Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Light in the Darkest Peru

Dark Peru

I told my children that I was going to be in Peru for six weeks and they didn't say much. Later that week I was informed that they had been reading the story of Paddington Bear and when he said he came from the "deepest, darkest Peru" they all found quite it amusing. "That's where Daddy is going". While I was gone a dear friend emailed to say he was praying for me because Peru had much spiritual darkness. Apparently Peru has a wrap that I was unaware of but I would love to share my experience with you of something different - possibly proof that experience is what you make of it.

From a physical standpoint, the jungle is very dark. The Andes mountains blots out the sun as it sets in the west causing night to set in around 6:30. This coupled with the prolific canopy creates a pitch blackness on nights when the moon is hidden or obscured by clouds. Despite these facts, the forest is teeming with life and there is a great sense of peace.

*the following descriptions of people are purposefully vague so as to protect their privacy.*

How Did This Happen? - New Year

I awoke January first of this year feeling heavy and muddled. It was a new year and despite all the work I had put in for years, I still felt at a loss. What was I doing in life? The daily connection to a highly altered reality through Facebook was only further dragging me down so without any premeditation or long soliloquy, I unplugged and deactivated my account. It was time to focus on getting my shit straightened out! Let the record state here that I am prone to quote the Bible a lot not because I take it as the inspired word of the "one true god", but because I think it is a perspective on history.  It contains good spiritual teaching if used in the right context - something religion misses out on. Maybe I do it out of familiarity, or maybe I get a bit of joy from seeing a different side to something that had previously held such huge weight in my life. Whatever the case - you have been warned. The "Apostole" Paul said something about "laying aside the weights that so easily beset us..." and this was my goal. The FOMO culture of the western world has caused us to look at life through a wide angle lens. We try to take everything in, with maximum depth of field because we have no idea who we are or what we want. As you look through progressively longer lenses, what you are imaging becomes much closer and more detailed as everything else falls off into obscurity. Call the union, I'm pulling focus...

My entire life has been a journey just like everyone else's but the last three years in particular have brought about a major shift in my consciousness. At the beginning of this new chapter, I was talking with a guy in my occupation who shared about going down the Peru to find healing through the plant medicine Ayahuasca. I had never heard of it and in fact knew next to nothing about psychedelics except that they were "drugs and therefore evil". My friend didn't push it on me but suggested I do some reading about it online which I did. When I got to the part about shamans I thought "sounds interesting but not for me". Being raised in an uber Christian family anything that wasn't expressly Christian was reminiscent of Bobby Boucher's mamma in The Waterboy -  fill in the blank " is of the devil". Shamans were definitely somewhere at the top of that list.

Fast forward two years to a camping trip in the Utah desert with my girlfriend. Much of my fear had slowly been abating as I began to see things from a different perspective. Sometimes you can't understand something until you experience it. I did not understand love or feel it whatsoever until I held my first child. That love for my child caused me to question the reality I had been living in with such an angry, strict god. I'd tried really hard and still felt like I was failing and it didn't seem like there was any way out. Now being in a healthier relationship with myself and my partner, I was beginning to learn more about love and was open to trying something new - mushrooms.

I like to think of myself as cautiously wild - meaning I love to discover new things after doing my due diligence, researching to determine the risk factor. Like Niki Lauda in the movie Rush, I find it stupid to take over a certain factor of risk but also am totally willing to do what many people deem "crazy". The night in the desert was magical in every way possible and at one point I had a sense for the first time that there was my consciousness and then there was my mind. They were not one and the same. Due to the proximity I had allowed through years of ignorance, it was like those little toys people keep on their desks with all the ball bearings hung from wires demonstrating transfer of energy. I realized that all I needed to do was find some separation from what my mind was perceiving so that my heart wouldn't be constantly beaten up. This was much easier conceptualized than done but it gave me a glimmer of a better life - one of peace.

I can't explain how it happened other than I finally started to accept that I didn't know everything about life but my mind began to open up as logic won out. Just because someone has an opinion doesn't mean it is right for me but shutting out other perspectives out of fear is foolish. Much of religion is based in fear and doubt of our own ability to chart a course that is expedient for growth because the general consensus is that that will lead to anarchy. The great failure in this idea is when we perceive other peoples actions as imposing on our personal freedom we consequently impose on their actual freedom. Homosexuality being a prime example of this in America but I digress. Around April of this year I worked with my friend who had first told me about Ayahuasca and mentioned that I had an interest in participating in a ceremony. My trepidation had diminished significantly due to my experiences with psychedelics as well as participating in a few sweat lodges a native american friend had invited me to (something I was also very wary of at first). Experience had continued teaching me to quit being so closed off and judgemental while not jumping head first into whatever came my way.

After participating in two Ayahuasca ceremonies where I had very powerful experiences that helped make much more sense of life and spirituality (in particular putting the Bible in a proper context) I felt a desire to do a dieta but didn't know how I could afford it and also didn't know if I was quite ready. A dieta is where you eat only very basic food for seven days (rice, boiled potatoes, yucca and green plantains - all with no salt) while sitting alone in the jungle connecting to yourself and nature. A guy I met at the ceremonies had told me about a volunteer program where I could spend a month in the jungle helping put on the retreats. You don't know if you don't try and despite the fact that it seemed like such an outrageous thing to do, I figured it would never happen if I didn't at least try. A few days later I submitted an application and sat back for a couple of weeks waiting for a reply.

There was an entire interview process after which I was accepted for a season three months out. The day after being accepted work dried up for a month and a half and I began to panic. Not only was I not going to be able to do what I had gotten my heart set on, I didn't know how I was going to pay my bills period. It seemed like I was doomed to be disappointed so I released the idea to the universe and said "if its meant to be, it will happen". About a month before theoretical departure, the money came in and work picked back up but only after I made a decision to not give up on life even if I didn't get what I wanted right away. Until I was actually on the plane, I wouldn't allow myself to get excited because I was afraid that would set me up for disappointment. Pretty silly really when you consider how infinite the universe is and full of potential but I'll get to that later. Due to the graciousness of a friend, I was able to fly on a buddy pass, first class down to Lima - a wonderful experience to say the least.

Before I dive into the rest of this I want to make a statement: numerous people who heard about where I was going commented on how lucky I was and how they wished they could do that. I hadn't left yet but as it got closer to being a reality, I realized how easy the whole thing actually had been. When people would make these comments I started wanting to say "you can", but I hadn't actually proven it to myself yet. I don't mean this is a cocky way just matter of fact - you totally can do anything if you have a clear vision and proper frame of mind. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and the entire thing seemed like a distant dream that was impossible. I kept having to release the understanding of how it was all going to work out, while learning to just do my best and trust. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the potential for life but I want to assure you that what you think is impossible is only impossible because you believe it to be. 


I've never traveled outside of the US by myself and didn't realize how unprepared / lacking in confidence I was. For the record, I suppose I should state that maybe I do throw caution to the wind a bit when I feel I'm on the path I should be even though my mind is freaking out. That "certain risk factor" is really just some combination of cumulative information fed into my gut and then going with that. It's not about trying to be "that crazy guy" but because I know that if I don't act now, I'll over analyze the shit out of it and never do anything.

Initially I had planned to hang out in the Lima airport for twelve hours till my connecting flight to Puerto Maldonado but after going through customs I realized that was probably a stupid idea if not impossible. The airport gave me ten minutes of free WiFi allowing me to check in with my partner and ask if she could locate a hostel nearby. She sent a screen shot of one a mile or so away and then the connection promptly terminated. As I stepped out onto the curb into a completely foreign world I was overwhelmed. Taxi drivers began an overwhelming chorus of shouting trying to solicit me which is something I cannot stand. My instinctive defense is to just said "no" then ignore / put distance between me and the peddlers. Not only does if give me space to think for a minute, it also sets up the idea that I'm not going to be pushed around by them. I began trying to figure out how to walk out of the airport and let me just make an observation: airports seem to be designed to discourage pedestrian traffic probably because most of them are in shitty parts of town. My frugality and lack of comfortability in the world had gotten the better of me a few times and that was the night to learn to let it go.

