Ooooh….This is a good one
If you have been following my journey over the past 10 years you might have noticed that the way I identify myself professionally has morphed and evolved. How I work with clients has largely stayed the same, but my title has not. Depending on how people find me, they think of me as being one type of coach or another.
I am a Life Coach. This always seemed like the catch-all. I started out as a Holistic Health Coach, but only worked that before my sabbatical. If you search on Yelp I rank in the top 3 for both Life and Career Coaches in NYC. So many think of me primarily as a Career Coach. Over the past couple of years the growing majority of my clients became CEO’s and other executives. When they refer me to a colleague running their own company they hire me as an Executive Coach (first new page on my website in a while!). All of this was actually expected and is basically par for the course. It’s a kooky unregulated industry. My most recent titles I did not anticipate. Things are getting weirder.
Because I insist that my clients be open to discussing and working with all areas of their life it is hard to predict where things will lead, but I always assumed it would all fit within the “life” realm….until recently. Witness the birth of Death Coaching!
My client D.S. Moss created a podcast called The Adventures of Memento Mori. Memento Mori translates as Remember to Die. The idea is that, through contemplating impermanence one might really start living. This journey has led us through some truly strange and beautiful explorations, and now, in the last two episodes, to Peru, where he offers his ego up to the plant medicine of the local shaman. Believe it or not, this is not the first time I have been an Ayahuasca Coach, but it is the first time I can take you along!
This is work that gets my juices flowing. Who AM I? What lurks in the depths of my shadows? How do I kill my ego? All of the big philosophical questions smash head on into heroic doses of psychedelics in the final episodes of this absolutely brilliant podcast. Every week he explores death and our relationship to it through a new lens. I believe I am in the first episode, the last two, and maybe one more. The whole podcast is worth the journey. The last episode of the first season (episode #14) where the ayahuasca ceremonies actually happen, is particularly bewitching. Listen with headphones if you can. He really captures the sounds of the ceremony space. It brought me right back to my first ceremonies in Brazil.
What were your major rites of passage?
Are there major transitions in your life that you feel lacked, but should have been marked by such a ritual?
I have often wondered about the hell that was my teenage years. So many seem to languish there never truly sure when they have transitioned into adulthood. In other times/cultures I might have been put through a trial or ritual. I might have tasted death. Perhaps I would have returned with a new appreciation for life. As it was, I think the closest I came to a real rite of passage was my use of psychedelics. My experiences with ayahuasca in particular were revelatory (the picture above is of the ceremony space where I was
Join me for a discussion about Rites of Passage this coming Monday, June 17th at 7pm at One Spirit Learning Alliance in NYC. I’m hosting as part of our monthly series of Integral explorations, but the evening will be led by the wonderful Mackenzie Amara. All are welcome. Here is the info on the integral group on Meetup.com. You can find out more details about the event and RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/kenwilber-58/events/112904392/. The invitation that went out is below.
Traditionally, rites of passage are the ceremonial rituals surrounding the transition from one life stage into another. Birth, childhood to adolescence/adulthood, marriage, childbirth, adulthood to elderhood, secret society initiations, and death are some longstanding examples from indigenous communities. Anthropologist and historian Mircea Eliade explained that a rite of passage, no matter the life stage in question, opens the doors for the initiate to receive the spiritual teachings of his/her community. A rite of passage is an initiation into the cultural mythos, the spiritual wisdom of the collective.
The Western world is largely void of these ceremonial passages, a deficit that results in distinct pathologies. Psychologist Bill Plotkin refers to the Western psyche as “patho-adolescent,” meaning it possesses all of the psychological pathology of adolescence, without harnessing the evolutionary potential.
Mackenzie Amara is a student of psychology and passionate about the potential that the archetype of initiation holds for our collective evolution. In this evening’s discussion, we will explore the history and context of traditional rites of passage, what potential they hold for unlocking a collective awakening, and what modern developmental psychology has to offer us in paving this new road.
Todays news changed everything.
If you make it all the way through this you may understand a little better.
I’m reeling in disbelief at the moment.
I imagine I will cry about it later.
This post was written in the preceding week
Ceremony #3 – 130ml
Intention – Purpose
When I was living in Raleigh, North Carolina I became very close friends with Antoinette. Antoinette led a meditation group that I was a part of. She is a healer. She currently makes her living through massage and reiki, but is in the process of becoming a midwife. I spoke to her on the phone before leaving for Brazil and she offered to be available during the ceremonies if I wanted to reach out to her in some way. I said something stupid about how I’d tell her what she was wearing when I saw her. She said that if I wanted to meet up on an astral plane than that could be fun, but that she was hoping to meet up somewhere higher. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by higher, but I agreed and left it at that. I then forgot about it and never told her exactly when the ceremonies would be.
