Ayahuasca By Any Other Name.

Via on Jul 31, 2012
Awakening?
What is Your Medicine?

I’m here in Venice, California, holding space for the few people left in Los Angeles who are not taking Ayahuasca.

It can be a lonely life.  Almost every weekend and many weeknights friends of mine return from their psychedelic journeying to recount tales of their time with “the medicine.” They refer to it as “the work” and often they return to tell me how much they have prayed, not just for me, but also for all of us. They tell me that they are doing this work to heal the world for everyone.

I nod and offer a disingenuous “thank you so much for that” and try my best to move on to another topic.  It’s not the fact that I walk a drugless path in my life, which keeps me from “the medicine” or a desire to discuss it. I suppose if the case were compelling enough I could go there.

If I felt truly that I needed this medicine and “the work” and to heal everyone and that this was the way to do it, (which is how I feel about yoga and meditation) I could go there, but its the fact that their words totally resemble the words I heard and used myself over 20 years ago when I experimented with mushrooms, peyote and LSD and was convinced that this was the answer to the world’s issues.

And, by the way, 20 years before me there was another generation of people using the same words with great passion yet again. I will say I got something out of my foray into psychedelics, but, like many of these modern-day journeymen and women, I lacked the tools to integrate and build upon the lessons I was learning. I lacked a full understanding of what I was being shown.

Of course, the world kept progressing on with its rampant dis-ease because the pilgrims then just like the pilgrims now failed to recognize that the real work they had to do was not yet done and the real medicine they needed was love, which was always available to them with or without Ayahuasca to help them find it.

Can Ayahuasca heal the soul, bring you to love’s doorstep, positively transform the way you look at reality?

As an outsider, how could I possibly say? My core beliefs suggest to me that we are always connected to the Divine Source of all things and that self-realization is a matter of “‘removing blockages from” rather than “adding substances to.”

Yet, different people need different things at different times. Surely, there is a class of people who, as I used to be, are drawn to explore themselves through the use of plant-based psychedelics and who benefit from their use. I imagine, too, that others will not benefit and that others still, will be sadly misled. A few unfortunates may actually get hurt.

Yet, who am I to judge? I took a ton of psychedelics in the 80s with my community of intrepid seekers and we spoke nearly the same words and had the same sense that this was important work we were doing. That’s exactly the point though.  The lack of novelty goes mostly unnoticed. Somehow, Ayahuasca seems new or different to these journeyers, but it does not appear so from the outside.  And perhaps therein lies the rub. Since I am on the outside and have no personal experience with “the medicine,” people will always be able to say, “you just don’t understand.”

Perhaps they are right. Perhaps Ayahuasca is different. Perhaps this time it will put us over the edge into peace. That would be amazing, but I doubt it.

Ayahuasca, I suspect, is like other psychedelics, providing you a glimpse of something significant perhaps pleasant, perhaps not.

Yet, it does not offer the full picture.

It is kind of like watching a trailer to a film, without ever getting to experience the full movie. It also does not seem to give you a road map to the desired outcome. If a life of purpose, fulfillment and love is the purpose of life then what I want to know is how to get there often and, eventually, how to stay there.

And by definition, doesn’t all true medicine make itself obsolete? Once you’ve gotten the great download from above, isn’t that enough? How many times does one take the medicine before it achieves its desired effect, which is hopefully, ultimately, to guide someone to Love’s doorstep and to give them a map to find their way there regularly without having to take more of the medicine.

Of course, if you get into the actual feeling and ritual of taking the medicine and return again and again to chase that feeling, now we are walking that very fine line between exploration and addiction and, in that case, ‘the medicine’ might have another set of rather unpleasant lessons for you altogether. But that’s another topic.

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing, Peace on Earth. I do not resent my Ayahuasca-drinking brothers and sisters, for we resemble each other in just about every way, except, of course, in our choice of ingredients for bringing about that peace.

I have found my path in the sciences of yoga and meditation. I practice mostly everyday because I find joy in it and it continues to deliver on its promises to strengthen me, to relax me and to bring me closer to that state of inner peace, Samadhi. My friendly Ayahuasqueros would claim the same thing, except for the part about doing it everyday (Hopefully!).

