Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ripped Posted Bills on Wall
"Don't cry because it's over.
Smile because it happened."
--Dr. Seuss

Friday, November 25, 2016

Yunguilla Valley Ecuador


Beautiful Yunguilla Valley stretches southwest from Cuenca, starting high up in the mountains next to the Cajas National Park. Ecuador's Highway 59 snakes down through the scenic valley to the blue Pacific at Machala. Along the way, sunny pastures, rural villages, and the grandeur of ancient ridge lines reaching for blue skies are revealed under the equatorial sun.

About halfway in between Cuenca and the sea is the small town of Santa Isabella. In the mountains nearby is a small farm where I spent two consecutive days in November getting back together with Father San Pedro. This was a continuation of another two-day conversation started a month earlier in Vilcabamba. Most people refer to him as Grandfather however based on my recent ceremonies where he offered to be my father, I'll be calling him Father San Pedro. This father is a spiritual father, a plant medicine father, a ceremonial healing father, but days spent in conversation with him are nothing less than a heartfelt connection with the closest of family members. I was very much looking forward to this family visit. The warmth and familiarity of returning to Father San Pedro has to be felt to be appreciated.

The benefits of visionary plant medicines have been explored and enumerated by shamans, practitioners, and scientists through many sources over the years. Even more attempts have been made to describe exactly what the visionary experience is like. And while all this literature is rich with examples and testimonials, for the uninitiated who have never experienced a plant medicine ceremony, the bulk of miraculous claims attributed to medicines like San Pedro must seem little more than exaggerated advertising copy or the unrealistic hype of people pridefully motivated to amaze strangers and friends with adventurous stories of mystical hocus-pocus.

But if even a few of these transformative claims are true, we're still talking about something intensely personal, something that doesn't translate using normal methods of relating to one another. How can the uninitiated ever be sure if anything valuable lies behind the magic entheogenic door? I will never be able to taste a strawberry for you - never relate what it's like if you've never had one. The best I could hope to do is describe things you already know, experiences you're familiar with, but describe them in a way that hints at the new experience of strawberry-ness, connects with related emotions, and in turn raises your curiosity enough to make you want to reach for the next strawberry. Only then might you have your own personal experience, your own understanding. And of course, you too wouldn't be able to adequately describe the experience for anyone once you had that last swallow.

Interestingly enough, using related examples to approximate something difficult to know is a method used by the plant medicines in reaching us. The spiritual lessons, the insights into oneself, the messages given by Father San Pedro are often blended with examples fashioned out of the present moment, at once both metaphoric and tangible. A blade of grass points the way, the call of a bird echoes back to memories when you were younger, the flow of a mountain stream carries away your resistance to being in the flow of life. Everywhere you look, everything you do becomes fodder for Father San Pedro to show you something about yourself, about the world, or just as likely, about unfolding possibilities beyond the world.

Cut Cloud over Wall of Glass

I can imagine such an example as the medicine flows within you. Over a wall nearby, a simple cloud moves in the sky. At any other time, you wouldn't notice it or the wall. But Father San Pedro uses the immediate and the familiar to transport you deep within yourself - to what needs healing. If you had talked to Father San Pedro while watching that wall and that cloud, what you saw might have transformed. When it did, your conversation with him might have gone something like this...

Sometimes you feel like a cloud, walled off from where you belong, being ripped into a million possible aberrations of who you might be. You stare into the faces of your own aberrations without recognizing yourself. One by one, you try the faces on. You show them to a seemingly indifferent world but at a higher altitude you feel they aren't you. What was once your effortless glide somehow got fragmented into hopeless wandering, no direction seeming right.

Without knowing how it happened, life became a wall topped with jagged glass. Without questioning how it can be, you believe you've been dragged across that wall. Somewhere you think you were told that parts of that wall were built for you. Some of it you build. You hold fast to hurt and anger over everything and everyone that stuck the jagged glass on top. You try to deny the effect all of this has on you even as you suspect it's true. You distract yourself into being busy, hoping something or someone you run into will help you put yourself back together. You're too consumed with all the faces of you endlessly cut out day-by-day as you're dragged across the shards of time. You feel deep inside that your face should be beautiful and natural, not distorted into a multitude of situational robotic masks. You feel a need to choose one right face to be yours. You need a face to show the world. One you can wear with confidence. One to give you the feeling of belonging. One to make you happy. But that unyielding wall cuts out your same face in an endless, rote succession of days. The cut-out masks are empty but there is nothing else to be.

The wall gives you this imperative. It's the wall's demand. You never realize what's really going on. You don't suspect that lost in the false drama of a life cut to pieces in so many ways, you've forgotten who you are - and it has nothing to do with choosing a face. Lost in a pattern of existence that doesn't serve you, you have no reference point to consider it's not what you think. It's not what the wall tells you. This is not your problem. You're working on the wrong solution. If only you could get the impulse, the insight to eliminate what you think is happening, maybe then you could float out of the thoughtform that traps you. Suddenly, Father San Pedro illuminates the sky with pulsing iridescent color. Immediately after, he banishes the wall in a deep shadow. You flood with emotion as you watch the truth emerge right in front of you.

You would be so surprised to discover you've forgotten what it's like to be a cloud. You might even reject with astonishment any suggestion that clouds don't need a face to put on. You might laugh at the notion that life is not a wall after all. You'd be shocked to realize those shards of glass only appear to drag across you, slicing you into painful distortions -- in fact, none of it reaches the real you by a mile. None of it can even get close. You're a cloud. The aberrant choppiness you think you see in yourself is a defect in the mirror hanging on the wall. It's not in you. You don't build walls or break glass. You glide over them. If you have any face at all, it's the face of the infinite sky, incredibly ever-changing yet ever the same. You are one with this greater whole. You don't need to choose a face. You just need to realize - the sun shines through you, you contain restorative rain for the world, you are the place of rainbows.

Cloud Far Above Wall

Normally, I wouldn't go into this amount of detail over a silly little cloud story. It's obviously a tale losing much in translation. It's like trying to describe skydiving to you so I hang you in a harness a few feet off the ground and turn an electric fan in your face. Yes, the fan is set on high speed but somehow that doesn't help. You know you haven't jumped out of an airplane just like you're reasonably certain you're not a cloud and life is not a jagged wall. No one's been dragging you over broken glass and you absolutely didn't experience space and time transformations. You didn't zoom back through a life review of related events from your past while the story progressed. With so much missing, I wouldn't be surprised if you skipped over the story altogether.

As Aldous Huxley said in The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, "We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies -- all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes...Words are uttered, but fail to enlighten. The things and events to which the symbols refer belong to mutually exclusive realms of experience."

And that's why I'm writing this for me. I don't intend on reproducing my San Pedro experience in any form that anticipates you'll feel it too. But I do invite you to look over my shoulder - scan the words as much as you like and take a gander at the photos and videos. The process of getting this down helps me integrate all that happened. Plus it provides an historical record so I won't have to rely on faulty memories of what transpired. Admittedly, there's another reason why I write this for myself. It has to do with how much I enjoy writing and always have, despite the awkward futility in the fact that less than eight percent of the population reads books anymore and those books statistically are mostly trashy romances and more self-help fluff from the latest NewAge guru. Suffice to say if you're at all curious, the reason I now write this for myself can be best explained in a section that follows - Sad Passion of Happiness.

My conversations with Father San Pedro have been progressive dialogues. Just as with any relationship between family members, a shared history develops. Past conversations are incorporated into the new. A richness, a layering, an unspoken understanding evolves among family. With each get-together, so much more can be accomplished. The day-long exchange, the messages, the lessons lead deeper through questions and answers one could have never anticipated when the journey began. Much of whatever gets accomplished, whatever gets healed, is felt much more than it is spoken. Not much of the "how's it even possible" is ever understood. I guess anguishing about understanding the why and how you're healed, why you're happy, why you no longer carry a weight of negativity or doubt or resentment or sadness -- none of that matters if the blind sees and the lame walks. When you reach the other shore, it's quite all right to leave that boat behind. You needn't carry any of that to the mountain top. But it's up to you. Everything you pursue with heart yields something beneficial.

