RETURN TO SHAMAN SHACK
"In such moments of illumination, it seems to them (Poets) that all ordinary life and they with it are nothing more than pictures limned on a lovely curtain; and only behind this curtain does genuine, true life go on." 'Pictor's Metamorphosis' Hermann Hesse "Destiny is the name we give our bad habits when we realize they cannot be changed." 'The Earth Will Shake' Robert Anton Wilson
So ....... To bring you up to date, Dear Reader. After the initial visit to Union Base and Don Emilio, a short return to Quito, then off to Cumbaya for a visit that evolved into a Shamanic Vision Quest with a good friend under the auspices of Maestro L. Only three days after the first Ayahuasca session, passing through Quito, I run into the Urban Shaman, Don Celso, from an earlier chapter, and he persuades me to guide two of his acolytes back to Don Emilio's two days later;
Are you with me Super Troopers?
"Got to get back to that Shaman Shack. Yea Baby, to that Shaman Shack!"
Dagmar, the German doctoral candidate and her friend Patricia, also working on a doctorate, had heard fabled rumors of Don Emilio and Ayahuasca, yet had never journeyed into the jungle. They had experienced Limpias from other Curanderos, but neither had consumed the potent jungle juice.
Dagmar was scared down to her bones. Patricia was excited.
Left Quito, directly for Puyo, a small town on the southern edge of El Oriente, the Selva. Arriving late in the day, quickly picked up a few things for the Curandero. Some Full Blanco cigarettes, bottles of Jockey Club cologne, and of course that retched firewater, Puro.
I discovered from my last visit that commercial Traigo, or Aguardiente, was not good enough. You can always find in these native towns a local who makes a stronger elixir called Puro. It is somewhat analogous to what folks in the SouthEastern U.S. call 'Shine'.
Made from sugarcane, Puro has the force of rocket fuel. Don Emilio drinks his like coffee for breakfast.
Caught a jungle taxi, no more than an old beat-up truck, in Puyo and proceeded to Union Base, the Curandero's home. Don Emilio was waiting for us at his door, and informed me that he knew I was coming with two new people.
He had seen this in a dream, and already had a vat of Ayahuasca brewing.
After arriving, I offer a gift to the Shaman, we relax and spend the afternoon talking to the village people, always stopping by for a cup of Puro, and walking the river whose paths lead directly into rainforest. Union Base is the last stop for any kind of wheeled vehicle, from here it's mules and horses.
Today our host brewed the Sacrament for five hours. Later that night, after a light meal, we begin a triple Limpia.
With Patricia first, Dagmar second and me last, he performs different Ceremonias. Using an array of objects I had seen before, the stones, bones, cologne, Puro and leaves, he carefully chooses what to use and what to do with each of us.
The Curandero reads Patricia's pulse, placing gentle thumbs at her wrists. Grimacing, a distinct look of concern spreads across his wide features. Nodding from time to time, he declares the Limpia needs Work!
He states it will cost 4000 Sucres. Patricia appearing a little nervous lays money on the table with the ceremonial objects. Don Emilio takes a swig from a cup of Puro, then sprays the Mesa and the money, a typical method of receiving payment among Curanderos.
Offering her a sip of Jockey Club cologne mixed with herbs, he chooses a small stone, sprays it, then places the rock in her mouth. Stone lodged on her tongue, a series of cleansing practices begins. From spraying her body, rubbing stones, spraying her hair, pressing deeply at the center of her cranium with his thumbs, licking the area pressed, then sucking out the Malos Objectos.
She spits the stone out into his hand and he studies it carefully. Calling me over, pointing out certain spots on the surface, the shiney indentations, little circles colored red and radiant silver. One small cavity, a little obscure on the stone indicates a weakness in the eyes.
Overall, the Shamanic tool reveals a good tale. The jungle doctor exclaims: Bonita!
Grabbing a brush of leaves, he proceeds to shake them vigorously around her head and body. Declaring finally: Terminando!
Emilio instructs Patricia to eat only a certain diet, light foods and rice, no chilies, and to drink Huayusa a blood cleanser for a specific time to clear up what was left in her body.
