The Win-Win Combination of Eastern Spiritual Mysticism and Psychedelic Medicinal Plants*
Win-win for whom?
For both seasoned yogis or meditators as well as modern-day psychonauts frowning at any traditional spirituality. In order to supercharge their spiritual journey, both of these crowds would have to reconsider their beaten paths and open their minds to approaches outside of their comfort zones.
I definitely come from the former of the two groups. Being a practitioner of meditation for several decades I have lived with an attitude that mind-altering substances have to be strictly avoided if any substantial spiritual goal is to be attained. My teenage pot smoking explorations were quickly abandoned after my first initialization into meditation by an Indian Master.
The years went by and I was, albeit slowly, progressing in the depth of my connection with the Universal Consciousness, the Self or God, or whatever your favorite name may be. Many trips to India followed in search of a perfect Master to whom I would fully surrender and unconditionally follow. But somehow none of the ones I had found were fitting the bill. Those that I was attracted to had long ago left their bodies. I was being told over and over that the mistake lay within me and that I needed to “dig deep for water in one place before moving on to dig at another.”
So I would stay with a single teacher for several years at most only to be disappointed by a limitation I saw in him. OK, it could have been the way I perceived or judged them. Nevertheless, I picked up a lot of techniques and kept using many of them daily as part of my spiritual practice. Those that didn’t work for me I quickly discarded. After some time, it dawned on me that I needed to find my own light as opposed to finding the perfect teacher and holding on to his.
Use all the help you can get.
Spiritual awakening commands maximum discipline combined with the right mindset. Constant introspection and self-awareness are crucial if any shift is to be made. At least for me, meditation is not an option; it is a must. It combines beautifully with disciplines such as yoga and breathwork, also with other uplifting activities such as dance, music, and nature exploration. Without a doubt, there’s a technique out there that works for every one of us.
I personally settled for self-inquiry or “Vichara,” originally taught by Ramana Maharshi. It essentially involves abiding in the “I am” feeling, thus avoiding engaging in any mental or emotional activity. Any thoughts, emotions or sensations are treated as energy and simply ignored by staying in one’s own being: the “I” thought is the primordial one and it precedes all other thoughts and doings, thus being a gateway to an expanded consciousness. A Zen Buddhist meditation practice is very similar to this. If you are searching for the right meditation and this turns out to be too hard for you, try mantra, sound or visualization-based meditations or chanting until you find what suits you. But even a regular meditation practice may take a long time to bear fruit because one may have a lot of mental, emotional or trauma impressions stored in his or her subtle body or aura. All of those condition the mind and limit our response to any sensory perceptions, thus creating what we call “personality.” Add to that the whole range of outside factors that constantly bombard our energy field and the body: pesticides, smog, cell phone towers, Wi-Fi, computers and other electronic pollution, fluoride, vaccines, chemtrails and lots of human-generated negative energy.
All in all, the modern Yogi has it much harder than his hundred-years-ago colleague. For decades, I was in denial of this obvious fact. Some stubborn personality traits and chakra blockages persisted despite much effort to dissolve them. Challenging life situations were tough to deal with with love and serenity. Some health problems defied my spiritual philosophy. Was it all meant to be this difficult?
A few years ago a YouTube video on Ayahuasca caught my attention. It featured a ceremony guided by a shaman in a Peruvian jungle. The participants, mostly Westerners, underwent a series of deep transformations, enabling them to process their issues on a much deeper level, releasing trapped energy to be reintegrated into their daily lives. It made sense that nature itself provided such a tool and released it through indigenous tribes living in a close harmony with it. I watched tons of similar videos and with each subsequent one my interest in medicinal plants grew. I decided to travel to South America to participate in one of those ceremonies. I even started studying Spanish. The research for the most suitable center was well underway when a buddy of mine told me there was a legal Ayahuasca Church in Oregon and that he took part in one of their ceremonies. Instantly, the plan was changed and I arranged to attend a ceremony there. The church assigned one of their members to conduct a Skype interview with me to make sure I was fit. Once I passed the interview, I was signed up and given all the details needed. Ten days later I was in Ashland, Oregon, where this life-changing event took place.
How does a medicinal plant help a hard-core yogi?