Farm House in Yunguilla


No matter how familiar you think you are with Father San Pedro, never underestimate a plant medicine's power to surprise. Regardless of your intricate intentions or carefully scripted questions prepared in advance of a ceremony, be prepared to be unprepared. The medicine knows what you need better than you do. Oftentimes, in spite of you. As the saying goes, "Someone comfortable with their plan clearly does not comprehend the complexity of the situation." And so, there is no way to forecast your interaction with Father San Pedro no matter how many times the two of you have met. Day One in the Yunguilla Valley reinforced this for me in the most unsettling of ways possible.

A little after 9 a.m. the ceremony group sat in a circle on the grass in the backyard of a farm house high up a mountain slope and readied ourselves for the journey. Along for the ride, readied for their own personal journeys, were my wife and two of our good friends. Officiating over the medicine was our facilitator from my previous month's journey in Vilcabamba and his new apprentice. After the prayer "Aho Mitakuye Oyasin" gave thanks and called "To All Relations" to help us through the day, in round-robin fashion we spoke of our intentions in joining the ceremony space. I had given my intention much thought for over a week. Although a lot went into what I was feeling and wanting from the day, I held back the full weight of my anticipation and summarized my intent as briefly and best I could.

My previous journey in Vilcabamba had turned out to be deeply and exclusively about healing my past. Confident in the blessing of the healing I had received, I now wanted to return to an intention from an Ayahuasca ceremony a year before - an intention that I believed never got answered. It was about my future. I had spent a good portion of my life being very good at something that I believed wasn't me. In cleaning out wounds from my past, San Pedro had explained what that meant for my life. Now that I had moved beyond that, I needed to know what was best for me to be doing in the time I had left on the planet. Without an answer to that, I could only sense a looming darkness of meaninglessness for my remaining days. As Nietzsche said, "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how."

It can take the better part of an hour before the San Pedro medicine really kicks in. And so, after downing our glasses of medicinal brew we all remained in the shade, on the grass, in the sacred circle, exchanging pensive, calming, but expectant talk about the day ahead. Hearing it told later, more than one in the circle had a delayed reaction to the medicine. For me, the effect was opposite. Minutes after my last swallow of the brew, the feeling came over me that I could not merely sit and be part of the conversation anymore. An uneasy impulse to get away anywhere off by myself overtook me. I felt elevated in energy, gripped by a crystalline focal point on the present moment, and I sensed a pull into another domain. Oddly enough, just as my impulse to leave needed immediate action, the sacred circle broke and we all dispersed.

I'm not sure where anyone else went, although I heard continued talking in the distance behind me. Not knowing where to go, I followed the initial energetic impulse. It led me to a fence by the property line that bordered a dirt road. I strolled by the vine-draped chain-linked fence for a while, finally stopping to take in the view across the road. There was no reason to look over there except I felt I needed to.

Watering Hole Across The Road

Across the way, a neighbor's large pond was a watering hole for cattle. Morning sun painted shade across the pond and a gentle breeze shook the shade with lazy nudges. Exotic bird calls echoed down the mountain side. The Andes are filled with exotic birds and each bird song is more beautiful and amazing than the one before. But no other bird call says San Pedro to me than the distinctive call of the Pacific Hornero. It is so unique and amazing, you may one day hear it imitated if you attend an Ayahuasca ceremony presided over by a traditional shaman. In between icaros, during smudgings, while the shaman attends to the energetic space around you, oftentimes he will imitate the call of the Pacific Hornero. The imitations I have heard are subtle, breathy little whistles compared to the shrill thunder of the bird's real call - but in a ceremony, in contrast, the shaman's breathy little whistle fits the mood just right.

The "Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America: The Passerines" sums up the call of the Pacific Honero this way -- "Song - a loud, almost raucous series of piercing notes that slows and drops in pitch, sometimes given more or less in unison by a pair." For me, probably because of the overriding sense of conversation going on, the call is especially evocative of San Pedro when I hear two Pacific Horneros sound out loud and strong together - presumably, almost in sync. It is never a precise sync, one may say, but such a notion of precision is a misunderstanding of perfection. The sync achieved by two Pacific Horneros when calling out together is damned well the best example of perfection I have heard. It is their perfection. When you hear it that way, especially while "in the medicine" - you receive the message in the song.

And so, I can say with absolute certainty that my dialogue with Father San Pedro began the moment I looked over the fence to the other side of the road, across the neighbor's pond, while shade and cattle moved in slow motion, and the shrill thunder of two Pacific Horneros shook the air beside me. In that moment my attention was drawn to a gap in the fence across the road. Even though I had been standing there taking in the scene for who knows how long, I never noticed the missing section of fence. What seemed at the time a non sequitur of a question floated through my mind. It was asked by Father San Pedro -- "Why would they leave the gate open?"

I answered the best I could, working through all the reasons why it might be a good thing or just as likely an oversight that could let the cattle wander out into the road. By the time I reviewed my answers, I was dismayed to find that Father San Pedro had moved on. He didn't seem interested in my answers. Like a little boy who had gotten sidetracked and didn't realize that his father had strolled farther up the path, I needed to catch up. Starting right then and continuing through the rest of the day, and throughout the next day, I felt varying degrees of motion sickness. Without any visual cues to orient myself, the feeling of moving was as unsettling as it was unexplained.

In my hurry to catch up, I launched into my intentions. I quickly found those intentions riddled with questions. The expanding questions would necessitate divergence into separate issues, and the cascade of fall-out issues were then entangled in a web of feeling and melancholy-wonder that no words would be adequate to address. It started as that kind of conversation.

I felt Father San Pedro through it all but he was patiently walking beside me. We continued up the trail but his words were sparse. Like a father knowing when it was important to let me get it all out, he was there for me. He allowed me to vent, to question, to spin off with all my grandiose logical designs. He added a word or two here or there but for at least an hour he let me have at it however I wanted to proceed. In retrospect, I could imagine my download of everything on my mind and heart was too dense for him to get a word in edgewise. Or so it seemed. In reality, he could have interrupted me whenever he wanted. And when the time came, he knew exactly what to say to stun me into shifting gears.

Ripe Fruit on the Trees
A Time of Ripe Fruit for All
"Why do you feel you need to take it to the next level?"
I wasn't sure what he meant.
"Why do you come to me like this? What happened to father and son? What was wrong with that?"
I still wasn't sure what he meant.
"You want to take it to the next level? You want to talk man-to-man? Is that it?"
I realized I had been doing just that. I wanted to explain. "Yes. I want to understand. I want our conversation to progress. I want to understand things beyond being a child - at a higher level."
His comment back was delivered with passion, "None of that is necessary. Don't you realize that?"
"I know I've learned things. I know I want to learn more. I feel learning more is necessary."
"OK. So you want to take it to the next want to ask the hard questions. You want answers. We can do that. We can do anything you want. I'm here for you. Let's do it."

His tone changed. I was no longer sitting on his knee. I was in the boardroom and it was time to get down to business. It started off with a challenge to expand the level of questions I had allowed myself to explore. From my history, he knew the number one question I had brought to the past ceremonies dealt with the terrifying paradox I had experienced in my first Ayahuasca ceremony. At the time, I needed to know if the dark entities I watched take over the ceremony were real or not. Father San Pedro challenged me to go beyond questioning my fears. To really question involved so much more.
"You want to ask the hard questions? You asked before if the dark entities were real..."
He dismissed it. "That's not a hard question. Why do you only ask about dark entities? Ask yourself if love is real. Is love part of the illusion too?"