This ceremony is the hardest to relate by far. It was an exceptionally personal manifestation of the transpersonal and is also just fucking weird. The back story is just personal, though not just my person. I will do my best to set up the experience without saying too much.
I fell in love when I was about 13. We were neighbors and used to sneak out of the house at night and look at the stars. She always had a boyfriend and I never told her how I felt. Many years of intermittent friendship and silence followed before our paths crossed in NYC. We spent beautiful, drunken nights kissing in the rain and declaring our love. We moved in together shortly there after. Less than a year later I asked her to move out to take care of herself. We maintained something long distance for a few months leading up to a party at a friends house.
Many young couples were there; many of them with their children. I knew that this was what I wanted, a family of my own, but the events of the evening showed me that she was not yet ready. I told her that I did not want to see her until she had three months of health (I’m being vague cause it’s only partially my story).
Some months later it was new years, I was in Boston writing music with David and I needed to go pick up my cat, Agape, from her apartment. She calls me the night before and tells me that she is 4 months pregnant. It is not mine. We had not been together in about six. She looks pregnant when I see her.
We still talk a little and are friends. I will always love her in many ways, but our lives do not seem to be aligned. She is in a tough situation with the unplanned, but wonderful gift of pregnancy and I want to be supportive of her as a friend. That was about how far I had considered the situation and it was not my (conscious) intention to dig much deeper. I had my own selfish work to do. This ceremony was to be about my purpose.
I decided to attempt to keep my eyes closed this time. In the previous two ceremonies I tried to keep my awareness in the room. I kept my eyes open and called for all hallucinations to work with that which was already present. This time I invited any and all visions to come as they choose. I started this process by closing my eyes and attempting to envision a door directly in front of my third eye. This alone was very difficult to hold at first.
I did not work with any type of mantra or other words. If anything, this night I was attempting to access emptiness as a means of creation more than any other. Other than the door, I worked to free myself from any and all thoughts as they arose in my awareness. I began to cultivate a stillness as I sat in my meditative posture.
I laid down much quicker this night than the others; well before the one hour mark. This is where the discomfort began and it became extreme.
My ex-girlfriend came into my awareness. It became clear to me that I had not dealt with her impending baby. She was then about 7 ½ months pregnant. I was aware and at peace with this as a fact, but had not in any real way dealt with this new person as a person.
As I lay on my back it started to become clear that this is what I was doing. For some reason this unborn child was firmly planted in my awareness at this moment. To say I chose this wouldn’t quite make sense. I started to feel a pull to curl up into a fetal position. As in meditation, I simply noticed this and then did my best to remain still with it as we had been instructed by Sylvia. When meditating I have often been informed that when impulses to act arise it is best to notice them and let them pass. If I am sitting on the cushion and I think ‘Oh shit, I need to call the vet!’ it is best to recognize this, create a space for this to be necessary, but to recognize that it does not have to happen now. If the thought arises again, then the same noticing, labeling, letting go is used. If the thought arises 4, 5, 6 times, then quite possibly you should get up off the mat and go call the fucking vet. Meditation is not to be used as an escape from our responsibilities to the world. If something is important, than by all means give it your attention. Much in this way it became important for me to curl up on my right side facing Cida, Nara’s mother. What followed is quite difficult to explain and was amazingly hard to experience. I will do my best.
What I eventually began attempting to do was to bring her unborn child into the room with me. I can’t explain why, but it seemed like something I needed to go through, something I was afraid to confront, or just something that was happening that I needed to be present with. The explanation that I am offering from here on in should sound impossible. What I experienced felt true and may always be possible and/or happening, but only as the result of a vastly increased, or strongly altered, perception of reality.Time, space and the boundaries of self/other become incredibly transparent. I experienced many things at once that consensus reality claims must exist separately. I’m not claiming some sort of power nor am I claiming to have lost touch with reality. I will simply explain my subjective experience as I experienced it. This is one form of truth, let’s call it truthfulness.
I began by simply attempting to visualize or visually hold this unborn child in the room. She did not come easily. Luckily when she did come it was with the womb, as this might have otherwise been fairly messy. What I experienced in my attempts to hold her there was, ultimately, the process of becoming her. I must be clear that I was not interested in picturing her in my mind. I was attempting to share something much more profound with her. It felt as if she was reaching out to me in this moment and it was less of a choice and more of a realization that what I needed to do was share this moment with her. I needed to hold her here with me….as me.
