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An Interview with an Andean Curandera
Since 2007 I have worked extensively with La Gringa and her San Pedro. They have guided some of my deepest insights and been present during some of the greatest and lowest moments of my life. She began as my shaman, has become a friend and I now regard her as both of these and as a mentor. I have spoken many times with her about shamanic and spiritual matters and her guidance has always been insightful but I have only formally interviewed her twice about her shamanic practices and healing work with San Pedro. The first of these interviews appears in my book The Hummingbirdís Journey to God. This article is a new interview from 2011 and discusses, amongst other things, her life, her thoughts on ceremony and her ideas and observations about how San Pedro heals.
Youíve described your early encounters with San Pedro as sometimes painful and said that you didnít always want to drink it. Can you say more about these experiences Ė what San Pedro showed you, why it was painful, and what you learned from it?
Every encounter I have had with San Pedro has been profound. The early days of drinking were sometimes painful and emotional, as sometimes itís difficult to face yourself, your fears, to confront issues that are hidden deep inside, to discover the Truth. What kept me going back was that even in the pain, the emotions, the fear, I knew I was cleansing and healing, facing my past, this life time and past life times, understanding the WHY's of everything that had happened and getting the lesson, releasing the past, and most of all because San Pedro taught me to love myself, something that I had never been able to do before.
Could you describe a particularly profound experience youíve had with San Pedro? (ĎGoodí or Ďbadí)
All San Pedro experiences are profound really. One that was a huge wake-up call for me though was in 2002. I had been having bad financial problems, my nerves were shot, I was on the verge of anorexia, in an awful relationship, and just nothing seemed to be going well for me, and I was feeling desperate, I didn't know what to do.
A man [a patient] came from Chile to drink San Pedro with me. I knew I wasn't in good shape to run a ceremony but I also realised that San Pedro was calling me, as it was him, because I had not taken the medicine for a long time. So off we headed to the mountains, to the same sacred place that I had drunk my first time. Named Chakan, itís also known as the Rainbow Rocks, and itís quite far from anything. I felt that it would be a good place for me to reconnect to. We both drank, and I was sitting against a rock with my eyes closed, then behind my closed eyes I felt the presence of this man, but somehow he had changed. I opened my eyes and he had kind of shapeshifted. He didn't look anything like the man I had arrived with and I was quite startled.
He then asked me in perfect English (which by the way, he didnít speak; he had very broken English): "When are you going to follow the instructions?" As he said this, my first thought was "Oh my God, that sounds like my father (my father had died some years before)". And just as I thought this he said, "This is a message from your father".
I was shocked but knew that something very important was about to happen. He carried on, ďI am going to give you several instructions and if you follow them you will be going home to South Africa for a visit and everything will change for you. You will no longer have these problems and you will be very happy and have all you need to support you. BUT you have to follow the instructions!"
My first reaction was to laugh and think someone was playing a trick on me. I said "I canít even buy a local bus ticket so how am I going to go to South Africa?" He replied "Someone in your family will buy you a ticket".
I laughed even louder. "My family isn't even talking to me right now and haven't for a long while as they don't understand my love for Peru or why I abandoned everything to be here". He replied that it will be as he said as long as I follow the instructionsÖ
Number 1: Get rid of your boyfriend tonight! (He even mentioned his name even though he didnít know him and had no connection to us). Well that was clear to me, that I had to do that in order for me to be at peace.
Number 2: Never sleep with anyone that you are not in love with.
Number 3: Give up smoking.
There were others too but these were the main ones. So the first thing I did was throw my cigarette away and I actually stopped smoking from that moment. On my arrival home that night, immediately as I entered my house, I said to my boyfriend, "I want you to leave right now please". He just looked at me and said ďYes, I understandĒ. Not another word was spoken between us. He just left, and I felt very relieved.
I followed the other instructions too and was feeling really happy and positive. Then a few months later, I received a phone call from my ex-husband who I hadn't spoken to for about a year. I was surprised to hear his voice and asked him why he was calling me. He replied that he had been thinking about me and that it was time for me to come home to visit my family, and he would like to buy me my ticket!
