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Desire and Devotion

Writing this was very much a process of devotion; it's my longest piece of writing to date. It was daunting in that it includes both personal details of my life and also my philosophical worldview, all of which crashed together in one fated week. It felt complicated to weave it together in a coherent way. I don't think that there is anything overly revelatory here, but there are some alternative perspectives that perhaps are new to you.

As you take it all in, remember: 
All models are false, but some are useful.

May you be open enough to sense the truth, courageous enough to engage with life, and wise enough to let go of what doesn't serve you. I appreciate your attention, and would cherish your engagement through shares and reflections. 

Meaning is the anchor of our existence. If we can find it, it becomes the through line in all we experience. It's not necessarily the meaning of life, but what brings meaning to our life: making sense of the chaos and generating grace within the human condition. The risk of overindulging the meaning-making machine is the fabrication of significance where there is none, getting lost in synchronicity that might simply be irrelevant happenstance, grasping for any antidote for a nihilistic existence. Subjective perspective can be isolating, the magick of the moment lost on all but the alchemist at the center; one person's profound awakening is another person's throwaway moment in time.

 

We find the through line in what we deem Good, True and Beautiful, as these fundamental criteria allow us to orient our lives. If we're fortunate, we can align ourselves with others who hold similar worldviews and co-create a meaningful existence. However, the Good, the True and the Beautiful still exist in the space of subjectivity to the extent that people have fought wars over their dissonant perspectives. Waves of conditioning seek to shape our way, and only the resolute eyes of the beholder can see their path forward. Devotion sits at the heart of it all, asking, "What are you willing to bleed for?"

 

The redeeming aspect of the human condition is the shared felt experience: arriving at the same place on the same map and sharing the wordless beauty of Nature, getting lost in sexual cadence, finding "the pocket" of musical flow, coalescing in the synergy of ceremony; brief moments of harmony on the bleeding edge of consciousness, glimpses of Gnosis that nullify a thousand sins. 

 

The following is a story of fleeting beauty, personal and collective contemplation and my search for meaning as I balance the scales of devotion and desire. 

Where are You? 

Autumn sunshine blessed the coast of BC, highlighting vibrant landscapes as I trekked up and down the Sea to Sky highway. The extra bit of summer was welcome, but the unseasonal weather also brought concern for the greater web of life. I was decompressing after hosting my first-ever Connection Retreat, built around a Mazatec Psilocybin Ceremony. Over the past decade, I have developed the perspective that endemic disconnection is the root cause of all our societal problems. A motivating force in my life is to support others in finding greater connection to Self, Others and Nature.

 

Through recent experience, I realized the power of Indigenous Ceremonies compared to the self-guided and peer-organized medicine ceremonies I had previously participated in. I've found a lot of value in the "New Age" approach, and a different depth is accessed in a ceremony steeped in time and tradition. I'm incredibly grateful for the medicine carrier, Agder, who came from Mexico to share his wisdom and the Mazatec tradition. Everyone had profound experiences of healing and growth as they moved into expanded connection.

 

As the retreat wrapped up, I made plans to connect with a new friend, Lila. We had overlapping social circles and connected online after she read my account of Conscious Uncoupling. In that story, I shared how my former partner, Farrah, and I had decided to transition out of our romantic partnership and still stay connected.

(You can learn more about it here)

Intimate relationships are multifaceted, and just because some elements change, it doesn't mean we have to disconnect completely. It's often the pain felt through our conditioned stories of rejection, abandonment and unworthiness that leads to the dissolution of relationships. With awareness and intention, the pain can be transcended and transmuted. Farrah and I recognized the value of our intimate knowing and love for each other and the alignment in our lives, so we courageously stepped onto a path less travelled. Since uncoupling in the springtime, we remained in relationship and rode waves of expansion and contraction as we navigated our respective needs and boundaries.

 

This intrigued Lila, and we found enough common interest to inspire a hangout. My itinerant life made it hard to coordinate, but I figured I could squeeze in an early morning meeting after dropping Agder off at the airport, right before having to drive a few hours north for work. Variable weather, poor road conditions, and the comedown from the retreat had me questioning if the hangout was viable… 

 

There are pivotal moments in our lives, like a nexus of charged potentiality that hinges on a single decision. These moments are often lost in the noise, only to be recognized later or not realized at all. With anthro-ontological (a felt sense) awareness, we can attune to the guidance system in real-time and operate from a higher knowing; those tingles of Truth tell us to pay attention. On the fence between fate and free will, sometimes I find myself acting before I've decided to. Who is making the decision? On that fateful morning, I took the scenic route to Lila's place.

Who are You? 

Lila greeted me at the door with coffee in hand; she was warm, open, and chipper in the early hour. We fell into a unique and easeful connection. Her contemplative and creative mind made for engaging dialogue, and she bolstered my ego with an engaged presence as I shared my worldview. I revealed myself as a seeker, curious to a fault, longing to push the map into deeper territory. We had enough chemistry for Lila to also reveal herself; I stood in her room before her bookshelf. It appeared that she was also a seeker. 

 

I asked a personal question, "What is the one book that you'd most recommend?" Lila decisively reached for Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. The well-loved book was banged up and full of annotations, not only from her but also from her father. She highlighted why the book was significant to her: Frankl suggests that we can find meaning in the bleakest of moments, even in the depths of suffering – it was this mentality that helped him survive the most atrocious displays of humanity: an Auschwitz internment camp. He's living proof that, in his own words, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." 

 

I was impressed as that powerful book holds some personal significance for me. I read it while working as a cab driver in Banff, Alberta, and it was a season that ushered in deeper contemplation. I had found myself in a platonic romance with a creative and most intriguing being. It was a relationship that opened up new ways of intimacy and inspired my own creativity; I tried a template of the greats and searched for my writing style at the bottom of the bottle. The only thing that endured beyond that season was my appreciation of Frankl and his philosophy.  

 

Frankl is an extraordinary example of Nietzsche's notion that "Those who have a 'why' to live can bear almost any 'how.'" Frankl's source of perseverance was his dream to introduce his psychological model of Logotherapy to the world. Logotherapy suggests that finding meaning in life is the primary motivator of the human being, more significant than the drive for power and greater than the drive for pleasure.

 

Lila and I indulged in our new connection, bouncing around topics and bypassing depth. I steered the conversation to more esoteric ideas and appreciated Lila's effort to understand my perspective. I often feel isolated in my worldview, which considers the immaterial aspects of the human experience; all we see is not all there is to reality. When I find people willing to engage, I can stumble into a flow, a streaming of consciousness that brings me a sense of fulfillment. We found our way to discuss consciousness itself, and I introduced the model I subscribe to (see The Field of Consciousness below). 

 

There was a sweet lightness that accompanied the sapiosexual experience as we danced around these different contemplations. The mutual attraction was unmistakable, and I enjoyed the playfulness of it all. Our point of attention eventually landed on one of Lila's paintings that hung above her bed, a bright and beautiful modern abstraction that displayed her talent. I took in her painting and opened to what revealed itself to me. A couple of shapes that I associated with deer symbology drew my attention. I pointed out the unintentional patterns that she hadn't noticed.  

 

Eventually, the time came to leave. Lila mentioned that she'd be attending the Spirit Plant Medicine Conference that weekend, which I had on my radar for a long time. Her house would be hosting the after-party, so they had a bunch of complimentary passes. She also mentioned that they'd be hosting a Peyote Ceremony as part of the conference… There was an ever-evolving allure to this beautiful woman. 

The Medicine

Peyote is a beautiful, gentle, heart-opening sacrament used in ceremonies by the Wixarika people of Mexico and many First Nations in North America. These indigenous ceremonies are rich with ritual and have been practiced for thousands of years, creating a predictably potent container. My first Peyote ceremony, several years ago, was with a Roadman of the Native American Church in the tradition of the Half Moon Altar. The medicine spoke to my Soul. It was an experience of anamnesis, rediscovering something I had forgotten, finding something I didn't know I was looking for. Farrah was also part of that ceremony, and with the help of medicine, we saw the source of our connection, stemming from other lives together. 

 

That fall, I found my way back to Peyote ceremonies, but this time, it was in the Wixarika tradition, with their medicine men known as Marakames. The Mexican Marakame and his supporters had come to the greater Vancouver area, and I was blessed to sit with them on four different occasions. The ceremony is an all-night affair, which is physically demanding and disorienting, and doing four was a high frequency in a short time. I ignored my own advice of allowing space between spirit medicine experiences in order to fully realize the lessons and integrate them into life. It was also an intentional decision, as my draw to the ceremony wasn't necessarily to work through anything specific but rather as a process of reverence. I felt called to deepen my relationship with Peyote and familiarize myself with the ceremony; I had also fallen in love with the medicine songs. There is always something to uncover about myself and something to discover in the Field of Consciousness. 

The Field of Consciousness

Our lived experience and state of being are determined by our point of attention. What are we focusing on? At any given moment, we have a spectrum of psychological valence available to us as we determine the attractiveness or adverseness of our experience (ie. Frankl). Our perspective and inner landscape colour the outer world. Are we focusing on life's imperfections? Or are we practicing acceptance and honing our gratitude for all our blessings?