In my attempts to do so, in my attempts to be with her, despite the necessary ‘breaking of the rules’ of time and space that this implies, I was not able to only break the rules in the ways which might make this easy for me, they were simply disappearing all together.
What the hell am I talking about?
With each glimpse, with each moment of her entering my awareness came a flood of other information. In my attempts to be with her here and now the enormity of the ever present eternity that is now came rushing in. It was intensely painful, joyful, uncomfortable and overwhelming. I honestly felt that it was destroying me and that there was no way that I could do it myself, if it was possible at all. It felt like way too much information for me to handle. I was writhing on my mat, letting out gasps and sighing as I swallowed the enormity of so much truth. I felt shattered and alive, awake and overwhelmed. I was instantly experiencing her throughout many different, perhaps all moments in her life. I met new people, went different places at different times in her life. And in each and every moment I was feeling things, places and people through her….as her. I/she fell in love, went to college, experienced joy and loss and adventure. This remained incredibly uncomfortable for quite some time. I can not accurately describe the sensations. There were far too many of them all at once.
At some point though it seemed to begin to be possible to be with her here and now. She came into the ceremony space with me. I wasn’t sure how, but something had changed. Later, when things had calmed and I was able to be more aware of some of my other senses I would realize that there was someone behind me, a warm mothering presence that was helping me to hold Addison here and now. Antoinette had come to help bring this child into my world. I didn’t have to look, but I knew that she was there.
Part of an unborn child’s experience, the most stable part at this moment, is being in the womb. This obviously involves an almost constant in and out of liquids; a feeding and dumping cycle that is incredibly fluid in the most literal of ways. With increasing doses of ayahuasca one thing that seems to be present for people is purging…..puke. I have theories about why this is, but haven’t had much direct experience to confirm/deny these theories with. I have a relatively solid stomach and other than the fleeting awareness of the possibility and the momentary sensations that accompany this I have not seriously considered doing so…until now. Something about sharing this experience, how ever real this was or seemed, made the possibility of purging incredibly real and present. I maintained, kept that part of my insides internal. But it was a very real sensation of being in such a vulnerable and formative state. And something else did come up.
What became apparent, through a wall of tears and sighs, of pain and smiling, deep breaths and long moments without any, was exactly what was happening here in this mess of time and space, as self and other were falling away. I was falling in love with my ex-girlfriends unborn child. It is a strange realization that I don’t expect to completely make sense to you. In many ways it does not matter if this child is a part of my day to day life or if I never actually meet her. I already love her. Always will. Perhaps always have…not really sure how that one works. I don’t mean this in any superficial or easy going sense. The implications of this were huge and difficult to digest; such a sense of what can be lost and what gained. I felt overwhelmed, grateful, scared and absolutely full of love. The impact of this realization is enormously powerful to me still.
In relation to my initial intent in this ceremony, to explore purpose, I now felt the weight of my creative potential in a whole new way. The enormity of creating a child carries a whole new weight. The question of what I am doing, right now, to make life easier for this and every other child in the world is present in a new way. The many ways that we are each connected (ultimately have never been apart to be connected) holds a bit more weight in my mind than it ever has before.
Many have long recognized that dreams contain symbols, metaphors, archetypes. Dreams allow us to not only see, but experience situations that can be symbolic of greater truths. What I experienced with this child was a connection to the unborn, to the life that is to come and also to the process of life as it is now coming, being, suffering and rejoicing. It was an intensely personal experience, but the implications of it were so far beyond me and her, my life and hers. The whole experience was simultaneously an individual realization of potency and smallness, of responsibility and of insignificance. It compels me to witness and to embrace, to provide for and to appreciate. I’m rambling on because words suck at relating such an experience. I think I’l
It would be mistaken to view my transpersonal interpretation of this personal experience as being a distancing from the personal aspect. It is intensely personal, all the more so because of the universal truths that it symbolizes.
When I wrote this I realized that before I published it I should call my ex-girlfriend to have her read it and tell me if she was ok with it being online.
I just got off the phone with her. She asked, “Devin, when did this happen?” – I told her the date.
“Devin, what time of day was this?”
The ceremony described above happened on the night of April 6th leading into the morning of April 7th. “Devin, I was in the hospital at that time.”
At 3:27am on the morning of April 7th, while I was in the ceremony space, her child was born.
She was 10 weeks premature.
