Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blame It On The Moon

Apparently my ability to predict the future isn't so great.

We arrived at the first stop on the way to the ceremony, the house of this German guy called The Rider, who had lived in Ibiza and Goa for something like twenty years - talk about 24 hour party person. Two things struck me within a few moments of getting there. The first was the house. It was situated at a dip where two small hills met, which didn't seem that impressive as you approached, but when you entered the living room and looked at the back wall which was entirely glass, you saw that it looked out over a broad shallow valley that seemed to extend endlessly into the distance: infinity in dusky green. Walking through the living room, you see that walls slide open to let you onto a huge deck. Upon closer examination, you realize that both the back wall and the front wall are mades of giant sliding glass doors, so that the whole space can be opened up - front deck, living room, back deck, view to infinity. It was genius. I work on film sets which takes me into a lot of homes I think I'd love to be able to afford, or stay in for awhile, but rarely do a I see space and think about killing the owner so I can move in the next day. The way this place worked with the land was amazing. It wasn't a particularly big or expensive, it was just some really well placed glass. The decor was cool, an interesting combination of cut stones and polished steel, which seemed to be channeling eighties club aesthetics and upscale ski resort at the same time. Cool, but perhaps a little to austere for me. I decided to let the guy live.

The second thing that struck me was that this guy was into Human Design. As was Cyan and they both seemed to be pretty excited that I was a "Reflector" the rare kind of person who is supposed to not really work, float around a lot, sample things and assess them quickly. When I wasn't completely occupied drooling over the house I listened to them talk about it a little. I had to admit I was warming up to the idea a little. First of all these guys seemed a lot more sane and coherent than Chatty. And based on architectural tastes, more likely to have common interests. Secondly, anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't particularly think I'm supposed to work that much and that I do tend to float around and come to opinions about things and especially people very quickly. People tend say I judge prematurely, but I've always been of the opinion other people don't pay attention to the right details- you can tell a lot by looking. And of course, I definitely get it wrong sometimes. And here were these people saying that it was cosmically designed to do exactly that. Kind of appealing.

I chewed on all of this as we headed out, to a little tiny house where Cyan lived where we we're going to make the ceremony.

Despite all sorts of transportation concerns based on the fear of tons of people wanting to come, only one other person wound up showing up, this Italian girl named Bambini. She lived in the house with all the kittens and all the people and I really hadn't separated her in my mind from teaming mammalness there. She seemed quite young, had eyes that seemed to alternate between beautiful and awkward which matched her disposition which seemed to alternate between sweet and combative.

The ceremony was outside - it wasn't so much a temple as a consecrated ground with a few poles that had baby aya vines planted at the bottom. My contribution, ironically enough, was to take a make a circle of crystals around the whole thing. As crystals are not really my area of expertise, in sort of the same way that nursing is not really a navy seals area of expertise, I was a little concerned that I would somehow go about it the wrong way. I was instructed to point them up, to direct the energy up. Seemed simple enough. And I appear to have survived the process, but I was definitely out of my element.

By the time the ceremony started, the full moon shown down on us like infinity, and the earth seemed to extend endlessly in all directions. My intent before we started was to really take the aya into me fully. As I've said, I'm well grounded in this here reality, and was trying to figure out how to dive more deeply into the mystery. Everyone made a little ceremonial gesture before drinking. I put the glass below my nose like wine and wafted it in, really trying to unite with it, then savored it's taste on the way down.

Nothing to exciting happened at first but I eventually got up to pooh and the world had gotten interesting. Plants had a spooky life like quality and the bathroom smelled gnarly. I'd really been thinking about the possibility of malicious transdimensional entities, so stuff that seems spooky seems significantly more spooky because the possibility that genuine evil might be able to make it's way through the space time continuum still lurked in the back of my head. Anyways, I got through all that, and I was lying down tripping out a little. Patterns that were more organic then geometric. Not quite as many eyes as before and a little more death imagery - mostly skulls and bones. It didn't seem scary, just like the truth: passive, eternal. I saw faces in the clouds . Plants looked very much like faces and figures that you might see in those kind of indigenous carvings that have always made me pretty dismissive of indigenous art: Simple figures, big eyes and mouths, exaggerated gestures. Apparently they were actually taking pretty good notes. Shows what I know.

And then the fun started.

First I felt a some tension or pain. I couldn't figure out if I was cold, having some kinda normal toxic reaction to the aya, or processing something ugly. It wasn't that bad, but it did feel kinda like poison. I wasn't worried though, because I had the plan: just love the fuck out of anything scary or unpleasant. But…

My heart wasn't pumping. I mean it was pumping blood, but I couldn't get it to pump out any love. Everything felt really constricted and tight. This was not life threatening, but it wasn't going to produce a Burning Flame of Love that would slay the unspecified unpleasantness. I was a little freaked out. My whole whole plan for navigating weird stuff on aya had just been stopped cold. And I was shivering and uncomfortable. Heart must be opened! So I started to rub around heart, and send lots of opening energy into the area. It took awhile, but eventually it worked. I felt the stuff around my heart open up, and then my heart. I kept rubbing and rubbing and my heart felt more open and happy alive. Not in some abstract emotional sense but a completely tangible physical feeling, just like a water splashing on your face is a tangible physical feeling. I looked up, and saw the beautiful moon shining right down on me, just pouring love into my heart. It made me think of my partner, and how we had gotten into some argument about what love was - I was arguing for something about love should require one to consider or be aware of the person one is loving. She had said something like 'Does the moon consider how it loves each blade of grass or does it just love?' It seemed pretty lame at the time but suddenly there the moon was, just shinning her love into my wide open heart, and my god it suddenly made complete sense. It just felt so good to be open to that loving feeling and shinning right into me. It was like nothing else mattered. It was so beautiful. Open and love, open and love, what a hippy, I can't deal with myself.

