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Published: January 19th 2016
This morning I woke up and set off to meet the driver who will take me to the Etnikas Clinic of Traditional Medicine center in Pisac. All I was told is to meet the ‘Lady’ lady’s associate by the fountain in Plaza de San Fransisco. She will be wearing a green jacket. She will be there at 9:30am. I felt like I was on a mission, back in the day style: no phones, no means of communication. Just following instructions. I got there right on time. I was looking all over for her and didn’t see anyone matching the description. Okay, did I just shit my brains out all night AND get scammed?
An nice looking tanned-skinned boy with long black dreads, big travel pack, and a guitar sat down on the park bench next to me. I could feel his energy, like we were the same. That he wanted to talk. With a perfect American accent he asked,
“Are you looking for someone?”
“Etnikas Ayahuasca retreat?”
“Oh, yes!!” My face lifted, “Are you going as well?”
“Yes I am. I was like you yesterday, wondering where the heck they were.
They will come, it’s just ‘Latin America’ time. They are late.”
We proceeded in learning a bit about each other. His name is Sam. He is a musician from Toronto, Canada. Polyamorous with “two beautiful girlfriends” waiting for him back home. It is his first Ayahuasca ceremony and he is here for the full five day retreat. He is also traveling through March, but will be living on a co-op farm town in Mexico. I was so thrilled to be going on this journey with someone like him. He provides the perfect gentile, friendly, hippie spirit I would want in an Ayahuasca comrade.
The lady in blue,
not green, jacket arrives and she greets us with a big wave and even bigger smile. She puts up in the taxi and away we went. The trip to the center was unlike any beauty I’ve ever seen. We were weaving in and around ginormous lush green mountains on a slim road. Mountains so vertical it looked like something out of the movie, Avatar. Dispersed throughout the mountains were little clay-orange towns. The indigenous people who inhabited the orange towns were draped in every color of the
rainbow. If there is one thing to know, Peruvians love colors. The wonder and beauty of these towns truly overcome you.
After about 45 minutes, the taxi turned down a small and narrow road and slowed to a stop in front of a building. It was a building we couldn’t see because a very large white iron gate barricading it. The gate creaks open and a tiny little Amazonian Shaman man, Nikolas, greets up with a head bow and smile. He is the cutest little old man I’ve ever seen, rainbow colors and all. Two dogs, Lester and Luna, follow behind him. Lester is a golden retriever with a large nose and a mouth that appears to be in a permanent smile. Luna is a medium sized mutt with shaggy white hair and black spot over her eye, very calm and friendly. Neither of these dogs barked or jumped upon our arrival, just tail wags and general excitement of our presence. What an upgrade from American canines! A woman with a brown stockman hat comes out to welcome Sam and me. She has crystal blue eyes, tan skin, and the warmest of smiles. She gives me a
big bear hug and introduces herself as Jamicca (pronounced with a Y). She was to be our spiritual guide, and really like a house mother…making sure the patients have what they need. Behind her is the group departing from the previous night’s ceremony. They all were silent with a look of petrified. …wonderful
One of the boys looked at Sam and asks, “Is this your first time?” Sam nods. Wide eyed, the boy replies, “Good luck, man. It is intense.
” Then, like a punch in the guts, my nerves kicked into overdrive. This wasn’t the same happy-go-lucky post-Ayahuasca faces I met in Shane, Josh and Jason. This was something different.
Jamicca shows Sam and I our sleeping quarters and told us to look around and feel free to explore the facility. I used this time to take a dozen pictures and play with Lester & Luna. After the first group’s goodbyes, Jamicca directed Sam and I into one of the rooms in the main house. A red floor couch pinned the far wall is where Sam and I sat criss-cross applesauce and looked upon three very differently dressed staff sitting on their own pillow
islands. Jamicca sat in the middle, making the fourth.
On the far left side was the Shaman representing the religious spiritual side of the Ayahuasca ceremony. He has been assisting in ceremonies since he was 10 years old, wow. His family has held Ayahuasca ceremonies for generations. He wears a white shirt, as long as a dress, with multi colored stripes throughout. He wears matching pants and an almost tubeteika-looking cap. He speaks about how the traditions of his people are both Catholic, representing the paternal side of religion and Quechuan representing the maternal side of religion. He will be guiding us during the ceremony.
To the right of him was Jamicca, our cheery translator. She is from the Netherlands, a good sign. She has been the Shaman’s assistant for four months now. Although her family doesn’t quite approve, they know she is happy and fulfilled with what she is doing. She calms me, makes me feel comfortable and welcome to be here.