She died 4 days later.
I will never meet her.
…..now I’m crying
Ceremony #2 – 100ml
Intention = Emptiness
Emptiness isnone other than form. Form is none other than emptiness.
Upon drinking the ayahuasca I again return to my mat to sit cross legged and focus on my intention while I wait for the effects of the drug to begin. After about 35-40 minutes I begin to feel the ayahuasca coursing through my body as an intense energy. This, once again, is the uncomfortable part. I am looking to die tonight. I am offering up all that I associate as me for the taking.
I am very familiar with the mystical ideas of emptiness and nondual realization. I have a rational understanding of these concepts and am well aware of the notion that this is an inherent knowledge that we all have. There is nothing to learn, nothing to be gained, only the confusion that we have a separate self that must be released. I am aware of this, and in many ways I feel as if any attempts to chase this are futile. None the less I am seeking an experience of emptiness, of oneness with no two. It is often said that such an experience can be painful. I want to be beaten over the head with the death of my ego. I am ready for agony and what ever discomfort that comes is a gift when it is to this end.
As I sit on my cushion and the ayahuasca begins to move throughout my body it comes in many ways. It is incredibly uncomfortable. I am crying, burping, farting, and I want to smile. I create a space for each of these things, witness them without indulging them and watch as they pass. I sense that I am becoming more intimately in tune with my subconscious mind and in some way this feels wrong. I am not usually awake to this. The urge to throw up strikes me as an attempt to correct this, to get it out of my system. I allow this urge to surface, feel it in my throat and my stomach, but do not indulge it. It too passes. Intense visualizations come to me, but I do not indulge these either. They are there and they are fine, but without my desire to get lost in my senses they too fall away. A strong urge to sleep accompanied by deep yawns follows. I notice this and it too passes. I will not sleep through this. Perhaps this too is my bodies attempt to disconnect my conscious awareness from my subconscious mind.
I feel someone come up behind me and wrap their arm around my neck and begin to choke me. I know that they are trying to kill me. I feel my neck squeezed, my throat forced shut. This too is ok, and once it is accepted, it passes.
At the one hour mark Sylvia walks around the room and checks in with each of us by simply looking at us and saying ‘one hour’. Shortly after this point I feel as if the initial discomfort is out of the way. I have sat with it and now I can lie down and await my death. I am ready, eager even for pain. I am offering my body as a sacrifice to the divine. It’s all quite melodramatic. I, of course, get what I need and not what I want.
What comes to me is a gentle, motherly pat on the shoulder and a wonderfully compassionate, somewhat mocking voice that says
You get it.
It strikes me as funny, and I feel an immediate release of my grasping self. Yes, this is, and always has been true and I have always known that emptiness is none other than form. The ‘so what’ is immediately apparent to me as the vast creative potential that emptiness is. The realization is only as important as what I do with it. It is nothing unto itself, but it is also all of creation. That is what emptiness is to me, creative potential. I feel amazingly potent; ready for the world, and eager to contribute.
I fall in love with each piece of music that is played. Again I realize that what ever I do in life, music must be an integrated piece. Sylvia is playing wonderful tribal, electronic, chanting, percussive, shifting soundscapes. She plays ‘slate’, ‘pantry’, and ‘Entwine’, three pieces of my music that were recorded a few years ago in my studio with some friends. I gave her a few MP3’s and she said she would play them if it made sense. Hearing my music in this state is amazing; a gift.
I have visions of filling the ceremony space with the people in my life and using ayahuasca and playing music as a therapeutic experience. I work out the whole situation in amazing detail with the boundaries that would be established, the rules of engagement for each musician and even what Sylvia and her partner Zoey’s roles will be as facilitators. They will still man the ipod with their music and probably some extended rhythm tracks that I have created for the occasion. They will fill silence as needed, interrupt noise as desired and provide a launching pad for exploration if desired. Each participant will choose an instrument before the ceremony and this will be their means of communication with the world. If someone does not want an instrument than they will simply say the words ‘I accept that my instrument is my voice.’ Each participant will make a commitment to their speech that says ‘I commit to not use a word unless I am to use it deeply or often’. The idea being that we not fill the space with anything other than pure sound. If someone truly needs to chant the word love 1,000 times than there will be a space for this, but the idea is to be non-verbal when possible.
Each person will be confined to their mat, as we are in Sylvia’s ceremony, and we will be discouraged from dancing or even looking at other participants. This idea being that if you wish to express your self you do your best to channel this through your instrument. There will have to be a mix of skilled and unskilled musicians. Ideally there would be far more unskilled. I am not interested in complexity or technique. I am interested in truth of expression. This requires intention, not technique, but having some skill in the room will help.