Standing there assessing the situation I got the distinct feeling that this airport probably ranked highly on the list of unfavorable surroundings and at this point two things happened: a light drizzle started which I really didn't feel like wandering around in, and a cab driver who I think was following me began insisting I let him drive me. "I'll walk" I responded tersely. "No, no my friend. It's very dangerous" he insisted. The fact that he was following me didn't make me feel like he was necessarily a great person to be taking safety advice from. I should also mention that when I say cab driver, I'm being generous. His "cab" was a very beat up, very old Nissan Sentra with no markings of a taxi company. Peruvian Über just has very low standards. I told myself. "60 Soles" he said sensing a crack in my resolve. Ah, that was my bargaining chip, "I have no sol" I said thinking that would get him off my back. "I'll walk." "30 soles" he countered. Fuck, that actually sounds like a good deal I thought. "I have no Sol" I repeated slightly exasperated. He seemed confused and rightfully so because as I learned a few days later, no one calls them Sol - its always Soles. The irony of a red head hollering that he has no Sol lost on both of us and it didn't even hit me for about three weeks after. "I have US dollars" I said weakly". "Ah" his face lit up "muy bien. I take you" and with that we were hopping into his rattle trap.

Hostel Hostel, Where Are You?

What should have taken ten minutes ended up taking over an hour to find the hostel. This included using offline GPS on my phone (after I switched the voice to Spanish) and stopping to ask about four people where the hostel was. It was one A.M. and the people we queried for directions were about the only ones out and they seemed wary. The streets were largely abandoned and though I wondered if we would ever find the place, I felt good that I didn't walk. After circling the same block four times I asked to be taken back to the airport but he insisted "I will find it" and what was I to do, jump out into the ghetto and walk back? Besides, we were having enjoyable conversation as best as possible with his broken English and as I would discover in the coming days, my paltry Spanish. To Richard's credit, that's the drivers name, the hostel was in this odd square block of town where all of the entrances save one were blocked by gates they close at night making it difficult to find a way in. Now I was really feeling glad I didn't walk! The idea of laying down and putting this craziness behind me energized me some but it didn't last long. A sign on the door said "reservations only". Fuck! "I know a place" Richard assured me. His track record at finding this hostel didn't inspire confidence so as we passed a building with a gigantic darkness piercing sign screaming "Hostel" I asked "what about that one" desperate to not be trapped the back seat of a vehicle that felt bound to fall apart at any moment. "Oh no, that one is very expensive and only for two hours". Jesuswhat have I gotten myself into?

A few minutes later his car made a horrible sound like the clutch just failed and Richard muttered something as we coasted up to a hostel. Please be it I thought. "This is it" he declared seeming to act cheerful but he was kind of pissed about the car. They took credit cards and at that point I didn't give a shit how much it cost - I just wanted to go to bed. Not having any change I ended up giving Richard a $20 paying the 60 Soles he had asked for in the beginning. He bid me goodnight, promised to come get me at twelve the next day to take me back to the airport then climbed into his car and somehow it limped away from the curb.

I stayed outside on the curb and began smoking a cigarette. First class flight to this cluster fuckI am out of my depthMy thoughts were interrupted when a man who had been sitting in the lobby came outside and started talking to me. I guess because he seemed to have pretty good English I was more than happy to talk to him. He asked a few questions and then got down to business "do you like marijuana?" Uhhh, WTF? "How much is it" I asked, curious. "You can smoke in your room" he said not wanting to have the conversation out on the sidewalk "come on, lets go up there". I should have just ended it right there and gone to bed but for the longest time I was living under the delusion that I was being polite when I was just lacking a spine. Up I'm the room he began listing prices. "That sounds expensive, no thanks". I begin looking for an exit strategy. "What about coke? I can get you coke and there is a very beautiful woman in the next room". OK, so now within five minutes I suddenly am being offered the entire playground. I've never been "wild" would it really matter to just do it once? For a second I visualized it and was totally turned off by the prospect. The whole point of the trip was to grow not muddle my mind with self gratification. "No thanks!" I said as firmly as possible. "I can have the coke and weed here by 8 tomorrow" he pressed. "I'm good. Not interested". He looked annoyed and left the room. I figured that was the last of it and went to bed.
The next morning he came and knocked on my door to see if I still wanted the weed and coke. I had noticed the night before that he would talk fairly quietly seemed perturbed when I responded at a normal volume level so I just used that tactic again and he disappeared fairly quickly (incidentally, I discovered that his English seemed to be limited to the topic of drugs and hookers). Twelve o'clock rolled around and after waiting for ten minutes with no Richard, I figured it couldn't be that dangerous during the daytime and hoofed it to the airport. It wasn't till I made it through security and was sitting my gate that I realized my phone hadn't updated for the time zone and I was an hour early. Ooops!

Puerto Maldonado - Heading In

I suppose in an attempt to try and mitigate the shock factor, I gave myself two nights in Puerto Maldonado, before we took the two hour boat ride up the Madre De Dios river into the jungle. My first impressions were rosy until I tried finding food to eat and water to drink. The streets, especially at night are bustling and noisy. Most transportation happens in moto-taxis, or motorcycles / scooters and is therefore not the bubble experience driving in a car is. Honking, that's something you'll notice right away. I'm sure it's partially due to being easier to hear the horns without a layer of glass and metal surrounding you, but it's mostly just a societal difference in communication. 90% of the time horns are used in America, someone is laying on it in anger. In Puerto Maldonado, it's an entire language. There are honks from taxis overtaking you as an alert / advertisement. Honks for cute ladies. No one stops at stop signs unless absolutely necessary so there are many short bursts of warning honks delivered as vehicles continue straight through intersections. Driving far different from America but it's kind of fun!

Arriving In the Jungle - Not Close to Arrived

My short time in PM revealed that my Spanish really sucked and what is considered passable food is generally pretty awful. By the time we got to the retreat center (an additional 45 minute - 1 hour trek through the jungle after the boat ride, carrying my severely over packed army duffel bag) I was quite dehydrated and very hungry. That coupled with some anxiety of spending the next month with people I didn't know and in a strange environment threw me for a bit of a loop. For the next few days while we set up I felt like my brain was in a fog. While attempting to hang up a hammock with a knot I use nearly every day at work, I found myself standing there just staring at the rope dumbfounded. One foot in front of the other and don't think about the whole journey was my motto. Eventually I remembered how to tie the knot.

You might be wondering why I'm giving all of the details that seem to be ancillary to the journey with Ayahuasca in the jungle. As I've come to accept, everything is an opportunity to learn and grow if we maintain a conscious awareness of the "coincidences" in life's daily events. It's not just about ingesting something to alter your state of consciousness. One of the retreat staff members reminded me when I made a comment about the "upcoming first ceremony" - she said "your ceremony has been going on since you got here", and it was true. I only told few people the complete nature of my trip because I didn't feel like dealing with negativity. A couple said "so you're going to do drugs in the jungle? Call it what it is man." While another friend felt that Ayahuasca was a short cut, the lazy man's road to spirituality (if there is such a thing). Everyone is entitled to their opinions but I assure you, if you look at it as medicine instead of "getting fucked up" or "tripping your balls off" in a recreational sense, your intentions will be met. These ceremonies aren't for everyone but it is work and the medicine reciprocates your intentions. It's not just about the moments you drink a cup of nasty tasting sludge but bringing the rest of your life into a different light.

