161: Experimenting with Plant Medicine


“It’s like if you got shot by a bullet and it got lodged in your body. Well you’re not just going to leave it in there. You’re going to want to excavate it.”
Nick Onken

Hello, my fellow alchemists! Welcome to another episode of ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the soul, mind, and body of the creative entrepreneur. Today, I’m doing something a little different. Instead of interviewing a guest, I want to share my recent journey with plant medicine in Costa Rica at a beautiful place called Rythmia

Rythmia provides the perfect space and context to journey with plant medicine. Whether you’re a first-timer or back for another one, they are focused on helping you reset the body, mind, and soul. It’s not my first time with psychedelics, but it was my first time being intentional about it in a safe space to explore.

About a year and a half ago, I tried 5-MeO-DMT, which was quite an experience. I wasn’t in a very good place at that point though, and I questioned the meaning of life and asked existential questions. I read books like A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and watched Jim and Andy, a documentary on Netflix with Jim Carey where he spoke about his own eye-opening existential experiences. 

After trying DMT, I felt a huge contrast between what I’d experienced and reality that pushed me into a dark night of the soul and a very questionable space in which I spent most of last year. It wasn’t until I discovered breathwork as an integration tool that I started coming out of that dark space and utilizing my breath to tap into similar states of consciousness. 

Right now, though, let me take you back to the beginning of my week at Rythmia.

Finding the Magic

Gerard Powell founded Rythmia, and his story is quite remarkable. He wrote a book called Sh*t The Moon Said, which details his journeys with plant medicine and how it shifted, changed, and ultimately healed his life. Part of that journey led to Gerard creating the retreat center Rythmia. 

I had some psilocybin mushroom journeys a few months before I arrived, helping me be more precise in setting my intention. The mushrooms helped me tap into more creativity and get through my different questions about life. Still, ayahuasca is another level, and this being my first time, I entered with a healthy dose of respect. 

Ayahuasca is an eye-opening journey that shows you who you become. It reveals things about your life, but it also takes you to the depths of where these issues and triggers started. When you get triggered by something, you get angry, those triggers are subconscious. Triggers can be from childhood or traumas we experience later in life. 

We all want to be happy and live a great life. I believe that when you’re living in alignment with your highest self, and you’re using your creativity to build things — that’s when you’re alchemizing magic in life.

The more we follow our own guiding stars to create magic, I believe we experience beautiful synchronous moments — moments of pure happiness and joy. Living in bliss is beautiful, but we have to dig, excavate, and get to the bottom of what keeps us from experiencing that. Fears, anxieties, stresses — all of it come from the circumstances of life, and it comes from how we were raised and what we saw growing up as kids. Whether you had an excellent or terrible upbringing, we always create our own stories. Our limiting beliefs come from our experiences, no matter who we are.

I had a great upbringing, yet I still grew up feeling judged even though it wasn’t my parents’ intention. That stuck with me my whole life, and it’s what I’ve been working on letting go of with the aid of plant medicine. 

Suppose you’re still not completely sold on the idea of plant medicine. In that case, I can share how grateful I am for learning things like meditation, which has provided me with tools to manage how I feel. Emily Fletcher, who’s been on the podcast three times, taught me how to meditate, and it’s been a massive tool over the last four years. Still, I’d say ayahuasca has been the deepest dive into my psyche.

Plant Medicine

It’s pretty incredible how plant medicine speaks differently to everyone, but then again, we all have a different psyche and subconscious. These medicines take your subconscious mind and pull it into the foreground of conscious awareness, enabling you to work through your psychological issues. 

The whole journey with ayahuasca is incredibly sacred and ceremonial. That’s why I recommend Rythmia if you’ve never done it. They have done a fantastic job of creating the space to provide context about the journey and integrate the experience, utilize it as a tool, and maximize the benefit from the deep work. 

It’s a seven-day retreat designed for a complete reset of the body, mind, and soul, which I love. They have yoga, breathwork, integration classes, a cold plunge, a hot tub, and a steam room. All the food is very healthy, and they even do colonic cleanses. 

Rythmia has an entire medical staff to help support you throughout the week. There are four days and nights of ceremony: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Rythmia is intentional about its objectives. Having four days of ceremonies is why they successfully provide almost everybody who visits what they call “their miracle.” The miracle can be anything from healing your heart, merging back with your soul, or reconnecting with who you are — your highest self.

After my week, I felt energized, clear, and even inspired creatively to go home and clear some space and reorganize it. Some people physically purge, and that’s about cleaning out the depths, the trauma, and the dark energies stuck in your body. It’s all worth it. Doing deep work enables you to face and get through any fears because what’s on the other side is joy, freedom, feeling alive, and seeing the world in a whole different place. However, there’s a crucial caveat to talk about here:

You must be prepared to go in hard and do the work to get there. 

