Ayahuasca Life

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A totally new way to work with the medicine…

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Per my previous post, I am in Cusco for a bit, escaping the heat of the jungle.  I am going to continue my writing about my time with Don Alberto and Jenaro Herrera in a few days.  In the meantime, I have come across a very interesting school here in Cusco, World Shamanic Yoga Institute (www.shamanicyoga.org).

World Shamanic Yoga Institute uses a cross -cultural approach to shamanism, yoga, and dream work.  They examine several traditions from around the world and lever the most effective techniques from each school of thought.  I have not taken a full course, so I am doing the best I can in trying to explain their approach.  I will take a month long yoga teacher training course in April.  At that point I will write more in depth once I am fully in the mix.  That said, I have had some great experiences with the school over the past few days as Russ Hazard has been kind enough to let me participate in two ceremonies (Note: it is highly unusual to be allowed in mid-course. I was allowed in because of my previous experience with Vipassana and Ayahuasca).  The first ceremony was with San Pedro in the hills outside Cusco (post “We have forgotten how to live…”).  The second was an Ayahuasca ceremony.

Usually Russ runs his Ayahuasca ceremonies in the jungle outside of Puerto Mondenaldo, but due to some logistical issues he decided to conduct this ceremony in a tambo near The Temple of the Moon just outside Cusco.

As many of you may already know, in Amazonian Ayahuasca ceremonies there is great emphasis on icarros, or medicine songs.  These songs are sung almost continuously throughout ceremony.  I have a thesis regarding sound vibrations/songs and their use in ceremonies…. Science has proven that we are vibrating energy- atoms bouncing around at various speeds to form what appear to be our bodies and the physical world.   Therefore, sound as a vibration itself can have a profound effect on our bodies and consciousness.  You can connect this idea via your own experience- think about how listening to your favorite song can change your mood and how your body feels.  Shamans know this and use sound as one of their many tools to harness energy, direct it and heal with that energy.  When Ayahuasca is added to the mix it opens up the energies in the body and mind to make those energies easier to work with. I have direct experience with this phenomenon. As I follow icarros in ceremony, they paint very different experiences based on the song.  Also, you may remember me mentioning in “The Big Fish” how I could feel Don Alberto working different parts of my body to clean out energetic impurities/crossed energies.  This was done with icarros, chakapas, and his skill with energy/ spirits.   In Russ Hazard’s Ayahuasca ceremony there were no icarros.

Russ made it very clear at the beginning of ceremony that this was not a healing ceremony.  Healing could happen if necessary, and Russ said that he was prepared to help that process if the situation required it, but it was not the intention.   The intention was to explore the subconscious and recognize patterns in our identity so that those patterns that make up our identities could be reinforced if useful or destroyed if not.

Russ walked us through various meditation techniques at key points during the ceremony.  The techniques included anapana meditation, vipassana meditation, yoga asana and lucid dream yoga to notice sensations and patterns in our bodies/minds and sit with them from an equanimous viewpoint.  I think the idea is that from a point of awareness and equanimity we can take these recognized patterns and consciously make decisions to reinforce them if useful, or destroy them if not useful.  Again, I have not gone through the course so I am going to invite Russ to read this post and correct me if my interpretation is incorrect or if he has something to add.

I think that it is important to point out that the overall aim of the school is to use medicinal plants as tools to teach us to expand consciousness in a shorter period of time than just meditation or other techniques. Eventually the use of the plants is NO LONGER NECESSARY (actually plants are not necessary at all, they just accelerate the process).  Once the lessons are learned from the plants, your body knows how to return to those states thus removing the need to ingest them.  In fact we already know how to get to these states of higher consciousness.  We are already enlightened.  It is just that our thinking minds, cravings, and aversions get in the way.  Unfortunately we are addicted to thinking and we tend to be unaware of our cravings and aversions.  This is where the work comes in.  The plants and techniques like meditation and lucid dream yoga loosen up our internal patterns to allow higher consciousness to happen.  Again, this school is taking the most useful techniques from around the world to help raise consciousness.

