(Reflections from Speaking at a New York State University)
‘I killed a poisonous spider around 4 AM, still sobering up from the high of mariacon’.
Mariacon is the native Amazonian word for the peak of Ayahuasca, a jungle medicine used by Shamans and those seeking answers to all that they wonder within and around them.
I responded to his big, curious, possibly stoned eyes, anxious for details on sightings of flesh-eating spiders in the Amazon.
Wait - so there’s no electricity?
A few hours of hand-help lights that we charge in the sun each day.
Why are there so many cockroaches?
Was it scary?
Is this sacrilegious?
Does anyone know that you do this?
The questions of a college class full of twenty-somethings was sort of like being in a press room. The fact-finders are mostly comprised of Journalism and Communications majors and it was my honor to be there on the first cool Tuesday of November, sharing about the work that I participate in in the Amazon Jungle and how it relates to their study of cultural connections. My work is deeply rooted in the communication to the Soul, to nature and to one’s truest self.
I began our deep conversation with a lighthearted, Type-A, eagerness like that of a mother telling her child every necessary piece of advice before leaving home for the first time. I felt a certain responsibility, and sense of gratitude, for having a platform in which to share the things that I needed to hear most as a college student and one that I remind myself of daily - particularly when covered with cockroaches. “If you can take one thing away tonight from what I share, it’s that the way that you communicate with yourself is the foundation for all of your interpretation of success and failures in life”.
I was feeling the symmetry of humility and precociousness, as only moments before entering Farmingdale State College I sat in the driver’s seat of my parked Audi and contemplated options of my next steps:
- poop and vomit
- turn the car around and say I got a flat tire - or worse, a dramatic accident that I was somehow safe in
- turn the car around and blame my toddler for being sick… or my elderly neighbor… or my cat (that I don’t have)
- enter the hall with a sudden case of laryngitis and mime out my speech
I get this way every time I speak publicly.
In a masochistic way, I embrace it. It’s a sort of barometer for balls - the brass kind. I love living in the edges. I seek out corners and push them as hard as I can. When I withdraw, I come in as close as I can.
They say that we teach what we must learn - and this night was no exception.
Lesson 1: Learn to interpret yourself.
Learning to understand what you say to yourself is what moves you from car to classroom and comfort to growth.
Whether you’re commuting or in front of a class or a student just learning to create good copy or covered in Shipibo clothing two hours from civilization, all communication starts with(in) you.
Lesson 2: Listen to the language of your audience.
While I shared my experience and understanding of the people of Peru, the retreat center I work as an assistant healer with, and the depth and beauty of the nature of their language, I was asked for more clarity on the logistics (and lack of comfort) of the experience rather than the experience itself.
The people that join plant medicine retreats in Peru and other indigenous tribal communities are seeking a soulful contact with the Universe, with themselves, with the vastness of all that lives within our minds and hearts and humanity that is often only grazed upon through pathways of enlightenment such as that of a yogi, or monk, or blessed nun, or of native Americans.
The Ayahuasca journey is a way to put senses to words that have not yet been written, to speak to a part of yourself you couldn’t hear before and to interact with feelings in a way that doesn’t involve touch. It’s a complex and multi-layered concept to comprehend for those who have not had a personal awakening and desire for such experiences. It’s equally personal and intricate to describe the varying layers and intersections of communication with Ayahuasca.
For those that have used plant medicine for healing, most agree that it’s about learning to let go, to trust, to walk outside of your comfort zone, to become one within your heart.
And in the most mysterious way, I believe that the jungle, came to provide explanation for those in the computer lined classroom that day.
See, as the almost-graduates asked about insects and sleeping in bungalows and the impact of judgement from those around me, the jungle spirit was doing her magic. The students themselves, with their very American questions, were practicing the earliest form of communication; questioning. They were asking me the questions, of course, but behind their words was an inner dialogue happening so quickly, it’s imperceptible to anyone’s working consciousness.
Somewhere within them, wonder arose; could I do this? Would I do this? What does this mean in relation to me? Why would I ever want to do this? and the track goes on, comparing and contrasting conceptions, considering meaning and making connections to all known encounters in their so-far, college-age lives.
And this is the communication of the Shipibo, of the jungle, of the way mother nature and human existence intended: to communicate is to seek, to wonder, to question…
Was it scary?
Does anyone know that you do this?
Did you know that you do this?
Lesson 3: Life is always answering, so keep asking.