New dates for dietas available

As the sun is on its way south, the days are getting shorter and winter is but a few weeks away, the time for slowing down and turning inwards is also upon us.

To help you prepare for this period of reflection and re-connection, we have programmed a series of 3 week plant dietas.

By dieting a plant, you form a sacred alliance with it, so it may help you over the course of your life, offering wisdom and attracting prosperity.

For more information about the dietas and retreat date, click the button below

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One day of my marusa dieta

The following is a transcript from an entry of my diary that I kept during my marusa dieta. I have dieted marusa before, but since you have to keep in touch with your friends, I decided to do a short, one week dieta. So, here’s what happened!

Currently I’m dieting Marusa. It will be a short diet, followed by a dieta with Piñon Colorado and Chiric Sanango. Yesterday, we had the first taking of the medicine. What a sweet plant it is. They say it opens your heart and I can attest to that. I felt full of love and all worries disappeared like snow in the sun. When I walked back from the Maloka to my tambo, I looked up to the beautiful night sky and felt a deep appreciation and connection with the cosmos, as well as a strong yearning for a greater and deeper understanding. After that I meditated for half an hour and did some yoga. I am as stiff as a board!

I am so happy with my petroleum lamp. It gives off a great light, not too much, but warm and calm. I went to bed, and was out in a minute.

This night I dreamed a lot and very intensely. It’s too much too write all down, but I’ll do one. I saw a body with a lot of humps, as if something was growing inside it that doesn’t belong. The chest and abdomen were cut open with an invisible knife. Inside were many little humanoids that started to grow rapidly, spilling out of the body. It was obvious these humanoids weren’t supposed to be there and it was good they were coming out.

I talked it over with Julio in the next morning and he told me that it was a spiritual operation. Aha!

Today I took the medicine twice, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I’m curious what I’ll dream this night.

 

To learn more about master plants and dietas, please visit our master plants page

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Ancient hallucinogens found in 1,000-year-old shamanic pouch

A small pouch has been found that may  contain the world’s earliest archaeological evidence for the consumption of Ayahuasca. The pouch was found during a 2010 archaeological dig in Cueva del Chileno, in what is now southwestern Bolivia.

An object was found that was first thought to be a shoe, but upon closer inspection, turned out to be a pouch that has contained traces of several psychoactive compounds, among which DMT and harmine, the active compounds in Ayahuasca.

For more information, please read the original article on nationalgeographic.com

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Brewing the medicine: How to make Ayahuasca

For the past years, more and more people have recognized the healing powers of Ayahuasca and other plant spirits. Adventurous spiritual seekers have been coming to the Amazon in search of a traditional practitioner of Amazonian curanderismo in order to heal, or merely to try the medicine. Once a practitioner is found, and the pasajero is invited to do a ceremony, there comes the moment la medicina is offered to them. This is the first challenge is a long series of challenges that lie ahead. The taste of Ayahuasca is different from brew to brew, but is foul at worst and tastes like grandpa’s weird herbal liquor at best. Then people move through their process, guided by the healers and the spirits to release what is blocked, and to shed what shouldn’t be in there.

So Ayahuasca, powerful stuff. Changes lives. But how is it made? Where does it come from? In this article, I’d like to explain a couple of things about the retrieval process of the ingredients, the cooking process as well as the refining process.

The ingredients

Ok, here goes. First of all, we’ll need ingredients to make the brew with. Ayahuasca contains only three ingredients. The Ayahuasca vine (banestriopsis caapi), the chacruna leaves (psychotria viridis) and water. Some say a fourth ingredient is added, namely fire. Because cooking Ayahuasca is very labor intensive, usually large batches are cooked at a time. The labor consists of going out into the jungle, and actually looking for what you need to find. In Paoyan, where we are based, the Ayahuasca vine doesn’t grow, or is very hard to find. We’ve tried planting 10 plantains, but not of them took, unfortunately. So the vine is bought in Pucallpa through one of our contacts, and then we transport it to Paoyan where we brew the medicine.

