New site for a new era

Hi! I’m glad you could make it to my fresh new site. Lately I’ve been inspired to take my photography to the next level. I’ve always had a passion for photography, but I’ve never had a camera that was really that great. Earlier this year, I was gifted a Canon 5D Mark II from my older brother, who is a professional photographer in New York. Since then, I’ve been collecting lenses and gear for it. So far, here’s my gear list:

  • Canon 5D Mark II
  • Canon 16-35 2.8 L II Lens
  • Canon EF 100-400 L Zoom Lens
  • Zeiss Planar 1,4/50 ZE Lens
  • Sigma EX Macro 50 mm F/2.8 AF EX Lens
  • MeFoto Travel Tripod
  • Pixel Pro Wireless Shutter Remote Control Release

Hiking the Salkantay Trail to Macchu Picchu

One of the highlights of my Peru trip was a 5 day hike that I went on, through a valley and over a mountain pass near Salkantay Mountain. This is an alternative to the Inca Trail and is much less popular. I hiked with a group of 15 people. Because we started in the rainy season, we didn’t see any other groups for the whole hike. The hike kicked my ass and tested my lungs with the thin air, but it was so worth it. It was definitely the most amazing landscapes I have ever witnessed. Enjoy the photos!

Another update from the temple

It’s been about a month since I’ve written anything here, and I feel like it’s time to put some more thoughts into pixels here. And not just thoughts about my ceremonies, but just about life in general. So far I’ve been here for nearly two months, and I haven’t yet talked about day-to-day life in the jungle. It’s difficult to fully encapsulate my life at the temple in a blog post, but I suppose it’s worth trying to explain.

First, there is the routine. Day in, day out, my time follows a fairly consistent pattern. At 6 or 7 in the morning, I awake to the buzz of the jungle, a cacophony of high frequency cicada wails, creaking frogs and long-winded bird conversations. Though the wall of sound never subsides, my focus eventually shifts and the thrum trickles back into the recesses of my consciousness. It just becomes part of the ambience underlying everything we do here.

Before rising out of my creaking wooden bed, I look up at the green mesh screen above my room that catches debris from the palm-frond roofing, noticing the accumulation of dead insects and other biological detritus. I detect that now-familiar smell of mildew on my linens and mold from the continual moisture eating away at every human edifice. This place is in a constant state of decay and repair. If we all abandoned it, the jungle would eat it whole within a matter of months. Every time I smell mildew on my clothes, I think, “I wonder if today will be dry enough to wash my clothes and dry it in time before the next tropical deluge?” Washing clothes involves walking to the other side of the temple grounds and sitting on a stool with a bucket and a washboard, scrubbing everything by hand, and leaving it to dry on lines in the sun. Just like granddad used to do.

With a stretch and a bend, I roll out of bed. To open the door to my small room, I pull on a thin rope attached to a nail in the door causing, which causes the wood frame to shudder with a loud friction-induced squawk. Some days I am greeted by sunshine flooding the circular sand-strewn mandala-like garden. Others by torrential downpour. As the rainy season encroaches, we’re getting more of the latter than the former. I usually wake up hungry, so I walk barefoot on the sand towards the dining room, careful not to step on an ant hill. The fire ants here sting like icy hot on steroids. In the dining room (I use the word room here loosely because most structures are mesh-enclosed wooden frames, never truly separating you from the elements), I walk over to the fruit bowl (swarming with fruit flies) and pick out a banana, mango, or passionfruit (or all three if I’m feeling adventurous). I might make myself a cup of hot chocolate by grinding down a bar of pure cacao and adding hot water and honey, or maybe a cup of coca tea (tastes like green tea, feels like coffee without the jitters). I sit down at the long picnic-table seating and chat with the early risers who happen to stop by for fruit and tea.

When I finish eating, it’s time for 7AM yoga. I leave the dining hall to walk for a minute or so through a tunnel of jungle towards Maloka #3 (a Maloka is a big mesh-enclosed yurt, a circular structure built from jungle wood and palm fronds that serves as our “spaceship” on ceremony nights and as a yoga/meditation/art studio in the day time). I’ve been on a consistent schedule of yoga first thing in the morning, which has been a wonderful part of my stay here. Compared to the yoga in the city, staying consistent with my practice here is easy, being so close and convenient and all. I don’t have an excuse not to go regularly. Stretching, breathing, and communing with my inner space through meditation each day has been very enriching for me. It’s definitely one of my favorite parts about my routine here.

After yoga, we go straight into breakfast. The menu varies between Eggs (scrambled, hard boiled, or fried), diced fruit (watermelons, mangoes, bananas, papayas, apples, pears, and some other tropical fruits I don’t know the name of), sweet plantain/banana sauce, oatmeal, plain tapioca, plantain chips, yucca sticks, pancakes, or rice and bean cakes. It’s easy to eat too much because the food is served buffet-style, and usually there’s plenty leftover. Though I could stand to gain some weight, I feel kind of useless after stuffing myself to the brim.

After breakfast, I usually go back to my room or lay out in a hammock and read or draw for a while. I’ve been devouring books here like no other time in my life, which is nice. It goes to show you how much the pace of my life has slowed. I used to think I was too busy to read, or that I had better things to do. But now I really enjoy reading and absorbing all the stories and enlightening information available at the temple library. My imagination gets stronger with each new book.

And when I’m not reading, I like to pass the time by drawing, which is another thing I didn’t make much time for back home. I think I often had a mental block about it, because I would see someone else’s artwork and think “that looks like it took forever to make”. Then staring at a blank page made me want to quit before I even started. I was so focused on wanting the end result that I forgot how much can be gained from the process itself. If I release the expectation that I have to create something amazing, then I am free to explore without worry that it won’t be good enough. I can get lost in the process, in the little details. For hours I can do this, wherein the act of tracing out mental forms onto paper becomes akin to a meditation. And then, before I know it, I have filled an entire page with the tiniest details, and I stand back and appreciate how something so complex and beautiful emerged from the very first stroke of my pen. Much like the unfolding of a seed to a tree. All that is needed is patience and persistence.