I would probably record the whole mess, with some players being mic’d individually and the room being miked as well. I would then be able to chop the whole thing up into many pieces and assemble songs pulling from these sounds. I would make this available on iTunes and to Sylvia to use during ceremonies. Perhaps the backing tracks that I gave to Sylvia would be used at times as our tempo’s would probably be locked to this anyways. I indulge this idea for a while bringing different friends and instruments into the room. Many of the people I love have roles to play here as well.
A little later I wrote an article called Hiding that I am now trying to get published. I wrote about 1400 words that evening as I lay on my mat. I was able to see it as a whole, edit it, to move sentences and paragraphs around in my minds eye until it felt complete. I was shockingly lucid. When I went to my computer the next morning it was mostly just a case of typing it out.
This emptiness that I am feels amazingly potent. The creative potential is unbounded. I spent a great deal of time lying on the mat feeling capable and ready; awake and eager, inspired and divinely alive. I am still feeling energized by this right now. It is not as if anything new was necessarily known, more that barriers previously believed to be in place have fallen away. Hell fucking yeah.
Meditation can now hold a much different space in my day (when I actually do it). It is no longer a yearning, a striving, a practice for something. It is more of a celebration, a repose, a rejuvenation. Where before I felt a constant need for something to happen, for the process to move forward, as if there was completion to be had somewhere in the future, now I am simply sitting and allowing myself to be energized and inspired by what I already am.
Dreaming took on a new meaning to me during this ceremony as well. If emptiness is the causal ground of all being, the ever present formless and also the place into which we dip in deep dreamless sleep; herein lies creativity. I would then see the waking, walking world as that of form, of the manifest. This is karma as it arises in all four quadrants. If we then look at the sleep cycle we will see that the dream world, the world where subtle energies play free, lies directly between waking and deep sleep, between form and formless for a reason. It is here that we play with possibilities. Dreams can be a testing ground, an opportunity to mix all that is already with all that can possibly ever be. For sure there will be form that arises when we are awake that we have seen in dreams, for we may have planned it or intuited it there. It is in dreams that we tap into and create that which can and will become manifest in the relative world of form. It is also where we assimilate and grapple with the days events. We metabolize our experiences and churn them back into the formless. For it is from here that all arises and is ever present.
In many ways ayahuasca feels like a way to witness, to bring waking awareness and therefore a different level of interaction or control to this process of play with subtle energies.
Ceremony #1 – 60ml
Intention – Right livelihood.
How can I best use my gifts to be of service to others?
Part of Sylvia’s intention for the first ceremony is to figure out the proper dose for each of us. To that end (and because I didn’t take boost ups) this was my easiest experience. They got more interesting, more intense each time.
After drinking the oh so tasty beverage I return to my mat and sit in a meditative posture on the cushion. I keep my eyes open and maintain my presence in the room. I am calm and breathing deeply. I work with channeling my breath down through my chest, into my stomach, through my pelvis and then back up through my spine and out my head. At 40-45 minutes I begin to feel an intense energy moving throughout my system. It is looking for a place settle and its efforts are somewhat uncomfortable. I sit with it for 20-40 minutes and once I feel that it has been somewhat pacified I lie down on my back and relax surrendering to what may come.
In thinking of possible career paths one thing that I am dealing with is the power of corporations in this world. It seems clear to me that much of the movement that is happening, for better or worse, is being driven by companies. I do not in any way wish to support the demonization of commerce that so many seem so eager to scream about. I think that economics is a driving force in the world and I want to help those in power to cultivate a more conscious awareness of their actions so that they will feel compelled to make the most compassionate choices. An underlying faith in human decency is implicit in this desire. I blame ignorance, not evil and I recognize my ability to help others become increasingly conscious as one of my gifts and responsibilities to the world. To this end I have been attending FLOW (plug) NYC meetings recently. This is a group that works towards ‘liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good’.
One of my questions has been whether it makes the most sense to work directly with adults that are already in power, or if I could be more effective working with children who are still developing and will one day have more power. Obviously there is less inertia in children that must be combated, but also less ability to see the bigger pictures. There often seems to be more eagerness for transformation in kids, as this is inherent in growing up, but there is also a longer period of time between when the ideas will be understood, the consciousness awakened, and when they will be having a large scale impact on the world.
