Lately, I’ve been facing some big fears. Fears that don’t want to be faced, fears that are much happier lurking just out of the corner of my eye, whispering in my ear. Creating an anxious swirling in my belly that I’d rather ignore.
Often, when we think of facing our fears, we think of taking some sort of massive action. We think of standing up to someone at work, coming clean with our family, starting a project that we’ve been holding off on. This is one way, but I’m talking about another.
I’m talking about facing fears in meditation. On Sunday, I was on my cushion. Suddenly, I could hardly breathe. My belly was tight, and it was shaking. There was both discomfort and confusion. I pretended I didn’t know what to do about it, except I did. I just didn’t want to do it. Witness it, lean into it, look it squarely in the face. This horrible anxious clenching in my low belly. As it pulsated painfully in my awareness, I started to hear the voice of fear and self-hatred, ‘you don’t have enough, you aren’t enough’. Over and over, like a mantra. 108 repetitions of self hatred.
Then I can relax
I do find that when I get to this place, I can relax. Once the secret pain is finally our in the open, I can sit with this. I’ve sat with worse. This is just bound up frustrated energy. It’s been rattling around in my body for god knows how long, and now it’s being released. All I need to do is sit and softly watch it, and it self liberates.
And that’s what happened. The mantra quieted, the tension dissipated, and I was calm, and experienced a spaciousness in my belly that was quite pleasant. I’m not naive enough to think that these thoughts are gone forever, or that I’m now going to vibrate at a level of greater abundance (whatever that means.) but it’s probably that this particular form of anxiety will dog me less in the future. I’ll be less likely to make bad decisions based on these hidden thoughts, and more likely that I’m able to notice and return to a more centered place. I’m less likely to try to ‘solve’ this negative self talk with some kind of maladaptive compensatory action.
Taking action from a place of fear and insecurity is never smart.
Fear is a call to pause and return to a place of centered presence, it’s not a push to run head first into action. Fear based action rarely has the results that we want.
I want us all to learn how to face these aspects of ourselves in the most skillful way subtle. I want us all to have the opportunity to deal with our psychic garbage in the most subtle way possible. I don’t want you to have to face your self hatred when you’re high, at least not for the first time. Let’s get lay some ground work for encountering the strange and difficult parts of our minds, so we aren’t taken by surprise. Let’s practice being in a place of centered presence, and let’s practice returning to that place when we get pulled out.
Two Ayurvedic Tips to Support Winter Psychedelic Integration
“Little Darling, It’s Been a Long Cold Lonely Winter”
This George Harrison quote constantly runs through my head in the winter time. Any time the sky is the slightest bit gray or the temperature drop to 55 degrees, I desperately want to bundle up and drink tea and cover myself in warm Ayurvedic oil. I’m a big baby when it comes to the weather. To think I occasionally entertain the idea of moving to the woods of New England, Walden-Style. BRRR
Even though the winter hasn’t really been that long or cold (and hopefully not too lonely) for those of us in the North Bay, that’s no reason not to avail ourselves of all the warmth and nourishment, and coziness that is available to us. Ayurveda has is super helpful when it comes to this sort of thing, and I’ll offer a few of my favorite practices for warmth below.
For me, our integration circle is a place of warmth and nourishment as well. Even though I’m the ‘facilitator’ and not a ‘receiver’, I receive a lot from the circles. I can drop a lot of the crap I’ve been carrying around with me, drop into a state of presence that is so valuable, and listen and connect. My physical body tends to drop some of its armoring and tension, and I am able to feel a sweet sense of flow through my tissues, that feels like it is feeding me. Also, being in a conscious circle after all of the frenetic activity of the holidays is also deeply grounding. I hope this, or something similar is true for you, as well.