The point of attention is usually fixed by the ego, which can be defined as the story of who we are and how the world works, a model based on the individual and their relationship to their environment. The ego is wired for survival, which historically meant acquiring food and mates for procreation. These drives still exist as the ego seeks to bolster itself for desirability and pursue goals that allow for social validation. The ego will also reinforce its stories as it seeks to avoid pain, emotional or other, which would threaten the system and interfere with its primary drives: it’s better to be comfortable and safe, even in delusion, rather than face the distress of truth and change. It’s terribly difficult to shift a Worldview. People would often rather die (ie. trapped in addiction) than change their stories. The ego is driven by the mind, where the stories exist, which is why every wisdom tradition and spiritual path involves mindfulness practices. Mindfulness allows us to witness the stories and rewrite them as necessary. 

If we get curious through mindfulness, we can recognize that everything we see, hear, smell, feel, and think is taking place in the same space; there’s no actual compartmentalization of these categories. Everything is phenomenologically arising, moment to moment, in the same perceptual field; the Sphere of Awareness. For example, the sensation of being cold doesn’t arise in a different space than the thought or even the sound of the words “I’m cold”. And if we use the imagination to loosen our grip on separation, the personal experience and the phenomenon causing the experience (whatever is making us cold) are both in the same field. From an experiential perspective, there is no other field. We perceptually delineate our inner experience from the outer experience and have a boundary to our physical being, but where is the boundary of our energetic field or awareness? Many spiritual traditions try to demonstrate that subject-object separation is an illusion; everything exists within one space. Science seeks to separate everything into the smallest irreducible unit in order to explain; spirituality seeks to unify everything in order to know. 

If I have a Sphere of Awareness, and others have their own, then where is all of this occurring? I align with the theory that it happens in the Field of Consciousness. The materialist perspective, which a lot of modern science is built around, would say that consciousness is a function of the brain; it is “emitted” from the material. More recent theories based on theoretical mathematics (see Donal Hoffman’s work) demonstrate that “consciousness is fundamental” and it precedes spacetime. Simply put, everything emanates from consciousness. I see consciousness in this sense as the substrate of the universe, analogous to the Tao of Taoism or the Great Mystery as spoken by First Nations. Hoffman offers the analogy that this lived human experience is like putting on a VR headset to arrive in this perceptual, spacetime reality; he doesn’t give many direct answers for who or what is putting on the headset.

 

Witnessing a Unified Field, as everything shapes and unfolds from moment to moment, can help soften the ego. We can reach the point where there is no longer a “me” at the center of it all, perhaps shifting identity to ‘awareness’ itself: “The infinite awareness inside me acknowledges the infinite awareness inside you. Namaste.” The ego allows us to define ourselves as a drop in the Ocean, and we naturally resist dissolving into the entire Ocean because it creates the loss of “me.” Worry not; you won’t instantaneously dissolve into oneness, though some substances offer that experience temporarily. More likely, the progressive loosening of the ego's identity can empower, relinquish preference and attachment, and encourage acceptance of all that occurs. Often, people think that the loss of “me”, results in death, the terminus of experience; but perhaps we’re just taking off the headset.

 

The meta-perspective of knowing that all is One might not offer much practically, but more locally, it can enhance our connection with others and our environment. Acknowledging an interconnected field lends itself to explaining commonplace telepathy: thinking something that somebody then says; thinking of someone and then they call you; looking at someone with their back to you and they turn to look right at you - Our senses extend beyond our standard field of perception as our Spheres of Awareness overlap in the Field of Consciousness. 

In acknowledging this interconnected field of energy, we can pay attention to how we feel around others or in particular places. External influences can cause various internal effects; again, mindfulness would allow us to track our default state of being and notice when and why it fluctuates. Expanding awareness can create opportunities to connect with non-human energies. Elements of Nature, like a tree, have their own energetic field within Consciousness. As I pay attention to my subtle, energetic body, I can feel what the tree is feeling, creating an opportunity to commune, perhaps even asking for guidance and wisdom that it has accrued through hundreds of years of life on Earth. This energetic influence of Nature is a common experience; notice how you feel when you are by a lake or river. 

An Animistic worldview, embraced by many indigenous cultures, would say that the tree, the lake, and the river each have a spiritual essence, not only their own energetic field but also an accompanying sentience and agency. When we see every object, place, and creature as animate, our physical world blends with the spiritual world, and we can recognize our own Spirit within it; suddenly, our world becomes teaming with life, mystery, and allure. 

Now we can imagine individual fields/Spirits existing within larger fields; picture all the particular plants, trees, animals, rocks and rivers in a forest. The forest is part of a larger ecosystem, which is part of a bioregion, which is part of a particular territory, which is part of the Earth, which is part of the Galaxy…  What is the most encompassing field? Where is its boundary? And is it sentient? “God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.”

Throughout the ages, people have uncovered ways to induce altered states of consciousness to travel through this all-encompassing field, communing with different beings, accessing wisdom from all dimensions, and balancing energy locally (healing). The most ancient connection practices induced trance states through repetitive rhythms, like clacking rocks or sticks together; eventually, this evolved into rattles and drums. Modernly, we associate these practices with Shamanism (a term with a more nuanced origin than we generally consider). Shamanic practices easily pre-date all of the religions and wisdom traditions. While natural aptitudes and fate have traditionally dictated who would be the ones to navigate the spirit realms, some modern practitioners say that anyone can learn how to do it. And certainly, with the current popularity of Spirit Medicines, aka psychedelics, anyone can travel through non-ordinary states of consciousness, though hardly anyone has the experience to intentionally set the sails and steer the course. 

Through this exploration, we quickly realize that human consciousness is not the epitome of all consciousness within this infinite field. A vast number of disembodied beings/fields/intelligences/forces have a significant influence on our lived experience. We can learn to commune, or look to those with the natural aptitudes to do so, with these greater forces for guidance in consideration of the greater Web of Life. More locally and accessible to everyone, we can connect with our Great Mother, Nature, and honour the sentience around us, marvelling with awe at Creation. 

SPMC

The Spirit Plant Medicine Conference is an annual event that brings together speakers, researchers, medicine carriers, facilitators, vendors and all varieties of enthusiasts and stewards of entheogens (substances ingested "to commune with the divine within"). The conference is a hub for community and networking and hosts some significant names within the Spirit Medicine movement. Given the path I'm on and the work that I do, it seemed important for me to be there. 

With our mutual curiosity piqued, Lila and I naturally arranged to attend the conference together. Truthfully, I couldn't afford a ticket and was deeply grateful that she offered me one of the comped passes. I was back in Vancouver less than 48 hours after our original hangout, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with Lila. The sun blessed us as we strolled to the conference, feeling our resonant energies, an easeful meeting of beings. We basked in the sweet newness of shared attraction, honing in on the right questions to unravel the mystery of who we are. 


The conference space had an excited energy. Many open, aware, and service-driven people socialized and shared ideas, inspiring vibrant potentiality. The speakers integrated seamlessly with the audience, providing a real grassroots vibe. It was wonderful to see familiar faces and connect overlapping social circles.  

On stage, I noticed a familiar piece of art: a wood carving of a Chief-like figure. Hundreds of small, naturally coloured, hand-carved pieces of wood depict fish, orcas, eagles, feathers, and trees, all amassing to form the head of the Chief. The first time I saw the stunning piece of art was at an environmental activism movement: the Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island. 

Fairy Creek

The blockade at the Fairy Creek bioregion was organized to defend Old Growth forests and prevent logging companies from accessing the few remaining standing Elders. Old Growth Forests consist of trees that are hundreds, sometimes thousands of years old, creating rare ecosystems and habitats for various endangered species. The Old Growth retains moisture and humidity, balances global warming, and prevents wildfires. Less than 3% of Old Growth remains on Vancouver Island; cutting down these monumental trees is entirely illogical and irresponsible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Fairy Creek, I witnessed people coming together from all walks of life for a common purpose: the conservation of Nature, the very source of life itself. The self-organized effort relied on mutual aid, sacrifice and resilience, as Land Defenders put the rest of their lives on hold to set up camp on a logging road. Various inter-relational challenges arose from diverse demographics living in high tension, but we remained aligned on the common goal. It was one of the most hopeful and inspiring experiences of my life. The ever-emergent, eclectic community, living out of tents, subsisting on songs and canned goods, equipped with shovels, pickaxes, tenacity and bushcraft skills, made a stand against infinitely funded corporate forces, armed and equipped with backhoes and helicopters.  

 

Over the two months I spent at Fairy Creek, I discovered that the movement was about far more than just protecting the forests; it was also promoting Indigenous Rights and a return of the land to its rightful stewards. What I woke up to in this process is the ugly Truth of colonization on these lands now known as Canada, which includes the genocide of First Nations and the horrors of residential schools. I felt immense shame and guilt as a settler. Somehow, I had been blind to the process of colonization and what it entails. Colonizers force their way onto others' homeland to claim it as their own, imposing worldview and religion upon the indigenous, decimating culture in service to homogeneity, killing (or worse) all those who resist; this is the plague of the world: explore, expand, exploit, and expire. 