In the distance, the call of the lone Pacific Hornero mocked my indecisiveness. I couldn't answer. I discovered I wasn't certain. In the moment, father showed me all possibilities were possible.
"All is possible. Maybe real love got dis-invented long ago. Maybe it never existed. What you call love could be a pale imitation, a delusion you lose yourself in so you people don't have to face the truth. So give me your answer. Until you know love is real, until there are no questions, what good is anything else?"

Father didn't stop. Half of the time he never waited for my answer. The hard questions kept coming. The next two hours were intense. I was taken to school and I got what I asked for. I was shown that "next level" was so lacking in a description. It wasn't a level as I understood it - it was an essence that included the universe and it defied levels. It was a Pandora's Box of places where paradoxes and complexities fractally-spiralled outwards and inwards beyond reasoning. There was no way I was on par with Father San Pedro. Questioning him man-to-man was ripping me apart. Everything I thought was certain was gone. All of my questions were one-dimensional in an imagination space unbounded by mind. He took me down paths and got me to accept them - only to blow them away with razor-sharp certainty. Afterwards, he would admonish me, "You fell for that?" The hard questions opened up onto other dimensions. It was twelve-dimensional chess whizzing by me and I was trying to remember which way the rook moved.

There is no way to relate the content of those two hours. For awhile I paced near the farm house, on the porch, through the kitchen, by the water jug, then back onto the patio. A fierce debate raged within me about moral choices and whether they existed in the real and the illusion we lived in.
"If none of this is real," remarked father, "then there are no moral choices here."
My mind spun with philosophies that said nothing of this world was real.
"There are no real moral choices in an illusion," Father emphasized. "Am I right?"
The hard questions kept coming. At the time, I was standing on the patio sipping water from a ceramic mug. Father challenged me further. If I wanted to face the hard questions, I needed to bring them into my reality in a tangible way. Thinking about them was never enough. Hard questions never get answered in the mind. They need action. We only know who we are, we only truly know our answers by being challenged by something we can't avoid or rationalize away. It has to be something out of mind. Something in our face. The hard questions are truly faced when we are forced to make a decision with seemingly real consequences. Or are they real?
"If I'm right," prodded Father, "then throw that cup down. Break it!"

I hesitated.
"Why do you hesitate? What does it matter? It's just an illusion. There's no moral choice here."
No matter how much I tried to comply, I couldn't bring myself to smash the cup on the patio floor.
"You think there are consequences in this place? Consequences that matter? Huh!?"
I thought of the people who owned the house. It was their cup. I shouldn't just break it.
"If you can't break the cup, you are telling me this place is real. You are telling me such a thing matters. How can you justify that?"
Once again I hesitated. There was no way I could be certain this place was real. No way to justify not acting on unfettered impulse. Not after all the conversation we had already had.
"Break it!" father demanded.
My hand wavered. I almost did it. And then the fact that I had come so close shook me.
"You're making a moral choice," noted father. "But you have no reason for it!"
I must have, I thought. I fought for an answer. Pushed into emotional overload by the real consequences possible, the moment collapsed into the only thing left. I blurted back, "I feel it's right." I could find no other explanation for my resistance.
"Like I said," he answered. "You have no REASON for it."
Sensing how my internal conversations sometime become so energetic that they seem to spill over into affecting my external environment always rattles me. I had to set the cup down on the nearest table.

"You don't trust yourself." Father paused, reading me and my reaction. "You may still do it."
His comment laid me bare. My hand shook. He was right and I didn't know why.
"Pick up the cup. Prove me wrong." Father added, "Go ahead, take it to the next level."

Escape to the Trees
Entering the Wormhole

I had to get away from that cup. The energy of hearing him bait me with "the next level" pulled me down the steps and sent me trodding off into the wind-whipped mango, papaya, and banana trees at the lower section of the property. There I paced, dizzy with unsettling impulses and echoes of the conversation. Finally, distracting myself from knowing the cup was waiting for me on the table somewhere beyond the trees, I tried launching back into my questions. I asked if there might be a way to resolve the conflict between nature and human technology. San Pedro showed me a beautiful way to combine nature with machines, humanity with a transhuman idealized state. It seemed all so elegant and evolutionary, so brilliant and natural in progression. Then he bounced me on my ass and showed me the inverted, perverted other side of it. I saw the deception of spirit and corruption of everything good that would result. "You fell for that?"

I asked - is there any way to resolve the paradoxes of what is real and what is illusion? What to do if we can never be sure if reality's the illusion and the illusion's real? He showed me how anything can be real and at the same time an illusion. He led me into the trap of getting lost in believing one for the other. "You fell for that?" My mind reeled. He followed it up with -- "You can create anything! Anything is true with mind. Just don't get lost in it - if you need to get lost in something, get lost in heart. But why get LOST there? You don't have to get lost at all!"

He even dispensed with my intentions for the day - "nothing but machinations of mind!" I looked back on them with expanded awareness and knew he was right. I was not doing well at the "next level." Everything I got into was crayons and color-by-number -- all of Father's answers were advanced CGI. The Pandora's Box I had opened never arrived and would never arrive at a final answer or one complete understanding. It turned out there were so many "complete understandings," the next one seemingly more elegant than the one before until you realized that all of those understandings were only component parts of a greater whole that was ever-emerging upon more. It never stopped. Resolved paradoxes resolved by unfolding as dilemmas to be answered with even richer imagined paradoxes. It could be so incredibly interesting to explore the far reaches of it all. It was so easy to get caught up and not realize I was applying infinite energy to a puzzle that exponentially expanded with an influx of energy. It was my choice what to make real, where to direct my energies. The universe was not judgmental - it would gladly let me go down any rabbit hole that made me happy. The key question, often overlooked, remained -- how do you know it really makes you happy? Are you being fulfilled or just dazzled into being lost by what you fill yourself with? How will you ever know? By resolving paradoxes? By taking it to the next level? By securing answers that implied future questions?

I felt like I had just run a marathon. I was intensely alert but bedraggled and spent. I sat down on a pile of broken roof tiles at the corner of the property. I was whipped. My question bag had been summarily emptied and shoved over my head. The mountain I thought I was going to climb turned out to be a wormhole into an infinity of possible certainties and converging opposites. There seemed to be no way to find rest or peace or satisfaction down that path. And that's exactly what Father intended me to find.

The Farm Setting

I stood, bedraggled, and shuffled to a shady spot amidst the fruit trees. I felt a wave of compassion from Father for my predicament. He asked with a man-to-man insistence tinged with a deep sense of concern, "What do you want now?"

I knew in the moment that anything I wanted was there for the asking. Father San Pedro was there for me. He wasn't going to force me down any one path. He would walk across the snares with me if that was where I wanted to go. He would sit with me on the pile of broken roof tiles if that made me happy. He was willing to argue logical points the rest of the day and into tomorrow if I felt I needed that. But in that moment, thrashed as I was, I could only think of what he had told me over a year before. The thought of asking for it made me smile. Who was I to order up anything from him, as if my wish was his command. At that, he echoed the amused sentiment -

"I might as well be your genie -- your wishes await."
I was humbled by my humor. "Anything I want?"
"Anything you want..."

The air was perfectly still. The sun beat down beyond my shady space among the trees. I went back to what he had said a year before. And yet, the thought of commanding anything to appear was ludicrous, presumptuous, preposterous, brash, and impossibly wishful. But I asked it anyway.
"I want to see beauty!" (His message from a year before was "look for the beauty in life)
Instantly, a gorgeous white crane swooped close overhead. I watched the beauty of its graceful glide pass nearby with rapt awe. The flight couldn't have been cued with any finer precision. As the bird passed, a large gust of wind blew through the banana trees and pushed me off-balance.