Book Worm / The Holographic Universe

On the shelves in the staff quarters was a small but wonderful library of books on topics that I mostly found quite fascinating. The first week one jumped out at me immediately called The Holographic Universe which described many "metaphysical" phenomenon from a scientific, quantum physics perspective citing many studies. Something about the way it was written allowed me to finally start opening my mind because it took the trepidation of evil out of the equation and replaced it with logic. It was the perfect foundation and preparation for the other seven books I would read.


The friend who introduced me to Ayahuasca had told me to have a mantra of some kind to help keep me centered during ceremony in the event that things got too heavy. As we talked about the upcoming ceremonies with the retreat staff, the mantra concept was clarified a bit more for me with the idea of holding an intention. The word intention kept being thrown out there and I was a bit confused so I asked the retreat leader for clarification. She explained "it's whatever you have already been working on in your life. Holding that out in front of you". This environment fosters empowering you to take charge of your life and elevate yourself to a new level of belief and self-acceptance. For years I had envisioned myself dimly as a haphazard, on again / off again intention. I was now going to be faced with being intentional about my growth and would encounter many visions and opportunities that would challenge how I viewed myself vs how I could actually be. 

"Everyone is Nice Enough..."

This is how a paragraph began and went on - ...but I feel really out of place and while I am not miserable, I'm not really happy or comfortable either. I don't want to be searching anymore so I'm not sure if I want to do any ceremonies - but it also seems foolish to not take part if I am here. I really have no clue what the fuck I'm doing in life or where I belong. Trying to fit in and navigate a world that doesn't make sense is getting old. What is the point of any of the shit that we do? Solomon seemed to nail it on the head when he said "all is vanity".  It goes on a bit longer with some blathering which I'll spare you from. The problem as I would discover the next day is that I was operating under the delusion that I can't fit in as myself with a side helping of feeling obligated to fit in. 

The word "family" was thrown out there today which I internally reacted to. My general experience with that label involve control and abuse but then, a dear friend popped into my head that I consider my sister. I realized that I could choose my own family and was under no obligation to anyone to be anything other than myself. I determined to just do my best to be as genuine as possible and accept whatever happened. In one of the first days something I did was commented on in a positive light and I responded with "well I didn't want to piss anyone off". This woman raised her eyebrows a little and asked "and what if you did piss someone off?". The question caught me off guard a little and then without thinking I replied "I guess I would just go home then" as if worst case scenario was automatically the outcome. There wasn't much a response other than a possibly surprised laugh and "okay..." Maybe it's because she's from a different culture but I was rather perplexed for several weeks trying to interpret this one individual's expressions. For a second I wondered if I had said the wrong thing but then almost immediately something told me that it didn't matter. As much as I doubted it as a likely occurrence, I was okay with going home be that the consequences of doing my best. I've begun to accept value in who I am and am no longer willing to be unauthentic. My mantra has always been "don't do things to others that you wouldn't want them to do to you." It's like the negative of the Golden Rule, still effective to a large extent but is linked to an unempowered mind leaving you short of what could be. The entire exchange lasted all of about a minute and a half but like many other short events would reveal, a sudden new flash of insight. Line upon line - that's how this experience went.

The Four Agreements

One of the other volunteers suggested a book to me called The Four Agreements. It's no surprise that there are in fact four agreements the book asks you to make: 
  1. Be Impeccable With Your Words - Recognize the power of your words. Meaning what you say. Saying what you mean. When you don't make other people have to guess, or outright lie - you start to accept who you are because you are being honest with yourself when you are honest with the world. Reality is a mirror of what we put out there to it. If you want to grow, it will show you how to deal with your problems but you have to accept they are there before you can grow into a better version of yourself. Dishonesty stunts and protracts our growth.  
  2. Don't Take Anything Personally - Everyone has shit they are dealing with and assuming that you are somehow that important to someone else's universe or conversely say that their opinion should bear weight in your life is either very arrogant or very unempowering. Obviously this isn't saying that you don't have empathy for someone being upset with you if you do something injurious to them - that's how we grow, from the feedback. It's just helping you realize where the lines should be drawn by doing unto others as you would have them do to you. Instead of taking a negative view of yourself and everyone else, with the positive perspective - you are taking the feedback and growing as you quit looking at other people with judgement and anger because you know that as you respect yourself, you automatically respect others. Self respect is different from narcissism because it is based in not requiring fulfillment from others having tapped into it depth within. Narcissism is based out of a vortex void spun up by insecurity sucking all of the energy out of everyone around them. *This of course should only be construed as my interpretation and lessons learned from the book and should not be misconstrued as the author's point of view or sentiments. It's a fantastic book that you should read for yourself.*
  3. Don't Make Assumptions - This agreement helps you put the second one into action. When you don't make assumptions, you short circuit the programming of your past. Living in your past, as a book I will mention later - You Are the Placebo - says, is what ultimately keeps us bound, from evolving - transforming. Living in the moment, being aware of the past but not living in it knowing you have the power to make choices in your life - allows other people to grow as you do because you are now getting an accurate reflection. Most of what we feel from other people, we actually hold against ourselves which empowers the hurt "from the outside". Having a direct line into the past creates a port for negativity to dock and download an entire shit storm on you that may be completely in your own mind. When you quit assuming what other people mean and instead share how you feel and ask if it's accurate, it shines a light on the true state of affairs.
  4. Always Do Your Best - For those people worried that this is a book to spawn sociopaths, the last agreement puts that in check through admonishing to "always do your best". Best meaning in the pursuit of the most self sustaining version of yourself which precludes doing harm to others. 
Believe In Your Dreams

For the past 20 years or so I have hardly had a dream that I remembered. My mental viewing screen seemed to have a full house scrim pack in between my eyes and the projector. Oddly, I had had an eidetic memory in certain respects as a child. Replaying things over and over in my mind, usually traumatizing events I wished I could go back and fix, prompted analyzing them repeatedly trying to figure out how I could have done it better. So much guilt was involved in these vision type experiences, that I had to learn to ignore my imagination and slipped into a mental fog. When people talk about dreams and I've mentioned that I almost never dream, someone invariably says - "of you do, you just don't remember them." Maybe they are right but it only is frustrating because what was I supposed to do about it? The night of the 11th I had a dream that was quite vivid. People at work were freaking out about being hacked or something. It didn't make sense in the context of the work I do but I looked over and saw this guy who is very practical in my department, walk over and does the simplest thing - unplugs all the networking cables from the router. With a half sarcastic tone, he remarked with a grin "did that solve your problem?" As I was about to walk out of the room I turned and decided to holler his favorite catch phrase back at him. "Dave" I called. He looked up and before I could continue he responded "believe in your dreams." Holy shit - Dave is psychic!! Of course when I woke up I realized that it was the universe trying to send me a message. The ease of disconnecting from the programming of the past is like unplugging a CAT 5 cables - that keep plugging themselves back in. You don't need to be hyper vigilant just aware of your thoughts as they go by and when you lose focus, bring yourself back to that center of being as you make a choice. 

For all of my life I had found Jesus' words saying you must forsake all (parents, children, lands, etc) to follow him a bit harsh. What's the point then of life? It's certainly not about acquiring things, it's about existing because we can and if we can, why not find the most joy you can inside yourself and the natural world that creates to be interacted with? Jesus went on to say "who is my mother and my brother - they that do the will of god". Suddenly it clicked - it's not about being cold hearted but we are all in charge of the decisions we make and just because someone lays claim to you, doesn't mean it's legitimate. I must lay down attachments to all the things that we use to prop up our egos and accept myself for who I am - a unique expression of consciousness, no better or worse than anyone else simply a human evolving. My intention for the first ceremony was becoming clear - unplug from the programming (as I would learn later, programming can be traded for "the past" and mean the same thing.)

