Spring Washam

Spring Washam: Ancestral Healing

Expanding plant based medicine to communities of color to heal intergenerational trauma.Spring Washam joins Plantscendence to talk about her experiences blending plant medicine with Buddhist wisdom, and how they’ve helped her let go of suffering, experience accelerated healing, and move towards liberation. She shares memories of early encounters with plant medicine, including surreal experiences in the “insane circus” and with the soul doctor of ayahuasca, and talks about the process of writing her latest book, The Spirit of Harriet Tubman: Awakening from the Underground. She recounts how the spirit of Harriet Tubman recently led her to Atlanta, where she and Lama Rod Owens are in the process of building a radical church called “the Spirit Underground Church”, a sanctuary for ancestral connection, plant medicine, and collective liberation. She reflects on the work she plans to do there to heal racialized trauma, both in the body and in the land itself, which has historically held immense violence and hatred. The episode also touches on the prevalence of cultural appropriation in the entheogenic world, and the importance of expanding access to plant-based medicine to BIPOC communities.

Spring Washam is a well-known meditation teacher, author and visionary leader based in Atlanta Georgia. She is the author of A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage and Wisdom in Any Moment and her newest book, The Spirit of Harriet Tubman Awakening from the Underground. She is one of the founding teachers at the East Bay Meditation Center, located in downtown Oakland, CA.  She received extensive training by Jack Kornfield, is a member of the teacher’s council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California and has practiced and studied Buddhist philosophy in both the Theravada and Tibetan schools of Buddhism since 1999. In addition to being a teacher, she is also a shamanic practitioner and plant medicine guide. She trained with Shipibo Maestra’s for several years and spent a year living in the upper Amazon region of Peru. She has studied many different indigenous healing practices since 2008. She is the founder of Lotus Vine Journeys, a one of a kind organization that blends plant-based medicine with Buddhist wisdom in Costa Rica. She currently leads plant medicine changemaker retreats, classes and workshops worldwide.

Episode Transcript

Spring Washam

Hundreds of ceremonies later, and being someone who guides people, that is what ayahuasca is. That is what peyote is. That is what you know what wachuma and the mushrooms. These are doctors. These are soul doctors, spirit doctors and so they’re able to doctor us on the level of the heart.

Jon Reiss

Welcome to Plantscendence, the podcast where we talk to people about their most significant psychedelic experiences, and how those experiences profoundly changed their lives. I’m Jon Reiss.

Our guest this week is Spring Washam who is a well-known meditation teacher, author and visionary leader based in Atlanta Georgia. She is the author of A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage and Wisdom in Any Moment and her latest book is The Spirit of Harriet Tubman: Awakening from the Underground.  She is a member of the teacher’s council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, one of the founding teachers at the East Bay Meditation Center and has practiced and studied Buddhist philosophy since 1999. She is the founder of Lotus Vine Journeys, an organization that blends plant-based medicine with Buddhist wisdom in Costa Rica. She currently leads plant medicine changemaker retreats, classes and workshops worldwide.

Jon Reiss

Welcome Spring Washam to my podcast. In my tradition of this podcast, what we do is we jump right into the beginning of your first antigenic experiences, your first experience with psychedelics.

So, I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about that before we then move on to your work.

Spring Washam

Yeah, I mean, I can tell two different stories. One was that I experimented when I was young and all that experimentation, it didn’t always go that well. There was some breakthroughs, but also, as we know, a lot of traumas along the way. So, I’m going to talk about when I had my real first powerful, serious ceremony, and that was in 2007, and I had just come off a long retreat where I kind of had all this trauma unfold.

And I got very destabilized and sort of disassociated. And I came back to California, not a good place. And I was introduced to the plant medicine, ayahuasca, by a dear friend of mine who’s also a clinical psychologist. And this was early. You know, ayahuasca was out there, but not like it is now, you know. She said, you know, this could really help you.

This could help with your trauma. It sounds like there’s a lot going on. You know, it’s this plant, it’s in the from the Amazon. And I was so willing to try anything at that moment. I was like, okay.

Jon Reiss

But this is after just to set the stage. This is after you were already a Buddhist meditation teacher.

Spring Washam

Yes, this is when I was already had gone through a full six-year teacher training, with Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock meditation center to become a residential teacher. I was already on the teacher’s council at Spirit Rock teaching retreats, and we had opened our meditation center, East Bay Meditation Center in downtown Oakland, where I was. There was a lot of expectation as one of the founders and a core leader there.

You know, I was still pretty young at that time, and I think it was this all these pressures and then just my own inner work that, you know, these pieces of, you know, traumatic experiences from my childhood that I thought I had worked through, you know, But we worked them through on one level, but not the body and the emotional level and the mental level.