And it had a very feminine and vulnerable quality which quite surprisingly, was wonderful.

And this is the weird part

I mean really


became …

My partner!

For real!

Or her in some sort of prototypical girl-becoming-a-women sense. And it was totally awesome. I went from feeling this oddly enjoyable open feminine energy in my heart, to just being her. Full stop. Like I had hips and long hair and a proclivity to get stoned and devour an entire bag of organic blue corn chips in less time than it takes to burp. Suddenly she made so much more sense to me. My partner is pretty fetching and I guess the best way to put it is kind of too much women. And that's exactly how I felt. Like I just wanted to love, or at least flirt with everything and like I had this almost supernatural power of attraction. Like I was this volcano of desire and love and attraction. It felt like it was to much, like it should be illegal - there was no way the world was ready for it, particularly the fashion world she had worked in when she was younger, with it's demonically circumscribed take on all things feminine. Or perhaps more significantly, her midwestern military family. It was like all this potential and desire and beauty that was forbidden to happen. But since it was aya, and not the real world, I just lay there and let the energy of that possibility roll through me. I just became this super affectionate, delicious gluttonous cuddly loving creature.

Love. Cuddle. Puppy. Repeat. Brilliant. The only problem was I was starting to get cold. At about this time, Bambini comes over, and says something I don't understand. And then I think she's gonna curl up with me and cuddle, which normally would be odd, but makes sense because I've become the ayahuascic version of my already very cuddlable, partner. And then Bambini says 'I can see you're wide open which is so beautiful and anything is possible for you in this moment, but you need to protect yourself' Which made sense, it did seem like a very a vulnerable place, but the moon was shining her love down on me and I was all that love between my partner an myself and I really didn't wan't Bambini to go on some heavy trip about entities and danger and blah blah blah. That's one of my big problems with the aya scene. Everyone's so cautious and concerned and worried. And then she said, 'For now this blanket will keep you safe.' and put a blanket over me. Best thing ever! I was like some annoying candy-cane raver who had just been given a soft fuzzy blanket to keep them warm. Actually come to think of it, I was embarrassingly like that.

That went on for awhile. It was kinda to much fun to leave. Eventually I got up and danced - it was a little of the jester thing again but even lighter, really feminine, but more working with and playing with energy kind of dancing. If my stomach hurt, or I had an ache somewhere, I could just feather it away with my hands. Very lightly. Totally cool. They should teach all the kids this.

And at some point I was kind of taking a tour of my own body and realized that deep in my sexual make up there is this sense of frustration threaded in. Like sex just comes with frustration. I was definitely not a smooth operator as an adolescent and young man and in a certain sense this had led me to assume things would just never go well romantically or sexually for me. I'm definitely doing better these days, but what
I realized was that all those years of not getting what I wanted had cause me to weave in frustration as necessary part of sexuality. Basically I realized that at a certain level I manifest the energy of not getting what I wanted and a sort of fear around pleasure. Not to useful. But magic aya: she just washes it all away.

The rest of the night was basically more me being my partner and realizing/understanding things about her. They really belong more in a blog about relationships than drugs, so I'll just sum it up by saying that a lot of stuff that bugs me about her, seemed very clearly a reaction to her having felt stifled in who she wanted to be, or judged for the way she lives and loves (she is a little out there) or something else had that fucked with her natural expression of herself - before I'd even met her.

A lot of this stuff we had talked about before, so it wasn't really a news flash. But to go from understanding some ones perspective, to embodying it. Damn. Seriously! Suddenly everything made so much more sense. I have every confidence that if all couples, or people in any kind of relationship, romantic or not, could experience this, we would live in a completely different world. There really aren't words in English to describe the degree of empathy and understanding the experience provided.

And then Bambini wanted her blanket back. The moon remained magical, but alas, the body was cold and the drugs were wearing off. Eventually some suggested inside, which of course meant warmth. Soon I was happily snoozing the in the living room.

The next morning we woke up to a breakfast of quinoa and Japanese sweet potatoes. Cyan eventually gave Bambini a ride back to town. I looked around at the wide open land and the sky above and decided I would stay.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Human Design?

"Do you know your birth time!!!!?" The words flew out of his mouth with desperation and excitement.

"2:20, I think, I dunno, why?" The preceding question had left me equally flummoxed. Did I know about Human Design? It was early and the sleep was still heavy in my eyes. I'd stumbled the few hundred feet from the house where I was staying to the Mea House to talk to Cyan about arranging to get a full moon ceremony tonight at his place. It was about a half hour drive out of town on what I had been told was incredibly beautiful land. Add aya and moonlight, it sounded like magic.

Approaching the house, the first thing I noticed was a tangle of kittens swarming around the doorstep - a portent for what lay inside. I think at last count something like two guys and seven girls were living in this modest sized house in what seemed like a state of childlike delight. The sun broke over the distant hills with pinkish tinge, beautifully backlighting the house and outlying structures: a teepee, a few tents, and some unspecified wooden creation that seemed to imply 'porch'. Bright eyed creatures were stirring, meditating, yogaing and making espresso. Holistic kittens greeting the new day. Burning Man with plumbing.

Before I had even made my way inside, my interrogator, Chatty, had descended upon me. Gesturing excitedly, he led me to an unused corner of the porch, where he extracted the worlds tinniest computer from a bag and started typing. I was trying to figure out what the "Human Design" thing was . The night before, I'd heard Robin Hood, a good natured English chap - who, incidentally, could be seen at this moment doing sun salutations wearing, quite unashamedly, a mauve loin cloth - gush excitedly about geodesic construction, so I was figuring it was some feng shui ergonomic alignment of the stars and the light switch kinda thing. Or some new energy healing modality. Six Chakras instead of seven, or is five. I didn't really care. My semi-concious self was focusing it's limited mentally capacities on talking to Cyan - logistical co ordination in this world in which I did not have a phone, internet or any form of transportation really seemed more of a priority then the latest refinements of hippiedom.