To the right of her is the Amazonian Incan Shaman, Nikolas. He wears very bright colored everything, an alpaca poncho, Incan hat, gold little sandals. He is mister
adorable, always with a secret smile. He travelled by boat, bus, train and by foot to be here. His ancestors have also been doing the ceremonies for centuries…not ever needing doctors or hospitals. Ayahuasca and San Pedro was always their prescription. He is in charge of the coca-leaf reading ceremony.
And finally, the woman to the far right, Dr. Paula. She bridges the gap of western and eastern medicine. She wears pastel colored scrubs. She is the most interesting to me. Very quiet, she explains the scientific part of the medicine, Ayahuasca. It effects parts of the brain like the amygdala, reason and decision-making parts as well as emotional and logical decision making synapses too. It releases DMT, a chemical found naturally in the brain that releases when we are born, when we die and when women give child birth. This makes someone taking Ayahuasca feel closer and understand these aspects of life. She reminds us not to be embarrassed by natural bodily functions post-drink. And to completely surrender to whatever portal Pacha Mama (Mother Earth or Mother Aya) decides to take you down.
The Shaman on the far left tells us we need three things during the ceremony:
on the breath. There will be discomfort at some parts of the journey. This is natural. Always come back to your breath, concentrate on the inhale, on the exhale.
Pacha Mama will give you what you need, not what you want. She may take you down into darkness. If so, put your trust in her. Love and respect her for it is what you need.
It is very important to trust yourself. You are the true
Shaman in your experience. Release and follow, listen to what your body is telling your mind.
After, we did the coca leaf reading. This is where Shaman Nikolas sits across from you, Jamicca beside you, and he lays one coca leaf down on a mat and holds a group of them in his hands. The coca leaf he lays in front of me is supposed to represent me. Both me and him blow on the other group of coca he holds in his hands. From what I gathered in this unfamiliar practice is for each aspect of life he throws the chunk of leaves down three times until the grouping has all left his hands. The order of which they fall determines your life’s patterns. They aspects of life are:
So what happened with mine? Wouldn’t ya know it, mine read “good” pretty much through all of it. You see, the way it works is that when he throws the leaves down and they gather in clumps or in a straight line, then its “good.” If one or two fall outside the mat, then its not so good. If one or more leaves is flipped over, then that is cause of tension. - Health
: health all fell in a line for my life, so that is “good.” Health while traveling had a few separate leaves, so I guess I need to watch my back. I was thinking that my health is probably diminished because at this point, I hadn’teaten hardly anything the last 48 hours. - Love
: love is good in the present, content. (This is true, I am pretty satisfied in that realm.) However, I will not find my one true partner until much later from now. I am okay with this though. Viva la youth. - Work:
You guessed it! …All good it the hood. In one year’s time, work will apparently mean very much to me. - Family:
Leaves fell very
close together on this one, meaning family is close. No surprise there. - Spiritual:
All fell in line except for one. We interpreted it as a little fix that needs to happen in listening and trusting myself in what my body wants and needs
After the coca leaf reading, we had a yoga instructor come and lead a practice outside on the terrace. It overlooked all of the lush mountains. This is the most beautiful place on Earth. She ended the practice explaining the Yin and Yang of the world, masculinity and femininity, and how we can identify with each. Because Mother Aya can help us balance of the two sides for us. We all went around and discussed how we identified with each side.
One observation I made was that all the women in the group had similar answers. Throughout our lives we have pushed away the feminine side because of western society and the feeling towards “womanly” ideologies. Even the English language is to view anything feminine as weak and as a negative. Feminine qualities such as empathy, sympathy, unconditional love, maternal instincts I’ve realized that it is these attributes that will lead me to becoming a better version of myself.
Jamicca gave us some time to reflect and meditate afterwards. So here I am, sitting on a swing chair, made from Alpaca, staring at the most majestic green and purple mountains in the distance in deep reflection. I took a walk around the property too. Once you come though the barricading white cares, there are three houses.
To the left is a white one story house with bay windows draping around the outer walls. Behind it is three rooms stacked on top of each other, all connected through a white spiral staircase. These are the sleeping quarters.
To the right is a small two story house, painted bright orange. This is where the staff live. There are two gardens and a cobblestone walkway with wildflowers lining each side connecting the buildings.
Straight Center is the ceremonial hut. It looks like what you would see in National Geographic. A circular structure, more like an octagon with a roof made of straw. Inside are beautiful hardwood floors, pillows, blankets, and the walls are lined with tapestries. Anywhere you look beyond the resort is a picture-perfect view of mountains cascading as far as the eyes can see. On some mountains hold other small orange villages, tucked away in peace and quiet. Well not too quiet, the songs of the birds are lovely.
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