Tag Archives: Herbal Medicine

When you stop clanging and banging…. There’s silence!

ScienceSaysSilenceIsVitalForOurBrains

 

After well over year of backpacking the world solo I have traveled by plane, trains, boats, Tuk-tuks, bicycle, canoe and chicken bus. I have taken over 30 flights, visited 5 Continents, and 8 Countries.

I have purged and detoxed and treated myself like a human science experiment by means of Ayahuasca purging in Peru, Ayurvedic Vireachenna detoxes in India, Using Master plants for Dream therapy in Colombia and more Herbal Concoctions in Scotland.

I have delved into the world of self-development and discovery along with enchanting doses of enlightenment by means of studying Acupressure in Australia, Foot Reflexology in Indonesia, Meditation in India, doing an Internship in Master plants Mayan Cosmology & Ethnobotany in Colombia and finishing with an Apprenticeship in Herbal Medicine, Celtic Intensive and Plant Energetics in Scotland.

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I pushed the boundaries of my mind and body by camping with just the most basic of needs, with just one other, for a month in the Australian outback covering over 8500km and hitting all territories. I Climbed 5 Volcanos, one of which was Fuego in Guatemala where I was almost killed by Lava-bombs overhead. I rappelled 60m down a forested sink-hole in Java, Dived with Manta Rays in Noosa Lembongan, Rode the back of a motorbike almost vertically up and down a non-existent broken track with my backpack hanging off the front handlebars in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and got lost in the Polylepis Forest in El Angel.

I found moments of peace, calm, and stillness and learned how ‘Expectations’, both of ourselves and others, are 80% of our misery. I learned that in order to deal with any uncomfortable experience in life there are only 3 things we can do… change remove or accept the situation, and I now have a tattoo of this on my back which I designed and had done in Colombia.

I became aware of how much I had turned away from the divine feminine energy and what this means for the planet, on which I am still understanding and developing. I discovered I may ‘know’ something but it means nothing unless I ‘feel’ it. I learned in order to replace old misinformed learnings… I needed to exercise new learnings over and over and over again until it replaced the old patterns…. Just how the old patterns replaced my authentic self in the first instance.

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I learned that I am not defined by the past or the future but by the present… a lesson I am currently still exercising over and over. I learned that rules are man-made and a ridiculous attempt at suppressing our wild selves… nature has no boundaries and only man creates limitations. I learned the word Tribe, and fell in love with the idea, and then suddenly realised across the world on my travels I have found that and, no matter how far away we are, that energy and spirit of Tribe connects us through time and space.

I learned that being loved is as hard to accept as not being loved and that strength is also the ability to be vulnerable and open and still trust that history does not always repeat if we have learned the right lessons. I learned the true meaning of sex, and that it is more than an act of desire but a way for two people to become one, to transcend time and space and lose themselves in each other, to melt and reunite in the ether.

2 become one flesh blakeI learned that fairy-tales are not the false unworldly plastic dreams that Disney have sold us but the fearless, brave, brutal and sometimes bloody stories of which my ancestors, the Celts, used to teach us about life’s difficulties and how it’s not always rainbows and unicorns but that there are lessons to be learned and if we can stay present, brave and honorable while learning them then there is a happy ending for all of us. I learned that we are the designers and painters of our now and what we spend time manifesting is what we get… so be careful and mindful of who we paint our pictures with. I learned that the words we use to express and convey ourselves, whether by jest or by inheriting the use of language from our family, friends or culture, we can affect not only our health but the company of those around us and how we move in the world.

After all this, upon returning home to Ireland, I all of a sudden feel none the wiser! Such a sudden halt to a year that seemed to have an endless ebb and flow and full of possibility now has begun to feel stagnant, unproductive and without direction. Its as though I have studied in the school of the world. I have completed each semesters lesson, done my homework, practiced and rehearsed some more than others and then learned, forgot and re-learned new lessons. I have had lot of time to do so at my own leisure and now the end of the School year is over and the exams have begun, a test of what I have really learned and what can be easily recalled is here!

 

Upon returning home it feels like the exam at the end of it all… testing and trying my knowledge to recall and exercise all of these lessons in one sitting, all together, to see what I really learned! All of a sudden, I feel nothing has stuck, everything seems to have escaped me… all that learning… where did it go? I studied! I did the homework… I felt it in me! This make me wonder if perhaps I should have rehearsed more, so it would come more automatically! I feel a sense of cold sweated panic! Some exam trials I feel very present with and use my new learnings on old ways like I am top of the class and egoically proud of myself for being so present. Sometimes the exam trials are confusing, foggy, not so clear, more subtle and harder to see and therefore more difficult to know to be present with them… it’s these I feel I fall asleep on, talking in old language and letting old patterns take over, then I wake up and realise I had fallen back into default settings and where possible try to find the opportunity to re-sit that exam.

It seems that within the exam itself there is another lesson… one that acts like the glue that binds it all together…. The exam which shows you what it’s all been about… being present.  It seems for all I’ve learned it is now I have to be most present, now that I have to be alert for the tests to not catch me out. I feel as though I have to be truly awake to avoid missing or overseeing important parts of the exam. Like when you first start meditating there is nothing but noise and distraction, and then the calm comes once you practice being present and aware that noise and where it is coming from. All of a sudden, I feel I have lost all of the learnings, my mind is noisy and busy and I cannot find the calm or quiet to see the lessons… this makes me feel as though I know nothing…. However, it is said that true wisdom is realising that really, we know nothing!

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After over a year of constantly being active, banging the drums, making noise and testing the sounds and metal of the world around me I have arrived home and within the stillness I am making noise like a child….

