Americans on Ayahuasca from Catalyst Magazine


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'Americans on Ayahuasca' an article published in Catalyst Magazine by Trisha McMillan, featuring paintings by Pablo Amaringo from the book 'The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo' by Howard G Charing and Peter Cloudsley

To see all paintings in the book, with interviews, photo galleries, and the opportunity to buy fine art archival prints of Pablo Amaringo's work, visit the website of the book;

<a>The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo</a>

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Americans on Ayahuasca from Catalyst Magazine

  1. 1. 14 May 2011 FEATURE Americans on ayahuasca The earth speaks to us through the Amazonian tradition. BY TRISHA MCMILLAN A yahuasca is changing how we see our world. Over the past two or three decades, its use has spread beyond the confines of the jungle and has come to the attention of Western culture. In the past five years, legacy media outlets from the New York Times to Time magazine have run articles on ayahuasca. Last October Delta Airlines’ in-flight Sky magazine included a piece on ayahuasca tourism. Then, this January, ran an article sympathetic to ayahuasca practice and use. Something fundamental is going on.All artwork byPablo AmaringoSee page 18 for informationon Pablo and his art.
  2. 2. A yahuasca, the shamans say,has a message for us. The curanderos or ayahuasqueros, who guide people on these journeys, are often the principal source of med- verse, and a way to heighten my own senses and my own awareness.” Margaret Ruth says she was taken A casual description of the ical assistance in Amazonian villages to a place she had not expected, but AYAHUASCAayahuasca experience sometimes far from any city or hospital. They it was profound. “I was given ansounds like a thumbnail sketch ofhell. Yet this Amazonian psychedelic also function as psychologists, dis- pute mediators and spiritual guides enormous amount of information about the nature of mother energy. METABOLISMmedicinal tea has shown countless for their communities. Being able to touch that—the spirit The ayahuasca tea is brewed of creation, touching how deeply from two primary components: the that spirit loves everything—was crushed bark of the ayahuasca vineAyahuasca has been described by various sources amazing. I was aware of all this love (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaves of a different plant, traditionallyas “10 years of therapy in a single night,” and there radiating from the earth toward us— I mean, you can think about it and chacruna (Psychotria viridis). The chacruna leaves provide dimethyl-are thousands of written accounts—on the Internet feel it emotionally, but to ‘get it’ at the first and second chakra level was tryptamine (DMT), a naturally-occur- ring psychedelic found in manyand published in books—that describe the tea’s very calming. I came out of the experi- ence much calmer and more secure. plants and animals, which is also created in small quantities in thepsychological healing effects. Not all of her experience was love pineal gland of the human brain. and light. “But the Earth mother said DMT is a very strong hallucinogenic, to me to look again—because from but it is usually broken down by thepeople how to conquer their fears Ayahuasca is not an easy, instant- the point of view of the big picture, digestive tract before sufficientand embrace love and life, coming gratification karma cleanser. It is not she always wins. It was a sure, calm- quantities of it can be absorbed byaway changed, happier, and more at a commodity; it’s a rite of passage. ing energy, and this definite idea the body to create a psychedelicease with their lives. The visionary artist Alex Grey has that wars and aggression and pollu- trance state. The ayahuasca vine Amazonian tribes have been in- described the experience as “a very tion can come through into reality, component of the tea provides agesting the brew ritually for millennia. humbling taste of Buddhahood but that in the end they will never monoamine oxidase inhibitorIn recent decades, Shamanic retreats mixed with swimming in the swill of win.” (MAOI), which inhibits metaboliccatering to thousands of spiritual my own vomit!” Margaret Ruth describes her expe- enzymes and allows the DMT in thetourists seeking the ayahuasca ex- rience as full-body, not just visual.” It tea to enter the bloodstream andperience have sprung up throughout One woman’s voyage was multidimensional. I had an become active in the brain. Thethe Amazon basin and into Central energetic experience, and my brain