The secret is out. It is possible to have an Avatar experience in a magical forest!
The following story is part two of my sacred medicine journey with San Pedro cactus led by a remarkable female shaman, Felicia, in the beautiful valley of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. You can read PART ONE here. This was my first experience with plant medicine in a ceremonial environment. One thing that everyone seems to say is that this process is different for everyone and also seems to vary among experiences. Here is the rest of my story…
San Pedro Cactus Plant Spirit Medicine Journey continues…
Part one ended at the point where each of us in the Sacred Medicine Journey laid down in our sleeping bags around the campfire after drinking our cup of bitter San Pedro cactus tea. I had fallen into my curious sleep…
Time was an interesting element throughout the very long night. I cannot be sure about the time frame of events but shall do my best to estimate. I guess I might have been asleep about one hour.
The first thing I noticed when I awoke after drinking the tea was a noticeable shift in my perception of sound. The sounds of the night, the crickets, the wind, the far off rumbles of the town, and the animals (dogs, roosters, etc) were accentuated and filled my head. My mouth was watering like crazy offering me the cue that a barfing episode was imminent. Oh no…
I spent a while (covered in my sleeping bag) observing my new and unique interpretation of sounds while trying to hold back my urge to puke. I wrestled with the thought of my sickly noises becoming a part of the other people’s experience! Felicia soon came up to each person and asked them how they were doing. Feeling like I needed her permission to be sick, she gave it to me. I slinked off to the corner of the property, barf bag in hand, and quickly took care of business. I was standing as I puked into my little bag. As I did, strong, unusual shooting pains shot up my legs, through my body, and out of me. Thankfully, that would be the end of physical discomfort for the rest of the night.
Throughout the “journey”, the writer in me thought much about the “explaining” of this experience. I was baffled over how to find the words to express what I was feeling and who I was being. I won’t even try to describe the indescribable. So much will be left unsaid. I will tell you of the most notable events and experiences.
The fireflies were plentiful and twinkled around like tracer fairies throughout Felicia’s beautiful gardens. I marveled at the bug lights dancing around the plants. During the first few hours with eyes closed, I grappled with swirling fractals, goopey, melting Salvador Dali images, and morphing Alice in Wonderland psychedelics that felt like some sort of initiation to get my mind past my thoughts and my body into some state more gentle and visceral. The visuals were beautiful and interesting, but I was not in the mood for senseless tripping. I was seeking some insight about my life. I reached for a more spiritual sense of myself and my connection to the world.
The night was cold and I was draped in multiple layers of clothes and coats. My topmost layer was a fabulous Alpaca poncho John had bought at the Cuenca market recently. Dressed in this large zarape I felt like an Incan shaman periodically ambling around the yard in an effort to shake off the head trip. My legs were shakey and my steps needed to be deliberate to keep myself stable. I felt like I had entered this situation a crystallized person and now I was cracking through some sort of coccoon to emerge as a soft, euphoric being.
I sat in front of the fire much of the time gazing at the flames and smoke. This would be my touchstone throughout the night. Sometimes I crawled into my sleeping bag and curled into fetal position and dozed a restless sleep. Often I peeked my head out and looked at the fire and the night. If I looked around too long my eyes would grow incredibly heavy and I would fall into some sort of awakened dream state. This is how it all looked like from the outside if you had been there watching me…
This is what I felt like on the inside… When I laid on the earth it felt like her breath was mine. My five senses took on new meaning as I could feel all the cycles of wind cause responses in the animals around the valley. Felicia’s property is located on a mountain overlooking the Vilcabamba valley which accentuated the calls of all the animals. I noticed the connections amongst the animal responses. One rooster would crow, then another, then a multitude. The same would occur with the dogs of the valley–and the donkeys. We happened to be located above the zoo. I wouldn’t know until later that the strange deep noises that moaned from time to time came from the ostriches down below.
Felicia would quietly drum and mystically chant throughout the evening. Sometimes she would methodically rattle for long stretches. These were my favorite parts of the evening. Her chants sounded strange and haunting, but very soothing. I was comforted by her song that I interpreted as spirit prayers. The most supernatural thing that occurred was something that I counted on three occasions. She would shake the rattle for long periods of time. It seemed to stir up the wind. The flames of the fire would rise high in a call-and-response sort of dance. The animals in the valley would then go nuts. I felt the oneness of the events and was amazed at the connection! It was the most beautiful feeling to witness such integration of nature. I remember my eyes growing big as I saw the flames respond to the energy and thought, “Whoa, am I really seeing this??”