Guests - The Lavanderia

Five days of setting up passed fairly quickly and as I focused on rehydrating I began to feel more normal and happier about things. I still felt somewhat uncomfortable around everyone and kept to myself a good bit. The first round of guests were going to arrive so we headed in to town to shop for groceries at the market, drop off laundry and pick up the guests. I was told I was going to be responsible for picking up the laundry which caused me a great deal of trepidation upon being informed that I would have to make sure the lavanderia did their job properly because they had a history of apathy and lack luster performance. I probably wouldn't have minded so much except that on top of feeling responsible for quality controlling someone's shitty work ethic, I would have to figure out how to accomplish this in Spanish which at this point I felt like a deaf mute. I had heard there was a good (relative to the rest of the food available) pizza restaurant called El Hornito in town  and after discovering my cell provider offered free data roaming internationally, clothes dropped off I was excited to navigate the mile for some decent food.

I can't speak to the rest of South America, although I hear the environment is fairly similar elsewhere, but in Puerto Maldonado many businesses close in the middle of the day - or just whenever they damn well please. Predictability is hard to come by so you'd better not get too tied to an agenda or you're bound to be disappointed. At 2pm its quite hot and I guess El Hornito doesn't serve lunch (there were no hours listed either on line or on the building) . After walking a mile in the hot sun, I found out that I would in fact, not be having pizza. Exasperated I went to the restaurant next door that advertised air conditioning and ordered a salad and an alfredo - both sucked. Further exasperated I went back to my hostel seething against the town. I calmed down finally and just figured I would inform the volunteer facilitator that I didn't wish to come back although I didn't know how that would be received since it was starting to sound like this was a required activity. At least if I stayed in the jungle I could have water to drink and rice to eat and I wouldn't feel like a bumbling idiot.

The next morning I was ready and waiting to go pick up the laundry with the facilitator and made a point to inform her and get it out of the way, that I had no desire to come back to town. She didn't really respond and seemed stressed so I figured I would drop it for the time being. We got to the lavanderia and as had been foretold, they had fucked things up prompting a rather vigorous back and forth in Spanish. How the fuck do they expect me to deal with this I wondered beginning to stress out more. After several minutes I was asked to ride in a mototaxi down to the boat with the laundry that was done and wait there. Eventually the issue was resolved and I was relieved to hear that I wasn't going to have to deal with laundry. Dodged a bullet - or so it seemed. I didn't feel like having a confrontation with someone I barely knew who already seemed stressed out and who's blood pressure clearly had been raised by the feckless laundry personal so I decided to let my earlier comment go.

Thankfully, life doesn't let you get off easy when you need to learn something and in the middle of the boat ride I was informed that it was part of my responsibility to come to town and help out. I replied that I never had claimed to have good Spanish skills in my interview and the volunteer agreement had specifically stated that if you wanted to go to town, there would be opportunities but you would be required to pay your own lodging. Going to town was not stated as a requirement and while I wasn't trying to be difficult, I thought it unreasonable to demand that I pay for something I don't want to do and didn't agree too. I've been run over by people many times before because I was too afraid to stand up for myself but there no such thing as failure if you learn from what happens. It's not that it was a huge expense ($30-50ish) for food and lodging each week) but the principle of being respected. If I agree to something I will do my best to hold up my end but I'm not a child and even if I was, children deserve to be respected just as much as adults. My supervisor thanked me for my honesty and agreed that what I had stated was true and fair and we would discuss it later. I didn't realize it at the time but this was just one of the many little events that came together to construct what would be the core of my work - finding my will / strength and changing my perspective.

First Ceremony

The day before my first ceremony I finished The Holographic Universe and my journal entry states "after reading...I have begun to question many things." Questioning is an important part of changing your erroneous beliefs and I was beginning to feel my mind open. Friday came and I was sitting in the maloka for the first time part anxious, part eager / curious to see what would happen. After about two hours of nothing, I got blasted with a whole bunch of really disturbing images that I had seen one other time and couldn't make heads or tails out of them any better than the last time. I was okay afterwards but felt extremely drained and had no desire to do another ceremony in the coming weeks...or maybe ever. After being asked to help one of the retreat guests make it back to his treehouse (that was an adventure all it's own), I sat in the light of the nearly full moon and hoped it might take some of the negativity away. Out loud I spoke to what, I don't know, consciousness I suppose - "I don't get any of this. I want to be the best I can but I need help because I really, really don't get it." A few minutes later, the two women who I reported to came to make sure I was okay and the guest had gotten home. They encouraged me to go to bed so I went back to the volunteers quarters and laid down under my mosquito net. 

Thoughts were racing around my mind and though I wanted to ignore them and go to sleep but that was impossible. There had been a name that I kept hearing in the visions and I figured that if I couldn't fall asleep, I would gently look and try to see if any pieces would fit together. I couldn't recall anyone with that name in my entire life - till suddenly I did and a bunch of things clicked as memories came back. Many other thoughts rushed through my mind including seeing myself as a sad little child. My thoughts turned to my children and how I would never want them to feel the same way about themselves that I had which suddenly gave me much more sympathy for that child in myself that I had become indifferent to. I imagined what I wished someone would have said to me when I was a kid (not that I probably would have believed it).

Ayahuasca has a tendency to make you "purge" and that can be out of one end or the other. Best not fight it and lose control at the worst possible time but instead go when you the need presents itself. I was feeling the downtown pressure so I quietly crept out of bed to the bathroom down the path a pace. It was 3am, I wasn't going to sleep anytime soon and there was no rush so I told my body that out loud and then began to tell myself the things I had wished I had heard, to the little kid in my mind. Sounds kind of nuts I suppose but speaking these words helped me let go a lot of the sadness and realize a different truth. A while later after my posterior had started falling asleep, I figured I was done and crept back into the house. Not ten minutes after laying down I had a sudden urge to head back to the bathroom. I began debating whether I really needed to go because I was concerned about waking people up with the creaky floor. "Would you make one of your own kids suffer because of being afraid of what someone else thought?" I heard. No, I suppose not. Like a ninja I snuck back to the bathroom and decided that for a little while anyway I needed to practice some kindness with myself. 

Second Ceremony

In both religious and spiritual circles, I've heard people talk about mystical experiences where they meet a being of love and feel much more peace - this is what my intention was, to have one of these experiences. Unsurprisingly, I didn't manifest exactly what I wanted because what I wanted was a quick fix though I didn't realize it at the time. I was being pushed to love myself before feeling it from anyone else. A quick blast of love might feel temporarily better and put some things in perspective but could also lead to a life of constantly seeking that externally. An hour or so after drinking I vomited for the first time in like 5 years. Some images from the first ceremony began appearing again and I was a bit frustrated. Hadn't I dealt with this already? Eventually I would learn that things only come up again if there is a reason. 

I then encountered what I would call "the personification of the mind of the identity that was forced on me". As odd as it sounds, I had a conversation with that individual and finally told him to get out of my house for disrespecting me. I started to see through the manipulation and bullshit that has kept me powerless in my own life for years. It all came out of guilt and shame of myself. The police were called and I had the mind man escorted away. It was exhausting and I was frankly kind of annoyed. 