We do, right. We know the facts, but there’s still a lot left. And so, I was really caught off guard and when I did a three-month intensive, all of this stuff, this old, very old, painful root suffering kind of came up and I didn’t really know how to deal with it with just my Buddhist practice. I couldn’t sit with it, which created a lot of doubt and uncertainty and, oh my gosh, what am I doing?

And and, I kept feeling like I needed something deeper. I need to go into it, but in a much deeper way. And so, this is when I was introduced to come to a circle in Northern California, and I had absolutely no background information on plant medicine. I had worked with LSD before, but it had been not in a conscious way, you know, if that’s.

Jon Reiss

That’s your experiences when, was that when you’re younger.

Spring Washam

Yeah, I mean like Golden Gate Park, you know, that whole, you know, what we do when we’re not understanding the power of these things, you know, we’re like

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

Oh, this will be so fun, and the next moment or in the deepest psychological state, you know, we’re just, we just don’t understand, you know? So, so that was when I had my first real experience, and I was really ready for it.

And what I learned that night, it just changed the course of my life, really. And I understood more in that eight-hour experience than I had in months, maybe years, you know. And so that really set me on a new course. And that’s what led me to start going down to Peru for a couple months, a year, and really diving deep into my own, my own work there.

Jon Reiss

Can you talk a little bit about, like what you experienced during that first experience, what you saw, what you went through? You know, what it was like? Did you do it with a group or.

Spring Washam

Yeah, it was a small group of like maybe six people at that time, and they were all mostly psychologists, you know, and there was a healer who was playing on this amazing music. He was from Puerto Rico, or his background was Puerto Rican. He was beautiful and it was with my friend who was, you know, so I felt very safe, very exploratory.

So, what I really experienced there was a tremendous amount of what I would call Buddhist wisdom, right. I was able to see where I was clinging on on this really unconscious level, right. And how I was creating suffering with my thoughts, with my emotions, my inability to let go of things. And I just saw it through a series of visions, and I was able to start letting go, right, to start understanding how I was causing the suffering, my actions, my behavior, my thoughts, where everything had become very distorted and confused.

And that began to unravel. And I began to understand why I was so destabilized. Because when you go through a like a spiritual emergency, you don’t understand it. You’re like, what’s happening to me? You know, it’s a breakthrough, but it feels like a breakdown. And that’s not a good feeling,

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

You know, it’s like, don’t shut down the breakdown.

But how do you just allow these things to happen? They’re so painful. And and you start doubting the process halfway through and, you know, you start wondering and pathologizing yourself. So, the medicine that the journey that night really helped me to understand, hey, this is where you are in this process, this is where you’re headed. This is all the work that you need to do.

It sort of gave me this map, and that was deeply comforting. And the encouragement and the practices that I needed to do in the mindset that I needed to have to get through this. It was just information that I didn’t have prior to that experience. It was like an answer to a prayer.

Jon Reiss

That’s amazing, especially based on so much the Buddhist meditation that you’d been doing prior to that. Did you feel like that all of that work that you had done kind of helped you set the stage to have this particularly healing experience with ayahuasca?

Spring Washam

Absolutely. I had been practicing at that time for over a decade, meditation very seriously. It was so helpful, you know, to have those tools and that training, because when I started working in the ceremonial spaces, I was able to start relying on those foundational practices, right. Coming back to my breath, coming back to my body, remembering compassion, practicing mindfulness, remembering, you know, it was like coming back to wisdom.

And and so then at that point, my ceremonies became almost like an accelerated meditation practice. Can I go through this next six, seven hours with the same mindset, right. Whatever arises, I’m going to meet it. And it became a challenge and part of the healing and the purification. But I feel like in a way, my ten years of practice before then was just a preparation.

It felt like a drop in the bucket.

Jon Reiss

Right. Has it- how was it affected your meditation sense?

Spring Washam

I think what happens is like it’s almost like, you know, when you’re when you’re in a meditation retreat, all these obstacles come up. Very painful emotions, memories. And they can kind of pull you out like you’re walking down the road and all of a sudden, you’re just off the road and you’re in the wilderness and you’re, so I think what happens is like through removing all these obstacles, in a way, these tangles, the path is a lot more clear.

It’s like the boulders are out of the way, right. You’re not stopping. I have to go through this huge process. It’s just like flying through clear skies without a lot of turbulence. You know, It’s like, you know, not a lot of storms. You see them, but they don’t pull you like they did before. So, I just felt like it just smoothed out things and allowed for a deeper level of embodied presence.

Jon Reiss

Yeah, I like I’ve meditated for 30 years and since this recent plant medicine path that I’ve been on, it’s enabled me to be much more present and have much deeper experiences than I was able to just on meditation alone. And I understand some people are can get there on meditation alone. You know, there are that does exist for many people.

It just wasn’t possible for me and I, in my last journey that I did on psilocybin, actually, I had this realization that some people okay, great, some people can do this completely on their own without plant medicine. But, you know, thank you for having the plants available to let me experience it because I need a little bit of extra whatever it is to achieve that that I can’t achieve on meditation alone.