After an hour or so of reading or drawing, usually the bulk of morning dew has evaporated, meaning I can begin to work on my laptop without fear of moisture accumulation short-circuiting it. So far, my work-trade contribution to the temple has been migrating their web site from Joomla to WordPress. To begin work, I strap on my backpack and trek across the property, up the hill to the staff quarters and office shack. Here they have solar power and a satellite dish internet connection. Wi-fi in the middle of the amazon jungle still amazes me. I feel quite privileged with this job, because only paid staff get internet access (volunteers have to go all the way back into Iquitos to get internet access). I don’t take it for granted. I’ve been communicating with friends and family this way, easing the sense of isolation that comes with being here.

After working for a few hours, I am usually glistening with tropical heat, and I feel like I need a shower. It’s lunch time, and I head back down the hill, saying “buenas tardes” to the guard at his post on the way out (there are guards posted around the property 24/7, which helps create a sense of safety). Depending on the heat, I might make it down to the shower before lunch (which is just a big garbage bin filled with water and a bucket to pour it on yourself). For lunch, we have a combination of two or three entrées: salad with lime juice, brown rice, lentils, mixed sautéed veggies, boiled plantain, chicken or fish stewed with tomatoes, mashed squash, or beans. Most of the time it is prepared according to the ayahuasca diet: no salt, no oil, no heavy spices (though, they aren’t as strict with the menu at the volunteer center as they are at the more intensive workshop centers). Ceremonies are once a week or every other week for volunteers, but they are on their own to be as strict as they want to be with the dietary restrictions. Salt is freely available (and is recommended to use once in a while because we all need a little sodium for water retention)

After lunch, there are more classes. There’s a nice selection that varies as teachers fluctuate in and out. In addition to yoga and meditation, we have art, pranayama, nutrition, creative writing, tai chi, qi gong, jiu-jitsu, and more. Sometimes it’s so hot, I can’t muster the determination to sit through a class with a cascade of sweat running down me. But I like to go as often as I can.

After classes, I might take a nap or read some more, or perhaps go back to the office shack to work some more. Or maybe go for a walk down to the river (a 7 mile round trip), or to the pond, or the pineapple field or to Tres Unidos (the closest village). In Tres Unidos, they have candy and beer for sale, two things I shouldn’t be having. The candy I have no problem with… The fruit here is plenty sweet. Because we are living a somewhat primitive lifestyle here, with the heat, we don’t have a way to refrigerate our beverages. So every once in a while it’s nice to have a cold beverage for a change, though. A cold beer does the trick.

Speaking of the heat, that brings me to a less-than-awesome part of living in the jungle. Heat rashes! Though it’s not all the time, frequently I am itchy on my legs and under my knees because of heat rash. Although, to be fair, it’s only a mild irritation compared to other tropical illnesses one might acquire here. The most dreaded being malaria, which is not that common, but is always a possibility. And then there’s all sorts of other mysterious bites that I’m frequently finding. Then there’s the potential for getting parasites (don’t brush your teeth with the water collected from the river, I learned the hard way). And if you get some in your ear canal you can get a nasty earache that makes your whole upper body stiff, numb, or painful. Then there’s plants here that are so powerful and toxic, that just handling them can do strange things to you. I helped down at the greenhouse one day, making cuttings from a hearty plant called “milagrosa” that is apparently quite toxic. I didn’t get any of the milky sap on me, but I did handle it without gloves. Soon after, I felt drained, nauseous, and a bit dizzy. I tried to take a shower and the somewhat cold water was so shocking to me it sent waves of pain down my body. My scalp was sore and I had a fever. I slept for the rest of the day, and luckily felt better the next day. But in spite of the maladies and discomforts one might come down with, the beauty of the jungle is exquisite and worth the risks of being here.

By 6PM, it’s totally dark (living near the equator is like that…) My circadian rhythms have already shifted to a new beat. I get drowsy by 7 or 8, and there’s not much to do by lamp-light except talk for a bit before we all get tired. I usually read in bed and fall asleep with my face in a book. Sometimes I’ll pull the laptop out and plug in some cheap speakers I picked up in town, and treat myself and a few others to a movie night. Though, often times we have to watch it in two parts because we all get tired so early.

The social life and communal feel is one of the things that keeps me interested in staying onboard. I am one of a continually fluctuating collection volunteers from around the world. Now I’m so accustomed to the international camaraderie here, I hardly notice that any given conversation is a mish-mash of accents. British, Australian, Polish, South African, Irish and Peruvian speech inflections all mingle together in our common language of English. There are about about 10 volunteers and 6 staff members who regularly commune together at mealtimes. We are all learning how to live harmoniously with each other. Despite the minor complaints and occasional butting of heads, we all get along well. If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we’re all crazy enough to live at an ayahuasca retreat center to regularly voyage into the unknown, facing our demons and obstacles and discomfort with courage and tenacity.

