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Part Three - An Ayahuascha Trilogy
Certain things in life surprise me. How much feedback and email Iíve received, and continue to receive as a result of a couple ayahuasca experiences Iíve posted over the course of the last year or so, in the Miami area, is one of them.
Initially, my intention was to post a trilogy (this is the third part) of the the ceremonial ayahuasca experiences Iíve partaken in the Miami area. However, as life sometimes does, Iíve taken a longer-than-anticipated break from writing articles to post here on Shaman Portal and been focused on other things.
As I continue to get feedback, I will do what I can to keep up with a one post per week (or two) format here, specifically focusing on entheogenic medicine.
On the morning of December 12, 2009 anticipation was in the air. That evening marked the third month in a row for me to participate in an entheogenic medicine circle in south Miami. Two months prior marked my first experience.
That experience was bewildering, blissful and helped me to understand some of the obstacles that stood before me. Not surprisingly, the ceremony that was so beautiful, was led by a medicine woman.
A month later, I had the opportunity to experience a ceremony led by her husband. It was more structured, more traditional and also beautiful. Although I personally enjoyed the freedom of the first ceremony a bit more, as it aligns with my personal views as they pertain to medicine and healing - the second ceremony was still of benefit.
The first two ceremonies were so enjoyable that a third seemed like the only logical choice. Interestingly, however, a local man who host sweat lodges at his Miami host and also knows about medicine had some differing thoughts. He felt that the ceremonies were being performed too often.
This rubbed him wrong for several reasons. For starters, medicine takes a long time to integrate. What medicine allows you to see can take months, if not years to understand to the extent that you can apply it to your life. During a conversation with this man (nameless for privacy reasons) it was pointed out that in native American culture, medicine was done maybe once per year.
The other element he was not happy about was the idea, that medicine, as it was being practiced, as in on a monthly basis, wasnít medicinal. He questioned the organizerís motives. Was she holding ceremonies for genuine healing purposes - or was she more interested in an anything-goes-party-till-you-puke environment?
It took awhile for that idea to take hold and sink into my mind. I rationalized that I was getting so much out of the ceremonies, how could they possibly be not in alignment for higher being?
On the evening of 12-12-09 I was about to find out. Being as the first two ceremonies were such positives, I told a few friends and others close to me about this one. In all, there was group of seven of us going that night.
In retrospect, the way in which I prepared for that night was off in just about as many ways as off could be, but I wonít get into that here, now ...
The mild evening our group found itís way to the ceremony grounds in the south Miami, literally blocks from the alligator and snake haven National Everglades, stirred with winds of change. Unlike the first two ceremonies, peace was not in the air. The fire pit was black as obsidian. A flag with the yogic om symbol was displayed Ö upside down. Everything felt scattered and one of the members in my party, to whom Iím particularly close, let me know something didnít feel right. I felt it too.
After paying our dues, which for that ceremony was $90 per head there was the usual sitting and waiting for around midnight, the time medicine was typically doled out. After a few restless minutes, a couple of us felt compelled to help.
After a bit of asking around I was directed towards the firewood. The fire would need tending for the duration of the night. A couple of us started the task of bringing the firewood to the area where it could be used. After just about everything was done, a portly, pompous man, chest jutted out like a rooster stomped over and told us to move the entire pile of wood.
A bit bewildered, but not disagreeing, I ask him who he was and where he would like the wood to be moved. About that time another man appeared. This guy appeared to be fresh off lengthy travel with the carnival - energetically and physically. Wild red hair framed a sullen face adorned with maniacal darting eyes. Prison style tattoos covered both his arms and neck. Stomping up, he slammed a handful of twigs down before demanding ďWhat the f*ck is going on here?Ē
The feeling I had was as if a couple of street thugs had started sizing me up. I didnít know whether to be prepared for a fight or not. I remained calm. I ask the man with the tattoos if I had done something to offend him. As quickly as he appeared, he stomped off. The other guy introduced himself as Hugo. He then told me he was just kidding around and the wood was fine where it was.