Please reserve your spot for the circle through the website or by emailing us. Come, get grounded, connected, nourished. I hope you can make it and look forward to seeing you. Reserve Spot Here
A few of my favorite Ayurvedic warming and nourishing practices:
1. Warm Sesame Oil Self Massage Sesame Oil is an Ayurvedic master medicine. It is said to feed the tissues of the body right through the skin, to relieve tension and stress on a deep, nervous system level, and to keep the body warm and supple when the days are cold and brittle. There is more, a comprehensive discussion of the benefits of Sesame Oil goes way beyond the scope of this email. The Practice:
Buy yourself some organic, untoasted sesame oil. It’s probably at your local health food store. Untoasted.
Put some in a BPA free plastic container. I suggest plastic, because this can get slippery, and you don’t want to deal with broken glass when you’re naked. Trust me.
Put your container in a pot of water and heat the pot. Let the oil get warm enough so that when you put it on your skin you go, ‘oooohhhh’. ‘ahhh’ is also acceptable. if you say ‘ow’, it’s too hot.
Go into the bathroom and cover your skin. Gently massage any sore areas. Have fun with it.
Finish up with a warm shower. don’t use too much soap, just let the warm water bake the oil into your skin.
Clean up as best you can, watch our for slippery spots on the floor.
I was recently asked for some book recommendations by someone who is exploring journeywork with Ayahuasca. I figured I might as well put this list here, so that other people can enjoy as well. Some of the books I’ve only read part of, but I’ve certainly enjoyed what I’ve gotten out of them thus far.
I’m not going to say that these are the best books, but these are the ones I know about and feel good about suggesting. If you are familiar with the topic and have some other ideas, please feel free to let me know, I’m happy to edit this over time, or have a part 2 to this blog down the line.
Notes: Blog image by Pablo Amaringo. The links to amazon are affiliate links
The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo This is an art book. Pablo Amaringo is a super brilliant artist from Peru. His work is elegant and intricate, able to show such a range of experience and conveying such subtlety and depth. It’s really gorgeous.
The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman by Davi Kopenawa. I haven’t actually read this one yet, but I really, really want to. I got turned onto it in a very good article on reality sandwich by Jeremy Narby about the relationships that Amazonian Shamans have with invisible entities. Narby, whose books also deserve recognition, likes The Falling Sky because it is written by a very gifted Peruvian Shaman who has a profound understanding of the medicine. I’m looking forward to it. Maybe we should even start a book club with this one.
The Shaman and Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms by Don Jose CamposThis has also been on my reading list for a while. I’m including it because the person that asked me to suggest the books is working with someone in Don Jose’s lineage, and they mentioned this book to me in the conversation. Although I haven’t read it yet, I’ve heard only good things about both the book and Don Jose himself. It’s probably going to be great.
That’s the list! I certainly hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you think. I’m also available if you’d like to work with me on the concepts and practices in Coder’s book, After the Ceremony Ends. It would be my joy.
Safety Guidelines for Guides, Psychedelic Integration Practitioners, and Other Leaders
This is a riff on thesafety guidelines recently released by Chacruna. I have tons of respect for Chacruna, but I wanted to tweak the guidelines. I’m a white dude with plenty of power and privilege, and I know plenty of other people who fit the same description. What would safety guidelines look like for us, the people most statistically likely to create a lack of safety? How can men, who participate in psychedelic community as members or leaders hold themselves to a standard that promotes safety for the people that really need it? How can we model ethical behavior for the next generation of men who will enter this work in the future? This is what I’ve come up with, in one quick run through. I’m aware that there is some biting humor here, some of it’s brusque, but you’re men, you can take it.
Note: I’m happy to make this a living, collaborative document. I know that Chacruna spent a lot of time and worked with many experts to draft their document, and I created this one on the spur of the moment. I’m happy to have an evolving conversation. I probably won’t argue too much, as it’s not fun for me. I also probably won’t be super open to strangers who want to tell me what I should do, or should have done. I hope that everyone can appreciate and enjoy this in the spirit with which it is offered.
