( )To live is to dream upon reality and co-create with spirit.
May 4Getting to the Amazon Jungle was as much a physical journey as a spiritual one. I met with the group in Quito and from there we took a five-hour bus drive that crossed us to the other side of the Andes mountains. The latter part of the journey was at night under heavy thunder and rain. The organizer of the group was a young man from the Czech Republic named Jan, aka Wancho. He was twenty six years old and had been living with an indigenous family in the Amazon jungle for the past year. He had hair down to his waist, braided, a long beard, and a funky smell. There were four other people from the Czech Republic in our group. Besides them, there wss also a German guy named Leon, who came across as strangely introverted;; he was twenty-eight, already balding with a pubic-hairish looking beard he touched a lot. Then there was Henrik, a pale and thin Swiss guy also in his twenties. My first impression of him was that of a loner. And finally Ian, a fit, tall, blue eyed anesthesiologist from Alaska, independent and adventurous was my first take on him. Yep, all first impression judgments, but..., for the sake of description...After five hours by bus the road ended. From there we had to carry our bags and walk through a muddy path for about two hours or so until we reached the property of the Mamallacta family. Everything was built in tra-ditional Amazonian style with native materials. When we arrived we were welcomed into the main hut, where the shaman and his wife lived. The house was on stilts, round and tall, with an inverted cone-shaped roof built out of thatch. On the walls there were many artifacts hanging;;dream catchers, dissected animals, instruments, handcrafted jewelry, wooden fore-shafts, etc. We all sat on the floor as Kobio (Kechua name) aka Elias, the shaman’s oldest son, greeted us in Spanish. Our guide, Wancho, translated Elias’ words to English and Czech (you’d figure most Europeans speak English...not the Czechs). Elias welcomed us to his home. He told us that eight generations of his ancestors had lived and died here, that their knowledge and customs were still kept alive, as well as their memory, names and histories. I wondered at that point if anyone else in the group was realizing how abbreviated their knowledge of their family lineage was in comparison. 298
Elias said that no one from his tribe had ever cross-married, that they planned on keeping things this way and remain living in their land for many years to come. His father, Don Kassimir, a man in his late eighties, was sitting on a chair staring at us with a faint smile. Don Kassimir didn’t speak English or Spanish. His wife, with whom he had eleven children, sat on the floor at his side. As opposed to him, she didn’t smile at us, not even faintly. To her, we were a group of strangers from an unknown far away land, in her house. After a short explanation of the activities of the following eight days, Elias, the shaman’s son, asked us to feel at home, and told us we were all very welcome there.Elias was a strong, robust man, with prominent indigenous features. He had a pleasant voice and a gift for words. Elias was also physically handicapped. His body was deformed from the torso down. His legs were under-developed, one of them shorter and he couldn’t put the sole of the foot flat on the ground, so he walked with a limp to one side. It looked as if he had childhood polio or a snake bit him, or something like that. Anyway, he seemed perfectly used to it, not one bit insecure about it, certainly not limited by it. Elias was as active as anyone else there, if not more. He was a lively social character.After the introduction we were led to the dining hut where we were served a mild lentil soup, with no salt or con-diments, the beginning of our shamanic diet. In the moonlit night we were then escorted to our sleeping huts, which were at a considerable distance from the main house. In the jungle it rains a lot, the paths are muddy and slippery. We had to choose our rooms. I picked the one closest to the river. It was dark and I couldn’t see the river, but I could hear it. My room was small, with only a bed and a wooden bench. Everything was hand built by the members of the family. The windows had no mosquito net so I had to rig a way to hang my sarong and towel as curtains. I placed my sleeping bag on the bed and used the stuffed panda bear my daughter had given me to as pillow. Content, tired and curious, I fell asleep. 299
May 5I woke up nice and early only to discover that the river was but steps away from my room. Birds and butterflies flew all around. ‘I am in paradise’ was my first thought of the day as I bathed in the river.I made my way to the dining area, amazed at the variety of plants and trees, awed by the splendor of it all! It was nature as nature intended;; wild, diverse and vibrant. In front of the main house Elias was tending a fire, preparing the Ayahuasca brew for that night’s ceremony. I stopped to say hello. After a few sentences, I men-tioned that I had taken Ayahuasca before in Peru, with Norma Panduro, otherwise known as Estrella Ayahuasca. I was pleased to learn that he knew her. They had participated in shamanic conferences together. I asked him straightforwardly what he thought happened to her. “It was probably the work of other shamans,” he said. When he saw my face of disappointment he added, “I’m sorry. You asked, and I really do think it was evil spells that killed her. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a lot of envy among shamans because they don’t attract people to them as Norma did.” I realized with that comment, that shamans have as much power to heal, as they have to harm... The group gathered for a simple breakfast, after which Elias showed up again with an exotic red fruit he called Anatto, it’s bright red juicy seeds were used as skin pigments. Elias told us we had to paint our faces in order to enter the primary forest. “This is the traditional way we ask the forest spirit for permission to proceed” he said.This primary forest where he was taking us belonged to the Mamallacta family. “We preserve it so its biodiversity carries on untouched. In this way, we honor and protect Pacha-mama while staying connected to our ancestors.”We painted each other’s faces and followed Elias to a magnificent Garden of Eden, where nothing had been disrupted. As we walked, Elias pointed out plants, telling us their name in Kechua and Spanish, describing their healing properties and how to use them. 300
