“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.” — Terrence McKenna
On tap today at TTP, a very special guest post: Shaman Zach Poitra, of Iglesia Del Despertar, on the proper use and mindset approach surrounding the use of Ayahuasca.
I’ve been very open about my on-going integration of this amazing plant medicine (see this, this and this, for example), for spiritual, personal development and entrepreneurial-mindset growth. This post is a continuation of that process.
Having taken part in *numerous* ceremonies with Zach, both with Iglesia Del Despertar and Comino Do Amor, I simply can’t convey in words how profoundly influential these two groups — and specifically, Zach’s work — have been in my life. I have become an altogether better coach, entrepreneur and visionary as a result of that process. Hell, I’ve simply become a better, more complete and effective human being through my guided and dedicated work with plant medicine. Zach is not only an accomplished shaman in his own right, but also a coach / teacher of apprenticing shamen. In short, he is a maestro in his chosen craft. A man possessing a level of mastery we should all aspire to within our own unique callings.
A quick intro and we’ll dive in: Zach was born in the Pacific Northwest, spent several of his formative years on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. He worked at an investment banker for ten years, and then in 2010 quit his job to move to Peru to study and immerse himself within the Amazonian Plant Medicine Shamanism culture. From 2010- mid 2014 he lived in Peru full time, studying under Maestros Gumercindo Galindo and Don Roldan Galindo. He is the founder of La Familia Medicina, Camino Do Amor and most recently Iglesia Del Despertar.
I consider myself fortunate to call Zach a good friend, and my life and spiritual coach. It’s my pleasure to introduce this lead-in explanation of his vast work and knowledge here.
And without further ado, here’s Zach. My comments will be relegated to…
…indented block quotes, like this…
How does Ayahuasca Work?
In this short write up I will do my best to describe how Ayahuasca works from a shamanic standpoint. This is somewhat challenging because the perspective taken by shamans or healers is very different from the western scientific, reductionist viewpoint. Therefore, I will not get into the western scientific definitions of how Ayahuasca works. If this western scientific perspective is of interest to you, there is a significant amount of that information available via the internet and various books.
First, It is important to point out that from a shamanic standpoint the difference between spiritual healing and emotional or physical healing is non-existent. The shamanic perspective is that the spiritual or energetic system is directly correlated with the mental, physical and emotional systems. In fact, the perspective is that if we can correct the imbalance in the energetic and spiritual systems, it will flow through to the mental, emotional and physical systems such that they become balanced. Taking it a step further, there really is no difference between these “systems” as they are part of the greater System. This perspective can be confusing for westerners as we have been conditioned throughout life to view our bodies in a reductionist vs. wholistic manner i.e. the idea that the mind or emotions are separate from the physical body, etc….. Really, to sum it up from a shamanic perspective, what we are looking for is connection (to the divine, the world, and to people), flow and harmony.
When the connection (channel) is clear and operating correctly, that leads to proper and efficient flow (energetic flow) which then enables harmony and well being in a spiritual, energetic, emotional and physical sense.
Many other ancient spiritual/healing “systems” take this approach as well. For example, we can look at both the Chinese medicine/Taoist cosmology with their meridian system and then we have the Indian Yogis who talk about the nadi system. These two approaches both talk to the concept that we are energy bodies with various energy sub systems. Some systems, like the physical system, simply being denser forms of energy.
These viewpoints ultimately do not differentiate between the spiritual, energetic, mental, emotional and physical. These are simply creating smaller systems within the larger to simplify their comprehension. However, they still keep the larger system in mind when tinkering with any of the sub-systems.
Because of this wholistic view regarding our connection to the divine via the energetic or spiritual body there is no differentiation between the words “sacrament” and “medicine”. In our view Ayahuasca is really a sacrament. It is a sacrament that quite literally cleans and opens the channel to the divine. Ayahuasca is a sacrament that contains “Christ Consciousness”, “Buddha Consciousness”, “Divine Consciousness”, “Gaia Consciousness”, “Unconditional Love” etc.… From my perspective, the terminology regarding this consciousness is not important. One can come to their own conclusions via direct experience as to how to describe the essence of the sacrament Ayahuasca.
