OUT OF THE FOG
The explosive experience can be profound. But so can the subtle. The difference lies not in the overt manifestation of the event, rather upon one's approach and ultimate expectations bearing witness to what is offered. Both may offer the same level of intensity and meaning to be found. It can be argued, in many ways, what one takes away from experience is what one brings to it. This is especially true with sacred plant medicines. This may be one of the reasons why experiencing them is so personal. Two people at the same ceremony, taking equal amounts of the same plant medicine, nonetheless come away with far different tales to tell. Often times, radically so. One participant may hardly feel anything while someone else is transported and transformed. Both people share the same place, same time, same ceremony, with the same medicine inside of them.
This is especially true of Rapé, the shamanic snuff with pre-Colombian roots, shared in ritual as a prayer and connection with nature and oneself (the distinction being purely cultural as the plants teach so well). For starters, Rapé is no one thing. Although it may contain similar tobacco and ash bases, the exact formula of plants and their number comprising a selection of Rapés varies greatly, not only between but among Amazonian tribes. Rapés are created for different purposes. And different Rapés not only contain wide varieties of formulaic blends, but methods by which they're prepared also differ. For example, some shamanic snuffs can only be prepared by women, while other blends must be fashioned under strict ritualistic practices, both external and energetic, that are equally prescriptive or restrictive.
As a result, there is a tendency among Rapé enthusiasts to begin rating one blend against another. Which in many ways is understandable. Why rely on a placebo effect for an experience or invest in sub-standard medicine that produces minimal results. But there is a danger in the way these informal rating systems progress. In an ongoing race to find the singular Rapé that gives the "biggest bang for the buck," perhaps a whole type of profundity is being glossed over, a whole range of subtle but significant lessons are being missed. In a typical Western-mentality competitive drive to always acquire the next explosive thing, perhaps an entire spectrum of the subtle-profound in these varied medicines gets lost. Metamorphic pinnacles are just as likely to occur from whispers as from overly dramatic shouts.
Case in point. I had the opportunity to try a Rapé blend I had heard was not powerful and produced minimal effects. Others were curious if I would rate it the same. My experience with it turned out quite different than other snuffs I had tried to be sure, but I found in its subtleness a doorway into a uniquely profound space unlike any other. Far from saying this snuff was not profound, I had to conclude it offered its magic with an introductory whisper. If that whisper was missed or ignored, it would not yield the sought-after treasures that awaited. Like a firefly in the night so easily overlooked but coaxing one to follow, I approached with no expectations and caught enough of its light to follow.
So, was I pre-loaded with a need to find profound magic as a reverse-psychology response to hearing the snuff was a dud? Did I need to prove the naysayers wrong? Perhaps. One can always second-guess what happens in every situation and judge it from constrained angles and relativistic cleverness. I can only comment on the experience itself and the way I approached the process. Pre-loaded or not, I did have the experience I had. And while the effects progressed, I got a strong sense that what I was going through was not only an experience but an example to follow.
Right after receiving the Rapé, I felt an energetic tingle - but nothing profound. I concentrated on my deep breathing and the meditation of clearing my thoughts. The idea was to get myself out of the way, to release expectation, forego anticipation. Instead of projecting expectations, I listened. I released into the feeling of listening not only with my ears but with my being. In the listening there soon came the impulse to lie down and cover my eyes with my hands - make it as dark as was possible. I did this and as much as the darkness deepened, tiny vortexes of energy throughout my body increased. I was coaxed to follow that tiny, metaphorical firefly into a state often called "the zone." Many have tried to describe being in "the zone" and often it comes down to existing in an effortless flow where one is there and not there and what happens just works in an elevated confluence of past, present, future such that cause and effect have been mediated by a more complete expression of being.
Without knowing how I did it (which I suspect is the key!), I found consciousness sliding into a flow I can now only describe as "the zone." As this happened, another view faded into view as if a fog was dissipating. It was a view of a star-field. The blackness of space surrounded pinpoints of starlight. The stars were unblinking as if I was in the same blackness of space that contained them. But this view only lasted a few seconds, then faded away as thoughts of what I was doing intervened and interrupted "the flow." I returned to listening with my being. I crowded out thoughts and expectations by listening. Soon, the "zone" returned, as did the star-field. It was like being far out in space and the stars and their distance from each other had a 3-D perspective about them. Yet, once again, as soon as I started noticing my reaction to this, the star-field faded again, as did that sense of "the zone." This pattern repeated several times. Each time I was able to find "the flow" the energy in my body would vortex and, as the fog of black dissipated, the star-field would return.
This indeed was an example to follow, an experience of being which contained a lesson if one was open to seeing it that way. Like some bio-feedback mechanism, the experience took me into a state where I was shown how it's possible to match something you can't force or try with something you can achieve, even without knowing how. I would rate that very highly, even though this Rapé was presented to me as not powerful and producing minimal effects. I guess it all depends on what effects one expects and values. That's why all of these rating systems are so subjective - and why Rapé can't be looked at monolithically. It may be one type of medicine but it comes in many varieties, each of which contains a unique opportunity to discover, or simply come out of the fog.