During twenty years experience integrating my ceremonial experiences with ayahuasca, San Pedro, and psilocybin, I have developed a practical strategy to assist in preparation for ceremony and the integration of ceremonial experiences at various levels of depth.
What I do represents an accumulation of four decades of experience including various forms of meditation, vision questing, work with many teachers and two contrasting cosmological constructs, frequent travel to Peru over a period of sixteen years, and something in the magnitude of 150 ceremonial medicine encounters.
I practiced law in a small, rural town for over 30 years. When I was 52, I naively stepped into an ayahuasca ceremony, never having experienced a psychedelic before and not understanding I was about to do just that. The experience offered to change my life. Accepting that offer has taken a great deal of work—the work we are now calling “integration.”
Twenty years later, I have published two books about my experiences and have now completed the draft of a third. Each of these books recounts my experiences and the manner of my integration of those experiences to the time the books were written. After twenty years, I feel that the integration has reached the fullness of a far greater perspective. I continue to have a relationship with the medicine that supports a deepening relationship with what I experience as a living, breathing, intelligent, ensouled Nature.
What I appreciate most about my journey is the number of threads that combined to form its ultimate fabric. My law practice was very conventional, representing clients like banks, a coal mine, the NRA’s shooting range in New Mexico, ranchers, children in abuse and neglect proceeds, and regular people with myriad challenges. I was an activist in my community, working to support economic development in a dying coal mining economy. I co-founded New Mexico’s first non-profit distance education center that provided place-bound rural people access to higher educational opportunities. Later, I shifted the focus of the non-profit to a focus on food and energy resilience. These very practical endeavors have given me a sense of the context within which our spiritual work must go forward.
My spiritual work has been underwritten by a meditation practice that extends back for almost four decades. The work with the psychedelic medicines radically shifted my meditation practice, bringing it to a focus on the heart portal. This gave rise to a new way of knowing—an epistemology of the heart that now offers to lead and inform the rational epistemology of my cognitive mind. The effect of this work was reflected in a gradual shift of my way of relating to women as it shifted the relationship between my own masculine and feminine qualities. Over the same time, my identity shifted from an ego-based personality to seeing myself as the soul itself inhabiting a beautiful and wild body—a body wounded in many ways. Ceremonial and other spontaneous visions, including a near-death experience, brought me into a direct relationship with Nature that largely healed the wild body’s wound. All of this work revealed a sense of soul purpose—an arising that is entirely dependent upon learning how to hold attention in the heart portal and use the expansive sensuality of the body to navigate a rapidly changing world.
As I continue to feel the great wound humanity continues to inflict on itself and upon the Earth, I am nevertheless able to feel a deep sense of connection with Nature at the same time my heart is able to contain the great sense of grief that arises as I witness this wound.
The current writing project is entitled Soul to Soul Now: Nature Speaks Through Ayahuasca and Psilocybin--Integration Happens When You Learn How to Listen. The ayahuasca and psilocybin have spoken clearly many times during ceremony. There is a clear message the guides who speak through the doorways opened by these medicines wish humanity to hear. How we can bring those messages into our lives in this time is what I want to share with people who are drawn to this work.
There are many parts to what is now being called “the psychedelic renaissance.” Most evident is the understandable push to obtain governmental approval for MDMA and psilocybin to treat treatment resistant depression, PTSD, and addiction. Certainly there is a role for psychedelic-assisted therapy. One hopes a sustainable social benefit will emerge despite the likely challenges of commercial motivations. Traditional cultures have shared their gift both despite and because of their long history of colonization. The West’s ways of receiving this gift have raised many transcultural and transcontextual questions that remain unanswered.
Natural psychedelics have already demonstrated a far greater potential than treatment of symptoms of what is really a singular wound suffered by humanity in general. That wound is disconnection. Western culture in particular has disconnected from an experiential relationship with Nature. There are various causes of this disconnection—including one that might be described as an ontological experience of separation arising from millennia of religious beliefs and origin stories. A single skilled encounter with particular psychedelics can at least temporarily address the symptomatic level of disconnection while inviting a deeper relationship that promises to go much further.
A relationship with natural psychedelic medicines offers insight into new ontological and cosmological horizons. We are invited to re-conceive Earth as a living, breathing, intelligent, ensouled being. She invites us—both as individuals and as a species—to mature into the capacity to collaborate in an open-ended process of co-creation. Insight at this level represents a paradigm shift at the root of the ontological and cosmological assumptions of Western civilization—the very assumptions which now threaten the extinction of humanity. This level of work will not be supported by a pharmaceutical approach. The professional therapeutic community is not presently prepared to support the deeper level of integration this paradigm shift offers. Jung said as much in his last commentaries. Similarly, the most available forms of meditation teaching do not support integration at such levels.
While both “treatment” and “transformation” levels of work with psychedelics have inestimable social and individual value, there is a high risk of the latter work getting lost in the focus on the former. Many of the people who come to the medicine through the pharmaceutical pathway will need help to transition to the larger potential of the medicine. My interest and experience lean toward the larger horizon of this renaissance—developing a teamwork approach to helping people transcend the effects of their wounding, find a deep relationship with the Earth, develop skillful relationship with their wild bodies, discover soul purpose within those relationships, and unlock a creativity grounded in the knowing of their hearts. To balance and better inform the lesser epistemologies of rationality and science, humans need to develop the epistemology of the heart. That teaching is the ultimate gift of the medicine. Only by working together as professional facilitators can we learn how to help others unlock and integrate this gift.
All of my shamanic teachers have suggested that the ultimate goal of their teaching is to teach others to become shamanic “healers.” My goal is to help others learn how to heal themselves and find their own unique soul purpose.