I feel as uncomfortable with myself as on the first day of Vipassana… and have made several attempts to meditate, find stillness and peace. To quieten my mind. ….Then one day while ‘actively’ looking for stillness I came to a great realisation…….

When I stopped…. the noise stopped!

And Then There Was Silence

The realization didn’t last long before I was clanging and banging in my mind again, but I found the noise maker once again and continue to practice being present as much as possible!

 

Interview with a Shaman

The Following is an interview which was kindly agreed to with Don Lucio, the Ayahuasca Shaman at Selva Madre Retreat Centre, Iquitos, Peru, in May 2017. Translation thanks to Ronald Rincopa.

In this interview, I asked Don Lucio to tell me a little bit about himself, his family and how he came to set up Selva Madre. I asked him to discuss his childhood, his beliefs, how he became a Shaman including his own personal experiences of Ayahuasca and the tools he uses as a Shaman. I asked him how to do we know a good retreat centre from a bad one, what we should be looking for when it comes to the ingredients of the Ayahuasca Brew itself, how many ceremonies should we be taking… and finally any advice he has for anybody taking the Ayahuasca Journey!

 

About Don Lucio, his Family & home;

When you first meet Don Lucio you will notice an air of calm and serenity around him. His hypnotic tones of slow rolling Latino Spanish, mixed with apologetic smiles over broken English, will captivate you and will sooth you into a smiling attentive slumber. You will always see Don Lucio wearing ironic comical t-shirts as well as a Cheshire smile across his face like a Peruvian Buddha who knows something you don’t! It is clear a happy lifestyle keeps you young, as he has a very youthful appearance at 55 years of age.

Don Lucio, also known as Don Luis, set up and established the Ayahuasca retreat centre ‘Selva Madre’, in Padre Coche, outside Iquitos, in Peru. Here lies a sleepy island village only reachable by boat, where he lives only a short motor taxi or 20minute walk away on an expansive grassy site surrounded by low rolling jungle with his family, consisting of his wife, 1 son and 2 daughters. All of whom are married and live together on site in Selva Madre.

Each of his family members play an important role in the everyday running of the centre, from washing and cleaning and crafts making, to being part of the ceremonies themselves.

The site includes their own family accommodation. This comprises of a small two story wooden house of basic means which include sleeping quarters and which is attached to another larger ground floor wooden communal room where they gather for meals. The old retreat centre was based only up from the family home, near the river, but recently this has been dismantled and returned to nature, and across in another field is the newly built retreat centre and temple.

Like his father, who married a woman from the Shipibo Tribe, Don Lucio married a woman from another tribe called the Cocama Tribe, who were very well known for their artistry and craft in pottery as well as making excellent fighters.

Don Lucio was born into the Agwaruna Tribe, the same tribe as his father. The Agwaruna Tribe, one of the many tribes of the Amazon, were well known for their bravery in battle on rough terrain due to their location and for their use of Ayahuasca.

He has 2 Brothers and 1 Sister and all his brothers are Ayahuasca Shamans. Each of them trained by Don Lucio himself. He is currently training his son, Luis Junior, to be an Ayahuasca Shaman as well as his Son in Law Anderson, both who take part in the ceremonies there.

It was Don Lucio’s Grandfather who trained him to be an Ayahuasca Shaman. He was a huge influence in his life and a huge part of Don Lucio’s childhood life was spent training with his grandfather.  He trained for 12 years until 16 years, and unfortunately then his grandfather died so he had to continue to train himself.

When asked about his childhood and training to be a Shaman he says;

‘You need the company of a master to guide and protect you for 8 years as we are in a big world and we don’t know or understand, we can make mistakes and this is the reason that you need a master to teach you the discipline. The main strong discipline is not to get annoyed and avoid frustration’.

After his grandfather died he sought to continue his training with friends of his grandfather who were also Ayahuasca Shamans. However, Don Lucio still had to do many ceremonies with some other masters to practise shamanism, and to learn about the experience in this way of life to deepen his knowledge and understanding.

 

Work experience & Development of Selva Madre;

Later in life, when a little older and a more experienced Ayahuasca Shaman, he was asked to work for different local retreat centres, as a Shaman. Although he gained great understanding in the running of an Ayahuasca Centre, carrying out ceremonies with foreign visitors, from his experience in these places he felt that very often the traditional methods of Ayahuasca use and brewing were not always adhered to, which caused him to question how he felt these retreat centres should be ran, and with that he set up his own retreat centre, Selva Madra.

While working at other retreat centres he tells me that he ‘…would be told to ‘add in’ other plant medicines to the Ayahuasca brew’, so that the recipients would get the ‘fanfare’ of visuals they came to Peru expecting from the medicine. As you will see from my previous post, when using the traditional methods of Ayahuasca not everyone has the same effect, and quite often some people have no obvious effect from the medicine at all.

Don Lucio says ‘…just because there is no obvious effect, does not mean that the medicine is not working on a different level’. Because the Western world come to Peru expecting to have profound visual effects, and due to lack of information on the reality of what to expect from a ceremony, Don Lucio feels that this scenario is very prevalent. He tells me it makes him sad that this is what many retreat centres do. He says he understands the subtleties of the medicine and knows that it’s still working even when there are ‘no obvious effects felt’ and he feels it is important to not ‘mess around’ with the sacred brew but to educate people on what to really expect from taking Ayahuasca, including how it is always working even when you think it is not.

With this in mind, he was not happy to comply with the requests of these retreat centres to ‘falsify the outcomes of people’s experiences’ and so he decided to go out on his own and set up his own retreat centre where he could honour the traditional methods, hoping he could pass this on to others and teach them the importance of using only the traditional brew.

