All posts by herbsandwonders

FAQ: Do I need a sitter or a guide if I want to take psychedelics?

“Heal yourself with the light of the sun and the rays of the moon. With the sound of the river and the waterfall. With the swaying of the sea and the fluttering of birds. Heal yourself with mint, neem, and eucalyptus. Sweeten with lavender, rosemary, and chamomile. Hug yourself with the cocoa bean and a hint of cinnamon. Put love in tea instead of sugar and drink it looking at the stars. Heal yourself with the kisses that the wind gives you and the hugs of the rain. Stand strong with your bare feet on the ground and with everything that comes from it. Be smarter every day by listening to your intuition, looking at the world with your forehead. Jump, dance, sing, so that you live happier. Heal yourself, with beautiful love, and always remember … you are the medicine.” (the advice attributed to Maria Sabina)

FAQ: Do I need a sitter or a guide if I want to take psychedelics?

Maybe, or maybe not. There are numerous articles, blogs, videos out there that express a strong opinion that psychedelics should only be taken under supervision, preferably by a trained health care professional. There are a couple of arguments I can raise against that.

First of all, while there is some value in the “playing it safe” approach, the whole notion of the success of your psychedelic ceremony to be wholly dependent on someone else is contradictory to the freeing and empowering potential that psychedelics may bring into our lives. Thorough research, careful preparation and immaculate execution of your own psychedelic ceremonial space can be of much bigger help to the success of your endeavor than delegating it to strangers that are willing to take your money for doing it. Taking responsibility for your Setting will be paramount in creating the needed Set in you – the attitude of a Humble Warrior – courageous and reverent, determined and respectful.

Secondly, regarding the intra-ceremony support of a guide, after more than seven years in the field, I can say that there are not many people out there, working with psychedelics or not, who would be of sufficient spiritual health and level of personal integration to qualify as great transpersonal guides into the psychedelic realm, to be your beacons in the dark. I also believe that solo guiding cannot provide the adequate level of support and safety during psychedelic ceremonies. The standard recommendation (from the scientific circles of psychedelic research and my personal observation) is at least two guides, preferably with complementary (Yin-Yang) energies. And if you cannot find a great guide or actually –  two great guides, you are often much better off by trusting yourself rather than someone of a mediocre status, working outside of the safety margins.

Now, while I hold and encourage you to hold very high standards for psychedelic guides, the role of a sitter is different and demands less. Someone familiar with psychedelic realms, of non-judgmental, calm and kind disposition, who could act on your behalf if the outside world intervenes while you are under the influence of psychedelic substance, someone capable of walking you to the toilet and back, bringing you a blanket or helping to change a music track – if you are lucky to have a person like that in your circles, or encounter someone like that in the world of psychonauts, by all means – ask for their support. Having a sitter in the vicinity might bring you an extra degree of confidence and reduce the level of anxiety that is often there with your first psychedelic ceremonies. However, do not delegate any of your own Set and Setting preparation responsibility to them, do not rely on them as your intra-ceremony psychological help, and ask them to be as invisible and unobtrusive during the process as humanly possible.

So, yes – a sitter can be helpful. Having said that, I often find that people seeking psychedelic experiences are often in situations when they have pretty much no support in their life, no one that they can trust. In my opinion, in such cases, the recommendation to have a sitter is impossible to follow, and should not stand in your way of organizing and holding your own solo psychedelic ceremony.

There are situations when seeking support for your psychedelic journeys is warranted. Dealing with long standing hard-wired addiction patterns, working with psychedelics that can lead to life threatening physical responses, history of severe and long suppressed traumas – these could be examples when psychedelic therapy is chosen as a course of treatment, but may pose substantial risks for the well being during and after the ceremony. Many of these situations are not easy to deal with. For example, disclosing all the risk factors on your application form to the treatment centers specializing in psychedelic therapies might make you ineligible for their services. Most places simply don’t want to deal with hard cases and take extra risks. And the ones that do take you, might be sloppy in their safety measures, and would not be able to provide you with effective care if something does go wrong. It is hard to provide umbrella advice for the complex cases. Sometimes finding a sitter with First Aid knowledge and some psychological support for the post ceremony integration process  might do the trick, sometimes you might need to travel far to the right people, sometimes you need to choose how transparent you should be and how much you share with your available support humans and organizations.  