Gathering chacruna

The chacruna is a different story. Chacruna can be found, but sometimes is a bit tricky to find. The shipibo day starts early, at around 5:30. We eat a bit, and then take of to the jungle. The forest where we gather our chacruna is a bit far, so we take out boat that is powered by a small motor with a tail. We go down a small creek that finds it way to the Ucayali. During this trip, you can really take in the scenery. Jungle on both sides, birds that fly up as they hear us approach. Sometimes we see a toad that is warming itself in the rising sun. When we arrive at our destination, the jungle is there waiting for us. You can sense the difference in energy. There is something primal about the jungle, a sense of danger, but also a sense of immense life force flowing, something very humbling. We begin the trek along the path in search of chacruna. We light a mapacho, to clear any energy that blocks us from connecting with the plant. Sometimes Julio spots a plant that looks like chacruna, but you gotta be careful. There are plants that look like chacruna, but aren’t. Chacruna leaves have little protrusions along the nerve of the leaf. The plants that don’t have this protrusion don’t have enough DMT to get into the visionary state and thus render the brew unusable. What we’re looking for is the mother plant. When there are smaller plants close together, the mother plant cannot be far. The mother plant is very large, up to 5 meters in height and has to be bended to reach all the leaves. We need about one bag full of chacruna for each bag of Ayahuasca. So if we come up short, we’ll have to go back at a later day and look somewhere else. When the bag is full, or when the sun reaches its zentih, we go back to the boat and return home, where lunch is waiting for us.

 

There is a chacruna plant in this picture. Can you spot it?

 
A bag of chacruna leaves. Not quite full yet …

Preparing the ayahuasca vine

Once enough chacruna has been gathered, the Ayahuasca needs to be prepared. This process is physically very hard, and involves more people. First of all, the vine is cut into sections of about a foot (30 cm) in length with a machete. Everyone that is present at the moment, chips in. The vine is soft, so a sharp machete cuts through it rather easily. When all the vine has been cut, the bark is removed from the sticks with a knife, after which the sticks are hammered. Hammering the vine makes the fibers split up so they release more of the active substance when being cooked. This is a process that takes hours, even with 4 people doing this job. The shipibo are incredibly tough and will keep hammering until the job is done, without complaining once. What is special is that the sap of the vine has a very distinct, rather sweet smell and is very sticky This allows you to grip your hammer better, to which I was very happy. The smashed sticks are gathered in a washtub to which water is added so it can soak through the night.

 

 

We’ll need some firewood too

Now, before we can start cooking, we need enough firewood. It depends on where we cook, and if our tractor can reach it. If it cannot, then we need to fill bags of firewood wherever we find it. One time we found an abandoned sawmill that has cut shiwawaku, one of the heaviest, but most carbon dense hardwood around. This means very good fuel. There was a big pile of small blocks, ideal for our purposes, but it was about 2 miles away from our cooking place. So we were carrying 30 kilos each (3 guys) and made about 4 trips, on foot. Just to give you an indication of the work involved. With a tractor it is much easier, just load it up, drive home, unload, done.

All set, let’s get cooking

Ok, now we are ready to proceed. The water will be added at a later point. So, first, we clean the pots with mapacho smoke. This is to provide a clean space for the making of the sacred medicine. Then one layer of vine is added, and then a layer of chacruna. This is repeated until the kettle is full. Then the water is added from the soaking sticks. In the meantime, Julio’s kids have brought buckets full of water which is then added to the kettle rightaway. Then a fire is lit, and the mixture is brought to boil. It is very important that cooking process is observed by someone with good energy. This means, a clear consciousness, an open heart and a strong will. Since Ayahuasca operates on an energetic level, you don’t want to infuse the brew with bad or weak energy. The brew is cooked until about 2 inches of liquid remains. The liquid is then removed and the pot is then refilled with water and the process is repeated twice. During removal, the liquid is strained to remove any plant material that comes with it. This yields the brown liquid which is the medicine. Cooking Ayahuasca down takes about 8 hours and can span multiple days, depending on the maestro continuing to cook or take a break for the night. During this time, the maestro has to tend the fire, which is very hot, because, well, it’s a big pot and requires a lot of heat. Also, when to cooking proceeds into the night, there are the mosquitos to deal with.