After my fabulous vacation, I returned back to my home in Cusco only to find that the hostel I own had been completely full every day! My friend had run things incredibly well for me, paid all the outstanding bills and handed me a huge wad of cash!
And all because I had followed the instructions!
Has San Pedro ever given you a more Ďcosmicí vision or understanding of life? For example, what has your training or experience taught you about God/reality/human purpose etc? What are we doing here and why? How do human beings Ďfití on the planet?
The understanding I have received is that life is simple! We should stop thinking that it is complicated because thinking it makes it so! Seek the truth of everything and learn to live in a simple and clear way. Learn to live from the heart, not the mind, because the heart is all truth and love.
San Pedro teaches us to heal ourselves by showing us the TRUTH, and once you experience the truth there is no getting away from it. It teaches us that no experience is bad if we learn from it, because when we get the truth we understand and we release the "old feelings" whether they are anger, betrayal, loss, fear etc, therefore changing the energy in our bodies. This heals us of emotional and physical illnesses.
This medicine teaches us to really live in the moment, to understand how much time and energy we waste on "re-creating" the past, imagining that we are still in that moment of pain or fear or loss, when in fact, it is just a memory, we cannot really re-live the past. It teaches us to let go of the past, learn from it, and move on. It also shows us how much time we waste on the future when in fact no-one knows what the next second will bring. Thatís one of San Pedroís ways of teaching us to really live in the moment; to show and feel gratitude for everyone and everything around us. Once we start truly showing gratitude for this wondrous world we live in, thatís when we start to receive the gifts from the universe in abundance and ease.
San Pedro is known as "rebirthing medicine", enabling us to feel clean and healed and to get a new start. Some people even go through the motions of giving birth during their San Pedro journeys, and itís a very real experience.
Of course there are times when the medicine hasnít healed the body (or the mind for that matter). My thoughts on this vary. Sometimes, for example, a person with an addiction may come for healing and although he might believe he has been healed, he may then go back to his addiction. It is not that San Pedro has not done the healing; I would say that the person just changed his decision. We all do that mostly. We have free will and can decide whatever we want. But sometimes we just make bad decisions.
What impact do you think the environment (set and setting) has on taking San Pedro?
Environment is very important whilst drinking this medicine. Itís important to feel safe and cared for. Donít drink with someone that you donít trust or feel safe with. The setting should be outdoors, preferably in the country, or at least a beautiful garden, and not noisy or with traffic, and definitely surrounded by good people. San Pedro shows us our connection to nature, we see energy everywhere, we can sit with a flower and see her grow. It shows us all the stages of life in one day!
So, following from this, what are your thoughts regarding individuals who are brewing and drinking San Pedro on their own, in their own homes, perhaps because they have no shaman to refer to? What advice would you give?
My advice to people who are preparing San Pedro in other countries would be this... If you havenít drunk sacred plants donít do it on your own, make sure you have someone with you who has a lot of experience with it. As it should be with anything in life, these plants should be totally respected. They can knock you down, they can lift you up, many things can happen.
Before my training, I once prepared San Pedro for myself and some friends, not aware then of the effects of the different [numbers of] ribs etc. It was a horrible, dark and frightening experience for all of us. Mostly the medicine is light and love but there are exceptions and it takes patience, respect and permission to use the plant in a positive way.
Ross Heavenís website can be found at www.thefourgates.org. Ross is a healer, therapist and author who runs workshops with medicine plants in the UK and Europe and trips to Peru to work with San Pedro and shamanic healers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details of these. His book on San Pedro, The Hummingbirdís Journey to God, is the first to be written on this plant and its healing abilities.
About the author:
Ross Heavenís website can be found at www.thefourgates.org. Ross is a healer, therapist and author who runs workshops with medicine plants in the UK and Europe and trips to Peru to work with San Pedro and shamanic healers. Email email@example.com for details