experience is intense. Even though Ayahuasca is idiosyncratic, and our brains both make DMT and uti-America. Clearly, the world is begin- everyone who takes it will experience assigned images to that experience lize it metabolically in very smallning to pay attention. it in a different way. Salt Lake-based —for instance, on the night of the amounts, in larger doses it is one of Ayahuasca’s heritage is one of psychic Margaret Ruth agreed to talk last ceremony I was feeling nauseous the strongest psychedelic sub-healing. In the Amazon it is known with me about her recent journey to and coughing a lot, having trouble stances known to humanity. It hasas la purga (the purge) for its ability an ayahuasca retreat in the jungle getting to where I could vomit prop- been theorized that the vivid near-to swiftly clear the gastrointestinal around Iquitos, Peru—her first expe- erly. The shaman said to me, ‘let the death or out-of-body experiencestract and remove any parasites rience with the tea. “It was a vision wizard next to you help you.’ I undergone spontaneously by somedwelling there. It’s also used to treat quest,” she says. “It was wanting a looked up and saw a warrior chief- people are the result of a DMTmany other illnesses and human broader experience with the uni- release cascade occurring naturallytroubles. Continued on next page... in the brain.
  3. 3. 16 May 2011 Continued: FEATURE tain with a raven’s head standing next to me, who was ready to help me let go and release the old, icky energy inside. That energy felt like snakes inside me, and that was why I was coughing so much. The songs that the shaman was singing created a ‘puking’ energy that helped me to vomit! The shaman was very clearly crafting the energy of the situation.” The last two nights of Margaret Ruth’s retreat were intense, and she says she won the “puke award” for the number of times she vomited. Vomiting is integral to the spiritual healing potential of ayahuasca. Purging is a physiological result of metabolizing the tea, but it’s not a side effect to be endured—it’s embraced as part of the experience, expected, and planned for. Bring your own bucket! “A clean understanding” It can be difficult to understand how what might look like ritualized group bulimia can help people heal their spiritual and emotional wounds, but it makes sense within the context of the experience. If you talk to someone who has taken part in ayahuasca healing ceremonies, you may sometimes hear them refer to vomiting up psychic parasites, “entities,” that had been living inside them and feeding off their life force. A Salt Lake City musician who chooses to remain anonymous also talked with me about her expe- rience with the tea, and how it seemed to her that she was literally puking up her problems. The visions were coming on strong and she began to feel nause- ated. “It’s not the straightforward sick feeling you get from food poi- soning. It was coming from the tips of my fingers and toes and the roots of my hair. Everything felt electric, like I was being shocked all over.” Through the visions she saw her mother, with whom she had been at odds for many years. “I felt how much I cared for her and how much her rejection hurt me. Suddenly her whole history presented itself in front of me, and I could see how she got to be who she was, and how the behav- ior between us had evolved over the years to become this negative feed- back loop that had its own life.” That journey also gave her a clean understanding of how she could begin to fix things—by dropping her end of that behavioral loop, and through simple efforts such as telling her mother she loved her (even—and especially—when she
  4. 4. felt no such thing), letting herself be The ayahuasca teavulnerable, reaching out to herwithout grasping at her, and teach-ing herself to react differently to her. does not “cure” your Genpo Roshi“I had known logically what theproblems were, but I’d never been physical ailments in Big Mind is the world’sable to get out from behind thepain. I never had any experience of the mechanical sense. most accessiblecompassion—it was mostly just What it does do, personal empowermentanger and betrayal. But in ceremo- process. Experience itny I felt empathy and love for both however, is to give directly from the source.Mom and myself in a way I’d neverexperienced before. As this aware- you a far deeperness settled itself in my mind, the April 10 — 15sickness in my body reached a understanding of what Big Mind Spring Conferencecrescendo and I vomited —and Imean projectile-style, whole-body- is going on in yourspasm vomiting; there was nothingsubtle or quiet about it!