August 1, 2012

Ayahuasca By Any Other Name.

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.


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


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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