To our untrained eye, a forest is a place with lots of wildlife and plants;; to the indigenous people, each one of those plants has a name, an entity, an intelligence, and healing abilities. You could say our knowledge ends where theirs begins. The first plant Elias introduced as the forest’s best repellent. He cut off some leaves, rubbed them hard with his palms, spreading the nectar over his arms. We all did the same, adding green arms to our red painted faces. “This one over here,” he continued, pointing to a small plant that looked pretty much like all the other small plants, “is a contraceptive. It is drunk after boiling the leaves for six hours. With one dose a woman will become infertile for five years.” “These red seeds you see here,” he carried on, opening a small fruit, “are taken whole. They are for malaria and for stomach parasites.” Then he walked us to a big strong tree presenting us with the famous Sangre de Dragon (blood of dragon). He stroked the trunk sideways with his machete, from the tree’s surface began pouring a blood-like red liquid which Elias collected on a big leaf. “We use this to cure wounds, it is a powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory sealer. It’s also used orally to cleanse the liver and cure cancer.” he said proudly as we each investigated the curious blood of tree passed around in a large leaf.In a primary forest all types of fauna grow next to each other. There are huge magnificent trees with vines and parasite plants hanging from them, mushrooms, flowers, fruits, all kinds of animals. Elias kept stopping, pointing and explaining: “This tree here is used to make spears, its wood is very strong. The milk from this one is mas-saged in a woman’s vagina when she is having trouble dilating during birth. This leaf I am passing around to smell is very effective for treating asthma. This other plant over here is for epilepsy and that one is for treating fungus.” And on and on he continued, occasionally apologizing for giving us such a brief explanation, “I would need weeks to transmit everything I know about this forest” he explained.It was overwhelming to be in such a pharmaceutical sanctuary. ‘Knowledge is power’, I remember Orion telling me, and knowledge is attained by tuning in to nature, was my conclusion after listening to Elias. 301
One of the main differences between the indigenous people of the Amazon and us, is that they communicate with the spirits of nature. For us, a mountain is just a mountain, a river is just a river, a tree is just a tree. For them, they are entities, healers and protective allies. Indigenous shamans retain an unbroken continuation of knowledge within the realm of plant medicine that is thousands of years old, and is kept alive by oral tradition. That’s a lot of knowledge if you consider that the Amazon is the most biologically diverse place on Earth where more than half of the planet’s plant species are found. Most western pharmaceutical drugs originate from such indigenous shamanic knowledge, though, not much remuneration or credit is ever given to them. Occasionally, Elias would pull out the stem of a palm tree and pass it around for us to taste the crunchy fresh heart of palm. We also ate unfamiliar new fruits, including an orange avocado. Sweaty, scratched, bitten and fascinated we continued deeper into the forest. Elias pointed out the popular Uña de Gato (cat’s claw) describing it as a powerful tonic for the immune system also used to cure cancer. “This is one of our greatest teachers and healers. This here is a garlic tree.” Elias said as we reached a magnifi-cent, big old tree. With his machete he sliced a small piece of trunk from it passing it around. It had a pungent garlic smell which lingered with us for the rest of the expedition and beyond.
After two hours of walking we got to the sacred cave where the ‘spirits of the ancestors live’, as Elias put it. Before entering he told us, in a very moving way, that for his people this forest is a university, hospital and church. Then he gave us a brief account of historical events, including how, not long ago, Italian missionaries forced shamans to assist Sunday mass or otherwise tortured and beat them unconscious. The cave was a rocky black tunnel with a stream running below it. The deeper, the darker and louder it became.“It takes about an hour and a half to come out the other side,” Elias informed us. None of us had a flashlight so we didn’t venture too far in. Best to leave their ancestors in peace...By the time we got out of the Primary Forest, we were feeling more like ecologists than a group of newly arrived tourists. After a light lunch, the sound of thunder sent us all back to our respective rooms for a reflective restful period while we waited for night to come to be called to the main house for the first ceremony, what we’d come here for. It had been raining hard for hours. When the moment arrived the path leading to the main hut was wet and muddy. Walking in the dark awakened my senses in anticipation. I looked up to see the night sky vibrating with glowing stars. Ayahuasca sessions are always held at night on an empty stomach. Inside the hut, mattresses and heavy alpaca blankets were laid out on the floor against the circular rail. Don Kassimir, our shaman, sat on his chair facing us. We took our places on the mattresses. I sat next to Elias, and directly in front of Don Kassimir. My newly acquainted friend, Ian, was at my left side.Don Kassimir remained silent as Elias spoke on his behalf. He began by welcoming us, then introduced the dif-ferent props used during the ceremony. Namely, a few instruments, the bundle of leaves used to do the ‘limp-ieza’ or spiritual/energetic cleanse, a plate with bits of ginger and orange to chew on after drinking the brew, a bottle of ‘Aguaflorida’ a perfumed water made with alcohol, lemon and herbs (at least that’s what it smelled like) and finally, the Ayahuasca brew. He told us that this night we were going to do an ‘experiment’ and drink the Ayahuasca mixed with the leaves of the Ameruca plant, or cocoa, as we know it, while for the next ceremony we would try it with the traditional Chacruna plant mixed into it. I didn’t like the sound of that. I knew that only 303
a specific combination of plants gave the Ayahuasca vine its full visionary effect...Then again, who was I to disagree?Elias suggested we try to ‘fall in love’ with the spirit of Ayahuasca, approaching her gently, with the clear inten-tion of openly receiving her medicine and teachings. He concluded his introduction to the ceremony by explaining the technicalities of the ritual. Mainly, that when we felt the need to vomit we could either stand up, turn over and throw up over the rail, or we could go outside and vomit anywhere we wanted. “The Earth also wants the medicine,” he said. Oh boy...Then he sang a few songs in Kechwa, and finally called us, one by one, to drink roughly one ounce of the reddish-brown concoction, served in the same cup for all. One ounce might not sound like much, but Ayahuasca tastes horrible and it’s hard to gulp down. After we all drank the candles were blown out. We sat without speaking, just feeling the brew move inside our system, doing what it does. There was thunder far away, but inside, the silence was dense, the waiting unbearable.Ten minutes passed, twenty minutes passed. The unpleasant sensation of something heavy in the stomach made time slow down. Wancho rolled natural tobacco in dried banana leaves and passed them around. Tobacco is habitually used in ceremony for it’s considered ‘food for spirits’. As it turns out, spirits like smoke, who knew?...I had my mantra prayer beads with me. I kept moving them as I prayed repeatedly for a “clear mind and a pure body”, one hundred and eight times, at the end of which the nausea started to get worse and worse.Soon I was up, turned over the rail, vomiting forcefully. It was punishing. I vomited repeatedly, convulsing to squeeze out the last drop of liquid from my stomach. Choking, gasping, vomiting some more. When I thought it was done it started all over again. I felt miserable! Ayahuasca purging is brutal. I had the thought of wanting to 304