When we take Ayahuasca into our bodies it is that “higher consciousness” or “higher vibration” that interacts with various “energies” that reside in our bodies. These “energies” are either in alignment with the resonance of the sacrament or they are not. The energies that are not in alignment with this higher vibration tend to be products of various negative traumas that we have experienced and held on to in our lives. Holding on to these traumas tends to cause tension or constriction in the system such that they cause “energetic blockages”. These energetic blockages then cause “energetic pools” that stagnate and one might say that they start to become putrid over time. These energetic blockages or putrid pools of energy kink up the system and can manifest as such things as negative thoughts, depression, anxiety, feeling disconnected from the world and other people (only a few examples).
Ayahuasca, as it goes through one’s system will start to loosen and clean out these energetic blockages in a myriad of ways. Sometimes the cleaning is quite physical through vomiting, going to the bathroom, sweating, crying, and shaking just to name a few. Sometimes the cleaning is through visions or lessons where one re-experiences a past trauma, negative thought pattern or receives instruction on how to live one’s life in a healthier way.
This cleaning process is a continual process. It is truly a process and a practice. Everyone is different in their starting point and their expression in the process. It can be quite challenging at times, particularly when the sacrament brings forth things that we have been avoiding or suppressing for a long time. However, as the process progresses, the cleaning becomes subtler and subtler. This happens as we clean out the denser energies and as we become more versed with our interaction with Ayahuasca.
Once we achieve what might be called a “baseline of energetic cleanliness” which could also be described as “all channels (relatively) clear” one may notice a feeling of connection. This feeling or experience is a direct connection with the consciousness of the sacrament. This connection then, can open up further to larger spiritual “vistas”. In turn, we can then tap into a larger wisdom, broader perspectives, and deeper understandings that we were not able to access before. This lack of access being due to the presence of our energetic blockages. With the channels clear one can experience a sense of connection, flow and harmony.
On a personal note, the “readjustment” of my ego to its proper status, vis-a-vis “other” (call it God, Divine, Universe, etc.) was — not to put it lightly — a fucking grueling process. A process, though, that I’m so very happy to have traversed. And that “grueling process” part is exactly why you don’t want to take part in this work outside of a highly experienced shamanic group.
It is very important to point out that Ayahuasca is not a “magic bullet”. That is Ayahuasca will not “fix” you. When doing any kind of spiritual work whether it be meditation, mantra, prayer, etc… there is a large personal component as one needs to put forth their own personal effort in the process. The practices or techniques will not bring forth results without this effort. As Ayahuasca is a sacrament and a spiritual practice, the same requirement applies.
The ceremony itself only plants the seed of what must be nurtured and cultivated long after the “thrill” of the ceremony has passed. Continued integration of what was realized in ceremony is where the *real* work — and benefit — is found.
As one approaches Ayahuasca and this practice, it is strongly suggested that one accept that this practice involves significant amounts of personal responsibility and commitment. It is important to understand, particularly in the beginning, that there most likely will be some challenges and discomfort. One needs to commit to the process, trust the process and keep moving forward through the process. It is not an easy path, but it is a path that can be extremely rewarding.
Peace, love and happiness,
Interested in more information on this transformative process? You can contact Zach and the fine folks of Iglesia Del Despertar at firstname.lastname@example.org
And for another, more Western view, of the benefits of Ayahuasca: check out this article published in Frontiers in Pharmacology: The Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization
From that article:
…We provided converging evidence that while DMT is a substance which produces powerful psychedelic experiences, it is better understood not as a hallucinogenic drug of abuse, but rather an agent of significant adaptive mechanisms like neuroprotection, neuroregeneration, and immunity…
Heal thyself, harden thyself; change the world —