I asked Don Lucio to tell me a little about his Education and Religion as well as his First Ayahuasca experience, how he felt the first time he took the medicine, and how his family felt with him becoming a Shaman, a very devoted path of life to undertake;

I guess when I think of indigenous tribes I imagine quite a basic and jungle like upbringing, which is ignorance on my part. However, it surprised me to learn that Don Lucio had a formal education in Primary, and also in Secondary school. He said he was very studious, and liked school a lot. With this I was also curious to know what his religious upbringing was, as in Peru there is quite a strong Christian presence there, especially due to the arrival of the missionaries as early as the late 1500’s, so you will see many churches and missionary signs there.

When he was a child he tells me, his religion was formally ‘Tupac’, former God of his ancestors. Also, the Gods of the Sun, Earth, Fire, and ground as well as being Catholic. However, now he is mostly Catholic and part of the Christian church (Santa Rita de Casa) while also maintaining his traditional connections with Pachamama, and the spirit of nature… I felt this was quite interesting that he could be a follower of the Catholic religion whilst maintaining the old traditional connections and beliefs in the spirits of nature… and his answer was God is everything!

With regards to his first Ayahuasca experience he tells me the first time he took Ayahuasca was when he ‘was 8 years old, and it was just a little bit’.  He said of his experience ‘The First time there was nothing beautiful! It was very strong, very scary and sometimes I didn’t want to continue’. Later after more experience in the ceremonies he says ‘I almost leave so I didn’t have to do ayahuasca anymore. I didn’t want to purge anymore. The diahorrea, the diet with no salt, no sugar, no sex, was very complicated and difficult until one moment I let control of this in my life.’

He continues to say that ‘Even when we think we have the answer we need to see the answer’. He tells me that one day when he finally surrendered to everything he felt he understood that ‘nature was the answer to everything that exists and that God was closer to him’. He opened his eyes, and suddenly he didn’t feel as heavy any more, it changed his life, and he tells me that so far, he is still changing!

He tells me that it was many years before he enjoyed Ayahuasca. It took him about 8 years before he enjoyed it and still to this day he does not like the flavour! It’s nice to know that even an Ayahuasca Shaman is human with regards to the unique taste of the medicine!

He continues ‘There are times I do not look forward to taking Ayahuasca. Every life is the same and the Shaman is a way or a path of dedication like what we choose to have with a family or a home, like start of a relationship. It’s the same feeling like a discipline is driving you. To find more things’.

He tells me ‘I remember that I wanted to stop taking ayahuasca forever… I left for one year and stopped. I tried to leave forever because I only to want to have an ordinary life. Always with discipline, always busy, I didn’t have time to do other things. Then suddenly one time something made me stay! I didn’t know what I wanted’ to be a Shaman or to have ordinary life ‘but after I realised that this is part of the life I need to live to get maturity, once I start to understand that I need life direction, so then I understand shamanism is a direction, a path to spirituality, so that’s why I came back again’.

In that year when he stopped he tells me ‘it was like my life was lost, in the freedom was good alcohol, dance, sex, eat salt or sugar or meat, do things I liked, but nothing of that helped my direction’, so essentially, he got it out of his system in the year he took a break and has never looked back since. Sometimes we need to go the wrong road to know what the right road is.

Becoming a Shaman seems to be such a devoted way of life so I was curious to know how did people react when he became a Shaman.  

He says ‘They used to have a little bit of fear because some shaman died from helping other people. One of the ceremonies where there is other power, it can crush and kill the shaman. But now they see how I am and they are no longer afraid for me!’

I was curious to know how he feels now about drinking Ayahuasca and it effects, and so he continues to tell me that ‘Every ceremony is different and never repeats. Every ceremony has a different message, frequency, many time our brain is too big this connection and our brain cannot control this.’

He tells me that now his ‘Dose size is very little, just to get into trance and get a connection’. That helps him to understand and have perception with all the people who are around him. He can also use Icaros to connect, and says that he too needs some direction and so the Icaros guide him like they do others.

I ask Don Lucio what are the characteristics that make a good shaman?

He tells me ‘To have a good spirit, to be happy, to have willpower, and to have a spiritual life. Shamanism is a mystery like a priest or minister it’s a vocation and a lot of this needs discipline. The name of all of this is discipline, no meat, no get upset much, don’t be greedy!’ this we both laughed at as we know how easily said this is and how difficult it can be; however, he maintains that even he gets frustrated and annoyed, but it’s the intention to return to a peaceful state that’s important.

 

When initially researching retreat centres for Ayahuasca, the one thing I noticed was that it seems to be a slightly saturated market in Iquitos more especially. With this in mind it can be difficult to know what makes for a good retreat centre and how do you really know a good shaman from a bad shaman for those coming from other countries– what do we look for:

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Don Lucio says ‘This is very important question! Normally the shaman doesn’t have any title or diplomas, or education. It has to transcending from a tribe or from their culture. His picture should show whether he is native. If he is from a native tribe then he came from a different generation. If he is not a native person, you need to know who is the native that trained him because each shaman has a transcending experience and he will be very well known. The local people will speak good about him and they will have a good reputation’.

He continues ‘If you are going to use a non-native shaman you need to see who has trained him. You will see that he has a good master which has trained him, then he should be a good shaman! It is important to ask!’. He tells me that ‘Many people think because they drink more than 20 times they can make a good shaman, but they have no shaman themselves and are not trained, and so they are not a good shaman!’. He also mentions that the ‘Icaros is passed on from person to person and you need guidance, this person if they had no master and no tribe, it means they are teaching their own ideology and using their own ego.  Just because they drink 10 times doesn’t mean that they are safe to guide you’.