Filled with the beauty of the bird's flight, my heart raced to simplify. I wanted nothing else than for the rest of the day to be spent as father and son. No more man-to-man questions. I would gratefully leave the next level behind for the peace and loving certainty of a father's love. But Father San Pedro was not going to let me off the hook that easily. A man couldn't race back and be the boy any time things got rough, otherwise, what's the point of taking on things like a man? Father wasn't going to give up on the hard questions just yet. He turned his focus onto my original intentions for the day. Yes, they were machinations of the mind. But he showed me how my mind was only trying to deal with so much that went deeper, deeper than mind could ever understand fully. But with me, it always had to start with the mind, with the analysis my mind had done. That was the door into me. That was my protective layer. To reach anywhere deeper, Father would have to lead me where I needed to go by first catching the attention of my mind. Or so I thought. In reality, the hardest question, the toughest lesson hadn't come yet. And it wasn't a question for the mind at all.

Feeling pulled towards the inevitable, I left the trees and walked back up the hill. I avoided possible interactions at the house and found myself back at the chain-linked fence at the side of the property by the dirt road. I laid down on a mat, close to the fence, facing the road, and sunk into the realization that the hard questions were not about to stop. Part of asking Father San Pedro to go someplace with you is the understanding that the only way out is through. Backing out of a lesson is never the way to get what one needs from the experience. Once on the ride, you were strapped in until the end of what was needed. He didn't let it go unnoticed that my avoidance of the house conveniently kept me from facing the cup again. The cup that was not yet broken. The mention of it spiraled me back into a continuing conversation about the real and unreal, the existence or non-reality of moral choices, and whether dark entities and love ever mattered within the illusions we had created for ourselves.

Father is very good at convincing you of anything. He even convinces you that you can choose anything to be real or unreal for yourself. Free will and personal choice have meaning or they don't depending on what? If anything is possible, if we create our reality, if everything is energy and infinite probabilities, what's to say one over the other? Is our existence that magical? Is this a place of unconditional "yes" so mind-boggling that we get lost in our own wishful delusions? Can we actually make our delusions real? Can we actually dis-invent love? Have we? If everything is possible, why not? When we say there's a cosmic source for everything, do we really consider what we are saying -- what the source of everything would include? Are we willing to look at those parts of ourselves that everything includes? Father kept bringing me back to my decision not to break the cup. There was no logic to it. There was no certainty. There was no reason, given the expanded awareness of what was involved. Could expanded awareness lead us into being lost in our delusions? Could anyone ever think their way out of the hard questions I was shown? And if they had, would those answers be real or unreal? Was it ever only up to us?

I was too exhausted and wracked with motion sickness to handle any more. Lying on the ground, I felt like I was falling - falling away from certainty, drifting away from meaning, passing beyond the point of ever being at peace with answers. The sad, sinking feeling left me an empty shell - an empty shell eternally filling with next level answers that didn't satisfy.

Into that shell came a sound. It was far away, plaintive, familiar and yet alienated by the context. The sound grew louder. At first I thought I was hearing my inner self moaning. But it was more than a moan. It was sobbing. It was a cry. Was I crying and not realizing it? I pulled my awareness sharper and realized the sound was not me - but a child in the distance.

I lay there, interpreting the sound. A child was crying. Was it crying to be picked up? Was it crying because it was thirsty, hungry? Maybe it had been disciplined by a parent. But no, as I analyzed the cry, it came to me - the cry was a cry of pain. What level of pain was it? How does one judge the level of pain? The child was in pain that wasn't trivial and the cry was getting louder. Why was it louder? There were other voices too. I recognized Spanish being spoken. The other adult voice was agitated, hurried. I realized that the child and the adults were coming closer. Before I knew it, I was laying on the ground on my side, staring out at a family close by, frantically moving down the dirt road just beyond the fence. They stopped right outside the fence. I watched a small boy yell out in pain. I saw his anguished face. His left foot was obviously hurt. The father was carrying him while the distraught mother hovered nearby. More hurried Spanish was being exchanged.

As I lay there, Father San Pedro returned to his first question of the day, "Is love real or is it another part of the illusion?" Before I could attempt an answer, he added the answer - it was the same answer I received about the dark entities at the end of another ceremony, a Kambo ceremony, after Rapé took me deeper -- "It's real and it's not real."
I laid there, taking everything in - the family in agony in front of me on the road and San Pedro in my head. Father added, "It's up to us. We make love real by our actions."

Another moment passed and he noted, "You wouldn't break the cup -- so how can you lie there when the child is crying?"
In an instant, a flood of emotional lessons from the day poured into me -- the real and unreal existing simultaneously in our choices, whether moral choices really existed, what did the laws of attraction mean in its total scope, how making our own reality could be our salvation or a trap. Father's words echoed back to me - "We make it real by our actions."

Why this particular family stopped exactly where they did I'll never know. Why this little boy had to break his foot or whatever it was right in front of me while I was "in the medicine" I can only guess. Why Father San Pedro had led me down a line of "hard questions" at the "next level" was all due to what I had asked for. And he was not about to fail me. "You want to go there, kid? Okay..." I just never dreamt that the "real world" would "intrude" on my sacred medicine lessons in such a dramatic way. The feeling was pressed at me -- if I wanted to face the hard questions, I needed to bring them into my reality in a tangible way. Thinking about them was never enough. Hard questions never get answered in the mind. They need action. We only know who we are, we only truly know our answers by being challenged by something we can't avoid or rationalize away. It has to be something out of mind. Something in our face. The hard questions are truly faced when we are forced to make a decision with seemingly real consequences.

One thing was for certain. I could not simply lie there, listen to that child in pain, and do nothing. Something prevented me from breaking the cup. I could not explain it. I didn't know why the force was so strong, even as Father San Pedro commanded me to break it. I knew it was a test. And now I was being tested again.

I have no way of knowing how I appeared to the anguished family just beyond the fence, especially since I was still deep "in the medicine." But I jumped up and called over to them in my best broken Spanish, asking if they needed help. They shifted towards me and in hurried Spanish tried to make me understand. I didn't. All I could think of was to get the ceremony facilitator or his apprentice. I knew the apprentice was better at Spanish than I was - and he wasn't at the moment "in the medicine." I sought him out and told him the situation. He hurried out and spoke to the father over the fence. He offered to call for help but the father didn't seem interested in that. The apprentice assured me that the father had noted that someone was going to try to come up from town on a motorcycle. Everything would be taken care of - no need for alarm.

Minutes were passing and the child was crying out. The apprentice had returned to the house but the boy's father kept engaging with me. He kept trying to tell me something, ask me something. He seemed more desperate and needing some other kind of help. If everything was taken care of, why was he engaging me so? I moved over to the front gate. He followed me there. I thought I should let him in so he could explain his situation better. But the gate had a padlock on it. I knew that ceremony space was always kept secured and no one was supposed to break the energetic space around the ceremony, but the need seemed apparent. I motioned at the lock but the father pleaded with me, pointing at the car behind the gate and gesturing for me to cut off the lock if need be. I felt I could only do so much. I didn't have the key to the gate and the car wasn't mine - it was owned by the ceremony's facilitator.

Before I could think of any other way to help, I saw the resignation in the man's eyes. He knew I wasn't going to help him take his son down the hill to the hospital. In the distance I could hear a 2-stroke motorcycle coming up the dirt road. The meager help he could manage was on the way. He reached out his hand and I reached through the wrought-iron fence to grab hold of it. We shook hands and even without a common language, I communicated my concern and compassion for him and his son and he sent back his appreciation, understanding, and gratitude for my attempt, despite the ineffectual effort it turned out to be. We were within a foot of each other. We made a strong connection while I was "in the medicine." The connection resonated back to the refrain I kept hearing in my head - "It's real and it's not real. It's up to us. We make love real by our actions."