Research, networking and listening to your instincts are things that wouldn’t hurt in any case. And of course staying on the path, walking the path of healing – continue, persevere, get up when you fall, learn from your mistakes and keep going, keep looking for truth, health, love, beauty, joy. Keep on living.  

Code of Ethics for spiritual guides by r. jesse (1995)

Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

[Preamble] People have long sought to enrich their lives and to awaken to their full natures through spiritual practices including prayer, meditation, mind-body disciplines, service, ritual, community liturgy, holy-day and seasonal observances, and rites of passage. “Primary religious practices” are those intended, or especially likely, to bring about exceptional states of consciousness such as the direct experience of the divine, of cosmic unity, or of boundless awareness.

In any community, there are some who feel called to assist others along spiritual paths, and who are known as ministers, rabbis, pastors, curanderas, shamans, priests, or other titles. We call such people ‘guides’: those experienced in some practice, familiar with the terrain, and who act to facilitate the spiritual practices of others. A guide need not claim exclusive or definitive knowledge of the terrain.

Spiritual practices, and especially primary religious practices, carry risks. Therefore, when an individual chooses to practice with the assistance of a guide, both take on special responsibilities. The Council on Spiritual Practices proposes the following Code of Ethics for those who serve as spiritual guides.

  1. [Intention] Spiritual guides are to practice and serve in ways that cultivate awareness, empathy, and wisdom.
  2. [Serving Society] Spiritual practices are to be designed and conducted in ways that respect the common good, with due regard for public safety, health, and order. Because the increased awareness gained from spiritual practices can catalyze desire for personal and social change, guides shall use special care to help direct the energies of those they serve, as well as their own, in responsible ways that reflect a loving regard for all life.
  3. [Serving Individuals] Spiritual guides shall respect and seek to preserve the autonomy and dignity of each person. Participation in any primary religious practice must be voluntary and based on prior disclosure and consent given individually by each participant while in an ordinary state of consciousness. Disclosure shall include, at a minimum, discussion of any elements of the practice that could reasonably be seen as presenting physical or psychological risks. In particular, participants must be warned that primary religious experience can be difficult and dramatically transformative.
    Guides shall make reasonable preparations to protect each participant’s health and safety during spiritual practices and in the periods of vulnerability that may follow. Limits on the behaviors of participants and facilitators are to be made clear and agreed upon in advance of any session. Appropriate customs of confidentiality are to be established and honored.
  4. [Competence] Spiritual guides shall assist with only those practices for which they are qualified by personal experience and by training or education.
  5. [Integrity] Spiritual guides shall strive to be aware of how their own belief systems, values, needs, and limitations affect their work. During primary religious practices, participants may be especially open to suggestion, manipulation, and exploitation; therefore, guides pledge to protect participants and not to allow anyone to use that vulnerability in ways that harm participants or others.
  6. [Quiet Presence] To help safeguard against the harmful consequences of personal and organizational ambition, spiritual communities are usually better allowed to grow through attraction rather than active promotion.
  7. [Not for Profit] Spiritual practices are to be conducted in the spirit of service. Spiritual guides shall strive to accommodate participants without regard to their ability to pay or make donations.
  8. [Tolerance] Spiritual guides shall practice openness and respect towards people whose beliefs are in apparent contradiction to their own.
  9. [Peer Review] Each guide shall seek the counsel of other guides to help ensure the wholesomeness of his or her practices and shall offer counsel when there is need.

Draft 10 August 2001. Copyright © 1995 – 2001 Council on Spiritual Practices

Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides by Council on Spiritual Practices, R. Jesse, Convener is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Kindly reference this source work using the link

The way of the heart

I have recently come across first a quote on Facebook and then some videos on YouTube of Alonso Del Rio, Maestro who has been working with Ayahuasca and San Pedro in Peru for over 40 years.

Here is a video where his shares his thoughts on such subjects as the importance of development of our level of consciousness – “the second leg”, while working with Sacred Plants – “the first leg”; a lengthy process that a true healer must undertake to develop and heal themselves in order to be able to help others; the meaning and role of ceremonial songs; the symbolism found in religion systems and Kundalini Yoga, the importance of daily work to implement and sustain the expansion of consciousness in between the ceremonies. He has experience, he has depth, he has presence. Enjoy.

FAQ: why does one need to prepare oneself before actually going into the ceremony

Why does one need to prepare oneself before actually going into the ceremony?