By now the computer was purring away. Chatty requested my birth city, and was punching away into a very pretty looking computer program and suddenly looked like he was about to explode, like a little girl who'd had to many sweets. 'You're a Reflector, just like me." With a little effort I managed to focus on what he was saying. Apparently Human Design has nothing to do with light switches. It's this neo-astrology, that combines Chinese astrology ( thats the one with year of the Pig, etc) with western astrology and some German engineering to make this very exact understanding of the human condition.

Apparently 'Reflectors' are pretty rare. 1.5 percent of the population or so. I didn't get the full deal, but they aren't really supposed to work, they're supposed to cruise around, briefly sample this that and the other thing, all of which they have a remarkable ability to groc based on a just a small taste of and move on. And they reflect. So it's important to their well being that they're surrounded by good people and good environments. And somehow this reflecting was also a good for the people around me. Sounded great to me.

But lets just run the bullshit detector. There wasn't any real way to check the validity of thing itself, but it seemed worthwhile to look into the associated elements. Lets start with astrology - I've always had a problem with it. I've yet to have anyone give me any decent explanation of how it could possibly work. Faith in anything without a mechanism that explains it seems kinda fishy to me. Also, I've always associated it with people kind of weakly fishing about for some meaning to their life and guys who will pretend to be interested in anything to get laid. That said, I've really never looked into it much, and I suppose the position of the planets could influence you, but it would seem to me the time you are in would be a lot more important than the time you were born. On the other hand am stubborn and grounded, which I understand to be the two hallmarks of a Taurus. Chinese astrology I feel a little better about - first of all I associate it with much more together people. Taoism and Traditional Chinese Medicine have all sorts of things that work great without me understanding how, so I have a little more faith in the Chinese. Both very scientific ways of coming to a conclusion I realize. Also, everything in the descriptions do seem to match the people. But how could everyone born in whole year have similar traits. On the upside, I'm a tiger. How cool is that?

So basically I'm far from sold, but you might be able to talk me into it.

Now Chatty. Well, he was just that. Chatty. And I don't want to say he seemed dishonest, but he did have a harmless but none to successful hustler quality about him. The way he'd descended on me was definitely on the goofy end of predatory. I'd heard him after the last ceremony laying some cheesy game down on this girl about how sad he was that he was leaving this beautiful paradise. And you could just hear the subtext, that it the only possible solace for this tragedy was for her to give herself to him. It was just classic new agey passive pick up line. I hate that shit. I mean dude, if you think she's fine and you want to get with her, just say so. And here's the kicker, he said he was going to Dubai, to DJ. Sounds pretty glam right? But no, it was terrible, it was babylon, [eyes batting sensitively] he loved nature, he needed sympathy (and possibly a blow job) I almost kicked him in the balls right then and there.

So this was the guy telling me we both had this rare thing in common and we weren't supposed to work. Color me skeptical. I spotted Cyan - the only reason I was bothering with the human race before going for a run - out of the corner of my eye. " And where did this system come from?"

"I channeled it in Ibiza in 1987"

"Cool." I said and walked over to Cyan, impressed that such a spacey seeming dude had written any sort of computer program ad pretty sure I'd heard as much as I needed to about Human Design.

Cyan smiled, post yoga. It was a beautiful morning. Better, he was going to pick me in a few hours, which gave me just enough time to do some chi gung before heading off on the adventure.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Court Fool and the Burning Flame of Love

The fear totally left in one moment. Along with a whole bunch of other things. I was sitting on the can.

I was at my first bona fide Brazilian ayahuasca ceremony. It was in a beautiful open air temple just out of town. A nearly invisible path from a dirt road led to something like a pagoda, with a fire pit in the middle, surrounded by two concentric circles for sitting and roof in two stages that allowed the smoke to escape. Napalm, at who's house we we're all staying had appointed himself as my down and dirty guide to all things Alto Paraisian, said to find the a place on the outer circle. The inside was strictly 'Mafia'.

A lot of people talked about this temple as being the best option in town. And I could understand why. The outdoor setting was great, the vibe was solid and supportive without being rigid, the people seemed warm and real. It was beautiful. Also in most ceremonies, they give you the glass, you drink it and then you go sit down. Here you get your own glass which you could drink where and as you liked, which given the intensity of the taste and the apprehension a lot people have about the intensity of the experience they were about to embark on, made a lot of sense Then they give a slice of lemon to wash the taste out of your mouth. God may be in the cup, but genius is in the details.

The ceremony was loosely based around the Santo Daime structure. Santo Daime is one of the three officially recognized ayahuasca churches in Brazil, the other two being UDV and Barquinha, They were founded in the twenties. These churches are syncretic, meaning they combine indigenous practices and medicine - notably ayahuasca, - african traditions and oddly enough, catholicism. That's right - Santo does mean saint and these people think of themselves as good christians, just like you. Somehow they managed to convince the Brazilian government of this because ayahuasca has been made a legally protected sacrament - when used under the auspices of certified religious practitioner - which meant that technically we weren't breaking any laws. The thing about the churches is that they tend to have very rigid ceremonies, in which everyone sits at attention, sings the icaros (hymns) and remains with a very focused presence. Also like some more traditional versions of christianity, they tend to attract and offer a very tangible form of salvation to people who have substance abuse or other problematic behaviorally tendencies; there ranks are filled with people who swear by the power of the medicine and the ritual in redeeming themselves from lives headed straight to hell. I can see why that kind of rigidness would be good for that kind of situation, but I don't think I'd like it to much, which is why I was glad that this ceremony was only loosely based on Daime. Which pretty much meant everyone was gonna sit a circle, drink the most powerful psychoactive brew know to man and sing together.

