Rev. Molly Goes to College!

If you were at church about five years ago, you may remember a particularly zealous sermon I preached after reading UC Berkeley professor Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind. It was about the revolutionary research into the power of psychedelics to provide extraordinary, frankly miraculous healing for a range of psychological and spiritual ailments. Since then, a number of FDA studies have continually confirmed how psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ketamine, cannabis, MDMA, and LSD can help with a range of disorders such as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, fear of dying for terminally ill patients, PTSD, and substance use disorder—even smoking cessation!

Not to mention: psychedelics can help already well-ish people address old trauma and grief, heal relationships with self and others, and clarify their path and purpose in times of difficulty or transition.

I’ve been following this movement, which is coming rapidly into the mainstream, since reading Michael Pollan’s book. As a pastor approaching nearly 25 years of ordained ministry, I still deeply love the work of tending people through the hardest parts of being human. But truthfully: sometimes I despair that I have so few tools to really and practically help people who are suffering and/or stuck in pernicious patterns.

The psychedelic movement feels like a gift from God, in the way plant medicine, other psychedelics, and holotropic breathwork (which can induce non-ordinary states of consciousness in ways similar to substances) can permit intense and often rapid inner growth and healing.

There’s been a small explosion in certifications for clergy and people in other helping professions to be trained as “psychedelic guides.” Guides help people evaluate the safety and efficacy of various substances for themselves. They companion them through their experience (“trip” or “journey”) with thoughtful attention to set (mindset, intention) and setting (outward environment that supports a positive experience). And finally, in the days after the experience, they help them integrate what they learned so it becomes part of an intentional neuroplastic repatterning—liberating them to think and live differently.

This past winter I applied to a new joint program at UC Berkeley/Graduate Theological Union and another more longstanding program at California Institute for Integral Studies. I was happily accepted to both programs, and ultimately accepted CIIS’s offer as it has a much bigger alumni network and is a bit more established. So I’ll be going back to college in the fall!

The program is about 200 hours of classroom instruction that will happen over a series of weekends and one longer retreat. I’m SO excited about this next step and the additional skills it will offer me as one of your pastors. If you’re curious, ask me more! I enjoy talking about this movement, and if I can’t answer all your questions yet, we’ll keep learning together. My training will be complete next May, and I’ll have a clearer sense then of how I will integrate what I’ve learned into our church life. It will likely involve some 1:1 and group work using legal modalities while we wait for further FDA approval for other medicines, which may be coming very soon.