I explained that from my own research, some people seem to have the face of a local on their website, however from accounts I have read it seems that sometimes when they arrive to the retreat centre there are no locals there. So, I asked him how do you know who is a real shaman and who is not?

He comments on this by saying ‘Yes, some people put some local persons face online and they may not be a shaman. It’s important this question, because there are many people that try to do for only money. Any people can do only for money.’

‘There are local persons who have only a little bit of money who will do a photo online for the centre or retreat and local people who don’t know who any better and who is this person, they put local people online to say they are a local healer but when you get to the retreat that person is not there! This kind of people are just to do money, because shamanism is not a machine to do money. It is to give all that we can give, your time, power, love, respect, all that you have, to share with the people and to continue to do more things, to grow and love and it is a project for humanity. Like education to continue generation to generation – this is the real shaman, they are not greedy it is just a service. One must ask before if this local face will be at the retreat centre, and who will carry out the ceremony’.

While researching the various Ayahuasca Centres and about the brew itself (Check out my previous post here) I discovered that there seemed to be some variations to how the brew was made, and as Don Lucio mentioned at the beginning of this interview he had been asked to amend the traditional brew, so I asked him, in his opinion, what we should look out for when taking the brew?

‘Ayahuasca is Ayahuasca and Chacruna. This is important. Ayahuasca could be made or prepared in different ways. I realise people who do business they just take care of themselves so they let that people can relax and do other medicine, it will be just a drug, but the ayahuasca we can only mix with Chacruna. There are many mix, Wambisa is another mix but this brings blurred eyes like intoxication a rush in your body, but is very very strong, so some people prefer to use Wambisa to sell somebody who wants to have the effect of being high. There is another called Toi, which harmful to eyes and provides lots of opticals. We saw many people who use Toi and they don’t see anymore! But Chacruna don’t produce that, it just helps you to open your neuro-transmition, our visionary system, like we have our pineal gland to open this properly.

The Chacruna and Ayahuasca is two powers. The Chacruna opens and Ayahuasca sends throughout the cells to have the connection. Aya, some people get cold because the blood is running through our brain and some people feel hot that reaction causes the Aya to go to every part of the body. Chacruna opens and Aya connects.

 

For the Shaman, the Ayahuasca Ceremony is about much more than consuming the brew and on their table, you will see many tools which they use in each ceremony. Here I have asked him to explain these;

‘Tobacco is used to protect the shaman so he doesn’t receive the vibration of the patient who is working with’.

‘Timolina helps to control the breathing’.

‘Flowering water helps to connect’.

‘Cologne has an aromatic that allows connection to a lower frequency, to help keep calm and stable’.

‘Camalonga – this is powerful protection for the shaman and he uses that when somebody has pain’

‘Shakapa is the rhythm tool for the Icaros, it is made from leaves of the jungle bundles together and when it is shaken like a tambourine, it helps the connection for the frequency of the sounds, it’s an instrument for connection to sound’.

‘The Icaros are a song and whistling melody used through the ceremony. The reason for the whistling and singing Icaros is to help open the door to the spirit world’. He explains that ‘sometimes we have a call or sound that we use to bring a pet, so the Icaros allows us to call energies. It’s a language to connect to the spirit. It’s not a language but it’s a connection of a vibration. We all have different vibrations on where we want to go, past life etc. For example, I can do an Icaros to visit my grandfather from many years ago. I can call on Icaros to go back to many many generations ago, by using Icaros to go back to when life was beginning. It helps to open the door and come back again’. Each family/ tribe has their own Icaros. Each have different sounds.

‘Clothing and Robes are significant to our ancestors, so we can be like our ancestor. Shamans used to wear long dress and hats because they were masters, doctors from the village. It is the symbol of the colours of nature and respect’.

Having my own virtual baggage and life stories which I felt needed to be addressed with doing an Ayahuasca Retreat, the one thing I found difficult to perceive before heading off on my trip was how many ceremonies did I need to book in for. I was trying to budget, and figure out return flights, and timescales… and I just felt confused not knowing how much time and money I needed to take into account for…… I was curious to know how many ceremonies they felt were needed for serious vs not serious problems?

His answer was concise ‘The shaman is like a doctor who needs to see you and how your body is to make a diagnostic, how your body is. Don’t tell information but the Shaman know your life because his mind is open and he can perceive more beyond your life and the moment. He can advise you on the length of time needed only during when you meet. Then you will know if you need more ceremonies to heal different things. It depends on how the person sees. Also there is people who don’t need more than 4. Its individual.’

Having since been to a good number of ceremonies I could see clearly that there were many people there to heal from an array of life caused dis-ease. Some seemed to have received all they came for after one ceremony, and others like myself, needed several ceremonies… not entirely sure we finished all that we came to achieve but certainly not leaving empty handed having certainly made some progress. Therefore, the number of ceremonies is certainly individual however I would highly recommend some moreover than none.

 

Finally, I felt it was important to ask Don Lucio if there was anything that he felt he wanted the world to know… whether about the misconceptions about Ayahuasca general life advice;

‘Yes, with Ayahuasca its complicated about the information available, the internet says many things and lots of wrong information make people afraid. Also, these bad people who look only to make money give bad experience to some people and this is not how Ayahuasca is. Because one thing is the experience and the other thing is the information people read from the internet. Many time with the words you cannot get an understanding. Ayahuasca is healing experience and because with just words this is not how people understand so we can just recommend it like a medicine from a doctor. The patient has to take it or not take it. Through recommendation only.’

In regards to finding a life path or happiness he adds that ‘Shamanism or devoted life is also important for people in today’s fast life. Life is busy and frustrated and angry. We must connect with nature and take time to devote our life with intention. As it helps is to find direction in our life. Then come the faith, the love, the happiness and understanding in our life that come from serenity so it gives you calm and peace, that’s the way how we can get more easy the happiness…. And don’t get frustrated!’ He Laughs!