I’ve had two more ceremonies since my last entry. The first of these two ceremonies was the darkest and scariest ceremony I’ve had yet. Not feeling like I had a full journal entry in me, I posted a short something on Facebook regarding my experience:

I’ll tell you about my experience the other night. I am just thankful to be back in my body and feeling normal after that wild ceremony. It was really intense because I saw demons everywhere, surrounding me, crawling all over me, feeling their sharp claws. I knew it was an illusion, or if not an illusion, at least not real in the physical 3rd dimension reality. If they were real, they were on another vibrational plane. Either way, it was terrifying, and I had to summon the most inner strength and courage I ever had just to face them and meditate through the nausea and dizziness. I felt like I had fallen into a deep void, a mucky hell filled with crawling creeping parasitic creatures who live on fear and human lifeforce. Luckily after a half hour or so, after our maestra began singing her ikaros, I came back to reality a bit and they demons disappeared. I suppose it was inevitable after nothing but positive experiences that I would eventually have an intense scary one. And then last night I had an apocalyptic dream of graphic grotesque visions regarding fukushima nuclear fallout and the intense violence of war. I woke up early feeling disturbed, but I washed the images away with some raw cacao hot chocolate and honey. These visions have set me off on this path of thinking that there are so many worldwide disasters coming to a climax… front row seats to the apocalypse, anyone? coming to terms with death is part of my work here.

I don’t mean to unload a burden, but I just wanted to share what I’ve been going through. Just like the weather, my life has its sunny days and its stormy days. I think I’m in the eye of the hurricane at the moment, feeling quite calm but knowing there are turbulent times ahead. Can I phase-shift into the golden age of earth where there is no more greed, violence, natural or man-made disasters, please? Hah. Maybe I’ll travel this earth until the day I die so I can see as much as possible before it’s gone… If only I could pack up all my friends and family and loved ones and take them with me as we seek out a refuge from the troubles and turmoils of these crazy times…

Sometimes, you need to go through the dark to find the light. My last two ceremonies have shown this to me. I recently wrote in an e-mail to a friend some relevant thoughts. Here are a few excerpts:

I know that nobody is immune to fear, that we all have to face our own demons, whether literal or metaphorical, eventually. I figure that my work here is preparing me in that way. Death is inevitable, so I might as well acquaint myself with it. And that isn’t to say that death is a bad thing. When it’s your time, it’s your time…

I see difficulties and terrible things as a kind of big test. Can we face violence, greed, fear, terror, etc. with love, compassion, and strength? Or do we succumb? Facing all the negative stuff in life sure isn’t easy, but, nothing worth achieving is ever easy, right?

… Life is precious and short. All the more reason to live each day like it was your last. That’s why it’s so hard to get me to
stay put, to stay in a box working for some corporation. Life has to have more meaning than earning that next paycheck… Sometimes I think modern civilization is set up to keep us so occupied with distractions and wage slavery that we don’t have a chance to ponder the deeper meanings and possibilities. It’s hard to have a revolution of consciousness when everyone is clocking in to meaningless drudgery day in, day out. Again, this can be seen as a test. Do we succumb to it, or do we break free as best we can to carve out our own destiny?

Well, I think that’s about all I have to say for now. Thanks for reading! More to come…

A summary of my ayahuasca ceremony experience

ayahuasca-paintingThis is not a complete report of my experience, that will come later as a transcribe my written journal entries. But this is a summary of my first two weeks at the Temple.

To get here from the airport, we had to take a 30 minute bus ride to a spot on the river, where we had to load a big group of us onto a long motorized canoe with a thatched palm roof. The boat ride was only about 20 minutes of cruising down the amazon river. Then we unloaded onto a muddy bank to be greeted by a crew of locals whose job it is to carry all of our gear by foot for 3.5 miles. I felt bad letting people take my gear for me, but they are being paid well to do it, so I didn’t feel TOO bad. The trail was kind of strenuous due to the heat, but so beautiful. Because the rainy season hasn’t quite started yet, the path was pretty dry. I didn’t really need the boots I brought. In fact, since I got here, I haven’t really worn shoes at all.

When we finally arrived, we were greeted by a group of female shamans, or “maestras”. They are ayahuasca curanderos who would be at the ceremonies nightly. I was really impressed by the beauty of the entrance to the temple, with its colorful tropical flowers, fruit trees, and medicinal herbs. The first structure I saw was a big circular thatched roof hut called a Maloka — kind of like an open-air hardwood floor circular yurt enclosed by mesh screen. This is where the 12-day retreat group would conduct their ceremonies. As a volunteer, I would be spending more time at the second maloka up the hill. I would be staying with the deep immersion people who are also here for a month or more, but they don’t do any work trades.

What’s cool about the second center is that there is a large rectangular building built in the same style as the malokas, but this one is the largest structure on the property — housing a kitchen, bedrooms, two dining areas, and various hammocks and benches to hang out on. Most people in the deep immersion program hang out here for most of the day. Talking, reading, drawing, writing, or meditating. It’s nice to be able to have quet time by myself or social time with lots of other people. Usually there are 10-20 people hanging out at center 2. I’m actually glad that my room is separate from this building because sometimes I do get exhausted mentally from all the chatter. My room is a 2 minute walk up a hill in another structure that houses three rooms. Each room has a bed, a bookshelf, a desk, and a hammock on a porch. None of the buildings here are fully contained by closed walls. They all have mesh screens to keep out bugs, but it’s so warm here, there is no need for insulation. Also, we have bug nets surrounding the beds to avoid getting bit by insects during the night.

Anyway, after a few nights of getting excited to do ayahuasca, we finally prepared for our first ceremony. The scene was set by a rainy thunderstorm complete with bright flashes of lightning. We did some yoga in the maloka and then after a couple hours, our maestro and maestra entered, saying “buenas noches”. They didn’t speak any english, so there is not a lot of verbal interaction between the “pasajeros” (passengers) and maestros. After a bit of down time while nearly everyone smoked mapacho (jungle tobacco that has healing and energy clearing properties), we began to drink the ayahuasca one by one in front of the maestra. It tasted terrible, like fermented sour bitter juice. I had to rinse my mouth out, it was pretty nasty. Then I layed down on my mat as they turned off the lantern and we waited in dark silence.