Except me. I somehow did not manage to get a song book, still hadn't acquired much Portuguese and well, as those of you who have heard me sing would probably agree, I was didn't feel like I was robbing the circle by remaining silent. Tolstoy was sitting next to me, with his song books. There are a ton. Watching the difficulties he went through to try and figure out how to keep up and remembering how frustrating I had found the process helped me with my decision not to sing. He also had carefully arrayed a few crystals before him - their presence and arrangement seemed somehow significant. I thought for a minute about how essentially no object in my life has any meaning to me beyond it's clearly discernible utility - like the wonderful word processing/edting/music playing capacity of this computer for example - physical objects are valuable to me almost exclusively in direct proportion to their usefulness. But looking at Tolstoy's array, it seemed like it might nice to have objects of a different sort of significance.

I was kinda tired so I curled up and laid down for awhile and closed my eyes and saw, surprise surprise, fractallly patterns. The tea was just starting to work, the patterns weren't that intense and they were oddly organic and gnarly. My experience with X psychedelic is you close your eyes and you see these pretty sharply defined, usually bright colorful patterns, the type varies based on the substance, but it's always pretty crayola. This stuff was dark and muddy. And there were lots and lots of eyes, and knobby sort of reptilian textures, kind like something halfway between HR Giger and Jim Henson. It coulda been creepy but it was really just kinda foreign, with a little bit of eternally present thrown in to spice things up.

And then I went to the bathroom.

Getting things out of your body is a big part of aya. In some spanish speaking countries, they call it la purga, the purge. Vomiting is common, but me, I just tend to spend a little more time then usual on the toilet. The scientific reasons have to do with MAO inhibiting activities of the harmaline contained in the vine which fucks with you serotonin and thymine levels which makes your stomach want to get everything out of there. This can be pretty well addressed by following a fairly strict diet just prior to drinking. It's basically vegan, but no avocados, oil, salt, sugar, or strong flavors, fermented stuff, overripe anything, especially bananas, soy or alcohol. And more importantly avoiding certain pharmaceuticals, most especially SSRIs, which because, like MAOis, also affect your serotonin system and taken together, the combination could at least theoretically be fatal. There's actually quite a bit to it and paying attention can greatly improve the quality of your experience. I'll try to find a link to put up at the end of this post.

The next thing is the idea that the aya goes into you body and finds various poisons or diseases and takes them out. And you puke. I don't have any personal experience with this but it's a pretty commonly excepted part of the lore. The weirdest sounding, but most self evidently true is that the purging takes bad energy out of your body. You can feel in a very concrete way, that whatever it is, an unhealthy pattern you've recognized in yourself, trauma from a bad experience, negative emotions you've been harboring, you feel it leave your body and go into the toilet. No joke. No ambiguity. My experiences regarding this haven't been super intense, but they have been super clear.

So there I was sitting there on the can, with my eyes closed, pushin'. And all the fractally eyey stuff started to get creepy. It went from neutral to very reptilian and was quickly headed for menacing. So I opened my eyes: the door started to bulge in a ugly way and weird tendrilly maggoty things started to reach in from below. Not to cool, but manageable. I was like ok - I get it, there are evil entities from other dimensions trying to fuck with me. Some that come to you with your eyes closed, some that come with your eyes open. There is a whole thing with aya about confronting fears and what not, and at the conference the week before I'd heard all these people talking about working through fear and death and all sorts of horrible seeming stuff and then coming to something really beautiful on the other side, so I was, I guess you could say, open to being terrorized. But while taking a shit was not the time. To vulnerable. I blasted the nastiness away, finished my business and walked away.

It was great to see this kind of anesthetized version of the virus and be like cool, I can deal with you. No doubt it could get worse, but I've got the basic plan. I know the aya world is laughing at me because everyone gets their terror some day, but I'm feeling alright.

What I didn't mention is that this experience was secretly a commercial for mediating. I've always had pretty good luck steering through the waves of good and bad that substances can bring you, but since I started meditating (vipassana,and yes it's true, the retreat is free and it will change your life) it's like I'm driving a Porsche. It really gives me a great ability to observe and be equanimous through the rough stuff, or to kind of compartmentalize the weirdness or focus on something else. Which allow you to say, ok, creepy monsters but not now.

Not surprisingly, the world outside of the bathroom was a much more pleasant place. After a moment of fresh air, I stared to think how much sense it made that the creepies came for me on the toilet - it's where all the bad juju gets dropped of, so of course it's lurking there ready to re-inhabit. I mean I'm sure some of that creepiness was from me, but undoubtedly it was to some extent catalyzed or made solid by all the nastiness that was lurking around. And I realized that was the whole entity thing people talk about. I had asked the people I'd done the aya ceremony with in the New York if I could have some to take home and they gave this stuff about danger and experience and the possibility of being inhabited by malevolent entity. The fear of people freaking out on drugs seemed reasonable enough, though - I felt - a little misplaced in my case, but the entity thing seemed a little bit of stretch. But this bad stuff had a concreteness about it that seemed, well, entity like. If you see something nasty after you take acid, blink your eyes. It will go away. It may turn into a butterfly, or it may turn into something else nasty, but it probably won't stay the same thing. This was just the opposite. Tendrils. Close your eyes, open them again, they're still tendrils, repeat, You still have tendrils. If not an entity, at least a very persistent form of energy.