Then repeats….. and ‘Don’t get frustrated!’

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Written by Deborah Kelly – Little Boho Hobo, 2017

 

 

 

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Ayahuasca Medicina – You can’t always get what you want… You get what you need!

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WHERE TO START?!

It’s so hard to know where to start with this one….

I would ask you to imagine for a just a small moment that your world has turned upside down, that you are unable to see a world with colour in front of you… hope as you previously knew it was an illusion of grandeur… which left you feeling like there was nothing left to cling onto… caught in a world of dreams by fools and fools of dreams…a battle with Hopeless Joy! (Wow… Deep… I know… but I have your attention!!)

Now, imagine for a moment that you are offered an idea of freedom from that, and a way to turn your life around… Traveling and Ayahuasca as the starting point has been that freedom.

My Ayahusaca retreat and trip to Selva Madre Iquitos, in Peru of May just gone by, has been such a personal and transformational journey. One which is still in progress and of which I will continue to learn and grow from as the months, and hopefully as the years go by also.

WHAT IS THIS AYAHUASCA BUSINESS?! – The Science bit!

A few months back, a colleague of mine (who could visibly see I was short of cracking under the pressures of the stress of the past two years), mentioned ‘Ayahuasca’ to me. I had absolutely zero idea of what he was talking about initially, however he knew that I was interested in all things holistic, natural and alternative, and that I was quite interested also in plant medicine. So, I listened to what he had to say, and decided to investigate it myself a little further.

My initial understanding was that this was some sort of miracle plant that the indigenous peoples of South America, more locally to Peru and the Amazon Basin, had been using for thousands of years to connect deep within themselves. They used this medicine as a way of un-earthing and rooting out the causes of our own self manufactured misery and in turn purging this dis-ease from our bodies so that we may start all over again. A kind of Big Red Re-set button. So, naturally I had to know more….

…Why did I not know about this before? If it’s so good then why is it not being used worldwide in medicine already? (the answer for this is usually because the big multinational drug companies would be out of business tomorrow morning with such a wonderdrug!),  Was it safe to use? How do I know what’s a real Ayahuasca centre from a bogie one? Where does it come from and Where could I go to experience and learn more about this?

So… I started my research by watching a You Tube Documentary called ‘DMT – The Spirit Molecule’ which would explain a little more about it.

I also looked up many retreat centres to see what they were all offering and obviously looked up as much information on this Ayahuasca as possible. It’s funny… Have you ever bought a new car and then you start to see the same type everywhere you go, but you never saw it before…. or the same happens with a word you have never heard before… as soon as you hear it once you hear it everywhere too… so, as soon as I had heard of Ayahuasca it seemed to crop up everywhere for me. As soon as I started mentioning it to people, although most hadn’t heard of it, those who had heard of it already had nothing but keen interest in it and seemed pretty envious of my idea of going to one of these retreats in Peru!

Ayahuasca, translated means ‘Vine of the Dead’, or ‘Soul Vine’, and is found in the Jungles of the Amazon. It’s appearance is that of a beautifully twisted vine who’s distinctive transected pattern when cut in half looks like a beautiful flower and is often used in jewellery. There are three main Ayahuasca vines White, Black or Yellow, with Cielo (White) and Black being the most common used vines.

 

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As with any plant species there are also toxic Ayahuasca vine variations that when consumed can cause rashes, and severe blurring of the eyes as well as other nasty side effects. It is quite common to be approached on the streets of Iquitos and other popular Ayahusca retreat destination areas, by hawkers looking for small money in promise for a Ayahuasca Trip – which should be avoided at all costs!

You wouldn’t buy a second hand parachute from a guy on the street would you?!

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What exactly is it??

Ayahuasca refers to a a type of tea or Brew which is generally traditionally brewed using the Ayahuasca Vine together with the leaves of the Chacruna plant, or Banisteriopsis caapi. Both Ayahuasca and Chacruna contain a substance called DMT, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, which is essentially is a molecule found naturally occuring in many plants and animals. When ingested, Ayahuasca’s componants are broken down in the stomach and an enzyme called MAO is released to break down the DMT which is then expelled from the body. This means that the effects of the vine are short lived.

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Using Ayahusaca alone can provide a very small window into the experience, effects and benefits of the vine, however as it is broken down so quickly it’s effects are extremely short lived.

This is where the magic happens… The reason that the Ayahuasca brew is made with Chacruna leaves also, is because Chacruna leaves also contain a chemical called a MAO inhibitor (MAOI). This essentially means that it stops/ inhibits the MAO enzymes from breaking down the DMT in the Ayahuasca so quickly, which in turn means that the psychotrophic effects of the plants are then allowed to be experienced in a slower process, gaining a window into the realm of Ayahuasca, and to experience the spiritual health  benefits of the vine.

 

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? – What happens when you take it? 

Before we get to the nitty gritty… I know, I know… You’re shouting – ‘Get on with it!’…

It’s important to stress that this is not a drug! I remember reading during my research, that Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug… it’s a medicine and anybody who takes it will know why… and this is so completely true!

Not only does Ayahuasca taste pretty awful (sort of like harshly burned treacle mixed with the dust of a 20 year old cigarette ashtray), but you must be prepared for change to occur. You must be willing to accept the inevitable truths you learn from it, and appreciate that this plant medicine comes passed on to you from thousands of generations of Shamanic rituals and traditions in the jungle. This medicine was used to heal physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually… and if you are skeptical of its abilities then I can guarantee if you drink it you will appreciate there must have been some reason, and some sort of positive outcomes from its consumption, in order that it survived being drank generation by generation….more especially because of the taste!