So there you have it. We sit across from each other on our proverbial meditation cushions. They are journeying with the medicine and I am journeying without it. They are pretty adamant about how important Ayahuasca is and I am adamant about sitting this one out.

In the end, we will all have to decide for ourselves what our medicine looks like and then decide from personal experience whether it ultimately serves our deepest calling.

And I have to admit that if anyone is the inflexible one here, it might just be me. For I am not willing to join their rituals, but I see many of them practicing yoga on a regular basis.

Hmm.

Strange tidings here in LA in this great year of our creator, 2012!

~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Tommy Rosen

Tommy Rosen has studied and practiced Yoga for 20 years, and is a certified Vinyasa Flow and Kundalini Yoga Teacher. He completed the Yoga West year-long teacher training in June of 2008 and then went on to complete Yoga Works’ 200-hour teacher training with Annie Carpenter and Kia Miller in the Summer of 2009. For 8 years, Tommy has studied Kundalini Yoga and “Life” from his teacher, Guruprem. Tommy also uses the magical gifts of Yoga and Meditation to help people recover from addictions and to build fulfilling lives. TommyRosen.com

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46 Responses to “Ayahuasca By Any Other Name.”

  1. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: I'm Not Spiritual & Yoga.
    ~Mamaste

    • Sergei says:

      Tommy, there is another infinite number of elegant and harmonious ways to speak about Ayahuasca, and thank you for your time expressing yourself. However, it's not necessary, just go and do it. You have already spent so much energy thinking and pondering so why not just experience it once. Speaking of the people and their language? brother, these are the people you attract and communicate with…blink blink :) Namaste.

  2. Jacob Nordby says:

    Very good, Tommy.

    I had a dramatic opening in my life (previously fundamentalist Christian–and without any history of "medicine" work). It was at a shamanic retreat and I experienced DMT. I had no idea what I was in for.

    You know, looking back through the lens of time, I am so grateful for a few journey experiences like that since. I haven't been a regular practitioner–but I know that what happened there opened a door long barricaded in my soul. It could have just as easily been a heart attack or a car accident or the death of a child which dealt a mighty blow to my self concept and allowed me to see Beyond for just a glimpse.

    Since then, I've learned over and over what you are writing about here. The journey is love. The journey is freedom. Whatever it takes to surrender is worth the price.

    Like almost any powerful experience, it is easy to turn the set, setting and ritual into dogma, though.

    What I've discovered is that Life is, Itself, the highest art, the deepest meditation, the grandest journey.

    Namaste and thank you for sharing,

    Jacob Nordby
    Author
    The Divine Arsonist: A Tale of Awakening.

  3. Dr. Katy Poole Katy Poole says:

    Really interesting and insightful article. Everyone I know practically is "journeying." Thanks for expressing another view.

  4. justayogi says:

    Thanks for posting and starting the conversation. In my neck of the woods, I’m the only person I know who is doing this work. It’s good to hear that I’m not walking this path alone.

  5. mukhtiyogini says:

    I recently went on the "journey" after three years away from and done with my psychedelic and very toxic lifestyle. I have to say it was tame in comparison to my one, and LAST, LSD experience. That was the mother of all downloads for me and I am sate for this lifetime and perhaps the next. Not bad experiences, but unnecessary at best. I too have discovered my source and healing and love through hatha yoga practice and teacher training and then on to teaching others what I have learned.

    As I watch others walk their path I wonder why they feel the need to have their edges cut open so violently in order to reach deeper inside. I also do not judge their experience or reason for taking the journey, but I simply and joyfully have lost my understanding for the NEED. Thank you for posting this. I hope a great many will read it and really evaluate their options.

  6. Caitlin says:

    Really beautifully written. Thanks for writing from this challenging viewpoint.

