There is a growing trend in the United States of psychedelic enhanced sleepover gatherings, with concentrated growth in both Los Angeles and New York. For context, current research indicates that there are now over 30 million psychedelic users in the US. However, as psychedelics are controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and are not yet legal, these sleepovers are still very much underground. In most cases you have to know someone who knows someone who can make an introduction to get you on an email list, which might eventually result in being able to secure a spot at one of these sleepovers.
“So, how did you two get into it?,” I asked a friend over lunch in LA. He explained that at the time, their family had been living on a four-house compound in Venice Beach and every couple of months had noticed that several of their neighbors would leave on Friday evenings: dressed in cozy pajama-like clothes, arms laden with everything from portable mattresses to blankets to grocery bags. But the most curious thing they observed, the thing that got them into the work, as it’s called by those who attend these sleepovers, was the incandescent glow radiating off of their neighbor’s faces upon returning the following morning. After months of observing this mysterious pattern, his wife finally inquired. Through this, she learned that their neighbors were attending sleepovers during which psychedelics were administered in sacred ceremony, under the guidance of a shamanic practitioner.
“It completely changed our marriage,” says the couple. “Our first experience allowed us to remember what we loved about each other, and it has taken us to depths we had never known could be possible within our relationship — and within our family.”
This is what I’ve learned is the greatest contributing factor to the burgeoning growth of these communities — the life-altering insights available and the profound connections established with both self and others as a result of just one evening with these powerful substances.
The shamanic practitioners who guide these journeys, as they are referred to, open these evenings by inviting everyone present to share their intentions for working with the medicine, which is how the psychedelics are spoken of throughout the night.
One sleepover regular shared her reason for participating: “I attend these journeys because it’s through them that I’ve come to remember who I am outside of work and family — I’m an artist and a healer, and I know that in healing myself through this work I am better equipped to bring healing into the world.”
After intentions are shared, the medicine is distributed, psychedelic enhancing music is turned on, candles are lit, and the group self-organizes. Depending on the practitioner and the shamanic lineage of their specific tradition, the group might be given the same medicine, or in other cases, each person receives something different — that which the guide has determined best for the particular individual and their intention for the evening. Unlike other more traditional psychedelic ceremonies that require silence and hours of quiet, meditative states; during these sleepovers, you are permitted to talk and share, as it’s understood that through this collaborative process one learns how to better co-create with the real journey: the journey of life.
The movies portion of the sleepover is a series of visions and insights that typically last for several hours, however, the duration is ultimately specific to each person. Everyone’s experience is unique — there can be everything from intense sadness to ecstatic joy expressed in ceremony. The guide is there to remind guests to accept the emotions and experiences that come up as things that need to be felt and, in turn, freed from the body, mind, and spirit.
Journeys often conclude after five to six hours, upon which guests are offered nourishing, grounding foods like chicken noodle soup and bone broth. After the soup, sleep is encouraged if not mandated, as it’s understood that through sleep the insights acquired through the evening are then formed into deeper impressions within the psyche — allowing for the profound shifts that many have spoken to as a result of being involved with this work.
In the morning, sleepover guests are gathered back into a circle, and there is intentional time for sharing lessons — within these communities this is called integration. “Integration is the most important part,” one of the shamanic practitioners I spoke with emphasized. By all accounts, integration is not unlike group therapy; it’s a sacred time for shared reflection, processing, and synthesizing of the lessons received and insights gained.
I’ve been journeying for several years in LA, and these sleepovers, as strange and wild as they may seem to some, have brought me into true belonging with myself and with what it means to be of loving service to the world, and that’s why even as an adult, I’ll keep packing my sleepover bags for years to come.
Jasmin Jenkins is a plant medicine advocate and intuitive connector based in Los Angeles. She was most recently the Head of Partnerships at THINX, and is currently consulting with mission driven startups. You can find her at The Class, over The Standard.