Throughout all three Limpias, the Shaman has a young boy, no more than thirteen, working as an assistant behind him. Tomas is constantly busy. Opening bottles of Sacred Jockey Club, pouring cups of Puro, and filling a pipe with Full Blanco tobacco.
The Curandero stops from time to time, looks at me and explains what he is doing, how to read certain stones, or why he is prescribing certain foods. I get the feeling that he is being deliberately patient with me. I am becoming an apprentice!
Next comes Dagmar. Following the initial pulse reading he says the Limpia needs a certain amount of work and states a price, which she pays, then proceeds.
Sitting in an old wooden chair, wearing his headband and necklaces of silver, feathers, stones and a maltese cross on a dog-chain, he performs the Limpia, the purification that cleanses the physical body of harmful elements, as well as cleaning the emotional and energetic bodies. Using different stones and other objects from his Mesa, licking, sucking and spitting until Dagmar is purified.
I am the last. As Emilio carefully reads my pulse, he smiles declaring that only a minor Limpia is necessary. My body is Bonito!, "'Beautiful!"
I have enjoyed good health following the previous Limpias and am very much relieved. Wasn't looking forward to drinking all that Cologne, Puro, cigarette smoke and all the rest!
Although thankfully short, I still received a fair Limpia. Finishing with a flourish of shaking leaves, the Shaman exclaims: Limpia!
The cleansings take about three hours. Lights are out in all the other huts, it is late, pouring rain beating against the tin roof, dimming speech. Mercedes Sosa is playing on the radio, there's a small altar with a ceramic crucified Jesus above Emilio's bed where he places a dimly lit candle and it is time to drink the Ayahuasca!
The vat has been cooking for five hours. I help to clean the plants and lianas from the deep brown liquid looking like some old used transmission fluid and, looking into its murky depths, I feel a shudder of anticipation and revulsion as the disgusting aroma strikes my brain fully. Not as hesitant to drink as last time, still, not looking forward to the violent purging the drink evokes.
I pass the first cup, with a prayer to the Gods for gentleness and wisdom, downing the sacred elixir quickly. That familiar taste. Brown liquid, thick, amargo, bitter and sour to the point of gagging.
Now that it's done, no return! I wait for the fireworks to start, for the show to begin. I'm coming to believe that Reality shifts the moment that first swallow is taken. That step through the gate is an unalterable course of commitment.
Within an hour Dagmar is well into the journey. The Medicine is in my body, moving through my limbs like jagged errant electricity, yet little else. Patricia and I ask for more. We each drink another cup and a half apiece. What the hell?
That last half was the most difficult. Could feel my body rebelling, "Don't!"
Settling back in the small shack, all crowded like bowling pins in Don Emilio's little room, on the floor, blankets spread out. Thunder banging constant like an ambitious symphony, lightning streaking jaggedly through the knots and splinters of holes in the boards, illuminating that dusty mildewy space, and torrents of water collapsing outside.
The strobe flashing from without sends shadows streaking in no defined motion about the cabin. Vestiges of spirits and spooks fill up the atmosphere like clouds of humid breath from the rain. The perfect night.
Not looking forward to the immanent visit down to the wet grass and pig-slopping mud, in the downpour, I just knew would come, to relieve myself.
Beginning to feel cold, I lay down, somewhat perplexed, feeling clear, yet disheartened that the drink was not working.
Before I realize it, I am already into the heavy trance state the Medicine induces. It seems that the enormous clarity and awareness somehow obscures the fact that I can't move. I am glued to the floor, wanting desperately to sleep, when the visions start.
In the meantime, Dagmar and Patricia are deep down on the floor, huddled in old torn blankets. The two are merging into the boards, still as stones, and even deeper into wherever it is they are traveling. They will later relate fantastic journeys and meetings with demons and spirits, and Emilio guiding them. Their bodies are going nowhere.
I do not hear Don Emilio, I am somewhere else.
Sinking deep into Visions. Consciousness turned internal. Sliding in between flesh, beneath meat and blood directly into muscle. Following internal paths flowing throughout my body of sinew and reflex. Feeling the tautness and slack, the moist warm blood and stiff fiber. Down in my little toe, and actually viewing muscle bend joints.