  7. sue says:

    ayahuasca is jungle medicine, it connects the user to the jungle and makes them carnivores, it wouldn't be here without deforestation and out of step with modernity, it has no lasting effect without a regular medicine person around to access and guide before and after. all this appeals to hipsters of the first and second degree, and others looking for quick access to a life with meaning

  8. Like you I never did drugs. But after many years of depression, the notion of drinking Ayahuasca became unavoidable, despite being terrified. I drank it 6 times and I can honestly say it was the most powerful integration experience of my life. Some deep, primal part of me roared out, and some old wounds, things I didn't even know about, found a chance to dissolve. There's something very very mysterious about it – the way it can seek out, with such accuracy, ferocity and even compassion, those parts of you you've been running from. And then of course the vomiting as correlation to letting go – 'la purga' as the natives call it. Annoying as all this may be within the confines of LA culture and all those people talking about it (trust me, I feel the same) if you can find a real shaman, and if you feel there is shadow work still to be done, it is remarkable.

    • @tommyrosen says:

      Hi Piers, what a blessing this experience must have been for you. There is a deep mystery to it all, of this we can all be certain. I am hoping that your depression has not returned and/or that you have found ways of dealing with it day in and out. Best to you. Love, Peace,
      Tommy

  9. Lisa says:

    Thank you. Most beautiful. I did my time 20 yrs. ago with psychedelics and used the lessons learned to rebuild my world. It was the most significant and magical time of my life. But I never felt the need to go back to them. I have done my best to live the vision of what I saw, and remember the sense of universal interconnectedness. As I grow older, I seem to be growing deeper onto this path – as though my subconscious found the keys back then and slowly, organically continues to push me towards life and living – true to the heart and connection to all things. I believe these substances show us ways to calibrate or orient, like a compass bearing – ideally so we can head out on our life journey with knowledge and guidance as we integrate our intuition with life experiences. Taking any psychedelics regularly, I think could easily become escapism, dependency and diffuse the lessons in not allowing time for integration.

    • @tommyrosen says:

      This is spot on, Lisa, especially as it comes from your direct experience and through a process of self-analyzation over years. I love what you wrote here: "true to the heart and connection to all things."

      Blessings,

      Tommy

  10. Thaddeus Haas Thaddeus1 says:

    Thank you for this Tommy. Truly, very well written on all levels.

    Like many of the commentators above, I've taken ayahuasca several times. My experiences came in Brazil in the Santo Diame tradition, which is somewhat different than the classical ayahuascaeros. In many ways, while "identical," I would be willing to argue that Daime is different than ayahuasca, but that is for another discussion.

    "And by definition, doesn’t all true medicine make itself obsolete? Once you’ve gotten the great download from above, isn’t that enough? How many times does one take the medicine before it achieves its desired effect, which is hopefully, ultimately, to guide someone to Love’s doorstep and to give them a map to find their way there regularly without having to take more of the medicine."

    I think this is the key. And I think the answer must be yes. My experiences with Daime provided me the ability to really see the difference between "what was mine" and "what was everyone else's." This was a profound "gift," and one without which I do not think I would be as far along my path as I am. In addition, I feel no need to go back and explore more. Daime solidified a foundation I had already established and now I continue the work without it.

    I can't help but wonder how and if the post-modern aspects of the LA ayahuasca scene are not somehow creating a strong perversion in this tradition.

    • @tommyrosen says:

      "I can't help but wonder how and if the post-modern aspects of the LA ayahuasca scene are not somehow creating a strong perversion in this tradition. "

      This is a very good question. Time will tell.

  11. Carol Horton carolhortonbooks says:

    Very interesting post. I had no idea that this was such a trend. I agree that if you know anything about the history of psychedelics in this country, it sounds very familiar (I'm thinking of the early 1960s in particular).

    I believe that such drugs can have positive uses. But I also think that taking them is playing with fire and invevitably, some will end up getting very badly burned.

    It's great that you are holding the space for a non-judgmental, but solidly alternative perspective on this in your community.