Consensus is that it's much better to sit up through the ceremonies but no one is judging you if you lay down. Feeling a bit of self pity, I lay down to try and recoup but something in my heart told me to sit up. I complied for a minute but felt like there was no juice left in the batteries and laid down again. This second time I felt the impression stronger and sat back up. Where was I going to get the energy for this? If there is infinite energy in the universe, then it's just a matter of tapping into it right? How do I tap into it? I sat with these thoughts for a few moments and all of a sudden in a flash it came to me - will power. 

Of Water and the Spirit

Side step for a book that was important to this ceremony. Malidoma Patrice Some, was kidnapped from his tribe in Africa at five years of age and forced to go to Jesuit seminary to be a priest until he ran away at the age of 20. Incredibly he found his way back home and then was required to go through the initiation that most young men do around the age of 13. Despite being raised in completely different cultures and worlds, I found I could relate with many of the feelings he described as he felt his identity stripped away at the seminary. The tribal world he describes sounds so fanciful, reminiscent of Harry Potter, that it was almost hard to believe. As I said though, my mind was more open and I was willing to consider that there is a good chance that I do not know all that is out there. Maybe I only see what I believe in? 

This is another book I highly recommend and also one that came along at the exact right moment for what I needed to continue growing and healing. 

Second Ceremony (cont)

Thoughts about will power suddenly shifted to Malidoma and the will power he had to exert to get through initiation. I began thinking about initiations and what the point of them is. Most tribal rituals are difficult because they show you what you are capable of. Enduring hardships reveals strength and changes who you are as a person. A youth goes out and comes back as a young adult because they now perceive themselves differently. People in my childhood culture believed that their children were adults after crossing some arbitrary thresh hold of thirteen years. However, it doesn't really work if you keep treating them like a child while expecting adult behavior. Sure, you can learn the model of expected behavior - a dog can do that - but it leaves you without confidence and needing someone to always tell you what to do because of the intense self doubt intrinsically intertwined. 

Looking for the source to tap into, I felt a little burst of energy hit me and decided that I was not going to let the whining stop me. I would battle my mind the rest of the ceremony and sit in the same position till it was all over. Not having an elder to put me through an initiation, I wondered who I could be mentored by - who was my guide? I've come to believe that god is not an external concept but something that each of us possesses. But obviously there is something greater than each of us right?...The only thing greater than each of us is all of us. If you look at everything as one giant interconnected wave form, we are each just an average of all the other parts. As we grow, we raise the average and transform our worlds. Near the end of ceremony, I felt like I needed to battle it out longer and decided that I would sit there (if I was allowed to) till the sun came up around 5-5:30. The sun was a good enough authority for me for that moment.

After the shaman closed out the ceremony and bid us all buenos noches, I continued to sit there wondering if I would be able to do this. Time was hard to judge but I would say maybe 45 minutes after everyone left the maloka, I was hit with a nearly overwhelming wave of exhaustion and nausea. I wanted to run to the bathroom again and the old mind went to work. "You need to be kind to yourself remember? It's okay to get up and go to the bathroom. This is stupid anyway". That battle went on for a short time till I realized that initiations aren't about kindness - they are tough love. I had a vision of being in front of an old west gallows where a man was about to be hung for murdering my family. At first I questioned whether I wanted to be there and if I even had a right to want the man to die. Looking at the man I suddenly felt compassion and forgiveness. Did that mean that there are no consequences? No, it just means that you don't go after vengeance. Rules and boundaries are necessary because they are a reflection of the will of the whole / majority and their state of evolution.

This was my proving ground and it wasn't about being kind anymore, it was about growing up, putting away childish things. I fought through the suffocating wave, nearly passing out as my body temperature spiked and I began pouring sweat. Not long after, it subsided and I felt a lot of peace as I waited out the sunrise.

Staying Back From Town

My request to not go to town was respected which I greatly appreciated. The time to myself would be nice - or so I thought. At the last minute one of the retreat guests asked to stay a while longer which management agreed to and I was asked to cook food for both myself and the guest. The path I was on had been serving up what I needed to keep going so I figured that despite this not being what I had planned, it was probably what was most expedient to my growth. 

Spending one on one time with this guest I soon learned that we had a very similar childhood in many ways and were able to share good moments of conversation about overcoming into a new life. I was grateful for the little synchronicities that the universe had been serving up.

Locals who work on the grounds were the only other people there besides us three gringos (an additional guy was in dieta during the trip to town) when a rain storm swept in. These locals only spoke Spanish and were trying to communicate to me one afternoon that we needed to hide because a tree could come crashing down. I was completely confused at first but finally understood what was going on and followed them to hide underneath the maloka. It's raised off the ground at the front about four feet so we huddled there while I wondered what I should do about the guest in the tree house and the other one in the tambo doing dieta. We weren't supposed to interact with people in dieta unless absolutely necessary and I figured this circumstance dictated contact. Drumming up whatever Spanish I could think of, I communicated that there were two guests out there and I needed to go get them. I could tell they understood me because their faces instantly changed to oh shit. Frihole and I took off running down the path as I hollered for and collected the two guests. I don't mean to be patting myself on the back at all here but after being put on the spot I realized okay, I am capable of more than I thought

The Empty Oatmeal

No guests were picked up by the staff (they would be coming the next day) so our food menu was thrown off slightly. In our weekly staff meeting, I posed the question of what to cook for breakfast the next morning. My roommate and I were told to "freelance it". While prep was going on at 7;30, one of the women in charge came to the kitchen seeming some what out of sorts. Eyeballing my prep work she asked why I wasn't making quinoa salad. I got the impression she wasn't thrilled with what we were making (oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon, scrambled eggs and fruit smoothie) but I decided I wasn't going to get stressed about it. We were only doing what we had been told and if she wanted something different then it should have been stated the night before - or now if it was that important. 

Quit making assumptions right? I wasn't going to try and read her mind but I was more than happy to make adjustments if asked to. My response only garnered a look that was also hard to read so I continued what I was doing. A few minutes later I hear Lee being asked / lectured about "why would you make oatmeal without fruit salad? It's an empty oatmeal". Not trying to be a smart ass but just meaning to explain the logic of why we had chosen what we did I replied from the sink area below "I ate oatmeal almost every day of my childhood for breakfast and never had fruit salad in it." From what I recall (or more accurately what I thought I saw) was her head whipped around to me and snapped "I don't care. I want a fruit salad so make one." It caught me off guard and stung a little but then I realized that this was the kind of stuff I had become unwilling to tolerate - people getting upset because of things that were not verbalized or even were contradictory to what had previously been verbalized. Standing at the sink I laughed realizing that this was just another opportunity in the workshop.

After breakfast was cleaned up I asked the two heads of staff if I could talk with them which they graciously obliged. I explained as honestly and calmly as possible how I felt and that was the end of it. Might sound kind of silly and much ado about nothing, but standing up for myself was something I never had learned to do very well. Maybe you've caught it already, but it took me till my first day back at work in the States to realize that I was still taking things personally and while standing up for myself was a valuable lesson, it was merely a stepping stone. More about that later in Reintegration. 


This really should be a separate post but I'll try to do it succinct justice. I, and many other people have been laboring under the delusion that there is such a thing as unambiguous perfection. American's use the expression "practice makes perfect" which I take significant issue with. German's have a similar expression but I believe it captures the reality of life much better - "practice makes the master". If you work at anything hard enough and long enough, you will develop some amount of skill and mastery. It's not like one day you suddenly never make a mistake again but instead, you step into greater areas of confidence and know how to turn the "mistakes" into something of beauty. Much like dancing, if you are not rigidly locked in a position, you can adjust to any turbulence around you and turn it into art.

A universal consensus on anything is going to be essentially impossible to find. You can't please everyone and usually when you try, you just piss off the lot. So who's opinion should be valid on what is good enough from you? Your's alone should be simply because you have to live with the consequences.