To ensure the best possible outcome. Psychedelic ceremony is a leap into the unknown, the bizarre and strange world beyond the limits of our conscious awareness – repressed memories and unprocessed traumas, archetypal characters, symbols and universal quests, gods, demons and our closest relationships. While one might possibly be never in the position to fully control the directions and the final destination of this journey, one can prepare for it like a pilot prepares before taking the first flight.

It always comes back to the famous SET and SETTING – the foundations of the successful ceremony. Make sure you understand those fully and do the best to create the reality closely approaching the ideal. There are a few takes on what these concepts involve, and while a good amount of information can be acquired from the abundant literature and web postings on the subject, a discussion with an experienced and supportive psychonaut can give you an additional dimension of depth. That personal connection might also become of value in the integration part of your experience, when the personal support after your landing can help you process the strange and bizzare, and weave its lessons into your day-to-day reality.  

The question of GROUP or SOLO becomes even more of a hot topic in our current COVID affected life. While there are many advantages that a group ceremony can offer – support of relatively experienced facilitators and a streamlined ceremony format, sense of sisterhood/brotherhood with the fellow travelers and beautiful human connections, opportunity for socially  meaningful rite of passage ceremonies; there are also certain aspects that only a solo ceremony brings – depth and intimacy, the opportunity of complete surrender and rebirth without constrains of socially acceptable behaviour, personal responsibility for the  organisation of pre-, intra-, and post- ceremonial space – in a way learning to fold your own parachute.

I believe that the position of self-accountability of the solo ceremony is in the best alignment with the direction of healing process. No one to rely on and no one to blame. We must learn to stop delegating the role of the healer to strangers of the outside world and find our own courage to face our own demons. The entheogens can be spectacularly useful assistants in that process. When the dose is high enough, no other human can really reach you in that world, you are on your own and you must be ready to deal with the present moment. A well folded parachute will definitely help with that leap.

I hope that helps. May we all find healing that we seek.

Reconnect the movie

Coronavirus news led me to an interview with David Icke on something called London Real, a popular talk show that’s been around for seven plus years, interviewing a whole lotta well known people and of which i had never heard before. I liked the interview. I liked the host – Brian Rose, and I dug around the net to find a bit more. I’ve found a full feature movie on Brian’s experience with Ayahuasca. Not bad. Shows the reality of the high of the ceremony and the deep drop after. Working hard at integrating. Not bad. I recommend.

The way of the psychonaut

I have recently come across the last Stanislav Grof’s book, and the title is promising. I shall read on and hopefully will have more to say pretty soon. Meanwhile – please indulge in a free ebook, courteously provided by the unfailing Library Genesis..

It’s taken me a bit less than 10 days to finish the two volumes, and I feel like I need to jot down a few lines about the book, while the things are still fresh.
General impressions: It’s ok. 3-3.5 out of 5. The title and the introduction made me expect more. It feels like a normal Grof’s book, going over the same topics once again. Four Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs), COEX systems (Systems of Condensed Experiences), holotropic breathwork, brief history of LSD and a few other psychedelics, some research findings, overview and critique of some psychology theories from 100 years ago, and … and that’s about it. If someone has never read any of Grof’s books, these two volumes could be a good start to get an idea of his contribution to the field and the historical context of his work. I wish he would include more (actually – anything) from his astrological research to the benefit of which he alluded in the introduction. Richard Tarnas covers some basics in the Appendix, but it’s very wordy and does not go into much specifics.

Things that did stand out:
– a little line of poetry by Humphrey Osmond, coining the term psychedelic: “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic” (p.63)
– “…the simultaneous presence of a male and female who get along unlike one’s parents… can have an extraordinary healing and transformative effect on the previously afflicted categories of interpersonal relationships” (p. 128)
– “I have often observed that LSD subjects whose sessions terminate in a state of incomplete rebirth show all the typical signs of mania. They are hyperactive, move around at a hectic pace, try to socialize and fraternize with everybody in their environment, make inappropriate advances, and talk incessantly about their sense of triumph and well-being, wonderful feelings, and the great experience they have just had”. (p.228)
– choice of suicide non-violent (corresponding with wish for regression from BPM II back to BPM I) vs violent (corresponding with wish for progression from BPM III to BPM IV) (p.229-232)
– “Under current circumstances unless a reliable source of pure chemicals is available, the best choice might be plant medicines” (vol. II p. 32-33)
– “Safe psychonautics requires undivided attention to one’s unconscious material as it is emerging, the full experience of emotions, and the processing of the content” (vol II p.34-35)
– “Understanding the phenomenon of meaningful coincidences – sina qua non for psychonauts” (vol II p. 38-39)
– Jung definition of true religion was “the network of genuine spiritual seekers transcending the boundaries of space and time” (vol II p.122)



