Words for Life
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Desiderata – Max Ehrmann
“I am reborn” The words came out of my mouth. It was six in the morning, and I was wide awake basking in the morning energy from the surrounding jungle. I could have sworn I spent the whole night fast asleep with a big dumb grin plastered across my face. “I am truly reborn.” There was a new lightness about me that felt tangible. As I stood to leave the maloca, it almost felt like gravity had a lesser effect on me and I strode out of there with clarity and purpose, enjoying this new-found feeling. My mind went to more immediate matters. Malcolm had told us the day before that we were to actually break the dieta a day early, which came as a welcome surprise to all. We were to go into the chow hall a little earlier than usual for the ritual. Malcolm had said that the spirits had told him that this should be done. I was still at a loss how the spirits could be or would be communicating all of this, but what the hell. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right? Breaking the dieta meant that we could finally eat normal-ish food. We were still to avoid certain things, but after the last few days of dieta, any deviation from the norm was more than welcome to me. I had had enough of prehistoric bone fish and tasteless chicken. We were also allowed physical contact with each other now. The rules of the dieta forbade any physical contact at all, which meant not even being allowed to give someone a pat on the shoulder. There were quite a few people I was eager to give a big hug, so I was looking forward to this.
As always, I was one of the first few into the chow hall. All these days I had been very prompt to respond to the call to eat. My body was constantly demanding to be fed. We were to break the fast with a tablespoon full of salt. Down the hatch it went, followed by a sip of water, and around the mouth it swirled before being spat out into the basin. This was done to signal to our bodies that the dieta was over at last. And boy did I feel good about it. Breakfast came, and a lot of commotion was made at the sight of real food being put on the table before us. I dashed in, piled my plate high, and made my way to my usual spot with the ladies. I wasn’t sure if there was more smiling and laughter than usual, but it certainly felt that way to me. My few days of punishment were over, and now was my time to experience joy. Conversation at the breakfast table was fun and cheerful. I spoke a bit of my experience the night before, and everyone seemed so genuinely thrilled and happy for me that I had made such a significant breakthrough. I managed to get myself into a hugging frenzy after breakfast, thanking people for their contribution to my experience.
The daily talk was at 10am as usual, and I sat in total ease and comfort for the first time since I had been there, and listened calmly to what was being said. Malcolm talked a lot about the lessons we had learnt, and how we should work them to integrate them into our lives. It was an important conversation. The feeling I had bubbling inside me, I never wanted it to leave. I wanted very badly for it to remain a central part of my life. After all, who doesn’t wish to be guided by love and happiness? The talk concluded, and I spent the rest of my day conversing with others and resting. Out of respect for my fellow seekers I have not gone into detail about their stories, as those conversations were private, told to me in trust. I had another swim later that day when the sun wasn’t as high in the sky. As I sat in the pool, I took in the sheer majesty of the jungle and all its inhabitants. Every living creature seemed to be singing its own song of life. A flock of parrots streaked noisily across the sky. A rather large iguana scuttled across the wooden floorboards and disappeared down a hole. The insect orchestra played on, joined in by the birds every now and then.
Before the ceremony began, I got some quiet time with Sam where we spoke of the last few days and all that had transpired. Sam was already a pretty happy-go-lucky guy from the moment I first met him, but now I could truly see him radiating the deep kindness and love that was already inside him. I was very happy to see him so transformed, as he was I. I recounted the lessons that I had learned to him. “It’s so clear to me now that there’s an undeniable intelligence behind the medicine.” I said. “It’s as if the medicine and the spirits know you completely inside out, and the one thing I can see is that it presents lessons to you in the way it knows will reach you best.” And it was true, for in retrospect, the Aya needed to punish me first. I think, if it didn’t, I wouldn’t have been so desperate to change. I needed to suffer the way I did. And the last night? I didn’t see so many visuals, because if it had been a highly visual experience, I don’t think I would have paid attention to my heart the way I did. It would have been a distraction. The visuals I did see though, were precise and necessary to me. The strongest one was definitely seeing little Dan happy and cheeky as always, unfazed by life’s hardships.
Sam agreed. There was definitely something about this medicine that transcended and far surpassed our scientific knowledge. I felt a bit conflicted at this point, because the rationalist in me instantly reminded me of a Neil DeGrasse Tyson quote: “God, is an ever-receding pocket of scientific knowledge.” Whilst that may be true for many things, I was a bit doubtful if science could ever fully explain the things I had seen, felt, and experienced on the deepest of levels possible. Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be dissected and analysed. Scientific thought has given birth to some amazing discoveries and inventions, and has helped billions of people across the globe, but so too has the unknown spirit.
Before travelling to Peru I must admit that I did wonder if I would “find God.” I felt no closer to finding him now than I did before, and in all honesty, my experience throughout only confirmed my belief that the conventional monotheistic gods were a total lie. I was however, more convinced of an energetic presence that pulsated throughout the universe, creating life in abundance. I had for many years rejected the notion of the universe being created and run by the conventional machinations of man. Allah and Jehovah just seemed too hateful, capricious, petty and jealous for my liking. No true creator could possibly be so base in his behaviour. These seemed more like human foibles than anything else. What made sense to me was that the universe was run by a guiding force; an energy that was present in even the oldest of rocks through to the youngest, simplest, living cells. The spirits, however, were something that I was still wrapping my head around. I had definitely tasted their power. I had definitely witnessed what they were capable of. I shuddered to think what wrath and danger I could have placed myself in if I were exposed to their power without the protection of the BM team.
It was clear to me that there were definitely good and bad spirits everywhere. We humans are simply vibrating at a different energy level; incapable of seeing or communicating with them without either extensive training, the use of entheogens like Ayahuasca, or without some kind of latent talent from within. The spirit world was alive and well, and it was nothing like what they taught in Sunday schools, churches, madrassahs or mosques. My experience over the last few days definitely opened me up more to the possibilities that exist within the spiritual realm. Was my brain truly my consciousness as I had believed for so long? It seemed less likely now. My body, brain included, seemed more likely to be a mere vessel for my consciousness to reside in. I thought of famous atheists that I had come to respect over the years. Men like Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens. How would their beliefs have changed if they were to experience Ayahuasca for themselves? Surely, such forward thinking men would be open to rethinking their beliefs after such a powerful spiritual experience. There were so many things that flew around in my mind, and I found myself drunk with the possibilities that exist in this largely unknown universe.
Sam and I talked for a while longer before readying ourselves for the final ceremony. We left the room, light in spirit, and walked towards the maloca for the last time.