The Universe that I thought was locked suddenly unlocked itself. Whatever I was thinking or judging instantly became an experience. I chose love and beauty and instantly those were the reality. Whoever thinks that psychedelic plants impose their will upon us couldn’t be more wrong. If anything, Ayahuasca puts you in the driver’s seat. You are very aware that you’re in charge and you don’t want to send out any negative energy or thoughts. That’s where you as a Yogi come in. You already have the discipline; you have the goal; you have the discernment. You also have the dispassion needed to process any traumas released by the force of the medicine. Yes, depending on the dimension the medicine takes you to, there can be strong visions, strong emotions, and lots of discomfort. The latter can accumulate to the point of having to physically puke but this is a common occurrence with this kind of an accelerated awakening process and there are buckets provided for it. There are also “guardians” who are there to help participants process their energies in the easiest possible way. If it gets tough, you can lie down, get covered by a blanket or talk to one of those guys. Plus, the overall tone of the ceremony set by the collective intention of the group is extremely positive and supportive to every individual present and that in itself prevents any mishaps. That’s why it’s not advisable to leave the ceremony room before its completion.
A perfect Darshan?
For you, a seasoned yogi, it can sometimes be difficult to think outside the box. You know what the scriptures say and you want to live them. But in this day and age things are a bit different.
So-called “Export Gurus” attract thousands to their programs. I’m not saying these teachers are not worth following but in order to spend more time in their vicinity and get the full benefit of their presence one must renounce the Western way of life and elbow his or her way to the insiders’ circle. Unlike their counterparts in the past, these guys don’t have enough time to spend with their devotees. Personal guidance or advice often happens over the shoulder or in a hasty manner. And when you do receive such precious guidance it still needs to go through your personal filter for the final interpretation on how to apply it.
Enter an Ayahuasca ceremony. The inquirer is the person. The guru is the Higher Self. No waiting in line. Instant connection. Perfect guidance, tailored to your needs and to your level of acceptance. Given in a moment of supreme clarity by a loving mother. Moreover, Deities I have worshiped in the past have appeared to me during some of those ceremonies. And they’ve always left me with a gift and a very humbling experience. But always with a single goal: to push this soul further on the path to perfection.
“Yes”, you may say, “but all this could be a hallucination… and how do I know I can trust it?” You will know, because you will have no doubt. When a communion happens in perfect harmony, there’s a sharing of truth. It is inherent in the Universe. Just think for a moment: when do you accept the proof of something being genuine? Either when you have someone you trust approve of it or when your gut feeling tells you so. With Ayahuasca, the latter is the case.
Unfortunately, it is quite unlikely that your traditional spiritual teacher will send you to a medicinal plant ceremony. They’re following old books and are not fully open to all pathways of liberation. And they have never participated in a ceremony themselves. So how do they know? There is still a lot of prejudice against cultures not accepted by the mainstream mind.
Samadhi: Guru’s finger taps your third eye
All Hindu and Buddhist scriptures talk about personality and its latent tendencies, called vasanas or samskaras. They are to blame for us living in illusion of duality and prevent us from being one with the Source of all life or God. They make us identify with the physical body that we occupy and think we are it. Dissolving all latent tendencies results in shattering of this illusion and spiritual enlightenment. Ayahuasca cannot give you an instant enlightenment but it can definitely assist you in having a glimpse of the ultimate reality. If your focus on your inner being during the ceremony is strong, your personality will temporarily dissolve. I have repeatedly had this experience and it gives me a reassurance unlike anything I have experienced in my daily life.
I now know that all is One and there is only One—one being, one experiencer and one experience, not a subject separate from an object. Its inherent qualities are love and beauty. For this to be seen, all thoughts must come to an end. But if this is true, why doesn’t this awareness persist? Because it needs to be anchored and lived while in the body, which requires a lot of healing. In addition to that, most of us made a conscious decision before our birth to come to this planet and participate in its liberation and ascend along with it into higher dimensions of awareness.
These visions contradict the teachings of many mainstream religions—Christianity in particular. The Father is high up in the heavens and you are a sinner needing divine agents to be saved. So sharing your ceremony experiences may earn you some weird labels, and it’s probably smarter not to talk about them before such folks.
The plant won’t do it for you.
A common misconception is that psychedelic medicines will hurl you into a distorted reality and thus mess you up badly. It really depends on you. It’s probably not a good idea to put a drunk at the steering wheel of a Lamborghini. That’s why you need to have a basic grip on reality before embarking a medicinal plants journey. You must have a capacity to stick through unpleasant states. That’s why they conduct those interviews before accepting new attendees. And the medicine will surely not give you more than you can handle. There is a reason why they call Ayahuasca the Mother. But even a mother will not do everything for her child. She will spell everything out in utmost clarity and make sure you understand it but it’s up to you to adopt, apply, and integrate it.
That’s why the time after ceremonies is even more important than the ceremony itself because this is when you are given the chance to sculpt the new You based on the gifts you have received. These things are not for thrill-chasers or folks looking for a new easy high. Neither for those waiting for the medicine to fix them. The plant quickly sobers such guys up.
An escape from reality or a powerful Karma buster?