Harley makes lines of light brown powder on the plate and rolls up a piece of paper in a tube. Inhaling this through the nose seems like the most challenging part of the upcoming yopo ceremony. I have experienced many psychedelics and am not afraid of the experience itself. I’ve been far, I’ve been deep. I feel ready.

We are waiting for the sunset and Harley throws another handful of the coco leaves behind his cheek. He says it will help him to stay focused and be more present for me and Elizabeth. He suggests we smoke some tobacco to bring more clarity to our intention and calm ourselves. I didn’t plan to smoke and feel rather calm but readily roll up. Sure, why not.

We smoke and use the toilet again. Harley warns about it, saying that once the process starts we won’t be able to move much and the need for the toilet might make the experience more complicated.

We are back on our blankets. I pull out a bottle of Spearmint essential oil and stick it close to my nose – Ba, maybe a bit too close as I feel its burning. I wonder if I should have asked our facilitator Harley if it would be ok and not interfere with the medicine – too late. Spearmint smells so nice and I hand the bottle to Elizabeth, she likes the smell and Harley takes a few sniffs too. We blow our noses again. We are ready and Harley hands me the plate and the paper tube. He says we should go first as it will be better for him to be a little bit behind. No demonstration. I put the tube in my right nostril and inhale some of the powder, I switch the nostril and repeat. There is still some left. I try to do it quickly as I’ve been warned the medicine starts working very fast and I might not be able to finish if I stall. More powder in the right nostril, leftover in the left. I hand the plate and the tube to Elizabeth, feeling a bit awkward about my nose juice on the paper tube. She doesn’t seem to mind and proceeds with her own line. My eyes are tearing from the powder but I don’t feel much burning. I sit back and wait.

There is a minute or two of vague sensations in the body. I start panting. I remember that Harley recommended keeping the eyes closed, and close my eyes. Immediately intensely strong colourful patterns appear and I feel unwell. I want to escape the visuals as I feel they make me more nauseated. There is no escape, and the wave of nausea culminates in my stomach contents coming up. I remember to lean in the direction where there is no blanket and vomit. I feel intensely unwell, there is no concept of the blanket and other people and the reality anymore. Just my suffering, No escape. Nothing and no one can help me. The medicine has started working and I have to face it alone.

I moan and groan and find the vocalizing my suffering is the only thing I can do. I scream like a hurting animal. I lean forward and vomit again. I am clenching handkerchief that my 92 year old friend gifted me and try to wipe my face. Raw animal suffering. The psychedelic disorientation is so strong and chaotic. I feel like I might die, but can’t do anything to prevent it. I remember to keep my head up and not collapse in my vomit. I scream again, the pain is released with the intensity of my voice and I want to continue screaming. I hear Harleys voice “Please don’t scream”. I am able to talk. I say “Why not?”. I remember that he said if we feel impelled to vocalize, if icaros are coming – voice them, as it’s considered disrespectful to resist when the spirit of the medicine moves through you. In my suffering delirious mind my screaming is as sacred as the icaros. It helps me. I scream again. “Please don’t scream”, says Harley again. “The neighbours will be concerned”. “They should be concerned” I say. I see my suffering as the archetypal suffering of all, and I don’t want people to pretend that it is not happening. I am ill. We are all ill, and I remember I’ve been praying for healing for myself and others. “Help me, God ”.

I remember God and cling to the idea of something merciful and powerful. If anything can help me – it’s God. “Please God, help me”. I hear Harley is talking to Elizabeth. Another wave of vomit comes and doesn’t bring any relief. But the idea that there are other people who took medicine with me helps me remember the concept of respect. I don’t want to vomit on them or their things, I don’t want them to suffer from the pain in my screaming. I want to open my eyes and see how  Elizabeth is doing but I can’t. I am grateful to Harley for being strong and not collapsing to his own experience but attending to us.