Often when I'm some kinda high I put a lot of energy into opening up blocked or tense places in my body. Soon I found myself thinking about the shamanic perspectives which say ( in gross oversimplification) that disease or other bodily ailments are curses, or bad entities from other dimensions. I played with the idea of understanding the sciatica in my right hip from this perspective. It seemed like a workable model: instead of trying to open up the tightness, I looked into it and saw creepy snarliness - we could call that bad guys from another dimension - and tried exorcising it. It seemed to work pretty well. Another victory for the argument in favor of 'entities' but I had to ask myself why these things existed. What purpose did they serve. Especially if you believed that the universe was governed by love. What kind of love slides maggots under bathroom doors for chrissake?

Well apparently Professor Aya heard me because she had an answer right quick. Bad energy/entity is a scar or a wound, or something that wasn't loved or allowed to be or express as it was needed. Basically it was a ghost, just like in a teen horror film, floating around because it had unfinished business here in this plane. Except probably these entities didn't need to arrive from something as horrible as what makes a ghost. You didn't have to drown a four year girl in a well of acid on her birthday - you could just be real mean to her, and that meanness would find some other meanness, which would find some more and form a mean entity. And sure, there could be whole universes full of this stuff, because a lot of bad things have happened in the history of the universe. It could work.

So the thing is to get that bad stuff out of you and be done with it. Sounds goofy but it seemed to be working. Then I remembered a conversation I'd had with my partner about the idea that getting rid of bad energy is kind of an incomplete solution, because just like any other kind of toxic waste, it's still around it's just some one else problem. Hence the problem with the bathrooms. The thing to do is transform it. And so I thought about how to transform all these unhappy fearful energies into something good. And then it hit me. Love! It's a classic for a reason. The idea of tempering the monster, of healing the beast through, love, through soft music, through gentleness. It's an archetypical concept. It was even in that Wolfman movie that was just came out, the one with Benicio Del Toro. Obviously if Hollywood knows about it it must be true.

The only problem is that if you love to much, you open yourself - which is not the best strategy for dealing with transdimensional evil that is trying to inhabit you body. But there is always a solution. Love has different flavors. There is that open, receptive love that we associate with romance and dreamy eyed teeny boppers. But way on the other end of the spectra, is a tough, defiant, impenetrable kind of love. Like I'm going to fucking love-attack you with love. Love on the offensive. Love that takes no prisoners. Love that will not surrender. And then I remembered something really dorky I'd heard about that was totally in the gag-me-with-essential-oils category about The Burning Flame of Love. And realized that was exactly what they were talking about. Battle ready love. Love as weapon of transformation. I decided I'd just go for it, dive into my heart and love all the evil that was coming at me with a kevlar coated carbon fiber reinforced utterly impenetrable love. Bullet and boogie man proof.

And it worked. I declared myself a super hero and shot love and white light at the monsters. And they transformed and disappeared. Rainbows and smiles. It wasn't even that hard. Obviously the amount of evil I was dealing with (minor tightness in the thigh) was not epic, but the principle stood. I just stood my ground, called it love, and everything spooky just melted away. Kick ass heart power. Like the scene in the bathroom, this stuff was definitely trial size, but I could see the pattern. I was ready.

Before we go any further, we need to talk for a moment about the dogs. Listen, if you're ever having an aya ceremony you need to come up with a plan for the dogs. Because they were all freaking the fuck out! Really, there are not enough exclamation points in the world to convey their distress. I first noticed it with one who was scratching so hard I thought his paw was going to fall off. It was pretty clear to see that no actually flee bite could create this kind of maniacal behavior. It was all the juju. I have never seen a canine so possessed. So I put my hand to down to comfort him - he barked and snapped nervously, but without any real direction. I continued to comfort him. It really was a Herculean task, he wanted to go psycho, but suddenly he just stopped with the fleas. It had nothing to do with the itching. He was just done freaking out. For the time being. I think there were four dogs and usually about two of them were going crazy. I spent a fair amount of time trying to calm them down but they would usually loose it again pretty quick, attacking foliage, scratching, cowering, spitting, moaning, basically it was a like a dictionary of doggie fear and mistrust. I've never seen animals scared and confused like these guys were. It was definitely well outside of the range of dog weirdness. It seemed pretty clear to me that they could sense all the badness that was leaving everyone much more clearly then the biped contingent.

This whole dog thing was interspersed with the dancing. You're supposed to sit still and sing, but both of those things are extremely difficult for me so I found myself floating away and dancing. All the energy I don't put into singing, I do put into dancing, so this was not really a surprising outcome. What was surprising was how I danced. I'm really all about the catharsis on the dance floor, about really digging down and finding my center and really trying to let loose from there. It is a huge part of how I understand myself and it instrumental to my mental and physical well being. But this time it was like a joke . Light and off center - nothing describes it better then court jester. Find a shape, move out of it effortlessly. No attachment. No weight. No nuthin. To the extent the universe reveals her secrets to me, they are often expressed in movement and this was no exception. I looked down and other people seemed upset about somethings in many ways. This is pretty common in a aya ceremony. Most people do not have as light and fluffy as time as I do. Far more so than other psychedelics, it has a tendency to take you on a tour of that which haunts you - your cigarette habit, unresolved family issues or, some would say stuff from past lives and other universes - help you resolve it and come out a much happier healthier person. And you're ya know, high as fuck, so it's likely to be very a vivid tour. Accordingly, at given moment there's a good chance at least some of the people at the ceremony are going through hell. Incidentally I found this to be far less the case at this ceremony then the one I'd done in the states, which I think was actually particularly focused on this element, but nonetheless, these other kids were not leaping about like court jesters.

