A Mother-Daughter Mushroom Trip Captured on Film

Would you take psychedelic mushrooms with your mom and then document it? For actress, writer and millennial Rivka Rivera, the answer is yes. Whether you’re a writer, a psychonaut, a psychotherapist, scientist or an artist, this project brings these worlds together in a truly millennial manner: sharing the experience through a crafted lens.

Rivera, who’s based in New York and has appeared on TV shows like ABC’s “Firelight” and “Switched at Birth,” is using her talents to document a life-altering experience many of us undergo in a more private setting. But Rivera knows the power of public shared experiences—so much so that she ventured to share a psychedelic trip with her mother and film the experience at the beach by the Jersey Shore in 2016, where she would spend her summers. It explored their relationship, what it means to be a mother and daughter and how we cope with love and death with the person who gave us life.

Now, the public will get to watch and learn from the experience in an inter-generational feminist film that’s outside the narrative of what you’ll see on mainstream media screens. “Are you OK? Cause I’m OK” is in post-production after securing over $10,000 in crowdfunding from Seed and Spark to finish the film. Fifteen hours of footage were edited into four but it’s not completed yet. The team is now asking for more support to help with sound design and festival submission and plan to have a final version this winter. 

Part documentary, part scripted and part improv, the film brings together different styles that speak to the personalities of Rivera and her mother, Amy. It highlights the cultural attraction and healing of psychedelics and issues we don’t normally discuss, continuing to change the perception of these substances. With Michael Pollan’s new book “How to Change Your Mind” doing positive work in this area and getting lots of buzz—not to mention new scientific and government progress receiving national media attention—art from those not directly in the psychedelic community are broadening psychedelic experiences and integrations for a bigger audience.

Psymposia interviewed Rivera about her passion to create the film, what the experience taught her and what it’s doing for the cultural narrative of psychedelics.

 

 

Why did you want to trip with your mom?

Rivka Rivera: We were really prepared to take this mushroom trip because we had done a lot of work on our relationship prior. Her desire was really to have that closeness but she had a heart scare [prior to taking mushrooms]. We play with her own journey around that in the film, about her own fear and deciding to do it anyway because she really wanted that closeness and didn’t want to say no to me. She kept saying, “I am scared of going into the death spiral,” meaning she was afraid of thinking about death, which became important for us to do. We need to confront these moments of death and our conversation around it. None of it went into the dark side, it actually became very light and a joyful feeling.


How did the blended creative processes represent the mushroom trip and help tell the story?

A lot of this project was learning to follow my gut and intuition, which has been so wonderful and a growth for me as an artist… So in a way, the experience mirrors the experience of taking mushrooms. We jumped off the creative cliff together. The story kept revealing it to us through the environment.

What was so exciting is that mushrooms are a natural powerful healing substance and I have used it recreationally before but especially in using it with my mom, we had a very cathartic experience. I still have moments where I’m like, “Oh, that’s what that meant for me.” The trip is something you are unpacking for the rest of your life. People at MAPS were telling us the importance of the integration experience. Our integration experience was the creative experience and connecting to our creative selves. [We decided to] tell the story of our trip but in third person and detach personalities and look at them as characters. I had to really confront the why—why does this character want so badly to do mushrooms and film it with her mom? When creating this story, I had to be really honest—this character isn’t perfect. Through that we created moments that didn’t actually happen but we were writing a story that was representative of the emotional experience and also that was worthy of a film.

 

Female creators: Meredith Adelaide, Rivka Rivera, Caitlin Kimball.

 

What does all this art and buzz—your film included—mean for the perception and understanding of psychedelic use?

I knew they had been powerful for me in the past but it really started about a film about this relationship between us. Then, getting to know MAPS and doing the research, getting into these communities, there is so much to learn and every time it’s mind-blowing… and to realize it’s rare to see narratives about psychedelics that are really honest. To me, “Crystal Fairy” with Michael Cera was the closest to being really honest but it’s so important to show the healing properties of the power these plant medicines can have. It’s also interesting because I come from a world where I’m wary [of drugs] and aware of the drug abuse. Hopefully, people will start talking about it as a medicine [not as a drug]. Alcohol is a drug, cocaine is a drug. Let’s look back to the genesis of plant medicine and that will be where it’s headed back to. And as a result, it will be something intentionally utilized.

 

 

What did you learn about yourself through the trip experience that you are cultivating now in daily practices?

Self-awareness. I quit smoking. There was a lot of physical stuff and understanding the shift I was making and feeling good. I drink a lot less. There was a much deeper relationship to myself, but creatively, starting to trust myself as a writer, as a director, as a producer, became a level of trust after. Learning to be vulnerable with the [film] idea and with my mom—definitely the mushroom trip was that push.

 

 

You mention this millennial need to capture moments on film and being tied to that, whereas your mom was freer from it. Did the trip experience change that feeling at all for you or make you think more critically of technology in younger generations?

Yes, critical in the sense of self-awareness; exploring it and accepting it because it was a truth I knew and talking about it. It’s so human. There was this moment on the trip I remember of realizing that experiences are so massive; for me, this is a way of capturing it and being able to hold it and be a coping mechanism at times. The only way of dealing with [technology] is accepting it and the acceptance allowed for awareness. [The trip] released me from a lot of self-criticism and turned into gentle awareness and self-love, too. That acknowledgment of the paradox—everything can be too much or too little; it’s about balance. That’s our millennial fight—is the internet a good thing or a bad thing? What a crazy question—it’s a tool that we all know the pros and cons. And that’s the mushroom trip: It takes us out of the space of black and white and things are experienced in a different plane.

 

How have people reacted to your mother-daughter relationship and has the film changed perspective for those not as open to psychedelics?

A lot of people resonated with wanting that closeness or making judgements about what their mother would be. But the coolest thing is so many people have responded and said, “I am sending this to my mom because I want her to have this experience with me.” Someone else had asked if I’d recommend this for everyone. I was like, “Hell no.” We earned it, we did a lot of work on our relationship prior. And while it helped soften our relationship, it’s not for everyone. I hope people go do mushrooms with their mom but I also hope they ask, “are we ready?”

We certainly aren’t the first mother-daughter relationship to trip together. María Sabina, who introduced psilocybin [to R. Gordon Wasson in 1957], had done it with her children but it was part of the ritual. I think the lack of ritual is culturally Western so it’s interesting that intuitively, we added ritual once it began; we added a crystal and the creative integration was also an intuitive ritual; we are lucky for that. There should be ritual involved.