Another interesting focus of this school is the paradox that exists when we pursue higher consciousness or enlightenment.  As we  work on these goals, we tend to do so with desire and craving.  No other school or tradition that I have encountered brings this up (Goenka comes close).  Many traditions that pursue higher consciousness and enlightenment point out that desire and cravings are the cause of our suffering.  Once we let go of those desires we can become enlightened.  How do we learn to let go of those desires?  The answer is usually that we need to do some sort of practice like meditation to gain equanimity and then eventually enlightenment.  Here is the rub- if we are moving towards enlightenment aren’t we desiring/craving enlightenment?  Does your head hurt yet?  I look forward to exploring this and the rest of their teachings in April.

As for my experience during ceremony- I found that I was not blown over by intensity during this one ceremony (BTW- this means NOTHING).  It was much more subtle than most of my previous experiences.  Maybe I was learning how to work with the medicine in a new way- focusing on sensations during meditations and trying to remain lucid while riding the edge of dream sleep.  There were definitely visuals.  Those visuals were unusual because they were totally indescribable and other worldly.  I wish I had more to tell about the experience.  It is just that words do not work in this case.  All I can say is that I want to return in April to continue this work as I feel there is something here worth exploring in depth.

Some comments from Paulina, who works with the World Shamanic Institute helping Russ-

“I have read your post again. I think it is a beautiful clear post about the work of the school. I can make some comments though… and probably Russ can also be even more precise about some things I can comment on.

Not often but sometimes the school works with icaros… songs… but as you understood and mentioned that is not a main purpose of the type of ceremonies we have and if there are icaros they are not necessarily the Amazonian traditional ones.

The comment of that not being a healing ceremony is true in a way, in the sense this is not the traditonal way of acting of a shaman or interacting with him in a passive way. There are several techniques we work with to start/develop a never ending process of self empowerment and a long life training. But healing in a traditional way is included sometimes, as well as things as chicapas or chakapas… (don’t know the exact spelling).

About taking decisiones to reinforce/destroy patterns, my opinion would be that is more like in a Vipassana state. It is not about taking decisions during ceremony of what you’ll keep or abandon because in meditation states / ceremony where you work at the level of sensation you wouldn’t even know sometimes what are you “observing” or working thing. I think it is more about keeping equanimity in the face of “whatever” it is. The decisions you make after ceremony or they are just “taken” in a perceptual level because your patterns have already changed. Of coure in the process of building an identity you work with your strenghts. But you also keep challening your weak points and just sitting with your dark/confusing/non integrated spots for keeping you away from acting only at the craving side / reinforcing your patterns or avoiding your aversions /reinforcing your patterns.. I am not that experienced and there are some places or possibilities I just have scratched in a factual way, but I can tell there are places we can’t even imagine, so it is a lot about equanimous observation at the level of sensation more than decision based acting or non acting.

About the craving of enlightenment, I absolutely agree with what you pointed out in your article. Enlightment has always been for me just a concept/hypothesis/source of inspiration, as well as for the school, and that is one of the reasons of my deep resonance with it. To tell you the truth I don’t think about that too much, I just try to keep training with the tools and limitations I have and I am as much open as I can to have my mind blown with new perspectives. What has finally helped me the most to get into that has almost always what I’d call “love” or what I recognise like that. The beautiful thing is that we can also train our metta or love and recognise new ways of feeling/understanding/expressing it. That is the bhakti (devotion) point that the school mentions when it comes to “trust” or just release for opening to new points of view/planes/realities/…

I actually think Goenka points that out. I think even if that is a sort of goal of a meditation like Vipassana, I also think the way he has designed the teachings and lectures enters in that point of just “keep training” no matter what. Sometimes I feel Vipassana is so wise that I think I wouldn’t need any other training that keeping practicing it… and in a way I think it is a really bright amazing methodology to be a good person maybe… but I also think that journeys / dream work / yoga asana and other things are other tools that keep us working in the meantime and training in other ways, opening our perception to maybe be able to heal ourselves and do a little in helping others to heals… I don’t have the exact answer for this last comments…. I am just a person in training, but wanted to share something that has been in my mind recently.”



Written by ayahuascalife

December 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. “….he decided to conduct this ceremony in a tambo near The Temple of the Moon.” i love it

    “Here is the rub- if we are moving…” I know right?

    Teddy Love

    December 11, 2010 at 8:25 pm

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