When the cooking in the large kettles is done, the three yields are mixed into one to get a uniform strength. Depending on the viscosity of the medicine, the ayahuasca is cooked out even more in a smaller kettle. Ayahuasca that is too watery has a tendency to give unnecessary diarrhea, which isn’t harmful, but a bit annoying.

 

The final result., in 2.5l liter bottles
Continuing the cooking well into the night

 

Testing the Ayahuasca

When the Ayahuasa is done and satisfactory, we do a ceremony at night to test the medicine and to get to know it. Each brew has its own character, that we need to know about before giving it to our guests. If it’s too weak we cook it out even more, if it’s too strong, we add a little water. What we’re aiming for is that a full shotglass gives you a good, strong mareacion, but is still controllable. This is usually a very exciting ceremony. What’s going to happen? Will it wait a long time to come up? When it does, will it be overwhelmingly strong? Or does it give you a run for your money right from the start? Good Ayahuasca makes you work in the beginning, but sets you free in the end. It allows you to connect with spirit and to work with the plants. And that’s just a great part of our job.

In closing

Well, this brings us at the end of the article, I hope you have enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it! Furthermore, I hope this article has been able to lift the veil around the preparation process a bit and that it got the message across about just how labor intensive this process is. So, what next? Please let me know what you would like to read about! Drop me a line either on facebook or using the contact form on our website. Any tips on writing style and other suggestions are welcome too. Hope to hear from you soon!

 

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Let me know what you want to read about next!

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Construction complete!

After 4 months of hard work, and just before new year’s, we are happy and proud to inform you that the Ayahuasca healing and plant dieta center Rao Nete, is finished! A healing center, much like a home, is never really finished. There are some trabajitos (little jobs) that need to be done, we would like to add some plants inside the maloka and tambo’s, plant our medicine garden, et cetera. What’s most important though is that we are now operational, and can hold retreats and dietas in a basic, but comfortable setting. Just to give you a bread overview what we’ve actually build

 

The Maloka

The maloka, or, sacred space,  is an original shipibo design square building with enough space for up to 12 people. We have intentionally kept the maloka small as we will be working with small groups only. Currently, we can host up to 4 guests and wish to expand up to 8. The floor painted with a shipibo painting, designed by Paolo, Julio eldest son and painted by Julio’s family. There are 3 doors for easy access, one of which leads to the bathroom building.

The bathroom building

The bathroom building is connected to the maloka by a bridge, with guards on the sides. When in ceremony, one can get very dizzy and disoriented and we figured it would be a safer option to connect the floors this way, instead of having to go down and up a couple of stairs. The bathroom building contains two bathrooms, which contain a shower and a dry toilet each. The showers are beautifully done, with stone tiles on the walls and the floor. There is enough water pressure to shower comfortably.

The kitchen and diner

The kitchen is where the meals for our guests are prepared and is housed in the same building as the diner. We import fresh water from the nearby city of pucallpa and apply western standard of kitchen hygiene (food separation, cleanliness).

5 tambos

We have constructed 5 tambos (houses), of which four are built for our guests. These tambos feature all around mosquito screening, a bed, comfortable matress, a mosquito net, a table and chair, a hammock, private toilet and water tank.  When laying out the ground plan for the center, we had privacy of our guests in mind. Whereas the Maloka, bathroom building and kitchen are more or less close together, the tambo’s are spaced apart to provide an isolated space for each guest to do the work.

The website is lagging behind a bit in terms of completeness, but as is the center, it’s a work in progress. We have planned out 4 months of short and longer healing retreats and complete the cycle with a one month plant dieta. More information will follow soon, but if you’re already interested, the retreat dates can be found here.