go home, lie next to my daughter and touch the perfect soft skin of her innocent face. What am I doing here? Why do I have to do this? A voice inside of me complained as I sat there breathing heavily with cold sweat running down my forehead. I was the first in the group to be sick but everyone else soon followed. Eventually I had to get up to go to the bathroom. Ayahuasca has a way of flushing the intestines cleansing them of accumulated toxins that is better than any colonic. At that point I started having the first visions of the night. I saw electrified energy buzzing over everything I looked at, including myself, like miniature lightning radiating charged static from matter. I carefully made my way back to my mattress and laid there quietly, shivering. Someone brought me an extra blanket. All covered up in fetal position, I felt like a seed that did not wish to be disturbed. I was weak which made me sympathetic for people that go through severe medical treatments, like chemotherapy, withstanding similar levels of discomfort and nausea. I thought about my aunt who died recently, invaded with cancer after years of treatment. I felt sorry for her and all those forced to endure sickness and treatments. After a while Don Kassimir called each one of us for the ‘limpieza’, or energy cleanse. The limpieza consisted in sitting in front of him as he sang shaking his bundle of chaturanga leaves over our heads and shoulders. Then, taking a big sip from the Aguaflorida bottle, he would belch the liquid over our arms and shoulders. He followed that light shower, by grabbing our head and pressing his lips against the crown, sucking on our scalp, then spit-ting some more perfumed water over it. When my dreaded turn came, I wasn’t looking forward to it, especially the spitting, but there was nothing I could do but succumb. I sat obediently, as straight as I could, letting him perform his ritual on me. At that moment I missed Norma, my spiritual mother. I missed her voice, her music, most of all, as I sat there being spewed on, I missed her unconditional wise love. But I knew, somehow, she was right there with me, there with the Ayahuasca.After the limpieza I had very lucid thoughts with strong visions of unexplainable changing geometric forms coming towards me. I noticed that I could at once see the hallucinations and control them (to a point). It was 305
as if they were happening to me, but I was happening to them as well. As my mind tried to discern the new sensations and assimilate the flashing multicolored images, I had the chilling realization that my so-called human existence is all primarily lived out in my head! As it stands, I fathomed, my so called life is mostly one long monologue inside me. With that, Ayahuasca sent me a clear message: it is essential to move from the head to the heart. Making that transition is the best thing you can strive for, Ayahuasca spirit told me. The second best thing, I deduced, was to at least to keep one’s self good mental company, while in the process.In my induced state, I recognized that to transfer our consciousness from the head to the heart can be as simple as choosing what sound to focus at any given moment. It is mindfully choosing to be less mindful, more present in the body, until it becomes natural. May 6I woke up early feeling lighter in every way. The first thing I did was bathe in the river. I submerged myself completely, washing away the saliva and Aguaflorida from my hair. The river felt exquisitely fresh.Lucidity of mind was a noticeable after-effect after that first ceremony. I also noticed the pace of my inner and outer movements seemed delicately modified. I felt more connected, more receptive to nature. With that, a joy, a sheer gladness at simply being me and being there set in.Still, I had to reason with myself after last night’s inner voice said it never wanted to do Ayahuasca again. I knew that was little Miss you know who complaining for being taken out of her comfort zone...I told myself that I was still to find out what it would be like with the traditional Chacruna leaves and not the cocoa ‘experiment’ they gave us. Besides, as awful as the purging had been, this was preventative medicine, a necessary cleanse, and I was feeling transformed by it already.Breakfast was fruit and steamed yucca, after which the group met with the shaman for the ‘evaluation’ of the ceremony as Wancho called it. The evaluation consisted of Don Kassimir telling us how he sensed our spirit 306
and what he did to us during the limpieza. As we all took our same places from the night before inside the main house, the evaluation began. Unfortunately it was made very long due to the continuous translation from Kechua, to Spanish, to English to Check! I was the only one with perfect Spanish and English to notice how much was lost and generously added by form of interpretation. I also noticed that the shaman rarely looked at us in the eye as he spoke, but rather muttered his words in an expressionless manner, keeping a certain distance from us. Or at least, that’s what I thought. Maybe this was a form of protection. After all, who are we to them?The first one up was Leon, the German guy who looked like a combination of Rasputin and some mad scientist. The shaman began in Kechua, Elias followed with a lengthy translation in Spanish, next Wancho gave his ver-sion of it in English, then in Czech. The unsettling surprise was that the shaman’s words were acutely personal from the start. It was startling to witness this linguistic telegraph go over such a private report of the Shaman’s impressions. I was baffled by the method of this so-called evaluation and thought it should have been done one-on-one, rather than in this lenthly group-therapy fashion. Was it really necessary to get exposed like that? I’m are talking painfully personal information tossed around strangers in four languages! Leon, as we were all informed, had not vomited the Ayahuasca. Don Kassimir told him that it was because he was blocked, psychologically sick and always felt lonely. Now how is that for breaking the ice?! Oh dear, I thought, and this is only the beginning... Then Don Kassimir explained that during the limpieza he had removed black bandages from his eyes. The next guy was told that he was a good person but that his spirit was moving in and out of him continuously. Don Kassimir’s description of the healing he gave each one of us was full of fantastic images, colors, talismans and spirits coming in to assist. As he continued describing how he perceived the state of our souls, I kept thinking, there it is again, the wheel of archetypal suffering: The drama of karma.Until that moment I had no idea how much the people around me were in need of help. Most of the group had some sort of emotional, physical, spiritual, or psychological illness. To heal is to be willing to die to something old and resurrect to something new and that’s not easy.My turn to be evaluated was almost last. I must say, it was like waiting for public sentencing. Fortunately he went easy on me and kept it short. First he smiled at me, that was already a lot, then he whispered something in Kechua and Elias turned to me saying, “He washed your spirit with the pure water of a beautiful fountain.” 307