Snot is pouring out of my nose but I don’t have anything to blow it into, I exhale it like two little rivers and register the absolute lack of concern for being civil and neat. There is only my suffering and no help. I try to harness my desire to scream and start talking. I speak Russian to God. I ask for help. I am powerless against the intensity of the suffering but I want it to ease. “It is so difficult. Help me. Help me Help me”. I claw the earth underneath my hands. I feel the strength of my suffering is also my strength. I try to tap into it, to not give up to death, to continue seeking relief if only through my intention. “Help me. It is so difficult. Help me. I pray for health. I pray for love. I pray for the end of my suffering”. The strength of the rummaging animal in me is my strength, but what is it fighting against? I feel that it needs to surrender. I don’t know how to surrender to suffering. The strong fighting demon in me is me and makes me strong. Makes me not submissive – not to Harley, not to anyone. But it remembers respect and tries to make the fight less loud and less traumatic to others. I need to be strong so I don’t die from the intensity or I need to be weak and give up to it? “Help me, God. It is very difficult”.

There comes the moment when I can see again. I see the outline of my fellow travellers. I don’t know how they feel, but they seem to be the background to my struggle. I want to find the resolution. I am Maria. I am the oldest here. I need to find the healing. If not me, then who. I am strong. I am strong enough. I am still alive, and not screaming. The vomiting comes again and I find my dirty little handkerchief. Surprise and a certain sense of pride for being so prepared, for having an item of comfort. I am Maria. I start to verbalize my thoughts in English, for the sake of my English speaking companions. Harley said that he finds Russian language terrifying, I won’t scare him. I won’t scream. My rummaging animal is finding consolation in my voice. I like my voice. I like to be alive. I don’t like vomiting. I don’t like sitting in the vomit. I like Elizabeth, I wish her well. I like Harley. I am grateful to him for keeping himself together, for being an inspiration of strength for me. It is so difficult, God. Help me. Whatever happening with me is the great mystery of the battle and surrender. I surrender to God. I choose God. I choose feeling well, and not suffering. But God, almighty God created me, just like it created suffering. Why? Why does God want the suffering, why did it create the demon in me that chooses to harm my body in a certain way to produce ill health. I feel that it’s the weakness and impurity that I have brought onto myself with my lifestyle choices. With the salami I decided to buy and eat for lunch, with everything that I, my demon, chooses to do to create pimples on my face, headaches, sore muscles. It is the fight between the demon and God. But God created this demon, and allows this battle. Why?

Because it is the game. The game cannot be too easy, otherwise it’s not interesting to play it. From the point of eternity, nothing is bad, everything creates a particular development of the game, and our suffering and death are repeated seemingly endlessly, when the demon wins. But the demon cannot win forever. God created Maria, this Maria, that is strong enough to withstand the battle and make God the winner. I choose God, I choose health, I choose peace and beauty. I am strong. Maybe there were other Marias and they were not strong enough. But God keeps trying, and this Maria is strong and can survive all the rummaging of the demon, all the choices that bring suffering onto myself, and choose God. Choose Health.

It is enough. We all suffered so much. It is a very difficult game and we kept loosing in it. But God perceivers. There is still so much of it around us. And we all keep carrying the message of love and the message of God as well as we can. The neighbours don’t like me screaming, because they have children, who might be scared. So the neighbours choose God in their care for their children, protecting them, feeding them, creating homes and gardens for them. There are trees and grass, and cats, and puppies. I like puppies. I know that God is winning, that demon is loosing because I choose the beautiful creation of God. Not the ones it allowed to exist for the sake of the game, but the ones that express its beautiful nature. Nature. Colours. Music. My ukulele. God created people that came before me, that know how to make ukuleles, God allowed me to have enough money to buy it. Maybe I can’t play it very well, but I try, and I like the sound I create with my awkward autistic fingers.

I am autistic and I like to play. I am a child that likes to play. Just like God. God is playing in creation and trying to create a Maria that will find it. Just like me trying to understand what I am, find myself. I am the image of God. We both like to play. We both like nature and flowers and animals. I am like God and of course God loves me for that. God loves me, and wants me to find it, helping, reminding, constantly reminding me about its presence in all the beauty in the world. In these two people sitting next to me, and laughing at my funny rambles and agreeing with me. God creates people that like me and like to see me play. I play with God, in trying to find it. I shake my head from side to side, happy at finding the answer, loving that answer – it is all a game and I love playing.