Psychedelic Safety Guidelines
Treat everyone like friends and family. Better yet, treat everyone like a family member who has had a rough day. People often come to ceremony to heal. If one of your siblings recently had their heart broken by a lousy partner, how would you treat them? My guess is you wouldn’t sexually assault them. Don’t do that to anyone else in your community either
Get Experienced. Do your work. Go to trainings, workshops, and yoga classes. Meditate, read good books. Learn at the feet of brilliant people of a variety of genders, sexual orientations, and belief systems. Challenge yourself.
Be transparent about your skills and abilities. Don’t misrepresent your skills and abilities. That’s lying. Don’t lie.
Don’t touch people without consent, on intimate areas of the body, or otherwise. You’re dealing with family, remember. You wouldn’t grope your mom, would you? Also, if touch is a consideration for some reason, best to discuss it clearly, transparently, in advance, and while everyone is sober. Also if you need to talk to someone alone, try to do it in such a way that it can’t be construed as menacing. Remember that you’re large and strong. Don’t block doorways with your body or insist that meetings take place in overly remote locations. Maybe just a bench in a quiet area of a public park would be nice.
Keep your clothes on, everyone, please. If you’re not at Harbin Hot Springs, everyone stays dressed. And you aren’t at Harbin because it was lost in a fire a few years ago and hasn’t been rebuilt. It’s a tragedy. And you’re a tragedy if you think you’re clever because you conned someone to take their clothes off because of some weird fetish or power trip.
If you have sexual intentions, just take them elsewhere. Look, I want you to have a happy, fulfilling sex life. But this isn’t the place. The gods have provided us with a plethora of online dating apps full of people who want to get down. Get your needs met on your own time.
Sexual intercourse during ceremonies is vetoed in nearly all ayahuasca traditions. There is probably good reason for this. Don’t try to bang anyone. On the off chance that someone tries to bang you, just be flattered and decline.
Sexual intercourse with a client does not make you cool. Sometimes, men with power and opportunity think it does. Usually men who are new to power and opportunity. It’s an immature, rookie move. See #2.
Receive friendliness and compliments with generous appreciation of the spirit with which they are offered. If you are helpful to people they are often grateful. The healing that people receive in a psychedelic space can be profound, and so the gratitude is often profound. People might be projecting some paternal archetype onto you as well, and be in a space where they see you as their dad or Jesus or Santa Claus or Jeff Goldblum or whatever. Don’t abuse that. Be a good dad. Say thank you and tell them you appreciate what good work they did and send them home.
Respect each person’s dignity and humanity. People dress in different ways. They talk in different ways, and they have different customs. Respect, however, is universal.
Respect everyone’s personal space. Physically and spiritually – before, during, and after ceremony. Respect people’s boundaries. Do not suggest anyone feel obliged to engage in verbal or physical communication with you or anyone else during or following ceremony.
Don’t give people shit they aren’t expecting. If you give people shit, make sure you only give them the best, cleanest, highest quality shit, and don’t give them more shit than necessary and don’t give them any surprise shit.
You’re a Shaman, Not a Saint! And really, you probably aren’t even a shaman. So get off your high horse and quit taking yourself so seriously.
If you screw up, or worry you might, get support. We are going to assume you aren’t a sociopath. We’re going to assume that you want to be a good man with good moral values, but that you struggle sometimes with the toxic ideas that you’ve been raised with. I know that I have. Find other healthy men. Work with them. Hold each other accountable. Root out the entitlement, anger, shame, and other issues that you take out on women. If you do hurt a woman, attempt to make amends quickly, learn from it, and don’t do it again. If she doesn’t want to hear it from you, you might just have to leave her alone.
Beware of Consensual Sex. Don’t do this here. Go online. Also, for those of us with jobs in the field, we don’t really get to clock out. Being someone’s MDMA therapist during the day and then dating them at night is problematic. It might work, until it doesn’t any more. Acting innocent and surprised when is blows up in your face will make you look like a schmuck.
Beware of Getting Romantically Involved. Sometimes we have a sex/love/friendliness synesthesia. Wires get crossed. You’ve seen the diagram. You feel a cosmic love for the universe and you look over and see a woman and just decide she’s the one. She’s not the one. You’re tripping. Chill out and leave her alone.