The darkness was interrupted by the occasional spark of a lighter as people lit their mapacho cigarettes. The ayahuasca come-up is gradual, taking about an hour or so for the full effects to kick in. First, after 15 minutes, I felt a tingling, buzzing sensation building in my body, and my imagination was filling with spinnig, quickly changing patterns, fractals and colored lights. I felt a heavy “pressing” sensation like I was wearing a heavy face mask. I started hearing strange tones and sounds, and feeling like sudden bursts of electricity were shooting past me or through me.

Then the shamans began to sing their other-worldy icaros, their healing songs that they learn from the plant spirits while under the influence of the medicine. After 10 minutes or so, they began to circulate around the maloka, singing to us one by one. Then the maestra arrived to my mat. I sat up out of respect. Sitting up made me feel nauseous. It is said that when they sing to you, they pull negative energy or illnesses out of you. This comes in several forms of purging. Many people vomit, but I didn’t. I just yawned a lot, which is another form of purging.

After they sang to me, I laid back down and got really deep into a trance, like a very deep meditation. I had so many thoughts racing around, not in a bad way, just many things to ponder. And then I would feel like there was a feminine presence with me. Not a being that was talking to me per se, like many others have experienced, but just a vague idea that someone was near me, healing me and taking care of me. I came away from that ceremony with a few insights, and the following ceremonies, more insights were revealed and solidified.

I felt like many of the beliefs that I’ve held for a long time were confirmed experientially. For example, I have long believed that “you are not your body”, and I definitely felt that when at one point I saw myself laying on the mat, and I realized it was me. I really did get outside of myself! It was a crazy sensation. And I just had this deep knowing that I am a consciousness that has experienced many lives, and this is just my latest incarnation.

Although I didn’t get to witness any past lives like my friend Natalie did, I did get the sense that they were there. People say that the medicine reveals what you need to see when you’re ready to see it. And this is one of the reasons that I feel like I will continue to get more out of the ceremonies as time goes on and I am able to participate in more ceremonies.

To be continued…

Thoughts on life and the universe

milky-way-from-eagle-cap-wildernessHaving so much time to meditate, read, do yoga, and ponder existence out here, away from civilization, has brought me many great insights. I’d like to take a moment of your time to share some of these insights. I don’t claim these as my own original thoughts, because all potential thoughts are already out there. I’m simply relaying that which resonates with me.

In these times of great change, we need to learn to surrender to the great flow of change, or we will find great resistance and pain and struggling against these changes. When we let go of what we think we are supposed to do and who we think we are supposed to be, we will naturally drift towards our true essences.

Do not try to be what everyone around you says you ought to be. Just surrender, breathe, and follow that which brings you the most joy. Don’t worry about the money. Do not simply follow that which will make you the richest, or most admirable to your peers, or the best in your field. Because those priorities are rooted in fear. Fear of what others will think about you, fear about not having enough, fear that it won’t work out the way you want it to. Following fear only leads to a fearful state of mind, which attracts the very things you are afraid of.

Forget about what other people want from you. Follow that feeling of excitement and joy into whatever adventures and possibilities your intuition tells you to. When you do this, you will begin to experience synchronicities and miracles. All of the pieces will fall exactly in to place. You will meet exactly who you need to meet, and you will be just where you need to be for your life to unfold exactly how it needs to. The only way you won’t find exactly what you need is by fearing that you won’t!

By following what brings you the most joy, you are becoming who you really are. You are polishing the diamond that is you, wiping away the dirt and the grime that has been burying you since you came into this world. Your true essence is part of the vast web of the infinite, and when you surrender to it, when you stop TRYING so hard, you will naturally begin to synchronize with the flow of the universe, and you will begin to experience the infinite possibilities that are the hallmark of this infinite universe.

Have no fear: letting go and surrendering does not equate to “losing control”. It is simply delegating the task of directing your life to your “higher self”, the superconscious mind that you will learn to trust more and more as you begin to experience what I am talking about here. Truly, it is the highest form of self acceptance and trust.

So, stop thinking so much, stop worrying so much. The mind is a useful tool, but you can set it down when you’re done. Once your monkey mind learns to sit quietly, you will find yourself radiating a peace so profound, you will no longer need all those things that you were struggling so hard to acquire. You will stop seeing other people as separate from you. There will be no need to compete with others, because you will realize that everyone will be provided for if you trust it to be so.

Remember what’s really important. Meditate, find peace within… You can’t take money with you to the afterlife but you can take all the love and gratitude and life lessons. The soul wants to evolve. We are not our bodies… Consciousness goes on… there is nothing to fear. Loneliness is an illusion because within you, you have access to the greatest love of all. But it takes practice to find that place within. Take time away from distractions, in nature…

Instead of seeing ourselves as separate from everything around us, the holographic view of the world allows us to recognize that we are embedded in a fractal feedback dynamic that intrinsically connects all things via the medium of a vacuum structure of infinite potential.

Energy moves between two opposites/poles: spiraling upwards toward enlightenment and purification, or downwards through deterioration and degeneration. Whether the energy is of a degenerative or generative nature depends on whether the driving force is centripetal (moving toward the center, like an ice skater spinning increasingly faster by drawing her arms inward) or centrifugal (moving toward the outside, like a child hanging on to a quickly spinning merry-go-round). Generally speaking, centrifugal force represents degeneration/destruction, whereas the centripetal force leads to growth and renewal.

Today’s energy technology only uses degenerative, explosive, pressure-based forces, which includes combustion engines. But, what today’s technology has failed to embrace is the polar opposite of explosive/pressure forces – implosive or suction forces.

Because we have built our energy infrastructure in this extremely one-sided manner (explosive/combustive energy only), we have upset the natural balance of the di-polar structure of the elements of world. We can already see the effects of this nearly everywhere on earth now.

