A Serious Discussion about Ayahuasca

16 12 2010

If you are looking for a little light reading, this isn’t it. It starts of easy enough but gets tougher.

It is such a pleasure to be in Santa Cruz. This is a place where everyone seems to be searching for greater understanding and a better quality of life in one way or another. Some are seeking it through time spent in nature. Others sample the infinite smorgasbord of spiritual practices available here.  Still others work hard at living healthy lifestyles by eating nourishing food and building strong relationships with family, friends, and animal companions. Actually, many people here are pursuing most of these goals simultaneously. It probably isn’t surprising then, that recently a number of people have asked me about the use of peyote, ayahuasca and other mind altering plant medicines. Other people are reporting their experiences to me. Many people are interested in these powerful teachers.

To put it in perspective, these hallucinogenic plants are only a few of the many helpful medicines derived from nature. There is a rush among pharmaceutical companies to discover more plant medicines and duplicate them chemically for profit.

The primary difficulty I see, aside from the fact that their use is often illegal, is that people are trying them without proper preparation and guidance. Their use is a sacrament and deserves preparation and respect.  Comparing our lifestyle with that of the Shipibo people demonstrates my point.

The Shipibo People

The Shipibo are a group of about 35,000 people in northeastern Peru along the Yuki Yaki River, a tributary of the Amazon River. They come from a land near the mountains, somewhat higher and dryer than the Amazon. They have lived in this area for 6000 years and are not nomadic.  They are a combination of two peoples, the Kanebo and the Shapibo. The Kanebo were aggressive people knows as headhunters who, fortunately, adapted the peaceful ways of the Shipibo.

The Shipibo have a very different concept of life than we do. Their language is all present time which makes it hard to organize tours or commerce. There is no concept of doing things for the future.

The Shipibo believe they were formed from the patterns on the back of the anaconda which is the pattern they associate with protection. This pattern is said to include movement and balance which can also be experienced as music. The Shipibo believe healing comes from using our reptilian brain, which is one of the oldest parts of the human brain.

The Shipibo are known as the singing people. Their “Icaros” are songs infused with prayer. These songs are usually not written nor are they fixed. They never sing a song the same way twice. This concept seems strange to them.

The Shipibo avoid conflict. For example, when they cut down a tree they first consult with the spirit of that tree for permission. When they harvest a crop, they offer thanks. When they walk on land, they ask the land’s permission. Like many societies that live off the land, they live in close harmony with all of nature.

As part of their plant culture they use ayahuasca to have visions. They look for visions relating to fishing, marriage, childbirth, illness, community issues, etc. During these visions they memorie the patterns of the plant visions they see. The patterns of the plant songs are woven into fabric which can be looked at for a guide in how to sing that particular song. These fabrics are also used in healing. The patterned fabric is placed on the body to work against imbalances in the body. There are basic easy patterns everyone knows and more complex ones that only the elders remember. Unfortunately this information is being lost as the younger generation move away from this way of life.

The Shipibo do healing work with the plant patterns.  They move their hands along the patterns and see the tangles as explaining the problem. They can sing a thread out and unwind the tangle. They commonly sing several songs for several weeks as they work through an issue.

The patterns of the plants can also be accessed by putting the plant juice into water. It is then consumed as the patient sings the song of that plant medicine. There are plants and patterns for each organ, such as the circulatory system and muscles. The song can be put into veins, bones, kidneys, eyes. Old trauma patterns, emotional shock patterns and patterns associated with the spirit of heart and mind can be seen. They don’t analyze or compartmentalize the cause of illness or trauma as we do.

Shipibo healers who have visited the United States expressed horror at seeing so many unreleased shock patterns and traumas. They expected that because of adequate food, housing, doctors, and other the availability of other necessities we would be balanced.

According to the Shipibo, when you sing you open your body, emotion, and spirit. It is a way to start to share with people without being overwhelmed

They often eat special plant diets while avoiding some activities. Specific dietary restrictions are prescribed according to their needs, songs, illnesses, etc.  They ingest specific plants to have the spirit of that plant help them. It is a way to have that plant’s special ability velcroed to them. Then sing their intention into plant, bless with tobacco, while also following a regime such as taking plant baths while carrying the intention that the plant spirit enters through their skin. They emerge with the songs of those plants, with familiar spirits, or the spirits associated with power places. They may visit a power place, ask permission, connect with the guardians of the place and make an exchange – leave something and absorb power.

Shipibo fabric represents Amazon River. They sing songs of fabric telling of love and joy. They sing the song while they make the fabric. Later they sing its patterns to activate the fabric which may be worn or hung on a wall.

Their choice of which plant to work with is not random. The healer will start by observing a person’s energy and may feel the person’s pulse. Healing may include extraction or massage. The healer sometimes uses their own breath to send energy to cause something negative to move out of a person.

Recommendations

The use of plant medicine, including ayahuasca, is only one part of complex healing processes among people like the Shipibo. Alone it is less effective than when it is part of a complete regime. It has merit. Anyone considering its use should also consider other choices, such as slowing down, dialoguing with nature, and especially seeking out help in releasing old trauma patterns. Trauma patterns, such as an emotional shock pattern from past fright can interfere with a person’s present harmonic pattern. Dangers such as may  come from someone or something interfering with a person should also be released. For instance, a person can be negatively affected by angry relatives.

Final Words

The beauty of blogging is that I get to say how I see things. We Americans are, dear friends, addicted to quick results. I call it short-attention-span theatre. The use of plant medicine is, like the use of many other healing modalities, best used as part of a total program of work allowing time for the work to integrate. This work requires commitment and dedication and time.  Workshops, gurus, and books have much to teach us. However, we need more time spend on fewer lessons, rather than more lessons. If you often experience deep healing but your life does not change, slow down. You have everything you need.  Do the things that help you find it inside yourself.

 

 

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One response

3 01 2011
Niamh Trua

Thank you for your wonderful article. I am fascinated by the use of patterns in the weaving of the Shipibo people, as I am a weaver myself. I haven’t come across the information you have provided previously.
With regard to the medicine, Ayahuasca, I understand your concern about lack of proper guidance, preperation and respect for this sacrament. This is indeed a powerful teacher requiring time and dedication to learn to work with it.

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