Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Story About Ayahuasca Predators

Dear All: On a forum I occasionally visit, there is a thread about someone I know who runs an Ayahuasca retreat. Some people are claiming this person takes sexual advantage--or worse, has raped--women in his care.
    It's a forum so people can say what they like. I know this person for probably close to 15 years, but I only know them in the context of sitting at the next table in Iquitos and exchanging pleasantries over coffee. Nonetheless, since the idea of taking advantage of people in your care came up--and much worse than that--I had to weigh in. Not on this person, but on how to handle the delicate situations that sometimes crop up when people give you more credit than you have earned, and that gets translated into sexual terms. So this is what I wrote. And if I've told this story before, forgive me for wasting your time.

Well, I'm gonna weigh in--though on a tangent. I've known X since he first arrived in the Amazon but I've never been to his place. I don't know enough to defend or damn him. I have no idea what goes on at that center--though I hope it's healing.
   What I want to weigh in on is how to comport yourself if you have guests and you allow them to drink the medicine.
   I think you have to be very very far above reproach. My best example:
   Several years ago I had a drop dead gorgeous woman with me out in the jungle. I probably had seven or eight guests on that trip and they were all beautiful humans, but this woman was drop dead physically gorgeous.
   We'd been out several days: We'd hiked in high jungle, done sapo and nu-nu, been on riverboats, collected plants, and she'd already--with the rest of the group--had ayahuasca once.
   Now normally when the ceremonies are over I invite people down to the kitchen for a slice of papaya with lime to help settle their stomachs before they go off to their hammocks to finish their dreams.
   After the second ceremony his woman stayed in the kitchen. A few minutes after everyone left she sort of blurted out: "I love you."
   I told her that I loved her too.
   "No, I want to sleep with you."
   I almost had a heart attack. I looked to the heavens, to my guides, to the kitchen pots and pans and asked for help. I knew I could not sleep with her, period. But I also knew that in her vulnerable state I couldn't just say that or she would feel rejected--because at that moment she thought she was being rational.
   "What do I do here?" I shouted to myself. And in just a moment the answer came: It was in the form of the kitchen configuration. We had two long tables, maybe six feet long each, side by side, with maybe two feet separating them. There were  6"-wide benches on both sides of the tables. The lightbulb went off over my head, and I looked at her and said: "You know, I'm going to sleep on that bench there. If you sleep on that other bench, we can hold hands and we'll sort of be sleeping together."
   She accepted the offer and she went to bed on her bench, and I on mine and in the morning she thanked me for not taking advantage of her, even though she asked me to. "I don't really want to sleep with you at all," she said. "So thanks for recognizing that and coming up with a great solution."
   She has thanked me since as well.
   When people are in your care, you have to make no exceptions. Do not take advantage, even if they ask. Keep the line there. Stay strong. To me, that's a hard and fast rule and I'm glad I was tested and glad I passed the test. And if tested again, I hope I have the strength to pass again. And I think that rule pertains to anyone serving medicine to anyone else.
    In the current context, as I noted, I don't know the person well enough to know if what's being said is true or not. But in general, the rule needs to be so steady that everyone in your care knows they can trust you 100 percent on that level. That allows them to open up and release the things they need to release from their lives. Anything less than that and I think you are doing your guests a disservice at the least--and perhaps a great deal of harm.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sharing an Ayahuasca Vision

Since I published my book, Ayahuasca in My Blood--25 Years of Medicine Dreaming a couple of years ago, I have not shared any visions. I've had my share but thought I gave up enough of myself in the book. But just a couple of weeks ago I had one that I think is worth sharing.
    I was with a small group of guests up on the Aucayacu. I don't really drink with guests anymore. I watch them/tend to them. But over the course of a day of Jairo cooking the medicine, I certainly get a lot of ayahuasca steam in my lungs. And then when it's time to transfer the ayahuasca from the pot to a bottle, that's my job, and so I always have a couple of finger fulls from running my finger around the bottle edge or the funnel or the pot to make sure none escapes. And generally when I do that the spirit of the medicine will laugh a little and say something like: "I got you now. I'll talk with you later..." and so sometime later, generally during ceremony, she'll come back and tell me something. And for a little while, maybe an hour, maybe half an hour, sometimes two hours, I am completely under the influence. And the trick that she wants me to practice is to be both completely under the influence and completely in command of my human body at the same time. She wants me to split myself. And I do the best I can to be in both worlds at once.