May 7Today we collected fifty different varieties of leaves and flowers from the Secondary Forest filling two large bas-kets that we then took down to the river. We shredded our gatherings in a wooden barrel, then, one by one we sat inside it bathing in this potent botanical infusion. That’s Amazonian Spa therapy for you. I went in first. No secondhand plant baths for me thank you.Elias told us to be especially attentive to our dreams after this natural tonic bath. Elias was a most caring host. I appreciated everything he did for us and considered him a friend.After our herbal infusion was over, we met again by the main house to prepare the Ayahuasca brew for that night. A large pile of cut Ayahuasca logs waited for us over a mantle of banana leaves. First we had to scrape off the surface of the wood with knives, revealing the reddish smooth skin underneath. Then we shredded the Ayahuasca liana by pounding it with rocks. The shredded logs went into a big pot of boiling water over the fire. I got so involved in the task I developed a big painful blister on my thumb. So I asked Elias to give the Sangre de Dragon tree a machetaso so I could disinfect and seal my painful blister with it’s nectar, as one does in the jungle. The moon was almost full. Again we were called to the main hut. A condor could be heard singing in the distance. We took our places as Elias began with an evocation song to contact the spirit of Ayahuasca. The brew was served, the candles blown out, the tobacco offered. We waited again. The moon was present with us, as was the sound of the condor and other animals, birds, frogs, crickets, monkeys. It was cold. We waited in stillness. Again, I was the first to get up and projectile vomit. I lied back down, not feeling well, rocking myself from side to side trembling, cold, yet also sweating. It was intense, I felt the essence of the plant moving in me. I saw everything as a manifestation of energy. Mind is energy, knowledge is energy, everything comes from one source and nothing ever dies, energy becomes, transforms, is renewed, reinvented again and again. For the first time ever, I found the fact that we maintain the same physical form consistently to be an astonishing feat. On Ayawaska I felt I could morph into something else, like a flower, or a bird. Instead I remain as I am and that was suddenly a noteworthy feature. Elias told me his father once shape-shifted into a boa. Someone else had mentioned that about Don Kassimir. Now I can see how it’s possible and believe he probably did. It is the 308
he Cosmic Matrix was all around me like an endless labyrinthine dome. The Cosmic Matrix was all around me like an endless labyrinthinome. “The Cosmic Matrix was all around me like an endless labirynthine dome”
unwavering persistent sameness of our physicality that blows me away. I found it astounding to know for certain that I would wake up the next day to sit in front of Don Kassimir for his evaluation and we will both look exactly as we do today. It’s a special attribute. It actually really is. With my head on the mattress I stared at the shaman seeing the old man as pure white energy. His feather headpiece became a colored crown of dancing lights. I recalled the Jewish tradition of covering the crown of the head with a kippah and pondered about the shamanic roots of mystical Judaism.When I closed my eyes visions of magnificent plants formed in my head. The whole night I saw manifestations of nature full of unbelievable originality. It was a revelation. A clear insight: Creation is not over yet. We are still in Genesis. Nature was displaying herself before me as an ecstatically experimental and erotically creative game. My visions of unfolding forms showed life’s potential for invention is infinite. I saw flowers opening spreading hundreds of colored rays out into the universe forming beautiful mandalas that became undulating, seductive, vulva-like blossoms that transformed into fractals within fractals. What I saw was awesome! At the same time I sensed the medicine moving through my system, reprogramming it. Ayahuasca spirit told me to live with hope and not fear, showing me that life is playful, that creation is always creating, that existence is affirmative and full of surprises. All the fear-based apocalyptic mentality melted away. Divine spirit is abundant and blissful, there are endless expressions of life, simply for the sake of life itself.I got up to go outside. The moon was shining bright, everything looked ultra-real. My thoughts were coherent. I got a message regarding a future project. Again more visions, all about nature, all beautiful and impossible to describe. I witnesed ceaseless births as a sense of peace and contentment set over me. I recalled my family and friends, and blessed each one of them. No thoughts troubled me. I reviewed my life seing the changes that are coming. When I got back inside the hut, Don Kassimir was doing the limpieza. It was my turn. He repeated my name in his prayers, shaking the bundle of leaves and splashing the perfumed water over me. This time, I didn’t mind so much the spitting and sucking on my head.I have one last vision. First of a gleaming yellow light, like a sun with many colors around it. I concentrate and the lights condense into a single tunnel. I move deep into the tunnel, until I reach an entrance where there is a 310
gate. At the gate I receive a jewel, a pendant made out of gold with a yellow precious stone. It has the shape of a tear drop. It is very beautiful. I am mesmerized by it.This night I cannot sleep, I listen to the river, hear the birds and all the sounds of the forest’s busy nightlife. Time is endless when you can’t sleep! May 9By seven am I was already out of bed and in the river. As I headed for breakfast I passed through the main house, two people from the group were still sleeping in there since thet night before, Elias was looking after them. I stoped to chat. Elias tells me a few stories, what he calls ‘healing secrets’, like using the blood of bats mixed with herbs to re-grow hair for balding men, or the account of a young woman who was cured of breast cancer using Sangre de Dragon. He explained that in order to heal, the sick person must have faith and willing-ness to break the pattern of sickness. I knew that. I eat half a banana, that’s enough. During the evaluation Elias told the group that if we could see how the Ayahuasquereo shamans work during the ceremonies we would realize that we are all connected like a net and that numerous light spirits are hovering around assisting us. “We are surrounded by spiritual helpers” he assured us with his humble and sincere smile. He also told us that his ancestors, the shamans of the past, had greater powers than they do today. That their abilities were less diluted.I appreciated how Elias expressed himself so poetically. “As conscious spiritual seekers that you are, you are here to become a part of the root system that keeps the mother tree standing” he said to us before moving on to translate his father’s description of the limpieza of the 311
