing down your intention or speaking it aloud helps anchor it into your reality. 

Then, once the dose is taken, you can release your intention. The seeds have been sown.

You don’t need to cling to it throughout your trip, or keep repeating it like a mantra. You can let it go and allow the experience to unfold.

That said, you can bring your intention back to mind at various points in the journey if it may be helpful. When you encounter moments of fear, or challenging emotion, you might question why you are doing what you’re doing. In these moments, it can be useful to bring your intention back to mind. It can remind you of your well-considered reasons. This can help you to drop resistance, and to be open and present with the experience.

There may also be moments in your journey where you feel somewhat adrift, in a quiet moment between the waves of a journey. These moments can also be used to take a breath and touch base with your intention.

Community and Shared Intentions

If you’re organising a group session, it can be helpful to have a shared intention for the whole group. It can be very simple and broad and encompass everyone, like inviting a space for insight, new perspectives, or transformation. Or inviting experiences that can bring more love into the world.

A group intention can help to bring a feeling of connection and cohesion to group experiences, and give a sense that everyone is in this together. This group intention can also be held loosely by any facilitators or tripsitters present.

A group intention can be used alongside individuals’ intentions, rather than replacing them.

Flexibility is Key: General Versus Specific Intentions

How specific should an intention be?

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the dose, the broader the intention.

Broad, generalized intentions often work better with higher doses, where control is less feasible and the experience is more expansive. 

Lower doses, on the other hand, allow for more lucidity and self-direction. In these cases you might work with narrower, more specific intentions.

For example, if you’re using a lower dose of psilocybin or LSD to explore creative problem-solving, a specific intention like ‘I aim to find innovative solutions to my project challenges’ would be apt.

Trying to focus on such a narrow area on a high dose would most likely be very challenging, and you may miss deeper personal insights that would be possible if you weren’t trying to direct your attention so much. With a high dose, a more general intention like ‘I intend to be open to new perspectives’ would be more appropriate.

The Post-Journey Phase: Integration and Reflection

Integration is where the process of lasting transformation takes place.

Personal insights can flow in abundantly during psychedelic sessions, but without proper integration, they risk flowing away as quickly as they arrived.

After your journey, take a moment to reflect on how your intention played out. Did you find what you were seeking? Did your experience bring any unexpected insights that are connected with your initial intention? Some insights may well be connected in less obvious ways. For example, feeling creatively blocked may well be related to a core emotional issue.

As you reflect on your experience and any nuggets of insight you’ve received, you may find it useful to set a new intention for integrating these insights into your daily life.

For example, if you realize that you’ve been hiding parts of yourself and that is having a negative effect on your relationships, you may create an intention of:

To be authentic and honest

If you realize you’d been quite closed to new perspectives, you might form an intention ‘to listen and learn’.

You can carry these intentions with you forward in the days and weeks after your experience to help mark a shift and bring about positive change.

Learn Through Practice

The best way to learn about crafting and using intentions is through personal experience.

Learn by doing.

Don’t get hung up or stressed out about having the perfect intention.

The process is to help you find clarity, resonance, and to sow seeds into your unconscious mind. It is there to support you, not stress you out!

There is no set amount of time you need to spend, and you may even reuse intentions you’ve found to work well for you.

My own intentions are often aligned with being open and accepting. Being open to receive – new perspectives, insights, or understanding. And accepting, or surrendering, to whatever the experience is bringing up or showing me.

So make an intention which feels aligned to you, then be prepared to put it down and journey.

Final Thoughts

Setting intentions is an expression of your freedom to direct your own consciousness toward personal growth and societal transformation. It reflects a commitment not just to the self, but to the broader canvas of human experience.

So, as you prepare for your next psychedelic journey, or any transformative experience, I invite you to set a clear, resonant intention.

What you discover on your journeys may change not just your own understanding but ripple out to influence your community, our society, and the wider reaches of the interconnected existence of which we’re all a part.

The beauty of setting intentions is that it’s a skill not confined to the realm of psychedelics. It can cross over into other areas of your life, serving as an ally in a pursuit of intentional living. You might also like to experiment with making intention-setting a regular part of your life’s journey. The journey to a fulfilled life lies not just in the destinations you reach, but in the intentions that guide you there. 

I wish that your journey of self-discovery may be fused with purpose, depth, and understanding.

Stay safe, journey intentionally.

John Robertson | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective | mapsofthemind.com

John is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to David via email at blog@chemical-collective.com

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7 months ago

True. It is important to set your intentions and it is so much better than doing it recreationally.

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