Passionate activists initiated the blockade, and with the help of thousands of volunteers, it became an incredibly elaborate, coordinated effort. Numerous camps were dispersed over multiple aspects of several mountains to strategically interfere with logging activity. The activists, better known as Land Defenders, created ingenious obstacles along the logging roads to slow down the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who worked to clear the way for the loggers. People would often be chained to the Earth, sometimes in 6ft deep trenches spanning the width of the road. The RCMP would have to take time dismantling each obstacle, so the more intricate and potentially hazardous, the better. Some people would take to the air, sitting 30ft up on "tripods," which consisted of three long tree poles lashed together. Other people would chain themselves to one another in solidarity, complicating the efforts of the RCMP extraction team. Not only did the self-sacrificing Land Defenders risk the brutality of the RCMP, who certainly didn't make their best effort to “do no harm,” but they would also be arrested and charged with various offences. Over a couple of years, Fairy Creek became the largest civil disobedience movement in Canadian history, with well over 1000 arrests. 

The logging of Old Growth on First Nations land is not only blind greed by corporations and the government, who profits off the logging contract, but it's also a continued attack on Indigenous Culture. I watched firsthand as the people who received the most violent treatment from the RCMP were Native and people of colour. The RCMP were like the government's goons, soullessly muscling out those who stood for the preservation of Nature. People were abused, assaulted and pepper sprayed by the authorities who are responsible for our collective wellbeing. Personally, I was roughed up, wrongfully detained and had my truck broken into by the RCMP; they stole about $5000 of my belongings. 

 

This experience forever shifted my worldview as I came to recognize the total corruption of the government that is captured by corporations; both entities bow to the Gods of capitalism and feast on the Sacred. 

 

I was at Fairy Creek during the first anniversary. We all gathered for a ceremony at "Headquarters," during which the Wood Vibe Tribe presented the wooden Chief as an honorary tribute; his lifelike essence and piercing eyes call forth virtue and accountability. 

Back at the Conference

While the excitement and ambition of the conference was inspiring, I felt the tension of opposites. The "Psychedelic Renaissance" has much potential… and it might just be another capitalistic boom-bust, void of integrity or staying power. It was a skewed sample, but seeing all the facilitators and service providers suggested a saturation of the medicine space, which I've already sensed in my reality tunnel. 

 

New Age ceremonies are popping up all over; online facilitator (or, at worst, "shaman") certifications lend themselves to false confidence, and if you ain't microdosing, you ain't cool. A 2 day intensive is all it takes for someone to feel qualified to serve synthetic 5-MeO-DMT, a derivative of Bufo, one of the most potent sacraments known to man. "Beware of the sorcerer's apprentice." Like the rest of the Western world, this movement lacks initiation processes, the guidance of Elders, and actual embodied wisdom of the territory we're venturing into.

 

I've been attempting to make valuable contributions to the entheogenic movement, working as a Psychospiritual Integration Coach for the last couple of years; I support people in preparing for and integrating their medicine journeys by sharing the best practices for safety and efficacy. What we're learning and promoting is that it's not just about the fireworks and revelations of the journey. It's about applying the insights afterward to move towards a life of greater meaning and fulfillment, turning states into traits. My central contemplation is, "How can we take the insights gained, the personal healing and growth achieved and utilize them to serve the collective?" The concern is that spiritual materialism and psychedelic tourism simply serve as another pacifier, taking the edge off the human condition but not inspiring the amelioration of it. How can we honour our interconnectedness and operate in a life-affirming way? The conference held an undertone of the same question. 

 

(check out my whole perspective here: link)

 

Some questions worth pondering when approaching a ceremony or journey:

 

What is the application of the medicine (clinical, therapeutic, ceremonial)? 

What is the worldview of the participant and facilitator?

What is the intention of the participant and facilitator?

How can you differentiate a facilitator from a true initiated Medicine Man/Woman? 

What is the set and setting?

How do we proceed in such a way that does no harm?

How can the revelations be integrated in a way that is life-affirming?  

How do we honour where these medicines come from and act in reciprocity?

 

If Spirit Medicines don't reconnect us with Spirit, what's the point? At the same time, no one should be the gatekeeper of someone else's consciousness. (Note the catastrophe of the War on Drugs)

In the Wheal House

I discovered both the SPMC and Jamie Wheal through his incredible presentation from the 2019 conference: “Pitfalls and Potentials of Transformative Culture” (View Here). Jamie's talk brought awareness to the present movement as people rush towards psychedelics, some ill-prepared as both participants and facilitators. He also acknowledges the concern of commercialization, weaponization and hedonization of psychedelics: the consumptive-colonial-capitalistic vibe of this modern movement. If people reduce what has the potential to be a spiritual revolution to simply another economic market, we've missed the boat. Spirit medicines are practical tools for softening the ego and promoting healing, a key element of a transformative culture. However, if they in any way reify the ego into grandiosity, thinking we alone know the way, then things get messy in a hurry. Jamie suggests how to proceed ethically and effectively as we self-organize in community to promote positive evolution. 

 

As we measure the risk-reward of the resurgence of Spirit Medicine, there's a case for going all in (like the varied myths of evolutionary activists plotting to spike the water) when we consider the "metacrisis" of civilization: the scientific, indigenous and mystical lenses all point to the fact that we, as a species, cannot sustain the disconnected and consumptive lives that we're living. It was remarkable to see the thematic through line of the conference speaking to this perilous reality. Jamie's quantitative analysis suggested that we're 8 billion people using the equivalent amount of energy (natural resources) of 500 billion people. As Grandfather Stalking Wolf says in the Tom Brown Jr. books, "We're killing our grandchildren to feed our children."   

 

Jamiel builds out his perspective on how we've arrived at this critical point in history in his book, “Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex and Death in a World That's Lost its Mind.” Much of the book speaks to how altered states of consciousness can help us reorient. He also introduces other psycho-technologies and "ethical cult" building roadmaps to troubleshoot the collective problem. A synopsis of the book:

 

"Slowly over the past few decades, and now suddenly, all at once, we're suffering from a collapse in meaning. Fundamentalism and nihilism are filling that vacuum, with consequences that affect us all. In a world that needs us at our best, diseases of despair, tribalism, and disaster fatigue are leaving us at our worst.

It's vital that we regain control of the stories we're telling because they are shaping the future we're creating. To do that, we have to remember our deepest inspiration, heal our pain and apathy, and connect to each other like never before.

If we can do that, we've got a shot at solving the big problems we face. And if we can't? Well, the dustbin of history has swallowed civilizations older and fancier than ours."

 

I've held the awareness of a looming catastrophe for a couple of years, and it's been an isolating contemplation. Few people are willing to look at the hard facts and would rather apply the strategy, "Don't look Up!". A more compassionate perspective is that the vast majority of the population is simply trying to get by, with minimal capacity to be of service to our collective needs. And those with the resources to implement change are racing to Mars rather than creating sustainability on Earth. 

 

As sure as the rhythms of Nature serve balance and harmony, our way of life is destined to change. The hopeful prayer is that we recognize our disconnection from Nature and collectively reorient ourselves toward sustainable, regenerative ways of living for the wellbeing of future generations. If we don't intentionally rebalance, then Our Great Mother will do it for us, and a correction event would not be favourable: it might be incredibly acute and painful, or it may be a prolonged trend of systems failure as we slowly bleed out of resources. The social hierarchy would see bottom-up tragedy. 

 

I must acknowledge that this is my privileged perspective from living in a Western world, and the collapse we're discussing is very much a societal one. Arguably, "less civilized" cultures, or even tribes, across the globe that don't rely on technology and still exist in a form of self-sufficiency would not be affected by the collapse of Western society. And on the other hand, the ecological destruction driven by extractive capitalism could be enough to ruin the whole global party. The current state of the world is the product of a consensus reality that ignores the entire Web of Life we're a part of. 

 

In the human aggregate, there is always a current tragedy as much of the world suffers immensely from poverty, famine, war, abuse, trauma, addiction, loneliness, disconnection… While suffering is built into the human condition, the world's truest horrors seem unnecessary. It might be idealistic to think that we can move into an existence of greater peace, where every being has their basic needs met (shelter, water, fire, food, community, connection), but it's a prayer worth singing. Change requires that we recognize our conditioned separateness. As we evolve from ego and ethnocentric awareness to a more humancentric, and critically, to an ecocentric awareness, we illuminate the tragic state of affairs. "The difference between a [wo]man and a [Queen]King is that a [Queen] King does not look away." It takes a heroic effort to hold the collective suffering with unbearable compassion and find hope and faith to celebrate the beauty of it all.  

Diamonds from Heaven

Enter the work of Christopher Bache, another speaker at the conference on that poignant day. Bache is a philosophy and religious studies professor and the author of several books. His book, “LSD and The Mind of The Universe, Diamonds from Heaven,” had a profound impact on me. The book is an account of his 73 heroic doses of LSD (500-600 micrograms) taken intermittently over 20 years. His intention wasn't focused on healing or self-discovery, though they were part of the process. Instead, he set out to develop cosmocentric awareness; he boldly quested to map the Universe. 

 

Each session was meticulously curated and regimented with a consistent protocol. Bache's wife was implicated as the continual trip sitter and scribe. A specific playlist accompanied the sessions; they knew which tracks would evoke a particular experience. The exploration was held in relative secrecy as Bache was still an acting professor, a double life that caused some grief as he wished to share his revelations with the young exploratory minds.