And then to me, it’s helped me be present in my life much more readily than I normally was able to.

Spring Washam

Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I wish I could do it on my own. I mean, so many of us are trying, you know, but in with the world as it is, I mean, we’re living in this kind of apocalypse, right. I think 100 years ago, it would have been much easier.

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

You know, you look at the stories of these Tibetans and how their lives were different. You know, they had all this space that it feels like, you know, it’s really hard to carve out silence and solitude in our culture.

Jon Reiss

Exactly. So, getting back to that experience that you have a particular intention that you went into.

Spring Washam

Yeah, I think if I had been praying to understand suffering and how to end it and what was happening within myself, what was so painful. I knew I was holding on to something. You know, I just ended a relationship. It was like a whole change. I was I was growing, and I needed to also. One of the things that’s really important is that so many of us are called into leadership or teacher or guides, and that actually that’s a sacred contract.

And we, you know, I think I was ready to move into a different space and I couldn’t really carry all those tangles.

Jon Reiss

So, and then did you kind of experience some of the traditional ayahuasca visions?

Spring Washam

Oh yeah. It was everything. It was like, it was like if you imagine your ultimate ayahuasca experience, what you would want, there was laughing, there was crying, there was visions of the future, there was visions of the past. There was meeting the plant, there was traveling, there was every mystical experience that you could want in one session. I mean, I was- to say my mind was blown so open. There was so many visions, so many.

Jon Reiss

Any particular ones that stick out to you that you feel like sharing?

Spring Washam

Yeah. I wrote about this, and I’m working on an ayahuasca book, kind of like a journey book about my own healing with the plant medicine. And it’s still in process what that book is going to be. But I wrote about this one. This was, for me, a game changer. And it’s a pretty classic. You know, so many of us have these archetypal experiences that are similar, you know.

But one of the biggest visions that I had in that particular first ayahuasca ceremony was I entered into the insane circus and there was this group of insane, mean clowns screaming, and pushing me.

Jon Reiss

So, the Insane Clown Posse was in your ayahuasca experience?

Spring Washam

And they were like, and oh my god, and they were screaming and yelling, and they were pushing me on different rides in the lights. And it was going faster and faster. And the carnival music was getting louder and louder, and they were grabbing me and throwing me here and throwing me there. And I remember being like, oh my god, how do I get out of this?

I remember in the distance I saw this the green exit sign, and I remember going, ‘Wait a minute, I want out of here’, you know. And they were like, ‘You want out? Okay, you want out?’ And I just remember bolting to the exit and there was only like maybe one or two people leaving and everybody else was just flung around.

And this insanity and getting faster and faster, louder and louder. And I really interpret that dream to be like the ocean of Samsara, like the matrix, like we’re in this insanity and it’s so loud and there’s so much delusion and distraction and clowns everywhere and people pulling, you know, we get lost in it. But that was a very long, visionary experience.

And all I remember was just like this back door and this tiny staircase. And nobody there was just like one other person. And we’re like, we’re getting out. And I think when I exited that door, that kind of set me on a path of like, yes, what is beyond this 3D insanity? This Earth plane feels so distracting and so painful and so filled with false promises.

Jon Reiss

It’s interesting that it’s clowns because clowns are trickster figures, and trickster figures come at particular cultural upheavals. And we’re surrounded by trickster figures like our former president is one. And and they always work in these liminal spaces. And to me, that vision resonates so intensely.

Spring Washam

Yeah. And I remember years ago I was doing a breathwork retreat with Stan Grof, and he was showing us an LSD slideshow and I remember him, ‘This is me. Like 15 years.’ He was talking about the crazy circus like an archetypal LSD, you know? So, all of these experiences are collective and interconnected. And I understood that vision crystal clear because I felt like I was I was in that insane circus internally, mentally, I was there.

Jon Reiss

Right. And so, any other did you have like the also the geometric shapes and did you meet Mother Ayahuasca like some people do?

Spring Washam

I didn’t get a lot of the sacred geometry people. That is probably one of the most they get. Shipibo, the patterns, the jungle, song. I didn’t experience that, but I definitely experienced meeting the doctor of ayahuasca, meeting that soul doctor. And that was the night that it was the seed was planted, like, you are going to go to the jungle and you’re going to work with the Shipibo, indigenous communities in the upper Amazon, and you’re going to go really deep there. And I did, you know, over the next ten years, as deepest experiences of my life, many happened in the jungle, in the Amazon. So, all that was sort of like foretold, you know, it was very prophetic, and I deeply trusted that. And I think everybody’s messages are unique to themselves.

You know, my experiences were what I needed. The people who were in the room, they were getting the experiences and advice and directions that they needed. So that was what I needed to hear, kind of showed me the next decade of my life and the work that I would do, actually. So, in some ways I’m still living into that original ceremony, still unfolding.

