Peru has become the Shambala for earnest and not-so earnest pilgrims seeking to commune with plant medicines.
By visiting the both the physical and online boards in the Sacred Valley of Peru, I can easily find access to ceremonies for ayahuasca, huachuma, jurema, bufo alvarius, wilka, peyote, kambo and tobacco (in snuff or liquid) all in one place, all in one week. I am reminded of sitting in a restaurant in South Korea, choosing my meal based the symbols that looked the nicest. For some people it is literally like this. The best ad gets the click.
To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with these medicines being served in a safe and contained way, as I too have been working with ayahuasca and guests for years. There are people in the valley that are working hard and doing a great job to educate travelers and keep them safe. There are also those passing through who don’t give two thoughts to assessing psychological/medical readiness.
My hope is to encourage travelers less familiar with this world, to reflect upon on the space given between working with various master teachers. Is there an adequate container around the ceremony to understand and integrate the lessons?
I have compassion for people traveling a great distance to heal. Most are traveling from countries in which the aforementioned medicines are considered criminal. Many are coming with in the middle of a life transition with little time and/or resources with which to make lasting change. Coming from a consumerist culture (not our fault), it is common to believe that more medicine, will obviously equal more cleaning and healing.
Unfortunately, I often see the opposite to be true.
Imagine coming to an ashram to seek a master. The first master gives you a list of instructions as to what is most important. You come across another teacher, who feels something else is really crucial and suggests you take their advice first. Then a third master comes along, adamant that both the previous teachers are full of hot air and they is the true master. A fourth teacher, looking older and even wiser than the others approaches, dragging the previous three in tow. The teachers argue their point so loud, no one is actually being heard. Welcome to the Disneyland buffet of plant medicines.
Each of these medicines alone are very powerful and increase our sensitivity to the world. When we come from abroad and start to partake in various ceremonies all at once, without a consistent guide, one hand does not know what the other is doing. What happens to the person who starts to exhibit signs of disassociation after a one-two punch of ayahusca/huachuma, who then lines up to be served bufo, a medicine purported to be four times stronger than ayahuasca? The one serving bufo will have no idea about the unsettling behavior from the previous ceremonies, and carry on as usual.
Suddenly healing can now turn into yet another traumatic event.
One-shot ceremonies tend to have less facilitation and on-going integration assistance. The person who samples the buffet without sufficient time in between for integration may blast right off the map, only to find themselves experiencing a hard landing with no-one to make sense of it all. Then they get back on the plane, experience gradually fading into hazy memory, wondering what the hell just happened.
After years of watching people pass through, I tend to see that the ones that commit to a specific medicine with a well-trained guide, tend to do better in the end because they feel more supported. Opening to our deeper-rooted issues takes time. Time for the specific plant and healer to understand you and gain the trust necessary to locate the key and get past the borders a lifetime of protection, doubt and disappointment have erected. Take the time to get to know one master, so they can deeply study you.
In the end, one quietly focused master is worth a hundred arguing over who is the second coming.