 

Throughout his journeys, Bache built a relationship with a divine being that he called his Beloved, one of the Great Intelligences of the Universe (Bache would discover that this wasn't the Supreme Creator, that there was seemingly no culmination point that he could perceive, rather endless higher orders of complexity). His experience was one of living endless cycles of death and rebirth, in accordance with Stan Groff's prenatal matrices, yet not only on an individual level but on a species and collective level. The depiction of the horrors of his experience can't be sufficiently described. Still, his literary efforts were enough for me to have a visceral experience while listening to the book. In every cycle of suffering, death and rebirth, Bache would realize a more expansive space in consciousness, one of more extraordinary magnificence and bliss. His relentless pursuit almost destroyed him as he suffered immense physical and psychological distress as a consequence. Bache would reiterate that it was worth it every time. The devotion with which he approached his work is formidable and inspiring; his effort was one of a cosmic warrior.

 

During his talk, he focused on describing the Birth of the Future Human, a culminating realization from his journeys. The visions he received over his 20-year journey are prophecy; it's up to the individual to decide whether they're gospel. 

 

The following section uses Bache's direct language from a replay of his talk. I have made minimal modifications, and it remains very true to the essence of his message.

 

There is a global crisis coming that is driven by ecological crisis that will lead to the Death and Rebirth of Humanity. It's difficult to hold in our hearts the suffering and epic that we're entering. We will be reduced to the melting pot of mere survival and resolve to make it through. There will be new dynamics in the collective psyche, a field like no other field. The extreme angst will create non-linear states, initiating new potentials through the integration of systems that were previously unrelatable; small inputs can have a massive impact on the world that we leave to our grandchildren. On the other side of the crisis we will have new states of awareness, operating in a different collective unconscious. We will create new social institutions to reflect new reality, new ways of thinking, new values. Nothing essential will be lost, all is gained, all is gained. 

 

He shared his Visions of Awakening and the following tenets to hold in our hearts as we contemplate or potentially live out this prophecy. 
 

Divine Love - Creation is rooted in overwhelming love; we all volunteered to be a part of the evolutionary process. Our great suffering, in the name of divine love, is our gift to the creative intelligence of the Universe, it's noble beyond words. We are not being punished or abandoned.

 

All of Humanity - A higher intelligence is trying to awaken the entire species and create a consciousness of unprecedented proportions; an entire human family integrated in a Unified Field of Awareness with their thoughts tuned to source consciousness. This was experienced by Bache as a projected destiny and realized actuality. 

 

Guiding Intelligence - The culmination is like a sunrise that would forever change the conditions of life on this planet. All current structures would become irrelevant. There's a consciousness that can see this future perfectly. Isolated from the future, the present makes no sense. There's an intelligence in our species that is guiding us.

 

Our Species as a Single Being - Humanity is a unified being that we're all a part of. The subtlety of cooperation of the parts with the whole made all events clear as new patterns sprang into view. This being is waking itself up from within.

Collective Purification - Any organism that is called to be more conscious must first cleanse itself of the psychological byproducts of living at its lower level of awareness. It must bring forward the residue of the past and purge it from its system for a more refined level of operation. The unified fabric of human consciousness is cleansing itself of the legacy of its past through the coordinated reincarnation of billions of people who carry that legacy. The future condition of our species is beyond anything we can project from our current fragmented state. 

 

The Future Human - What a magnificent being! Clear, warm and whole with an abiding sense of oneness under the diversity of life. Fully embodied spiritual realization, the tantric awakening of our entire species, Spirit and matter in perfect balance.

 

What does the new human consciousness look like? It's an amalgamation of all previous lives. Bache became what he had been before he reincarnated into space-time and witnessed all former lives as they came back into him; he reviewed what he had learnt in each life. The purpose had not been about what had happened in any life but rather to control the powers of creativity that were his innate Nature. He witnessed humans learning how to be Gods, creating our reality inside space and time. A brilliant diamond light exploded inside his chest, fusing all the strands of lives into one being, An embodied point of infinitely dense and infinitely transparent diamond light, The Diamond Soul. We are made of the stuff of God. 

 

Bache completed his talk to a standing ovation. The crowd settled, and the magnitude of his vision hung in the air. The MC, Stephen Gray, started fielding questions from the audience, and my heart began to race. I managed to jump the cue by catching Stephen's eye and flagging him over while Bache was still responding to the previous question. I received the mic, and the weight of attention as a sea of eyes turned to face me. 

 

"I do take every word in your work to be quite literal, that's the feeling, the sense that I get. With that, we seem to be moving towards a fated evolution of consciousness. Anything that we orient ourselves towards other than that; the conservation of indigenous wisdom, the building of conscious communities, the search for meaning outside of this… let's just call it destiny… seems futile. 

We seem to have two directions: work towards expediting the evolution of the human Soul through various spiritual practices or build our ship of death. The former might be a position of privilege, and many people in the world won't have that privilege. How do you think we should orient ourselves in facing that dichotomy?"   

 

Bache sighed, taking a long pause to collect his thoughts. The room was still with fervent anticipation, like the pause between the inhale and exhale. 

 

"It's not about giving birth to an individual diamond soul… It's about the process of giving birth to humanity's diamond soul. A transformation that reaches so deep it reaches all the way down to the very bottom of the human psyche. That's why so many of us experience so much suffering in our personal lives and psychedelic experiences. Some of it is personal but so much of it is coming from the species around us. 

 

“It's not about us. It's about the human family. And the human family needs justice. The Indigenous people need justice. People of colour need justice. Women need justice. Everything we do that serves the wellbeing of the human family and the entire family of the plant and animal species of the planet, everything we do supports this blossoming of transformative understanding that's grounded in the experience of oneness… because that's the essence that we're going into. Once you tap into oneness you will never harm another living thing, you will never harm another animal. You. Will. Not. Harm. Then all your genius is available to build and create and transform.

 

“I can't begin to imagine all the dimensions and complexity and intricacies of this transformation but it will take everything we got, completely. I don't think the issue is trying to figure out what to do, the issue is to find the courage to do what we know we can do in order to contribute to this change.

 

“My personal understanding is that each one of us choses the life that we're living at a time when we knew more and could see into the future in the spiritual realm, we chose the life that plugged us into time and space in exactly the form that we are, knowing what was coming and our children knowing what's coming. Each one of us has within us a contribution to make to this larger collective transformation. We have things to purify from ourselves, and we have things to contribute to this process. And I say that without knowing the details of what it is."

 

I put my hands in prayer and nodded in gratitude; Bache returned the gesture. I returned to sit beside Lila, closed my eyes and decompressed from that heightened moment. Emotion rolled through me, and tears trickled down my cheeks. My journeys and ceremonies map onto Bache's vision, and I've felt the thread of Truth. The "crucifixion of humanity," a collective sacrifice for the emergence of a new reality, fills me with hope and terror. Lila held my arm and placed her head on my shoulder, gently grounding me. I felt seen and supported; it was the most endearing moment I had with her.

Where are You Going? 

Lila and I walked back to her place, and Father Sun continued to grace us, humbly fueling all life on Earth. As we ambled along, I considered the night ahead. A group of friends, including Farrah, and I had planned to go to the East Forest ceremony that evening. Lila was also planning on going to the ceremony. Farrah had expressed that she wasn't ready to see me with another woman…

 

Farrah and I had been navigating the variable waters of our "uncoupled" state. Our shared social circle made for regular encounters, and we did our best to respect the other's process. Our relationship was one of profound learning and growth, and I believe there's a karmic element to it. We are both called to the medicine path; Farrah walks in her mother's footsteps, who is an initiated Sangoma. I don't have any lineal influence in the world of ceremony, but my draw to the space feels dharmic. With this shared resonance, we're uniquely positioned to encourage one another along our respective paths into the unknown. Farrah participated in the retreat that had just passed; it seemed natural that she was drawn to the Mazatec Ceremony, and it felt supportive to have her there. I reflected on all this as I considered the night ahead and the conflict of interest. 

 

At that moment, Lila intuitively asked, "What's alive for you?" It was an honest question, and I gave an honest answer. What was alive for me was the pressure of managing everyone's desires. I wanted to spend more time with Lila, but I also had already made plans and was considerate of Farrah's request… Tension built up inside my body. A seemingly innocuous decision held the divergence of potentiality. I told Lila about the whole situation… and that I would honour Farrah's request. It felt heavy, denying what I wanted, and regretfully, I didn't even consider asking Lila what she wanted. She seemed to take my decision in stride, and I breathed a little deeper. 

 

We arrived at Lila's place as the Sun faded beyond the horizon. Lila shared what she was moving through, including a sense that I wasn't energetically available for a deeper connection. My throat and chest seized up in confusion. She sensed? My instinct was to deny her intuition. How could her "sense" not align with my intention? I stammered to clarify my relationship with Farrah, but Lila’s mind had swayed, and she no longer saw any compatibility. I had stepped past a threshold that I couldn't reverse.  

 

There were moments with Lila that seemed to transcend this plane of reality. We all serve as messengers for Spirit to speak through us. In the best of times, we act as keys, unlocking parts of each other, awakening abilities, and increasing awareness, all of which help us to evolve along our path. Before she turned to walk away, Lila shared a message that came from beyond: "I love you and support what you stand for."