Jon Reiss

You’re the first person I’ve talked to. I haven’t talked to that many people, but you’re the first person who’s encountered a doctor.

Spring Washam

Yeah, well, I think that’s how I would, you know, hundreds of ceremonies later. And being someone who guides people, that is what ayahuasca is. That is what these peyote is. That is what you know what wachuma and the mushrooms. These are doctors. These are soul doctors, spirit doctors and so they’re able to doctor us on the level of the heart.

You know, this is not the stuff that we can get healed from traditionally going to Kaiser or a hospital or, you know, these are and not even really that deeply in psychiatry or some of therapy. But when we have things on the deepest level of our being on a cellular level, on a DNA level, it’s very hard to reach those levels.

And so, these particular medicines, even LSD and even MDMA, they can open places in us that we just can’t reach. And there’s so much healing there. So, meeting the grandmother of some people called the grandmother doctor, it was just, you know, inspiring and mysterious and it made me want to learn more. I was like, okay, this is the whole path.

And I commit to it and I’m still learning. There’s no end to this book. It’s a never-ending unfolding.

Jon Reiss

Yeah, yeah. You mentioned your purging, and I’ve talked to different people about that. Did you feel like any kind of emotional release? People have talked about kind of physical things coming out of their bodies, like energies, like dark energies coming out of their bodies in that process. And I’m curious if that happened with you at all.

Spring Washam

Yeah, the first night I just felt sick. It was subsequent nights where I went through a whole period of a lot of purging and yeah, I felt things were coming out of my body. I felt toxins coming out of my body. I felt the energy of trauma coming out, things that happened to us, they leave a residue behind, you know. And these plants are so powerful they can kind of pull that up and then we can release it either through purging in a bucket or using the restroom or sweating or shaking or there’s a lot of physical symptoms with you know, particularly ayahuasca.

It’s a very physical plant. People are often surprised, you know, when they use LSD you’re really, in your mind with LSD or something with ayahuasca, you’re in your body. You know, you’re you’re feeling everything. And for a lot of people, that catches them off guard. So, the purging is a natural thing. I’ve seen, you know, when I lived in the jungle in 2014 to 2015, I lived in the Amazon at a healing temple called the Temple of the Way of Light.

I was teaching meditation, and I was apprenticing, and there is where I saw the most miracles because so many people came from around the world seeking help to physical diagnosis. These cancers, tumors, Lyme disease, suicidal ideation, deep depression, anxiety disorders, and what I would see, you know, was so profound. And and so the purging is helping us. Not everybody does it.

Some people are freaked out by it, but it’s just a part of the journey it’s not the whole journey. You know, it’s like a moment. It’s a blip in a big period of what you experience, you know, so it’s like a moment in time.

Jon Reiss

Right. Well, I guess when you talk about working on the DNA level, can you. That makes me I wanted to talk to you about intergenerational trauma, and I’m wondering if you can speak to that a little bit.

Spring Washam

Yeah, this is probably going to be the focus of my writing. Is this intergenerational trauma, this our family trees. You know, this is what surprises people the most about working with plant medicine when they come on my retreats in Costa Rica and there’s something is wrong, right. They have everything that they want on the external world. They’re like, I have money, I have a success.

I have a loving relationship. I have a house full of Buddha statues, but yet I have no peace at all, right. I’m just secretly I’m a mess and they’re like, I need help. You know what is going on? So, we know epigenetics, right. And we know these traits are passed down. These stories, these ideas, you know, you get more than your hair and eye color from your mother, right.

You get you get everything right. You get everything in your family tree, your culture. And so, this idea that all these things like we know addictions pass down, right,

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

We they see DNA traits of this. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to live that out. You can transform by, you know, doing practices, awakening awareness, right. You can, you can change the direction of that.

So that is one of the things that I think these plant medicines offer us is this huge direction change. So, you have these DNA, you know, switches turned on that are causing suffering. How do you deactivate them?

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

And this is the level that we can get to where we can start turning off these switches and flipping on the other switches that are more about liberation.

And then continuing the cycle of the story of suffering, the trauma, the programming. And for me, this is so important because in the Western world people do not understand that they are part of living lineages. We grow up in a society where like John Wayne, you’re alone. You go off alone, you, your great great grandmother has nothing to do with you, you know, and people don’t even know where they’re from here, right.

They don’t know where their people are. They’re like, well.

Jon Reiss

Especially in American society, which is so.

Spring Washam

Exactly.

Jon Reiss

And especially late capitalism since like the rise of neoliberalism, which is like society is nothing. It has nothing to do with community. It’s all on you. It’s just and if anything’s wrong. It’s you. Everything’s based on you.

Spring Washam

Which I think is true on one level. And then everything is interconnected. And now there’s two truths going on here, right. It’s like there’s the relative level that, yes, our mind is impacting within. There’s a whole other world that’s deeply interwoven with our community, in our families and in our culture and society and belief system. So, it’s really important to not discount this work because I think the ancestors of all living lineages and the work that we carry and the and the suffering that we carry isn’t always ours is as a result of many causes and conditions.