night before. Again, it was full of marvelous imagery, spirits, and remarkable occurrences. To us Don Kassimir’s perceptions are visions, yet, to him, they are totally real. Don Kassimir told someone in our group that he had given him crystal glasses, and to another he said he put the protection of an entire rainbow around him. When it was my turn I told him about the tunnel of light and the gemstone I had received at the gate. He said it was an amulet, a protection charm, that I should not forget about it and should think of it as a gift to facilitate opening the heart. May 10After covering myself in bug spray I decided to go into the nearby town of Tena, to call my daughter. I managed to get her on the phone, but she was having too much fun at the moment and barely wanted to speak. Children and phones don’t mix. She was doing great, that’s all I wanted to know. All my clothes are dirty. I washed them in the river and now they have a moldy smell. Besides that, insects are incessantly feasting on my blood, my DNA is spread all over the forest, thanks to them. I set the camera on self-timer to take a picture of my back. I have at least one hundred bites on my back alone. I’ve lost weight, which is always good. My biggest fantasy right now is a hot shower and dry, clean clothes. What a luxury!Today I stumbled upon a snake, not too big, only about twenty inches long. It was black with red marks. I think that means poisonous. Interestingly, it seemed more afraid of me than the other way around. Night came. We got called to the main hut. A voice inside kept telling me not to take the Ayahuasca on this night. I felt a lot of tension about this decision. I didn’t know what to do. These ceremonies seem to revolve around healing the body, mind, and spirit, but I am not sick. I am here to find out more about who I am, and who I am is not sick, that I know. 312
The moon was full. The condor only sings on full moon nights. After we took our usual places, I whispered to Elias, “Please skip my turn.” I was appeased as he accepted my request with no questions asked. I was happy to be a part of the ceremony without drinking the brew. I still got spasms of nausea just from looking at the others gulp it down. On this occasion, listening to my inner voice was more empowering than drinking Ayahuasca. I had no regrets but rather a sense of reaffirmed personal strength. The candles were blown out. We all sat once again in still-ness, there is never silence in the jungle. I sat in an upright lotus pose, sinking effortlessly into a deep meditation. My mind was perfectly balanced. All was going smooth until, Henrik, the Swiss guy, decided he was dying. The young man was frail-looking to start with, but now even his lips seemed to have lost their color. “Help, help, God help me, somebody help me.” Henrick screamed out.I instinctively ran over to him. He grabed my arm and pulled me towards him holding me desperately. What he needed was human touch. What he needed was to be saved from the spear of loneliness. Earlier that day Henrik had told me that he didn’t mind the taste of Ayahuasca because he was used to drinking bad-tasting medicine. “Why? What for?” I asked. “For cleansing my system,” was his answer. To which I replied, “But you are so thin, what do you need to go cleansing for? What about just being human, Henrik? Rice and beans, farts and all. You don’t need to put yourself through continuous cleansing.” I’m no doctor, but that boy looked too purified and cleansed to me.Henrik held on to me. I understood my duty that night was to be of service. He is troubled, tormented, sick from his own thoughts. He asked me to touch his shaved head. He had a skin rash all over his body. Again, I’m no doctor, but it just looked psychosomatic...His pimples are his insecurities I thought. Then he asked me to give him a foot massage. A pushy request, but I consented. While I touched him I inwardly practiced the meditation of washing myself in white light. Then he asked me to kiss him. I kiss him on the forehead, putting my hands 313
over his chest and smiled, hoping that made him feel better. But a sudden wave of nausea and vomiting came over him, after which he crawled his way to the shaman, asksing him for help. Don Kassimir did his leaf-shaking thing, sang and blew the Aguaflorida on him. Henrik crawled back to his place, and called my name. I went over to him and held his hand. Henrik was going through a dark night of the soul, his loneliness had become intolerable. Up until that moment he had been the introverted one in the group, but tonight the inner anguish had made him reach out.“Your hands are healing,” he said. Then, sounding a bit delirious, he asked, “Who are you?”“An angel” I responded without hesitation. I really feel like his appointed angel for the night, there to give him loving energy. That night I spent a long time unconditionally caring for Henrik. Perfectly aware, as I was doing so, that ‘nothing that is human is foreign to me’.“I am totally lacking friends and I don’t get along with my parents,” he confessed.“My father represents everything that is wrong with the world.” I told Henrik that if he lived without judgment he would set himself free and everyone else in the process. “What do you mean? Explain that to me.”“Well, if you simply accept your father as he is, you are free from classifying him as right or wrong and he is free to be who he is. So you see, both of you will be liberated once you stop judging.” After my explanation Henrik started whispering to himself “accept him, accept him, accept him...” I also told him to get some sun, “it will give you back strength and joy”“But, most importantly Henrick, you have to stop detoxifying your system.”“I do?” He said, sounding surprised. “Yes. Be done with self-punishment, it is harming you.”Don Kassimir gave me a limpieza. When he finished he whispered to Elias softly in Kechua. “He said you’ve already incorporated the healing he gave you the last time”. The truth is, that during the limp-ieza I was doing internal work myself, intentionally radiating as much light as I knew how. In part, to see if Don Kassimir would notice. 314
