Women's Entheogenic Symposium

Join ERIE -Entheogenic Research, Integration, and Education- in celebration of Women's month with a series of lectures and panel from a few of the powerful Bay Area Women taking this controversial field out into the public and academia.


Doors open at 2:15pm, event starts at 2:30pm. The event will be in room 304 at CIIS. we look forward to seeing you!

2:30-2:40 -Tati Albero, MA: ERIE intro and meditation

2:45-3:15 -Clancy Cavnar, PsyD: An examination of psychological healing with ayahuasca

Ayahuasca has been progressively regarded as a tool for psychological exploration, healing, and mental well being. Family dynamics, past trauma, and unacknowledged feelings are often brought to the forefront in early experiences of drinkers, and several authors have written about the importance of integration of the powerful visionary experiences people have. This presentation will explore the claims made by those who have experienced psychological benefits from ayahuasca, as found in the academic literature and published personal accounts. It will consider reports of psychological insights gained, and the resulting personal transformation or healing that took place. It will also analyze and identify the specific elements of the ayahuasca experience that are considered to be key to psychological healing, both within the experience and afterwards; these aspects will be related to psychodynamic and transpersonal theories of healing. Finally, the presentation will contemplate what is known about ayahuasca as a mood enhancer, and how that may assist psychological healing.

Clancy Cavnar attended the New College of the University of South Florida and completed an undergraduate degree in liberal arts in 1982. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated with a Master of Fine Art in painting in 1985. In 1993 she received a certificate in substance abuse counseling from the extension program of the University of California at Berkeley. In 1997, she graduated with a master's in counseling from San Francisco State University. In that same year she got in touch with the Santo Daime in the U.S.A, and has traveled several times to Brazil since then. In 2011, she received a doctorate in clinical psychology (PsyD) from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California, with a dissertation on gay and lesbian people's experiences with ayahuasca.

3:20-3:50 -Veronica Hernandez, MA: Entheogens and Sexuality: A Healing Approach

Veronica Hernandez, M.A., is currently a Ph.D. student in East-West Psychology at CIIS. She brings the Shamanic Cosmovision from her country Peru to her work with clients as a spiritual counselor, and sha- manic journey facilitator. Her interests are to promote personal growth and self-discovery in people to cre- ate better relationships to themselves and the world.

4:00-4:20 - Jessica Nielson, PhD: The Fractal Nature of Life: Looking to Patterns in Nature to Better Understand Disease Models

Our ability to understand and treat diseases in their full complexity has been a difficult challenge in the field of medicine. Typical research studies are designed to assess only a few measures that may change as a result of treatment, and this methodology may not accurately represent the systemic changes seen following such a treatment. Although multiple measures may be collected in a particular study, it is often difficult to visualize how they all move together as a dynamic pattern in response to various manipulations. I propose that by applying pattern detection algorithms to these measures, that we can detect conserved patterns that will facilitate more efficient design and testing of treatments for their targeted disorders. Similar to conserved patterns that are seen in nature at various hierarchical levels of organization, I hypothesize that conserved patterns exist in different paradigms of disease models, which may help guide our understanding of translational disease models and the pathways that will help us overcome them. This includes applying a more integrative and holistic approach to what we consider to be “data” when considering all the variables in such analyses. This involves assessing alternative variables such as spiritual beliefs and lifestyle choices, in addition to commonly accepted clinical measures, all of which may influence the overall health of the patient. When taken together, a more accurate picture of the state of the individual may come to light that will provide a better understanding of how to best treat the patient to maximize their overall health and well-being.

Dr. Nielson is a postdoctoral scholar in the department of Neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Brain and Spinal Injury Center (BASIC) at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). Her work is primarily focused on applying bioinformatics and multivariate statistics to large, multi-species datasets for spinal cord injury (SCI) to identify common data elements (CDE) that are conserved across species to promote efficient design and testing of therapeutic strategies. In addition to her SCI work, Dr. Nielson is also using this bioinformatics approach to analyze data from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)-funded clinical trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as trying to seed a project to assess the therapeutic benefits of Ayahuasca for the treatment of PTSD.