—I vomited body, and a familiarity July 7 — 12my whole sickness into the bucket, Five Days to Deepenand the weight of the problem went with your illness thatwith it. “The relief you always feel after isn’t available to you September 11 — 16you’ve puked up something that’smaking you sick—that bodily feel- any other way. Big Mind Fall Conferenceing of relief—got integrated into my operation between the individualsexperience of the situation. I can’texaggerate this—it really feels as if of a group—or internal, such as the Visit us atElvis is leaving the building.” ego’s resistance to the overwhelming abundance of information made available by the universe. It shakesMetaphorical healing things up and offers a different per- Psychedelic, trance-state visions spective.are compelling, and people are “Ayahuasca gives you the gift ofoften confused or scared by them. uncovering a part of yourself thatThe information that you get needed work,” Clausen says. “It’sthrough an ayahuasca ceremony your own psyche that takes youwalks the line between real and where you need to go. I have seenimaginary, but does not lose power many people run away becausethrough being allegorical. Are peo- they don’t want to deal with theirple literally puking up demons? And fears and the lack of control.does it matter, if the resultant heal- Ayahuasca is different for differenting is real? people, but it always has a way of Thirty years ago, Salt Lake City showing us what we are most afraidacupuncturist and O.M.D. Natalie of. Then we have a choice, whetherClausen attended her first ayahuas- we choose to go back where weca ceremony and met a shamanfrom Peru named Augustine, with were, or to move on. It’s a mistake HEIRLOOM TOMATO PLANTS! to take it on a literal level—it is awhom she later studied. In the survival tool for consciousness.” Amana Orange Caspian Pink Green Grape Pruden’s Purpleintervening years, she has been to Amish Paste Chianti Rose Green Zebra PineapplePeru many times, attended nearly The science Ananas Noir Anna Russian Cherokee Green Cherokee Purple Ildi Isis Candy Principe Borghese Red Grape100 ayahuasca ceremonies, and led behind the substance Arkansas Traveler Costoluto Genovese Italian Tree Red Pearseveral groups to Peru for retreats. Aunt Ruby’s Crimson Carmello Japanese Black Trifle Roma “Ayahuasca is metaphorical,” she Antidepressant drugs that block German Green Currant, Gold Rush Jaune Flammee San Marzanosays. “I have done enough and got- certain actions in the brain, allowing Azoychka Russian Delicious Jet Star Siletz (Parthenocarpic)ten enough very clear and specific the accumulation of “feel good” Banana Legs Dona Kellogg’s Breakfast Silvery Fir Treeinformation through the ceremonies neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopa- Beefsteak Dr Wyches Legend (Parthenocarpic) Speckled Roman mine, norepinephrine) are called Black Cherry DX-52 Lillian’s Yellow Stupicethat has not lived itself out. Ayahuas- Black From Tula Early Girl Mariana’s Peace Sun Goldca gives you information, but each monoamine oxidase inhibitors Black Krim Fantastic, and Marmande Sun Sugarperson has the freedom to do what (MAOIs). Anyone who is prescribed Black Prince Super Fantastic Mexican Super Snow Whitethey want with that information. a drug from this family is aware of Black Seaman First Light Mexican Midget Sweet 100’s Ayahuasca in its native cultures specific (and potentially lethal) food Box Car Willie Fourth of July Mortgage Lifter Thessaloniki and drug interactions. Brandywine, Black, Garden Peach Moscow Tom Catwas always about survival, Clausen Red, and Yellow German Johnson Pink Mr. Stripy Violet Jaspersays. “In the Amazon, the hunters in Ayahuasca also contains MAOIs. Bull’s Heart Goliath’s Bush Old German Wins Allthe tribe would have an ayahuasca Anyone serious about partaking of Bush Beefsteak Goliath’s Early Omar’s Lebanese White Potato Leafritual before the hunt, to help them this plant is advised to apply the Campari Gold Medal Oregon Spring Yellow Pearwork better together as a team. The same cautions here. Responsible Campbells Great White (Parthenocarpic) Zebra Cherryshamans would use it to heal peo- online sites (AYAHUASCA.COM, Plants—tomatoes, herbs, vegetables, edible flowers, organic seed potatoes & onion sets. EROWID.COM) offer details regarding Our herbal learning garden is growing! Look forward to classes on infusions,ple. We take it now to help usexpand our consciousness.” food, drug and herbal interactions. tinctures, salves, poultices, & first aid kits. The personal preparation for an Ayahuasca breaks down barriers, 801.467.9544 • 1432 S 1100 Ewhether they are external—to co- Continued on next page...
