During my years of traveling across the jungles of Peru to visit indigenous communities and to learn about their shamanic and healing traditions, I've visited and met many inspiring healers. I was glad that I had the chance to visit Spiritual Dimensions.
I ended up in this place in a quite unusual way, although perhaps at this stage of my work with plant medicines I should be conscious that such an introduction is just a storytelling trick.
I was in the jungle on a boat from Puerto Nanay to Padrecocha, because that day, as I was convinced and informed, there was going to be an ayahuasca ceremony at a healing center I'd always wanted to visit. While on the boat I struck a conversation with two friendly ladies sitting nearby who I would judge to be anything but psychonauts such as myself, so I explained to them in very simple terms the reason of my voyage. They, after having heard about my shaman and guide, recommended me to visit another person instead, whose name was Javier. Even though he was going to be drinking today, I already had plans, so I wrote down his name, for “later.”
But apparently, fate chose otherwise. The maestro who I had planned on working with ended up canceling her session. This is why I jumped onto a moto-rickshaw and sped across the dark forest in hopes that I could still make it to the evening ceremony at Javier’s. How surprised I was – who do I see – when I got there. Perhaps women should be listened to more carefully ( or perhaps they should speak clearer ).
My boat companions were ready for drinking, as it turned out, not their first time, and I was introduced to the crew.
A big advantage of “Spiritual Dimensions”, which is the name of Javier’s Arevalo center, is the fact that the guy is not working on his own. Besides his assistant, at the ceremonies ( although I am not sure if always ) he is accompanied by Shipibo curanderas, Celia and Angela. One thing is my adoration for icaros of this tribe, another is that female energy is in this shamanic world rare and precious good, it brings another quality to the session and the feeling of safety for female patients often traumatized by sexual issues, seeking a trustworthy healer.
In my case, of course, it was the joy to hear icaros that dominated, but also general sympathy I have for Shipibo. We quickly established common acquaintances from Pucallpa, some jokes followed. This joyfulness easily appearing in Javier and his usually more reserved indigenous companions was for me a good omen.
Because there were three of them, leading this ceremony, they could work almost non stop, there was one icaro after another, be it Quechua or Spanish from Javier, or enchanting melodies from the ladies. Sometimes I actually wished for a break and some silence, but most of the time I really enjoyed the vibe. There were 6 “patients”, including me, so such numbers guaranteed that everyone got served well – especially the girl on my right who seemed to have a difficult time. I did not need special care. That night I had no deep visions, but felt very uplifted, with lots of energy. I couldn’t stay still on my mattress. Half of the session I spent dancing to the icaros, enjoying my shaky, dizzy steps, moving back and forward to the rhythm, almost falling down once in a while, but all in tune with the mad dance routine, barefoot, super-sensible, transforming words and melodies into movement and space navigation in the moonlit maloca.
There is a stress on participation in Spiritual Dimensions, for people who stay on longer retreats, there are workshops designed in order to get to them to co-create experience rather than just be a passive receiver. This is in addition to all the usual plant baths and dietas. I feel this bonus is very important, it makes people take charge of their destiny and course of their feeling and not just rely on the healer, or worse, guru, as some see the shamans they work with.
So I find it amusing that after my energetic night, the next day, the icaro I was given to learn with the rest of the group, was called “danza guerrera”.
Interesting events followed when I thought it is all over that night. I was laying a bit in bliss, long after the session was finished until suddenly I realized that maloca is empty and everyone gone, back in their huts. OK, so I am off too. Well, not that simple. Where is left, where is right, what is going on? This state in Spanish is called mareado – something like “drunk,” but in this special ayahuasca way. Additionally, I was foolish enough to take off my contact lenses, and the moon vicious enough to hide.
I was convinced that I know which way is to my hut, but it was illusion. Grounds of this center are quite large, but after all it is all a giant clearing in thick forest, and this forest started to look at me. In the beginning I carelessly stumbled around, falling into some bushes or spines, but what I began to feel-sense-see on the edge of the jungle froze me with fear and brought the awareness of the seriousness of the situation. I had to gather my wits, again and again, keep focusing on reality and keep in mind warnings I heard so often from many shamans – in this state, the forest is not your friend.
It took a long time and many trials. In the meantime, I ended up in some other house, with some strange people who proposed me to sleep with them, but I insisted on finding my own place, and what that involved, further wandering in the dark. Mudded, tired, happy. Finally, my bed, candle, spirits behind. Deep sleep. On the next day I woke up in the garden of paradise and calm feeling of paradise. What more do I need?
Psychonauta Foundation regularly organizes diets and retreats with Matilda and other shamans of the Amazon. Please visit our Facebook page to get in touch, and to find out more about what we’re up to.
Editor’s note: This article previously appeared on the Blog of Tata Mundo
Cover photo: Tata Mundo
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