May 12, 2021
Cracking Open The Egg: From the Jungle to the Mountains, Integration, and Life After Psychedelics
Psychedelic therapies are on the rise. They are being touted as healing remedies for trauma, chronic pain, and as a catalyst for for spiritual awakening. There is great hope for a sort of spiritual revolution as some of our plant allies, and even psychedelic chemical derivatives, help us to overcome our limitations and reclaim our true nature. Significant research is being done at reputable Universities such as Johns Hopkins showing the healing effects of psychedelics in trauma therapy. People are finding microdosing psilocybin more effective and with less side effects than antidepressants. Evidence suggests these plant allies have been with us since the beginning as an essential part of our healing practices. It is important to give these allies great respect, to know they are not for everyone, and it also important to understand where their job begins and where it ends.
Plant ceremonies come from indigenous traditions and have long been used for healing, to open us up to our higher selves, to access the metaphysical, to revel in the spiritual domain, and to create community. Psychedelics provides a fast track to breaking down the intellect that has boxed us in and to helping us reframe our internal paradigms. They help us explore past trauma we buried deep in our unconscious in an effort to get on with things. They show us where we are stuck, why we can’t love, give, receive, be in exchange with others. They show us our shadows and where we have works still left to do. In ceremony they break down our barriers and let us pulse as one! They can be powerful allies. But they cannot walk you through the door once that ceremony ends, that eggshell cracks open, and our paradigms break down. They do not provide a path, they provide an opening. They open doors we often did not even know were shut. But then we have to walk through those doors. We have to put the experience to use and integrate the teachings. Many people mistake the messenger for the path and get caught in thinking they need these experiences regularly to live a spiritual life. This is the trap of our current patriarchal culture, however, to look for an authority outside ourselves to depend on, to mistake outside cures as fixes. The real work is on the inside.
Integration is taking all those pieces that have broken apart and putting them in context. It is choosing consciously how to do that. Choosing consciously is its own long journey. It is a way of life. It is the process of self inquiry on a daily basis. It is the unpacking of your persona, of the personality you have created to best survive. It is examining the shadow pieces you created when you chose to emphasize some personality traits over others. It is looking at your unconscious agendas and finding ways to take ownership of what motivates them. Psychedelics can take us right up to these points of realization but then what? Then you have to walk through the door, walk down the path, create a better you, evolve. This is the invitation of plant allies. It may even be the mandate! Once they put your feet back on the floor you are expected to do the footwork of creating these new levels of awareness in your everyday life, finding ways to sustain and implement your learnings. As with any ally they can bring you to the well, but it is you who have to choose to drink from it.
Interestingly, high above the jungles of Peru, where many of our South American plant allies and indigenous ceremonies come from, there is another ancient path of “shamanism,” for lack of a better word, that provides the compliment to the deep plant work of the jungles. This is the Andean path. It is the path used by the high mountain dwellers, descendants of the Inka, without psychotropic plant medicines. It is a path of working with the rawness of a mountain landscape and the elements, which at its core demands depending upon one another for survival and support, and being in direct communion with Creation. It is a path of cultivating deep relationships with the each other, and of using energy as medicine. It is learning how to own your energetic nature and in so doing, dance between the Creator energy and Creation. It is the journey of refining yourself into a highly tuned instrument.
Plants are scarce in the high Andes as it is way above the tree line. Bushes, yes, but not thick jungles where unknowns lurk in the darkness. Our environment shapes our beliefs about the world. In the high form of the traditional Andean healing arts there are not the fears of what is hidden in the foliage, the focus here is on surviving at high altitudes on steep mountains. Darkness here is something within us that needs to be owned and integrated. It is our unconscious. They would speak of it as our internal underworld.
In the Andes you are on high mountain passes and can see for miles and miles. It is the land of glacial ponds, craggy rocks, condors, llamas, potatoes, and corn. They are great weavers and terrace the mountains to grow on them; they work collectively to harvest the crops. The Andeans have created spiritual practices that reflect this. Practices that are about cultivating Munay, or unconditional love, Ayni, the act of energetic reciprocity with the universe, and Karpay, the personal power you have in affecting creation. They offer a very high vibrational spiritual path that walks us out of the fears and superstitions of the jungle, and the unconscious, and into ownership and empowerment through direct connection with the energetic basis of reality. The superstitious underpinnings of less developed modes of shamanism keep us trapped in blame, in externalizing our inner darkness. To truly own our power we have to step out of victim mentality and into personal responsibility. To work with the universal energies we have to own our darkness and learn how to work with it. To be victimized by our darkness is to give our power away. It is to say we are cursed, when in fact we keep making choices that undermine our potential, it is to say a demon makes us do it when we cannot own our darkest moods. It is to live in fear of psychic attack instead of creating solid boundaries and being more discerning about who we engage with. From the Andean perspective everything is just energy. It isn’t good or bad, we are! It is our job to own our darkness and our weaknesses and work on that. And it is our job to learn how to own our divinity! That, too, our culture has trouble stepping into. In short the Andean way offers a path to evolving our consciousness through personal practices and self reflection. It is designed with the intention of eventually being congruent with the Creator Energy. This is big medicine! It’s a journey of integration and self development. As such it as the perfect compliment to the awakenings from our darkness coming out the jungle medicines. Once you are awakened, how do you move forward?
Stepping onto the path of the paq’o, the Andean word for shaman, is choosing to evolve. It isn’t really about being a shaman, or a healer, those are byproducts of the work, it is about being an evolved human being. One of the basic principles of the Andean path is the qanchis pantañan, the seven levels of personal evolution to spiritual enlightenment. It is the pathways of the Pampa Mesayoke and the Alto Mesayoke, a long journey up a rugged mountain. This is what lies on the other side of the jungle doorway. It is who you create yourself to be once you burst out of that egg. From the high mountain villages of Q’eros the jungle mists rise up to meet the clear blue skies of the Andes. Up at this high altitude lie the nests of the condors. This is where these great birds learn to fly the infinite skies. Through a series of practices and initiations that evolve our every day consciousness, long term, rather than just the temporarily shifts in our state of consciousness that come from ceremony, the paq’o finds his footing, finds flight even. This path is about creating heaven on earth, not escaping earth for heaven. It is dipping into the darkness to make peace with our power and about owning the sky but living in the nest. It is what lies on the other side of the psychedelic experience.