  5. 5. 18 May 2011 Continued: FEATURE ayahuasca healing ceremony can be compensate for artificially high opposite of what you see when casual or painstaking, depending on serotonin levels by reducing its sen- you’ve been out partying with peo- one’s intentions. Some participants sitivity—so ayahuasca sidesteps this ple who are just numbing out with spend days or weeks following a spe- issue altogether. alcohol or coke.” cial diet that excludes fermented foods, stimulants and intoxicants. A path to A cure for This cleansing also prepares the overcoming addiction? physical ailments? body to effectively metabolize the Overcoming addiction is one of the Others credit ayahuasca with cur- MAO inhibitors, DMT and other P most promising therapeutic benefits ing them of serious physical ailments ablo Amaringo’s intricate alkaloids in the tea. of the ceremonial use of ayahuasca. including cancer. It does not do so in depictions of the labyrin- A Salt Lake businessman who a mechanical sense. What it does, thine dimensions of the requested anonymity agreed to talk instead, is give a far deeper under- ayahuasca trance state have blessed A different approach with me about his experiences using standing of what is going on in the us with a conceptual map of that to depression? ayahuasca as an aid to break his body, and a familiarity with illness strange land—and they have been Ayahuasca has been described by addiction to cocaine. that is not commonly available. integral to the blossoming of ayahuas- various sources as “10 years of thera- “The first time I went to do To understand how this could be ca consciousness far beyond the py in a single night.” Thousands of ayahuasca, I was actually on cocaine possible, it might be helpful to look Amazon basin. Collected now as written accounts—on the Internet when I arrived at the ceremony. I had more closely at the nature of illness. Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo, 48 of his last works are and in books—describe the tea’s psy- heard that ayahuasca helped with The body is a constantly evolving available in full-color plates with chological healing effects. Outside addiction, but I didn’t understand it waveform moving through material accompanying explanations of the the context of traditional shamanis- at all. I went in and it was so awful. space; a symphony played by 50 tril- Amazonian mythology they reference. tic healing, ayahuasca has been Only after I’d taken the tea and start- lion cells over the course of a life- At age 17, Amaringo nearly died. adopted as a sacrament by at least ed the ceremony did I realize how time. For the body to work proper- While recovering under the care of two formally recognized syncretic dangerous it was. It’s a testament to ly—that is, for one to be healthy—all a local healer, he taught himself to churches, the Santo Daime and the how resilient my body and my brain those cells need to be reading from paint and draw, eventually becoming União do Vegetal (UDV). In 2008, the are that I even survived. the same sheet music. a world-renowned visionary artist. Supreme Court of the United States He describes his visions as melt- At its foundation, illness is a Encouraged in his upheld a lower court’s deci- ing celluloid—like when a strip of thread of disharmony within the work by ethno- sion, and the UDV won the film gets caught in the projector symphony, a group (or several pharmacologist right to use ayahuasca and melts away. “Every image that groups) of cells that are not working Dennis McKenna (“Hoasca tea”) in their cere- came to me, one frame after anoth- cooperatively toward the benefit of and anthropolo- monies at their U.S. er, all melted away in front of the the body as a whole. Those wayward gist Luis Eduardo churches. “A wide array of hot lamp. I could literally see how cells—that is, the sickness—might Luna, Amaringo religious groups, including damaging the cocaine was, and how be multiplying irrationally, following began to paint his Mormons, Catholic bish- it was affecting my brain in the a