A date with a cactus

Trip Start Sep 25, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2014

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Flag of Peru  , Cuzco,
Thursday, November 14, 2013

"I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger. I saw the world from above and below. I saw that there were patterns and gates and paths beyond the real. I saw all these things and I understood them and they filled me, just as the waters of the ocean filled me."

---The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

A quote from an Andean shaman who describes San Pedro's effects:

“First, a dreamy state… then great visions, a clearing of all the faculties… then detachment, a type of visual force inclusive of the sixth sense, the telepathic state of transmitting oneself across time and matter, like a removal of thoughts to a distant dimension.”

Well...not quite. But partially true to my experience.

I debated on sharing this adventure with all of you, but then decided I would. Not quite sure as to why, except maybe to answer questions, or dispel some mystery about what this experience may be like. You may wonder why I would try such a thing? My only explanation is that I was curious as to what would come forth, and as they say, when in Peru...

Here, San Pedro is not viewed as a drug, or a daring, risky venture-or even uncommon. San Pedro has been used for thousands of years in South America for healing and spiritual enlightenment-and has even been used to treat mental illness and alcoholism. Its original name in Quechua means, "wind of four directions"and its effects are thought to be alkalizing to the bodies organs and to aid in its systems. Its thick skin is rich in the psychactive compound, mescaline, and is often used as a cleansing of both the body, the mind, and also a way to connect with the Pachamama-and potentially your Higher Self. Some believe that it holds the key to heaven.

Let me just preface this story by saying that I have never done hallucinogens before. But after hearing about what it was like to "sit" with San Pedro, and knowing that it was regularly practiced here, I decided to try this mysterious cactus-with someone that I trusted. After meeting Wither and getting to know Winn from Casa de Wow, I felt comfortable. I placed my trust in both Winn's knowledge and Withers spiritual training.

After a day of cleansing (no alcohol, no sugar, fruit and veggies only) and a morning sans breakfast ( but for papaya juice and coca tea) Wither and I grabbed a taxi to the Pumamarca ruins, a site known to be heavy with spiritual energy. Nestled between the mountains, this ruin is a quiet spot-perfect to connect with the earth and have some privacy. The plan was to spend a few hours up at the ruins and then walk on back to town as the sun set. San Pedro is oftentimes a 10-12 hour experience, so a full day was planned.

Wither and I hiked from the drop off point up to three large stone structures, believed to once be used for food storage and refrigeration. Here, we found protection from the wind and Wither went about preparing the ceremonial site and the fire. I sat near and breathed in the scent of some herbs that Wither had brought for me. These herbs were supposed to calming-although I didn't feel anxious or nervous, only curious for the experience ahead and mildly excited. Wither prepared a small fire where he went on to make special offerings of scent and soil, while chanting and singing a prayer of sorts (our language barrier prevented me from fully knowing what was being said or its meaning). He then played his flute to the four directional points, slowly turning as he played. He asked me to make an offering as well and to flow the smoke in my direction. Motioning for me to stand and chanting quietly, he brushed the herbs down my body, front to back- brushing as if moving energy out my hands and feet, preparing me for accepting the San Pedro. He then poured the slimy green concoction into a glass, held it over the fire while whispering a type of prayer under his breath and handed it to me to drink. I drank the mildly bitter fluid and then watched him do the same.

We then proceeded to walk around the ruins-me taking pictures as I explored.The cactus takes about 40 minutes to take effect, so in the meantime, I enjoyed the view of the mountains and the ancient stone. Wither and I split up for a time and I sat on a rock and just watched and listened. Eventually, I began to feel a bit nauseous. This is very common and can be a sign of you having to work through something-your bodies way of telling you it is fighting the plant and the process. Wither continued to check on me. I threw up a bit and then felt a bit better. Slowly, I realized that the colors were becoming brighter and I could hear the flutter of the birds wings in an exaggerated hum. My surroundings seemed to be a bit in technicolor-the earth in HD.

I eventually lied down in the grass on my back and watched as the clouds swirled overhead. Shapes and totems took form-mainly a wolf totem. The faces, teeth and figures of wolves danced above. I didn't feel alarmed and was very cognitive of what was happening above me. I kept wondering what was the wolf telling me? What is the message? I didn't have the answer at that moment, but later learned what the wolf totem signifies(see below if interested). Time passed and I slipped into a deep relaxation where I dozed on and off a bit. I eventually met back up with Wither, who was near. We sat for a bit and I watched the earth pulse around me. I have never been clearer of the Earth being a living entity. It was as if the mountains were breathing-as if the earth had a pulse. Quite enchanting. We went underneath an ancient tree and performed another offering and then slowly began making our way down the mountain. The trail was magical! the sun was lowering in the sky and the light glistened through the silver leaves of the eucalyptus trees as they swayed in the wind. Our path led through a valley towards the light of the setting sun. We followed a creek along the trail, the sun warm on my skin. Wither spotted the unbelievable site of a mighty condor flying up high to the left of us, over the mountaintop. Soon, several others joined. I was awestruck by seeing this famed creature and felt it must be a sign of strength and good luck.