And I began to wonder about why. Certainly, it is my understanding that most people have more to wade through in life then I do, but what really struck me here was the attachment to said difficulties. And then it all made sense. That is me. I am the fool. Weightless and unbounded. It is so easy for me to laugh or float away. And it's not a coverup. It's closure. One of my great gifts is that very easy for me to let got of my unhappiness. Why do you let your grievances distress you so deeply? It's so passing, so arbitrary. I felt that energy so completely, realizing how readily we could all just move out of our shit. But we're all just so invested in our unhappiness. We're limited by resources or time or whatever but mostly we just cling like fucking psychopaths to all kinds of garbage, about who we are, what we think we're capable of, what we've been through, the fate of the world, or responsibilities, everything. I certainly see this in myself as well. I'm invested in all kinds of bullshit - this whole failed child prodigy nonsense, this idea that I can't relate to people, that persistent sciatica, eternal financial jeopardy, the list goes on... I mean obviously there are some very concrete components to some of that as there always is, but the vast majority of it is just bullshit that I continue to perpetuate.

But fortunately for me, less so than other people. I looked at the circle of people, some of them well in the process and realized what it gift it is that it is so easy for me to let go. I started to think about people I care about, my mother, my partner, my close friends and see the attachment they have to their unhappiness. It was such a sadness. But of course I could dance right out of it. I thought then and still thinking now about how I can share this lightness, to teach the people that I love how to more easily let go of all these things, these perspectives, these fears, these self limiting ways of looking at the world, these habits, everything that keeps them stuck in that which does not serve. There are of course tons of therapies and whatnot that address this sort of thing - any life coaching or self improvement program has as a huge component letting go perspectives that do not serve - not that those things aren't great; I probably wouldn't have been at this ceremony having this realization were it not for some of them- but to feel it as straight energetic level like that was so powerful so valuable, something you so want to share.

And that was my night, fluttering away, comforting the dogs, watching those with more to deal with in the moment heading off to physical rid their bodies of their unwellness. I found myself oddly aware of people's movements and effortless arranging myself not to be in people's way, which is not usually one of my strong points. I saw some scary shapes in the bushes, that again were hauntingly persistent, of note a flower that caught the light in such a way that it looked like the skull that would've been under the melted face in the Munch etching "The Scream". After glimpsing it a few times I never walked that way again till medicine was well worn down.

And eventually the evening came to an end. The voices that had occasionally shouted ' Shall we drink more?' Instead asked if we wanted soup. And received the same enthusiastic reply. A big bowl of soup was brought out to be put on the fire. The music wound down, the entities began to pack up their bags and I began to realize how exhausted I was. Eventually Tolstoy, who had driven me, and about a zillion other people there, asked if I wanted to leave now or later. I replied with and emphatic 'Now', and soon found myself sardined into a car that eventually made it's way along a very bumpy road and deposited me at my house, just as the dawn was breaking. Exhausted, content and considering the possibility I had forever changed, I collapsed into bed.

This seems like a good primer on what to eat or not. I should mention that down here the word is to avoid animal products entirely and that I took some claritan and didn't seem any worse for the experience.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Our story begins...

The journey begins, as many do, with fear. Fear and a realization. Not the kind of fear that one might associate with tales of exotic jungle hallucinations and journeys across the realm of human consciousness. No paralyzing confrontation with my own mortality, human sacrificing natives or lethal jungle fauna. Nothing that cool. Just the fear that after spending eighteen hours on a plane to Brasilia - aka the place no one ever goes to in Brazil because there's not a damn thing happening there - that I might not know the actual name of the town the little town I was headed to, where I was supposed to meet Tolstoy, my host and really only link to plan for what to do next. And the realization was that I could no longer speak a word of Portuguese. This all happened in about the same instant in a taxi. I'd said I'd wanted to go to the bus station- a mother-fucker of a word in Portuguese, I must add, I'd gotten the information person to repeat if like five times for this very reason - only to find out there were two. And the which one I wanted to go to depended on what town I wanted to go to. And the town I wanted to go to apparently didn't exist. In truth I'd only heard the name of the town once, after a sleepless and life changing night at an ayahuasca ceremony, which seemed appropriate to the archetypical journey that I was embarking on, all that mystery and such. But this is 2010, and our world is drenched in accessible information. Nothing but foolishness had kept me in my ignorance; I had to laugh at my own idiocy. The taxi driver smiled (this is Brazil: even if they don't speak English, they are very friendly) and explained the basic problem a repeatedly - I realized I could actually understand a little Portuguese, just not speak it, which is kind of like being paralyzed but sentient - he didn't really know what bus station to take me to if I didn't know where I was going. I smiled and like any first world urban person, looked to my iphone for an answer. I mean think about it, you're lost, you can't find some word, or you have some other information problem - boom the solution is right in your pocket. But in fact, I had no roaming plan, no map, no dictionary, not nutting'. I decided to sit back and pray that this would be the most difficult part of journey scheduled to be an immersion into the famously challenging world of expanded consciousness.

I started looking for clues - the person who had answered the information phone at the airport had said it would be about 40 reals, so as the meter approached that, I looked for bus station like things. As it passed that I tried to ascertain if I was being given the classic foreigner scenic tour. I thought about who I could call in the states who would know the name of the town then realized they would all be asleep. Considered the hassle/expense of realizing I was at wrong station, wondered how stupid I would look wondering about Brasilia for days trying to find a town I could not name, clutched my iphone in hope of salvation… Eventually we arrived at the bus station. Hopefully the right one. We stopped, he took out my bag. I paid, he asked if I had two reals to facilitate the whole change making process - somehow the logic and familiarity of this process was encouraging. I didn't have change so he got it from some one else who also said that Alta Praixa didn't exist, but there was this place called Alto Paraiso… allI could do was hope.

