Silent Vipassana Meditation in California & Ayahuasca Ceremonies in Peru
28.01.2009 - 06.04.2009
March 26, 2009
Since our return in February, I've sorely neglected my blog! ...my apologies. Lots has happened, and here are the highlights:
I've decided that, to better serve my future patients and clients, I'm going to double major at NCNM. (www.ncnm.edu) I'm now doing an ND deree along side a Master of Acupuncture. After my phone interview several weeks ago, I was accepted as a dual track student. This will increase my school to 6 years, plus one year residency afterwards. Mike and I are moving May 12th to Portland...yay!
I attended a 10-day silent Vipassana Meditation course in early February in North Fork, CA. (www.dhamma.org for more information) Looking at the forecast ahead of time, I prepared myself for precipitation. However, I didn't expect that precipitation to be in the form of SNOW! At one point, there was about a foot of snow on the ground. It was stunningly beautiful. The course itself was quite challenging - at some points I wanted to escape, and at other points I wanted to stay forever. That was exactly the point: through reacting blindly to craving or aversion, we create all the suffering in our lives. I've read and discussed this fact many times over the years, but never really got it - I never fully understood what it meant, until I experienced it within my own body, in silence, over time. As things - good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant - arose and passed away, I came to see the impermanence of these things, the impermanence of my mind, body, ego and self. During this time, I had no external input or distractions: no TV, no music, no eye contact with others, no reading or writing, and still my thoughts and emotions ran the gamut. When I was able to observe this, I learned how to be equanimous in their presence. Suddenly, I felt a weight lifted from me - it sounds cliche, but truly I felt - and still feel - different and changed. It was the most remarkable experience of my self-development journey so far. (That is, until I went to Peru and participated in Ayahuasca ceremonies!)
If you are at all interested in this, go to www.dhamma.org. The courses are offered all over the world, and they are free of charge. That's right, FREE! They house and feed you and teach you how to end your suffering - stunning. The entire organization is volunteer operated to protect the purity of the teachings. It is not geared to change your religion or convert you to Buddhism or any other religion - it is universally applicable to all humans. If you feel so inspired at the end of your course, you can donate according to your means and your volition.
We spent a couple weeks with my family in Illinois in late February/early March. The first three days were spent babysitting my nieces, Grace and Emma - they're 2 and 3 years old, respectively. Let me tell you, they are a handful! I don't think I ever had that much energy...they're little energizer bunnies! The first morning, we woke up at 5:30am - I felt a presence next to me there in the dark. I opened my eyes and there were two little shadows with HUGE eyes standing right next to the bed! I think I peed a little...they scared the life outta me!
At one point Marcy (my sissie) gave us a tour of the farm. She has a horse farm near St. Louis - lessons and horses for sale! You can find more information about her farm at www.trianglehfarm.com. She has an awesome place, and a really fresh approach to riding, training and teaching. I was really impressed by the health standards they require for all their boarders and farm-owned horses...for all the animals on the farm, for that matter. While I was there, I gave a mini-lecture on Vipassana Meditation as it relates to riding horses, and saw the horse dentist and the horse chiropractor in action.
The rest of our trip was spent between Mom's and Dad's. I could barely keep up with them - party animals! =)
Well, I think that sums up the past 2 months!
I'm now in Peru. I've been in transit for about 30 hours now. My latest flight left Lima, flew over Iquitos (my destination) and then flew back to Lima and dropped me off! The weather in Iquitos is very stormy at the moment, and it was unsafe for the plane to land there. Bummer. So now I have to wait 3 more hours in Lima, and maybe then the storm will have subsided enough for us to get outta here!
Now in Iquitos.
The road to the center is paved until you reach the turnoff from the main road. After that, it's a sand path with lots of bumps and huge ruts. We got out of the mototaxi a couple times to push through the deepest ruts. The center, Espiritu de Anaconda, is gated, and located in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon Jungle. Brilliant. For more info, go here:
Joe met me at the airport and escorted myself and two other participants, Russ and Miguel, to the center. After our arrival and procurement of rooms, we promptly drank the vomitivo to "open our diets". This is an important part of the purging process, and makes your first ceremony much, much easier on the purging front. I didn't vomit, instead dry heaved and had a rather voluminous "download". We all seemed to be finished purging after a couple hours, but then my experience doubled back, with the sickness returning twofold. This sick feeling in my stomach, dry heaves and watery diarrhea lasted about 5 hours, into the night. I kept waking up feeling very very sick to my stomach - it seemed to come in waves.
