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.