May 11Ian, the nice guy from Alaska, and I, decided we were going to meet the other shaman Wancho had mentioned on his emails. His name was Don Lucho. He is a local Yacha, Kechua for shaman. Not all Ayahuascas are made the same. It seems to me that Don Kassimir’s is more for healing, but since that is not what I am looking for, I wanted to try another while I was still in the Equadorian Amazon. I also wanted to break free from the group dynamic as I was starting to get caught up in others’ personal issues and karmic levels. There is not much I can do to help;; everyone has their own journey. Ian and I thanked the Mamallacta family, said goodbye to the group and Wancho, grabbed our bags and walked out the muddy road. When we turned to look back, the last thing we saw was Henrik in a tree house, looking miserable because he had requested the potent tobacco tea used to purge the system. We had to laugh. When we got to the paved road we hopped onto a pickup truck that was on its way to Tena, where Juan, the son of our new shaman, was waiting for us. Juan looked like a man with a good heart. He was soft spoken, humble and gentle. My radar of love sent trusting, calming signals around him. During the taxi ride from the town to his house he told us that his mother was in charge of the preparation of the brew, though she had never tried it herself, and that his father did the energy work during the ceremony. That their Ayahuasca was very strong and it’s effects lasted four to five hours with many visions.Don Lucho, was rolling tobacco in dried banana leaves when we arrived. A couple of skinny dogs lay next to him, while a chicken roamed around. Ian and I sat down to talk to him.Don Lucho looked like he was in his fifties. He was a small man, about five foot four, with a sweet, child-like smile and a very gentle manner. His eyes were deep, his movements and speech peaceful. Like his son, there was tranquility about him. “My father and grandfathers have all been shamans,” he began to relate to us. “When I was eight years old, my father took me to a sacred fountain and left me there for four days. This was my initiation, my first encounter with the spirits that live in nature. These spirits are like people” Don Lucho told us, “but far more powerful and wise.” 315
"Eveything is made of light, he said,and the space between isnt empty."Don Miguel Ruiz The Cosmic Matrix was all around me like an endless
“When I turned seventeen, my father instructed me to go down the river on a canoe and continue rowing towards Peru. Eventually,” he continued telling us as he rolled the tobacco,“I met another Yacha on the way who directed me to a smaller stream which led into a very different place. There, I encountered two beautiful naked women who grabbed me by the hand and took me to a place where they kept a huge anaconda. They instructed me sit on it as they patted it, speaking to it in its language “Apa, apa” (relax, relax). Then a man appeared.” The story kept getting better! I was in charge of translating it to Ian who listened attentively. Don Lucho described this man he encountered as robust and tall chief, wearing a metal shield that looked like fish scales. “The man put his hand on my shoulders, looked straight into my eyes, and declared that he was transferring all of his powers on to me. He also told me that for the next twenty five years I was not to tell anyone about this incident, except for my father, and that for those same twenty five years I had to follow a strict diet and drink no alcohol. On top of that, I had to make a vow of celibacy for one year.” This last requirement, Don Lucho assured us repeatedly, was the hardest one by far.“But this,” he explained, “is how I gained my shamanic powers and the gift of healing.”He said he spent those twenty five years learning from his father about botanical medicines to heal all sorts of illnesses, and that ever since, people from all over the world, like us, had found him and come to drink his medicine.What an introduction!After being transported to such a magical realm, I discreetly asked him, in the most respectful way, if what he had just told us was a vision or if it had actually happened for real? Don Lucho assured me, with a sincere expression, that this chronicle had happened to him just as he had recounted it. Then he stood up and asked us to get ready for the ceremony.The ceremonial hut was constructed in traditional Amazonian style, set in a field separate from the family house. We could hear a strong river very close by. Ian said it sounded like an industrial factory that never closed. 317
Don Lucho, it turned out, looked quite different in his shamanic attire. He wore only a pair of black shorts, a long beaded necklace, and a feathered headpiece. His lean body was pure muscle mass. He sat on a tree trunk with his bare feet planted firmly on the ground, his spine erect and his chest expanded. His presence was strong. Ian and I were the only visitors that night. Besides us, quite a few members of the shaman’s family gathered around him;; his wife, his son, his brother-in-law, and three adolescent boys. I was served the Ayahuasca first, then Ian, then Juan, and lastly, the shaman. No one else drank. I confess I was a bit frightened and drank only about two thirds of what he served me. This time, though, it didn’t taste that horrid, nor was it such a torture to sit with it as it passed through my system. Everything was a bit lighter, a bit easier here. The candles were blown out and Don Lucho played a beautiful melody with his small flute. Then he stood up and went outside, everyone in his family followed him as he started speaking loudly to some invisible entities. He sounded authoritative. I didn’t understand anything. He had the Aguaflorida in one hand and his bundle of surupanga leaves on the other as he vocalized something in a commanding tone, blowing and shaking his leaves. He was quite good at expelling the perfumed water into the air, it looked like aerosol spray when he did it. All and all, I didn’t really get what was going on.So I walked around, surprised not to be feeling sick or heavy in my stomach. Soon after, Don Lucho was back in his place inside the hut, calling me in for the limpieza. I went inside and sat on the tree trunk in front of him. Don Lucho started playing his flute while gazing directly into my eyes with striking concentration. His gaze was piercing and unyielding. The vibration of his flute filled me, he was taking me on a trance by connecting his energy and attention to mine. It was intense. As he was doing this, my perception of reality shifted into some sort of bio-spiritual realm. He kept staring at me in a way that no one ever had. I looked back at him and his face began to change. For a moment he had no face, there was only the instrument, the headpiece, and what looked like an erased face. Then his body became like an evocation of a tribal king. Don Lucho began to sing his Icaro, or sacred song for the spirits. He repeated his melody on and on like a mantra. Then he blew Aguaflorida on my shoulders, on the palms of my hands, on my face, and made strange gurgling sounds as he pressed his mouth to the crown of my head and sucked on it. He did the same thing on the inside of my wrists. It felt like suction cups. At that point the effects of the brew got to me, I was breathing heavily, trying to keep it together, but he kept singing while pounding my head and shoulders with the surupanga leaves and he wouldn’t stop. It went on and on. I was bearing it stoically, but eventually I lost my composure. I couldn’t take it any more. I got up, ran outside, barely making it to the door when I started vomiting.