By burning fossil fuels and coal, we reduce air quality, polluting it with soot and carcinogenic particles, not to mention all the CO2. These carcinogens can be seen as a manifestation of the degenerative quality of explosive forces.

One of Viktor Schauberger’s realizations was that the secret to a healthy body and planet can be found through the balancing of opposites. This is represented by many occult symbols, including the Yin-Yang and the ancient Swastika symbol. Counter-clockwise movement is yin/negative, and centrifugal. Clockwise is yang/positive and centripetal.

The pressure component leads to Centrifugence, friction, increased heat and gravitation; while the suction component leads to Centripetence, cooling, absence of friction and levitation — which makes it possible to overcome gravity.

Centrifugal/explosive forces result in heat, friction, decomposition, and gravitation, whereas centripetal forces have a frictionless, cooling, effect, and they result in levitation. The centripetal energy contracts, condenses, cools, and conserves; it creates negative pressure, which is the cause of suction. The shape of centrifugal motion is circular, the motion of centripetal is spiral. The path to growth and restoration is the spiral.

By utilizing the spiral in our technologies, we can begin to restore balance. For example, Schauberger discovered that he could restore the natural oxygen levels in water by directing it through spiral-shaped tubes. This is the idea behind “restructured water”

Mind and matter both influence each other. At the deepest level of the mind, there is a constant connection to the sensations of the body. Unpleasant sensations can cause misery if we allow them to control us. The habit is to recoil or push away situations or people that cause unpleasant sensations in the body.

Beauty turns ugly with decay, everything is impermanent. We must learn to appreciate the good things in life without grasping or clinging. Recognize the beauty in the constant flux of reality. There is nothing that does not arise to pass away.

Giving a name to a person is just like giving name to a river. Every time you visit a river, it has completely changed. The river is never the same. It is changing every single moment. So are we as people. The name we give is a convenient label, but is misleading. At the apparent level, I am the same person I was yesterday. But the truth is, my body has completely changed since then. Cells divide at split-second speeds constantly. Old cells are sloughing off constantly. Every 7 years, every cell in my body has been replaced. I am an entirely new person every 7 years. And that is not including the other aspects of what we call the self. Because everything is always changing, attachment can only cause suffering. Whatever we become attached to will eventually change. Acceptance of whatever comes our way without craving or aversion is the only way out of suffering.

Awareness of sensation and equanimity towards the vicissitudes of life are the keys to unlock the shackles. Observe sensations that crop up in the body, and ask, “I wonder how long this will last”. Do not identify with the sensations because they are not you. They will pass. You are just an observer. Every emotion that we can experience is known to us through some sort of sensation. The quicker we can observe the internal sensations generated by our reactions to external stimuli, the quicker they will dissolve.

Suffering is attachment to an outcome we cannot control. Happiness is total surrender to and acceptance of the present with recognition of the law of impermanence. This too shall pass, such is the law of impermanence.

Tomorrow’s happiness, as well as its misery, are both planted today. By recognition of impermanence, we can cease to let external factors beyond our control control our happiness.

Anger is like a hot coal that one throws at others with bare hands. It causes suffering for both the giver and recipient. With this realization we are able to generate compassion. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

When the path gets thorny, put shoes on. It is much easier to shift your own perspective than it is to change your external reality.

True wisdom can not be learned intellectually. It must be experienced in the body.

Misconception: “Seeing is Believing” (What we perceive determines what we believe.)
The Actuality: “Believing is Seeing” (What we believe determines what we perceive!)

Paradox: You are perfect just the way you are, but there is always room for growth into a greater alignment with your highest potential self.

If the reality you are currently experiencing is not what you want, you don’t need to “change” or “transform” that reality. You don’t even need to change yourself! You only need to “choose” another version of reality to “receive”. By synchronizing your vibrations with the version of reality you’d rather experience. Because the universe is infinite, the version you want to experience already exists. All you have to do is tune into it. If you don’t like the program, change the channel. That is what we mean by “If you want to change the world, change yourself.” Put another way, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Don’t wait for somebody else to change it for you.

You don’t create your own reality. You simply select it from the infinite library of experiences that already exists. Because time is an illusion: all that could ever exist, has ever existed, or will ever exist, is already “out there”, or better put, “in here”. It is all within you.

How do we select the reality we wish to experience?

  1. See it. (mental)

    Visualize it. Imagine it. Daydream it. Visualize it clearly. You don’t need to visualize it for a long time. Short time is sufficient, but you need to visualize it clearly. You need to have a solid clear picture. Visualizing it creates the blueprint, so see it in great detail.

  2. Feel it. (emotional)Get excited & passionate about it! How would you feel if you had it now? Feel that now! Plug into your vision with all your emotions & all your senses, as if you had it now! Involve all your senses – imagine smelling it, touching it, tasting it, etc.
  3. Be it. (physical)Do it! Do actions that most closely mimic the actions you “see” yourself doing in your vision. Gather and use whatever props mimic that scenario, and do a “dry run”. Doing this “make believe” physical action trains the body consciousness. This makes it “real for you now”, so the universe then delivers it to you. NOTE: This physical action does not directly cause this desired reality to manifest. Instead, this physical action creates a more precise vibration in yourself, making you a better antenna to receive it, by you becoming more aligned to the same vibration. The reality you desire already exists. You do not have to create it. You only have to receive it.

Touchdown in Iquitos

After 3 long flights, I finally made it to Iquitos, Peru. The first sensation that hit me as I stepped onto the tarmac at this little airport was the heat and humidity. I was totally overdressed (still dressed for Portland fall weather), and sweating up a storm. I looked out past the asphalt and saw something you would only see at an airport in the Amazon jungle – a broken and decrepit abandoned 747, green with algae or moss, falling apart at the seams. Other planes abound – big cargo jets, helicopters, and Peruvian airlines planes with a spiral vine-like logo. Yes, I finally made it to the jungle. I’ve been dreaming about a place like this since I was a child (Romancing the Stone was a movie that captured my imagination for a long time, set in Columbia, I always wanted to go to Columbia)

After passing through customs in an open-air airport terminal, my fears of being stopped for having a one-way ticket faded. I told customs my plan of staying 3 months, which is the duration of the volunteer program I signed up for.