Friday, March 27th, 2009
Feeling a little better but still green, I headed with the group to meet with Guillermo and Sonia - they are awesome people, and amazing healers. I was touched by the honesty of everyone in my group. It was difficult to disclose some of the reasons we're here - things that need healing can be ugly, and hard to admit. The food at the center is fantastic, and prepared especially for compatibility with the Ayahuasca. No salt, sugar, red meat, pork...we ate lots of fresh veggies, broiled chicken, baked fish, salad, apples, bananas and oatmeal. Oh, and the occasional omelet.
We just took our first doses of our assigned Master Plants. Based on our intake from this morning, the shaman prescribed different plants for each person depending on his desired outcomes. My plant is called Ajos Sacha, which is used medicinally for cleansing. Immediately I felt an opening of my heart, like a veil had been lifted. I suddenly felt very empathetic and compassionate, and felt a strong connection with all the people around me. It was remarkable.
In the maloca, we all lay or sat on our beds, waiting for our doses of Ayahuasca. When it was my turn, I vibrated over to the shaman...my insides were trembling and I was a little nervous and excited. The brew tasted like very strong espresso that's gone a bit off. When it hit my stomach, I thought I may be ill. Sitting on my bed, I tried to relax and avoid thinking about my tummy. My mouth was watering. We were all waiting for the generator to go off - all the lights were about to go out. It was already dark in the maloca, but outside there were a few lights still on. When I heard the motor winding down, my heart started to race. I felt very heavy on my bed, and knew I was about to be launched into space. It seemed like only 5 minutes after the lights went out, and I zoomed off the planet. The visions were undescribable and tough to make any sense of. I had a rough time this first ceremony. Everyone else in my group (there were 10 of us) was purging through vomiting, but I didn't throw up at all. Instead, my purging process was more bowel oriented. Joe mentioned before the ceremony that if we needed help to just ask for it. I called out a couple times, but he didn't hear me. It was really quiet, and I didn't want to disturb anyone else, but I finally said out loud, "I need help. I need help finding the toilet." Just saying the words out loud somehow summoned help from within. I was very wobbly, but somehow found the strength to get up. Then the next challenge was finding my flashlight and getting to the door, finding my sandals, and getting into the bathroom outside the maloca. This seemed to open the floodgates, and I was in and out of the bathroom for the rest of the night - my purging process. The visions I had were somewhat disturbing, but some were pleasant. My mistake going into the experience was that I expected to just be taken for a ride. The day after, we talked to the shaman, and discovered that we should have a single purpose when in ceremony. For example, when you start to feel unpleasant or uncomfortable, you should focus on your singular intention. The second ceremony I was better prepared, and my intention was this: "Please Ayahuasca, show me peace and love". When I said these words inside my head, it had a remarkable effect.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Lots of rest, fasting through breakfast, more rest, a little lunch, and lots and lots of chatting. Jared gave me a fantastic massage to help my neck and jaw relax...he's truly a gifted healer. We were all very tired and experiencing low energy levels, so we mostly lounged in the hammocks outside our rooms, lazily puffing tobacco, listening to music and sharing stories.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
2nd ceremony day. We took a tour of the Amazon River and had lunch in Iquitos - a difficult task with our dietary restrictions, but we managed. We stopped at a little floating zoo and got to hold lots of cool animals: monkeys, an anaconda, sloths, a giant guinea pig and a big funky looking turtle. The monkeys were so loving and precious...one got attached to me and didn't want to let go of my neck when we were leaving. It was adorable. I loved holding the anaconda. It was checking me out with its tongue, getting my smell and figuring out who I was and what my intentions were. It was extraordinary. There I was, connecting with this animal by just being - communicating without speaking words. The snake was truly beautiful.
Coming back to the center, I started to feel a little nervous about the upcoming ceremony. Joe, as always, had some thoughts for us to consider. He said, "Think about how you feel, and think about how you want to feel." So I did, throughout the entire ceremony, in fact. Those words really helped me, and I had a profound experience. Stepping back a little in time: after taking our master plants around 4:30pm, we all took a rest and some time to focus our intentions for the evening. An hour before the ceremony started, several of us went into the maloca to do Qi Gong, led by Henry. It was quite lovely, all of us in a circle around a candle in the darkness in a beautiful moving meditation. I felt centered afterward, the nervousness had completely disappeared. I carried that calm feeling and strength into and throughout the ceremony. I did have ups and downs, though.
We got started, and I sat on my bed, heart pounding, thinking about how I felt and how I wanted to feel. I decided the best singular thought for me this evening would be "please Ayahuasca, show me peace and love." The onset was incredibly gradual this time around, and when Ricardo came over to my bed to sing an Icaro to me, I was happy and only having intermittent visions. I had tucked myself in about 20 times it seemed, feeling very comforted - enveloped in a feminine, warm nurturing energy. I was bathing in it. My master plant has a very strong feminine element, as does the Ayahuasca. It was enchanting.