separate agenda from that of the visions in earnest in the mid 1980s ops, Jews, Seventh-day same way —that melting celluloid body as in cancer; they might be and continued Adventists, Hindus and was my brain! under attack by viruses or bacteria, until his death in Sikhs, filed briefs in favor of “As the ceremony went on, I real- or they might have been poisoned 2009. His works the UDV and the religious ized that the spirits around me were by harmful chemicals entering their are lushly freedom law,” according to forcing me to talk, to tell someone metabolisms. intense, often a November 2005 Religion what was going on with me. We Dr. Donald M. Topping, professor painted in bright News Service article pub- weren’t supposed to talk at all during emeritus of the University of colors against a lished in the Salt Lake the ceremony, but I understood that Hawaii, lived with cancer for 15 dark background Tribune. if I did not tell someone about my years. He fought the tumors without (as one sees in Dr. Charles Grob, a psy- problem with cocaine, I wasn’t the aid of chemotherapy, living a full an ayahuasca ceremony, most chiatric researcher at UCLA, con- going to make it through the night.” and largely pain-free life with the often taken at night) and include ducted an in-depth study of UDV He found a friend in the ceremony aid of naturopathic healing and diverse imagery. Jaguars, angels, members that not only was the tea and told her, confessing that he ayahuasca. He described himself as cities, cosmic rainbows and space- not hurting them physically, but needed help. a “friend” of both ayahuasca and ships all jostle for room on the can- that the members also universally “I’d like to say that this was the cancer—one of the most important vases, and each is accompanied by credited the tea-taking ceremonies last time I ever used coke, but it insights that he gained was to a written narrative to help the viewer with helping them conquer depres- wasn’t.” The ceremony was the start understand his illness as a function find a path through the hallucination. His work reaches beyond the sion, addiction and anxiety. of a healing process that took of his body, and to put aside his fear ayahuasca experience to touch By studying the chemical action another four years to complete. He of it. Dr. Topping describes the mes- upon the universality of the human of the ayahuasca brew on the brain, has been clear of cocaine for four sage he received from ayahuasca: state. It’s all here: love, hate, fear, Grob discovered that the tea worked years and is going on another “Take this energy that I’m giving wonder, joy, and confusion. in a different way from traditional ayahuasca retreat soon. “This time you, and run with it. Latch on to Loneliness and terror rub elbows antidepressants, enhancing the my focus is clearly on physical one of the animals [in the ayahuas- with power and wisdom. The tea body’s ability to utilize the neuro- alignment and meditation. I want to ca vision] and go for a ride. There is shows us a mirror of ourselves, and transmitter serotonin instead of deepen my spiritual practice. I also nothing preventing you from soar- Amaringo has painted this reflection simply stimulating it to produce really like the feeling that I get from ing to new heights of consciousness faithfully. more. This sensitization appears to ayahuasca once I’m done. There’s and life.” —Alice Bain be, as he says, a “more sophisticated” this intensity, this kind of sparkle When I read Dr. Topping’s descrip- Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo, by way of approaching the chemical and clarity, which everyone at the tion of his experiences getting to Howard Charing, Peter Cloudsley and root of psychological issues. Under retreat will have by the end of their know his illness, it struck home for Pablo Amaringo. Publ. April 2010. Inner traditional SSRI antidepressant time there. Everybody’s eyes are so me because I have also received Traditions/Bear & Co. $40, hardcover. therapy, the brain may actually clear and focused—exactly the physical healing through ayahuasca,
