Certainly people like Francesca Levine, a content 72-year-old, working psychotherapist from Melbourne, Australia with a dog, a house, and grandchildren, aren’t the stereotypical plant medicine, psychedelics user.
By Francesca’s own admission, her life is going great. She’s madly in love with her husband of 50 years, has an incredible family, and absolutely loves her work. Her friends say she looks like she’s 50 and behaves like she’s 30. But Francesa says that her experience with psychedelic plant medicine at a life enhancement center called Rythmia “took her life from being good to being awesome.”
Francesca’s life didn’t start awesome. The child of Russian refugees, her parents fled to Germany in the 1940s, then to Italy, and settled in France while applying to immigrate to either Canada or Australia. Francesca’s parents were poor and ill and couldn’t care for her so they sent her to an orphanage at a very young age where she experienced various traumas, including getting her tonsils removed without anesthesia. Eventually, Francesca was reunited with her parents, they were granted immigration to Australia and Francesca and her family began to flourish in their new country.
Despite her rough beginnings, Francesca has since spent her entire life being in love with and in awe of with the world and the people in it. She’s committed herself to a life of learning and living to the fullest. Francesca says that one of the things that has made her life so wonderful is saying “Yes!” to what life offers, even if that meant, saying “Yes!” to a friend’s invitation to attend a week at Rythmia, a life-enhancement center in Costa Rica, which uses plant medicine, for a series of psychedelic soul journeys.
In April of 2018, I had the opportunity to interview Francesca Levine to learn a little about her experience with plant medicine and ask her what her main takeaways were by going to Rythmia (Feb 2018). Below is my interview with her.
First of all, what was your experience like with plant medicine?
Mostly really fascinating. Like most people I didn’t enjoy the nausea but I realized how valuable it was to expel negativity in any way that it needed to come up. So I would do a lot of laughing … (as she says laughing) I do a lot of laughing. There were a few tears.
In what ways did you experience healing through plant medicine and your visit to Rythmia?
For about a year prior, I had pain in my hip—gone. Didn’t ask for that.
Now I can sleep without medication. For 30 years I’ve been relying on sleep help; it has something to do with bening in the orphanage. I Couldn’t sleep because I was worried about what would happen to me. During the last ceremony, I fell asleep in the darkness and woke up in the light. That was a metaphor for me. Since then, I’ve been sleeping beautifully. I’ve got a deeper level of calm now. It’s a trust.
My eyesight: I’d previously had two cataract operations but with disastrous results. I see halos around headlights. The healing didn’t only happen in the plant medicine ceremony but also in the breathing exercises as well as in the colonics (supplementary services and classes at Rythmia). I hardly ever have the halos now. I have been to so many different specialists and nobody can fix it. During the plant medicine visions I had a big eye that kept looking at me. I just stayed with it.
Mitra (one of the plant medicine facilitators), when I went to talk to him, I was worried about my older brother who was on dialysis. Mitra asked if I had a photo of my brother and he said he said he’d take care of it. Well I haven’t told my brother but the last couple of weeks he’s been so much better.
I had a lot of itchiness during the ceremony which was interesting because I had urticaria and the process purged me of that, which is really good. Urticaria is a condition of allergic breakouts in the skin—hives, rashes—hard to tolerate. I’m certain that these itches were the result of what happened to me in my very, very young childhood that I can’t consciously remember.
I had urticaria in a chronic way. It had mostly cleared but it came out in one of the ceremonies in the palms of my hands, they were itching and it felt like they were on fire. And it was fantastic because afterword it didn’t happen again. I didn’t focus on that, it wasn’t an intention going in, just a byproduct.
Why do you think that was a part of your journey?
I think I was just itching to get on with being the powerful being that I am. Something in me had been holding me back.
The fire seems to have been transferred from your skin to her life. Do you feel like you found your power while you were at Rythmia?
Yes, More of it. Since I’ve been back, I’ve literally been on fire. I’ve been on fire with energy, clarity of mind, enthusiasm. I’ve normally been called a dynamo in the past but I’m going up to a level of being dangerous . . . in a good way!
Why was experiencing plant medicine a catalyst to make you feel so vivacious?
I think that the mother (plant medicine) wants me to do more public work in the field of psychology. I have a private practice. I’m totally, fully booked. What I’m going to do next year is teach other therapists. All my friends are retired but I still work full time because I love what I do. [Previously] I couldn’t find that I could teach full time and run a full caseload, but now I know that I can do it.
I had this notion, “Who do I think I am to be teaching this, there’s nothing new.” That’s all disappeared. I’m ready to rock and roll!
Will be you be teaching about the effects of plant medicine in addition to the principles of psychology?
How has doing plant medicine changed your work?
