Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sometimes I'm Upset With Ayahuasca in Peru

So someone on a blog to which I occasionally post has been pushing me a little to talk about things that bother me about the way ayahuasca retreat centers are spreading like wildfire in the Peruvian Upper Amazon. I wrote this post, then deleted it--somehow I didn't want it up there because it's got a tone of arrogance--justifiably, in my opinion, but it's still there and will be misinterpreted. Anyway, this is a very short take on a subject I'm involved with--because of my history--which means a great deal to me.

Dear X: No offense but you're an offensive pain in the ass. Why the hell do I have to give up what I've learned over 30 years to a newbie like you with just five years under your belt? Spend another 50 years and you'll probably get it all.

Yes, of course, 50 percent-80 percent of the people holding ceremonies at lodges as ayahuasqueros are not ayahuasqueros. Do the math. There is one per small river. There are 100 small rivers; half those guys were old and died. The others were lured from their rivers to work at lodges where they lost most of their power because they were put in an unfamiliar environment and have people throwing themselves at them. Ick.
So a lot of people who carried water are now serving as ayahuasqueros. And maybe they're learning, but I know of a few who've never been in ceremony but who are serving aya as curanderos.
So what do you want? People who have been around know this. This is nothing new. You get a good hearted gringo who has an epiphany that they are supposed to open a lodge and they buy 50 hectares of jungle on the road to Nauta and cut down 15 hectares to save the jungle, what do you think you'll get? Cut down jungle, ruined monkey and wild boar paths and an end to wildlife in that part of the jungle.
And then they give someone the job of ayahuasquero and that person knows little to nothing and suddenly they're being given more money than they ever imagined and power and more white girls from the States and Europe asking for sex and then people complain that they have lost their way. What do you or anyone else expect? This is a bad thing. This is people following what they perceive as visions when they are just hallucinations. And there is an enormous difference.
If I could turn back the clock and not have written the first national article about ayahuasca, I would. I can't. It's out there and everything sprung from there. I will live with it, but I will continue to rail against it.
It has not done the jungle any good and it certainly has not done ayahuasca--who has been bitch slapped recently to put her back into her place after she got too self important--any good. Things moving fast, faster, and they should be moving like LSD in the early days: Each one, teach one. Not each one teach many. The latter doesn't work well.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Upcoming Jungle/Mountain trips

Dear All: I've got a couple of trips coming up in June and July. The June trip will start on June 8 with a Jungle intensive--which means we take care of you but you're still allowed to be scared out of your minds because we'll be in real jungle, and deep jungle and ferocious things live there. Don't worry, even though you will bathe in the river--and the river is filled with wonderful icky monsters--my team, which will outnumber you, will go into the water first to offer their limbs. And that includes my fearless Jedi daughter, Madeleina, who will be 16 by then and doesn't have a fear quotient when it comes to jungle stuff.
    The June intensive is followed by an extension of three days, and then it's off to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. There will be more medicine--ayahuasca, sapo, nu-nu, San Pedro and probably some beautiful little sister magic mushrooms who can tickle you from the inside out--than you need, but enough to change your life.
   The July trip is a jungle intensive of 9 1/2 days that begins on July 12.
   Costs are outlandishly high, but if you consider that I have to fly down there, fly my daughter down there, pay for my hotel while I'm there, pay for my house while I'm here, pay 12 people an honest wage  (plus walking around money, plus food money) before I even take you into consideration--with your decent hotels, your cabins on the riverboat, the vigorish I have to pay the local police to allow us to enter the river we're finally getting to work on, or your food, or your flashlight batteries or your jungle boots and hammocks and mosquito nets--oh yeah, and you probably want decent sleeping sponge mats, eh? Well, given all that and your food and other expenses in Iquitos, well, the price is really half of what it should be. Just work overtime for a few years and you can make it up.
   Jungle intensive alone for either June or July is 9 1/2 days at $1900.
   Jungle intensive with 3 day extension in June (not available in July) is $2400.
   Jungle intensive, extension plus Lima/Cuzco/Sacred Valley/Machu Picchu is 21 days at $4400.
   Jungle intensive in July is 9 1/2 days for $1900.
A couple of hardship scholarships that will clip a few hundred off the tab are available.
   The trips are no baloney real jungle the way it really is. We'll feed you fantastically with the best fruit, veggies, beans, rice, plantains and a bit of chicken and fish--out in the jungle. And we'll take care of all of your costs but walking around money and a few meals--like 5 dinners and four lunches--for the full 21-day trip. But these are good trips. Maximum number of people is 12, and my jungle team comes to as many as 14, so, as noted, we will outnumber you. Which allows someone who eschews a hike one day in order to draw leaves or worms, to have one or two of my team with them to make certain that stinging ants don't ruin their day. And it allows someone with a hip replacement who cannot walk 5 miles to be able to do the one mile walk into pristine jungle at their own pace.
   Oh, and we have a wonderfully good time, while at the same time take your trip and your medicine with all seriousness.
   So like get in touch at peterg9 at yahoo . com, okay? (I'm told that's code for how to write an email address that won't attract bots--and even though I don't know what bots are, I know what botflys are and they are not fun. So just email me and sign on and then I'll give you my phone number and you can talk with me and see if you and I are right for one another. Some people prefer the luxury of lodges or fancy boat trips. I prefer a reasonable level of comfort but done in the real jungle with all the attendant adventure.
   So com'on already. Sign on and send the money and let me get it organized, okay?
Thanks for listening.
We'll now return you to your regular Gorman Blog.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Son Italo, My Son Marco, My Madeleina, the whole damned bunch

