Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Answers to Questions About Ayahuasca

Questions someone asked me relating to ayahuasca. 

Responses are from Peter Gorman—August 20, 2014

1. There are a lot of Ayahuasca retreat centers in Peru now popping up with a strong online presence. What should readers be looking for in a retreat center when researching online?
   I think your best bet as a newcomer to ayahuasca in Peru, particularly if you are going to choose a retreat based on looking at their websites, is to contact the center and ask for maybe 10 contacts—email or phone—of prior guests. Then contact those guests and find out what their experiences were like at the retreat.
   I also think people should take note of the places that hold ceremonies for 30 people rather than a max of 10. That’s a personal choice, of course, but I’ve met many people who said that being part of a large group was disappointing and that they would have preferred a smaller group. So find out before you sign up.

2. Would you advise for readers interested in Ayahuasca to come to Peru without making plans, and just follow their intuition?
If someone has several weeks, I think it’s a good thing to go without too much planning. But I wouldn’t recommend going on immediate tuition or they’re liable to wind up drinking sludge with their motokar’s driver’s uncle. Rather, if you have the time, find people who have had ayahuasca and talk to them about their experiences with different curanderos, settings and such and once you’ve collected information from a couple of dozen people, then let your informed intuition kick in and go with that.
    I have to add that at a lot of lodges you have to pay full freight before starting. If you quit, you lose your money. That’s understandable because the lodge owner has a lot of people he/she’s committed to paying, projects that need funding and so forth.
   But you can sometimes get around that partially. If you’re dreaming of a three-week stay, see if you can pay for one week, commit to one week, and then, if you choose, you’ll commit for more time afterward.
   On the other hand, if you wind up with a curandero who does not have a lodge run by gringos, or a curandero who works out of his home or his own ceremonial space, do not pay for a week or two weeks’ of ceremony ahead of time. Not everyone in that part of the world understands a Westerner’s idea of a contract. If, for instance, you give a local $1,000 for two weeks worth of ceremony and he loses the money that night, his contract with you is over. He owes you nothing once the money is gone, no matter how it is gone. In those cases it’s better to pay for three ceremonies, maybe $150, and then pay for the next three after you’ve done the first three.

3. There are some out there who posit that curanderos and icaros are not necessary for drinking Ayahuasca, what are your thoughts on this?
Ayahuasca will work on you whether you have a curandero around or not. Butttt….a curandero will coax much more of the medicine’s spirit out of her than the average person can. That’s one: The medicine has to give up her chemicals when cooked, but the chemicals have very little, in the long run, with the spirit of the medicine. And a curandero who had a good relationship with the spirit of the medicine will do a considerably better job at getting the spirit to dance than a non-curandero will.
   Two: A good curandero, when singing his/her icaros, sees where each of the people taking the medicine are. He or she can see someone stuck in circular thinking and pull them out of it. He can see someone indulging in pointless thinking and re-center them with his/her shacapa (bundle-leaf rattle) and icaros.
   Three: A good curandero is firstly a healer. Some heal with hands on, some are hands off, but all the good ones can see if someone needs some particular attention to a problem and then work on that. You miss that kind of healing when you are on your own.
   So you don’t have to have a curandero during ayahuasca ceremony, but a good curandero will certainly bring a great deal to the ceremony that can add to it immensely.

4. What are you thoughts in drinking Ayahuasca in other countries, away from the Amazonian jungle?
It is far too late to put the genie back in the bottle, and far too few people can afford a trip to the Amazon. Moreover, if everyone who wanted to drink ayahuasca came to Peru the country would stop being Peru and the jungle would disappear with all the tree cutting necessary to make a thousand new centers.
   So while I love doing the ceremony in the jungle, I have learned to love doing it anywhere there is privacy, nature and a good curandero around. Lots of curanderos travel the world on tours these days, and then there are hundreds of US and European people who have learned enough to hold good ceremonies and hold good space. Drinking ayahuasca with a good curandero in a quiet back yard in Texas or California with a good curandero might not be traditional but it certainly would be better than drinking ayahuasca with a phony curandero in Peru.