  12. athayoganusasanam says:

    Great piece Tommy. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Like most other commentators here, I agree that everything has it's time and place and can be helpful on our spiritual path. What I can't really wrap my mind around is how a bunch of new-agey Californians can possibly conceive that their recreational use of a powerful medicine taken out of context will really "heal the world". From my experiences with healers, the greatest ones don't shout about it or advertise it loudly to the general public, so I have a hard time believing that a truly legit shaman would be leading "journeys" with Santa Monica yoga enthusiasts every weekend…but that's my own take on it :)
    I really respect your point of view and your honesty about your emotions and questions with this latest trend. Upon reading your piece I remembered studying Kundalini Yoga once with Gurushabd when he very candidly stated that "If it's this close to the Aquarian Age and you need to use drugs to connect you with spirit then you are missing the point entirely."
    Yoga is my anti-drug :)
    Sat Nam.

  13. Edie Lazenby Edie says:

    Fascinating article and posts. I had never heard of it. My age and circle of friends I imagine.
    Did LSD in the 70′s. Had fun. Was not life changing.
    Have experienced alter states for other reasons: being turned inside out rearranges things.
    I tend to think yoga and meditation a preferred way for me now.
    I too like the open mind with which you write.

  14. Many interesting points here. Athayoganusasanam, your use of the phrase 'Sat Nam' prompts me to comment again. This, after all, is the purpose of yoga: realising your true nature, reconfiguring your identity away from Atman towards Brahman. My question is this: how many of those who practice yoga are REALLY involved in this pursuit, the wholehearted search for truth? My feeling is very few. Very few teachers of yoga even interject the notion that the personal 'I', which stands at the perceived centre of our lives, may not be solid. What I will say about Ayahuasca, however, is that real experience with this medicine (and it should be said thot the brews, and surrounding traditions differ widely.) shows one irrevocably that the 'I' and indeed the word itself is not solid. Buddha's notion that 'everything changes' is rammed down your throat in sometimes frightening ways. If the time is right, the centre which is entertaining this fear begins to crack…. and after this nothing can ever be the same again…

    I think this debate has two strands – one is the commodification of ancient tribal knowledge, and the dumbing down perhaps of these wisdom traditions. Let's not forget that the same has happened with yoga some time ago.

    The second is whether 'Ayahuasca' is a valid path to ultimate truth. Head down to Ecuador or Peru and stand face to face with a Shuar medicine man. Fluid, wide open, utterly alive and embodied as 'All', these teachers are pure yogis….

  15. Jenna says:

    So timely that you posted this. I'm writing from North of the border and had a meeting this past week to learn more about this. I too have a background playing with drugs recreationally in the later portion of the 90's. Yoga and meditation (amongst other types of body work I feel have much more leadership and focus – ie. Feldenkrais – yoga here is still so young and often guidance is weak if there at all) have been my method for healing, grounding, introspection. Something though (perhaps the lack of teachers who can take it to the next level) has left me feeling I've hit the glass ceiling. Its not taking care of the blockages past the physical, instructors aren't teachers, and while I love a good dance class, doing the same vinyasa sequence and guiding my own meditations for 90 odd minutes is just hitting repeat, repeat, repeat. I am seeking something to deeply clear the sticky energy of it all, and frankly a yoga class of 60 fragmented individuals is just not diving as deep as I crave to go.

    I had a phone call this am with a friend with much experience in this and that – the above and beyond. She was kind enough to offer a full disclosure and provided the following: 'Will it be life altering? With the right teacher, protective set up, and surroundings – it absolutely can be. This isn't acid or E at a club – this has an intent, a purpose and a focus. However – if any of those things are missing, or if one has a contraindication (mental illness/meds etc) or the protection isn't there, or your mental constructs aren't developed – it may produce undesirable effects. My advice – if you want to reflect on your standing patterns and uncover your shadows – apply for a Vipassana 10 day first – that might be enough – and if you choose to seek expanding resources beyond that – your mental and emotional constructs will be in place – you're intuition will be stronger in making the choice – overall it will be a much more fruitful experience and you'll know how and who to seek it from. No need to rush'.

    On that advice – I feel that this stuff has power – as did MDMA at one point (does anyone remember when it went from sweet bliss to made-in-the-bathtub – demand drowned the supply and the quality went belly up). Using it every weekend, when you're not part of the source that creates it – is just recreational drug use. Do I feel it has the potential to open windows and doors? If done right and well, if you seek the correct source respectfully. Yes, I believe it does.