It’s not easy. It never is. Juan rushed behind me and continued to sing, shaking the leaves over me. I couldn’t take it. “No mas, por favor, no mas” I managed to utter, and he helped me to one of the beds.I laid down wrapped in a blanket and the visions began straightaway. With eyes open I could see the grid of rainbow-colored geometrical patterns encircling me. The Cosmic Matrix was all around me like an endless laby-rinthine dome. With eyes closed, the visions were even stronger and came complimented by sensations all over my body, with cellular information. I experienced an octopus-like creature with tentacles that were like blue and green serpents attached to a pulsating glowing fleshy center. This creature was inside of me. It’s nucleus was vagina-like, and moved in an erotic undulating rhythm, ravenous and curious. The tentacles were numerous and advanced indulgently in all directions. I could feel this energy manifesting inside me. Every crease of my being had a tentacle exploring it. The effect was like being seized by an entity that was reprogramming me, molecule by molecule. I became the experience, the vagina with the phallic tentacles, the masculine and feminine, the sacred vital energy. The sensations were at once revelations, wordless disclosures of a whole other plane of reality. It was overpowering and stimulating in an intriguing tantalizing new way. I began to take some control and noticed that I could direct this energy to any part of my being that I became aware of. This gave me a premonition on how shamanic healing works;; namely, by utilizing powerful, unlimited, trans-dimensional, psycho-spiritual forces. Most importantly, I realized that within me and within everyone exists the potential to activate that power. Magic is accessible and inherent in us. The shaman is any of us who choses that path.In my visions a woman with long dark hair and caramel skin appeared dancing and smiling as she handed me an orange flower. She was naked, wild and free. She disappeared as fast as she came. Her flower was the second gift from spirit, how lovely! At this point I was feeling very good, splendidly sublime to be accurate, I was having a rather pleasurable experi-ence when I heard Don Lucho call me back as he apparently hadn’t finished with my limpieza. This time, when I sat in front of him, he held my hands palms facing up, passing his strong thumbs over them. Then he looked at me with contemplation and spoke in his calm, sincere way. He revealed things about my past and about my future that were surprising. I began to cry unable to stop the tears. Don Lucho stood up, resumed singing and shaking his leafs and then urged me not to cry. “Be strong” he commanded. 319
( `The waves of sensations were at once revelations, wordless disclosures of another plane of reality´. )
I recognized at that moment how much I actually needed this. When he was done, thunder and lightning burst in the sky. I thanked him and slowly went over to check on Ian who’d been lying silently on one of the mattresses.“How are you, my friend?” I asked. “Oh-my-God! This is amaaazing!” Was his response. When he described his visions I knew exactly what he was talking about, he was experiencing the same serpen-tine-pussy presence that had visited me, although, in Ian’s (masculine) description of the experience, he was making love to it. He told me he was having realizations about everything in nature being essentially orgasmic and fecund. His voice was full of pleasure as he described it. “Just imagine all those flowers being pollinated, ah the joy of it! Ahh Just think how they shiver with expectation. Woho, here comes the wind, ahh yes!” Ian was happy.That night as the effects of the medicine were subsiding, Juan and I sat by the fire, smoking one of his natural tobaccos, as he shared his insights about the future as he had seen in visions. Ayahuasca, he said, had shown him there would be much destruction “mountains will be the safest place to be”.He also told me about the time he drunk a very strong dose and saw his soul leave the planet, go into outer space, and meet the Virgin Cosmic Mother. “She was surrounded by clouds, wearing a transparent dress and a crown. She was full of love. Our Cosmic Mother is beautiful.” He said. “Really?” I asked fascinated. “Yes, we have a Cosmic Mother and a Cosmic Father. My people have always known that.”The Virgin Mother is a Christian motif, I commented, and then asked him about Jesus? He said that indigenous people understood his message of love, but that they could not relate to the power of the Church and what had been done to them in his name. I didn’t sleep that night. Early the next morning, Don Lucho, back as his everyday humble self, took Ian and I on a long walk in the forest by the river. Ayahuasca alters the outlook of the natural world. After all, lets face it, our modern civilization has disconnected us from nature to a point that we’ve forgotten how to relate to it. We talk about being spiritual, yet the word itself implies we let spirit in! Ayahuasca, and other sacred visionary plants, do just that, they let spirit in, in the process, displaying for us our fears, so that we won’t be afraid of them any more. They show us that we are a lot more than we thought we were, and reality is far more interesting. 321
We had one more night to go. One last chance to take part in this ritual that has been alive among the people of Amazonas for thousands of years. Thanks to which, here in the Amazon, faith is not taught, it is lived. There is no religion to follow, but wonders to encounter. These old shamans are guardians of human consciousness because they have retained ancestral knowledge and have remained connected to the Earth,Sky and the spirit entities within them. Shamans can thus guide us into remembering who we are and what we are a part of. They are the link to our forgotten past and the approaching future. Before the start of our last ceremony, Ian grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me, I have something to show you.” We walked to an open field where he extended his arms and said proudly, “I present to you our Milky Way Galaxy.” Before the start of our last ceremony, Ian grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me, I have something to show you.” We walked to an open field where he extended his arms and said proudly, “I present to you our Milky Way Galaxy!” We both looked up. And there it was indeed, perfectly delineated, the Milky Way with us in it. How amazing. What a sight! And to think that this galaxy is only one of many, a part of something bigger, that is part of something even bigger, that we are also a part of. Standing there gazing at millions of stars at once was as if we were being given our coordinates before going on our last psychonautic adventure.After we all drank, I asked Juan to put a mattress outside for me. The vast view of the magnificent clear sky was too mighty to pass on. The stars were calling me. I spread my sleeping bag over the mattress and laid looking up, thrilled, as if I’d just gotten front row seats to the best show immaginable.I found myself relating to one of the stars, one that looked particularly bright and yellow. It seemed to be screaming out for companionship blinking up there all on its own. I focused on it and its light became a tunnel that came towards me as if the star wanted to slide down through it. I got the feeling that this star would love to change places with me, even for a moment, just enough to feel what it is like to be a woman on Earth. I kept looking at it thinking “Go ahead, come on down. I’ll switch places with you, I’ll be a shin-ing star, but only for a moment.” The desire to merge was mutual. After all, we are made from the same substance. Somehow, we could. 322
That night, the Ayahuasca’s effect triggered in fast. I tried to get up, only to realize that I was very much ‘on it’, seeing a holographic sub-reality within matter. On Ayahuasca, parallel universes, time travel, transdime-sional worm-holes, and quantum physics are not subjects in books, they are real and experiential at once. On Ayahuasca, one can actually see the interwoven multi-faceted plane of existence. The Vine of the Soul allows us to use more than our ordinary ten percent brainpower. Revelations come with information, which, in turn, become the wisdom that leads to Oneness with all that is perceived. When that happens, we are not separate, but a self-aware part of a self-aware universe. Because we, too, are from outer-space, we too are part of the great creative spirit. We are much more than physical beings living only in one moment in time. We are Homo Luminous multidimensional beings, it’s just that our brains are asleep to that for now. The physical effects were coming on strong. I tried to take a walk, but soon was down on my knees, breath-ing heavily, staring at the grass below me, observing the small area transformed before me into a geometri-cally arranged glowing garden, a miniature intricate maze. In the center of which there appeared a rotating orbiting planet-like spheres. I knew that if I stayed focused I could co-create more little planets, even an en-tire miniature solar system, right there, on a patch of grass. Superimposing one reality over another became like a game of spotting surprises and forming them at once. But my untrained mind could not sustain the concentration, on top of that, I was feeling queasy.