Being mobbed by taxi drivers is the first thing that happens as you step outside the airport doors. Luckily, I had met another participant of the workshop on the plane (I was assigned a seat right next to him), and he already had a ride arranged to the hotel. Once we arrived at the hotel, I was thankful to have a cold shower and to change into shorts and sandals. The weather here is too hot to wear anything else.

Walking out onto the street, we decided we wanted to see a market. But before we could even step onto a moto taxi, we were being approached and harassed by several street vendors. They come up to you saying, quite inauthentically, “hello my friend,” before proceeding to try to sell you necklaces, bracelets, crystals, carvings, and more. I really didn’t want to buy anything, but these guys are persistant. You can say no 10 times and they still won’t leave. Sometimes they’ll even follow you, pressuring you over and over, trying to make you give in. It got quite frustrating. I told them, “I’m not here to buy anything. No quiero comprar nada!”

Moto-taxis dominate the landscape. Also known as tuk-tuks, these are the vehicle of choice in Iquitos, for they are easier to transport into town (there are no roads into Iquitos, cars must be brought in by boat). Traffic doesn’t follow many rules. People walk in the middle of the street as vehicles swerve around them, just barely missing them. Motorcycles ride inches from each other, cramming as many into the narrow streets as possible.

After walking through the city with a few fellow workshop attendees, I was getting exhausted by the persistent locals trying to sell me things. I had no interest in their overpriced trinkets. So, I went back to the hotel, where I knew they weren’t allowed to chase me around. At least there I could sit in peace. I was so ready to get out of the city. Feeling sweaty from the humidity, I took a shower and then jumped in the pool for a swim. After getting out of the pool, I met another workshop attendee named Jemma, and we talked for about our intentions for coming here.

The next day, I ate breakfast at the hotel, trying my best to avoid eating salt, which meant turning down some tasty looking tamales and rice. Instead, I had fruit and hard boiled eggs with hot tea. As more and more of us arrived in the hotel lobby, I was beginning to see how large of a crowd we really were. There were probably 30 people gathered, waiting for our bus to arrive. Our facilitator, Nicole, was milling about the crowd, checking off names from a list, finding out who owed what and what was owed back to us. Finally the bus was ready, and I tried to get on as quickly as possible to avoid all the people trying to sell me things.

Getting on the bus, I took the first seat available, next to a swiss girl named Sarah. Her english was impeccable, and her spanish was probably the same as mine: pretty basic. We talked for most of the ride about all sorts of things. She told me about her previous experience at the temple in May, saying that she was ready for a longer immersion. She would be staying for 2 months. It was promising to see that she was coming back for a second trip to the temple. I felt like I was going to the right ayahuasca center. The bus ride was about an hour long. We drove through shanties and slums, past garbage-filled, pothole-ridden dirt roads, breathing in the toxic diesel fumes from cars that wouldn’t pass any environmental inspection in the states. It reminded me of my travels in Central America. Not too different, really. Finally, we arrived at the end of a road, and transferred to a couple of very long, thin wooden boats with palm-frond roofs. The boat ride was only 20 minutes, and our conversations revolved around DMT and reasons for coming.

When we pulled up to the shore, there was a team of 20 or so locals waiting for us. They worked for the temple and they were here to carry in our luggage. As the baggage was dropped off, I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to tell the people who had my bags, “yo quiero llevar mis bolsas” In the end, after much contemplation, I decided to let them carry my bags. It was their job, after all, and they were being paid to do this. Still though, I felt guilty letting a woman 3/4ths my size carry my backpack. Not to mention, there was part of me that was worried about my laptop. I knew I should just trust that everything would be OK, but after several experiences of losing baggage during travels abroad, and having things stolen, I guess I am tainted and have lost a bit of trust in the process.

The walk into the jungle took an hour, it was probably 3 or 4 miles of trekking past lush green tropical jungle plants. The scenery was beautiful, albeit hot and humid. It was really beginning to sink in – I was in the amazon rainforest, on my way to a place I wouldn’t leave for 3 months. I began to wonder if I had adequately prepared. Before leaving, I had been so busy rushing a project to the finish line that I ended up not really thinking through what I would want for 3 months. I tried not to worry much though, and just enjoyed walking in silence amongst the locals carrying all of our luggage.

Arriving to the temple, we passed through a palm-frond roofed gateway, welcomed lovingly by the maestras (healers from the Shipibo lineage). I felt a good energy here already, and was relieved to finally be done with my journey. I was shown my tambo (dwelling hut), lucky #7, and I layed out in my own personal hammock, taking in the myriad sounds of the jungle. It was great to finally be done with travelling for a while. I looked forward to what experiences would come next in the workshop. To be continued…

No sugar, no salt, no oil, no sex.

After 10 days of preparation, I think I’m finally getting accustomed to this diet.

In order to purify my body, I have been on the strictest diet I have ever tried. It has brought up many intense feelings for me. It has shown me how much we as a society rely on food to comfort us and to distract us from what is really present.

Let me rewind a bit. A little more than a month ago, I attended a sacred art and music festival called Beloved. I was relaxing on the hill with friends, passively listening to whatever act was on the stage, when I heard a familiar sound. It was the sound of a peruvian shaman singing Icaros. The music was the collaboration of electronic musicians and indigenous healers of the Shipibo people. I thought to myself, “well this is interesting…” It brought a familiar feeling to mind, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I was feeling. Some kind of recognition about how these ancient songs were somehow special to me. I knew that the Icaros were healing songs that were channeled through shamans while in the rapturous state brought about through the consumption of ayahuasca.