 

Resentment grew, seeking to numb the grief of jeopardizing a beautiful connection. I knew this wasn't Farrah's fault; my actions were my responsibility. And there was also no way I could pretend I was ok. As soon as I saw Farrah, I shared what I was going through; moving forward, I would have stronger boundaries and no longer be willing to sacrifice my needs for hers. I was grounded in my expression, but it had little compassion, and the whole situation was upsetting. I had set the stage for an uncomfortable evening, lost in my inner landscapes, surrounded by friends and feeling utterly alone. 

What do You See? 

We don't hallucinate when we ingest psychedelics; we're not seeing things that aren't there simply as the product of a neurochemical reaction. Instead, we're opening to information that is ever present, hidden beyond the veil of perception. The information revealed to us during an altered state of consciousness could be something tucked away in the inner recesses of our psyche: suppressed memories, emotions or truths that we had been cleverly hiding from ourselves in an attempt of adaptive self-preservation; our system will avoid excessive pain as it threatens our ability to function and survive in the demands of life. 

 

Alternatively, we could venture beyond our personalized psyche or energy field and open up to local, non-personal information or even less proximal, non-local information. As we delve into the vastness of consciousness, we can expose ourselves to different orders of reality, dimensions, or beings.

 

ALL things exist within the Field of Consciousness: every single thought, feeling, emotion, lived experience, dream, vision, piece of art, and expression of Nature. It's all there. The scale of this is entirely unfathomable, especially as we zoom out beyond this planetary experience and consider other dimensions of the cosmos. As humans, we have an intentionally reductionary field of perception that accommodates this sacred sensual experience. Our biological umwelt, which is both species-specific and subjectively variable, creates our living model of the world. Our umwelt determines what is meaningful and filters out all superfluous information so that we perceive only what is relevant. While ontological knowing might not be essential to catch the next fish for dinner, a felt sense of our place within Nature can soothe existential despair. Most modern human awareness has been whittled down by material comfort to the point that we perceive ourselves as separate from Nature. We intentionally alter our consciousness to re-member our place in the collective, evolving from the known to the unknown (or forgotten).  

 

The information and visions we receive in expanded states are meaningful, and where we get tripped up is in translating the symbolic. Having an archetypal experience of Christ Consciousness with the love of the Universe pouring through us does not mean we are Christ himself. We can access all sorts of archetypal energies in the exploration of consciousness, and the tethers of sanity are terrifyingly fragile. Being able to stick the landing here on Earth after travelling the Cosmos is imperative. With that in mind, not everyone is equipped to reach beyond the consensus reality.

 

In modern society, there are often cases of people who are privy to a broader Sphere of Awareness in the Field of Consciousness (more information coming in) and are unable to express themselves in a grounded way. Without modern physicians having a model of understanding, the individual is quickly pathologized, heavily sedated and securely isolated from society. In a more connected culture with Animistic understanding (recognizing the underlying Spirit of all things in an interconnected Universe), the individual could receive the appropriate support to develop as a Medicine Person, providing wisdom and guidance for their community.

 

I hold all my experiences with paradoxical awareness. I'm young in my exploration and relatively untravelled compared to the great psychonauts and map makers of our time. And I've seen some sacred spaces in consciousness with undoubtedly meaningful messages, but what are the actual implications? It's the measure of the symbolic and the literal. If I'm witness to the secrets of reality shared by interdimensional beings but without anyone to corroborate, does it hold any significance? We find true meaning in altered states of consciousness when the subjective becomes objective; multiple people experience the exact same secrets of reality, arriving at the same place on the same map for a shared felt experience, or when a clear cause and effect occurs between the energetic and physical space. The most common example of this is actual physiological healing. 

 

We can willfully open our awareness through aptitude, training, ceremony, or fate and broaden our range in the Field of Consciousness. Nobody in human form is privy to the vastness of the entire ocean; it would destroy us. However, there are those who titrate at the edge of their capacity, bringing more God into form. Bache's work is exemplary of this. As Jung surmised, his roots reached to hell so he could grow to heaven.

Soundscapes

East Forest carries a lot of medicine in his art. The ambient and nature-based music is intentionally curated for the psychedelic space, as the title of the album, Music for Mushrooms, would suggest. It's not appropriate to call the experience he curates a concert, it's more like a ceremony. I've been to one of his ceremonies in Malibu during an Aubrey Marcus - Fit for Service (personal development) meet-up, which was absolutely stunning. East Forest also hosted live stream experiences at the beginning of the pandemic, unifying and soothing people in a time of great confusion. With all my present relational distortion, I knew this ceremony would be good medicine. 

 

I arrived at the venue with Farrah and my group of friends. I squirmed in my inner disharmony and knew others could feel the tension. The dimly lit space set the tone as people sprawled on their yoga mats in an orderly fashion, all facing a slightly elevated stage. I knew Lila was there, but we didn't cross paths as we settled in. Farrah asked if she could set up beside me, and I said no. 

 

It's customary for people to have an inward meditative experience during these ceremonies, and given the widespread application of East Forest's music, it was safe to assume that most everyone would be dropping in with entheogens. There's a set and setting for all medicine; sometimes we ingest for healing, and sometimes we ingest for exploration. Despite my support and advocacy of more traditional ceremonies, the seeker in me is ever curious to explore consciousness. I've become more selective about when and how I interact with entheogens, saying no more often than saying yes. On this particular evening, I conceded to the trend, took an intranasal dose of ketamine, put on my blindfold, and settled in. 

 

As the journey began, I witnessed all the tension I was carrying from the current social stress. My body softened and decompressed as I surrendered to the experience, and tears flowed freely with the soothing music. The emotion was complex, encompassing the personal relational crux and the pressure I put on myself. "You're doing your best," a wiser part of me said. I also witnessed the weight of the transpersonal themes of the conference. 

 

Considering the greater whole is a bold endeavour, venturing into collective consciousness where all things exist, from hellscapes to heavens. Greater spheres of awareness mean greater emotional and energetic exposure, and I often question my capacity for such experiences. I recognize the parallels of my guarded heart, cautious of being destroyed by the grief of love. As above, so below; to broaden the map of awareness means dancing on the full spectrum of the human condition, opening to the total terror and bliss of humanity, in All My Relations. I surrendered to the medicine, and the day's teachings informed my journey.

 

As my ego softened and dissociation set in, I assimilated into a more expansive being. My experience as Kyle Dow is a single life, and if my Soul has experienced a multitude of incarnations, my Soul as an entity is still but an ant in the infinite forest of the Great Mystery. My assimilation in this vision wasn't into my Soul; it was into a different entity altogether. My unique perspective in consciousness amassed with hundreds, maybe thousands, of other nodes of consciousness.

 

The imagery was directly Bacheian; "I" was part of a field of energy, like a wave rippling throughout consciousness. There was a coalescence at some level of reality; we existed as one. Through some higher-order intelligence, we percolated down through the dimensional filters, separating into individuals and arriving in form. As painful as the separation is, it’s a blessing to experience relativity and the sacred sensual experience with "others." While there seemingly is no direct link between strangers on this plane, we unknowingly play our part in a collective evolutionary effort. This tiered organization is a typical pattern throughout Nature, just like in the human body; particles form atoms that form cells, which amass to create particular tissues, some coming together to make organs, which organize as part of specific systems, all of which come together to create a fully functional body. The cell doesn't have to be aware of a higher level of intelligence to play its role, but it would inspire a more resilient faith.  

 

The assimilation of beings into a collective is similar to the concept of a Soul Pod: a modern term for a group of beings that exist in closer relation, possibly as one larger entity on another plane of existence. The theory suggests that individual Souls develop contracts with one another and incarnate in different relational dynamics to learn together through balancing karma. By that notion, all the people that come into my experience, potentially if even for a moment, are in close relation (potentially the same being) on some other level of existence. I can imagine this organization of tiered complexity, an entire Soul Pod being an individual unit of a larger Soul Pod, like a chain of command, all the way up to the One Infinite Source of all existence. It's hard to consider the progressive amalgamation, but it culminates as the model of non-duality taught by many wisdom traditions: ultimately, all is One. 

 

When we expand the sphere of awareness into greater consciousness, especially at mass scales, the myopic suffering of a single human seems insignificant. Are we ever concerned about a single cell of our body dying? While this perspective sits on the slippery slope of utilitarian apathy, I can also hear the wisdom of Ram Dass:

 

"I was no longer needing to be special because I was no longer so caught in my puny separateness that had to keep proving I was something. I was part of the Universe, like a tree is, or like grass is, or like water is. Like storms, like roses. I was just part of it all."

 

Nature eats Nature. As humans, we are both the Creator and Destroyer of life. We can numb ourselves to the "cost of life," or we can practice unbearable compassion for all beings and have eternal gratitude for the life we're gifted. In the process, we discover our part to play and develop trust that what is ours will not pass us by. While my emotional pain of the evening was real, it was also entirely insignificant to the Evolutionary Mind of the Universe. What I witnessed in my journey was the vast number of beings coordinated here on Earth in service to the whole. Death writes the code of evolution; we're all midwives of the infinite. 

Rainy Sunday

With Sunday came the rain. After the ceremony the night before, I had another discussion with Farrah, and we decided we needed to remain out of contact for a while. I also exchanged some messages with Lila, and she reiterated her limited interest in me. It felt like I had alienated both women. My mind was muddled with grief and confusion, blocking me from enjoying the company of my friends, so I left to spend the night alone in my van by the ocean. I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof and moved some emotion through my guitar. Eventually, I made my way to the conference.  