Brazilians have this interesting system with busses, called 'not a monopoly'. As such there was no rolling up a the Greyhound counter, mispronouncing a name few times and buying a ticket. First came figuring out which company served the locale. Naturally the information booth was empty . I wondered around for awhile, reading every place listed on every placard; nothing. I made another circuit, prayed for the return of the information person and began to make peace with the fact that no matter my Portuguese skills, I was going to have to ask someone for help sooner or later. And at exactly that moment the change man rolled up and pointed me to a company which did in fact have a very small sign, hidden behind almost everything, that said Alto Paraiso. It was some kind of turning point. The clerk was friendly, the ticket was cheap, and best of all, the duration of the journey, about three and half hours, corresponded to my imperfect memory of the distance to the town, and I had an hour an half for the bus which is was just enough to time to do this cool new Chi Gung my brother had taught me. When I got on the bus, I decided it must be the right one . Ayahuasca people always talk about guidance and the truth, so I figured if the spirit could guide people away from addiction and towards divine light, it could handle getting me on the right bus.

Once on the bus I began to recap what I was doing there. I'd been telling people I was in the Amazon to drink Ayahuasca. Almost everyone seems to think that was the coolest thing ever. I was often surprised, because I'm at that point in my life when people are generally more likely to ask when are you gonna get it together and you know, do something with your life, something which I seem either naturally resistant to or just to disorganized to accomplish. But last fall, I'd decided that even thought it was about fifteen years to late, I was coming out of the closet, and telling everyone that I fucking loved drugs, and that I owed a huge part of my ability to relate to and communicate to people to them. Not only that, as far as I could see, they were undoubtedly the catalyst to the next stage of human evolution. And that I was gonna devote a good deal of my life to working with them. Quite to my surprise, everyone who has taken the time to listen to the whole story, seemed to think it was a great idea, except of course my mom - but what kind of mother would be happy to hear their child say a thing like that?

Just to be clear, by drugs, I mean those things that are called psychedelic, or - and I find this a little pretentious, though I dig the cheek, and have to say it is pretty accurate - entheogens, meaning 'releasing the god with in'. Some people say medicines, but that seems beyond pretentious to me. I do like holotropic, a word coined by Dr. Stan Groff, who is basically the guru of psychedelic therapy, which means growing towards wholeness. In any case, by drugs I means LSD , Psilocybin, all the various kinds of mescaline, which if sold commercially are probably just LSD, DMT, with the 5MEO or not, 2CB, I and E, THC - that's weed for drug challenged people of the world and on the borderline, because yes kids it is pretty close to an amphetamine, MDMA. There are a whole heap of other synthetic substances, that I don't know much about, but those are the biggies. And my favorite is really Acid. Cleanest, highest, smartest. Again, for the drug challenged, all these things are non addictive, and with the possible exception of MDMA, harmless to your body. The only problem is that they are powerful. They give us access to an understanding of the world that is very different then that which is presented by consensus reality, and although it is very beautiful and liberating, it can be terrifying and confusing either as it revealed to you, or just as a concept to the outside observer, say… your mom. And of course once in a while people get lost in it and get to high and don't' come back, or don't come back quickly, or jump off buildings or do other stupid shit. I'm not saying these substances are completely safe, but neither is crossing the street.

All of this puts them in a completely different category than amphetamines, barbiturates, opiates, cocaine products, etc, not mention pharmaceuticals, or the holy trinity of alcohol, tobacco and coffee. Some pharmaceuticals are certainly good, to the extent that we love work within the western medical paradigm, but other then that all those things are straight poison. And for the most part distributed by organizations - Anheiser-Bush, Merck, the Mexican cartels, who are famous for not have your best interests at heart.

Back in the world of fun drugs, there are also like 900 psychoactive plant alkaloids, of which a lot are to weird or to hard to work with to be interesting. I think something like six or seven hundred of them are native to the amazon, and the one I'm here to dive into, or drink, as it colloquially expressed, is called ayahuasca, which means something like vine of the spirit, or the dead. More into why it has such weird name later, but for now, just know that it's actually a reduction made from two plants. One is bush that contains DMT, which is pretty much the most intense psychoactive substance known to man, produced by pineal gland, opens the gates of consciousness, possibly to other dimensions. This is the stuff that unlike acid or mushrooms, is said to make you see solid objects. Not patterns, not melting fractals, but six foot tall preying mantises, elves, giant serpents, and of course, aliens. What's more, it's present in high quantities in children and many animals - every wonder why kids are so weird? The intensity is made up for by the fact that you body will metabolize DMT very quickly. Like completely back home in fifteen minutes after you smoke it. Unless you have add an MAO inhibitor, which slows the breakdown of DMT as well as doing a whole lot of other things to your body which I am not qualified to explain and severely limits your dietary/medication possibilities when drinking aya. For those of your trying this at home, really read this lists of prohibited foods and drugs. Bad things, theoretically at least, including death, can happened. Anyways, with MAOI you can stay high for hours. And the MAOI is the active alkaloid in the vine that is the other key component to ayahuasca. You put the two of these together, and what you get is definitely a strange brew.

And that's what I'm here for - assuming it's the right here. I look around the bus and try to see if anyone looks like they might be also be going to drink exotic hallucinogens in a dark amazon forest. There is one guy who looks about right, long grey hair, one of those hipster T-shirts with the monkey with a tube for intestines- you know the one and a lot of tattoos. It think about asking him, but it seems like a hopeless proposition. What am I gonna do, say in my none existent portuguese 'excuse me possible fellow seeker am I on the right bus to the city whose name I don't know?' Instead of asking him, I conclude that it is my style to be stupid enough to not know where I'm going, its not really my style to actually wind up at the wrong place. At least I hope.

