– What makes a great medicine community? –
Medicine communities are kind of like tribes. And like tribes, they each seem to carry a particular energetic vibration or ‘print’ that I believe emanates from the emotional and psychological dynamics between the individuals in the group and particularly the leaders. Also how community members relate with the mareación of the plants and the teachings of the maestros and maestras. The energy of these dynamics permeates the connections within the community, and then either serves to attract or repel other people according to where they might be at in their own journey of healing and learning.
The other night in ceremony, a thought came to me that perhaps I’ve had an all too egocentric perspective about what makes the Caya Shobo medicine community so special. I used to think that we’re the only westerners who ‘really’ understand the Shipibo dieta tradition and process, the only ones who ‘really get it’ – that Ayahuasca is nowhere near as effective at facilitating healing and transformation as dieta is – and that we’re the ones with the special knowledge about how to diet properly and what transformation really means.
However, that night I found myself reflecting on the potential arrogance of that perspective and wondering how I might think differently if I were to assume a more humble and accurate attitude.
In reality, over the past 15 years that I’ve been working with the Shipibo tradition, I figure I’ve personally encountered more than a dozen different communities around the world who all base their healing and learning efforts not just on Ayahuasca ceremony but on the Shipibo dieta process itself. Clearly we’re not the only ones who see that dieta is the way to grow and learn.
(And I’m not including here the many other 'tribes' I’ve encountered who seem utterly confused about the dangers and lack of benefit from mixing entheogens and/or substances and medications, or who have invaded the medicine space with their over-the-top psychological interventions.)
So that led me to ask myself, what is it that I love so much about this community that is Caya Shobo? What is it that makes me feel so nurtured and safe and just down right good about the people I share this medicine path with today, the space we’re able to create to support one another and others in our healing, and how we navigate the ups and downs of life together?
The answer that came to me?… Real-ness, kindness, respect, self-responsibility, good humor and perhaps more importantly than anything, a true desire to grow, to actually change and transform ourselves into better human beings.
We may not always succeed at this, but in our foundational approach to the medicine in this community, I see that each individual seems to hold a powerful desire to discover what transformation really means for them personally. Who might we become if we were able to truly unravel the constructs we’ve established within ourselves through our lived experience of this western life? What joys might lie on the other side of that ongoing process of egoic identity annihilation, grieving, reconciliation, healing and rebirth, re-immersion into nature’s wisdom?
I reflected on some of the other communities I’ve sat with or had interaction with over the years, and I saw that what prevented me from going deeper in my connection or in some cases what just totally put me off staying in relationship with those groups, was not so much that I felt they didn’t understand the dieta process – clearly many did. It was that I sensed and experienced energies and relational dynamics that were not founded on kindness and respect.
Sometimes things were just essentially unsafe – maestros playing power battles with one another or playing games with peoples’ energies or bodies, assuming the gringos didn’t know how not-ok that is, and many in their naivety really didn’t. Or sometimes there was ample positive and fun interaction but there were still weird heirarchies of power – a kind of chest-thumping competition of who had the most knowledge, experience and status in the group.
But for me perhaps the most disappointing quality I’ve encountered over the years is where there’s an absence of genuine interest in personal change. So many people these days seem to want the quick experience – “give me the visions, and not just the gentle suggestive ones – give me the big, spectacular mind-blowing outer-space visions”; or “give me the songs, teach me their meaning, give me the doctoring knowledge, like yesterday”; or perhaps most amusingly, “help me be stronger and more protected from everyone else’s bad energy and issues, because I’m so sensitive to their darkness”.
What I rarely experienced, until this awesome community of real, self-reflecting and warm individuals came together, was a genuine commitment to not only look at how we’ve been harmed by others in our life experience, but to look carefully, again and again, at how we must take responsibility for how we chose to respond to that harm, and for the impact we ourselves have had on others, and perhaps most importantly look at how we’ve harmed ourselves.
I truly observe most in this community holding an inate maturity and understanding that therein lies the key to healing and personal metamorphosis. That even though we may not be able to see what lies on the other side of that gate of change as we walk up to it, or perhaps not even know where to find it as we search hopefully in the darkness for that unknown holy grail – that to truly know ourselves, deeply to our very roots, and also to our heighest heights – offers the greatest gifts of healing and learning. Continuing to seek to understand “Who am I today? What needs to change?” And humbly observing which direction the teacher plants are nudging us in. “How can I heal more? How can I grow more?”
In my view this is the foundational key that brings us together in this joyous international community of friends and families. By owning responsibility for who we are, how we experience life, and having a genuine desire to bring in more ease, joy, creativity, fulfilment and all-round goodness, we are able to bring a level of kindness and support to each other that goes way beyond any superficial niceness or any ego-bound hierarchy building obsession. And from there I believe we’re able to receive the most blessed and mystical gifts from the plants and the most generosity from the most integral maestros.
Maybe this sharing still bears arrogance, for who am I to comment on the nature and vibe of all the different many medicine communities out there? And one thing I feel I’ve learned for sure is that there are no mistakes in where we find ourselves attracted – even the worst, most emotionally devastating experiences I’ve been through in my past poor choices of teachers or friends in the medicine, ultimately brought me enormous learning and growth, for which I am truly grateful. I see now that those encounters met me exactly where I was at and catalyzed important evolution within my understanding of myself, others and this path.
Just like in the jungle, the perfect attacks are attracted to the perfect victims, nature knows the perfect inoculating ‘medicine’ for every situation, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In the end I’m grateful and respectful of most of the ways the medicine shows up in the world and I no longer harbour bitterness for anything that has been difficult in my journey. I know that we're each on our own unique road of discovery.
But more than anything, today I’m grateful to the community that surrounds me now. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 🙏 I appreciate you all and look forward to many years ahead safely, joyfully growing and adapting as we ride together these wild waves of change that are sweeping over us all, as humanity and the world undergo a major transformation and renewal.
I know that the sacred space we have here at Caya Shobo is continuously co-created by each one of you, and in turn serves humanity with the true healing that can happen within it.
I hope to see you in the jungle again soon. See our upcoming retreat dates here: cayashobo.com/ayahuasca-retreats