 

The conference center was still buzzing with people but felt a little more subdued on this final day. I was grateful to find a good friend and sit with him throughout the morning presentations. During one of the breaks, I spotted Lila across the room; she held my gaze as she walked towards me. She was stunning; it was clear that there was no diminishment in my attraction. She asked to sit with me, and some of my internal protectors stirred. We were side by side, but in a new way, with a vast distance between us. I ruminated in vain over the rupture the day before. 

 

Incredible speakers from various backgrounds, including a strong indigenous presence, shared their wisdom. The common thread continued as the speakers shared their stories to inspire change, acknowledging the consequences we might face if we don't. The ecological damage we're inflicting through extractive industry and other capitalistic activity isn't news; we’ve known this for decades, yet we haven't seen any fundamental changes. Society's pursuit of progress, comfort and extravagant materialism has been at the expense of our relationship with Nature, perpetuating the illusion of separateness from our Great Mother. We continue to pillage the planet for commodities even while recognizing the finitude of these resources. Wetiko is an Algonquin word for this type of energy: a cannibalistic spirit that blinds humans to their greed beyond any reasonability, deluding them into thinking that parasitic behaviour is permissible. Apparently, the “mind virus” of Wetiko has infected the majority of the world, or perhaps just the minority that rules the majority (see Paul Levy's work).

 

A Haida Chief named Guujaaw gave a powerful talk, mostly Q&A, where he spoke of his efforts in activism. He shared how the Indigenous people of Peru consulted him when sending an aggressive letter to the government in opposition to an American pipeline. Guujaaw warned that if they sent the letter, people would die; they acted before receiving his wisdom. The resistance to the invasive industry escalated into violence, and 200 people died, including 17 police. Guujaaw trembled with emotion while the audience sat heavy with compassion. The topics continued to circle the challenges of the world, the destructive capitalistic machine and the trend of valuing profit over human life. Guujaaw spoke about the power of spirit medicines, sharing some wisdom from the Amazon:

 

"In the Amazon, the medicine is used the way you would use it here, for healing. But also to examine political issues and to look at other things. I think the healing aspect of it is kinda narrow. The spiritual aspects are so much greater than sending yourself into a little dark corner and trying to work things out. And the healing comes as a side effect anyway… To take medicine for ourselves is almost selfish in a way, but yet it is for everybody. The prayers that are made in the Amazon are for everybody; the prayers amongst our people, similarly, are made for everybody." 

 

The dimly lit room held a sombre energy. Guujaaw remained mostly equanimous, weaving in humour, like all wise warriors, reminding us to "walk lightly." I came out of my stupor to ask a question: 

 

"It sounds like some of the things you are speaking about can fall under the label of Wetiko. I wonder if you can speak a little bit to that, and if there's an opposing benevolent force we can engage with?"

 

Guujaaw paused deliberately and then said… "I'd like to think so, but if you look at the power of the medicine in the Amazon, when you're under it, you wonder how anything can stand up to this stuff, but yet… they come and bulldoze it down. So I don't know. I think there must be, but it's gotta be more in the influencing of spirits that are affecting people. It's not as if one big hand is gonna come down and grab somebody by the scuff of the neck or something. Only in ceremony would that happen. (laughs) 

 

"But prayer… I don't consider myself to be that holy of a guy, but there's a lot of need for it. The people from Columbia managed to retain everything they went to, this circle of Elders. And they sat way over there laying, moving around, changing positions. All these other people were having ceremonies and sunrise ceremonies and were wondering why these [Columbians] were so antisocial. And it's that they went there not really knowing what they needed to convey, but finally, at the end, they went there with a simple message:

 

"'Consider the depth of your prayer.' You don't just read it or just mouth it. You know, prayer is more than that." 

 

I sat in contemplation of Guujaaw's words. His perspective and answer to my question made it clear that I should offer my prayer in the upcoming peyote ceremony. 

 

Lila and I had a brief check-in before she left the conference; I wanted clarity on our disruption from the day before. Our subjective realities weren't lining up as our past lived experiences coloured our perception of the present. Without any foundation of trust, the protective parts of our psyche were in control. Her activated part saw a red flag and inferred I wouldn't be fully available for her. My activated part saw injustice and wanted to be understood. We were resolute in our positions, never softening enough to fully empathize with the other. The prominent line in my memory is, "You made a choice. It's not right or wrong, but this is where it's brought us." 

 

The wonderful and maddening design of the psyche is that it will wrestle with something until it can make sense of it. It seeks to learn from hurtful experiences and develop adaptive (or maladaptive) behaviour to prevent further pain. That's where I found myself, constantly distracted by the looping error message. I tried to focus on the wisdom keepers up on stage, but my sense of sadness had me trying to resolve my personal situation, which I couldn't comprehend.

The Congregation

We're all energetic conduits, constantly transmitting and receiving information consciously and subconsciously. In that ocean of data, our selective attention and nervous system determine what behavioural expression comes through us. True authentic expression is rarely a default state as we're governed by our needs and desires, often acquiescing to the interpersonal constraints of our environment. Social desirability almost always trumps radical authenticity. While feeling deeply seen, accepted and loved can allow us to feel safe enough to be our true selves, any sense of safety dependent on external factors is ultimately an illusion. Life is fickle, and everything is impermanent. Actual safety is an inward process, cultivating the inner resources to remain steadfast through the waves of life, searching for the constant at the center of it all. Operating from the unwavering center creates an experience of flow, in harmony with our whole being and beyond, where it's no longer ‘my will’ but ‘thy will’ as we surrender to intelligence beyond our ego.   

 

‘My will’ was definitely driving the ship at the conference after party. It was a lively gathering with dinner, drinks, DJs and fascinating people. My nervous system was unsettled around Lila; I didn't feel "safe." Instead of lingering around her in uncertainty, I mostly committed to choosing my own adventure, ever the seeker. I got to connect with new friends and old. Several times, others reflected to me how poignant and impactful my question for Bache had been the day before. I was grateful to receive that feedback because it indicated that people had similar considerations of his prophecy; what is ours to do in the face of the looming “crucifixion of humanity?” Eventually, I found myself huddled with others around Jamie Wheal. 

 

I've had much admiration for Jamie since seeing that first talk on Transformative Culture. He has spent significant time as an outdoor guide and has a passion for adventure that aligns with mine. I've always appreciated his fierce intellect, which assimilates various data from lived experience, anthropology, far-out psychedelia and ecological realities to create models that help us orient ourselves to life. It felt like an honour to spend some time with him. I discovered that he's an intense dude, holding resolute in his perspectives. 

 

Jamie's talk at the conference focused on the boom/bust cycles of civilizations. The boom is the comfort and abundance that we've gained from "sucking dinosaur bones" out of the Earth (fossil fuels), and the bust would be the foreseeable collapse from ecological imbalance or other systems failure. The invariable collapse of every society that has ever existed and the preceding patterns should be enough to help us locate where we are in the arc of the Cinderella Story. If we don't experience a collective catastrophe (already a worldly reality), then some proximal generation certainly will. And the happily ever after? The Bacheian model for the win.

 

What I wanted to know most from Jamie was: “What do we do?” The short answer from him was that we prepare. We prepare to be leaders in times of conflict, full of skills and equanimity to navigate challenging situations. It requires a lot of inner and outer work to be physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared. (Jamie did shamelessly plug the leadership training his organization provides, which comes with a bit of an exclusionary price tag.) Without any way of knowing the timeline of collapse, it's not about our personal survival; it's about creating a more resilient and connected way of life for ourselves and future generations. If we start with our own practices and intentionally organize and align with others, we can begin to model a new way of being. Indigenous wisdom teaches that we have a responsibility to the 7 generations to come, much like the 7 generations before us shaped our lives. What skills and wisdom can we pay forward? If Bache's prophecy is accurate, then how can we hedge our bets to make it through the fire of transformation?  

 

Lila found me sitting with Jamie and stole my attention. I gave a nod and gesture of appreciation as Jamie excused himself. There she was in front of me, wide-eyed and curious as always, acknowledging another significant moment. Her beauty was not lost on me, though I was coming to accept that this wouldn't be the type of connection I was hoping for. We carried on through the night, having moments of connection, dancing and playing together. It took me a long time in life to truly value the many domains of intimacy rather than be fixated on sexual gratification. With that awareness, I've had deeply nourishing platonic relationships. Perhaps this would be one of those. 

 

Eventually, the music stopped, and people trickled out, feeling satiated from an entire weekend of constructive collaboration and celebration. A few of us remained, and we found our way into the sauna. The heat helped us unwind and open to our experience, finding presence and connection with one another. We offered reflections on the weekend and other open-hearted shares, even landing on a song or two. Outside, there were cold plunge tubs to offset the heat. A glimmering Halfmoon hung in a crisp, clear sky, and our Ancestors twinkled overhead. Lila and I shared the same tub, facing each other and holding hands. I closed my eyes, turned inward, observing all the sensations of the experience… I opened my eyes to see her watching me, smiling sweetly, peering beyond my human to the essence of it all.  