Today I had just come from Two Buck with my four minis of whiskey. I was still on the side road to Interstate 35 at a red light about 1/2 mile from being able to enter the highway. I was listening to the radio, really loud, a new Stones song--and a great one at that--when someone knocked at my right front window. I turned with the appropriate New York "What the Fuck?" face, only to see my boy Italo laughing. He'd pulled up his truck next to mine. We spoke. I've got a seriously ill cancer patient staying at my house--having fled her fourth chemo in mid-stream--and yelled through my roll down windows that I cannot reach from the driver's seat that she's insisted on pizza tonight and wanted everyone over to make it feel like a party. He said he was busy but might make it.
    The light changed and he was gallant enough to let me go ahead of him onto the highway and at that point our paths deconverged.
    And two minutes later I was sobbing. Just freaking sobbing. I'm so proud of my kids, of Italo, and I miss them so much--after so many years of being around them every day, talking homework, talking house cleaning, talking basketball, playing baseball. Maybe some of you know. But I was driving down the highway missing him so much. Knowing that if he just shows up for 10 minutes tonight my friend with extremely terminal last stage cancer will get another month of good living just because he smiled at her. He's got that quality and I admire it. So does his mom. So does Madeleina. So do the kids. So does my other son, Marco. You might think you have the party of the year going on, but then one of my family walk in and you suddenly realize that "Oh, I get it, NOW the party is hot!"
   I don't know where they got that gift. I don't have it. But they do. And just seeing him next to me in his truck at a stop light brought me to freaking tears of joy. I waited a long time to have a family. When I got it, I blew it. We're broken now. But I still see what they bring to the table and I know this world is better for them being here.
  I love you, Italo. Thanks for being my handsome young man with the light in your eyes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Note from a Stranger Regarding Ayahuasca