I stood by the gate while the parents took the boy to the back of a friend's motorcycle. The small 2-stroke machine had barely room for its driver. Behind him climbed someone who would have to hold the crying boy. The three of them needed to navigate down the mountain road to the small town below.

After the motorcycle was gone, I looked over the fence to the other side of the road, across the neighbor's pond, while shade and cattle moved in slow motion. In that moment my attention was drawn to the gap in the fence across the road. What seemed a non sequitur of a question at the start of the ceremony, so many hours before, now floated through my mind once again. At start of day the question was asked by Father San Pedro. Now he asked it again - "Why would they leave the gate open?" This time he was asking about a completely different gate.

The Gate

The incident affected me for the rest of the afternoon. The conversation with Father San Pedro had ended with the hardest question yet. The example had taken me into the next level in ways that were too real, too raw, too upsetting. I couldn't get the connection with the boy's father out of my heart and mind. I felt we in the ceremony space had lost an opportunity to walk our talk and "make love real by our actions." Yes, the "ceremony container" was inviolate and needed to be protected. But if we love only when it is safe or convenient for us, what does that say about our conditional love? In the moments of that afternoon, while "in the medicine", the choice appeared clear. Fears about dark entities entering our sacred ceremony space should the gate be opened seemed to fly in the face of the power of love and everything we gave lip service to. I needed to talk with someone and gratefully, the apprentice was there for me. He allowed me to vent and let out emotion, to explore my confusion, to try to handle the excess energy I was left with. It was very kind the way he sat with me in the minutes afterwards.

Not breaking the cup was the good and right thing to do. That solid foundation in heart would always overwhelm the delusions we make real by our fears. To say the least, the rest of the day was rough for me. Later that night, after supper, when we were all sharing and I tried to communicate what I felt was San Pedro's message for ALL of us, I was simply told it was MY message. I was reminded of the inviolate nature of the ceremony space and the need to keep the space safe. As if a message about the truth of love only applies conditionally. As if our love is so weak, so impotent, so vulnerable that we can only fully practice it within a "safe ceremony space."

I found it uniquely frustrating because just the day before, someone at the ceremony had shared that at a previous ceremony somewhere else, they had asked San Pedro if it was allowable for one person while "in the medicine" to bring back messages for other people. They said that San Pedro had answered yes, one person COULD bring back a message for someone else. No mention of this was made by this person when I was trying to describe San Pedro's message about the event with the hurt child. I guess going there would have made it too real for everyone concerned. Better if it all remain an abstract "lesson", a personalized "message" for someone else, something to add to our communal bag of love-inspired aphorisms to post online for one another on another day. Granted, most people at the ceremony hadn't even been aware that the episode with the child was going on while it happened. The participants were all in various parts of the property at the time, deep into their own experience. No wonder it was off their radars.

After dinner, we each had an Angel card reading. We could pick any number of cards. I chose two - for the first card I wanted a comment on what I had experienced during the day. For the second card, I wanted a comment on the following day and the next ceremony to come, should I decide to attend.

Card One / Comment on the Day - Compassion

Archangel Zadkiel: “Soften your heart with respect to this situation, and all the people involved, including yourself.”
Additional Message: “I can help you forgive yourself and others, or to compassionately see everyone’s point of view. You needn’t change your stance or behavior. It simply means approaching the situation with a loving heart, which empowers you and allows creative solutions to pour forth.”

Working with Archangel Zadkiel: Zadkiel’s name means “Righteousness of God,” and he helps us release unforgiveness toward ourselves and others. Ask him to come into your dreams and act like a chimney sweep, clearing away any emotional toxins from your heart. He’ll ensure that everyone’s needs are met, and that emotional healings occur in miraculous ways.

Card Two / Comment on the Future - Moon Cycles
Interestingly enough, this ceremony occurred on the day of the Super Moon, a lunar event that hadn't happened in over 70 years.

Archangel Haniel: “Notice how the moon affects your energy and manifestations, and capitalize upon these cycles.”
Additional Message: “The full moon is a perfect time to release anything you’re done with, the new moon is the time to focus on manifesting desires and intentions, and the evening before the full moon is an optimal time for healing, and for recharging healing instruments such as crystals and oils. Spend time looking at the moon, and notice how you feel in relationship to its cycles. As you discover the moon’s connection with your vitality and moods, you’ll be more in touch with its Divine magic.”

Working with Archangel Haniel: Haniel’s aura is bluish-white, like the full moon’s glow. The crystal associated with Haniel is the moonstone, which has magical, nurturing energy associated with it. Wear or hold a moonstone whenever you wish to feel close to Haniel. She will care for you with her nurturing mother energy and effect miracles with her love for you.

I was too shaken up to notice it at the time, but the Compassion card comment on my day went far beyond having compassion for the family and the wounded child. The card implored the cardholder to "soften your heart with respect to this situation, and all the people involved, including yourself...forgive yourself and others, or to compassionately see everyone’s point of view." Despite any valid messages I might have received, the Angel card message included everybody with me that day, including the other ceremony participants and the facilitator and his apprentice. Full compassion needed to extend everywhere, including myself and what appeared to be my inability to come to grips with what had happened, and not happened, and my reaction to it. Since the ceremony, Father San Pedro has continued to show me this for as he has told many of us so often, he is always with us if we call on him.

Everything considered at the time, I had a very difficult time processing what had happened. My outside experience was in no way matching my internal experience. I went to bed feeling that Father San Pedro was disappointed. Why else did I have no other conversation with him the rest of the afternoon? Why were his last words to me - "Why would they leave the gate open?" Maybe in the last hours of the day, he was still with me but out of mind, only in my emotions. But why had the hard questions and the next level have to be so real, so extreme, so hard-ball? He wasn't kidding when he told me, "OK, let's go there." I wouldn't be satisfied until I got more. He didn't disappoint. His words came back to me from the start of day when I asked him to progress the conversation, to take me into deeper understanding. "None of that is necessary. Don't you realize that?"

Yes, the day had started with the safe space being defined and smudged, the sacred "Aho Mitakuye Oyasin" prayer that called upon "All My Relations" to help us throughout the day. And yet falling asleep at the end of Day One, I felt lost within a heartbreak container.

Yellow Flowers


Morning came too soon. Feelings from the night before had been tempered with rest but were far from gone. Before falling asleep I didn't know if the exhaustion of Day One might prevent me from joining in the next ceremony. But when the warm sunlight filled the bedroom, I felt too much was left unresolved to sit the day out. I remembered being told that San Pedro oftentimes gives you the energy you need to see the ceremony through. I thought back to the Day One comment from the Angel card reading from the night before - “The full moon is a perfect time to release anything you’re done with, the new moon is the time to focus on manifesting desires and intentions, and the evening before the full moon is an optimal time for healing."

With a Super Moon on my side, how could I pass up an opportunity to release more and manifest more? Like the day before, I felt the pull of the medicine fairly quickly after drinking down the brew. My intention for this day was definitely not over-thought. No way did I want to go there again. I wished to simply return to the father and son relationship with San Pedro. No more insisting on progressing the conversation. If I could manage to pull my head out of the wormhole, maybe Father might even show me something about my future.

The day was exceptionally beautiful, the scenery awe-inspiring. Never before had I heard such a cacophony of nature sounds celebrating being alive. Such things may go unnoticed since they are so familiar for people used to living in the country, I don't know, but we city-dwellers on the medicine can find umpteen reasons to delight in the craziest of little things. It was such a perfect setting. Even more reason to feel strange at not being able to find my place to settle in. There was a restless feeling of displacement in every direction I turned. Everyone seemed to be able to find a comfortable spot to retreat to but I started the day searching. Maybe my searching wasn't for a place at all.