“Engaging in psychedelic experiences invariably stems from inability to handle one’s own life issues and as such is best avoided”– I once heard a famous guru say. Again they missed the mark. With Ayahuasca acting as a microscope, everything in your awareness gets magnified and pushed to the surface. Escaping problems becomes impossible because there’s simply nowhere to run: light reaches into all your hideouts, crevices, and cracks. The famous saying by Jesus, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” has found an antidote. Not only do you notice specs in your own eye, but even viruses and spirits. Thus cornered, the awareness has no choice but to transmute those issues one by one as they come up for a review. Hence, large chunks of karma can be cleared in a very short period of time. Your fellow yogis need to sit much longer in their caves to accomplish this. Outwardly, this clearing often manifests as emotional releases: crying, burping, perspiration, bowel movements or even vomiting when the released energy is too painful to be witnessed in entirety.
Hanging out with some cool cats in the Astral…
“We are spirits in the material world” – sang Sting with the Police back in the 80’s. Very true.
But if you attend medicinal plant ceremonies, you also often get to meet some spiritual beings that inhabit the astral or even higher planes, if your journey takes you there. You will find that they match your level of vibration; so, the higher you vibrate, the more elevated beings you’ll be able to attract, and of course the more exquisite and beneficial the encounter with them will be. They don’t spare support, encouragement, love and healing, and they intuitively know what you need before you even ask. You may feel gratitude and humbleness unlike anything you’ve ever experienced if you are blessed with such an encounter.
People also sometimes see their deceased family members or friends. To protect you from negative disembodied beings, your own intention and that of the group must be set before the ceremony begins. Consecration of the space and lots of prayers are made to purify the ceremony environment, and that includes higher dimensional planes in particular.
Very inspiring hymns are sung throughout much of the ceremony and they play an essential part in elevating the vibration of the group and invoking spiritual guides, Angels and Ascended Masters to assist everyone present in their journey.
If psychedelic plant medicines are to be your introduction into spirituality
If you belong to this camp, extreme caution is advised. Psychedelic medicinal plants are definitely not for everybody. Hopefully you have developed some mindfulness and awareness of your inner universe and you’re embarking this journey motivated by your sincere desire to take your life to a higher level of awareness. Sincerity in itself is a powerful protector and the positive intention will reinforce it even further.
The Ayahuasca spirit is essentially a God’s assistant. Once you book an appointment with it, it proceeds to do its job: to strip you of your false identity. It starts with your most urgent baggage, which could be your pain body, the accumulation of traumas acquired throughout your history, or your negative beliefs and programs that rob you of energy, joy, and love in your life and attract suffering in its many forms. So it’s best to cooperate with the medicine, trust it and let go of anything it chooses to take from you. Ideally, in the end you are left with only the Self, which is the real you and cannot be let go of or taken away. The more you resist this process, the rougher your ride will be, but even that will ultimately make you learn to let go.
Coming into a ceremony to avoid facing the so-called reality of daily life will quickly teach you that “the only way out is the way through” and that pretty much every “no” needs to be turned into a “yes” before inner peace can be achieved. Meaning “yes” to what your present experience is, not yes to every choice that presents itself to you.
The skill to find unfolding possibilities in a challenging situation and view it from a standpoint of love is a very high achievement. And that is exactly the goal that most people, after attending a number of ceremonies, find worth reaching. In order to do that, an advantage of a meditative practice cannot be overemphasized. Ancient spiritual traditions have a lot of wisdom to offer and you might as well make some use of it to your own benefit.
I often meet people in ceremonies who do not know where to focus during concentration periods. They let their minds wonder and are continuously hit by the energies thereby created. If you put your attention on your inner “I am” presence, you can’t go wrong. It is the gateway to enlightenment because the ultimate knowledge of who you are and the knowledge of God are one and the same. It ultimately doesn’t matter who this or that Guru or prophet is, be it Buddha, Krishna, Jesus or Mohammed. It only matters who you are. The sooner you know this the sooner you will let go of any crutches and lose attachment to any teachers that you cannot be with at all times. Holding your focus in your inner core will also protect you from any negative entities or energies during ceremonies and will attract benevolent spiritual beings to your help.
The exciting future lies ahead of us
Gathering the courage to cross boundaries of one’s own comfort zones, accompanied by a positive intention and faith in oneself and the Source of all life can only result in a positive outcome. The stronger the desire to elevate one’s awareness and the quality of life is and the more it is expressed to the Universe, the faster the solutions will shower on them. And when the lightning strikes, those that blink are at a loss. It makes little sense to expect a different result by clinging to an old recipe, resting on old laurels and resisting any changes. The times change and so must our understanding. The combination of traditional spiritual disciplines and psychedelic medicinal plants offers enhanced possibilities and opens new horizons towards the very inevitable human spiritual elevation.
* This is a guest post by Zoran Todorivic