Dr. Nielson’s doctoral work was conducted in the department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center (RIRC) at University of California, Irvine (UCI). During her doctoral work, she resolved a long-standing controversy in the field regarding the survival of the corticospinal tract (CST) in chronic models of rodent spinal cord injury. Her work steered the direction of therapeutic options for CST regeneration away from efforts to prevent upper motor neuron death, and provided hope for people living with chronic SCI to restore function of this important motor pathway.

4:25-4:45 - Julie Megler, MSN, NP-BC: An Inner Landscape for Resolving Trauma 

Trauma in its simplest definition is a deeply distressing, or disturbing, experience that creates an unresolved impact on an individual. It affects victims on the most primal level, the reptilian brain. The brain can be divided into 3 regions: the reptilian brain (instinctual), the limbic system (the mammalian, emotional brain), and the neo-cortex (the human, rational brain). What makes trauma so difficult to treat is that it resides deep within us, disrupting our most basic reptilian processes. It is through sensation, the language of our instincts, that we need to access our innate healing resources. The limitation of current medication therapy and psychotherapy is that they do not target our interrupted physiology. Medications stabilize and suppress trauma symptoms, and traditional talk therapy targets our rational mind. Neither treatment heals at the source of our trauma. Victims discharge trauma by working through its unresolved impact. The journey through resolution is an inward one. By turning inward victims learn about their physiologic resources and how to consciously utilize them. In order to integrate our experiences, we must learn how to feel them rather than how to alleviate them. Ayahuasca activates our primitive brain regions. Its activation of our reptilian and mammalian brains creates an inner landscape for an individual to explore and feel their symptoms. It empowers victims by providing an opportunity to transform trauma symptoms, and thus regain the ability to self regulate.

Julie D. Megler is a board certified nurse practitioner in psychiatry and family practice. She received her Master’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Miami, Florida. After graduating she worked at an emergency room (E.R.) in Detroit, Michigan. Her E.R. experience illustrated the gap between medical and psychiatric care, and how the mind/body connection is often ignored. These gaps in care led Julie to develop a practice that integrates medicine and mental health for more effective treatment. She completed a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner post-master’s certificate at the University of California, San Francisco. Julie is now working with homeless veterans living in transitional housing. In addition to her work with veterans, Julie also has a integrative psychiatry practice in collaboration with a group of CIIS graduated therapists, an acupuncturist, a naturopath, a body worker, and a medical doctor.

4:50-5:10 - Jessica and Julie Q&A

5:20-6:30 - Dinner break

6:40-7:10 - Dr. Natalie Metz: An Entheo-botanical Journey to Hawai'i and Beyond

Hawai'i is home to many species of endemic beings, those that are found there and nowhere else on the planet. Many other species have made their home in Hawai'i as well, including a vast array of Amazonian plants such asBanisteriopsis caapi, Psychotria viridis, and others which are valued for their nutritive and healing properties. People across the world have developed complex relationships with plants, and these intimate connections demonstrate their value as food, medicine, shelter and more, as well as facilitate connection with the Divine. These great plant teachers are reaching out to humanity, asking us to awaken to the evolutionary potential available and the opportunity to forge alliances with the plant world and Nature as a whole. Together we will take a pictorial and sensorial entheo-botanical journey to Hawai'i and beyond!

Dr. Natalie Metz is a core-member of ERIE and student in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at CIIS. She is in private practice in San Francisco, specializing in women's health, endocrinology, and the use of botanical medicines. Her research is guided by a love of plants and healing arts philosophy, as well as conscious exploration of the therapeutic potential of entheogenic experiences.

