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.
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…
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.
On a road trip to Portland last summer my partner and I were listening to a recording of my Jyotish session with an Indian astrologer. For those of you unfamiliar with Jyotish, it is a system that interprets how the planets influence us at various phases of our life based on their position in the sky. To create a personalized chart your exact time and location of birth are required because even a few minutes difference can affect your chart. Contrast this with the horoscopes in the newspaper that only require you to know the 30 day window you were born within. While I love reading Rob Breszny’s weekly Free Will Astrology column, Jyotish seems like a much more personalized and relevant system for providing guidance in your life.
Without getting into too many details, the astrologer explained to me during the session that for the past 19 years I was under the influence of Saturn which is known as a disciplined, dark and mature planet. Despite having a healthy dose of skepticism entering my first Jyotish session I had to admit his description of the Saturn phase matched my life quite accurately. The good news is that I was transitioning to the phase of Mercury which is known as an expressive, light and youthful planet. According to Indian astrology my life would soon be influenced by a new planet and I was more than ready for some change.
“In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits”
-From The Center of the Cyclone, written by John C. Lilly, M.D.
Isolation tanks, or float pods, are increasingly popular these days and can now be found in large cities throughout the US West. Celebrity Joe Rogan deserves some credit for spreading the word as he often raves on his podcast about the benefits he enjoys from owning a tank and floating regularly in his home. However, the person who deserves the most credit is a scientist named Dr John C. Lilly who invented the concept during the 1950s. You may have heard of Lilly if you ever listened to The Joe Rogan Experience, and you can usually find one of Lilly’s books for sale at a float studio. Lilly did much more than pioneer this meditative therapy, he took the concept further than any of us can imagine. Lilly was fascinated with exploring the human mind, and unlike most scientists today he was willing to experiment with his own mind rather than the minds of his test subjects. One such experiment involved taking LSD and then entering his isolation tank on multiple occasions to learn more about human consciousness. Since I was interested in having a similar experience I decided to read his book The Center of the Cyclone prior to my first journey. The book is a personal account of his LSD influenced float tank experiences along with other stories of mind exploration. Lilly seemed to be writing the book not only to document his pioneering efforts, but also to provide assistance and warnings to others who might follow his path.