I’ve always been cognitively very fast, I’m even faster. I think I’m channeling.
My mind is so incredibly sharp and clear, more than ever before, my heart is so open. That’s potentially a problem in my business, I don’t want to take on other people’s problems, I don’t want to absorb. I can feel for people without taking it on.
I feel more connected than ever to my clients, I do a lot of healing with laughter. We laugh at each other. It’s not just laughing but loving. When people feel genuinely heard and present, just like the people at Rythmia, that in and of itself is very healing. It’s more easy than it ever was.
On the outside my work may not look any different but on the inside it feels different to me. I’m more relaxed. My insides are fast and sharp. I’m in awe everyday. It’s like I’ve just started. I wake up and can’t wait to get into work. That’s not that unusual but it’s just increased since rythmia. It’s not work, it’s a joy. Just more loving toward my clients. It doesn’t feel like work, but like a incredible privilege.
Would you ever recommend plant medicine to clients?
Yes, but I couldn’t recommend doing something like plant medicine without having done it myself.
Plant medicine it’s not for everyone. People need courage and a willingness to grow. Plant medicine is not just a trip on drugs people can do in their own way, I think it’s an extra tool that is very essential who want deep healing. We all need deep healing but do that there needs to be courage and a commitment to do that.
I want to say that I’m not desperate. I understand those who are, people whose lives are a wreck who have attempted suicide. They are probably ready candidates for plant medicine. I want to put in a plug for people’s lives who are pretty good but want to be awesome.
To keep growing and learning is what life’s about and I’m not going to stop until the day of my funeral. For people who want to grow, and for some people that means just to survive, The Mother (plant medicine) takes you where you’re at and offers you learning from where you need. I have a few clients who have severe psychosis. I probably wouldn’t recommend them to go.
This medicine helps people not to avoid their pain but to hold them while they are in in.
Have you ever used psychedelics prior to Rythmia?
I had some LSD over 40 years ago while under medical supervision, while studying psychology at University and funnily enough it was because I was having itches then. My GP said that the itches were recurring and maybe I should look into this LSD experiment. As a student of psychology, I thought, “Of course.” He pointed me to a physician who was doing some trials in some hospitals so I did it. I must have been too strong of mind because there was hardly any impact so he called me back a couple of week later and I did it again and nothing much happened then either. The itches came back. I didn’t trust doctor or the stuff. It was different with plant medicine.
plant medicine did what LSD couldn’t do. The plant medicine took me into an unconscious healing place. I absolutely felt a trust with the people at Rythmia who were administering the plant medicine as well as the plant medicine itself. I loved the presence and genuine support of the staff. They were incredible, like really incredible.
Throughout your life have you been much of a spiritual person?
How do you define or express your spirituality?
Brief meditation every day. It varies but my spiritual practice has been very simple. My language is always very simple. I don’t believe in a lot of material avoidance. I don’t pray every day but I do believe in a higher power, I call it spirit. I’m good at connecting my essence to the essence of others that’s the basis of spirituality. The essence is the spirit and everything in between is crap. My husband says that I’m a great bullshit detector, ha ha ha.
So, what’s the spiritual essence of the plant medicine?
It’s trust and faith. You have to add faith and trust without which I’m not sure the process can work. You have to hand over your ego and just say to Mother (plant medicine), “Take me, I’m yours.”
Are you more of a spiritual being after taking plant medicine?
Yes, because I’m connect better essence-to-essence with others, spirit-to-spirit. At Rythmia, I deepened my own condition to spirit. Spiritually, I felt like I’d gotten a bit lost the last few years, dealing with physical issues with myself and my husband.
I’m Very good at finding the silver lining in every cloud. Very mindful of everything around me, I believe because of my time in the orphanage. My time at Rythmia has heightened my sense of spirituality.
If someone were interested in doing plant medicine, how would you suggest they prepare?
Eating organically, cutting out meat and dairy and grains, meditate, talk to others who have been. Approach it with a level of inquisitive and quietness.
What appealed to me about Rythmia was the medical support. I was appropriately cautious.
So, at the end of the day, what was you main takeaway from your experience with plant medicine?
Increased faith in the not knowing and going with that. We can’t know what’s ahead in life and to continue to be ok with that.
What I would have people know is that the increase of love is really wonderful. I thought I had that in abundance but there’s more. They say that it’s endless and I understood that cognitively but to really experience that and just expanding . . . . I just don’t know how else to explain it. It’s similar to having another child. Like when you have your first child and you don’t think you can have more love but you do. I pretty much love everyone. I feel very fortunate. All there is is love. That’s it! Everything else is bullshit. And I’m a good bullshit detector.
Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Hawaii and Amalfi Coast , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program