I’m not going to lie, four nights of ceremonies is a lot of work. Some people purge every night, and that’s rough on the body. Think about it in the context of being shot — if the bullet lodged in your body, you’re not going to leave it in there. It will take surgery to ‘excavate’ and pull it out to allow the wound to heal correctly. Purging involves throwing up and or diarrhea as part of the process, but the whole idea is that you’re getting it out of your system.

What I Learned

Going into the experience was an enormous undertaking, but I learned a great deal. I had an ego death and rebirth, which was insane and incredible. It helped me process some of the judgments I grew up with. You might read this and have a specific trauma in mind you’d like to work on, or you could also think there’s nothing wrong. Even if you believe nothing is wrong, if you currently feel angry and unhappy or you’re living in emotions of fear, anger, resentment, anxiety, or judgment, these are all toxic to your body and can make you sick.

Dr. Joe Dispenza talks about this scientifically and how it works in his book, Becoming Supernatural. I read it three times last year and took his online course, and it was life-changing for me. The book gave me insight into how the body and the mind work together and how we get caught in loops of negative thoughts. 

Too much negativity can lead you to become fearful. You don’t even realize how thinking one negative thought leads to another scarier thought, which leads to another. Pretty soon, you’re down a rabbit hole and living a negative story.

It’s not even true, and you feel awful, but yet your body kind of likes it. You’re just attracting more of the vibe you’re putting out there. Being able to clear those things and get rid of subconscious trauma is paramount to moving forward with ease and grace. Plant medicine — specifically ayahuasca — is a powerful tool to achieve that. 

Imagine being able to control your inner editor and not overthink things. After being at Rythmia, I thought about how many things I wanted to create! It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m curious to see the long-lasting change.

I had such a great time, and I’ll certainly do it again. I want to utilize medicines, even mushrooms, and experiment to access more profound creative thoughts and energies. 

If you’re currently overthinking, living in fear, or just feeling disconnected from whom you are and want to get to the root of those issues, I recommend coming to Rythmia to clear it out.

Why You Should Listen to This Experimenting With Plant Medicine Podcast Episode Now…

I hope you found some value in learning about my plant medicine experience and how I’ve benefited from it. Stay tuned, too, for upcoming episodes — I did three interviews while I was down there.

First, I interviewed Gerry Powell, the founder of Rythmia, and you don’t want to miss his incredible story! 

Next, I interviewed Dr. Jeff McNairy, the chief medical officer, which provides extraordinary insight too in a fascinating interview. He’s been the director of a celebrity rehab center and worked in the psychological department, so we talked about the psychological aspects and neuroscience around plant medicine.  

Lastly, I interviewed Christian Minson, the breathwork director down at Rhythmia, and had a fascinating talk around how breathwork is a great integration tool, how it works, how it integrates, and how you can utilize that in your life. 

I’m excited to see what episodes are born as I start processing my experience, especially regarding creativity. I genuinely believe connecting to our heart space will enable us to find gifts and unleash our Creative Alchemy. 

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens through which to perform alchemy. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes, but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life in color for themselves. I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting pen to paper. Navigating to the act of creation takes alchemical processes. Gerry is a beautiful example of a Creative Alchemist, and I was honored to have him on the podcast today. 

If you loved this episode and would like to learn more about plant medicine, Rythmia’s website has detailed information about ayahuasca and its ceremonies. You can also find them on social media with great videos on YouTube and inspiration on Instagram

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode on plant medicine — if you did, please screenshot it and post it to Instagram and tag Rythmia, @rythmia_, and me, @nickonken. And if you’ve got time, leave me a review on Apple Podcasts. I’d love to hear your feedback.

And by the way, don’t forget to check out my website too! There, you can find a quick ten-question quiz designed and get some of my best free content to help you out on your creative journey.

Also, if you haven’t checked out Onken Hats yet, they’re custom hats that I’ve been making for people, which is part of my new creative endeavor inspired by my experience at Rythmia. It’s been a lot of fun, and people are loving them. 

I’ll catch you guys next time — now go live the creative lives you were meant for.

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!


“Ayahuasca is a big tool for clearing those subconscious traumas.”
Nick Onken

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • Nick’s first experimentation with plant medicine and how that changed his outlook on life [1:16]
  • What Nick experienced at Rhythmia in Costa Rica [2:40]
  • How plant medicine can help you dig down deep into your subconscious and heal wounds from the past [5:17]
  • How Ayahuasca works and how it works differently in different people [7:38]
  • What Nick learned about himself and his past [11:32]
  • Why clearing out your negative energies increases your creative flow [13:46]
  • The understated importance of our gut [14:49]

Links Mentioned:

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