Some people Iíve come across simply donít feel right for whatever reason. Hugo was one of them. I then ask Hugo if he was the Shaman. He looked me squarely for just a moment, smirked, proclaimed maybe and walked off.
As there ceremony did eventually begin the players took their places. Hugo was the Shaman. The prison tattoo guy was the fire keeper. The woman who held the ceremonies was dressed to the nines in sparkles, sequins, make up and a hair style fit for a night of socializing in the Miami beach bar scene.
The first part of the ceremony usually involves that Shaman talking, giving some instruction and perhaps setting the participants minds at ease. Hugo chose a different route. He let us all know that he had put his blood and sweat into making the medicine for the evening. In a literal sense. The thought of consuming Hugoís blood and sweat was not something I was too thrilled about.
Medicine for that night was to be grandpa only. That meant peyote. There were three ways the peyote was administered. Buttons, powder and tea. The buttons are bitter, the powder sticks to your mouth and is just as bitter as the buttons, and the tea is somewhat nauseating. That is simply the nature of medicine.
As the basket came around to me I took a fair dosage of buttons, a few tablespoons of powder and a nice, billowing few glasses of the tea. My friend next to me only wanted a few buttons. When you are in ceremonies, how much medicine you wish to ingest is up to you. For health and safety reasons alone, being forced to ingest medicine against your will is an absolute NO-NO. As in, itís just something you donít do.
After eating a few buttons she indicated she was done. The ringleaders, however, had other plans. Never before had I seen anything like this. She was told she had to have all three medicines. With enough pressure she eventually had more of the medicine just to shut everyone up. She was not new to entheogens, but if she was that alone (being forced to ingest medicine), could do lasting, severe damage.
As the medicine started to take hold I realized the ceremony was stark contrast to the ones I had participated in before. Medicine does things to your senses. For me, after having a life altering out of body experience as a teen, medicine instantly takes me to a space of amazing intuition. What I realized when I got there disgusted me.
Hugo was interested in one thing. Power. This sickened me to the core. I later found out, with an internet search that Hugoís teacher was on the front page of a website called newagefraud.org. He was there because a couple people had died in a sweat lodge that he was leading. Apparently they ask to get out because they knew their bodies were telling signs that needed to be listened to - but they were pressured into staying. They died as a result.
That was the same mentality I was then being exposed to. Every action Hugo did was carefully, or unconsciously - Iím not certain which, done in a way that made others feel off balance. He wanted your undivided attention. He wanted your pain. He wanted your focus.
As Hugo made a few rounds around the circle, muttering belittling comments to the women and taunts to the men I felt something inside of me shifting. Anger was reaching a boiling point and I was simply not going to sit through a night of being shackled to the power trip another person was having.
To me medicine is there to open a door. Itís a space where the solutions to the challenges youíre facing are within reach. Itís a space that needs freedom to speak. In other words, if you have a so called shaman demanding your focus be exclusively on him, every second of the experience - and he is dragging others down, the opportunity for introspection (and healing) vanishes.
Although you could argue both perspectives, I chose my side. I was unwilling to go on Hugoís journey. That is my right as a human being to reject what I consider abuse. Traditionalists would argue that you listen to and respect the shaman, no matter what. To me that type of thinking is no different that people who would tell you to respect religious elders, no matter what. Even if theyíre child abusers.
Psychedelics are no joke. As Iíve experienced first hand, they can take you to the space of near death. They can take you to a space where you forget you have a name, identity, body or anything else worldly. They can expose your deepest darkest inner thoughts that you try to suppress and fight with the most - to the forefront of your psyche - then you have to be strong enough to deal with it.
What Iím getting at here is that psychedelics are powerful and should under no circumstances be in the hands of those who are careless, hungry for power or malicious. Under those circumstances lasting damage can happen.
I got up and left the circle. We werenít supposed to do that. I didnít care. It was life and death. If I stayed, part of me would die. Not wanting to impose my choice on others, I left quietly. It wasnít my job to take the pulpit and cause problems for others. If others saw what I saw, they too had the opportunity to face themselves, cross the internal threshold, not settle for abuse and leave.
One other person did.