5. Other there any particular 'dangers' about Ayahuasca readers should be aware about?
There are a couple of physical dangers due to blood pressure issues. Don’t drink ayahuasca if you are on any SSRI medications. These are mostly mood elevators, but SSRI’s are found in other drugs as well, so check with your doctor to see if what you are taking has an SSRI component.
   Then remember not to eat nuts or any cheeses—other than fresh farmer type cheeses—for a couple of days prior to ceremony. Again, possible problems related to spiking blood pressure.
   There is also the issue of not eating after noon the day you are going to drink ayahuasca. In most instances, a light meal and then a fast—with even water restricted to just enough to get you through (suffering from dehydration while in ceremony is not going to get you extra points; neither is a stomach full of orange juice)—will let your stomach clean out and finish digesting before an 8 or 9 PM ceremony start.
   The reason for that is because ayahuasca is going to afford you the change to eliminate—through vomiting—some of the bile of your life, some of the pain you carry around needlessly, or some of the guilt you no longer have use for. If you eat Chinese food or three apples an hour before ayahuasca you will squander that chance and simply vomit apples or Chinese food. Hell, you can do that any time. You can’t eliminate long-buried pain just any time. So make the most of your ayahuasca stomach cleansing.
   One other danger people should be aware of is that drinking alone, particularly for the uninitiated, can be very disorienting. What if you wound up on your back and began to vomit? If you are alone and disoriented you risk choking to death. Or if you fall on the way to the bathroom because your legs don’t work properly and maybe get a bad cut. My recommendation is that you always have a sitter with you at least, so that should something go wrong, there is someone there not under the influence who can handle the emergency.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Okay. I think we might have a new word here. I could be all wet, of course, but here goes:
   So my daughter is singing a song with the line "Why are you so obsessed with me? I wanna know..." But what I heard was "Why are you so obsexed with me? I wanna know..." Which I think is a fantastic word, and maybe a new one, for sexual obsession. It could also be obsexion, as a nown. Is that new or is it old hat?
   Madeleina is so dying for me to add a new word to the English language and I keep letting her down. This may be the one.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Take Back Our Power

If you made a list of the beautiful things in this world and a list of the horrible things, I think the beautiful list would far outnumber the horrible. Yet we accept the horrible as inevitable, not as individuals, but as a human race. We do not have to do that. We outnumber the bad people, the people who do wretched things in the name of race/religion/politics by a million to one. The Koch brothers, for instance, only hold sway these days because people--including me--are frightened of them. We don't need to be. They are two, we are 7 billion.
   The Rothschilds? Ha! They are a few plus several hundred. We are 7 billion. We have the power to change things overnight. We have the power to change things in 30 minutes. Turn the whole paradigm on its head. We need to stop fearing. We need to feel strong. If the monster is 150 feet tall, don't be afraid. Make yourself 250 feet tall and step on it. After that, it's up to us to make the world in the image we want it to be. Pipe dreaming, I know. But we do have the power. It only works for them when we give our power away.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just a Little Ego Thought

So the Pope went to visit South Korea and the hits on this blog from Vatican City have died since he left. On the other hand, hits from South Korea are way up to like 4 a day since he's been there. So I'm gonna go with the idea that he's the guy reading me in the Vatican and now he can't live without the blog in South Korea. Could be, right? I mean in an ego driven sort of way... Yo! Pope Francis! You keep readin' and I'll keep feeding you stuff to say!

Home Again

I got home from Peru last week, and aside from 22 open sores on my good leg--cellulitis, which is a sometimes dangerous staph or strep infection of the skin--I'm okay. Fat as a hog but okay otherwise. Doc Gritter has me on two antibiotics and after five days the leg is starting to dry up and the swelling that went along with the infection has gone down so that I've got my beautiful calves again. Cool.
    And all of you? How was your six week break from Gorman? Good, I hope, because now that I'm back I'm liable to jump in here every couple or three days with new material. At least I'll try.
    Was weird coming home: Chepa and her babies Sierra and Alexa are up in Maine, visiting the baby's dad and won't be home till next week. Which means I've got all their presents sitting on the kitchen table looking like a forlorn pipe of unwanted food and clothing. No sweat, they'll be home soon enough. But then Madeleina started Band Camp two days before I got home, which means she is gone at 6:45 AM and doesn't get free till 4 PM--and sometimes not till 9 PM. So while she's here, I have not seen a whole lot of her. Italo has brought his baby, my grandchild, Taylor Rain, over a few times and she's been a shining light. Love the kids. Love the mess they make when they paint with watercolors or use chalk to draw on the front of the house.
    And Marco has been over as well. Plus I had a guest for the weekend. So while I've been missing Chepa and the girls, I've still had plenty of company.
    Worst part about coming home: Seeing the house as a stranger would. And when the house has been unlived in--except for four cats--for five weeks, well, it was a stinking mess. Fleas everywhere, and for the first time ever, cockroaches. Man, Italo and I must have laid out five cans of flea spray and two or three cockroach spray cans to get it under control. I think we did. Then we had to get Boots, the blind wonderdog's hair out of everything. I don't even know how it got there since we shampooed the rugs just days before I left and had him shorn closely. Nonetheless, it was a mess of hair everywhere.
    But I worked crazy, got the house cleaned before the guest arrived, stocked the fridge and cabinets, made good food and paid my August bills. So I'm coming out ahead of the game.
    Now all I have to do is buckle down and write a 1,500 word cover story by Monday and a 5,000 word investigative story by the end of August and I'll be back in the swing of things.
    It's hard but good to be home.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Naive Gringos Pay the Price in Peru