I am Maria, I am a woman, and now I know that Female is primary. It is what appeared first and finds its strength in being the birther, the creator, being the mother of all things. The game must be harder for a man. Being born out of a woman, being fostered by something so different from him, and needing to find the purpose for his existence, his polar energy is a very difficult task. All the men I know find it unbearable and hide their agony in drugs, power struggles, games of aggression. They feel inferior, and rage from that feeling. They hate the woman, they hate the mother, also hating themselves for wanting her, for enjoying her care and affection, for wanting to be the baby, weak and receiving.

And we, the women, tend to feel their hate and start wondering – what is this creature, male, that came out of us, but is so different from us. We feel the threat coming from the men and hate them back. The perpetual game of hate. God created us polar opposites, knowing that we would fear one another, and try to destroy one another, until one moment we find our strength and show it to the other, and see it in the other, and appreciate the polar opposite for something that is a reflection of God too, but in a way that compliments us. Love. That is the purpose of this game that God created. Creating a Man and a Woman – the battle fields for two Demons and two Gods, trying to fight the other – male Demon against female Demon, learning our strengths in the process and finally recognising the strength and the value in the other – male God and female God. Noticing the God in ourselves, and seeing it reflected in the other. The divine mystery of Love. Of God, whose essence is creation. Of God, who doesn’t know what it is, till it creates us, and we grow and evolve to see God, to find God in ourselves and finally see it in others, in the Other. And help God understand what it is, through us, through our understanding. We are oh so important, God needs us to find itself. God needs the God in me to win over the Demon in me, and helps me in this battle. Of course it helps me. I am grateful for everything that I encounter that makes me grateful. I am grateful for being able to have the feeling of gratitude. For noticing the beauty. For noticing God. For choosing life and participation in the divine game every day. It is a very difficult game, but I am strong enough. I am Maria, the loved daughter of God. I help God to find itself, to know itself and in this is my divine purpose.

I see Harley sitting in front of me. This male, whose part in the game is not easy, but who tries as hard as I do. Despite all the difficult turns in his life, he is still alive as well, he chooses to live and help others, help me and Elizabeth to see God, to win in this game and not to surrender to the Demon. I see and appreciate his strength, his willingness to help and I know that this is the essence of being a male – the father principle. Harley is a man, and I am grateful to him for being that, for showing the complimentary to mine strength and helping me in my process. I remember his personal pain of recently loosing his mother, who chose death over her child, over Harley, who did not see his value and couldn’t love him. I put my hand on Harley’s forearm “I am so sorry, I am so sorry, please forgive me, please forgive the woman, please forgive your mother for not seeing the value in you, for not seeing the value in men, for not being able to love you”, I keep repeating. It is a very difficult game, and we all have made so many mistakes, but we are learning, we are getting better at that. “I am very sorry. You are beautiful, you have the right to exist just like women do, we all are needed in this play, only through both of our genders, only thorough overcoming the natural hate of the opposite, we can find God and God can find itself. Please forgive me, forgive her, forgive us”. “There is nothing to forgive, it’s ok”, says Harley. I am grateful for his softness, for his allowing me to go through this most intense, most difficult ceremony and being a part of it.

I turn to Elizabeth, loving her is easier. I see how beautiful this young woman is and I wish her only well, I wish her to keep winning in this battle, to keep choosing God, to keep choosing health and herself. She is strong. She is courageous. She came to this ceremony on her last day in Vilcabamba after out intense San Pedro ceremony the day before. I love seeing another strong woman. I find a little metal medallion in my pocket, that I bought 4 years ago – it has a simple flower on one side and a word JOY on the other, I hand it to Elizabeth. I want her to have it, to remember me, to remember our experiences together, and remember our discoveries – of God, of play, of beauty, of the strength in the women and the value in the men. “Remember me, remember Maria”. “Thank you, it is beautiful. Of course, I will”, we are both smiling at the beauty we see in each other.

Yopo. Yopo. Yopo. It has been so very difficult, but so very rewarding. I feel like the depth of my insights is very worth the difficult journey to them. I am ready to repeat it again, when and if I need them. My faulty human brain tends to have faulty human memory and I forget the lessons I learn. Yopo is the toughest and the most effective teacher that can remind me again. I am very happy I’ve met it.

