This essay was originally published on December 18, 2018
Integration after an extended master plant dieta requires an amount of patience and diligence that few other life events call for. At least that’s what I’m quickly learning days before Christmas, as I sit in my parent’s basement, which has become something akin to a recovery shelter for me. I wanted to write about my experience integrating so far, both as a mile-marker for myself to look back on, and also as a guidepost for those who may be curious how the integration process looks like for other people who completed extended, intensive dietas.
It’s been a week now since I returned back home to Vancouver, WA, after eight and a half months in the Amazon jungle. I dieted and apprenticed under renowned healer Maestra Estela Pangoza Sinacay (above) at her healing center, Aya Madre, learning the Shipibo plant medicine traditions around Ayahuasca and Master Plant Dieting, in addition to guided explorations of other medicines such as the cactus Huachuma (San Pedro)and Cubensis mushrooms, among others. My apprenticeship and the healing I received were extremely powerful, culminating days before I left in an experience some would describe as a Kundalini awakening. I was not familiar with this term prior to a couple weeks ago, my spiritual practice and vocabulary being couched primarily in Shipibo plant medicine and various other forms of shamanism. After experiencing uninterrupted visions throughout my days without the aid of plant medicine, loud incessant voices, severe headaches, intense bodily trembling, and uncontrollable bouts of crying, however, I found that what I was experiencing was something common to deep spiritual experiences. I plan on writing about this experience in detail when it fully ends (the effects come and go even now as I write this), as well as many other experiences during my dieta, but for now I’m focused on my present task of integration, a task that is daunting enough.
My time at Aya Madre seems so distant — a blurry dream that I’m not sure actually transpired — and the process of coming back into the United States culture has been unusual to say the least. I’m thankful for the reminders my dieta provides me throughout the day, little whispers and knowings helping me navigate this new, unfamiliar world. I can feel my dieta helping me solidify my reality and my strength. My dreams give comfort as well, replaying my journey with the plants like old family videos during the night so I can wake up knowing who I am, knowing the strength of my dieta.
As I go through my days here with my family and their everyday struggles, flags and indicators arise telling me something is wrong. “Don’t attach,” my dieta seems to say. “Look and feel, but this isn’t your trauma anymore.” A number of times I have to excuse myself or ask for silence, so I can re-ground myself in my body and my truth. While it may not be socially normal, I often don’t have a choice. If I had to summarize these early stages of integration into two words, they would be opaque and unsteady. I see a TV commercial and begin weeping. I talk with my friend too long and I enter a panic attack. Thankfully I have experience now working in unusual realities. So I go inward again, no plants, just on my own, and make sure my core is secure and safe, that my truth is being guarded, that nothing is taking me away from my strength and peace.
I feel tuggings at times, pulling me away from my center, and I understand now the “tests of the dieta.” The distractions most commonly come from food. Maestra Estela told me that would be the case, food tempting me first before women and friends. I can’t say that I have been perfect with my eating habits — over the course of a couple days I’ve eaten far too many holiday treats. Ending a dieta and returning during the holiday season might not have been the most intelligent plan. Thankfully my body screams back at me in protest with sensed feelings of disgust and disempowerment, letting me know I can’t go down that path. I wake up each day now and immediately have oatmeal, eggs, potatoes, brown rice and other foods low in glycemic index and high in satiety as my protection against overeating and reckless behavior. Tobacco’s call to help me with my eating is there, too. We had a conversation before I left, however, and I let him know our relationship commonly moves into unhealthy dynamics, so I feel comfortable on my own now, working through the cravings and distractions with methods other than tobacco/mapacho.
Having completed such a long dieta and coming back into American culture, it feels like being dropped into an unknown universe without a compass. Thankfully my dieta helps me again. I look around and see individuals on the street and on TV in new ways. I understand what they’re going through and where their problems come from. There’s a pull there, sure, a pull into the darkness of their uncenteredness, but then the voice of my dieta tells me I don’t have to accept what’s around me as my own . There’s all this talk of a “government shutdown,” like the collective conscious screaming to let the collective Ego take a break and have Spirit return to their lives. The American crisis du jour doesn’t come from any single person; it never does. It’s the concrete, the skyscrapers, the internet (yes, even as I use it to distribute this message). It’s the separation from others, from nature, from our roots. Hearing that the government is shutting down reminds me of the many times my mind shut down during my dieta, when I simply had to stop relying on the illusion my mind had created and reach out into the spirit world. “This isn’t my life!” our souls cry out. “Stop giving all control to the mind!” We simply cannot keep going when we spend so much time away from Spirit, in the darkness. Perhaps Americans will realize that the government — whether democrats or republicans — were never there to live our lives for us. Like the mind, the government can only do so much, and Mother Earth is waiting for us to come back to her, just like each one of our soul’s longs to fly free.
Yet as I contemplate all this I am met with the reality that it is not my duty to wake anyone up out of the darkness myself, and to try to do so now, in such a vulnerable state, would not benefit anyone. So I do my best to simply shine my light, even with all the craziness of this reality swirling around me. “There’s another way,” I try to communicate with my heart. And maybe I shine imperfectly, but I shine the best I can. Maybe I don’t have all the answers now, but I have all the desire to listen. After learning and seeing the power of simply loving others in and out of ceremony; after developing my own healing capabilities solely through meditation on the light, I know that for right now, that’s is all I need to do.
I have a long way to go on my integration path, yet I’m happy and excited to see what the medicine has in store for me. Whether that be developing my healing skills and working with others, rekindling my old passion for writing fiction, or something else entirely new, I know that I’m going to be perfectly fine because I have everything I need right now. Me and my dieta. Me and my light.
Blessings of peace, love, light and strength.