For the first time, I can see, feel and understand clearly, unambiguously, the relationship between my every movement, muscular movement, voluntary and involuntary, motivations and emotions.
Now somewhere that I recognize as my ankle, from inside, feeling the warmth of red fluid and watching the ankle flex, then a dawning realization that the physical movement came after an unconscious motivation for that particular ankle to move in that particular way.
Where did the motivation come from?
In fingers, first digit on my left hand, observing its movement, then noticing the motivation from my brain that preceded like an electronic relay or a telegram crossing the circuits carrying a message: "Attention Finger! Time to bend."
Mysteriously jumping across an invisible chasm inside and connecting with .......... emotion. There it is, just before the motivation itself, out of nothingness, a responseless phenomenon, a momentary flash of .......... Desire.
For hours tracking my physical body, can 'see' in my trance state, the inner workings and external contact with the World around me.
And can see, perhaps for the first time, in unambiguous clarity, that every movement, every motion, both conscious and unconscious movements, every breath and heartbeat and the working of the autonomic system, down to the last joint on my little finger, is preceded and predicated by a motivation. Before that, by an emotion.
Behind them, whether I realize it or not; are desire, greed, need for affection, lust, anger, fear, hunger, compassion, passion, curiosity, love. Absorbed in an open performance of motivation, like having a seat at the theatre and watching the drama unfold.
And never realizing how far out into wherever 'There' is, until a small tiny barely noticeable whispering thought enters my consciousness. Just a minor curiosity really, nothing more.
Something about vomiting.
During the next decade I observe the thought patiently grow and mature into desire, which is transformed into necessity.
I try to stand, raggedly, spastically. The room is not the room I was familiar with in a previous existence. The room has moved, changed shape, shifting in an architectural way that is confusing rationality.
Rain beating like a roar on the roof distracting any constructive thinking, lightning flash demands attention seen through the spaces in the boards in the wall.
Finding the door, noticing the motivation in my hands, lurching it open, observing the messages telegraphed to my legs to move, barely making it to the railing, aware of some internal interference that says; 'Sorry, the lines are not functioning normally', on the porch, aware of the rapid-fire emotion of necessity like a machine-gun urging the motivations onward.
The geyser building in my gut erupts like an explosion from a pressurized well.
As the vomiting reflex kicks in, breathing reflex kicks out! The purging goes on for eons, I want it to, feels so good to empty my system.
Another part of me is wanting to breath. Desperately. Fighting for control, fighting to break the chains and locks wrapped around my chest. Lungs heaving and nothing coming in, mouth open, diaphragm jerkily trying to expand. Fighting for my life! Wondering if this is what is meant by drowning in vomit.
Must surrender. Hopelessness rapidly enveloping me, everything is useless, no help out here in the mud, in the rain, next to the pigs. No nurse or doctor around, Emilio up in the hut probably still shaking those damned leaves and all I can do finally is ..... Let Go.
Nothing else is working, only one choice, really no choice at all but to relax into the inevitable. I am dead!
A hidden relay clicks. Breath returns. Intense gulps of air and gratitude. My body feels empty and fresh. Weaker from the energetic purging but with the kind of weariness that feels good, a wakeful relaxation of serene solitude.
For me there seems to be two separate and distinct periods during a session. Pre-and-post purge! The first part, more intense, a deeper trance state. Afterward, body relaxes, visions not as striking, still, powerful.
Reflecting on my visions in the coming days makes me realize what a powerful lesson the vine conveyed. I could still perceive my motivations, now with some understanding of what moves my body.
Even more, I began to witness the body reactions in others around me, and could begin to discern the possible emotional sparks that manifested as movement. The unconscious shoulder or elbow gesture of attraction or the head slightly held back of wariness, all of these not long-established personal characteristics but moment-by-moment states of ever-changing reaction. It is almost like having a new sense available.
The vine makes me aware of my own simple gestures and often I can trace those seemingly random moves to an immediate unconscious feeling state thus providing a key to what's up in any given situation. Whole avenues of observation unfold, both internal and external, and leave me with much to ponder.
I'm also taking time to ponder my apprenticeship with the Shaman.
Copyright 1994 Steven Gilman
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