    This time, it came on suddenly. Jairo was singing beautifully. The night was filled with wonderful stars over half the sky; clouds shrouded the rest. I was sitting on a bench just outside the ceremonial hut,  catching people as they lurched or scuttled on their fannies to the hut's edge to step outside to vomit out the bile of their lives.
    Suddenly she spoke. "You needed to be old, but you don't need to be old anymore."
    Instantly I was in a dream, fully awake. "What do you mean?"
    "You're going to be 62 next week. For years you've been referring to yourself as an 'old fat white bald guy'. You don't need to do that anymore."
    "But that's what I am..." I protested.
    "No. You needed to believe you were that to be able to deal with being 58, 59, 60. To come into that time of your life gracefully. But you've begun to believe it."
    "But it's true. I didn't make it up. I'm going to be 62. That's getting old..."
    "Only if you want it to be. Now that you're near 62, you have a choice. You can either believe you're an old fat bald guy, or you can realize that you have just recently entered the final third of the prime of your life. You can realize that you now have both the strength and the wisdom. Or you can see your age as the first stage of growing old. It's up to you. You'll have to work at the prime of your life part, of course, where you don't have to work at all to be old. But here is what you could have with a little work..."
     And with that, I instantly felt lighter. My body felt like I was 45 again. And then she was gone. But the lightness, the stiffness that I often feel in the morning simply vanished for nearly a week. Climbing hills was easy and fun. Everything about my body was fun.
     And then, maybe five or six days later, she came back. "That was to show you what the work could do. Now it's up to you. Do you want to be in the last third of your prime or in the first part of getting old?"
     And in seconds my feet hurt a little, my stomach felt fat, I was unsure of walking on the clay in the rain.
    Choice is mine. I'm going to opt for the prime of my life. It will take work. But boy, it felt wonderful to be a young middle-aged guy instead of an old fat bald guy for a few days. It will be worth the pain.
    I'm sharing that because I suspect a lot of us, in order to deal with a number like 60 coming on us, start to accomodate aches and pains as if they are normal for the age. And the medicine showed me that they don't need to be. And that was a beautiful lesson to be taught.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Home and Feeling Like a Lousy Dad

Well, here I go again. I just got home from a fantastic trip to the jungle and mountains and already I'm messing up. And I don't like myself for it.
     The trip was great. I will write something about what the medicine told me tomorrow, or soon. But for now I want to talk about my beautiful daughter, Madeleina.
     While I was gone she wrote me a few fantastic emails. The first, titled Bad News, told me that when she was at the house feeding Boots the Wonderdog and the Cat, Cat or Kitty, just a week or so after I left town, she noticed water coming out of the hot water heater closet. So she opened the closet and realized the fairly new hot water heater was leaking. "Sorry to have to give you bad news but it's leaking and you better do something about it or the house is going to start sinking again," she wrote (or something close to it). She was referring to the time a few years ago when I didn't realize the darned thing was pouring hot water out under the house for a week, which sunk one of the posts this old place sits on, cracking a major beam which dropped the house a full inch on one side, which caused ruptures in the floor and a small tear in the roof. I've never fixed it but certainly don't want things any more uneven around here so I called Italo and told him to shut the water to the house down.
    "Taken care of, dad."
    "Well, make sure it is...."
    "I said it's taken care of, okay?"
      Italo doesn't like to be double-checked.
     One of Madeleina's other notes made a joke about living at Chepa's while I'm not here. It was something like, "Dad, I don't mind visiting the zoo now and then, but I really don't like living in the cage with the animals..."
      But about three weeks ago she stopped writing. I don't go to the internet cafe often when I'm in Peru but it was strange that she just stopped writing and didn't answer any of my notes.
      When I came home yesterday she was waiting for me. She gave me a hug and asked if I wanted a hot shower.
      "Nice one, girl, considering we have no water at all..."
      She walked to the kitchen and turned the hot water on. "Hotter than anything you had in that cold-water flat in Iquitos, dad..."
       Then she showed me the new hot water heater. "How the heck did that happen?" I asked.
      "You have a son named Italo who happens to love you very much," she said.