Another volunteer showed up the second week to offer her training in Chinese medicine to the staff members as her service. I had only experienced acupuncture once before but was looking forward to seeing what would happen. In the intake I was asked numerous questions including if I was feeling any of the emotions listed. Sadness popped out so I mentioned it and was told that I would receive a needle to help release that. Not knowing what to expect, I just laid there quietly after all the needles were installed and the woman left the room. The next thing I knew, I felt tears welling up in my eyes and was a little embarrassed but since I was alone, I let a few slip. After about 20 minutes she returned to check on me and I mentioned about the tears trying to be nonchalant. "Oh I forgot to mention that might happen. It's totally normal and okay" she assured and then left the room again. The words felt like a permission to let it out and as soon as I was alone, I felt like sobbing but nothing came out. My chest was quivering and I was breathing short sharp breaths. I would later discover that even my breathing, a subconscious act, was being stifled and controlled by my past.

The Purge

Many different purges are available through natural medicines but I had the pleasure of experiencing Wancahuisacha. Google it, I doubt you'll come up with anything. Which isn't too say "ooh, look how hipster" but to point out that these people know things that most people have no clue about. My roommate and I both drank a tea cup full of liquid sitting in the Maloka and then waited for 20 minutes. After the time for metabolizing was past, we began to methodically drink cups of water giving our empty stomachs something to expel and I presume, dilute the acid. It took me forever to vomit anything up but when I did, it was a lot. Honestly, I don't know what it did for me except further reveal my resolve to heal and go forward on this path.

Third Ceremony

All that I had seen and learned from the first two ceremonies rather filled me up and while I totally didn't think I had arrived, I wasn't sure where to go from there with my intentions. I felt much more at peace and extraordinarily grateful so I asked one of the organizers if it was okay to just have an intention of "being open to whatever else I may need to learn right now?" "That's totally fine" I was assured so I went into the third ceremony simply to just be there and see what would happen.

After the last ceremony where I sat crosslegged for 6+ hours, I decided to cut myself a little slack an hour or so in and laid down since I wasn't seeing anything anyway and just rest in the moment as it was. Maybe I had been pushing my personal work too hard and I shouldn't run myself ragged - I reasoned. The truth was this also served as a defense mechanism against being frustrated that other people seemed to have these crazy experiences during ceremony and I felt shut out somehow. Several hours in I felt prompted to sit up. Once I did a thought came - maybe you just have to try to see. Kind of like opening your eye lids. Well it was worth a shot, so I focused my energy on mentally looking. Lots of faint images started flashing by but too dark and too fast to understand. Despite trying to avoid it, I began felling incredibly frustrated and started to question. Was there something wrong with me? Did the universe have something against me?

Suddenly I noticed green on the other side of the filter that obscured my mental imagery. While I couldn't make out any clear details, I had a strong impression that it was the Mother Ayahuasca I'd heard people talk about. As I tried to find more definition and ask why I only hear silence, and see things dimly, I noticed that there was unfiltered light spilling in as if under a door and around the edges from gaps in the door frame. In an instant, I realized that I was living inside immense walls that I had constructed to keep parts of myself safe even from myself. She wasn't going to beat down my doors, she was waiting to be let in. I felt the respect that real love gives instead of trying to force it's own agenda. There wasn't a rush to perfection, there is no such thing - only growth. True love doesn't force itself on you because it knows you will get it eventually: love is patient, love is kind, love is not proud... finally made a lot more sense to me.

That was pretty much the entire message of the ceremony for me until I sat there for a few hours and wrote a piece called Consciousness Revoluting. Just knowing that I don't have to be afraid of being overrun, used and manipulated helped calm down my mind and heart a lot setting the groundwork to receive more in the future. I was being shown the love that was there for me but was refusing to receive for myself from myself.

You Are the Placebo

Somewhere around this time (09/29/16), I began reading You Are the Placebo and became engrossed. If I wasn't working, I was probably reading that book. Growing up in a quasi-penticostal household, I had been told that God did miracles, but the specifics were a bit fuzzy and though I heard "eye witness reports" of such miracles, I never had seen one for myself. There have been some events in my life that I couldn't explain except to dismiss it as a coincidence, but never anything like bones growing back. The book cites study after study where the power of the placebo effect is demonstrated, and then draws parallels between the technique and how believers of different faiths do "super human feats".

The crux of what I have been learning recently is that we have more power than we want to accept because it makes us responsible. If we accept authority for our lives it seems to open the door to hate ourselves more if we fail when going against the tide. At least before you could blame it on something else - other people being shitty, "it's just the way life is" etc. Taking responsibility is the first step to looking in the mirror because you have to be willing to face yourself completely. After you've quit fearing the reflection and realize the opportunity for growth and change, you can start to making different decisions with confidence because your beliefs have shifted as your source of contentment has moved back inside yourself.


When you go to a strange environment, with people you don't know - there is a tangible atmosphere of everyone sizing up their companions right off the bad. Some kind of Lord of the Flies type shit - but on purpose - maybe we get off on it, who knows. This human propensity to analyze and categorize each other is what reality TV uses as the clay to form a story from. As soon as we got on the boat I was scanning, and I think it's a safe bet to say everyone else was as well. In fact four weeks in, my roommate read what he had written about his initial impression of me. Things like "stoic, guarded, controlled" are the impression I gave off which is more or less what I've tried to be in the past.

It came up in conversation because I was putting into practice not being aloof and guarded as much and had initiated a dialogue in the kitchen during a rain storm. Your posture signals a lot about you as a person but most people seem to over look that. On the boat that first day, and then every day since then, I had noticed his exceptional posture as part of my daily tickertape personality analysis of everyone - but it was also inspiring. Growing up with former military parents, I was ragged on a lot about my posture but when I tried, it physically hurt to stand up straight. Recently I've come to see how my body and mind / heart are a reflection of each other and sometimes the change needs to be fought for on the outside before the inside accepts it. My outside was just reflecting my mental perception of me and now that my perspective has changed, my body needs to be brought into alignment with that. How would someone who had nothing to hide or be ashamed of - who accepts themselves and is kind, how would they cary themselves? I have a picture in my mind and it's one that I have to practice everyday till it becomes natural.

Changing how you stand, changes how you see the world. Think about this, why do photographers go to extreme angles, or vary the height period? It's to say something different, "put it in a different light". I was told a while back by someone who loves me very much and I couldn't get offended by - that I looked like a velociraptor with my big head hung out on my long neck. Not painting a very attractive picture. As I found what it felt like to change how I carried myself, I realized that it made me look at life more straight on instead of with my head hung down peering up at it. The pain in my neck was from the stress of being afraid to look life in the eye - fear and avoidance of mental pain manifested a physical pain. Pain is simply a signal that gets your attention to further your growth as you leave attachments to things that never remain behind.

My buddy had stated at one point that he felt like he didn't have much to offer as far as talents - to which I could relate. Hell, in the first week when they asked if we had any skills that we would want to teach a class on, my mind was a gaping blank spot. What could I teach anyone? Ironically after not being able to remember how to tie a knot the first days in camp, I eventually taught a class on five different knots. It went quite well and was fun! While the rain poured down that afternoon, sitting in the kitchen, I shared that I had been inspired by his example of good posture and that some times it's the simple things that can have a profound impact. There really is a lot that can be said for leading by example. You don't have to force anything on anyone, in fact that's never going to work, the best thing is get your own house in order and let that cast whatever influence it may.

I don't mean to wax long about posture but it really struck me how profound something so simple as someones persistent posture can say and potentially inspire. I used to be so spun up on having to "change the world" because religion doesn't accept it's own self. Now I've seen how just being me, constantly refining and growing is the best thing I can do for myself and my world. I am way more conscious of my own posture and in turn my body which I felt completely uncomfortable in for years.