I have been trapped in this either or thinking for quite some time, attempting to figure out if I should be studying business or education. If I should be positioning myself in the corporate world or in schools and the questions of what type of infrastructure I should be considering creating has been wrestling with new schools or adult education/coaching centers.
The other powerful peace of my life that I have been consistently sidelining in this process has been music. I am currently working with David on not only developing curriculum for his Integral Judaism class, but also on writing an album that is reaching out to the world in an attempt to make the struggles and the joys that we experience day to day a little bit more of a shared experience. I have always had enormous respect for music’s ability to transcend boundaries of all kinds.
Another constant concern of mine has been creating community. There are many people in this world whom I have grown to love who I want and need to have around me on a consistent basis. Attempting to find ways in which we can both work and play together is difficult, but seems necessary to me. I want loved ones not only near, but involved in some of the ways in which I intend to nurture the world. They have much to give both to me and to those who I hope to be working with.
In this ceremony I had a vision of creating an ideation experience with Adam Henson. Adam works with large corporations to help them create ideas for new products, projects, campaigns, images etc. The vision that I spent much of the night cultivating was one of an experience that we could create for business leaders and their children. The idea would be to use music to connect these (probably mostly) men to their children and to the environment through sound, touch and food. The day might begin with a bit of a concert played by David and I and perhaps our band. This would simply be a chance for shared experience, for adults to be with their kids, to enjoy music together and hopefully to get a little bit excited about the energy that it contains.
Next we would begin to work with some of the mantra’s that we have been writing. This would be when we would get everyone involved. These are very simple and repetitive songs intended to induce a state experience. Each family (I think that the spouse, who likely tends to spend more time at home with the children, would not be with us) would be provided with instruments, hand drums and perhaps guitars or other melodic instruments, to play. They would now be encouraged to play along with the very simple and slow groove that we would be establishing on stage. My friend Amy, who is a music therapist and spends her time working with children helping them to express themselves through sound would be working the room with her staff. They would be encouraging everyone to get involved, to make sound however simple or complex. Those who have some training on an instrument would be welcome to show off, to share their skills with solos or other flourishes, but the main thrust would be parent and child communicating, connecting through music. I want each family to leave this event with a shared experience of the power of music to connect people physically, emotionally and spiritually. An experience and perhaps insight that will follow them home and be with them in the future each and every time that they hear music. We would send them home with CD’s and I expect that at least the children would be excited to play along again at home.
It must not be forgotten that the point of this experience is to free creative juices in powerful corporate executives, energies that will be used when creating new products for the world. We want these creative energies to be cultivated and also to be as aware as possible of their connection to the generations that are to follow.
I also envisioned my friend Antoinette to be on site with her staff. Antoinette is a healer. She works with massage, reiki and in many subtle ways to help people feel healthy and to free the energies that they may be trapping in their bodies. She is also in training to become a midwife. She is a goddess, feminine energy manifest in its most potent and nurturing form. I envisioned her to be in the room in two ways. Explicitly she would be there as a healer. Should be making the rounds as a hands on and off healer, cultivating the exchange of energy within each participant, but also between parent and child. There is certainly much healing and much growth to be done on many levels between parent and child and making this both possible and enjoyable is one of her gifts.
Implicitly (for now) Antoinette works with the process of bringing new life into the world. I would not have her explain to the crowd where babies come from, but as the mother, as a goddess, it is her nature to cultivate the energy of nurturing embrace, of creative birth in each of us. It is this understanding that she would carry with her and share with others as she and her staff move throughout the room working as healers.
I envisioned working with some other friends to connect participants to the earth through eating and learning about raw, organic food and by bringing plants into the room or by going outside for a walk. Too many details to figure out now.
I also realized what the little girl on the plane on the way to Brazil may have been experiencing. She was on a plane with her mother and they were on their way to Uruguay to visit their family. Where was her father? In light of these thoughts and thinking about just how much she seemed to be attracted to me and eager to engage me. I am now thinking that she probably does not have her father in her life as much as she needs; perhaps not at all. I feel as if I was temporarily filling this role, even if only in a superficial and playful way. When it came time for us to watch our separate movies or to eventually go to sleep I probably did not communicate this to her in a useful way. The language barrier was one thing, but I am left wondering if I could have somehow helped her to get to sleep and if in doing so helped her to avoid feeling abandoned by me when I did my best to ignore her so that I could try and sleep. It seemed then as if her lashing out with her feet and screams at me was an attempt to re-engage me. To draw me back into her world and out of my self absorbed sleep.
Often times we awaken too late for one thing, but it allows us to be more present to the next.