 

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Website under construction

We’ve been working on the website as well in the past period. If you click around, you’ll notice there is a lot missing. Retreat information, nice pictures of our new center to name a few. This’ll get sorted soon. The center is ready to be used, but it’s not how we want it _just_ yet. I’ve intentionally not made any pictures lately,  because it’s just a lot better to publish photo’s of a center that is done! More news in a week!

 

 

Getting there …

Not much to report this week, just that we’re steadily progressing towards the end. This week has been about building stairs and nailing down the walls. Next week, building interior walls and sanding the place.

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Work on the bathroom

This week the main focus has been on building the bathroom building. We’re building two bathrooms with a shower and a dry toilet each. It’s about halfway there, but coming along nicely. The reason I’m here writing this and not working in the jungle is that our drill bit and our planer broke, so I’m here picking up spare parts. This is how it is, stuff breaks all the time, and then you have to go back to the city for a couple of days to get new parts. Maybe you’ve noticed that building isn’t exactly linear. The reason for this is that is is very difficult to plan work ahead. You don’t know how much usable wood you end up with until you’ve actually processed it. Then the wood needs to dry for 10 days. In the mean time, rain turns the road into mud, so you can’t haul the blocks, your equipment breaks, people need days off, supply lines are long, etc. So we tend to work with the work that lays in front of us. A floor here, a wall there, musquito proofing.

The good news is that all the roofs are done, and all the wood has been processed. Just a couple of more days to dry, and the whole team can help boarding everything up!
It’s good that the end is in sight. Everyone is tired, including myself. Also, I’m really looking forward to start working with guests and shift from “builder” to “doing retreats”.

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Making progress

Recently, we’ve started constructing our kitchen as well as started putting in the floors of our tambos. It’s a great experience building something as massive as a retreat center in the Amazonian jungle. Even though the center is quite small (a maloka, a kitchen a toilet/shower building and five tambos), it’s an enormous challenge. There are many activities that depend on one another, machines need maintenance, equipment needs replacing and general fatigue. Our guys are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever seen. Clearing space or roofing the buildings in the scorching sun, lifting blocks of wood weighing I believe up to 100kgs each. Truly impressive, something I could and have definitely learned from. One thing I had to let go, on many levels I might add, is to want to bring order to the process. Sometimes, when you’re lucky, it can happen, but usually it’s just too chaotic. Just chill, laugh about it and move on. In my previous post I’ve written that the center should be ready in three weeks. That’s how I look at it now, and have looked at it every week. So, three weeks!

On another note, I’ve been here for about a year now and have learned a thing or two about the dynamics between westerners that come here and the shipibos. Many shipibo feel that foreigners come here to get their problems resolved and then leaving again, leaving the shipibos in the same state without anything in return. There are curanderos that have chosen to build their own centers and to work exclusively with foreigners, depriving the local community of its healer. Furthermore, like in western society, healthcare costs money, both the ancestral type as well as the western type. As this affects us as well, we have discussed this and have decided that members of the community can participate in our ceremonies and use our facilities for free. This means a mixed group of pasajeros from other countries as well as member from the local community.

We reasoned this is a small, but practical way to give back to the community on which we depend.

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A little more construction

For the past weeks we have been focusing on cutting leaves for the roofs. We’ve gathered a total of 2000(!) palm branches that will form the roofs of our structures. The operation involved transferring the cubota, a small tractor, to the other side of the river, cutting down palm tree, chopping off the branches, collecting the branches from the forest, preparing them so all leaves fall to one side, letting them dry and moving them back to our side of the river.  Everything took 14 men and 8 days to complete. Furthermore, we’ve added the carrying layers for the floors of the maloka, toilet/shower builiding and the five tambos. We’re quite in a hurry as the rain comes in by the end of October. Rain makes it difficult to work, because it gets very muddy and when it’s muddy, the tractor will destroy the roads which then need to be repaired again. We usually wait until the roads dry out, which takes 2-3 days depending on the amount of rain.

Also, the first group of 4 pasajeros comes in by the end of October, so we need to be ready by then. But things are looking good. We expect to by done in 3 weeks.

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