Later that night, a spontaneous toning and singing session erupted between two dear friends. One of these friends lapsed into a style of singing that sounded to me much like the Icaros I had heard from recordings a year earlier. It was another reminder that I have considered trying ayahuasca for years, but had never felt ready. It was after the singing ceased that I had a realization, and that I told my friends, “I just realized that I’m going to go to Peru to do an ayahuasca ceremony.” And that was the moment that initiated my investigation into how I would go about doing this.

After the festival was over, I returned to Portland, and then the third sign was the charm. I was hanging out with some friends after an Acro Yoga class in Portland, and the topic of ayahuasca came up. The instructor of this class said that she had done a 12 day ceremony in Peru, and it had been very powerful for her. I asked her where she had done the ceremony, and she told me – the Temple of the Way of Light. She said, “it was amazing, you should definitely go”.

One year earlier, a good friend of mine had also traveled to the Temple of the Way of Light to experience in Peru and had come back with nothing but positive things to say about her journey (later I found out that the recordings I had heard at beloved were made at the same temple). It was clear to me that all signs were pointing to the Temple. My friend had participated in a 12-day Ayahuasca ceremony. In these ceremonies, a group of people would imbibe in a potent brew made from a combination of several plants native to the Amazon jungle. One plant contained a chemical called Di-methyl Tryptamine, also known as DMT, and the other contained an MAOI.

DMT is present in countless plants around the world, locked away in the cellular structure, waiting to be extracted and used for visionary and healing experiences.Normally, the body quickly dissolves DMT in the bloodstream with MAO (mono-amine oxidase). This is why smoking extracted DMT only lasts for 10-15 minutes: there is nothing to inhibit the breakdown of the DMT. However, an ancient natural technology was discovered thousands of years ago that prevents the immediate breakdown of DMT. This process combines a naturally occuring MAO inhibitor with the DMT naturally found in some types of jungle vines to create a 4-6 hour experience. This allows for much more time to integrate the experience, to navigate the realms that it transports you to, and to make sense of the experience and acquire knowledge from this other place.

But before one can embark on this journey, one must prepare oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually. On the physical side, one must avoid a long list of foods that contain tyramine, because MAOIs prevent the natural breakdown of tyramine in the body. If the levels of tyramine exceed natural levels, it can lead to high blood pressure, intense headache, dizziness, nausea, etc. This is more of a problem with synthetic MAOIs, and is not as much of a concern with plant based MAOIs. However, there are other reasons for the diet, one of them is purification, which will reduce the amount of purging needed during ceremony.

Another essential thing that must be avoided is sexual activity. The reason for this is twofold: For one, sexual (creative) energy needs to accumulate to help “power” oneself through the often difficult experiences that come up during ceremony. The other reason is that ayahuasca, as a plant spirit, is more “interested” in working with those who have set aside all other distractions to dedicate themselves to this healing work.

It has been recommended to diet for at least seven days and potentially longer. One must avoid many common foods that are found everywhere. Just a few things that I no longer can consume: salt, oil, fermented foods, ice cold anything, spices and flavorings, ginger, pork or read meat, cheese, processed or canned foods… You get the idea. Basically, anything with added flavoring or anything that isn’t fresh is thrown out the window. Breakfast is usually plain oatmeal, perhaps with a bit of cinnamon and almond butter. Lunch is typically a big kale salad, and dinner is usually a salad with quinoa. I now have the diet of a goat.

This is the first time that I’ve ever put myself on a strict diet. What I have found is that so many of us rely on food, especially comfort food, as a means of pushing away the sadness or isolation that we all feel beneath it all. Recently, a video of Louis CK has been making the rounds on the Internet. In it, he tells us why he won’t let his kids get smartphones: because part of being human is learning how to just sit there with yourself, to just BE.

So many of us keep busy to avoid having to confront the sadness that arises whenever we have nothing to do. We use food, drugs, technology, and sex to keep our monkey minds occupied. And it really struck me as spot-on. In this culture of greed and destruction, ignorance and blame, I think there is a deep undercurrent of sadness and grief for so many reasons. Grief that we have no initiation into a real culture of meaning, sadness that we feel so alone and disconnected. The body responds with apathy and longing to FEEL something. And so often we use food to fill this void.

Once I removed all the comforts and distractions of substances and sensory pleasures, feelings were no longer as easily avoided. When something uncomfortable arises, I am now more likely to sit with it instead of pushing it away. By adhering to these strict preparatory guidelines, I’ve decided that I will not give into the desire to use unhealthy foods or other vices that help me distract me from what is really present.

I’ve never really been that great at being strict with myself. One of the reasons why a like to go to meditation retreats is because I am put into an environment where everything is taken care of for me. Because I so easily absorb my surroundings, when I am put into a situation where people are eating healthy, meditating, doing yoga, and generally doing self work, I easily follow suit. I get so much benefit from retreats like this, because it makes self-discipline easier. I have no temptations, therefore I have no problem. However, once I get back home, I find myself falling back into the same old patterns.

When I have a lot of time to sit around and think, I feel the sadness creep up on me. And I know that meditation and yoga will help. On countless occasions, I have wanted to establish a regular practice of meditation and yoga. But all too often, I get caught up in easy ways of distracting myself. For example, in the morning I often wake up and think, “I should meditate this morning,” but then I will pull out my phone and check emails and Facebook. Then I will get hungry and find food. After breakfast, I might think about meditating again, but then I pull out the laptop and start checking my favorite sites and more emails will come in. Then I start thinking about all the things I have to do this week, and so on. Instead of confronting the discomfort, I push it away. In fact, often times it feels like I’m RUNNING away from it.