  6. 6. and the centerpoint of my experiencewas exactly the same—I learnedhow to love my disease, and tomake friends with it. For me it wasan intractable case of viral neuralgiathat affected my cranial nerves andleft me crippled with pain for manyyears. The ayahuasca showed me avision of a giant blue demon thatliterally was my illness. My immedi-ate reaction was that my heart justmelted open with love for him. Ididn’t think, I just loved. Initially itdidn’t seem to make any logicalsense to love something that’s putyou through so much pain, but I late—so the tea didn’t really affect me until after the shaman was done with the ceremony and we had all gone back to our huts,” he told me in a phone conversation. “I only had slight effects during the ceremony, but it really began to kick in once I was alone! “Being in the jungle adds to the intensity of the experience. At least three times I thought I was dying, but I would do it again in a heart- beat. It was pitch black where I was in my hut, but I was seeing things that were brightly illuminated in front of me, things that terrified me. Simply Zen Sit with Mugaku Sensei, Torrey, May 26 – 29 Earth and Sky Retreat Schedule Summer2011 Torreyunderstood then that most of my For instance, at one point I saw a with Musho Sensei, Torrey, June 12 – 19pain came directly out of my fear of lion—it was leaping and charging atthe illness—and that the only cure me, and it was huge! It was morefor fear is love. real than real, and I just wasn’t Vast Emptiness Composer and Bard College expecting that. So just as this thing with Mugaku Sensei, Torrey, July 10 – 17music professor Margaret De Wys’s was about to pounce on me, I real-memoir (Black Smoke: A Woman’s ized that this was a fear of mine,Journey of Healing, Wild Love, and that it wasn’t real, and that it could- Three Faces of SpiritTransformation in the Amazon: n’t harm me. I understood that it with Musho Sensei, Torrey, August 7 – 282009) documents her successful was hollow and that all fears arerecovery from cancer as she adopted hollow and have no substance. Thean ayahuasca lifestyle. She lion suddenly stopped about a footdescribes it this way: “The roots of from my face, and the front part of Boulder Mountain Zendodisease (spiritual, emotional, physi- it just broke away and dissolved,cal) are fear, repression, the calcifi- poofed apart like a dandelion head. ^^^IVSKLYTVU[HPUaLUKVVYN ‹ :V[O LZ[ :P[L :HS[ 3HRL *P[` ; ‹ cation of love and the life force I was stunned. I had no idea, and Iwithin a person.” Fear cripples your didn’t really know what this wasability to live. It makes your thoughts about, and I needed to understandsluggish, it makes you reactive, and how to stop drains your creativity. “Just as I’m relaxing after the lion, I’m confronted again by a differentFreedom from fear fear from a different direction— Mark Felder, a photographer from another hollow fear that broke apartWisconsin, first sought out ayahuasca just like the first one when I faced itfor spiritual expansion, but what he down. This went on and on allgot from his first retreat was an night, fears coming at me one afterunexpected freedom from fear. the other, so intense and so real. “My metabolism is such that Ihave a tendency to get started Continued on page 21 If you are interested in learning more about ayahuasca healing, here are some resource links to get you started: WWW.MAPS.ORG/NEWSLETTERS/V12N2/12236STU.HTML WWW.REALITYSANDWICH.COM/AYAHUASCA_HEALING_SELFDELUSION WWW.CHRON.COM/DISP/STORY.MPL/TRAVEL/FEATURES/5746130.HTML WWW.BLUEMORPHOTOURS.COM WWW.BIOPARK.ORG/PERU.HTML WWW.AYAHUASCA-WASI.COM WWW.AYAHUASCA.COM WWW.FOXNEWS.COM/HEALTH/2011/01/05/AYAHUASCA-PLANT-HEALING-SOUL WWW.AYAHUASCA.COM WWW.THESPIRITMOLECULE.COM/HTML/WWW.WORLD-MYSTERIES.COM/NEWGW/COS- MICSERPENT.HTM AYAHUASCA.TRIBE.NET/ “The Scientific Investigation of Ayahuasca: A Review of Past and Curent Research,” by Charles Grob, Dennis McKenna JC Callaway. WWW.EROWID.ORG/CHEMICALS/AYAHUASCA/AYAHUASCA_JOURNAL3.SHTML