Mother Ayahuasca

3monkeyGlennA line of candles on sticks light the trail to a clearing deep into the woods. The light is already fading on a warm July evening. At the centre of the clearing is a large newly lit fire. Twenty or more people sit or lay down in a circle around the fire.

A slight build, dark skinned man sits smoking a long pipe. He has a proud feathered headdress peaking perhaps two feet above his head, his face is painted, his clothes are patterned with bright whites and cool and dark blues. Under his necklaces I see images on his top that look familiar. Before I’m able to identify them the shaman starts speaking. A young woman translates his native Portuguese into English: ‘You must stay in the group until morning when the ceremony ends … Do not wander off into the forest away from the circle … If someone needs help, even the person next to you, do not help them – anyone needing help should raise their hand and I will come.’ The shaman then tells us he has been a shaman for more than sixty years, since he was eight. I wonder, is he trying to reassure us? I don’t think so. As I digest these words the images on his top are suddenly clear; two stormtroopers from Star Wars. Wow, really! And yes of course that is Darth Vader standing behind them. Odder still is that I find this somehow reassuring.

The forest has transformed, the fire is a giant coiled anaconda watching me amid the flames, the shaman is an icaro bird singing and dancing, calling to the forest. The sound of retching circles around the group, participants trying to hold down the thick bitter brown liquid; it’s mostly dry retching as they’ve not eaten since noon. The retching becomes a sort of wordless somatic conversation. My body responds with laughter. The conversation moves on; someone retches, I laugh, others laugh, someone moans. This is Mother Ayahuasca at work. I realise my laughter is joy. I’m not laughing at others’ discomfort, their retching noises or the irony of medicine making them sick. Joy was bubbling up as laughter. I realise joy makes no room for, nor has need of, empathy. Ah yes! Joy, not empathy. Ah yes to respond with empathy only reaffirms the dichotomy of the ‘healer’ and the ‘sick’.

My ‘intention’ or question for this ceremony was about how I approach my work. I was seeing how my question is based on the duality of ‘me and my approach’; with this thought, two things happened. I thought ‘I can’t wait to tell my therapist; he’ll love it’; immediately a voice in me blurted out ‘He doesn’t exist!’. More laughter, more joy. ‘I’ve made him up, of course; of course he doesn’t exist.’

As I lay back tucked into my sleeping bag my joy went from laughter to a stream of emotionless tears. ‘He doesn’t exist; neither do I.’ As Glenn slipped away, this whole night as an experience slipped away also. I saw the sky and canopy reaching down towards me, the trees and smoke dissolving into vibrant living patterns tracking back down where I lay. As I closed my eyes I felt ants crawling on my face, there was nothing there, I could see in my mind’s eye tiny creatures knitting together and unpicking my mind, wave after wave of patterns swept over me.

As I opened my eyes I saw my favourite painting hanging from the consulting room wall. Under it, on the sofa, sat Lena where I’d left her, wide eyed looking expectantly at me. ‘You went to sleep.’

‘Was it for long?’ I was still getting my bearings.

‘No maybe two minutes or so, no more.’

‘It felt like ages, really deep but, yeah just a few moments …’

‘So, did you dream?’ she asked with her eyes fixed on mine.

‘Yes.’ I paused, waiting for words to come out of my mouth.

‘So what did you dream?’

‘That’s just it; I don’t think I’ve stopped.’

Glenn says …

… ayahuasca is classified as a class A drug in the UK and is therefore illegal. In the Amazon it is treated as a potent medicine. It is unclear what the legal status of ayahuasca is if the boundary between dreaming and waking life has dissolved.

 

All rights reserved © Copyright Glenn Nicholls 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author of this post is strictly prohibited.

Indiscreet notes on the wisdom of reading too much

Jimblog1All possible thought could stream instantaneously through your mind at some point and then what?

How we fill the void of our terrifying incomprehensibility with an infinite number of stories is the only story.

Life might have no deep meaning. Wondrous relief, not to make an effort one way or another!

For me to ignore my luxurious experience of excessive reading would be even more decadent than this.

One mind, one thousand million books – all full, all empty. All fucking infuriating. All a complete wonder.

No matter how introverted you are, it’s always other people’s suffering that brings you to the fight.

It helps to walk around a bit and talk frankly to your other self and spit things out.

Bookshop as quiet war zone. Wandering out without a text to hand, feeling like an unarmed monk.

Call the world, it will come. Turn away and it will come even more ferociously. Not available in book form.

Infinite reading room in the eternal library – and your real life is the one in the best seat by the window.

Far too many words in a book. A handful of sentences would do for a lifetime.

Several lifetimes just to wake up.

The smell of books brings me to tears because of all the death and love and because there’s nothing else.

Your knowledge is no use until you’re free of it.

How to mind the gaps between sentences, where meanings live and die and shudder.

Gap the mind. Don’t be clever. Be the idiot-spark in the timeless gap. Just go on.

No, actually, the meaning of meaning is always already right here and suddenly understood.

Reading a book to find myself in the world, to recognise myself in it, then realising we’ve already met.

Don’t read yourself too carefully, you are already more wild and random than you know.

Books are other people without the change of mind.

My fresh and sophisticated maxim is your tired and ancient homily, and the other way round.

Even the smallest library is an excess of absence, like a graveyard. Evidence of our burning desires.

A person free from all pretence would be constantly fearless and a bloody pain to hang out with.

I am superbly pretentious, especially when I think I know you well. You get my fear just fine.

There is not much self to be found other than this constant, slow, brilliant shattering of syllables.

Don’t meet me in the field but in this very word which places us there already.

A single sentence: no less presumptuous than a novel, just forgotten sooner.

The most important book on this planet is mud.

How well we live when we put our books down and laugh at nothing!

Over-reading or over-eating or over-dreaming – the only difference is your odd degree of spiritual torpor.

Count the people now in the world who have the same thoughts as you and count yourself a fortunate idiot.

Make yourself up by going along with your destiny.

Deep truth as error. When you know a wise person has said something unforgettable, you forget it, wisely.

Sitting behind my wall of books with a head full of mind, the freedom not to read is unsurpassable.

The pause between reading and not reading is the actual reading.

What we seek is always (a) utterly impossible to find, and (b) under our noses, and (c) neither a nor b.

All the books in all the libraries at midnight, breathing out slowly, forgiving themselves for no reason.

The right books find you through chaotic acts of fate. You find the wrong books likewise.

Jim recommends …

… Fish, S. (2011). How To Write A Sentence.

 

All rights reserved © Copyright Jim Holloway 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author of this post is strictly prohibited.