believe in anything. I am comfortable in the place of not knowing, of emptiness, of discovery. BecauseI was hallucinating. But who is to say that reality isn’t but one divinely inspired hallucination? The physical effects were coming on strong. I triedknow. a walk, but soon was beyond beliefs there is more, much more.That I to take down on my knees, breathing heavily, staring at the grass below me.The small areaI pondered if our world isn’t but a hologram that our minds create, believe in and perpetuate as real. If I looked at transformed before me into a geometrically arranged glowing garden,we are made in the image of God, we must then recognize divine imagination as the source of creation and that source is within us. and blue colors that rotated faster and faster, until the colors blended, fusing into a bright green orbiting sphere.The sphere kept spinning and spinning, eventuallyI managed to stand up and walk around. I could hear the shaman singing, someone purging, the river in the distance. I looked up at the busy sky with its millions of stars and thought, these stars may be bright, I focused and stayed with it I could co-create more little planets, even an entirehuge and glorious, but humans have a soul, a mind, and a heart, and those are mighty special features. miniature solar system, right there, on a patch of grass. Superimposing one reality over another became like a game of spotting surprises and forming them at once.I thought about my life with immense gratitude. I thought about Jay, and how good he had been to me, But my untrained mind could not sustain the concentration, on top of that, I washow much he had taught me. I thought about Orion, and felt proud of him for being the silent hero that feeling queasy.he is. I wished he could be there with me, that he could see everything I was seeing. I prayed for him and for each one of my brothers and sisters, for my mother and father. And then I said a special prayer for my biggest love, my most precious star in the Universe, Catalina Aluna, my purpose, my adoration, my entire trip. Of course I was hallucinating. But who is to say that reality isn’t but onebaby girl. divinely inspired hallucination?to be with us after all. HThat night everything came together for me. I understood that my spiritual path is leading toward a stronger bond with nature and that all the answers we seek are encoded within us, it is a matter of re-visionary plants, and of meditation.Every initiation entails a transformation. As a race we are about to go through a massive collective initia-tion. It is up to each one of us to become conscious of it. Either way, it is happening. Our world is chang-ing. Already our children are more evolved than we were at their age, and see the world from a grander-perspective.
The Ayahuasca ceremony serves as metaphor for our planetary initiation. Earth herself will need to purge, ex-pelling accumulated toxins. But, after the storm, after the darkness and the sickness all will all be healed and renewed again with an illuminated new consciousness. And just like with Ayahuasca, we will discover we are Mother Earth needs the assistance of all of her spiritual warriors, lovers, shamans, healers, light workers, peace and wisdom keepers, all those who believe that she has to be protected and honored and are ready to act with I believe our age demands a collective commitment to evolve. It is time to bond with the soul of the world as we bond to the soul of our brothers and sisters. The Earth is a living conscious being, she can feel, she can hurt, she can heal, she is aware of our intentions and affected by our actions. This is where we went wrong, we forgot Earth was alive and conscious. It is time to awaken to the fact the micro is in the macro, that in the measure that we take care of each other, and of the tiny fragment of the world that we inhabit, we are also taking care of the whole. As we live in harmony we create harmony around us. Our pulse is the pulse of all creation.After writing these pages I understand that we are a connected part of something great that by nature expands So I’ve come to the end. But before I do I want to make one thing clear: Whatever I know is constantly chang-ing. I’ve seen enough to know that nothing is static, especially not ideas. Regardless of that, searching is my path, even if the knowledge gained is at once prone to revision and adjustment. “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing” said Socrates. I feel the same way.After nine months of self-reflectivion there is just one thing I can concretely say: there will always be an unknow-able, one out of our reach, no matter how deep we dig. That’s the way it goes...so it is not about reaching conclu-sions, but observing life as it moves and deciphering the metaphors. I capture moments with my camera only to see them dissolve instantly into something else.
v So it seems I finally labored this book! My time with pen and paper led me to dissect whatever I believed only to conclude I don’t want to believe in anything. I am comfortable in the place of not knowing, of empti- ness and discovery. Because beyond beliefs there is more, much more. That I know. My experience is that as we continue to expand our consciousness and move to higher vibrations, we will open up to new worlds and new spirit helpers. Out of free will, I allure and welcome them in my life. Dear reader, please take this Open Book as an invitation to see the world from the perspective of an artist, nothing more. To live is to dream upon reality and co-create with spirit. Living is indeed an art of the imagination! Having said that, lets keep in mind, that you and I are not so different, we both have a story to tell. The question is, who is willing to reveal it? Inside every story there is another story, and what is truer than the truth? Finally it is my sincere wish that if a child ever asks you ‘is this your best life?’, you too will answer without hesitation ‘Hell yeah!’
“Look at every path closely anddeliberately, then ask ourselves thiscrucial question: Does this path havea heart? If it does, then the path isgood. If it doesnt, it is of no use.”Carlos Castaneda
We had one more night to go. One last chance to take part in this ritual that has been alive among the people of Amazonas for thousands of years. In the Amazon, faith is not taught, it is lived. There is no religion to follow, but wonders to encounter. The old shamans are guardians of human consciousness because they have retained ances-tral knowledge and have remained connected to the Earth, Sky and the spirit entities within them. Shamans can thus guide us into remembering who we are and what we are a part of. They are the link to our forgotten past and approaching future. Before the start of our last ceremony, Ian grabbed my hand and said, proudly, “I present to you our Milky Way Galaxy.” We both looked up. And there it was indeed, perfectly delineated, the Milky Way with us in it. How amazing. What a sight! And to think that this galaxy is only one of many, a part of something bigger, that is part of something even bigger, that we are also a part of. Standing there gazing at millions of stars at once was asthough we were being given our coordinates before going on our last psychonautic adventure.clear sky was too mighty to pass on. The stars were calling me. I spread my sleeping bag over the mattress and laid looking up, thrilled, as if I’d just gotten front row seats to the best show immaginable. The physical effects were coming on strong. I tried to take a walk, but soon was down on my knees, breathing heav-ily, staring at the grass below me. The small area I looked at transformed before me into a geometrically arranged rotated faster and faster, until the colors blended, fusing into a bright green orbiting sphere. The sphere kept spinning and stayed with it I could co-create more little planets, even an entire