 

We finished in the sauna, and the final guests made their way. The aftermath of the gathering was a stark contrast, and the house felt spacious as the energy settled. Lila had already mentioned that she would need some space the following day, which I was happy to honour, and I was getting ready to head out to my van. As we found ourselves alone, Lila surprised me with an invitation to spend the night with her. I peered at her inquisitively, feeling an expansion in my chest. It didn't feel like the time for clarifying questions, so I joined her in bed. It was an innocent and intimate encounter, sharing the nourishment of sensual touch. I was suddenly aware of how I longed to be soothed by the feminine. 

 

I snuck out early the next day so Lila could have space for her responsibilities. I spent time by the ocean playing guitar, meditating, and reflecting on the weekend. A lot had been stirred up in two days. With the peyote ceremonies earlier that month and the Mazatec retreat the week before, it was like having an extended peak experience. I looked forward to the Winter season bringing stillness, integration, and dreaming. For the moment, I thought forward to the night's ceremony and considered the medicine carriers. 

Medicine Carriers

The Wixarica demonstrated creativity and resilience as they opted out and retreated to the most inhospitable of lands to not be pursued. They found refuge high up in the mountains, where the days are scorching hot and the nights are bone-chilling cold. They lived hard, ascetic lives to preserve what was Good, True and Beautiful… including the Peyote ceremony. This level of devotion is rarely seen in our Western world, making immense sacrifices for something more significant than the individual, not just for personal gain. It's essential to consider the history when we sit with these sacraments and acknowledge that people have died for this ceremony to survive; to experience it is a blessing. 

The First Nations of North America also have a deep relationship with Peyote and their own unique origin story. These indigenous peoples have likewise suffered the horrors of colonization and have had to fight, and die, to preserve their ceremonies. First Nations ceremonies were actually banned by settler governments under the Indian Act in 1885, which was finally lifted in 1951, though they were still heavily scrutinized for years to come. The process of reconciliation for the wrongs that have been committed towards the First Nations will be long and arduous. It's hard to imagine ever finding true restorative justice under the colonial government. While certain First Nations keep their customs and ceremonies to themselves, other indigenous leaders have opened their ceremonies to all people; this is a profound gesture in creating a unified front to move towards a more harmonious future. 

 

Music is a vital element in most ceremonies, and each of these traditions has its particular instruments that it prays with. The Marakames use a "canary" guitar, which resembles a ukulele, and a mini violin. These instruments have a particular pitch that requires some attuning; under the wisdom of the medicine, it starts to make sense. Music opens up new spaces in consciousness as the frequency of sound melds and shapes the fabric of reality.

 

In the First Nations Peyote ceremony held by the Native American Church (NAC), the instruments used are the water drum and peyote gourd (rattle). The water drum consists of a large metal, three-legged pot or kettle, partially filled with water, covered with animal hide and fastened with cord in a ritualistic way. The drum components are significant because of their commonality; during the era of banned ceremonies, they wouldn't draw unwanted suspicion of unlawful practice. The water drum has a very definitive sound, a deep resonant thudding that captivates and pulls you into the space; it represents the heartbeat. The driving, rhythmic cadence of the gourd sounds like a galloping horse and represents the mind. The mind and the heart come together, with the song woven in prayer, all emanating into Spirit, to commune with the forces that inform our lives. 

 

The NAC songs captivated me in my first-ever Peyote ceremony. The way the song danced with the percussion of the instruments, all driven towards the meticulously tended fire, was like a cosmic language. I could feel the power of the singers who had a deep connection. I was permitted to sing some English medicine songs in that first ceremony, which was both intimidating and enlivening. When I found my way to the Wixarika ceremonies, I committed to learning the songs. Somehow, the drum and gourd have made their way into all the ceremonies I've been a part of; I've even seen Marakames sing the NAC songs, which speaks to how much people appreciate that way of prayer. It’s been a challenging process of expansion to develop the confidence to sing in ceremony. Ultimately, it's not about impressing anyone; it is a personal communion with Spirit through song. But when all eyes turn to you, eloquence and composure become elusive as the medicine flows through your body.

 

My general experience with entheogens is that it's like a rocket ship that blasts me to another place in consciousness. For many of us, that's what we need, a disintegration of stories as the Sphere of Awareness expands to introduce a new perceptual reality: the notorious ego death. I have found Peyote to be a more gentle and grounded, heart-opening medicine. The alteration of consciousness is subtle as the mescaline (the psychoactive component of peyote) takes hold, and we look to the central fire, to the altar, to song and to prayer for insight and guidance. With the correct set, setting, dosage and intention, the sacrament can open up deep spaces in consciousness and provide potent healing.

 

Part of the psycho-emotional affect of these Peyote ceremonies comes from the ordeal of sitting up through the night and maintaining focus. It's not a social engagement, and it's not meant to be comfortable. It's a sacrifice, a "sacred gift," an offering of reciprocity so that the prayer may be heard and answered. Different traditions have different degrees of diligence. For example, the NAC often requires people to be on their knees in prayer all night long, never leaving the circle. There's variance depending on the Roadman and how lenient that particular "altar" (tradition or lineage) is. I have heard it expressed at ceremonies, where people were sprawled about in blankets and comfort, "This is not a living room. You can sleep at home." Late in the night, when it gets cold and uncomfortable, is when it’s most important to maintain focus. As I've heard a Roadman say, "It will all make sense in the morning."

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The Wixarica, more commonly known by their colonial name, the Huichol, are an indigenous people of Mexico and stewards of the Peyote medicine. The medicine men, Marakame, are often chosen at a young age (after demonstrating certain spiritual aptitudes) to be trained and initiated as medicine carriers. Specific cosmology and mythology associated with Peyote honour it as a sacrament offered by the Blue Deer Spirit, Kayumari, a being that is part of their Creation Story. Sometimes, we’re fortunate enough to receive this teaching in ceremony. 

Part of the Wixarica history that has been shared with me is about how they had to protect their culture throughout the years of colonization in Mexico. When the conquistadors arrived, the Wixarica tradition was threatened as they were pressured to assimilate and bow to new gods. The alternative would be to stand up and fight, which, under the parameters of "might is right," would have been a fatal decision.  

 

The Ceremony

After my slow day of contemplation, I returned to Lila's place to help prepare the ceremony space. We were setting things up when she casually asked if we could have a check-in; there were more surprises. She reiterated that our romance wasn't going anywhere and that the sweet experience the night before was exceptional. Newfound confusion anchored in my chest. We didn't have time to hear the other's perspective, and the dynamic remained riddled with assumptions and projections.  

 

The other participants arrived in the space to share an intimate experience, if only for a night. There were awkward neighbourly formalities as people navigated the needs of their inner and outer worlds. Ceremony is an inward journey, a personal experience, and, at the same time, a collective exploration. The saying goes, "It's not my ceremony, but our ceremony." Synchronization often occurs as the veil of separation thins, and we become susceptible to each other's energy. It's possible to sense denser energies that aren't personal, sometimes even culminating in a purge on behalf of others.   

 

As we settled in, I asked Lila if I could sit beside her, and she said no, fatefully pouring water on any smouldering hope. I found myself sitting beside "The Chief," the wooden centrepiece from the conference that had somehow found his way to this circle. I set up my personal altar and rolled some tobacco for prayer. Lila came over, trying to maintain harmony between us. "Looks like someone's in his zone of genius!" 

 

Two Marakames arrived with a couple of younger supporters; a Mexican and a First Nations man from America. The ceremony unofficially opened as the younger Mexican started banging the water drum, pulling us all into presence. After the opening sets of songs, there were some introductions, and we were guided through a cord-cutting ritual. We were told to take a piece of red string and tie a knot for every lover we've ever had. This was a process of acknowledging our energetic entanglement with lovers and removing that energy from our field. I squirmed in my seat as I struggled to remember some of my sexual partners. There were knots for women I barely remembered, and there were knots for actual lovers, the ones who gifted me memories of shared experience and meaningful connection. I tied a knot for Farrah with clarity about how to move forward. I left the string undone for Lila, being hopefully stubborn. All the string was collected and burned in the fire, ridding ourselves of what no longer serves.

 

After the opening cleansing and blessings with feathers and copal, the medicine was passed as a dry powder. A scoop was dropped in my hand, and I mixed it with water, savouring the earthy, bitter flavours. I remembered the reciprocal relationship with the Spirit of the medicine and greeted it with a smile. There is usually a central fire, a traditional element for alchemy, and a gateway for visions in the centre of the circle of participants. Since our ceremony was indoors, the fire was outside for us to visit as needed, and we focused on a central altar instead. The energy of the space began to expand as we sat with our intentions and prayers, opening to the wisdom of our ancestors, guides and the Spirit of Kayumari.

 

The elder Marakame sang his song to the cosmos, speaking to the spirits he relates with and making way for our prayers. I could feel the medicine beginning to work on me. The Marakames picked up their instruments, and we were all encouraged to get up and dance. We marched and stomped in place, following the modelling of the humble dance. The First Nation supporter spoke out, "We dance for future generations!" It caught my curiosity. Is there some metaphysical significance as we put forward the energy of celebration, hope and resilience for future generations? Or is it a symbolic gesture as we rise up through discomfort in the darkness of the night for something greater than ourselves? 