Inconspicuous seeds of a tropical tree, ground up with burnt seashells have brought into the open the battle between my Demon and my God so vividly and let me pick the side consciously. I choose the side of God. I am strong to carry both of them inside and pick the side with the central seed of my consciousness. I am Maria and I am with God. I pray for Love and I see Love. I am Maria and I am strong. I carry Love inside me. Thank you, Yopo for letting me see, for letting me feel, for letting me find God again.  

San Pedro 101

cactus on pot.jpg

Set: Utmost respect. Mescaline containing cactus is a very powerful medicine from South America. High  doses take one outside of personal boundaries to God and beyond.

Setting: Safety is paramount. If an experienced and trustworthy guide is unavailable, private space – dry, tidy, warm, with a bucket for bodily expulsions if such occur. Clean clothes, clean body, clean mind. Appropriate wholesome music, recorded spiritual teachings (e.g. Eckhart Tolle) and an audio system to play those. Incenses to bless the space. In my experience natural tobacco has been useful to foster the individuation process while in the midst of depersonalisation.

Medicine: Amount for one strong personal journey is a piece of a mature cactus lengthwise equal to your arm from elbow to palm (fingers). Obviously the amount of mescaline will differ depending on the age of the cactus, the species, the environmental condition it grew in and the length of your arm 😊 It is ok. If in doubt drink half of the prepared medicine and in 2-3 hours drink more if desired.

To prepare it:

You require: plenty of water, heating element, pot, metal mesh strainer, a vessel or two to keep the strained off liquid from the boil ups. A knife and a spoon.

  • cut off the 3-4 cm tip off for replanting. It needs to be dried out till the scab forms on the exposed flesh, planted in soil and NOT watered till it roots.
  • on the piece you are working with cut out the spines if present (longitudinal cuts to the right and the left of the spines angling the knife towards the spines to create the wedge works well).
  • take the external plasticky skin off, using fingernails and/or knife. Discard.
  • peel the green layer off using the knife. That’s where mescaline is and that’s what you’ll be working with. Respectfully discard the rest or experiment if you wish, as there is anecdotal evidence of mescaline present throughout the cactus tissue.
  • put your green pieces in a pot and cover with water, bring to boil. Watch it closely as it will foam profusely, agitate the foam with a spoon, and lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 5-7 hours adding water as necessary. Strain the liquid and put aside.
  • cover the boiled cactus with more fresh water and cook for 5-7 more hours, adding water as necessary. It won’t foam again. Strain the liquid and set aside.
  • repeat the boiling process once again with fresh water for additional 5-7 hours. Strain.
  • combine the liquids from your three boil ups and reduce to a drinkable amount. 30-40 ml is plenty. You can use strong heat, but watch it closely when the amount is nearing the desired to prevent burning.
  • cool and proceed with the ceremony when ready.

I have experimented with putting the plant material through the blender on the third boil and reducing the time of cooking, but the strainer  I use lets through too much of the pureed cactus and the consistency of the medicine was a bit too much on a revolting side. You probably can use a pressure cooker and save on gas or electricity, just don’t forget that it will form foam initially, so don’t seal it till the foam settles.

What to expect from the journey: The effect starts to appear in 1-3 hours, be patient. Meditate, play a musical instrument, listen to music or Eckhart. Draw. Play with play dough. Try to avoid internet, computer games, chats and conversations while waiting – those might interfere with a smooth onset, agitate your mind and distract from a proper Set.

Nausea might appear at 30 min in, 1hour in, and any other intervals of initial take off. Sudden movements might trigger it, so try to glide like a panther if you need to move. Obviously if you vomit too soon, not much mescaline will have been absorbed, so the strength of your journey will be affected. If you are nauseated, sit close to your bucket and breathe, smell something nice, you can try chewing a piece of ginger (pickled, candied or fresh). On the other hand, don’t fight the nausea too much, if it wants out – let it out, you might need this purification and it might kick start the process of the journey. Be respectful to your Setting and clean the bucket as soon as you can.

As with many other psychedelics, it is not uncommon to feel cold and shiver, when your journey starts to take off, a nice blanket and perhaps a hot water bottle can be handy. For me mescaline often brings intense shaking and a certain feeling of agitation. Ride it off, it will pass.