Fourth Ceremony

My intention for this ceremony was to step out of the walls I had seen the green light on the other side of. I wanted to experience this presence I had heard others describe as pure love. Sounds nice right? Instead what I got hit once again with was a barrage of visions where the programmed subconscious past was fighting to remain alive. To have a lasting help beyond a fish for a day, I needed to learn how to fish for myself. It's really not so much like fishing but more like target practice.

The bible teaches that "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked..." and I was taught to doubt my own heart / intuition leading to a shut down of the ability to trust myself and make a decision. For the past few years as I've read about unattachment and discovered that if you focus on growth it negates the fear of doing evil because it's counter productive. Part of the lesson in growing is that what you need should come from inside of you. Looking for fulfillment from others creates imbalance because it creates a giving / taking relationship that can flip flop back and forth instead of a giving / giving relationship where there is no neediness. My intention to have an experience even wanting to heal was a bit of a weak desire because I still wasn't willing to give to myself what I wanted from another. I don't get any easy road - that was the message. Instead of being annoyed, I'm grateful because I know that the harder the lesson, the more valuable the experience.

Fifth Ceremony - Facilitating

Having done a ceremony only a couple of days before, I was surprised by the opportunity coming available for me to participate in that evening's ceremony. I elected to maintain space and drink symbolically as an effort to facilitate the experience for others. The secondary intention was to send love and forgiveness to my mother. She had been on my mind a bit that day and it just felt like what I should do. Only drinking a tiny amount, I wasn't sure if there were going to be any effects so I just sat there meditating on my intention, attempting to visualize it. I saw my mother as a vehicle for my consciousness to have another go around at this life. She is another portion of consciousness who is just growing as best they know how. Suddenly I had compassion and felt like chains were melting off with the realization of the break in her power over me. It's like being an elephant restrained by a very small rope through programming but eventually realizing that rope is like wax.

Facilitating provided some unique opportunities to learn more about not taking things personally (getting shot as a messenger), but also how better to handle interpersonal conflicts. When you realize that life wants to build you up, it changes your perspective on conflicts or "difficult" experiences.

The Celestine Prophecy

You Are the Placebo finished, I had time left to read one more book before heading home. Two recommendations for The Celestine Prophecy from different people made me take notice. Being fiction it won out as something fun to read instead of lots of scientific or spiritual mumbo jumbo like what I had been reading. The trip was winding down and despite feeling like we had been there forever and longing for home, it also felt like it had somehow flown by. I wanted to maximize the last week and reading something light helped in many ways.

The book was apparently all the rage in the 90s but I'd never heard of it. You go on an adventure with the protagonist who is introduced "by chance" to the first part of a nine part Mayan prophecy, heads to Peru to try and find out more. Each section of the prophecy that is found and discussed throughout the book is summarized for the readers. The more I read, the more surprised I became at how amazingly well this whole trip and life, really, had gone - this book was putting lots of pieces together for me.

With each successive book, I was introduced to ideas in new ways, ways I was able to finally accept. They all laid a foundation for a framing crew to spring forward on. The Celestine Prophecy was speaking loudly and clearly to my process right up till the end of my in forever. I'm not going to discuss what is in the book because if you are interested, you can read it for yourself. I've had books come my way at just the right moment so I trust that the universe can do the same for you.

Sixth Ceremony

During the staff meeting at the beginning of the last week, the opportunity for ceremony participation was discussed because space was somewhat limited. I had already decided that I was willing to do one more (preferably the last one before heading out) but was okay if there weren't any more opportunities - I had received a lot already. Without having to say anything it all fell together where I was assigned to the last ceremony of the season. Several books had impressed on me the importance of meditation and I felt like I needed to meditate on what I had learned for the week before my last ceremony. Each day felt special as I now watched for the reflections and lessons, seeing perfection in the natural unfolding.

The afternoon of that last day, we had a group acupuncture session with ear needles. If you think acupuncture is weird, you should check it out - super fascinating. Essentially the ear is viewed as an inverted fetus and there are points in your ear that correspond to what they are on the small scale version. The Holographic Universe talks about it some as part of the fractal nature of holographs. Once the needles were installed, we sat in silence meditating for about twenty-five minutes. I'll spare you the sequence of thoughts that led me to the realization, but as I sat there with needles in my ears, it dawned on me how much I have to accept myself. This might sound like a broken record but it's more like it's a message that keeps playing and is gradually becoming much more clear. Until I get it, I'm not moving on to the next thing. What I focus on and how I view myself is how my reality operates and I have the ability to change that by changing my mind and finding the energy and love I need inside of myself. Any time you start looking for it from outside of you, that's when "evil" starts happening. This message was being drilled into me.

In the very first ceremony I ever participated in I had a vision where all the evil that humanity does comes from not feeling whole as you are and that need for external filling creates a vacuum pulling in the knowledge of good and evil. If you believe in reincarnation, you know that the concept is that we experiences all positions on the wheel of life. But why do we do this to ourselves? Seems like torture. Christians talk about a "god shaped hole" in your heart which is why you "feel empty inside". The problem is that this god usually takes on someone else's voice and opinion through wholehearted assertion on what the proper interpretation of "the scripture" is. How would you know if you met the "one, true god"? Would you just accept the words of something, even if it "magically" appeared to you without any kind of proof? I mean I would sit up and take notice but just because something spectacular and "inexplicable" occurs, that doesn't mean it's correct. Many native people took whites for gods when they arrived on their shores only to find out that god was a lust filled, insecure man lacking in empathy. Gods rise and fall based on your knowledge and experience. Who is god in my life? I am but with the understanding that so are you, and so are we all. The only thing bigger than each of us is all of us.  Externalizing god makes it something distant and subjectively attainable. It's easy to tell someone god doesn't approve of them when god is a figment of their imagination. If we are part of the whole then anything we do has an effect on everything else and what we do to others we do to ourselves. That's why I keep mentioning reflections. You may choose to not believe it but the Universe serves up what your mind wholeheartedly believes. Eventually though I think everyone sees things differently and grows never leaving things without hope. It's not a one shot deal like Christianity would have you believe.

As I focused my intention on completely accepting myself in ceremony, I was once again confronted with segments of my past trying to sit there feeling sorry for themselves. A couple of times I started to get dragged into it but remembered the opportune words spoken to me just before ceremony - "don't dig in the past. That can be an addiction". I realized that the whining and poor me bullshit was actually just a control drama to avoid having to take responsibility. Battling these visions, I realized how much of a disservice it was to be stuck in the past and that there was no time to be sorry for myself any more. I have accepted that I may have chosen this life to learn something. It's like taking a really tough college class and then having your memory totally wiped. I don't think that everything is planned out but is based on what we believe moment to moment and no matter what the circumstances, there is always room to grow and evolve.

This last ceremony was like a perfecting garnish on the time in the jungle, tying up many questions and revealing new paths. It was bitter sweet to pack up and go hike that 5k to the river but to everything there is a season, and growth cannot happen being stuck in the same place forever so leaving to go home was also part of the journey.

What am I doing for three days???

For some reason when I booked my return tickets, I allowed a few days in Puerto Maldonado before heading to Lima. In the last week and a half, before returning to town I had been kicking myself for not "getting the heck out of there" ASAFP! Instead of getting in a rush I began putting to practice what I had been learning and focused on just being in the moment and seeing what happened. What happened were some wonderful experiences that I would have missed out on otherwise.