Jon Reiss

Right. Yeah, exactly. So, this leads me to. So, what are you doing in Atlanta now?

Spring Washam

Yeah, well, so this my Atlanta project. Now, if you had asked me a couple of years ago, would I have moved to Georgia? I would have thought you were. That would have been the farthest thing from.

Jon Reiss

I know you left Oakland.

Spring Washam

I left Oakland. Right? Am I really?

Jon Reiss

What are you doing?

Spring Washam

I know. I keep asking myself that. Well, I’m following the advice of the ancestors as particularly Harriet Tubman. And we’re going to.

Jon Reiss

Which we’re gonna get to next.

Spring Washam

Yes, I have. I have a dear friend of mine. His name is Lama Rod Owens. He’s the fantastic Dharma teacher and activist and he’s in Atlanta. And him and I came here to start a church, a spirit underground church, where we’re going to be talking about ancestors, plant medicine, practice and liberation. And it felt like, you know, being that this is the home of Dr. King and his church, and this legacy is a stop on the Underground Railroad, you know, and so for some reason, I’m called here at this time to offer my services, to offer whatever I can offer to the beautiful people working here.

And it just feels like I’m here for and I am something bigger than when even when I know right now. But I’m here with him and we are co-creating a project on behalf of all beings and and offering healing with working primarily first with plant medicine and consciousness and liberation.

Jon Reiss

And why is it why a church?

Spring Washam

Well, a church, one level is it protects us. Churches right now are able to get a kind of protection to use their medicine, sort of like the Native American church is able to use peyote. There’s mushroom churches. There’s also several legal ayahuasca churches. The Santo Daime, Brazilian Catholic Church. So, we’re sort of following in that. And because both him and I are considered Buddhist clergy, it just made sense for us to start something nonprofit.

Another church. So, it’s a vehicle that can hold the work that we’re doing.

Jon Reiss

Right. Right. And it does make sense that because in Oakland, there’s plenty of people helping people. And it seems like maybe in other parts of the country, such as Atlanta, there aren’t as many people available to help.

Spring Washam

Yeah, it’s a bit of a desert here. I mean, I’m in the south, you know, I really hit me when I realize I’m only an hour from Montgomery, Alabama. I was like, wow, this feels really important. And yeah, I think these things need to move out across the country. And there’s a lot of people who are very interested in this work and who are so inspired.

And and so my idea is to be here and connect and be available and be of support.

Jon Reiss

And have you started yet?

Spring Washam

Well, I’ve only been here a month and a half, and we are going through the legal process, but we as soon as we get those documents and, you know, and then we’re going to start. But we you know, we’re starting from zero Operation Zero. You know, we’re like, we got to get a piece of land. If anyone out there would like to buy us a piece of land let me know or the church to happen, you know?

So, there’s like steps here. You know, we need a place to work, and we need but all of it, we’re just trusting is coming together.

Jon Reiss

Wow. Wow. That’s amazing. And are you still going to do retreats in Costa Rica?

Spring Washam

Absolutely. Those changemaker retreats are really my heart, too. You know, this is where leaders come. They do we do these 14-day journeys and this incredible eco lodge in the OSA Peninsula. And that work is deeply life transforming. And I just absolutely love those retreats. So, yes, I will always offer 2 to 3 visionary change maker retreats a year.

Jon Reiss

Right. And how are those different from other retreats that are similar?

Spring Washam

Well, I think what’s unique about mine is that we’re the first Buddhist based, you know, in 2015, when I came back from the jungle, I deeply miss the Dharma. I deeply miss the ethical framework. I saw the danger of people coming to the jungle and having these massive experiences with no way to integrate.

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

So that’s kind of what is unique about ours, is we are really weaving the Dharma reading pieces of the Dharma, reflecting on it and ceremony reflecting on it. It’s kind of like the flavor of the ceremonies even is like awakening to our Buddha nature, remembering the core teachings. And this kind of accelerates our insight.

Jon Reiss

Okay, sign me up.

Spring Washam

Yes, we would love to have you, Jon. That would be amazing. We have one in January, one in March next year.

Jon Reiss

Maybe March, March, might, march could maybe work.

Spring Washam

I always encourage people to do it because then they’re like, oh my god, okay, now I have a context.

Jon Reiss

Well, the one thing is I did hear about this kind of amazing shaman in Brazil who’s retiring.

Spring Washam

Oh yeah.

Jon Reiss

And is about to do his last sessions and we might already have missed it. So, I might do that next, because that’s like, okay, if someone’s retiring. But yes, I think I’ll be visiting you there sometime. Or maybe Atlanta, because I do feel like it would be very interesting.