The peak is at 3-5 hours after ingestion, and if the dose was high enough, prepare for unexpected  – dissolution of the reality as you know it, divine presence and a loss of divine presence, loss of sense of self, and an unfamiliar sense of self with a touch of mania grandeur. It is best to keep the experienced states to yourself or share with trusted others only, as it can be easily labeled as psychotic states and unfriendly and non-understanding medical professionals might be employed to interfere.  Endure, ride it out, it will pass. Although you must be aware of a condition called HPPD – Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. If you’ve never heard about it – google it, and understand that it is a known risk while taking any psychedelics. Remember that you, and only you make the final decision to journey and assume the final responsibility for the process and the outcome.

There are different schools of thought about the best time of the day for the journey. Mescaline produces quite pleasant visual changes and everything you look at gets a divine glow, especially the inherently beautiful things like nature and animals. It can be wonderful to observe, and day light gives you more opportunities for that. On the other hand, as with all psychedelics, it is the insight and inner work that you should be after, so scheduling your journey for the night time might bring less distraction and quieter setting to accommodate for internal process. Do what works better logistically and intuitively.

Mescaline is a long acting medicine and 12 hours in, you will probably still feel certain effects, e.g. be more contemplative, philosophically inclined, present, empathetic etc. Use that time to connect with significant others if you want or go for a walk if a beautiful and safe setting is near by. Don’t operate machinery or do much else of the ordinary state of consciousness things. Journaling is good. Some water/tea/fruits if you want. Be prepared for a prolonged inner “buzz” and inability to sleep. You can catch up on rest the following day, don’t worry, but plan accordingly.

Personal experience: I tried San Pedro for the first time 2 years ago, in a group ceremony setting in Ecuador.  I was not involved in the medicine preparation process and the journey was guided by a professional shaman (it is a registered profession in Ecuador). The effect was not overwhelmingly strong, but strong enough for me to feel strengthened by the process, develop respect and a wish to learn more. This year I participated in a group ceremony of a less commercial kind involving San Pedro and Temazcal – ceremonial sweat lodge. I helped with the preparation of the medicine. The effect was not very strong but strong enough to feel the magic and again strengthening of my core. For the last 2 and a bit months, I have been working with the medicine by myself, conducting solo ceremonies 2-3 times a week in the privacy of my room with an occasional venture outdoors and interactions with pigeons and a sympathetic neighbour or two. My dosage is moderate to high, and even with the expected development of tolerance (said to reset at 1 week abstinence), sufficient enough to reach the state of “ego loss”. Interestingly enough, if anything the effects have grown stronger, possibly because the first month of my journeys included considerable physical and psychological unease. My long standing chronic and recurrent cystitis and urethritis (bladder and urethra inflammation) would appear every time a few hours into the ceremony, probably triggered by dehydration, as I conduct the journey in a tradition of abstinence from food and water. The memory  of it is already fading, but suffer I did. It felt very archetypal and diabolic in a sense – that inescapable discomfort and inability to settle and find peace. I knew that drinking herbal tea (e.g. nettle) would bring it to end almost instantly but I also felt that a relief was not what I needed. I was after healing, and I hoped that enduring the suffering might help me go through the process and out of the suffering. It did. Bit by bit, ceremony after the ceremony the pain and discomfort diminished, and opened way for another experience. Without the restlessness of the sickness, I was able to give myself more fully to the medicine, and that’s when the higher realms of divinity and ego loss started to show up in my journeys. A few weeks ago, tobacco reappeared in my life, and I understood why it has been considered a sacred plant in South America. When the reality had fallen apart and I struggled to regain the awareness of where, why and who I was, the act of rolling the tobacco (physically challenging in that state, mind you), lighting it and smoking with the outspoken prayer brought the reality back. Pure magic.

I am living in Ecuador for the moment, and access to San Pedro is very easy. It is sold at the market. I pay about 3-5 dollars for the piece sufficient enough for a strong journey. The cost of living here is low. The weather is good. I hope to continue working with San Pedro and learning from it. I also hope to connect with people of high integrity that walk the same path of the ancestral medicine and work together some day. I am happy to share what I’ve learnt with anyone wishing to work with the medicine, who is new on the path. We are all connected, and I believe that healing of one person sends ripples of magic and health across the whole of humanity.

I pray for our planet.

I pray for health.

I pray for love.

My regards,