Art by Samuel Farrand, courtesy of Samuelfarrand.com
Two years ago I had the great honor and pleasure of visiting one of the lesser known archeological sites of Peru. Having just spent nearly 5 weeks in the Sacred Valley, my partner and I were discussing where to visit next. As anybody who spent time in the Sacred Valley knows, the decision of where to go next is not an easy one as this beautiful region is quite difficult to top. Fortunately for us, Peru is full of historical treasures and if we could simply choose a direction to go then we would probably not be disappointed. We had recently attended multiple Huachuma (San Pedro cactus) ceremonies in Pisac and prior to that I had attended multiple Ayahuasca ceremonies in Iquitos, which got me thinking. Many people fly to the Amazon to drink Ayahuasca in her native environment, yet you rarely hear the same for Huachuma. Ayahuasca basks in the spotlight while lesser known, but equally powerful Huachuma sits quietly in her shadow. If people are flying into Iquitos to drink Ayahuasca then where would we go to imbibe the sacrament of Huachuma? As Pisac sits high in the Andes where the cactus grows, you might answer that we already found the place, and you would be correct, but we still wanted to explore this idea a step further. I recalled a Joe Rogan podcast when Aubrey Marcus discusses his experience at the SpiritQuest Sanctuary, where founder Don Howard explained the history of Chavin. According to Howard the Chavin people existed 3000 years ago and their culture was thought to revolve around the Huachuma sacrament. Furthermore, Howard said this society lived in peace for more than one thousand years, an amazing claim given the violent history of humans. I found this idea very intriguing and knew that listening to a podcast would not be enough, we would need to see this with our eyes, and hopefully feel it with our hearts. The decision was made and we planned to leave the Sacred Valley and begin this next adventure from Lima.
More than 4 years have passed since I can last remember being sick, and by sick I mean something like the common cold, the flu, or strep throat. I’m talking about fevers, chills, nausea, congestion, severe coughing, body aching, can’t get out of bed kind of illness. I know this needs to be more than a self congratulatory article, so how will you benefit from my accomplishment? Well, this is also an opportunity for you to do the same. Allow me to briefly explain how my immune system successfully defended me against all invading microorganisms for more than 50 consecutive full moons.
This past April, I had the great pleasure of attending the largest conference dedicated to the scientific study of psychedelic medicine in modern history. Over 3,000 people from 40 countries attended this 6-day conference in Oakland, California. The main purpose was to present the latest results from research occurring at leading academic institutions and nonprofits in the U.S. and around the world. The event was hosted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and the Beckley Foundation as part of their missions to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of psychedelic substances for treating a variety of treatment-resistant conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Prophecy of Time by Justin Totemical, courtesy of threyda.com
Peru It has been more than 2 years since my journey to Peru to explore the healing properties of the sacred plant medicines traditionally used by the people of the region, Ayahuasca and Huachuma. My exploration of entheogens continued upon my return to the US with the therapeutic use of plants and substances available here such as Peyote, Psilocybin, MDMA and LSD. Following many months of deep work while using such a wide range of medicine the benefits were certainly evident and the next step in the process was to integrate all those amazing experiences into a functional daily routine while introducing my friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers to the new me. The primary challenge of my integration has consisted mostly of finding my place in a society that I have become increasingly cynical of. As I discovered, swallowing those foul tasting brews, leaving my job and stepping into the unknown were actually the easy parts. Coming back was the real challenge…
The title of this article is a spin on the famous slogan that was successfully used during the election campaign to make Donald Trump the president of the United States. The slogan “Make America Great Again” raises some interesting questions such as, when exactly was this great time we are attempting to return to? “Make America Great” without the “Again” part might have been a better choice. I think a more important question to ask though is why do we continue to believe one single human is capable of changing a nation of nearly 320 million people in a meaningful way ? During these past 8 years Barack Obama showed us this is simply not possible despite some very inspired voters that hoped it was. He obviously accomplished many great things during his time in office, and there is a complicated explanation for why he didn’t accomplish more, but he alone was not enough. A person like the Dalai Lama can be an effective leader of many people, though I would argue that is because he is much more of a spiritual leader than a political leader. It always helps to have a great leader, and to have your preferred candidate in the White House, but we need to be realistic about our expectations of being saved by one single person.
Praise Jesus, praise Buddha, rejoice, you’ve seen the light!!! You just finished a 10-day retreat in the rainforest and have a new perspective of life. For the first time you see beyond the veil of illusion that has been obscuring your vision for all these years. You purged toxins that have been in your system so long that you forgot what it’s like to feel healthy. After living in a crowded concrete city for decades you gained a new appreciation for the color green and the abundance of life that is the rainforest. You experienced a sense of peace forgotten long ago and realize this is how life is supposed to be. And in a few days you are catching a flight to Lima before connecting to that long international flight back home… then what happens next?
American Dream Some would say I had it all. Certainly not wealthy by American standards, but by world standards I was quite successful. A stable and permanent job with the federal government; known for offering generous benefits including retirement, health insurance, paid leave, sick time, and holidays. I lived in a city with a high quality of life, including easy access to nature, many organic food stores nearby, and a population of educated people. My apartment had a beautiful view of the bay, and I owned a reliable car for trips that were too far to bike. I also had a loving girlfriend and a close friend. Yet I gave it all away for a trip to Peru. Was it a foolish decision? Perhaps, but before you answer consider my reasons for leaving.
Forget everything you thought you knew about psychedelics, especially if you never tried them before. A minority of people has ever tried psychedelics and many associate them only with concerts, escape and youthful experimentation. I would say a minority of that minority has intentionally consumed them for spiritual, medicinal or self development purposes. All of this is fine except a great majority of us are completely missing what psychedelics have the greatest purpose and potential for, teaching us how to better exist on this planet together. Not only are we unaware of their true purpose, but we are forbidding those who want to explore this potential from doing so.
The Peyote Way Church comes out in Arizona. Photo by Sattvic Planet
It’s time to add users of psychedelics to the list of minority groups that have been denied their basic rights in America. That list obviously includes Native Americans, women, and African Americans among others. More recently the homosexual community that we often associate with the phrase “coming out of the closet” has achieved major legal victories, and cannabis consumers are now able in some states to come out of their secret grow closets to openly buy a few grams down at the corner store. One thing I assume all of these groups had in common is that they were never going to make any progress hiding in a closet. The first step to earning a right must certainly be to stand up and say “I exist and I’m not afraid to admit it”.
Amitabha Stupa, Sedona Arizona. Photo by Sattvic Planet
Like many seekers on the spiritual path, I recently discovered Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now. Admittedly I’m a little late to the show as the book was published years ago but at least I finally got the message. In case you haven’t heard the primary message is that in this modern society we have developed our rational minds to a level that has become more harmful than beneficial. Our rational minds are constantly turned on and as a result our presence is usually turned off. Our lack of presence is evident in the priority that past and future events take over the present moment. We often dream of the good times from our past and constantly anticipate a distant and better future without appreciating the current moment. According to Eckhart the ego is directly related to the mind and as a result of over developing our minds we have falsely identified with our egos. We believe that we are our professions, possessions, clothes, status, emotions, likes, dislikes, etc. Of course there’s much more to his message than this, but that is the foundation.