And that brings me back to this journey. It is no longer time to run away from myself. It is time to heal the deep cultural wounding that I was born into. It is time to step outside of who I think I am, and experience a unity consciousness of sorts, to get some perspective into the nature of this three dimensional reality and my role in it.

As I sit here at the Los Angeles airport waiting for my flight to Peru, I am less than 48 hours away from my first experience ayahuasca. Wish me luck.




What’s next for me

I have not updated this site in a long time… Again! Perhaps I have forgotten about this place because I’m under the impression that nobody is reading this. In truth, I have no idea if anybody is reading this, because I haven’t checked my web stats in ages.

Regardless, I think this will be a good place to keep my writings as I continue my life adventures. Next stop: the Amazon Jungle for 3 months! I will be volunteering at the Temple of the Way of Light in Peru as their web designer. I will be doing many ayahuasca ceremonies. I have no idea what to expect, but I feel that now is a good time in my life to take on such an adventure. I’m 28 years old, I’m living out of my mom’s house, I don’t have a job or a girlfriend. It’s a very transitional time for me, so this seems like the perfect time to take a hiatus from life in the States. A perfect time to take my external gaze and reflect it inward for growth and transformation.

My hope is to find time to update this web site with my experiences and revelations gleaned from my journey with this powerful medicine.

Until then,

What I learned from my Vipassana retreat

Vipassana is a science of mind and matter that can only be experienced individually, and only through the body. True wisdom can not be learned intellectually. It must be experienced in the body. At the deepest level of the mind, there is a constant connection to the sensations of the body. Unpleasant sensations can cause misery if we allow them to control us. The habit is to recoil or push away situations or people that cause unpleasant sensations in the body. What we need to learn is how to accept all sensations as they arrive, so they can pass away.

Everything is impermanent. All earthly beauty turns ugly with decay. We must learn to appreciate the good things in life without grasping or clinging. Recognize the beauty in the constant flux of reality. There is nothing that does not arise to pass away.

Impermanence is demonstrated by observing nature. Every time you visit a river, it has completely changed.  The river is never the same. It is changing every single moment. To give this river a name is misleading, because the name implies that there is something unchanging about this river.

Like the river, we are always changing. The name we were givent is a convenient label, but is misleading. At the apparent level, I am the same person I was yesterday. But the truth is, my body has completely changed since then. Cells divide at split-second speeds constantly. Old cells are sloughing off constantly. Every 7 years, every cell in my body has been replaced. I am an entirely new person every 7 years. And that is not including the other aspects of what we call the self.

Because everything is always changing, attachment will only cause suffering. Whatever we become attached to will eventually change. Acceptance of whatever comes our way without craving or aversion is the only way out of suffering.

Most people are prisoners of their own mind’s habit patterns. They grasp for what they don’t have and are averse to what they do have when it doesn’t match their false ideas of what would make them happy. “If only others would change, then everything would be great,” they say. When the path gets thorny, put shoes on. It is much easier to change your own life than it is to change your external reality. There is no need for anger when your external world does not match your ideals; Anger is like a hot coal that one throws at others with bare hands. It causes suffering for both the giver and recipient. With this realization we are able to generate compassion. Forgive them, because they are already suffering at their own hands.

Awareness of sensation and equanimity towards sensations are the keys to unlock the shackles that keep us from living in the present. Observe sensations that crop up in the body, and ask, “I wonder how long this will last”. Do not identify with the sensations because they are not you. They will pass. You are just an observer.

Every emotion that we can experience is known to us through some sort of bodily sensation. The quicker we can observe the internal sensations generated by our reactions to external stimuli, the quicker they will dissolve.

Suffering is attachment to an outcome we cannot control. Happiness is total surrender to and acceptance of the present with recognition of the law of impermanence. “This too shall pass,” such is the law of impermanence.


Where have I been for the past 6 months?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Last entry was after I finished my bike trip in October. After I got back to Portland, I hung around for a month or so, and then left for Kauai in November. I stayed there, doing a work trade to stay on 3 acres in a platform tent for 5 months. Time really flew by there. I made a few really good friends and had some amazing outdoor experiences. Lots of sunbathing, swimming in the ocean, hiking out to waterfalls and jumping off tall rocks into the water, attending concerts and dance parties, etc. I had some amazing hikes with awesome views. It gave me a chance to see the beauty of tropical islands. I also ended up going to the big island on two separate occasions, each for two weeks. I got to hang out with my dad for a week at a beach house in Kona. We swam with the dolphins, went scuba diving (I had to snorkel since I didn’t have gear or certification…) and ate a lot of good fish. I found a new appreciation for Poke, a tuna dish made with seaweed salad, raw tuna chunks, sesame oil, soy sauce, and kim chee juice (trust me, it’s good) I hiked around volcano national park, climbed super tall banyan trees, ate exotic fruits, went to hawaii winter camp (lots of social interaction and personal development stuff for over a week) I went there intending to stay just for a month, but ended up there for many more. In Kauai, I met an awesome girl to share adventures with, and she decided to join me in further travels on the west coast of the mainland.


Swimming with the dolphins at Ho’okena beach park, Big Island

Hanakapiai beach sunrise

At the beginning of May, I got my flight back to Portland, and stayed with my good old friends Chris and Natalie for a week. I relished in returning to the foodie’s paradise, and had all sorts of tasty meals. Then as quickly as I arrived, I departed with Cait, heading to Eugene to pick up my hiking buddy Branden. Our plan was to go to Smith Rock for a night, then to a Vipassana Retreat in North Fork, CA. There, we would meditate for up to 8 hours a day, for 10 days straight. After that, our plan was to hike around Yosemite national park.