Spring Washam

Yes, there is a land of being in the mountains here and the land here. Yeah, we’re looking at it. We would love to buy some land in the Blue Ridge, North Georgia.

Jon Reiss

Wow.

Spring Washam

Yeah,

Jon Reiss

Yeah,

Spring Washam

Yeah. Which is a,

Jon Reiss

Yeah, that sounds amazing.

Spring Washam

Beautiful area.

Jon Reiss

Yeah. And there’s a lot of. I mean, that land has so much trauma.

Spring Washam

Oh, I mean, you know, what’s so interesting is just being from California, when I was looking at some property and there was these black farmers and they said, ‘Well, you guys could buy land here, but you need to know there’s a huge Klan stronghold, you know, 20 miles’. And I was like, the Ku Klux Klan have a whole thing, right. Who would have thought I’d be thinking about this in 2023?

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

I was like, wait, I can be neighbors to actual Klu Klux Klan meeting, you know? And it’s like, welcome to North Georgia, right. And I was like, wow, you know? So that was very interesting. So, the land is still being held in this very traumatic way and the Trail of Tears came through Georgia there.

It’s like, you know, there’s a lot of trauma, which is something that we want to heal. You know, land has spirit, and it can be transformed.

Jon Reiss

Yeah. So, I have a spiritual teacher that I worked with, and he actually put one of his US Ashram on the Trail of Tears in Tennessee, like right on the.

Spring Washam

Exactly, to do this, to transmute the suffering into liberation. Yeah, I used to call this Georgia project a year ago, and I was thinking I would call it like our psychedelic plantation. My friends hate that word. I for some reason it makes me laugh. I guess that’s really bad, but the fact that we could transmute something that intense.

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

Right. And I think that’s what we’re being called to do is transmute, right. Internally and externally.

Jon Reiss

So, one thing I wanted to ask you about is that there’s this cliche of plant medicine and psychedelics being kind of the realm of the wealthy white middle class and upper middle class and wondering your thoughts on that.

Spring Washam

I mean, I think that definitely like that’s part of a cultural appropriation question, right. Is the narrative. The stories become all like one group of people, even the word psychedelic. I don’t really like to use that much because it’s such a is a loaded word, right. You think Timothy Leary, you think Golden Gate Park, you think the Sixties, you think LSD, you know. And I say healing with plant medicine, that’s very different than a psychedelic, you know, it just feels different.

And it how on earth medicine, the word carries a different kind of connotation. So. So yeah, so a lot of people of color feel deeply left out of this narrative or they don’t see themselves in it. And so, a big part of our work is to try to expand on that and broaden that because there’s tremendous interest, tremendous interest, but there’s nobody who’s holding that.

Jon Reiss

Right. Right. And that’s kind of the work that you’re doing. I mean, it feels like in large part. What brought you to Atlanta then?

Spring Washam

Absolutely. That I think that is, you know, the fundamental reason I’m in Atlanta. This is sort of like in Atlanta. Also, Georgia is sort of on the on the front of a lot of energy historically. And in this moment of time, it’s a purple state now, right. So, it’s going to be a battleground in this next election, right.

Jon Reiss

Yeah.

Spring Washam

We even have these black women, right. What are they doing? They’re prosecuting the president. They’re doing the dirty work of the you know, there’s a lot of energy in Georgia, right now. And so, it feels important to stand here and kind of be offering all kinds of healing modalities to all the beings here.

Jon Reiss

Right. Right. And part of your mission, it feels like, is to break this perceived color barrier in the entheogenic world as it were.

Spring Washam

Absolutely. And that was one of the things that when I was talking to about this documentary, we filmed this 14-day BIPOC retreat, and we had 20 incredible people of color from around the world who came. It just so happened some of the most extraordinary people I ever met, including Nite Gomez, is amazing award-winning filmmaker. We decided to film it, so I brought in a film crew without even having a concept of a documentary.

I was like, I’ve got to film this because this is too extraordinary. You know, these people are so they’re really committed to this deep compassion in the world. And yet, you know, they want to overcome their trauma so they can keep going. So, I have all these interviews and filmed all the got this incredible footage and they have all agreed to show their stories, like, I’m willing to be on the evening news.

I want to come out and say this is who I am. And these medicines have deeply transformed me. And here’s you know, so we’re all they’re saying this. And so, this is what has impact. When people see the stories of us, then they feel inspired, like I’m just like them. I want to do that or I. wow, okay, I didn’t know that this was what it was about.

Jon Reiss

Well, this leads straight into talking. I want to ask you about your book about Harriet Tubman.

Spring Washam

Yes.

Jon Reiss

Which I found very fascinating on multiple levels. And so, in that book, and correct me if I’m wrong on any of this, it feels like you’re channeling Harriet Tubman. You encountered her, the spirit of her, and she called you to write this book about her and to talk about this continuation of her spirit.

