“Nature is not our enemy, to be raped and conquered. Nature is ourselves, to be cherished and explored.”
— Terence McKenna
— Terence McKenna
The natural world in which we live is truly wondrous. Despite the abuse it receives at the hands of we humans, it continues to regenerate and provide us with all that we need not only to survive but to thrive with abundance. It gives us our necessary plant-based food as well as materials to construct our homes, buildings, methods of transportation, clothing and facilities to harness solar and wind energy to power our world. It is resilient, adaptive, forgiving, highly intelligent, and an adept communicator. People, particularly in the West and more specifically in the United States, are increasingly stricken with physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological imbalance and disease and are becoming more cognizant of the inherent dangers and shortcomings of much of Western medicine, notably pharmacology.
Many have already turned to natural plant and animal medicines to cure acute physical illness as well as expand consciousness and raise vibrational energy to help allay the emotional suffering and cognitive dissonance that afflicts such a large segment of our population. A growing number of people are actively choosing to journey inward in a much deeper way to better understand themselves, their purpose and their relationship to the physical and spirit worlds. Seeds of change have sprouted from the many cracks that have surfaced in our existing societal paradigms, and our connection to nature’s intelligence and healing powers is more relevant and needed than ever before.
My interest in learning about and experiencing the healing effects of plant medicines was piqued eight years ago after listening to a talk by Dr. Wade Davis, the esteemed Canadian anthropologist, ethnobotanist, explorer and author. I no longer wanted to resign myself to carrying the weight of certain chronic physical ailments, emotional distress and anxiety any longer. A year later, after much research and soul-searching, Ayahuasca came calling and I gladly accepted her invitation to journey to the core of my psyche. To say it was a life-changing experience would be an understatement for it opened my mind to the incredible curative benefits this medicine, among others, could lend to me and to our whole society that is in such dire need of acceptance, connection, transformation, clarity, and empathy. The ensuing years of regularly working with ayahuasca have not only aided in alleviating the physical maladies that were hampering me, but even more importantly have dramatically transfigured my relationship with myself, my path, the world around me and our collective role and responsibility in stewarding this planet toward achieving a vibrant harmony among all living, sentient beings and ethereal energies.
Ayahuasca, or Vine of the Soul, is an Amazonian entheogenic brew made by boiling the leaves of the chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis) along with macerated parts of the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis Caapi). The vine consumed alone will not produce any notable psychoactive effects, but when combined with the chacruna plant that contains the powerful hallucinogen Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the vine’s monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors allow the tryptamine molecule DMT (or Spirit Molecule as Dr. Strassman refers to it) to become active, pass through the stomach and cross the blood-brain barrier, oftentimes producing hallucinogenic effects and a cathartic experience. DMT is naturally found throughout the mammal and plant kingdoms as well as in the epithalamus part of the human brain, with the assertion being that it is produced specifically in the pineal gland (often referred to as our third eye). Ayahuasca dates back 5000 years as a shamanic medicine used by various indigenous tribes of the Amazon to help heal people from a wide range of sickness from malaise to cancer. These tribes attribute their knowledge of which plants to combine to form this medicinal brew of ayahuasca to instructions given to them directly from the plants themselves when consuming other concoctions.
With over 40,000 plant species existing in the Amazon rainforest, with many looking almost identical, the chances of the indigenous people finding the correct combination by trial-and-error alone is virtually impossible, particularly given the complete absence of scientific knowledge and equipment to determine the formula. This is a hard notion for some laymen and members of the scientific community to grasp for it requires a high level of trust in the spirit and wisdom of both the plants and the indigenous healers. This dynamic is at odds with our ingrained modus operandi that heavily relies on solid empirical scientific evidence as proof. When this amazingly intelligent plant medicine is ingested in a ceremonial setting and guided by the energy of the shaman’s icaros (medicine songs), one’s ego can dissolve almost entirely and allow the mind and heart to view the world with a level of empathy never before experienced.
As renowned ethnobotanist Jeremy Narby puts forth in his book ‘Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge,’ ayahuasca works on a person down to the depths of their DNA and cites the similarity of the helical shape of our DNA to the physical appearance of the ayahuasca vine itself. It brings one face-to-face with their subconscious and traverses years of experiences, relationships and trauma and can precisely highlight the blockages and fears that are hindering the individual from reaching their true and highest potential as a human. It can be a very wrenching, painful and horrifying journey to undertake, but the clarity, openness, and raw, honest truth and love it can unlock and release is well worth the hard work and courage that is poured into the ceremonial sojourn.
As I was reminded just this weekend, words and actions, despite being well intentioned and directed in the right way, will not bring about true manifestation of what we need or want without a high vibrational energy existing in and emanating from the individual and/or collective group. Plant and animal medicines are not the end-all cure to our ills, but rather are extremely effective tools to quickly stimulate, expand and catapult our consciousness into continued growth and self-realization. As we choose to convene with these medicines to further our human experience and evolution, we must remember to approach them with humility, grace, reverence, honesty and receptiveness for they are our master teachers and keys to unlocking our true essence.
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