I also really have no idea what I'm going to to when I get there. Obviously I'm gonna drink a lot of ayahuasca. And I'm hoping that will clarify something for me, which goes a little something like this.

I see people on a spiritual path - via psychedelics or not - so enthused about it that they will grasp at anything they hope can be woven into a magical world. And I want to fucking kill them. I see the world view they construct like this, so desperately, so without consideration for integrity or rationality that the result is inevitably flimsy and weak. And of course they are always defensive and frequently snide. Because their world is based at best on hope, and at worst on desperation and insecurities - which leaves little room for reality. I do spend a lot of time in a pretty hippy-dippy world and I'm constantly on alert - am I becoming one of those people!!?.

So what do I mean by 'those people'? I guess anyone who is more invested in hope then reality. But I am a big fan of hope, so this brings me to the question of what I know to be absolutely real. A partial list starts out like this: Neurotransmitters, a daily practice, a healthy diet, integrity, making peace with one's shadows and ones past, the guiding power of love and the importance of sunshine.

And there are things in which I have yet to see any truth, crystals and dream catchers. Aromatherapy, plant spirits, past lives etc… which I tend to associate with desperate graspers. And so I am skeptical of these things. Oh, and lets not forget the thing that makes me most skeptical of all, this notion that the universe is composed of, or that god or the reason for existence or whatever you wanna call it is this infinite love. I think love is great stuff, but I've yet to see that it's the center of it all. Sorry, sweetheart. Of course a big part of what makes me skeptical is that it's so tempting. I would love to believe is such a universe. But to me that's the same kind of slippery slope nonsense that will get you 'Jesus will absolve us of our sins.' type madness. It's so tempting...

And from this perspective I went to the aptly titled conference: Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century last week. It was awesome, and you should google if you didn't hear about it, or check this
The noise it generated and unprecedented respect it lent to the movement heralded a new era for psychedelics. And since psychedelics (you may not be aware of this but that's ok) are the catalyst for the next evolutionary step for the the human race, it's was a big step for all of us here on planet earth.

I learned a lot of great stuff at the conference, some great neuropharmacology and neurobiology, some brilliant therapeutic models - if you read the Mithofers pilot study, you'll probably agree that MDMA is the future of PTSD therapy. It blows away talk therapy, it blows away SSRIs. It's like a miracle. But that's not actually the main thing I took away from the conference. The thing I took away from it was a real questioning of the investment I have in the extremely structural make up of my world view. I mean I like it - it's solid and keeps me from believing myths or getting caught up in hopeful half truths. And it also keeps me from spinning off into any of into multiple horrors that are available to the fearful or ungrounded who delve to deeply into psychedelia. But my little brother called me the morning of the second day of the conference. He was just waking up from an ayahuasca ceremony and wanted to know why I hadn't told him it was gone be so intense. He relayed his experience - giant snails, extra terrestrials, elves who speak in shapes - and I replied what has become almost a mantra I say it so often: 'I don't really freak out because there's not much to freak out about. I have a daily meditation practice, a pretty clear relationship with my past, a healthy diet, and firm grounding in what is real. Shit just doesn't phase me that much'. I went back to hearing about a very scientific explanation of what goes wrong in the brain that causes PTSD - apparently, it's all about the amaglyda. Over the course of the day, I gave the conversation a little thought, and halfway listened to some models of awareness that had something to do with what makes people willing to accept or question their own belief systems. First, of all, my brother wasn't freaking out. He was seeing stuff I don't see. The reality or utility of what he saw is a separate question, but it wasn't a freak out. I realized that the thing about being as emphatically grounded as I am in this wonderfully rational world, is… that I am emphatically grounded in this wonderfully rational world. You're really never gonna get anywhere by saying hey tree spirits, prove that you exist. I mean if they exist, they exist in a place outside of our rational world. So part of the journey is to experiment for four weeks with letting go or at least seriously reconsidering my affection for the rational in a place where no one can make fun of me because presumably it will be freak central. It's a bit of a stretch for me, but there a couple of very solid scientific realities that not surprisingly, I find comforting in a moment like this. The first is that all sorts of things that are completely rational would've seemed like complete magic a century ago. That iphone for example. The second is that a lot of really cool stuff in science is just running up against all kinds of paradoxes and other weirdness - relativity, quantum mechanics and lots of other stuff I should probably know about but don't. So on the one hand something that seems like magic could be just something we haven't figured out yet - the iphone of 2210. On the other hand it could be that we eventually figure out that as Tennessee Williams suggested, something to the effect of - basically at the bottom of everything there is just a big pile of riddle books.

Eventually the monkey shirt man looks at the book I'm reading, about ayahuasca naturally, and asks, in English no less, if I he can look at it. We talk for a minute. He's going to Alto Paraiso to drink ayahuasca. Not only that, at about that moment, we seem to be arriving. As I, or any reader with a modicum of Brazilian geography probably had begun to suspect, we were not in the heart of the Amazon. There was plenty of vegetation, but not more then say, Central Park. It was a nice little hippy town. Bright colors, ads for health food and places with names like astral this and solar that. About as intimidating as Santa Cruz.

I got off the bus, looked up and there was a Tolstoy sun tanned and smiling. He looked completely happy and like he hadn't slept in a week. As I get my bag, he asks if want some açaí. I said that I did, and soon found myself eating this giant purple açaí sorbet with three or for glowing blessed tanned looking people who also looked they hadn't slept and had been similarly improved by the experience. I took one bite of the supernaturally delicious concoction, looked at their smiles, and began to think that maybe the tree spirits weren't far behind. Not only was I not afraid, bless their European souls, they were speaking English.