Spring Washam

Yes. Yes. And I guess the word channeling is always interesting. I always like to preface this by being like, just to clarify one thing about that is like I always think this is really a conversation with a great ancestor.  Because channeling, I think sometimes people, they might think that they’re going to come to an event and then I’ll be going into some kind of seance and go, now I will channel Harriet. She now has a message, right. And it’s not like that. 

I don’t get taken over by that. You know, this is a very specific time and moments, and the book was really, really about a channeled message for the future generation and that Harriet Tubman is alive in her spirit world.

Jon Reiss

Right. And the conversations that you have that you write about are really beautiful. They’re very loving conversations. And so, do you feel that your work with entheogens kind of opened you up to this experience?

Spring Washam

Absolutely. Absolutely. I 100%, because I think I had already experience living in the jungle and and being deeply connected to all the plants in the forest. And I was training to be a Maestra. Even though I didn’t know that at that time. You know, Shipibos were always telling me that indigenous people that I was a healer and a Maestra because I was seeing all the things that they were seeing, I could see in the ceremony, and I was helping.

I was a nurse. And so, they always told me, you know, you have this ability and, and I discounted all of it, you know, thinking, they tell everybody that. But I always had a propensity to this, even in meditation retreats, these like incredibly mystical things would happen when I would be in deep concentration practice. You know, I’d had I had a door open, and I always knew that there was a door open.

And so, the plant medicine and all the ceremonial work that I had done for years, all of that led me to being able to these doors with Harriet Tubman. Absolutely.

Jon Reiss

Right. Yeah. And it’s interesting that in the book she talks about this other world that exists outside of our present reality, right. This kind of alternate reality that she lives in, if I’m correct. And it seems like that’s partially what people experience when they participate in plant medicine, would you say that that’s a correct assessment in some way?

Spring Washam

Yeah, I think that you know what DMT does, if we look at the DMT, the spirit molecule is it opens a portal into all these other realms. You know, for most of us who are trapped in this physical reality, we believe that this is all there is to existence, this body, this one mindset, these emotions. We don’t see that we’re in a 10,000-world system.

I mean, every day we see it in the news like we just found another 100 million universes. I mean, this is big here, right. Everybody, it’s not just this this very limited perception that we have. So, yeah, I think that the spirit world, when people pass out of a physical body, they’re now in a nonphysical body. There as alive as they were.

And we see this with people who are, you know, I am also a big part of the Ram Dass’ community, the Be Here Now Network. People always talk about Neem Karoli Baba. Neem Karoli Baba was here yesterday in the Ashram, and we felt you know, we know that these energies are outside of the physical body. So, Harriet Tubman was just trying to make that like, yes, I’m not in a physical form, but I am very much in the spiritual and the nonphysical location in consciousness, right. That’s what you truly are outside of your physical body.

Jon Reiss

Right. So, for people who haven’t read the book, can you just give the short summary of what the book is?

Spring Washam

Yeah, well, I think ultimately the book is really about that she was more than a slave who had ran away. You know, that she’s actually an awakened spirit who’d come, and she carried this great archetype of the spirit of Moses, the Liberator, and that her work was never finished. She abolished actual slavery in her lifetime, right. She was able to be born a slave.

When she died. She was a free woman on her own land. Mission accomplished, right. Fought in the Civil War, but she didn’t end the mindset and that bothers her. Dr. King didn’t end mindset. And so, I think what Harriet Tubman represents now is almost like a deity, right. This racial wound that we have at the heart of this country, there was a crack in the foundation, or you call it red or blue states, and you know, the crack of, you know, who are we going to be?

What are our beliefs, our human rights and and all beings? You know, there’s this crack in that foundation. And Harriet Tubman is someone who understands that. So, we can call on her to help us navigate this very painful and complex wound. It’s an ancestral wound. It’s a wound in the land. It’s a wound in North Georgia, you know, it’s a wound in Alabama.

And that, you know, she’s everyone’s ancestor. You don’t have to be African American to connect to the spirit of Harriet Tubman.

Jon Reiss

The wound is on within white people and black people.

Spring Washam

And absolutely, it’s on both sides, very deep and and it’s complex. It’s a worldwide, it’s the transatlantic slave, the system, right. The whole worldwide. So, a lot of people involved in that. And there’s a lot of hurt still in the collective. So, Harriet is someone you can call on for strength and courage, wisdom to speak up, to know the truth, and to just to be present as we go through this next period of time that’s very unstable in our world and in our country.

Jon Reiss

Do you think people will like it reminds me, like I have a couple of altars in my house, and I have dietes there that speak to me. Do you imagine that there will be little Harriet Tubman statues that people will be adding to their meditation altars?