7:15-7:45 - Yalila Espinoza, PhD: The Erotic Intelligence of Plants: A Heuristic Inquiry of Women's Sexual/Spiritual Experiences with Sacred Amazonian Plant Teachers

This heuristic study investigates how sacred Amazonian plant teachers offer erotic experiences that transform women sexual/spiritual lives. The data was collected from interviews with seven North American women who participated in ayahuasca ceremonies and plant diets within the Shipibo Vegetalista tradition of Peru. The findings highlight that women’s experience with plant teachers involves energetic purification and openings that inspire transformation on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. Nine core themes were identified from the data analysis: purification and support for reproductive health; increased sensory awareness; healing sexual abuse trauma; transforming relationship with self; empowered decision making; enhanced intimacy with others; enhanced cognitive awareness; connecting with subtle energies; and connecting with God. The participants remembered that honoring their feminine identity and viewing their bodies as sacred temples were the foundation in healing and transformation. The intention of sharing this research is to dive into the depths of the mystery to affirm women’s embodied wisdom, the divine feminine, and the erotic impulse in life.

Yalila Espinoza is a sexual-spiritual counselor who received a PhD in East West Psychology and a Spiritual Counseling training at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Yalila offers individual counseling sessions as well as Erotic Intelligence groups in California and British Columbia, Canada. She also co-facilitates a 13 Moon Women's Initiation group in Northern California and continues to work part-time as a perinatal social worker in Vancouver, BC. She is currently writing a book titled: 'Celebrating Your Erotic Intelligence: Revitalization with Sacred Plant Teachers' focused on how the purification and guidance of plant teachers are vital for erotic health and liberation.

7:50-8:20 - Michelle Krasowski, MLIS, Archivist: Information Sources in Entheogenic Exploration

Along with the increasing amount of insightful research into the world of entheogens, there are also a growing number of popular resources available to help educate and inform people outside of the scientific community. Misinformation encountered in the media and disseminated by drug education programs have had a major impact on public perception of these valuable tools of spirituality and consciousness, which in turn affects our community’s ability to create a dialogue on responsible, respectful use and methods of harm reduction. By identifying and promoting popular books and online resources available and accessible to a wide range of levels of education and expertise, we can wield the power of knowledge and take control of the dialogue surrounding these topics as well as help journeyers along safe, respectful, and well-informed paths.

Michelle Krasowski is an adventurer and explorer of worlds. Born and raised on the subtropical Gulf Coast of Florida, she has always appreciated her part in the interconnectivity of all forms of life and energy. Her education at New College of Florida, both in and out of the classroom, showed her the importance of quality information when preparing for journeys of any kind. She continued honing her research and instructional skills at Florida State University, where she received her Masters in Library and Information Studies in 2008. Michelle loves to share her passion for learning and hopes her enthusiasm inspires others to do the same.

8:30-9:00 - Panel of speakers and dialogue with the audience

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  • Michelle K.

    Hello Everyone! Thanks for such a lovely time! As promised, here are the books that I talked about - check 'em out!
    Drugs Without the Hot Air by David Nutt, 2012
    Busted! Drug War Survival Skills by M. Chris Fabricant, 2005
    LSD: My Problem Child by Albert Hofmann, 2005
    Plants of the Gods by Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann and Christian Ratsch, 2001
    The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by James Fadiman, 2011
    Psychedelia by Patrick Lundborg, 2012

    March 24, 2013

  • Adrian A.

    A fine presentation by a wonderful group of ladies spanning a range of perspectives that offered different, deeply-considered ways of engaging the transnormal. Delightful people, stimulating thought, and passionate commitment!

    March 24, 2013

  • Alexis

    sah - weet! looking forward to this

    1 · March 21, 2013

  • Holly

    I am having lunch at 2pm in the cafe in CIIS with a classmate who is leaving the area, so I will be a bit late.

    March 20, 2013

    • larry

      no worries we will be there all day!

      March 20, 2013

  • Holly

    Might bring a guest but not sure yet.

    1 · March 20, 2013

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