About an hour or so later, I was quietly enjoying the type of introspection I wished for, in the cold evening air. I was able to focus and realize many things. To the forefront of my mind came the realization that medicine demands a tremendous amount of respect. Much more than I had been investing. Many of the answers I was seeking could be realized without medicine. Medicine was something special that demands a lot (which will be the focus of my writings here).
After realizing these things in the driveway, on my own, I made my way to my car. Even if I wanted to leave, I wouldnít have been able to. It was blocked in and I knew better than to drive under the influence of medicine. I just wanted some warmth. Inside my car was my friend. The one who was peer pressured to have medicine. She had decided to leave also.
A couple hours later we were checked up on by one of the participants of the group who I was familiar with. I believe he was studying to be a medicine man. He wanted to make sure we were ok. Mentally I was fine. I explained my thoughts and actions to him. He understood.
Physically, the medicine was taking a toll. My stomach was turning, my muscles were cramping and my joints were sore. Another thing about medicine is the energetic component. Although some of us may find this difficult, I feel the person handling the medicine to give out does leaves an energetic impression on the medicine.
Just as Masaru Emoto (google him, please) discovered with water, you can talk to it and it will have form, I feel the same applies to medicine. Knowing the only thing I could do at that point was to wait the night out and let the medicine wear off, I reclined my chair, closed my eyes and just focused on breathing.
Flashes of orange and black went through my mind. Images of war, chaos and destruction took (mental) form and fell apart. This went on for a few hours. Somewhere around the crack of dawn the organizer came to my car. Her face had a pale purple tinge. She looked like a walking rendition of death to me.
She pleaded with me to come back to the circle. As I explained to her why I was in the car, that healing, especially with medicine and Hugoís ways do not align, she understood. We spoke for about five minutes and I saw color return to her face. I felt that from a core level, she got the message I had delivered to her.
Then she realized I was not coming back. What she came to my car to accomplish (an egotistical goal) was not going come to pass. She became upset suddenly, proclaimed I didnít understand her and stormed off. For another couple hours we waited.
Once the sun was up and we could hear the ceremony closing we walked back to where the others were. Ending the ceremony with breakfast was part of the tradition. Even though I was hungry, I chose not to eat.
The fire tender was the first person I saw. He looked like a rendition of death. I could sense his glucose crash. He reeked of vomit and had sweaty purple circles under his eyes. There was no (useful) reason for me to hold any resentments towards him. I sat next to him and we had a brief discussion. He told me about tradition, some of the symbols and a few other things. I listened. He thanked me for listening and I stood up to go find the others and make arrangements to leave.
I saw Hugo next. He wouldnít even look at me. I was disgusted by his essence and being. Even though I felt that way, I elected not to say anything to him. That would do nothing to change what had been done. I did take his act as cowardice, thugish and unconscious.
Next, the others in the group we came with saw us. One of the women came running over and hugged me with tears in her eyes. She too, reeked of vomit. I could feel her emotional aftermath. I was still in a sensitive state, and just wanted to leave. I knew I was still about a good hour away from actually being able to make that happen though. My car was blocked in and there was little I could do at the time.
As I surveyed the rest of the camp the same stark picture showed up. Those who stayed looked Ö brutal. Deep, dark circles, dried vomit, nappy hair and balmy sweat painted the terrifying picture. The morning sun was already sweltering.
Curious as to how I appeared, I found the restroom and looked in the mirror. I had not vomited the night before. Nor did I have purple eyes. The reflection looking back at me told a different story than those who stayed and were subjected to the abuse doled out by Hugo.
The aftermath of that powerful evening was so telling. I gained a new respect for medicine. A new importance of preparation and frequency of medicinal ingestion entered my awareness. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, a whole new emphasis was placed on knowing the Shaman before committing the the process.
I could continue to go on and on about the experience, but I wonít Ö now. There were many preparation insights I have since implemented with amazing results. To me, medicine can be so bright, revealing and beautiful - when respected. Until next time Ö
PS - If you want, youíre welcome to send email. I will continue to write about preparations and insights. Wishing you all, all the best!
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