Since Ayahuasca is a brew made by the Shamans of the Amazonian Basin, and as it is their ritual and their medicine, then my personal feelings are we should respect that and so it should only be consumed with real Shamans.

Ayahuasca is generally consumed in the night time when the earths energy is cleaner, there is less noise interference from the outside world and it is generally cooler than lying in a sun heated temple during the day.

The room consists of the Shamans Tables (depending on the retreat centre there will usually be anywhere from 2- 4 Shamans, generally always more than one) at the top of the room where they have their Shacpa (a hand rattle made from plant leaves, which is used to guide the Icaros and also to keep away negative spirits). On the table you will also see a selection of Talisman type items such as crystals and perfumes and colognes made from local plants and flowers (these are used to raise their energy from physical to spiritual during ceremonies, and also help to ward off bad spirits). On the table you will also find Mapacho (a tobacco smoked to blow away negative energies). Finally you will also see a bucket for vomiting into… yes folks… a bucket… and yes I did say ‘vomit’!! Even the Shamans purge!!

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As anybody who knows about Ayahuasca, the first comment is always directed toward the beautiful ‘Purge’. Essentially, when taking Ayahuasca you can expect to vomit as this is part of the transformational process.

The rest of the room will have matresses on the floor (anywhere from 5 – 10 or so) with buckets beside for the participants. This sounds very seedy and basic, but essentially that’s all you need for ceremony and as strange as it may appear at first glance, it’s actually quite functional.

 

 

Purging is a typical response to the medicine as it reaches deep into your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical bodies searching for the deep rooted psychological wounds, scars and weeds you have manifested since birth and essentially the medicine acts like a weed killer for your soul… So, as soon as it gets to the root of the problems and gathers these weeds, they need to be thrown out and gotten rid of…. this is actually quite a cleansing process, albeit not the most pleasant at the time, and this my friends…is the ‘Purge’! Purging is usually done by vomitting, and so you will be sure to hear a chorus of fellow Ayahuasca travellers echoing into their buckets!!

After one ceremony I decided to rename the purge to Downward Purge, since the position one takes to purge is quite like that of the Yoga Move called Downward dog where one is on all fours… It seemed to stick!!

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There is no embarrassment while purging as everybody will get their turn!! Purging can also come in the form of Diarrhea, Tears, Sweats hot and cold, stomach pains, happiness and laughter, sadness etc. but usually the quickest method is vomiting… and if you make it through a few ceremonies without vomiting, as I did, you will eventually feel like you are missing out on the big cathartic clear out!! (I eventually joined the club…everybody usually does!).

The Ayahuasca brew is given first as a small dose, about a quarter or so of an egg-cup, to see how you react to it (strong or weak), and therefore they can recommend the correct dose at each new ceremony based on your reaction to the last. The Shaman may then take your pulse before taking the medicine to see how nervous or not you are, and if you are calm and relaxed you may be prescribed a larger dose. The Shamans first say blessings, whistle, chant and blow mapacho and use cologne over themselves and the brew before dispensing it to you. Once you take the dose it can take 15-20 mins before it takes effect, sometimes it can take longer and sometimes you may have no reaction to it (which happened to me on a few occasions) however you can be sure that even then, it is doing it’s job.

As part of the ceremony, the Shamans guide you through the process using the beautiful whistling and singing melodies of their Icaros, which are traditional blessings that are handed down verbally from family tribe to family tribe, with each tribes Icaros differing slightly. These Icaros help to keep you focused during your ceremony… kind of like a snake charmer using a whistle to charm the snake from his bassinet.

Click this link for a listen to the Selva Madre Icaros –

As Ayahuasca is a Psychotrophic medicine you can expect visual, emotional and physical symptoms. Therefore, which again is my own personal view, it is best that these are experienced in the safe hands of the experienced Shamans, who can also then deceiifer the meanings from your ceremony in private meetings afterwards (usually a day or so later when you have had time to process it for yourself also).

The ceremony lasts approx. 2-3 hours where you would usually then leave the temple and return to your tambo/ bedroom to sleep. It is generally encouraged to leave the temple afterwards, as the Shamans consider the energy too strong there after and also feel that because Ayahuasca leaves your spirit very open after connecting with the plant medicine that you are more susceptible to negative energies attaching to you.

After ceremony the medicine would have generally worn off at this stage, however it can often stay in your system for longer, a few hours sometimes, which means you may still be able to feel the effects long after leaving the temple… however it does ware off and the worst after effect will be a restless night sleep. It is important to note that if you are in a good retreat center, they will have somebody there on standby should you need them for anything – another reason to choose a good retreat centre using real Shamans.

The experience itself is extremely personal, and individual, and can therefore be difficult to describe without having you thinking the worst!!

It is likely something you have never experienced before, and so the best approach to undergoing an Ayahuasca experience is to have absolutely zero expectations at all… I read this from research time and time again and decided that after it being said so many times there must be something in it, and it’s true… what happens for somebody else may be completely different than what will happen for you!

As they say…. Mother Ayahusaca will decide what’s important for you, so you can go in with one intention and if she feels something else is more important, well that’s where you will go… but rest assured, it’s the right direction for you!

A famous brittish band once said ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need!’

Essentially, the experience can range from having no sensation or experience at all…. to seeing optical geometric neon patterns to having day dreaming thoughts, to seeing imagery of friends, family, animals, and fairytale type creatures (good and bad). All are harmless and generally some of the imagery that we as westerners perceive as evil or bad, actually quite often have a beautiful positive explanation – again, another reason to have an experienced Shaman be able to explain and deceifer your experience). For example, seeing Goblins can quite often mean they are little Ayahuasca Doctors to help you work on something specific and you can ask them to help you!