    Thanks for this article and conversation. You are a beautiful writer.

    • @tommyrosen says:

      Hi Jenna,
      Thank you for this note. I like the suggestion of a 10-day Vipassana. I've not yet had that experience and KNOW it would be incredibly powerful for me. It is on the list, perhaps even for this year.

      Regarding the fact that you have had experience "playing with drugs recreationally" I would definitely suggest the Vipassana and also that you come to LA to take 30 days of yoga classes from expert teachers in every discipline. Definitely reach out to me if you need a nudge to the right classes and, of course, check out Yogaglo.com and Gaiamtv.com for a practically unlimited and very inexpensive sourse of yoga classes online. All the best. –Tommy

  16. Michael says:

    Nice article, though you could replace Ayuhuasca with any drug, with any religion, with any practice really. It all depends on your personal view and set of beliefs. Some say religion is wrong and drugs are right, or vice versa. Some say religion is right, and will try yoga, but do not practice or believe in it. I myself experienced very intense drug use at a young age, from about 17 to 21 I was taking MDMA, mushrooms, dmt, peyote, occasional heroin, cocaine, ketamine and marijuana. In very large quantities, at very short intervals. My experience was that I became a much stronger person after quitting, cold turkey. I do not prefer to talk about these things anymore if I can help it, but am completely open about the subjects. The mind is a powerful thing, in both good and bad ways. I've never been to rehab, and I have my own set of beliefs that I abide by that I would describe as spiritual. My reason for quitting, was that after one mushroom "trip", a hardcore belief was etched into my brain. I don't need any of this! In the end I'm so pleased that I had the experiences I did (I would say substances made me who I am), prior to using substances I was a problematic anarchist hell bent on defying everything. The open mind is a powerful thing! (In a good way, not a bad).

  17. Big Daddy Zeus says:

    What are your thoughts Tommy on this? http://earthenergyreader.wordpress.com/2012/05/04

  18. Matt Dalton says:

    Thank you for writing this and for being willing to explore something that you sit opposed to, instead of trying to explain it. I appreciate that kind of candor with the self. I have never taken Ayahuasca, but may if it seems at some time there are symptoms that indicate the medicine. I too experimented with psychedelics in the 90's. I too am a yogi and meditate regularly. I think it's important to consider not only the indications of any "medicine" but also the dynamic intent behind the "treatment." So I thank you for taking the time to formulate your opinions and to consider an exploration of your perspective when it is so easy to just explain away that which does not sit so well with us.

    • @tommyrosen says:

      Thanks Matt. Grateful for this kind comment. I am looking within to find my way. Some days are better examples of that than others. Best to you.

      Tommy

  19. gurucharan Khalsa says:

    As a young man I studied drug impacts on rats, monkeys and people. Psychological, perceptual and genetic at that time. When I went through college I was in the wave of psychedelia as a potential mind opener or establishment breaker- out of the constrained fifties, to the wild sixties to the disoriented seventies. I also worked with many drug programs to offer rehab to multidrug users and became very familiar with drug effects plus and minus. My own hit is simple. The real question is how we handle extraordinary experiences and what is the cost/benefit of any approach to those. I choose the drugless path since I believe it is more interesting and sustainable to learn to invoke your own chemistry + consciousness. It develops the Self and the capacity of choice nicely that way. With any extraordinary experience- whether drug induced, meditation invoked, imposed by social conflicts or arising spontaneously- we either deny it, wrap our self around it like a focus that redefines our self, or we integrate it with our other capacities and roles. That is why those who encounter the extraordinary in drugs do best when helped to integrate them with a strong cultural and group basis. You see this used now in the renewed studies of the successful use of psilocybin at UNM for end of life treatment. I do not use terms like"sacred" or "medicine" in relationship to natural drug use. All that is sacred and healing resides in our individual heart and soul. So I recommend self reliance and exploration with meditation as a steady way. And yes , I wish the best for all those who seek the extraordinary through whatever more risky means they encounter. Many people I have known got such moments in the midst of battle and stress serving their country for example. Then meditation helped to integrate experiences and in other cases to calm the storm of PTSD. ….My appreciation for Tommy and his colleagues for the open hand and conversation they provide on this to all.