Putting on the Ritz
In the middle of the night I became ravenous. I had been up too long without food. We weren’t supposed to eat until after the morning’s thanksgiving ceremony, but I felt that I needed some food to ground me. I remembered the Ritz crackers wrapped up in the plastic grocery bag next to my sleeping spot. At this point Ritz crackers sounded like a delicacy. The problem was that I had to crackle that plastic bag in order to get to them. In this circle of people, every moan, groan, and sniff was amplified. I remember my hesitation in getting to the crackers. Hunger got the best of me and I tore into the bag. I swiped the package of crackers, stuffed them into my pocket, and darted away to the corner of the property. Like a little rat, I hovered in the corner by the fence and shoved each Ritz into my mouth. I felt a bit devious, but totally sated!
“My Precious” Goblin
The final notable situation of this evening was the actions of this woman sitting next to me. You see, I arrived in the dark so I never really saw the other six people in the group. They were simply the shadow strangers around the fire who would periodically moan, groan, laugh, cough, or clear their throats. No one really talked to each other. In fact, I think it would have been physically difficult to talk. I really didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone either. My experience was just too strange and unfamiliar, so I withdrew into myself.
So, this woman was frequently talking to herself in an odd high-pitched Smeagol/Gollum-type voice (think “my precious” Lord of the Rings goblin). She seemed to be channeling some whimsical little creature who would repeatedly sing this same quirky song in gibberish language, giggle, make clicking noises, and talk to herself in a seemingly nonsense tongue. She did this all night! It was the craziest vibe coming from this creature-lady. I didn’t know what to make of it, but it amused me to no end. I hugged her and thanked her the next morning for piquing my curiosity all night and providing me with bonus entertainment. I asked her where the song came from. She said she made it up that night.
A Magical Daybreak
Watching dawn break was fantastic! Everything sparkled in the garden as the day emerged. There perched in the tree above us was Pepito, Felicia’s spectacular giant parrot. I gasped when I saw him stretching his huge, red wings showing off to the group. Making eye contact with the former shadow people took some getting used to as their real, lovely selves were revealed in the light. Little by little, conversations ensued and before we knew it we were having the most pleasant day-break garden party.
My favorite part of the experience was bonding with the group in the morning. After a couple of hours of reveling in the daylight, we completed the ceremony by doing a thanksgiving ritual. It consisted of Felicia saying prayers and giving offerings of flowers and red wine to the spectacular Pachamama (Mother Earth) statue housed in a tiki shrine. One by one we would pour red wine around the shrine (which had San Pedro cactus growing all around it) and take in a big gulp of the tasty liquid. After the ceremony we ate the breakfasts we each had brought. I had a sweet, juicy mango and some granola. Felicia brought out some decadent cafe con leche, and we all chatted and got to know each other while we lazed around her patio and hammock.
I thought of my family all night long. I thought of my husband, my children, my parents, my brother, and my sister. I constantly sent them all prayers and love. I was missing my family so much that I bowed out a little earlier than I would have liked to. I left the morning garden party at about 10AM. I could have stayed for hours longer. It was heaven seeing my family when I got home. I still felt the effects of the cactus the rest of the day, but I slept like a baby the following night.
I did not have any major revelations about myself from my Sacred Medicine Journey, but what I did take with me was a deeper respect and connection to Mother Earth. I felt like I was able to deeply feel my relationship to nature and to sense a greater appreciation for those that I love. I did feel like the “medicine” was successful in crumbling off some stresses and issues in order to morph myself into a person much more comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful for having had this unique experience. It might not be for everyone, but I did have the sense that it would be beneficial to many.
Being my Avatar
The sacred medicine journey experience brings to mind the movie “Avatar.” There is a distinct sense of my former self, with self-imposed restrictions and programming, multitasking my life away. The avatar self has been opened up to me as I walk through the “forest” of the Vilcabamba mountains now acutely aware of the moving winds and how the trees rustle and how the animals respond. The nighttime fireflies have taken on a fresh, more magical meaning! I am sensitive to the smells in the garden. I have enjoyed taking off my shoes and walking on the Earth.
This Avatar photo says it all! What do you think? Download or Print a copy of this blog post here!