The Concrete Ledge

Father San Pedro waited with infinite patience for me to get to the point. Back as Father and son, it was easier letting my feelings drive my intention forward. Before anything else, there was one innocent question that the kid just had to ask. Before I could ask it, I was led to a shady spot on the side of the house. There, stretching the length of the house, was a brick and concrete ledge adorned with a couple of flower pots. I sat down on the ledge and felt settled enough to ask my question. It concerned the hard lesson of the crying child.

"So my message from yesterday - was it just for me or everyone?"
Father spoke with a quality of voice that was soft, firm, angelic, "It's for all who heard."
He paused and waited for his words to sink in before adding, "Some hear with mind, some with heart. For each it becomes real however it's heard. That's why it's always better to hear with the heart."

The silence that followed continued the message into the heart. The deeper the silence drove it home, the more I was content that the matter had been covered completely. Nothing else needed to be said about that. He was done with the topic for the day. I was now free to move on. I felt all of it release. With the release came a whoosh of spirit that collapsed me on my side. I laid down on the concrete ledge and felt the motion sickness again. Strangest of all in the moment, I found the flat concrete ledge a most comfortable place to be. It felt like the best mattress. How that's possible, I don't know. The journey was ramping up into all that Father knew was good for me. I let any resistance go and sunk into the feeling. Before I knew it, the sun had moved in the sky and the shade on the side of the house had shrunk. My little ledge was still shaded, but something else had moved. That something else was inside of me. I heard Father's voice:

"You want to know about the future - your future. You want to know what you're supposed to be doing with the rest of your time."
"You'll never answer questions about your future until you finish with your past."
This wasn't what I wanted to hear. After two days of deep healing about my past in last month's ceremony in Vilcabamba, I thought I was ready to move forward. I felt I was done with the past. I was happy and energized to be done with it. Now all I needed was direction on how to fill the future.
"You think you're stranded in a waiting-room," remarked Father.
It was true. I often referred to my condition of life akin to someone abandoned in a waiting-room. I could have some fun watching the illusion-units fight over the best seats and the old magazines, but it was still just a waiting-room.
"You think this is a waiting-room because you feel you don't belong. How can you ever do anything with your future if you don't belong?"

The realization hit me. I never thought of it that way before. I never suspected that it was something about me that made it a waiting-room. Stunned, I stood up and walked away from the house. My steps diverted to the chain-link fence by the road. Across the road, the cattle had scattered away. Smoke filled the air. I stood at the fence and watched as fire consumed the weeds around one side of the pond. Industrious voices carried on the air. The neighbors had purposely set a fire to tame the weeds. As I stood there, Father took my past apart. Attached to the pieces of the past were deep emotions. As he took me through the process, I felt myself fragmenting.

"As a kid, you never felt you belonged in your family."
He took me through it in excruciating detail. My parents and sisters were all born in St. Louis. I was born in Los Angeles. My siblings were nine and twelve years older than me. I was the only boy child who grew up in a house of adults. Instead of playing catch with my father, he got me a "pitch-back net" device so I could throw into the net and catch the ball when it bounced back. At every opportunity, they reminded me how I differed from them. Anything I liked, they didn't get or their version in St. Louis or in a previous time was better. Play was a solitary pursuit, a refuge. I made up elaborate play scenarios to entertain myself. As I grew, the separation only intensified. The examples of separation from family proliferated. I only skim the surface of them here.
"What are we doing?" I asked Father at one point. "I feel sad. Is that okay or am I just feeling sorry for myself?"
"We're burning off the weeds," came his answer.
I looked up at fast-moving dark clouds. They were an instant metaphor for feeling like I was under a dark cloud.
"Good - don't chase away the dark clouds; they bring restorative rain, they wash away what no longer serves you."

I laid down on a mat near to and facing the chain-link fence. The dark clouds raced overhead while the crackle of fire and smell of smoke filled my senses. Near to my face, the chain-link's metal lattice was interlaced with the vines of a bush emblazoned with gorgeous Hibiscus flowers. Everything becomes a metaphor for healing.
Father spoke. "Over time it all gets intertwined and we feel a need to break free - but we dare not because we think it's the only structure that's holding us up." Father wouldn't stop with the review. "You are fire and water - separated they have their purpose but together they resolve opposites - in that there is power - be the steam."
Note: my astrological Sun sign is Sagittarius and my Rising sign is Aquarius.
He stressed, "You are never going to have purpose where you don't belong."
I felt I needed to know, so I asked, "Is this place real?"
"When you play for keeps you make it real - otherwise, it's a shadow world."

The Super Moon
The Super Moon rises the night before

I felt overloaded. I had to go lie down inside. Upstairs in the farm house, I collapsed on my bed, only to be pestered by nagging, seemingly irrational thoughts about my shoes and socks. I hadn't taken either off and the room was hot. Back and forth I debated whether to take them off and be comfortable to leave them on and avoid the trouble of dealing with them when I got back up. The decision seems trivial now, but in the moment, the debate nauseated me. I felt like I might need to purge.
Father San Pedro was heard again. He was emphatic, "You've been conditioned to put aside what is right in the moment for a future circumstance. How can you ever belong here and now like that?"
It was good that I was lying down because the spiraling vision he showed me of how one thing led to another stunned me dizzy. The life review I was shot through kept going and going. He went with me. As we travelled, he broke it down for me.
"You don't belong --- results in loneliness."
More life review.
"Deep-set loneliness --- results in self-doubt."
More life review.
"Endless self-doubt --- results in lack of confidence."
Finally, spun through my childhood and into my young adulthood, he concluded -- "Your isolation has become your identity. You can stay there if you like and it will afford you a remote perspective that's unique. But is that what you want?"
I answered the only way I could in the moment, "How do I remove the isolation?"
His answer was immediate -- "Start living like you belong."

I had to pull myself up and get outside. I needed to be in nature. I found a new place, close but not so near the chain-linked fence. I laid down and faced a new direction - the physical symbology of that wouldn't sink in until later. I drifted off on an emotional sea, buoyed by my life review, pulled by a tide of desire for a new place, a new direction, a new way of being. Hours passed. Father was with me, doing what he does. It's not something that can be explained. To say he was re-wiring what had been jumbled up inside is a weak analogy although it may be the best I can do. Once again, I can't taste the strawberry for anyone else.

It was early afternoon by the time I resurfaced. I got up to share some mid-day fruit with the other participants. It was a deep time for everyone. I don't remember much conversation although there must have been some. It's an other-worldly re-entry to walk back into normal conversations with people while still in the medicine. After the fruit was gone, I answered the call of seeking solitude. I returned to my comfortable concrete ledge on the side of the house. There I found it easy to re-float myself on the emotional sea. The sea was losing depth with each pass through the life review. Waiting-room sank into not belonging which sank into loneliness which sank into self-doubt which sank into lack of confidence which hit bottom in isolation. I moved back to the new direction spot on the grass.

Facing a new Direction on the Grass

Laying on my side, I opened my eyes to take in the panoply of plants and flowers under gliding clouds. As I meditated, one plant in the distance, barely seen through gaps in the foliage, drew my attention. It was quite far away but the sun was on it and it was waving like crazy. Every time I tried to refocus on my meditation, all attention was pulled back to the motion of that plant. The extreme movement was out of place with the surroundings. No other plant was moving so fast or at all. It was demanding my attention and its insistence triggered me to respond with annoyance.
"All right! Why do you want my attention? What is it?!"
With spooky timing, all motion in the plant stopped. I felt I had rebuked it somehow.

Father San Pedro took note. His explanation shocked me into feelings of remorse.
"That plant was just waving hello. That was all. It was glad to see you."
As soon as he said it, I recognized what had happened.
Father continued - "Why so critical?" The question was about so much more than the present moment.
My mind raced away with what had happened. I automatically took the motion critically as a demand for my attention. I judged it, immediately wondering about what it wanted from me. Because it must want something. Why was my first instinct to go there?