    • @tommyrosen says:

      Thank you for this reply, GuruCharan. I absolutely love this: "I do not use terms like"sacred" or "medicine" in relationship to natural drug use. All that is sacred and healing resides in our individual heart and soul. So I recommend self reliance and exploration with meditation as a steady way." So powerful. Grateful for you.
      Tommy Rosen

  20. Francis says:

    I will only say this – as someone who has practiced yoga for 20+ years, and who likely saw some of the same Dead shows you did – though aya may appear similar in ways that you mention, to me it shares nearly no commonality with LSD, psilocybin, or other entheogens. Those hinted at connection to source, and left a sense of chaos and lack. Aya is connection to source my friend. I'm not saying there aren't other ways to get there, and I'm not going to stop my yoga or meditation, but this is a call to come together as spiritual warriors and heal our planet and ourselves unlike any I have experienced. Do I condone all the ways it is used? No. But what would Krishnamacharya think of YAS (you know, yoga and spinning, without the sanskrit bs?)

    Only the individual can know what is the best path for her/him. Most are circuitous and have many stops.

    Love you brother,

    • @tommyrosen says:

      Francis, Thank you so much for this comment. Again, as an "outsider" I cannot comment on the actual effects of Ayahuasca. In a previous comment, Gurucharan said this: "I do not use terms like"sacred" or "medicine" in relationship to natural drug use. All that is sacred and healing resides in our individual heart and soul. So I recommend self reliance and exploration with meditation as a steady way." That really makes the most sense to me. Sending Love and gratitude to you. –TR

  21. Chez says:

    hehehe..I am from Australia and have never heard of this drug..maybe I need to get out more. But then again, I think I enjoy the inward journey more still. It costs nothing, it's healthy and creates peace in my life. I think people who use drugs to "Open their minds" are just being impatient. I have not experienced a huge opening yet, but I am determined to do it the natural way..and be patient. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't. It's not for me to decide. Yoga & Meditation are my medicines. Love is the cure all. xx Namaste

  22. 1Love says:

    Thank you, Tommy, for your insights and wisdom. I believe those who live their lives with Divine Love and Compassion, whether they practice yoga and meditate or are simply kind people who serve and give unconditionally, are the true Peacemakers. I had never been a person who was interested in recreational drugs. It was never even an allure. But, after taking an Ecstatic Dance Workshop with a Shaman Healer, I was invited to attend a Sacred Tea Ceremony. After a required interview with the Shaman, I decided to partake in the journey. There was so much devotion and reverence surrounding the ceremony. My experience was nothing short of transformative. The interesting thing that happended was at the beginning of my journey I was actually reprimanded by Spirit for taking the Tea. I was told I did not need to. I was then told, since I did anyway, I would have to work for it. I would have to reenact everything I was experiencing so that I could show/teach others what it was like to journey. So, for 12 hours straight, I sat erect with white candle in front of me, hands falling into ancient mudras and ritualistic dance moves, and sounds releasing that could have only come from the depths of Soul. After the sacred entity released from me it was as if I gave birth. I brought the substance home and didn't know what to do with it. I decided to flush it down the toilet–only to see it literally spiral out of control UPWARDS and flow into an almost unstoppable flood. The substance was still whole and floating. I ended up burying it near a tree with a special ceremony. It was after that that I found Kundalini Yoga (or it found me) and realized that I had been reinacting the same mudras and kriyas in my journey. Two weeks later, I also had a vision that left me in a pool of absolute light (with no window in sight.) It was the realization of my IAM Presence. I believe we choose every experience and that everything is for a reason. My desire is to love my Self and to love all without criticism or judgement. To not only realize and live with gratefulness for the joy of life I have been given by the Mighty IAM Presence within me, but also to recognize it and salute the Divinity in all beings/things. Thank you for offering this discussion and for sharing your love and light so generously.