I arrived in the town of Itacaré in Bahia, Brazil at 2:30am. I met my roommate Jay, who oddly enough turned out to be a bit of an Integral geek and a Ken Wilber fan himself and went right to bed. When I woke up in the morning there were some people outside at the communal table on the porch of the building I was staying in.
The grounds are beautiful. Silvia has purchased 40 acres in the middle of the jungle and is transforming it into her own Shangri-la. There are cabins and paths, vegetable gardens and beautiful flowering shrubs and trees everywhere. There is a pond with a gazebo overlooking it where I got a massage from what may be the most beautiful woman I saw in Brazil. A 6 foot+ goddess with very little English who is apparently married to the surf instructor in town.
Itacaré is a cute little surfer town, the heart of which was a short drive from Silvia’s place. It occurred to me that much in the same way that the artists in cities such as New York are the bleeding edge of gentrification, the sentinels sent out to begin bringing money and white people into an area that many would otherwise consider undesirable. Surfers can often be the intrepid souls who make peace with the natives and encourage hotels, coffee shops, internet cafes and kitschy souvenir shops to open or begin speaking English and catering to foreigners.
Though I envisioned spending a good deal of time traveling around the area, Silvia’s land was so beautiful, peaceful and serene that I ended up spending most of my time there reading, hanging out with my new friends, ‘knitting on the dock of the bay’, reading, doing yoga and just being.
Surrounding the ayahuasca ceremonies Silvia engaged us in a couple of different therapeutic activities. We were taught different relaxation and meditation techniques. We worked with childhood regression techniques. We also were shown films on ayahuasca, shaman, healers, channels and a couple of more mainstream films. Silvia’s partner in all of this is Zoe 7. From their site:
Zoe Seven is an international lecturer, author, and cartographer of altered states of consciousness. He is the author of the books, Into The Void and Back From The Void – an on-going trilogy, which depicts his experiments fusing psychoactive plants and compounds together with computer-based neuro-technology devices (a.k.a “mind machines”). He has written for entheogen and neuro-technology related magazines including The AVS Journal, MAPS Bulletin, and the Entheogen Review, and has also been interviewed on radio and television programs.
Zoe gave a lecture with a power point slide presentation on much of his work and also armed us with images that can be used as visualization tools to promote healing energies during our ceremonies.
While there we ate a diet of locally grown organic food with no salt or sugar.
The ceremonies themselves took place inside of a building built specifically for this. The bottom floor is a dormitory which was flooded at the time and the top floor is where we did meditation, therapy and ceremonies. It is a large hexagonal (some number of sides, but almost round) room with a high open ceiling and lot of natural light.
The ceremonies, three in all, with a day of rest following each one, took place at night starting at 8 or 8:30. We all came to the center of the room with our cup of ayahuasca (it’s prepared as a drink) to state our intention and place it into the drink. We were each asked to state one intention for each ceremony. We then drank and returned to our mats. We were each given a mattress which were placed around the edge of the room. Mine was between Cida and Nara a mother and daughter whom I became extremely close to during my time there. It was very powerful being between them during ceremonies and I fell in love with them both within days of meeting them.
Silvia set up a few ground rules for the ceremony. We were asked to stay on our mats and to be as still as possible. We were not to speak to our neighbors unless spoken too. We each had a pillow and a blanket and a trash bag lined garbage can to vomit into. Silvia asked that we do our best not to vomit for the first hour. At the one hour mark she walked around the room and said ‘one hour’ to each of us. She then did this again at the two hour mark. At this time and for the next few hours we had the option to take a ‘boost up’ of more ayahuasca if desired. I didn’t want to be thinking about taking more during the experience, so I simply tried to get as much as they’d allow me down in the beginning.
Silvia played music throughout the ceremony and luckily she has great taste. It was beautiful and peaceful at times and challenging at others. At times she played nothing and we could hear the cacophony of wildlife outside; mostly frogs and crickets.