Good morning everybody. I got a note from a stranger today asking for help. It seems she read my book a couple of years ago and has an idea that I might be able to help her with a family situation. Her brother, she said, is schizophrenic and is on a downward spiral, in part due to the drugs being prescribed for him. She wants and needs help for him because she's afraid for his life. She imagines that the plants--and I think she is talking specifically about ayahuasca here--are his best hope.
   I have reservations about providing harsh jungle medicines to someone with schizophrenia. I got a glimpse of what can go wrong when a guest of mine last year--I knew the person was a bit nutty and edgy, but didn't know the person was capable of outright personality changes. At least I didn't until they drank ayahuasca and suddenly got it into their head that while I'd served everyone else ayahuasca (or that the curandero had), I had somehow poisoned him. We spent hours with this person not just ruining ceremony for everyone else, but in a deeply paranoid mindset in which he saw me as some CIA agent out to do him in for something he'd done in the past--and all the other guests were in on it. It took hours to get this person back to a rational state--after which they laughed about it all. Needless to say, that person was not permitted to do any more ayahuasca on the trip.
   So where I have always been cautious, I've become wary, and someone asking me for a recommendation about ayahuasca for a seriously ill schizophrenic--well, I couldn't do that. But that doesn't mean the writer's brother can't be helped by ayahuasca.
    This is what I wrote:
Dear X: I'm sorry about your brother's situation. But I'm not sure what you want: Do you want a recommendation for a curandero in Peru? 

   You know, traditionally the guests at ayahuasca ceremonies rarely drank ayahuasca. Generally that was left to the curandero. As background, physical or mental or spiritual illnesses or afflictions are generally seen in the Peruvian Amazon as the symptoms of a disorder on a different level of reality. The curandero drinks the ayahuasca to access those other levels, and then communicates with his spirit helpers or genios about a given person's situation and tries to find the cause of the disturbance that's producing the illness or affliction on the earthy level of reality.
   When the curandero returns from his "dream", he/she will often be able to explain what the disturbance is and what's causing it. The person with the affliction will need to change something in their life to eliminate the disturbance--or put things back into balance--which will then eliminate the symptoms on this level.
   So, if I were going to suggest anything for your brother, it would probably be to get him to a good curandero in Peru, and then let the curandero drink to try to identify what has gone so wrong on those other levels of reality that your brother is dealing with the symptoms of schizophrenia on this level. I would not suggest that your brother drink until and unless the time came that the curandero recommended it.
   Aside from the obvious problem of the curandero dealing with a potentially out of control client who is under the influence of ayahuasca, there is also the possibility that some of the drugs your brother is taking could have an adverse reaction with the ayahuasca--and you're not really going to find a curandero who knows much about that sort of thing because it's not in their world view.
    Okay, that's background. Now, tell me what you need from me and I'll try to help. No promises because I don't know everything, okay?
Peter G

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Something about Sex and Drinking Ayahuasca

Someone wrote me today to say that they were involved in a new and passionate relationship and wanted to know if they would have to abstain from sex for two weeks prior to coming on my July jungle intensive course, as well as abstain during the 9 1/ 2 days of the journey.
    NOTE: My response is to a person involved in a relationship outside of the jungle. This is not a reference to a curandero having sex with a client during an ayahuasca retreat--which, in my last post, I noted was something that in my book is out of bounds, because of the vulnerability of clients.
This is what I wrote to the person asking the question:

I do not think abstinence is important before drinking ayahuasca. My teacher Julio always slept with his wife, and I slept with my wife--and had sex--without restrictions.
   I think that if you were going to do a plant dieta--where you go off by yourself in the jungle (under guidance) to learn the specific spirit and song of a given tree or plant, that would be where abstinence comes into play. It's very very difficult to be in that deeply meditative state when distracted by anything, particularly sex.
   But in terms of utilizing ayahuasca as part of a jungle experience, that is a different case.
   I will say that on the nights my guests drink ayahuasca, I prefer that couples not sit side by side--and the reason for that is simply that concern for your partner might override your ability to allow your partner to go through their experience without interference. My example: When drinking at Julio's with my wife one time some years ago, she began moaning and saying "help me, help me", and so I asked if she was okay. She sat up abruptly and said something like: "What the heck are you doing?"
     I told her she'd been moaning and asking for help.
     She looked at me distainfully and said: "I wasn't asking you for help! I was talking with the angels! Now leave me alone and let me go back to my dream!"
     So there I'd gone and interrupted her time with angels.
     But other than during the time of being in ceremony, or during a plant dieta, I've never been told by Julio or any other curanderos that there is any prohibition on sexual contact with one's partner.