  23. jamiestein39 says:

    An interesting article, and as someone who has sat with the medicine numerous times, I agree to an extent. More specifically, I agree that the real work starts once the ceremony is over, and I feel you need to have tools to actually integrate what you've learned and experienced into the actual application of your life. I cannot count the number of times I have been demoralized and disheartened by the lack of grounded-ness I perceive in people that I have sat with – people who get consumed with the great cosmic path of their so-called spiritual evolution and the world's evolution as a means to avoid really dealing with themselves. All the proclamations about serving the world and reaching "enlightenment" seriously make me want to barf because they come off as so disingenuous, and as an attempt for people to escape their own humanity, rather than actively deal with their own humanity. THAT SAID, I would in no way compare ayahuasca to other psychedelics. To me, there is absolutely no comparison. The fact that the author essentially refers to it as a "drug" shows a certain ignorance about it. The medicine is a deeply spiritual experience, one that is unlike any other – it is deep, reverent, purgative and healing. It demands a respect and humility that is unfortunately lost on a lot of people. Especially the humility part. That said, the same can be said of almost anything – how many people do yoga for the sake of being a transcendent yogi rather than dealing with their shit? The lack of humility is a troubling thing, but it is not the fault of the medicine.

  24. Zach Leary says:

    Tommy – I think you wrote a very good piece here from the seat of the recovering addict. It's very difficult to look at this situation objectively when 12 step doctrines dictate a firm stance of no substances at all, ever. With that said you did a great job expressing your non judgment of those who choose to take these sacred medicines. I applaud you for that.

    I'm chiming in here because I do feel I have quite a bit to offer here – I am a recovering addict in NA and also lived with Timothy Leary for nearly 18 years and am a bhakti yogi. From my seat I see this issue very clearly.

    The issue to me here is about methods and your attachment or disdain for specific methods. Let us not forget all methods are traps. The moment you get fanatical about your chosen method it traps you and no longer serves you. Yoga is a method, mediation is a method and psychedelics are a method. No one is greater than the other. They can all lead to ones inner ability to love when used correctly. Many spiritual purists hate to hear that because one of these methods has what society likes to label as a "drug" as part of it's practice. And society as a whole likes to perpetuate a war on some "drugs" while it simultaneously pushes a use of other "drugs" to heal some condition or another. And 12 steppers immediately have a knee jerk reaction because they feel taking any "drug" is deadly, combined with the fact that many 12 steppers (i'm not saying you) are bitter because they can't use anymore. Let us not forget that the great Bill W took LSD 3 times with great admiration before he sensed it had no sustained use for him, but he did "get it."

    I personally support the use of all methods if one has pure intentions and guidance behind then method. We all know that many gurus and yoga teachers have abused their power and harmed their students permanently. But does this make yoga or having a guru dangerous? Of course not. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Same with psychedelics. Our world is a very different place thanks to psychedelics and anyone in their rationale mind would have to admit that some of that difference is wildly positive.

    However, I will admit one issue that we all must be aware of that frankly bothers me a great deal. And this is the core of the modern Ayahuasca "issue" as far as I'm concerned. There are far too many dial-a-shamans out there who feel that they are qualified to lead these Ayahuasca ceremonies because they studied with a peruvian mystic for two weeks. This is a great farce. I 100% am certain that the intelligent application of psychedelics and lead to tremendous results (even for the recovering addict) but the modern Ayahuasca movement is growing too out of hand because there aren't enough qualified leaders out there guiding these very sensitive seekers. This will only lead to problems and abuse. Anytime someone asks me about taking a possible journey I always ask them to make 100% sure that they are being led by the real thing and not the local dial-a-shaman. We are dealing with peoples souls here and just like the 60's this powerful and positive medicine can get out of hand if it's treated with abuse and disregard. But do I think it should be ignored all together? No. There's too much positive research on paper and in our society to show that this method of spiritual growth, like many others, is valid and it's only our ego based projection of fear that labels all "drugs" are bad.

    Let us tread gently and with love and caution.

  25. Piper says:

    Thanks Tommy for opening this hot topic!