Ricardo sang to me, and at one point I felt overwhelmed with love. I had my eyes open and could see a blue light coming from inside my right upper chest area. I could even see it with my eyes closed. I watched it pass through me towards my back and appear above my right shoulder as a blue bubble about 8 inches in diameter. It floated iridescently into the maloca and gently "pop!" and it was gone. Tears were streaming down my face - I felt tremendous joy, peace and love. I looked at Ricardo, and he had become a teeny dragon before my eyes, jumping in place to the rhythm of his Icaro. That made me giggle...everything was just love and light. Then Ricardo blew some Agua Florida (flower water) onto me after his song was finished, and even in the darkness of the maloca, I could see it floating down onto me in a glittery flurry. As it landed, plants started sprouting from my body - they were stalk-like and had red, orange and yellow berry like things on them. It was lovely - I felt like a child seeing the world for the first time. (Days later we toured the botanical gardens, and I saw the plant that was growing from my body - it was growing in the garden...it was actually real. It was shocking to see it again in the light of day.)
I could hear people's voices coming in and out of my consciousness, and suddenly loud and clear I heard Joe saying jubilantly, "It's a fart that shits!" (A shart, of course.) I was totally cracking up, and I briefly worried that Ricardo would think I was laughing at him. I remember feeling like I was connected to my feminine side in such an intimate way - taking care of myself in the maloca, moving around to get comfy and then tucking myself back in again. It was delightful. I felt a connection with my grandma, my mom and my sister, as well as Grace and Emma, my nieces. It was mystical to be connected to Mother Earth and the Fantastic Feminine.
I heard this question twice during the course of the evening, once from Joe and once from Russ: "Where's your hand?". My standard response was, "Uhhhh, at the end of my arm, I think." (Joe was trying to give me some Agua Florida, and Russ was trying to give me some tobacco.) Unfortunately, Joe missed my hand, and we had a bit of spillage in the village - there was Agua Florida everywhere. Spaceship Earth was in full effect.
A bit later, Guillermo sang to me. I went over to his mat and we sat facing one another cross-legged, knees almost touching. He held my hands in his hands, singing the most beautiful song I've ever heard. It touched my core, my heart and soul, and led me on a journey to full realization of pure love. Tears streamed down my face - I was deeply moved. It felt like he was calling up all my pain and sadness and releasing it through his song. He held my head, forward-tipped and bowed, in his hands as if I were a child. It was such a gentle and tender thing - difficult to express fully in words. Through Guillermo's Icaro, I could see a beautiful, empty, dark theater inside my body. Suddenly, all the lights started coming on, one by one at first, and then faster and faster until I was filled with light. I was completely overwhelmed - again, difficult to express fully in words. Through this medicine, Guillermo helped me clear out a lot of residual pain and sorrow, and helped me see my own light. Then the song ended and I was led back to my bed, totally floating, elated, transported and overjoyed.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The 3rd, 4th and 5th ceremonies were very calm for me, and I even took a second drink of Ayahuasca during our 4th ceremony. On Tuesday the 31st was our 3rd ceremony. I was very connected with the spirit of the anaconda - I could feel it, like the muscular body of the snake itself, inside and all through my body, and I kept having visions of holding the anaconda from the zoo on the river tour. I had visions with lots of blue everywhere, and lots of butterflies. When the sun came up, some of us were chatting and starting to move around a little, getting ready to go to our beds and sleep for awhile. I looked up toward the screened part of the wall inside the maloca, and I saw a flash of blue. I thought I was having another vision, but no, it was a Blue Morpho, which can get a wingspan of up to 8 inches! This was one of the big ones...it was so cool. It flew in a circle around the maloca a few times, and then disappeared.
During the 4th ceremony, Joe and I were talking about how big anacondas can get - up to 30-40 meters long! Their heads are about the size of OUR head! He drifted off to sleep and I drifted off the planet in a vision, and when I looked over, he had turned into a HUGE anaconda. The head was enormous - I reached out to touch it. Of course, it was really Joe's head, so what I felt in my hands was his hair - it was odd because I was expecting the cold skin of a snake, but it was warm and soft. It was touching to have such loving communication with this being.
My last day at the center, I was lying in my hammock feeling sad...suddenly I saw a flash of blue. I looked over, and there was the Blue Morpho again, and it seemed to say to me, "Don't be sad, I'll see you next time." And then it was gone. I was heartbroken to leave this place, these people, animals.... I feel sad that our group may never get together again...impermanence, anicca. After such an intense experience together, I feel like I have 9 new best friends: Joe, Miguel, Russ, Andy, Jared, Dan, Henry, Brian and Skye...outstanding humans, I love them all.