      And that's the kind of love she gave me all day. And we had a great time while I unpacked and showed her the beautiful things I brought home for her and everyone. She ooh'd and aah'd at the food stuffs and medicines that Customs--after putting me in a holding room for an hour or two--allowed me to bring in, from sacha jergon for my friend who has cancer to kidney stone medicine for someone who has a friend who suffers a lot,  to lots of the Matses medicines sapo and nu-nu, to hot sauce I'd made and fish sauce and essense of camu-camu the wonderful vitamin C berry. Lots of things they sometimes take away when entering Miami. And she suffered with me when I told her they'd once again confiscated the ayahuasca, despite it having a label of something else--they knew I was lying. Nuts.
     "Sorry dad. Next time you better tell the medicine to protect itself because we're running low here and if you have another gathering of former guests and more than maybe 12 or 15 come, well, there won't be enough."
      "Well, at least the mushrooms got through for a few people who need them...."
      "Were they powerful this time?"
      "They are fantastic..."
      "That's good. I hate you taking chances at the border and then they don't work for people."
      It was just that kind of day. She was interested in the trip, the guests, the whole thing. She laughed at a story I told when she asked if I had a lot of women and I said no--truthfully--"but there was one transvestite incident which might embarrass the family..." and told her how one night, after a few drinks but not drunk, the sexiest young lady with the most gorgeous legs I've ever seen sidled up to the next table and asked if I wanted company. I said: "By all means....and if you're really a woman, I think I'm in for a fantastic night... On the other hand, if you're a man, well, we're gonna have a different situation..."
      "Oh, god, Dad. Why did you think that?"
      "Because she was sexier than women are. She moved like a man's fantasy. She had no beard, no adam's apple, slender fingers, a woman's voice....but she was almost too sexy to be a woman..."
      "So what did you do?"
      "Well, I said let's go to my place and when we got around the corner I said: "Look, I don't want sex with you. I just want half-an-hour to play with those legs. To touch them, that's it. Okay?"
      "Dad, you are so freaking gross! Why do you tell me these things?"
      "Because I'm teaching you to grow up by letting you in on what people really do."
      "Okay okay. Just finish the story..."
      "Well, just as we're about to get into a motorkar Christina--that was her name--leans close and says 'I'm really a tranny'"
       "And did you feel up his legs anyway?"
      "No way!"
      "Why not, dad? I mean you said they were so beautiful..."
      "Well on a woman they were fantastic! On a man they were like girly legs, kind of creepy if you know what I mean..."
        And she roared. What a glorious night of storytelling and talking of old friends she knows and of looking at presents and smelling spices and good good chocolate.
       Then this morning happened.
       Madeleina was up for about two hours and watching television when I told her to turn the TV off and take care of homework if she had any. She said she did, then made soup and kept watching television while she made it and ate it--slowly.
       It got under my skin just a little because she didn't start making the soup till I reminded her of homework.
       Then Chepa called and mentioned that Madeleina had missed the last two weeks of school because the was ill. Now Madeleina had told me she'd had a physical issue with her stomach but didn't mention missing school. Chepa also said that after the first week, when doctors figured out what was wrong and suggested how to alleviate the problem--I will not embarrass my Madeleina by going into it but it was one of a myriad of problems a teenager might have that would keep them from wanting to be around their peers and it did not involve sex of any sort at all--the solutions produced side effect that were worse than the problem, keeping her out the second week. So Chepa had gotten her homework for the first week so she wouldn't fall behind.
      I called Madeleina in and asked how come she didn't mention being out of school for two full weeks.
      "I thought mom told you."
     "She did, just now. You didn't. How's the homework?"
     "Did about half last week, dad."
     "Well, get on it. And then do the work the docs said to do, even if you hate it. And no more TV. Just get the work done."
     It went downhill fro there. I got on her case for loafing. I told her that if she was so stressed by going to school that she made herself ill then she should recognize it and deal with it instead of hiding behind watching television or youtube all the time. I told her I loved her but needed to be tough because last semester she fell so far behind in school work--partly because of the demands of marching band--that Chepa and I had to give her four days off to catch up and I was not going to let that happen again. In other words, I was exhausted and jet-lagged and just ruined everything by being honest but not nearly gentle enough. I messed up. And that gave her a headache, which caused her to go to sleep, which prevented her from doing any homework or getting any exercise. I took the fun away. And I knew when I did that it was wrong to do that. Anyone who would take the laughter out of a child is doing something wrong--and I knew I was. And I told her I was sorry but I knew it was late for that, at least for today.
     So she asked to go to Chepa's. She just didn't want to be in the cage with this animal any longer.