    I am also a yoga teacher and have journeyed with medicine. Both can be abused (yoga for yourself VS watered down yoga to make money – and medicine with a Shaman in Peru in the spirit of love and gratitude, VS medicine with a group of people mith very mixed intentions in the West).

    The biggest obstical in both 'yoga' and 'ayahuasca' is THE SPIRITUAL EGO. This is the ego that wants spiritual growth, an ego that reinvents itself with such stealth that it goes unoticed. E.G. You can get the same insights after 1 authentic Ayahuasca journey as you can get after maybe after 2-3 years of a good strong tantric hatha yoga practice. So for the spiritual ego Ayahuasca is a short-cut and therin lies it's one and only addiction, hence all the yogis who do it!

    Yoga at least offers you some tools to use in your daily life and can bring a lot of awareness. Yet so many ashrams and Gurus are inventing practices which lead you to RUN away from 'the now' and go off on a spiritual tangent, the medicine however puts the breaks on and brings you to a complete stop (if you are aware enough to notice this).

    Both Yoga medicine and Ayahuasca medicine need to be consumed or practiced regularly to reep their benefits…

    …However this is a paradox as the 'Spiritual Path' is another delusion again. What path is there in Truth? When Truth arrives there is no more yoga practice, there is no more medicine, there is only what is left once the spiritual path is surrendered, and you are left living a life as Tilopa says 'Loose and natural' then integration is natural, then unity blossoms all around you by itself.

    Yoga or Medicine 'could' help to bring you to a beautiful 'stand still' but BEWARE the spiritual ego in both pursuits!

  26. Rose says:

    I did a traditional dieta in Peru, not in Iquitos, where all the tourists are headed off to, but in another place much further south. The man I worked with was old, he looked about 80, but he was full of vitality. He ran ceremonies at a center run by westerners. We developed a bit of a relationship and what he shared with me was this, "I worked hard to become a doctor. I spent 4 years out in the fields working, learning medicine. There are so many healing plants out there. But these gringos, all they are interested in is light (referring to the characteristic visionary DMT experience that is part of ayahuasca)."

    Ayahuasca is the centerpiece of an entire tradition of medicine. It is threatened and should not be exported to LA and used out of context. Ayahuasca is so much more than a drug and a psychedelic but people take it and treat it as if that is all there is to it. And this behavior is as you say, dangerous and misguided.

  27. Tesla says:

    The comments are many and varied, some from those who have never had the experience. For me, a non drinking, non-caffeine, non drug person I deeply considered whether or not to 'sit with the medicine', the mother, when it presented itself to me.
    So when I did eventually sit with it I had nothing to compare the experience to, just to accept it for what it was.
    My first journey was purging a lot of issues, hangups, disconnects with my parents, past hurtful relationships and then I found peace and an understanding that we are all totally connected, to each other, to the trees, to the planet. Oneness
    The medicine, being a natural plant substance, not some chemical concocted in a lab, does bring mother nature forward into our being to support, love and nurture. I don't believe that anything I saw or realised was 'made up' or a hallucination, but was indeed always there and the medicine simply allowed me to see it.
    When you think of the range of frequencies that exist, from zero to billions of cycles and realise that our eyes and bodily sensors can only detect a minuscule range of these, visible light for example, you have to wonder what else is there that we cant normally see. The medicine expands our viewpoint.
    My journeys always have a deep theme of unconditional love and acceptance and I find that it has a lasting effect on my understanding and perception, a continuing learning for days, months afterwards. I dont 'need' the medicine all the time, having had a total of 5 journeys over a period of a year, and I am sure that there will be a time when it no longer calls me, when my work is done.
    For two amazonian plants, neither of which have any effect on the human body taken individually, to come together to create a chemical that only exists in our brain, that we already create in order to dream, that allows us to 'lucid dream' and 'journey' I think is nothing but divine knowledge.

  28. [...] mushrooms, I have long held some fear about the wisdom or Jnana that the medicines of San Pedro and Ayahuasca can teach [...]

  29. Julian Walker julian walker says:

    great piece tommy!

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