Amanita Muscaria. Field notes.

Что такое Мухомор?

Это вечности простор,

Путешествие прямо в центр,

Это с Богом разговор.

Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria, is one of the last bastions of legal and widely available Sacred Medicine for the people. At least for the people that are not afraid of wild mushrooms, and go beyond the first door on the way to it, the door that says – «Danger! Keep out!».

I, like most people, grew up with the ubiquitous images of Fly Agaric around me – illustrations in children’s books, sand boxes in playgrounds, teapots, tea towels, notebooks and stuffed toys. We all have seen the red cap with white dots so many times. And we have all learnt to never touch the original, because of its poisonous nature.  
In my explorations of the entheogenic medicines I have tried many of them – Psilocybin mushrooms and Ayahuasca, Iboga and San Pedro, Salvia divinorum, Yopo and Sapo. And I did come across a few different accounts of the psychoactive properties of the Amanita mushrooms, but in between the multiple references to its poisonous nature, they failed to produce much of an enthusiasm in me to try it for myself.

That is until I returned to my native lands – Russia – about two years ago. As none of the familiar to me entheogens were available here, or at least the risks of procuring them were too high for my liking, Fly Agaric came back onto my radar.
I did a bit of reading, and podcasts listening. The stories were fascinating, hilarious, scary and often contradictory. The more or less general consensus was that microdosing was therapeutic and safe but macrodosing was extremely risky. The piece of advice that most of them shared was to never attempt trip doses alone. The presence of a trip sitter is a must – was a universal verdict. Hmm, I thought. Not really an option in my present situation, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

After a few weeks of my research, I felt that I was ready to meet the mushroom. It was winter so looking for it in the woods was not a viable option and I bought some dry caps through a friend of a friend and got them mailed to me. In a few weeks 100 grams of it was  in my possession and I decided to start slow and steady.

Round 1. From 10 February to 26 July I took it about 20 times, gradually increasing the dose from 0.5 g to 12 g. I took the mushroom straight up, unground, chewing it; usually a few hours after a meal as to avoid nausea. The most notable physical effects were initially acrid taste in mouth, one-time nausea when taken on an empty stomach, stimulation of appetite within a few hours of ingestion, diminishing of physical strength and balance while doing yoga, but tirelessness with walking. The most notable psychological effects – drowsiness, with occasional restlessness; decreased emotionality; creative thought, increased sense of presence. Communication with others while under the influence was easy and enjoyable. There were no scary effects, uncontrollable behaviours or loss of awareness even at higher doses, although I suspect that because I didn’t store the mushroom in an air tight container, as it lost its crispiness, it also lost some potency and the 12 g dose that I took (considered to be a trip dose) was in fact lower than that in its action.  There was some noticeable tolerance build up with daily use, and it appears that 2-7 days of break in between is needed to feel the effects fully.

Round 2. I acquired 100 grams of the new season, freshly dried Fly Agaric through an internet seller. I had read that it takes about 2 months of storing the dried mushrooms to have ibotenic acid (more toxic) convert to muscimol (less toxic), so I was a bit weary of starting with the mushrooms right away. However, the seller, in response to my wonderings, answered that soaking the ground mushroom in lemon juice prior to topping it with hot water helps with the conversion, and decreases the likelihood of potential adverse reactions like nausea. He also mentioned that initially, while the body is “cleansing”, nausea and adverse reactions might occur, but later they will subside. So with that I started on my next batch.

From 20 August to 11 October I took it 3 times at medium doses (4g – 9.5 g) and  6 times at high doses (12 g – 14.2 g).  There were some physical effects – once of severe nausea after smoking tobacco and occasional increased salivation, also some clumsiness; at higher doses appetite stimulating effect was not present. I experienced some strong effects of altered states of consciousness  – changed perception, visual changes, entheogenic effects as in God search/presence,  thoughts dwelling on perennial questions and poetic inspirations. When communicating with others – alcohol like inebriation, difficulties with focus and memory, honesty.   

Round 3.

A new batch of dried caps, picked and dried in a dehydrator on a low temperature by a family member. Sticking to the same prep – grind to powder, lemon juice soak prior to toping up with hot water, let steep.

From 18 October to 9 May I took high doses 29 times (12 g – 16 g), 4 times medium doses (4g -11.2g), 2 times small doses (2.5g-3 g). Prep mostly with lemon, one time with cranberry juice, one time – just hot water. The duration of the effects varied substantially, from 3 hours to 12 plus hours, with higher doses predictably producing longer lasting effects. Physical effects – there were a few incidents of nausea and increased salivation, especially with the first few doses of the batch, and once possibly triggered by prior drinking of black tea on empty stomach; one episode of vomiting at 16 g at 40 min after ingestion, which made the effect milder but still present. A couple of times at the end of the session there was a slight headache, possibly related to caffeine withdrawals; there was not much noted weakness or clumsiness. At the onset of action (60-90 min in), the need to use the toilet for a bowel evacuation usually happened. There was often sweating which led to a wish to take a bath most of the times. Yoga and Wim Hof breathing exercises often became a part of the session, and occasional cold showers – with less reaction/ aversion to cold than in a usual state.