 

The water drum was brought forward as the cycle of ritual and song continued. The Marakame supporters demonstrated powerful prayers, and I was inspired by their chemistry; they took turns drumming, synching up their instruments, singing together, and displaying intention and passion. There weren't many singers that night, leaving a lot of space for me to pray; I approached the altar and asked for a drummer. I settled on my knees in a pious position and took some deep breaths. I shook the rattle alive, and the drum drove the cadence. The medicine danced through me, and the rattle had a life of its own; I wanted a straight rhythm, and it wanted to take off like a horse. I surrendered to the experience, focusing on my prayer and not getting caught up in the technicalities. My unsteady set of songs was met with salutes of approval; Lila looked at me with appreciation. 

 

I returned to my spot beside the Chief, who remained steadfast as he held the space. I followed his example the best I could, remaining disciplined and focused. Many people were lying down, some of them even sleeping, and I watched the righteous frustration of my purist judgement. Lila was finding her own way through ceremony, lying down, journaling, and swaying by the fire outside. The misalignment was obvious, and the lessons of devotion began to trickle in. 

The Mazatec Ceremony

I flashed back to the Mazatec ceremony only a week prior. The congregation of old and new friends sat in the still darkness of night. At the center of our altar was a copalera, holding the fire element in glowing charcoal. Participants approached the altar with their prayers, and Agder would sing and doctor them. The space between was filled with silence and teachings. At a particular moment, Agder needed support while helping a participant with an energetic release; recognizing Farrah's musical gift, he asked her to sing. Farrah rose into her power, the culmination of a life devoted to song, and shared her voice, channelling energy through the space. 

 

With the nearing dawn, I found my time to sit at the altar. Agder picked up my raven feather and cleansed my energy body, eventually handing it to me to hold against my heart. He picked up some rolled tobacco and encouraged me to find my own answers in the fire of the copalera. The question has remained the same for many years, searching for my Original Instructions: What is mine to do? I felt the sorrow of humanity. I felt the pain of the Earth that we trample. I felt the despair of not dancing for future generations. I sobbed as I felt the weight of it all and realized the honour and burden of what is mine to do:

 

The conservation and propagation of Earth Wisdom through supporting Indigenous Culture, Tradition and Ceremony. 


My tears fell before the copalera as Farrah and another dear sister sang for me, “Because I love you so much…” Energy surged as the Truth of it all landed in my body. As humanity continues to deteriorate and consume the planet, and technology threatens to alienate us from Nature, it's paramount that we preserve Earth Wisdom and maintain a connection with Spirit. In the eyes of the Creator, I made a silent vow to pour my Soul into that service. To honour this affirmation, I put aside trepidation and reached for the drum. I closed my eyes and sang a Lakota healing song to the best of my ability; it loosely translates to, "Have mercy on me, I want to live, and I want to live in a spiritual way."

Devotion

In the present peyote ceremony, I held the weight of the pledge in my heart. I was coming to realize what a devotional path would look like, full of sacrifice and hardship. Distraction and temptations would have to fall by the wayside. Devotion means allowing the Good, True and Beautiful to die…  to what is more Good, True and Beautiful. I saw clearly that although my connection with Lila was remarkable, it wasn't a relationship that would support my path; she recognized the incompatibility before I did... 

 

When I had considered Farrah's request for the East Forest ceremony, I held it with the awareness of our entire connection. Farrah saw me through many chapters of life and accepted all parts of me, supporting me in my shadow and in my light. Her Soul knows the way of ceremony and is uniquely positioned to understand the magick and hardships of the medicine path. When I decided to honour my relationship with Farrah, I wasn't prioritizing one woman over another. I was choosing a way of life.

 

With the realization came grief. I looked over at Lila and saw the death of potential as it became cemented in the past. My mind projected my narrowing path into the future, and I began to mourn what I would miss out on: beautiful relationships, experiences, and opportunities, all in the name of devotion. It was agonizing. Safety, comfort, and security would need to be sacrificed for my Dharma.

 

My new awareness shaped the rest of the ceremony. At one point, I went to the altar and offered a prayer of gratitude to the Marakames for all they had sacrificed and their devotion to this tradition. I chose my words carefully for all to hear. It was a call to action, summoning courage and resilience and inviting the contemplation, "What are you willing to stand for?"
And I found my moments to sing, gourd in hand, while the drum led the charge. I trudged through the growing pains, finding my way. During my last set of songs, I noticed Lila outside by the fire, lost in wonder at the giant snowflakes floating around her. 

 

Lila and I continued to have moments of connection throughout the ceremony. Towards the end, I went and sat with her, even allowing myself to lie down. I placed a bracelet in her hand, and she sat up to take a look. It was a Wixarika beaded bracelet with the traditional Peyote symbology woven in; she noticed the deer, and I watched as her awareness expanded. I explained that it was a small gift of reciprocity for all the magic she had brought me into that weekend. I went on to say…

 

"People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I don't know if we'll make it to a season (we both laughed), but I know you came into my life for a reason." She was graceful in gratitude and we shared a hug. Another ritual of cleansing began, and I returned to my place. 

The Morning After

Sunrise brought the relief of light, a faithful continuation of cycles, a homage to the resilience of life. The Marakame officially closed the ceremony, and we sat around the altar listening to continued teachings. Everyone was still feeling blessed by the medicine, and we enjoyed a new depth of connection after the shared ordeal. Father Sun shone unimpeded from the sky, melting the snow that had fallen at night, embracing impermanence. 

 

I was eager to check in with Lila about her experience but felt she was keeping some distance. Eventually, I was able to draw her away for a moment of privacy. We basked in early morning birdsong and the ambient percussion of melting snow. Water droplets hung from branches, creating a vibrant and sparkling landscape.

 

"You know," I said, "sometimes I wonder if I know and sense too much, missing the bliss of ignorance. Being in the liminal space between consensus reality and all that lies beyond is like walking a line of terrible beauty." I could see her formulating questions. I ventured into my own contemplation, recalling the moments she caught my eye long before we met. It was at a festival when I saw her across a field. She boldly held my gaze, and there was a moment of recognition, an attraction, a brief and catalyzing connection. That was the impetus of this whole journey.

 

I recounted the moment and asked her what she remembered about it. "I don't really know," she said. “It was just a moment of attraction and curiosity. I was aware of your energy in the crowd when everyone was dancing that night." These moments are like seeds of a great tree, ready to land and sprout, but the majority are lost in the wind of our own confusion. "Those moments are worth tracking," I said, "if we can recognize them, they can open up new worlds to us." She seemed to be enjoying my musings, at the very least tolerating them in the afterglow of ceremony. 

 

I carried on. "Our being exists in various planes of consciousness, interconnected with other beings, with access to vast amounts of information beyond our normal awareness. We agree to arrive in this incarnation and be teachers for each other, helping one another along our path, sometimes unknowingly delivering meaningful insights. From those expanded fields beyond time, we trickle down information to decorate our human journey with signs, symbols and synchronicities, like breadcrumbs that show us the way." 

 

Lila took it all in with a smirk on her face. Sometimes, I wonder if certain people are far more aware than I am, like a well-practiced teacher who never lets on the full scope of their knowledge and allows the students to fumble along with their lessons as they grow. Maybe she's a sage in disguise, humouring my newfound insight. This rich and random encounter had me thinking we knew each other in some higher order of reality. "We know each other from other lives," I said. She smiled, "Is that so?"

 

Lila got pulled away to other matters, and eventually, I ended up in the sauna with the two supporters of the Marakames. They treated the sauna like a Sweat Lodge, doing four rounds and singing peyote songs in each round. It turned out that the young First Nations man was actually a Roadman. The Mexican was devoted to Peyote, and at one point, he had a vow of celibacy for 3 years, abstaining from any physical touch from women, all to strengthen his relationship with the medicine. The chemistry I witnessed in the ceremony came from 5 years of praying together. They left the sauna with some encouraging words to keep learning the songs.

Realizations

Lila and I found each other for one more moment of significance. She was in the ceremony space, near my spot, looking at her painting on the wall, which hung in the background behind the Chief. It was the painting that was in her room during our first hangout. I joined her and her gaze and asked, "Do you now see why I interpreted deer imagery?" She nodded with that wondrous expression. "What's more impressive," I asked, "the creation or the creator?"

 

"The Creation."

 

Lila had hit the wall after being up all night and was ready for bed. I planned on going with the Marakames and others to the ocean to give away the flowers from the altar - one final ritual to complete the ceremony. We embraced as we said goodbye, and I thanked her again for the magical weekend. 

 

I moved around to my ceremony spot, faced the two pieces of art, and shook my head in disbelief; the contrast accented the night's teaching. Lila's art was captivating, modern, abstract, complex and beautiful. The Chief was made of hundreds of pieces from various wood types, amalgamating into a vibrant masterpiece of devotion; he represents a collective movement of people standing for the protection of our Earth, Indigenous Rights, and the conservation of Earth Wisdom. I stared into the eyes of the Chief, reflecting sorrow, hope and mystery, as he summoned me to the altar of my life. 

I'm sincerely grateful that you've taken the time to read this, hopefully it has somehow been beneficial for you, perhaps even inspiring devotion to something bigger than yourself. I appreciate any feedback and if you have any questions or desire guidance and support in personal and spiritual development, please book a free call HERE

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