Raquel Glottman Last Chapter


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February 15, 2012

Raquel Glottman

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Raquel Glottman Last Chapter

  1. 1. ( )To live is to dream upon reality and co-create with spirit.
  2. 2.                       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
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4.                       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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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.  
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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
  12. 12.                       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
  13. 13. 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”
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. 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
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19.                       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
  20. 20. "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  
  21. 21.  “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
  22. 22. 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.  
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. ( `The waves of sensations were at once revelations, wordless disclosures of another plane of reality´. )
  25. 25. 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
  26. 26. 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
  27. 27. 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.  
  28. 28. 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.  
  29. 29. 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.  
  30. 30. 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!’
  31. 31. “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
  32. 32. 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