Small and medium doses had marked anxiolytic effect. Higher doses, while repeatedly triggering paranoia type thoughts, had no fear/anxiety associated with that. I often engaged in singing and playing a musical instrument, feeling rather uninhibited; initially video conversations with a friend played a big part in the journeys – they were joyful, light, philosophical and playful. Later I preferred to watch Eckhart Tolle and Kim Eng recordings, noticing that being guided by their narration didn’t produce much of paranoia type content and made me savour the truth and presence of these spiritual teachers to the fullest. When listening to randomly selected songs and audio books from MP3 player, there was often a prophetic effect – lyrics or the story seemingly narrating the current reality. A few times I had the perception of reality from a point of view of yet unborn (possibly being birthed) or dying (of having just died) consciousness, altered perception of time, and a couple of times a very strong feeling of “enlightenment” – coming to and through the central point of truth. At the onset of action, usually 60-90 min after ingestion, there were often visual changes present – waive like patterns, glass like, brighter colours, sometimes reminding of a video game type of graphics. Occasionally, I had perception of sharing the mind space with someone else, which felt like a RPG video game type of reality. Even though I spent most of my sessions in my apartment, a few times I felt a rather unexpected wish to go outside which I followed through. The interactions with the people I had during those times were within acceptable range, although perhaps somewhat even more daring and unorthodox than my usual self. My coordination and steadiness was acceptable. I also felt the urge to clean the outdoor area where I was by collecting and disposing of garbage – not something unusual for me though.   

 During one of the sessions I decided to quit tobacco for 1 year and have been sticking to that decision for 7 months now, with one exception of using tobacco within the ceremonial Temazcal environment. What I label as “entheogenic” effect – God manifesting or searching for God was almost always present at high doses. In between Fly Agaric sessions I did not have lower depressive states and had normal socially acceptable functioning, working full time and engaging in occasional social activity. However I did use most of my free time to further explore the Amanita space, as I felt that every session cleansed my psyche, brought me closer to presence and deepened my relationship with this mushroom.     

Round 4.

I acquired 300 grams of dried caps from a new to me internet seller. The caps were much lighter in colour, yellowish to pale orange, which made me think they were either old or had been stored inappropriately. I started with a small dose 3.5 g increasing it to 30 g in 12 sessions (from 23 May to 23 June). The effects of this batch are much much weaker, so even at 30 g I don’t get the full effect of a regular 12 g, but possibly approximating it (+/-=9-11 g of normal potency).  There have not been any adverse physical effects like salivating, nausea/vomiting, clumsiness or lack of coordination, there has been some sweating. Mind effects included some visual changes, some paranoia/global conspiracy  type thoughts, some interest to costume work, engagement in arts, increased sensitivity to people’s state to presence/mind in real life interactions and videos. Because of the lighter effects and better control I have been more daring with trying the mushrooms in different settings – e.g. on a train, before and during work, going to a bike service, shopping, walks and hairdresser’s while under the influence.  Despite the mildness of the experiences, the entheogenic effects have been present, time did stand still and random MP3 tracks were meaningful. Having a batch of low potency mushrooms makes the supply ran out much faster, of course, but it has led me to experience it in many more different settings, also providing an easier ride with no challenging physical or psyhological effects to note.

Summary.

For an experienced psychonaut, Amanita muscaria (at least the variety found in European Russia) is a valid choice of an ally helping to explore altered states of consciousness. To decrease the occurrence of unwanted effects and minimize risks, I would advise starting from a low dose of 1-3 g and gradually increasing the dose to the desired potency (Usually 12 g dry weight of good quality mushroom caps is considered a trip/entheogenic dose, but it might vary depending on your body weight). I have found that thoroughly dried mushroom caps (cracker crispy dry)  are best stored in glass jars in a dark cool place. They can be ground in a coffee grinder prior to consumption, soaked in freshly squeezed lemon juice for 3-10 minutes (optional in mushrooms you have stored for 2+ months after drying) and mixed with hot but not boiling water, and steeped for another 3-10 minutes. You can experiment with how long the interval between the last meal and your mushroom ingestion should be, but I would advise 4+ hours to start with. Pay particular attention to your setting and the choice of audio/video content you engage with during the session. Spiritual teaching is perhaps best. The usual importance of Set and Setting remains. Be respectful to the mysteries you are seeking to engage with. Journey well.

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. csp.org/code 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 csp.org/code

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.

https://londonreal.tv/reconnect-the-movie/

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..

http://libgen.is/book/index.php?md5=F7CD2A37A05D183FB6565D6F612CE0BA

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)


Yopo

Yopo.

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.  

~Health Inspired Nursing~