I got to hang out with folks I had made friends with while they were visiting the retreat. They own a piece of land for a conservation project on the Tambopata River and I was able to rent a scooter and ride out to see their place. Now before you start thinking "oh god, a scooter..." it had both a foot pedal for shifting and braking and went faster than was safe to go on any of the roads. Google maps fortuitously took me on the back way in (18km vs 4.5km). I got to see so much jungle that I would have never experienced going to "proper" way. When I pulled up to the land, they were rather surprised that I found the place lending a bit more credence to my semi-wild adventure ideas.

After spending more time in the Puerto Maldonado, I found or was introduced to some spots that helped keep me alive. Three that really deserve a shout out are Gustitos, Copasu and El Hornito.

Lomo Saltado: Gustitos


Hamburgesa y Wasai milkshake! 

One of the other volunteers was in Lima getting a tattoo the same time that I was going to be there there so we agreed to meet up, grab dinner and I might possibly get a tattoo as well. After getting to the hostel around 7:30, we met up at the tattoo shop and then went and grabbed some of the most amazing sushi I've ever had. Next we hit up the cat park - a city park with lots of cats, and vendors. This one vendor had hand made clothing (I believe all from the Shipibo tribe). A pull over called to me, partially because I was shivering in my shorts and t-shirt but also because it was just fucking awesome. Reveling in the night, we stopped by La Lucha so I could get a sandwich for the flight the next day (super amazing choice), and then headed to the beach. Or more accurately, we went to the cliffs over looking the beach.

Some photos were snapped, a few comments exchanged, mostly human silence enjoying the crashing waves with the faint addition of light guitar and steel drum from some buskers across the park. We were about to go when I spotted something and thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. "Did you see that?" I asked excitedly. "Look there" I pointed seeing it again. The waves were lighting up in some spots as plankton luminesced. It was quite spectacular and magical in it's own way. We stayed just looking for more to show up saying "just one more" and then staying for another one, two, four...

Sleeping in a shared dorm with four beds, I didn't want to be loud coming in at 12:30 am so I just took my shoes off and crashed out fully clothed on top of my bed waking up six hours later to get my tattoo. The art work wasn't complicated but I was a bit concerned about somehow missing my taxi or what have you. All unwarranted though as everything clicked perfectly and the next thing I knew I was in Fort Lauderdale with a five hour layover where interesting coincidences continued to abound.


Sure was looking forward to getting home and seeing my partner and our puppy again. Due to her work schedule and the fact that I got in a 2:30 am on a Monday, it was no surprise that no one was super jazzed to see me. Part of me, an old part, was a little disappointed but then I remembered - don't take anything personally. In fact that has been ringing in my ears all week. Tuesday I hopped right back into work doing a job I've dreaded in the past. Part of the dread has been because I feel condescended to many times by the other people that job makes me work with. The new part of me looked forward to what I would learn from the day. There's no sense in worrying about life when you realize it's a perpetual growth plan and trust that as you work at it, you will improve. The only way to not improve is to not try. I had been learning to stand up for myself to my own self and others so maybe I would be tested on that again.

Day one back to work, it happened. This guy seems to be copping a bit of attitude about something his department did. I'm not sure specifically what he wants so I ask a question ready to help but in need of clarification. His response answered the question not directly but in what seemed like the form of a put down. I've never liked it when people ask a question when they have an answer in mind but it's almost like they want you to guess what they are thinking. It's always come across to me as passive aggressive and so I reacted slightly in my head. "Ok," I responded reaching to make the change "it's not like I put it there" I said in the next breath. As he put the camera down, he said "I wasn't trying to lay blame just making a statement about what we were doing. Catholic guilt huh?" My next thought was fuck this guy. Then he asked me "were you raised catholic?" I said no, because I was a little irritated and it wasn't a lie though what he had poked at was spot on.

Irritated because I don't want to be an asshole fighting everything but also don't want to be weak again and let people run over me. The doubt was assailing again. As the night progressed, I realized maybe he hadn't meant things the way I had interpreted them. The next morning I watched a video about quantum entanglement. In it I learned that when the particles are entangled and spinning, until measured they are theoretically spinning in not only in every possible axis direction simultaneously but also opposite from each other. As soon as you make a measurement of one particle, you automatically set it's spin  axis angle because it matches your angle of measurement. This also effect the axis angle for the other linked particle who also, though previously unobserved, maintains the measurement axis angle. I realized that this growing has many layers and you can't hold onto things too tightly. Lessons learned aren't necessarily meant to be taken out and used every day.

Standing up for myself is an important thing but shouldn't need to be in the daily repertoire unless I'm still taking things personally. When you stop thinking things are about you, you have way less to fight because you have way less to be upset about. With self acceptance, you find that it is proportional to how much you are tied to other people's opinions. What I've viewed as speaking up for myself made sense and was probably necessary in the reality I was living in then. Now I seek to remove the prejudices, axis of measurement if you will, and let things be more natural and authentic. I don't know where I will go from here but I have realized that it doesn't really matter. Success is a hard thing to define unless you turn it upside down and say that "failure is when you don't learn anything or give up". There is no perfection in a living piece of art save for the experience of the ongoing evolution.

The big question many people seem to have about the present and future is "will I be able to handle it?" As a species, we doubt ourselves immensely and then some people don't doubt themselves at all and run for president as illustrated by Donald Trump. People like him because Donald doesn't give a fuck and more people wish they could do that as well. Do they agree with much of what the man thinks? Who knows, does anyone really know what Trump thinks? We are so sick of doubting ourselves and being confined that we want to raise our middle finger to what we feel is holding us back. That's the first step of getting free is finding your power. The problem is that unless the personal judgements and filters don't get out of the way, your power doesn't come from within and things will only get worse. We all need a change of perspective to begin to heal ourselves and in turn, the world.

As I waited in the small Puerto Maldonado airport, I was fully present and aware standing in line trying to take in every moment. There was only one counter with a couple attendants. The line was barely moving and the temperature was rising. Very few places have AC in that region so ceiling fans were the best you could hope for to relieve the oppressive jungle heat. After 45 minutes, I had finally made it to the start of the squiggly section that subconsciously lies "your getting close". There I could feel the slight breeze from the ceiling fans and none too soon as a bead of sweat rolled suddenly down my back. Despite the horrific squeaking of the imbalanced fans, I was thankful for their service. My thoughts were interrupted by another thought - I wish I could hold onto this experience and revisit it. Maybe I'll take a video? I almost pulled out my phone but then realized that so much would have been left out unless I narrated everything. That's why writing is so powerful. You can capture and relay almost anything with the right words transporting your experience to someone else. That's exactly what life is, really, a way of having these experiences ourselves instead of just reading about them. We are the camera to our own life story experiencing this character as we actively select the plot choices.

Back to the question - "do I have what it takes?" Yeah, you do, it just matters how narrowly you want to define happiness, success, perfection etc. If you start walking in a direction, you're bound to get somewhere and if that direction is towards honesty and wholeness, you don't have to worry anymore because what is there to judge? I'm not what I was and I'm not what I will be - In this moment I simply am and will always be.


It's been really odd to have a set of keys again which made me think back to one of my first posts on this site when I moved into my car several years ago. Back then you probably will find posts from a different perspective because this site is a journal of my attempt to understand myself and life better. One of the things that was impressed upon me during the trip was that there is no one perfect way, there is only being and growing. Despite the "darkness" of the jungle, I found tremendous light and it was coming from inside of myself but also the jungle. Neither height, nor depth...can separate you from love - if you have it inside of you. I certainly don't claim to have my shit together but I also know that that concept is a bit over rated. There were glimpses of the me who I've felt was in there become manifested right in front of my eyes. It's not a race and there is nothing to fear so while I don't know where the future will lead, I'm finally excited to be living in the moment right before the future.

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