Someone wrote on a forun I occasionally visit that they'd had a very tough time with some curanderos they worked with. They paid them for a month and only got a week's work. They had a curandero stop a ceremony and ask for help with paying for a son's schooling. They paid a curandero in the day and he showed up drunk that night.
    The person found it all unsettling and felt they were ripped off. I don't think they were. I think they were just trying to put the Western way of thinking on people who don't think like us. Here's what I wrote on the forum:
DEAR X: I'm sorry you had such a series of lousy events. But your note should serve as a yellow caution flag for others, not because these people were bad--I don't know if they were or not--but because naive gringos--and if you are not, I apologize--don't understand the culture.
   The Padrino incident, for instance: It's an honor to be a padrino, a god father, to someone. But it always involves  you paying for something: A wedding, school, a house. It's a deep and regular part of the culture, not a scam at all: You go to someone with money and ask them to pay for something in return for becoming one of their children's godfathers. I've been padrino for several people and turned it down several other times: Depends on what they want and whether I know them well enough and whether I happen to be able to afford to throw a wedding or pay for an operation at a given time.
   In terms of payment: In Peru it's best to pay as you go. If you are going to make a deal for hundreds of dollars or more for medicine over a period of time, pay some up front and the rest as you go. Even if the person is very well intentioned, if anyone finds out they have money, or if they get drunk the first night you give them money, they will probably not have it long. And once it's gone, they are no longer obligated to you. So if you give them $1000 for a one month dieta and they manage to spend/lose it in the first week of a one month dieta, no one is seriously going to think they owe you three more weeks of dieta. So better to pay $150 up front, then $150 a week for three weeks, then the final $400 near the end of the last week.
   Some of this is simply the culture of the area and would not apply in Lima, for instance. But it is important to understand that people in Loreto do not think like people from New York or Australia think. You can ask for a 3 month healing and they can say yes, but when they are tired of it, they're gone. The issue isn't them--though you might have run into a particularly selfish crowd--it's our thinking that they think like we do that's the problem. We cannot put our framework on that culture.
    In my own experience, Moises always had me bring the best Czech seed beads to the Matses, but he also always made me painstakingly fill tiny bags with them. He said no one would share. The one time I gave a Matses headman a full kilo of beads--and indicated it was to share with his family, who were all there--he took it, ran away and left the village immediately. One of his wives told me I was an idiot to think he would share: He would use them instead to get another wife!
   So I'm sorry you suffered all of it, but hope others can gain from your experience.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ridiculously Good Father's Day Breakfast

Well, having gotten past that bit of a copperhead nip yesterday--which actually had me scared to death and feeling pretty awful, even though I tried to tough it out--today is Fathers' Day. So to all you dads out there who tried and are trying your best to be good dads, HAPPY FATHERS' Day! I hope your kids understand that while you love them and would do and are doing everything you can for them, it's not an easy job. So rest, fellas: You earned it all year long.
    And with that, I got hungry and took a look see at what to have for a mid-morning breakfast. I decided on a salad and what a salad it is! Organic spring mix greens, a diced natural 1/2 duck breast from the duck I made a couple of days ago, some good quality crumbled blue cheese and a balsamic vinagrette made with--and this was a treat--organic Modena Balsamic vinegar. With some good minced shallots, garlic and olive oil in there.
    It might be a salad but it's still a treat.
    Treat yourselves well today. You don't know when that damned snake is going to bite you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Just Got Really Lucky with a Copperhead Bite

Just got very, very lucky. Was out mowing the very back portion of the yard. It's invisible from the house and is where we throw lawn cuttings from the fenced in portion of the yard behind the house--but it's still one of the 8 or 9 lawns and needs cutting now and then. Well, I was in a tall grass corner and had to move some old Christmas trees that we'd thrown over the fence into that wild area, and then I had to step into the tall grass to turn the lawn mower around. I thought I'd taken a good look at things before I did: I was looking for a tree branch I might step on or a broken bottle the neighbors might have chucked over the fence. Didn't see anything so stepped into the tall grass. The moment I did I felt a weight on my right ankle and kicked furiously. I knew what it was from experience: A snake.
    This one was just a baby copperhead and it got away, but my ankle hurt like hell. I kept mowing for 10 minutes, then got weak, scared and so forth and went to the front porch swing to sit for a while and check it out. The wound was more of a scrape than a full fang bite. In half an hour I felt weak but there was no appreciable swelling or difficulty breathing. What there was included a headache and shooting pains originating at the point of the attack running up my right calf every five minutes--the same calf that the infection tried to eat last year.
   When I felt well enough I went inside and took my sock off and washed the wound with alcohol. Then I looked at the sock: Two fang marks on the outside of the sock, maybe 3/16ths of an inch apart. They matched two dots of blood on the inside of the sock. But below the tiny exterior fang holes in the sock was a yellow stain the size of a large thumbnail. That's what that baby was going to give me if it had a moment more to hang on before it was kicked off.
    So I got real lucky today. THANKS UNIVERSE! THANKS SPIRITS! That was super cool.
    And now, four hours later, the headache is nearly gone. The pains up my leg will continue for a week. Ah, but the lawn got mowed and I am not in the hospital. What a great day! I hope all of you had even better days!!!!