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Amazonian Tool for Mediating Health Issues


Ayahuasca is a combination of two plants found in the Amazon Forest in South America.  After a lengthy brewing process, a distasteful thick soup remains that, when ingested, produces a multi-hour altered state.  Side effects often include nausea and diarrhea.  It has been used for centuries, perhaps millennia, as a means of addressing a variety of mental and physical ills experienced in indigenous, Amazonian cultures.  Don Jose Campos is an Amazonian shaman who wrote a book titled The Shaman and Ayahuasca.  He reports that by drinking the mixture, he steps into the world of shamanic forces allowing him to call on plant and animal spirits to benefit people seeking his assistance.

The Experience

National Geographic writer, Kira Salak, wrote an excellent article about her assignment to experience ayahuasca in Peru.  She reports that thanks to her ayahuasca sessions, she was able to shed her severe depression.  On her website you can find her article Peru: Hell and Back.  Readers can get a detailed description of her experience.

Carlos Tanner is the Ayahuasca Foundation founder and was asked to provide some thoughts on the ayahuasca experience.  Here are some excerpts of his comments:

Ayahuasca serves to amplify the senses, expanding the spectrums of perception beyond the normal biological limitations, meaning that the eyes can see beyond the visible spectrum, hear beyond the audible spectrum, feel beyond the spectrums of more subtle senses, etc.  However, the reality of spirits is paramount to understanding plant consciousness.

If we are only to look at the physical reality of plants, i.e. the stems, leaves, chemistry, etc. then I don’t think we would be able to truly comprehend the experience of communication because the spirits of plants (and animals, humans, mountains, forests, etc.) are not bound by their physical presence.  They are able to move around freely as energetic bodies existing in what we would call alternate dimensions, which I feel is a reference to energies that are beyond our perceptual ability.

I do feel that plant communication with humans through the use of ayahuasca is validated by the efficacy of such a wide range of remedies, some of which are quite interesting and strange, like using the gall bladder of the rodent, Mahas, to treat diabetes, for example.  But, whenever any discussion of consciousness takes place, it quickly resembles an attempt to swim across an ocean, in that the depth and size of the topic is just so far beyond our comprehension that no matter how nice our ideas are, the mystery of what we cannot know reduces them to mere specs that can disappear with a single wave.

The Research

How could plants have a spirit?  Some might think the claims of Amazonian curanderos-vegitalistas are driven by hallucinations associated with the psychoactive compound DMT in Ayahuasca.  However, consider some research that seems to indicate there is such a thing as plant consciousness.  The opening chapter of The Secret Life of Plants references the work of Cleve Backster, a man considered to be a preeminent lie-detector examiner.  Backster found that he could measure plant reactions using a galvanometer.

In one experiment, six volunteers drew folded slips of paper from a hat.  One of the slips contained instructions to pull up one of two plants in Backster’s lab and thoroughly destroy the plant in the presence of the second plant.  None of the participants drawing blank slips nor Backster knew who had drawn the destroyer slip.  Only the surviving plant would potentially be aware of the culprit.  After the deed had been done, the remaining plant was attached to a polygraph.  One by one, the six volunteers entered the room and walked by the remaining plant.  The plant did not react to five of the six, but when the actual “killer” entered the room, the plant had a strong reaction to his presence.  While this isn’t definitive proof that plants have consciousness, it may be some evidence that plants can sense things beyond our conventional wisdom.

Jim’s Experience

Jim, a co-founder of Consciousness Cafe, had had an arthritic hip that was negatively impacting his ability to play tennis.  He tried a variety of options to lessen the pain – ibuprofen, cortisone, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, and myofascial release. These conventional approaches didn’t have much impact so he sought the help of a shamanic healer in Winston Salem, Sandy Phocas.  He set two intentions for his session with Sandy – one was relief from his hip pain and the other was to gain guidance on how to experience a broader reality.  Jim was a naturally inquisitive person who had been studying a variety of consciousness subjects including near-death experiences and altered states of awareness such as holotropic breathwork. Sandy’s shamanic session didn’t help his hip pain but a word arose during the session – ayahuasca.

Jim had never heard the word ayahuasca prior to his session with Sandy.  He began researching the subject and was initially intimidated by the notion of ingesting such a powerful mixture.  As he read books and watched videos, his reticence about pursuing an experience diminished.  Given Backster’s research, was there some merit to the notion that ayahuasca could open a means of communicating with plants?  He investigated alternative ayahuasca retreats in Peru and settled on a 2 week trip to a Peruvian jungle village managed by the Ayahuasca Foundation.

Jim joined nine other participants from various countries who had made the trek to the Mishana reserve along the Nanay River in Peru.  On the first day, each person met with a Shipibo curandero to describe the physical ailment they wished to address.  The curandero used her skills to intuitively evaluate each participant’s condition at the first ayahuasca ceremony.  The next day the curandero gave a prescription unique to each person’s need.  In Jim’s case, he was given two large bottles of a liquid called chuchuhuasi and instructed to drink three glasses each day.  By the end of the two weeks, the hip pain had significantly diminished, giving Jim a range of movement he had not had in many months.  When he returned home, Jim did some internet research on chuchuhuasi and learned that the word is the name of a tree that exists in the Amazon.  Its bark contains many anti-inflammatory compounds that get released when boiled in water.  These compounds probably account for his pain relief.

Worth Pondering 

Are humans the only species on earth that experience consciousness?  Are there means of cross-species communication?  When a pet seems to sense our state of mind, does the pet utilize some form of awareness, leading to a display of empathy or concern?  Interesting questions, want to ponder them with the group? We invite you to start a dialog on the Membership page.