Like a telepathic shot of reality, San Pedro jumped into the conversation.
"A sense of isolation fosters suspicions and criticality. And so you cut yourself off from the joy all around you. You cut yourself off from your future. Realize - there's no answer for what you should be doing. Instead of asking what - free yourself from ideas. With that out of the way, the rest takes care of itself. You love Nature and Nature never asks what it should be doing. It just is."

The depths of the emotional ocean refilled a bit with more to deal with. The thought passed my mind before I had a chance to hold it back --- Maybe what I think I should be doing is false and only a part of self-delusion from bad stuff in the past.
San Pedro responded, "There is no bad stuff in the past. The only guide is the heart. Question and answer will fit when you start asking the right questions. Because the answer will always be the same - love. You are a part of love - so with love you BELONG - you always have. Nothing can change that."

I felt what he was saying but some of it was difficult for my mind to accept.
Father asked, "What to do with your time? Do what makes you happy!"
The truthful answer was prompted out of me right away, "I don't know what that is anymore! I don't know what makes me happy!"

Father responded, "You defined yourself once. You can redefine yourself. Allow a new definition and the source of happiness will flow out of it. You can't have one until the other."

I felt lost. Father was telling son what he needed to hear but son was not wanting to hear it.
All I could do is repeat in sadness...
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know
I don't know

He let me sink with the feeling until finally, Father San Pedro shouted out to interrupt me.
"That's right!
It's not to KNOW!
Are you getting it?
It's to FEEL!"

Panoramic View of Farm


They say that eating a little something like fruit halfway through the ceremony provides a "bump" going deeper into the experience. The afternoon definitely proved the point. Just when I thought Father had plumbed the tangle of my childhood through-and-through, he shot me deeper with starker revelations. After the imperative to FEEL, the bottoming out of my feelings triggered another round through days that might be long ago but still projected their effects on me - and apparently, onto my concept of the future.

San Pedro showed me clearly, "As a kid you used to perform with the TV to try to get your family's attention. You think now if you perform and show people how analyzing and clever you are, if you write books so the evidence of your worth is right is front of them -- that might somehow convince them that you belong. That's the only reason you write. You're still trying to belong. Stop trying to belong! Realize that you already do!"

It sounds like a non sequitur now, but in that moment my next question made perfect sense.
"Then what is left of me?"
Father San Pedro answered firmly -- "The part that counts!"
For whatever reason, the son wouldn't hear of it. I protested, "I don't know who I am. I feel lost."
His answer took me off balance, "--- that's a part of being love. It's the first part. But only the beginning."

For awhile, he let it sink in as much as it could.
He had read me completely - like a book. He knew how much I loved to write. I loved moving people with words. He knew I was drawn to writing with a passion, always had been. By reducing my one true passion to nothing more than a cheap performance, offered in desperation in a vain attempt to solicit a feeling of belonging, he had cut my last legs out from under me. My conclusion was that I should no longer write. "What is left of me?" took on final, existential dimensions that rendered me non-existent.
Then he added, "You feel sad because I just proved that writing is just a performance you do hoping to gain favor so you'll belong. Taking that away from you is intensely sad. Is that true?"
I returned a telepathic nod.
"And what does that tell you? -- THAT'S the thing that makes you happy."

My confusion wouldn't accept it. "But that happiness must be false because it's a performance in pursuit of a misunderstanding."

Father laughed. "Happiness is not the delusion! Only the things that bring us there! If you're happy,
your delusion is as good as anybody else's!" More laughter.

I felt the fatherly smile coaxing me out into the proverbial backyard. My life review swirled back to a time when I wished my father would come out into the yard and teach me baseball, football --- anything.
San Pedro implored me, "You've got to learn to play the game with me. Come on kid. The game of life.
The game of what makes you happy." Finally, someone was asking me outside, wanting to teach me to play the game. The healing energy of that flowed over and through me.

Up in the Clouds

In the next moment, a motorcycle went by on the road nearby. I knew that the road was behind my head as I was situated lying down. But the motorcycle sound impossibly flowed around my feet. I raised up in surprise since there was no road where the sound was being projected.

Father commented, "Things are not always what they seem. The only sense that is always accurate is the heart sense. You don't need permission or approval or seeking out a sense of belonging to be happy - happy is from within. Regardless of the game going on all around- it's all clowns and mirrors and bright lights - don't mistake it for you. Connect with the love within. The true source of happy. However it manifests. A beautiful note is enough for what it is regardless if anyone hears it or gets it.
Stop performing for approval. To belong. And instead be you. Play the game. Connect with happiness. Connect with love for itself. Regardless if anyone hears it or gets it."

The completion I felt welled up within. I couldn't help but ask a perfectly silly, perfectly son-like question. "What would make me happy is to give you a hug - how can I ever do that?"
Father's response came right away, "-- easy, hug everyone you meet."
"That's not the same," I retorted, a little dejected.
Father wouldn't have any of it. "-- you're right, it's better."
I felt the day slipping away. I didn't want it or Father to go. "How do I keep the feeling of being in the medicine back in normal life?"
I could feel his smile. "-- enjoy normal life like it's a product of the medicine. For it is!"

I laid down on my back and stared up at the sky. In my view, the wind rustled trees and a magical formation of clouds moved overhead. The beauty of the way the clouds were shifting apart and into each other directly overhead cannot be explained, except to say it enthralled me. I was lost in the beauty.

Father whispered, "Love people like you love me."
I answered, "But people aren't like you..."
His response was immediate "-- the more you love them, the more like me they become. The more you love them, the more like me you become. To be near me outside of the medicine, be nearer to them."
With melancholy joy that the day was almost done, I answered, "Easier said than done."
"Come on kid, play the game with me."

Father went silent and the clouds overhead went into motion. As I watched, I could swear a cloud was forming a perfect letter "L" -- I laughed at the ridiculous idea that the clouds would literally spell out LOVE. It was too unreal, too unbelievable, too much to accept. It was so silly I laughed out loud. The release of that energy teased fate and I couldn't help but wonder what would happen. It couldn't really happen, could it? The suspense of the miraculous filled me with joyful anticipation. Incredibly, an "O" started to form next to the "L" -- but I couldn't accept such things were possible. Things like that just didn't happen. And I guess I was right. Because after I thought that, the "V" and "E" never formed. I was so amazed, I whipped out my phone and took a picture. It took my wife to point out that there was also a heart in the photo, in between the "L" and "O".

Love in the Clouds

I was left with joy and sadness all at once. The moment was too good -- too good to leave.
I sent San Pedro a message and a question. "I don't want to leave you. Why can't I go home with you?"
His answer found a hidden spot inside where a part of me wasn't fully here. "-- you ARE coming home. And playing the game is the way there."
"I don't understand."
"-- that's all right, as long as you feel it's true, you're on the path home."

In the next moment, I understood the lesson in the two days of motion sickness. I understood life as the journey home. The motion of it was too fast to comprehend. It was too fast to see. But somehow I was given a sense of it. Life isn't a waiting-room after all. It's a ride. An incredible ride that is always in motion. That motion is always directed to the only thing that's real, that's true, that's sure to be a completion. It's the motion of going home.

I stayed in that space for a long time, long after the messages had stopped. It truly was too good to leave. At first it seemed as if there was so much to take in. But then the motion and the sky showed me -- there was no need to work at it. The only thing to take in was the realization that everything was already accessible within. And I didn't need to load myself up with any of it. All of it was inside to be found whenever needed as it had been all the time. Most importantly, I belonged on the ride. I was happy to be in motion. And that motion is fast. All that was left to do was play the game.

In that instant, my wife appeared at my side beaming a joyful smile. Her voice and loving smile brought to me an expression of the game as it should be. She brought her love with a simple question -- "...would you like a banana?" Wow - the ride could be so beautiful if only we flow with it.

