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.

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