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You may also have physical experiences such as pains and feeling nauseous, which isusually a clearing of some description, or sometimes you may feel tugging and pulling, or body jolts etc. all of which again are harmless and are usually Ayahuasca’s way of drawing your attention to something specific it wants to show you. Seeing visions of Eyes are another common feature, and generally these are there to show you that you need to focus on something or to pay more attention to something you are experiencing. As Westerners we are programmed to take things very literally, and to analyse everything… so if you have a good Shaman there to help make understanding of your experience, then I suggest to leave your critical brain outside the temple, just enjoy the ride and go with your gut.

The last paragraph, for those of you who may be nervous or unsure of such an experience different to anything you have ever done or experienced yourself, may make you think…. What the hell would you be doing that for!!!?… and in fairness, before doing this I would have said the same also, but having experienced this in a safe environment with Shamans I trust, with genuine Shamans using traditional methods, I can promise you that this is an experience that will change your life for the better.

Nowhere in this world can you meet a bunch of complete strangers traveling for a life changing retreat, who along with the guidance from these Shamans, undergo such a personally transformative experience, with whom you can talk so openly, naturally and normally about your vomit and toilet habits of the ceremony from the night before along with your esotherical experiences over breakfast, and leave feeling that somehow your molecular make up has been tidied up just little… just like doing a ‘defrag’ tidy up on your computer to clear up the disk space. Like this, you leave not fully sure of how it has affected your life, but you just know that it has, and that it will take several months or possibly even years, to be able to fully see the full benefits… to be able to see the wood for the trees so to speak…!

Ayahusaca is not a toy, it is not a drug in the western sense of the word, it is not recreational drug, and is not an undertaking for anybody who is not prepared to make some changes in their life. It has been a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into the traditional world of the tribes people of the Amazon Rainforest, a place where the lungs of the earth still beat for our planet, and a place that’s thankfully relatively somewhat untouched by western contagion. Ayahuasca is a natural plant medicine which in theory should only be known by Shamans and their tribes, but they have allowed us into their world so that  they can help us, so we can save ourselves from dis-ease, and so their own traditions can also be saved.

In a world where the west is forever penetrating and transforming even the most untouched areas of the world, we should be privileged to be allowed into these exclusive VIP access only clubs of the Traditional Tribal worlds. However, it is sad that this is as a result of our transforming their indigenous cultures!

The new generations of ‘would be’ Shamans are turning away from the old traditions and are now more interested in celebrities, movie stars, mobile phones, and online social media and so are more likely to abandon their local traditions, trading them in for ‘cooler’ clothes labels, and the latest must have electronics and other modern technological advances as seen on TV …and all this in order for them to be feel a part of our world and our society! These people have nothing, and their youth even in the most remote parts of the Amazon are donning old smart Phones and rip off designer labels… and so carrying on ‘Old School’ traditions that were once handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, are now dying out because it’s not ‘cool’ to be celibate and train as a Shaman in a world of sex and drugs and media, and not cool to learn ‘boring old traditions’ when they could be online.

The Western world is constantly moving in and taking over like a cancerous virus and these tribes can only allow their traditions survive by making them popular with our Western world, opening up their secrets to us in hopes to make their traditions popular again, which then in turn creates demand, which in turn encourages the younger generation to once again get involved.

So, by means of respecting how our world has encroached on their world, my own personal view is that we should be respectful to their traditions and undertake Ayahuasca through Shamanic ceremony, with only genuine indigenous Ayahuasca Shamans, in the Amazon where Ayahusaca itself is indigenous, with their tribal traditions. If you are planning to experience Ayahuasca for yourself, please consider spending your money not with a company who is owned by foreigners, but genuine Amazonian Shamans, so the money spent is being given back to those who provided us with the information, with this secret life transforming medicine, in the first place!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you found it useful and/ or interesting! Please check out my Facebook Page, like and share, because you never know who might care!

Your Little Boho Hobo XXX

 

The Power of Herbal Medicine

Since I was a kid, I have always had experience taking into account how food, emotions and external stimuli affects the body.

I grew up with eczema and asthma, and my Mam and Dad had tried every possible cure known to mankind to try and cure me. From Holy Water Wells to Peeing on my hands (a little less holy!) we tried lotions and potions, diets and food recipes, rummaging around in poo, and yet nothing seemed to work.

Now, I admit that while they were bringing me to all these places and we were doing all these things, that I, as a kid, wasn’t the best at keeping to strict regimes (which is why I believe they didn’t always work long term)! In fact I hated the routines that came with trying to cure my eczema. It made me feel different and separated from others.

I felt that when others were out having fun, I was in getting  steroid skin-cream put on my body……..When my cousins and brothers were running around in their PJs before bed in my Nana’s living room, I was getting the crusty sap and puss wiped from the backs of my legs…… While my brothers were watching their favorite evening tv shows, relaxing before bed, I was shouting at Mam and moaning in pain from hot poultices being put on my infected hands……. While the boys were out playing in the trees and in the fresh cut summer grass, I was being re-wrapped in bandages that had come away while I was having fun and sneezing and wheezing from allergies. While we always had lots of various animals in the house, I always had allergies to most of them. There was always the itchy’s or sneezies with me!

So, to add onto this every day regime, a load of restrictions and potions, wasn’t my idea of fun, and I guess ‘not’ fully doing them all correctly was the only control I had!

In general I did try. I knew that Mam and Dad were upset to see me sad or in pain and knew they wanted to help me. I guess I didn’t know any better than to just be itching and in pain alot of the time, so although I wanted to ‘be better’ too I had no idea how that actually felt, so didn’t really understand what I was hoping for? (Does that make sense?)