BACKGROUND AND TRAVEL
This should be the most boring post of this group. I have far too much to write about this trip to do it in one post. So I am going to break it up into 6 as follows (click on the links to jump around):
Analysis and other Crap
I met Walker at Amy and Eric’s wedding in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. They rented two large houses on the beach for a week and invited friends and family to come when they could; family in one house and friends in the other. Walker and I spent a lot of time talking raw food, consciousness and generally geeking out. A month or two later we were talking online like a couple of little school girls getting all excited about common interests and he suggested a trip to the Amazon to do ayahuasca. I, of course, agreed on the spot saying something to the effect of ‘let’s not talk about it, let’s just do it.’ Another month passed before Walker forwarded me an email from a friend recommending ayahuasca-healing.net as a resource. I agreed immediately that this was the place and decided to buy a ticket. We originally envisioned traveling to the jungle and then trying to find a shaman and convincing him/her to let us partake in a ceremony. The journey would have been the trip. Finding lodging, food, dealing with bugs, trying not to get killed etc would have required a lot of energy. At this place, which is run by a clinical psychologist named Silvia Polivoy, we would have cabins, bug nets, and a whole lot of locally grown organic food to eat. I was sold almost instantly.
I also assumed that we wouldn’t be dealing as much with the magical worldview of some primitive culture. This is important to me when it comes to the environment in which I will be unpacking and processing my experiences. We would instead be in a therapeutic setting with all activities being conducted in English. Big plus.
Arranging flights was eventful. Travelocity and TAM airlines make for a minimally communicative experience. I had to push pretty hard to get flights rearranged at one point when one of the legs of the flight that I was sold ceased to exist (but continued to be sold). It also became apparent early on that Walker was not going to have the monetary funds to make the journey. No problem, I’d go it alone.
I spent weeks before leaving preparing for this experience. I made a conscious decision to make this as transformative an experience as possible. I decided to be as vulnerable and to offer as much of myself to the experience as I could. In the spirit of this I did a lot of writing and worked with my ILP partner Amy with what I was coming up with. Without boring you with too many of the details I came up with six topics of exploration.
Career – How can I best use my gifts to serve the Kosmos – what is my purpose in life.
Relationship – Why don’t I have a family and how can I get one
Agape – I am skilled at engaging others with a challenging, transcendant masculine energy (eros). How can I become better at engaging others with an embracing, accepting, descendant feminine energy (agape)when this would be of greater help to them.
Six-Pack – I will be in the best shape of my life this year and the next.
Enlighten-up – Get enlightened and cultivate non-dual walking awareness and action.
Cognitive – What should I study? Do I need a teacher? School?
Armed with a decent amount of writing on each of these topics and ridiculous amounts of thought, much of it directed towards cultivating the most fulfilling career path possible (while struggling to engage my current career). I proceeded to get sick a couple of days before leaving.
Day 1 (and 2 (and the beginning of 3)) – Travel
Arrived at JFK at 6ish on Monday for a 7:40pm flight. I will be arriving in Bahia at 2:30am on Wednesday. It is currently 1:30pm on Tuesday and I have barely slept. I spent the majority of the 10 hour plane ride from NYC to San Paolo being kicked by a screaming, sleeping, 3 year old. I was kinda impressed too. We spent the first half of the flight as play buddies. I would try to read and she would unhinge my tray so it fell in my lap. We laughed for hours. Then it was time to sleep and someone was not having an easy time of it. She was in between me and her mother. She would lay her head in her mothers lap and her feet were by my side. Every once in a while for a few minutes at a time she would start thrashing, kicking her legs violently into my side, screaming and crying, all while still half asleep. That was fun.
When I got to San Paolo I had to get my luggage and then catch a shuttle bus to the other San Paolo airport. This was an hour and a half ride through traffic. I nodded off for a couple of minutes and woke up sweaty and confused. When we got to the airport I grabbed my bags, walked to the gate and was told that my plane was leaving in ten minutes and that I was too late. They sent me to another counter. These nice people told me that I could catch the same flight the next day. I said no, today. So they told me that I could catch a flight that leaves in about 10 hours…..at the airport I just came from. OK. It’ll cost you $100 dollars to change the ticket. NO, you booked this flight and told me I would have plenty of time to make the connection, this is your fault, you pay. OK. What they didn’t tell me was that I was actually going to have two flights. Instead of one 2 hour flight I am now waiting 10 hours to take 1 two hour flight and one 1 hour flight. I will arrive at Ilheus airport at 1am and then take a one hour taxi ride to the place I will be staying at. That fucking rocks.
I’m actually having a good time in the airport. I’ve met this dude named Kerem from Baltimore who is currently living on a little island off the coast of Brazil doing web design and producing music. Brazilian women seem to like us. I fucking suck at dialing international numbers. There are country codes, which aren’t needed when you are in the country, but are given to me as part of the number based on the assumption that I’m not ignorant. I am. There is also a 3 digit service provider number that must be dialed from the payphones in the airport that lets you choose your carrier. This is written clearly on the phone in Portuguese, which I don’t understand.