Spring Washam

I do think I do, because more and more people, as they find this book and they find other books, they’re having these experiences with Harriet Tubman, you know, they’re finding more information about her life. More images are coming out. The cover of the book I had designed by an Amazonian visionary artist as to look like a deity, right. This is how I was seeing this spirit,

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

And so over time, people become legendary. You know, as hundreds of years, even later than the future they might be seeing Harriet Tubman in a completely different way. There’s great power in connecting to her spirit, and she gives a lot of comfort. She’s also a protector, right. And a guide. Never lost a passenger, you know?

Jon Reiss

Exactly.

Spring Washam

So, I feel that she has something for this moment in time.

Jon Reiss

And what was the reaction to the book? Were there some people who were upset about these modern conversations that you were having with her or, you know, how did people like Harriet Tubman scholars, kind of react to the book? I’m just kind of curious.

Spring Washam

Yeah. Yeah, I haven’t heard anything negative about it. If people maybe have negative thoughts, they haven’t shared them. I’m sure there’s a range of ongoing what this girl writing about. And, you know, I’m not a scholar. I’m not I learned so much over the two-year process of writing this book, but for the most part, when people read it, it’s deeply touching.

That’s the kind of emails that I get that they were very emotionally impacted by the book.

Jon Reiss

Yeah, yeah, no I can see that. So one of the things that felt like it rang true and you even alluded to what you’re doing in Atlanta is on the road of the Underground Railroad in that the similarities of the journey and the wilderness and, you know, her travels and this journey that people need to go through, you know, through the wilderness of their lives, that feels like a very strong metaphor, at least that came across to me. And it feels like it was intentional.

Spring Washam

Yeah. And even the plant medicine, I mean, holy smokes, we’re on the Underground Railroad with that one, right. As these even these medicines are underground. For years, I snuck around, you know, literally traveling and not telling people where I was. And and so, yeah, we are kind of, you know, the inner underground is a battle just like the physical one.

The inner might be the harder one. Some people are on the earth right now, refugees, and they’re traversing, you know, risking their lives, moving from one place to another. And others are going through these inner battles, battling their their hatred and their rage and their fear and their sorrow. And that also can kill you.

Jon Reiss

Right. Right. The book speaks a lot about courage. And her courage is so monumental and what she had to face and overcome. But it’s also something that people need to go through. It’s representative in the sense of the courage that you need to go through on your own inner journey as well.

Spring Washam

Yeah. And we and this is about finding her courage. You know, the people that stood by Harriet had courage. The people who listened to her and, you know, journeyed with her to freedom, had to find their own courage. I mean, this is a time where we have to find some kind of great courage to meet this moment in our history.

And what’s happening on the planet and the world and then the consciousness. It is a time to find strength right now. And so, beings like Harriet, you can borrow some courage for them,

Jon Reiss

Right.

Spring Washam

You can ask, ‘Can you lend me some?’ And she has so much, she’s like, ‘Sure.’ Just like Kwan Yin gives compassion freely and so does Jesus.

And so, you know, so so we can borrow, you know, like we’re going to our neighbors, and you have a cup of sugar, right. You can lean on Harriet Tubman. That was something that she wanted people to know. And so that’s very comforting. I definitely wouldn’t have got through the last few years without Harriet Tubman’s spirit in me leaning in and borrowing and able to pull myself through some really challenging moments just in my own life and still find the courage to, you know, keep going another day, keep shining, you know, and to stay positive and to stay leaning into the vision of the future that which we want to see in the world.

Jon Reiss

Well, thank you so much. Is there anything that you were hoping to talk about that we didn’t get to?

Spring Washam

You know, you asked so many great questions. I feel like we covered the whole territory. And I just I really, really love that these conversations are happening. And I just feel grateful to get to know you and to share my personal journey with you and and the audience. And no, I feel I feel these are these are my life projects right now from my whole life, you know, creating something in Atlanta and doing work for change makers and the deep desire to contribute to a better world Jon, you know, a better world for our children and our ancestors to, so,

Jon Reiss

Yeah, yeah. Sometimes I feel like it’s too bad that massive populations can’t be dosed at the same time.

Spring Washam

Well, they might be now with MDMA legalization and all that. I think this is where it’s I think this is where it’s heading. You know, it’s a lot of preparation, you know, but I think that’s what is trying to have an evolution is like a million people at a time healing and.

Jon Reiss

Right. could you get could you get like MDMA into the coffee at the US Capitol building and get everyone in Congress like a dose of MDMA?

Spring Washam

Well, it will be legal though it is going to be legal next year for people who have depression. They’ll be able to get it through Medicaid.

Jon Reiss

That’s great.

Spring Washam

Yeah. So, so there’s a lot to stay optimistic about. I think that it’s speeding up this this access question, this accessibility and people being more open to these things. So hopefully it’ll go well.

Jon Reiss

Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and joining me here and sharing.

Spring Washam

Ditto. And I hope we see you on the retreat and I’ll keep you posted about Georgia.

Jon Reiss

Yes. Well, put me on your list if you have a list.

Spring Washam

I do have a list.

Jon Reiss

Okay. All right. Great.