Along the trail we would occasionally see a local leading sheep or tending to their farm. Wither would always stop to share some fruit or coca leaves-even splitting his banana in half to share with a child. We passed a homestead of an elderly woman who lives alone and is a bit of a recluse. She didn't appear to be home, so I peered in the cracks of her stone home to witness a sea of pots, clutter, and guinea pigs. We later passed her on the trail, hauling a colorful blanket of sticks upon her bent back, and Wither invited her to sit on a ledge overlooking the valley with us. He offered her a smoke and some coca leaves and she sat between us, carefully selecting special coca leaves for each of us to chew. She was toothless and her worn traditional clothing was stained with dirt. She eventually rose to leave and Wither kindly filled her pockets with coca leaves. She was happy. What a moment it was.

As we continued down the trail, I felt some fruit might help my still nauseous stomach. Wither had brought pineapple, pepitos, grapes, and bananas. Never has fruit tasted to delicious! We sat on the ground in the middle of the trail and ate-pineapple juice dripping between our fingers.Two people passed that I had met in town and they sat with us and shared the fruit. Wither played his flute (he did this randomly down the trail as we walked) and, sitting cross-legged, I slowly slipped into a meditative-type state. I heard the flute flowing around me from different directions and from multiple distances. It sounded as if a maraca was rattling near me as well. I was very clear on where I was and the people around me and felt very,very calm, yet deeply lost within my head and body.

Eventually I gathered up and we continued on, the light falling as we walked. We had brought flashlights for the night trail, but decided to walk by the light of the crescent moon and the stars instead. It was so beautiful! Possibly the most beautiful walk of my life.

We made our way back to town and to Casa de Wow, where Wow met us at the door. He ordered in some warming quinoa veggie soup for me to eat ( I wanted food!) and made me cup after cup of my favorite tea-ginger, lime, and honey. Winn came in to join us, and we all chatted and relaxed in the kitchen as the effects of San Pedro waned. Many people cant sleep the night of the cactus, but I made my way to my bed around midnight and slept like a baby! The next day I was a bit tired, but overall felt good.

Winn later told me that I must be pretty "clear"- no big emotional issues or struggles to work through, as San Pedro had been pretty easy on me. I had reassured both she and Wither before doing San Pedro that that was the case. That I am basically a pretty joyful, happy person and that at this time, my life and my emotional state feels peaceful and calm.

I found my walk with San Pedro, to be a beautiful experience-not one of heavy visions, dramatic emotions, or fear, but one of deep relaxation, heightened awareness, and inner calm. The only negative was my slightly nauseous stomache.

The next day I looked up the meaning of the wolf spirit totem and this is what I found. It couldn't be more fitting for me:

What is the wolf spirit animal meaning?

In the spirit animal kingdom, the wolf symbolizes:

Sharp intelligence, deep connection with instincts
Appetite for freedom
Expression of strong instincts
Feeling threatened, lack of trust in someone or in yourself

Positive meanings emphasize a deep connection with your intuition and instincts. On the negative side, the wolf could represent a perceived threat or a lack of trust in someone or your own feelings or actions. This spirit animal also reflects sharp intelligence in dealing with important matters

When you have the wolf as a spirit animal, it could be an expression of your sharp intelligence and strong instincts. The wolf symbolizes a strong connection with instincts and when it appears as a animal spirit guide, it could point to a way of perceiving and understanding the world around you that works similarly.

Whether the wolf appears in physical form or in a dream or meditation, it may reveal that you’re using your instincts and intuition to grasp a situation well. The fact that your wolf animal spirit guide shows up could also be a call to use this capacity to deal with a recent challenge you’ve experienced in your life.

The wolf: A power animal symbolic of freedom

Wolf power or spirit animals point to an appetite for freedom and living life powerfully, guided by instincts. When a wolf manifests its presence as a guide in your life, it could be a call to live your life more freely, to bring the intensity of passion in your everyday endeavors.

Wolves are wild animals that are not easily domesticated and when they appear as spirit guides, they could be an invitation to look at what supports your authentic self and the true expression of yourself.

The wolf totem is a reminder to keep your spirit alive and trust your instincts to find the way that will best suit you.

The dark side of the wolf spirit animal

The dark side of the wolf totem: Sensitivity about feelings of threat

A wolf totem animal can represent a perceived threat or feeling you are being threatened. The presence of this spirit animal could be a reminder of an event, situation or a person you feel threatened by.

The wolf could reflect something that may have a “predatory” feel to it and instill a feeling of vulnerability that is not reassuring.

The journey continues...
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