Later that night, after dinner, we all got "ceremonially" glitterized, as is our sparkling tradition, and then we went around with Angel card readings again. Once again I picked two cards, one to comment on the day and a second to comment on the future. People may say that Angel cards and things like that are bogus little stunts that matter not -- but in the medicine, everything can take on unexpected dimensions. Here's what I got:

Card One / Comment on the Day -- Spiritual Understanding

Archangel Raziel: “I’m bringing you esoteric information and symbols, and helping you understand spiritual truths.”
Additional Message: “Your spiritual understanding is rising to another level, as you open up to new ways of looking at life. Keep an open mind, and let go of limited thinking and illusions. Pay attention to signs—information that comes to you three times or more. Notice geometric shapes and symbols in your physical and psychic vision. Know that your increased awareness may shift your relationships and career goals. I’ll guide you through these changes so your life mirrors your inner experiences.”

Working with Archangel Raziel: As the wizard and alchemist of the archangel realm, Raziel helps us understand ideas that defy normal logic. He expands and challenges everyday thinking in ways that ultimately have healing effects. If you hunger for deep spiritual understanding, ask Raziel to enter your dreams. You’ll soul-travel with him to classrooms where he’ll help you uncover truths and secrets. Upon awakening, you may not fully remember or understand Raziel’s teachings, yet this knowledge is permanently imbedded in your subconscious, where it guides you throughout each day.

Card Two / Comment on the Future -- Remember Who You Are
“You are powerful, loving, creative child of God. You are very loved.”

Archangel Michael:  "You are made in the image and likeness of your Creator, so you embody aspects of all those qualities. Your inner Divine Light is pure and bright in truth, and no mistakes can undo God’s handiwork of true perfection.”
“Don’t be afraid of your power, magnificence, or your wisdom. When you succeed, you inspire others. When you change your life so that it’s more aligned with your interests, you inspire others. Be powerful! Be magnificent! This is who you are!”

Working with Michael: (By the way, my name is Michael)
Michael’s name means “He who is like God,” since he emanates the Creator’s awesome qualities of Love, Power, Strength and unwavering Faith. When you call upon Michael, your own similar qualities are enhanced and magnified.
Ask Michael to enter your dreams and clear away any fears that are blocking you from fully enjoying and living your spiritual gifts and qualities. Michael works especially well with us while we’re sleeping since that’s when we’re more open-minded and receptive.
Michael’s aura is royal blue mixed with tinges of purple. When he’s nearby you may see cobalt-blue sparkles of light. The crystal stone sugalite is aligned with Michael’s energy.

Sunset in Yunguilla


One of the wondrous things about visionary plant medicine journeys is the uncanny way their effects echo over into what otherwise is called "normal" life. The messages and lessons, the healings and the insights continue to bubble up when one least expects it. Take for instance my trials and tribulations surrounding the injured child during Day One's ceremony. After I returned to normal life and had a chance to hear about my wife's journey on the medicine, I was given a much broader awareness of the power of Father San Pedro to extend the healing energies in all directions and to overlap examples in ways that belie mystical designs.

As fateful wonders would have it, I learned that when the injured child episode was going full force on day one, my wife was sitting in the farm house's kitchen, intensely involved in a counseling process with the ceremony's facilitator. As serendipity should have it - and without attempting to speak too authoritatively about my wife's journey, which I cannot do --- I do know that at that moment my wife was dealing with an issue from her childhood, an issue in which other people had made her feel dis-empowered and small, unimportant and inconvenient to the needs of others. Her identity depended upon their acceptance and such a thing proved conditional and demeaning, if anything.

At the very moment when I implored the ceremony's apprentice to arrange help for the injured child, my wife's healing process with the facilitator had reached a most critical juncture. If he had abandoned her at that moment to deal with the issue screaming for attention outside, it would have validated everything that the negativity from my wife's past had tried to make her believe about herself.

Once again she would be found unworthy of attention, her concerns inconvenient to what really mattered, leaving her once again dis-empowered, rendered small. The fact that the frenzied distraction was so real and immediate was necessary to imprint the validation one way or another -- only a real episode would have affected my wife as deeply as needed.

The apprentice had rushed into the kitchen to alert the facilitator to what was happening outside. The emergency was real - but so was the example to be proved one way or another for my wife. Wise within the ways of the medicine, the facilitator took in the details, determined to stay the course, and in doing so, catalyzed San Pedro to effect a most transformative healing for my wife. Even in the face of other needs swirling around the ceremony space, my wife experienced someone valuing her needs, not abandoning her, instead empowering her to step into a healing and regain her power and rightful identity. The synchronicity of events and how lessons and messages dove-tailed in ways that served each participant's process was remarkable. In hindsight, only a transcendent spirit of rare wisdom could have pulled off such a tapestry of healing. I am so grateful to Father San Pedro for showing me this, thus expanding my understanding of that day -- and the compassion that flows from true appreciation of the ride we all are on.

"How  was  this  cleansed  perception to be reconciled  with  a  proper  concern  with  human  relations,  with  the  necessary  chores  and  duties,  to  say nothing  of  charity  and  practical  compassion?  The  age-old  debate  between  the  actives  and  the contemplatives  was  being  renewed  -  renewed,  so  far  as  I  was  concerned,  with  an  unprecedented poignancy. For until this morning I had known contemplation only in its humbler, its more ordinary forms -  as  discursive  thinking;  as  a  rapt  absorption  in  poetry  or  painting  or  music;  as  a  patient  waiting  upon those  inspirations,  without  which  even  the  prosiest  writer  cannot  hope  to  accomplish  anything;  as occasional  glimpses,  in  Nature,  of  Wordsworth's  "something  far  more  deeply  interfused";  as  systematic silence  leading,  sometimes,  to  hints  of  an  "obscure  knowledge."  But  now  I knew contemplation at its height. At its height, but not yet in its fullness.  For  in  its  fullness  the  way  of  Mary  includes  the  way  of Martha  and  raises  it,  so  to  speak,  to  its  own  higher  power.  Mescalin  opens  up  the  way  of  Mary,  but shuts  the  door  on  that  of  Martha.  It  gives  access  to  contemplation  -  but  to  a  contemplation  that  is incompatible  with  action  and  even  with  the  will  to  action,  the  very  thought  of  action.
In  the  intervals between his revelations the mescalin taker is apt to feel that, though in one way everything is supremely as  it  should  be,  in  another  there  is  something  wrong.  His  problem  is  essentially  the  same  as  that  which confronts the quietist, the arhat and, on another level, the landscape painter and the painter of human still lives.  Mescalin  can  never  solve  that  problem;  it  can  only  pose  it,  apocalyptically,  for  those  to  whom  it had  never  before  presented  itself.  The  full  and  final  solution  can  be  found  only  by  those  who  are prepared to implement the right kind of Welranschauung by means of the right kind of behavior and the right kind of constant and unstrained alertness. Over against the quietist stands the active-contemplative, the saint, the man who, in Eckhart's phrase, is ready to come down from the seventh heaven in order to bring  a  cup  of  water  to  his  sick  brother.  Over  against  the  arhat,  retreating  from  appearances  into  an entirely transcendental Nirvana,  stands  the Bodhisattva,   for  whom   Suchness  and   the   world   of contingencies  are  one,  and  for  whose  boundless  compassion  every  one  of  those  contingencies  is  an occasion  not  only  for  transfiguring  insight,  but  also  for  the  most  practical charity....For  myself,  on  this  memorable  May  morning,  I  could  only  be  grateful  for  an  experience  which  had shown  me,  more  clearly  than  I  had  ever  seen  it  before,  the  true  nature  of  the  challenge  and  the completely liberating response." 
--- Aldous Huxley
The Doors of Perception, published 1954

Carnival at Twilight
"Come on, kid - play the game with me; complete the ride."