So, I tried most things as best I could and failed on some things… more especially the Sugar Free Diet! (Seriously…to put a kid on a ‘sugar free’ restricted diet was like putting a diabetic in Willy Wonkas Chocolate factory! It was never going to work…. especially because I didn’t understand the seriousness and reasons behind these plans).

So, I would stay on this sugar free diet as best I could, I would drink herbal concoctions which were kept in the fridge (which looked like pee and tasted like bitter frog spit), and then would rub what looked and smelled like tree bark all over my body… which would sting like a thousand bees at once! It all seems so severe.

I participated in all these experiments, but would sabotage them in secret by cycling up to the local shop and eating more sweets than I could consume in one sitting…I would ‘forget’ to drink the fridge pee, and would either scratch all the tree bark off my hands or sometimes even wash it off when I had the chance (especially if I was to be in school the next day, as I would smell of wet rainforest, which was not good ammunition to hand the kids in school who already hated me because I was so different and covered in bandages all the time- although I always had the best shot at best mummy costume at Halloween….unintentionally!!)

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While alot of these things didn’t work fully when I was a kid, I believe that it was because maybe some of them just weren’t meant for me, and others I just sabotaged!

I can also say now, on reflection, that alot of my issues with eczema were emotional, stress and diet based.

As I have grown up and become better at dealing with all these things my body has become more resistant. I can say for certain that when I went traveling in 2009,  my eczema started the change toward good. The sun certainly helped it disappear for the most part. Also, I found freedom in myself which I didn’t have before and grew alot in that year and certainly even in the years after returning home.

However, when I switched to eating a predominantly Paleo Diet 80:20 of the time my skin improved massively and to this day it is almost completely gone. This is a testament that what you put in you is what comes out! With Eczema, this really is true! It’s still there, and flares up every now and again, but it’s 90% gone. So, although some of the natural remedies I tried as a kid didn’t fully work, I believe after I had finished going through changes as a kid, and when I had control over eating correctly (most of the time) that this has helped!

As a kid I didn’t understand any of the things we did or that my Mum brought me too, however it’s amazing as an adult looking back at a time that Holistic or Alternative medicine was not as freely available, or as widely practiced, how many things we were able to try out. We also lived down the country, and so the fact that these things were available then is just fab!

Some of the things we would have done were Homeopathy, Kinesiology, Allergy Testing, Diets, Natural and Herbal remedies etc. and as I have grown into my adult years I have always had some romantic interest in all these areas. url2

You would think that I would hate them all considering how they didn’t work for me at the time, or at least with any long term effect, and you would think that this would turn me off. But oddly enough, I had never actually linked the things that I did as a child to any of my adult interest in natural remedies to all these exposures early in life, not until very recently!

I have always found it interesting that normal every day food can provide medicinal cures to common ailments. Like, everyone knows honey and lemon are fab for a sore throat (not the sweets, but the real deal). However, if you mix this with some cayenne pepper, some thyme, and some tumeric and even a little bit of Ginger you have a fab throat soother and also a great cough remedy!

(Lemon has Vitamin C which is great for your immune system and Honey is anti-bacterial and soothing, Cayenne is an anti inflammatory and great at creating saliva to lubricate a dry throat or to help loosen phlegm, Turmeric is an anti inflammatory and great for esophageal issues, and thyme helps to relieve symptoms of cough and helps the bronchi oles).

In the last few years I have been reading more and more articles about natural and herbal remedies and I even went on a foraging course which was FAB! If you haven’t done one yet…. then you really should! They are fun, a great way of getting out doors, and you can learn so much about all the lovely wild things that are growing right on your doorstep! Check out ‘Wicklow Wild Foods‘ in Co Wicklow (obviously)! Geraldine if fab and a fountain of knowledge.foraging1

It’s such a shame that knowledge which was an every day use years ago and so practical is now seen as a novelty. I think everyone should be able to walk around in a park or woods or in nature and be able to see the food and medicine around them. Most Medicine is available to everyone, and at a fraction of the cost of going to a Doctor if you know what to look for and how to use it.

I am only in the infancy of learning small bits here and there, and it seems so incredibly daunting to me that there is so so much in the world of herbs and natural therapy and remedies I have not yet discovered. I sometimes wish I had opened my eyes to everything sooner so I would have more years of knowledge under my belt!

In saying that, I would have only been able to appreciate all I’m learning now in my adult life, the same as I wasn’t able to appreciate it when I was a kid.

I have tried to make natural therapy, however big or small my knowledge, a reasonable everyday part of my life. I am constantly trying out new recipes, making my own remedies (even making them for friends and family), researching and reading articles on food and herbs and natural therapies, what they do, how they nourish, how the body needs different food and herbs for different ailments and in different ways.

It’s fun to know there’s so much ahead! I have only scratched the surface of fun and frolicks! In truth I know I will always be learning! I will continue to learn more and be able to have enough information, and retained information, that I can use it to help family and friends and to integrate it more into my life on a daily basis. This is my goal!

Watch this space, I’ll certainly have lots of recipes and nuggets of info to pass along to those who are interested.

I’ll leave you with an interesting and lovely video I came across on The Power of Herbal Medicine, enjoy!

 

PS. I admit that when I am eating pizza or when it’s take away Friday that I don’t always practice what I preach, however I do feel that as I grow older I am more and more aware of how we are a society who is consumed by sugar and stimulants! So, I may be preaching the above, but doesn’t mean it’s an easy road to stay on. I would love to hear and learn from others who are carving their way in natural therapies or tipping their toes in to foraging! Feel free to comment X