this blog post was written two weeks ago, on a rainy afternoon in lima, but due to i dont know what has not been published until now)
this is a bit of film of a peruvian man named cesar. he's a ayuasquero (shaman who works with ayahuasca) who has lived his whole life in the amazon. i just spent a week living at his house in iquitos. he sings these songs during the ayahuasca ceremony to cleanse out negative energies and invoke the healing powers of the medicine.
last year, while we were filming spirit songs, cesar traveled with our documentary crew for two weeks. he accompanied us while we went deeper and deeper into the amazon, interviewing shaman and recording their healing songs and dances. we, the tall white american part of our crew, brought bags and bags of gear and food and supplies. cesar brought a tiny bag with a change of clothes, a blanket, and a small copy of the new testament. most of the time he laid in the hammock and read it quietly to himself, underlining and smiling a smile so content that you just had to wonder how he had gotten himself so figured out.
that month was not an easy one for me. i had hit a wall in my life where i was craving a relationship with someone that i cared about a lot. i really, really wanted to make it work and the more i tried to, the more it didn't. it was a cycle that had come before in my life but this time around it was much more intense, like someone had turned up the volume. this may have been because of proximity--he was working on the documentary and most of the time was sleeping in the hammock right next to mine--but i think it was also because something big in me was about to break and i really had to start paying attention. i had to start seeing the way that i equated loving another person with trying to get them under my control and how this was really the opposite of love and how difficult this made everything.
after this very long month, i was about to go back home and still didn't feel complete. then in my last few days, the most bizarre series of events unfolded (this is a whole other story really but to summarize lets just say that it was by far the strangest night of my life and something i still don't quite understand) and i ended up at cesar's doorstep early one morning. i had finally reached that breaking point moment and i needed his help to put me back together. as he performed a small cleansing ceremony on me. blowing the mpacho smoke over the crown of my head and making the sign of the cross over my heart with agua de florida, i felt my body start to unclench. i slumped down and let the power of his icaros wash away all of the hardness, all of the trying. i had been working so hard to be somebody i wasn't that i had been on guard for a whole month. from this place of new softness, i asked him what i should do to open my heart.
he told me that he had noticed throughout the ceremonies we had done together that i stored all of my sadness in my heart and that often this sadness would rise up and cause me to have sad thoughts. he said i had to start putting the people that i love in my heart and that would help my thoughts to get brighter. as my thoughts brightened, so would my life. he told me that i had to open my heart to everyone and that way i would have enough love to share with the world. he said that was the way he lived his life. i really really needed to hear those words in that moment and i carried them with me as i got back to the states, thinking often of his small elfin smile and that tiny copy of the bible he carried with him everyone.
and it seems to have worked. i was shaky for my first couple of weeks but then realized that truly i didn't really feel sad anymore and in its place felt a new kind of strength (plus i had gotten a stellar new haircut upon leaving lima and that seems to help everything). i dated one person, another, and then another and although none of them lasted for very long, i enjoyed the experience of knowing each of them and felt surprisingly calm within the change and transition. as i have said over and over again on this blog, this has really been the best year of my life and i do attribute a lot of that to the lessons i learned from that month and it was totally worth it to go through the whole big strange thing.
this time around, it was interesting to take ayahuasca again without any huge life crisis that i was hoping it would solve. my intention for my week in the jungle was to cleanse my body and mind so that i can keep taking these brave, patient steps of appreciation and self-love in my life. i see ayahuasca as a valuable tool for change, just as yoga and writing each morning is a tool and i love learning more about the amazonian plants, which i believe have great healing powers. this time i did two ceremonies with cesar. the first one was beautiful (awesome visions of my future, the knowledge that i can be love) and the second time was harder (few visions, lots of cleansing...i wondered at times how i had anything left in me to cleanse) and both mornings after i felt calm, centered, open.
i still don't understand how it works--ayahuasca, shamanism--and often feel shy talking about it to anyone who has not tried it themselves. my visions are hard to explain--they are more feelings, sensations that seem to operate just outside of the realm of words although they are achingly lovely--and the whole vomitting/shitting part of it is just not that pretty.
so maybe its better to just keep it to myself (and of course, you, my lovely blog readers). i think there are so many ways to live and if you find a way that feels good and helps your life to go better, then that is a uniquely personal victory that probably will not work in the same way for someone else. for me these days, it's better to find any way i can to keep shining and hopefully this will inspire the people around me to find their own ways to learn and grow because i think we all intuitively know what we need.
but i will say that i feel lucky that i have been given the privilege to work with such talented healers (cesar, my friend golbert and my friend manu) and learn about a very different kind of medicine. i feel blessed to have seen and understood my connection during these ceremonies. i feel privileged to have both the states and peru as my homes and to be able to move freely between the two, feeling a little bit more like myself with each trip.