My friend Ty called me a month or two ago about a retreat he was putting on in Bell, Florida. If you recall, Ty is the one that helped me get off opiates (amongst other things) a couple years ago. That wasn’t an easy task for either of us, and extremely draining. But this experience was going to be entirely different. I wasn’t going as a final hail mary, trying to get off opiates for the hundredth time. And the retreat didn’t involve Iboga. It also was with a group of people. I wouldn’t be the sole participant.
I don’t remember the last time I camped, if ever. But this was a retreat out in the woods, in north Florida. Humid, hot, buggy, but full of life and nature. It was a beautiful setting, despite the first day being a bit unnerving as bugs in general freak me out. But after the twentieth mosquito bite, and 2 ticks in, and after being immersed in ritual, ceremony, meditation, all under the umbrella of such beautiful nature and life surrounding us, I started embracing all the beautiful differences between myself and all the other amazing creatures and plant life of this planet.
The first night sleeping in the tent, after meeting the group (5 people in total), and dealing with the rather loud volume of insects and owls and donkeys, and birds, and frogs all seemingly yelling at each other, trying to be the loudest one; it made it difficult to sleep at first. Took a couple hours, but I managed to finally fall asleep, into the start of what was a very vivid, somewhat lucid dream.
We were told we’d possibly have lucid dreams that night, due to either the rapé ritual we did, or some essential oil or herb Renée rubbed on our forehead (or third eye).
Rapé is a form of tobacco snuff which also contains various other plants, that is blown into each of your nostrils, kind of blowing your mind, clearing bad energy, waking up your whole head and body. There’s different kinds and different recipes containing different things that have varying affects. One will make you tired, another will wake you up. Some are strong, and some are mild. Some will make you cry…. It’s part of the process of clearing your body and mind of negative energy and toxins to better take in the power of other medicines to come.
Renée is Tyler’s partner that helped facilitate the weekend. They did such an amazing job making sure everyone was comfortable, and understood the process. Such a wealth of information about the universe in general, about the medicines, about various rituals that they’ve learned about first hand all over the world, including Peru, and Africa. About our bodies, and about the power we have within ourselves. About old ancient rituals and wisdom. About all the sacred plants humans have used for thousands of years. About meditation and yoga, and foods and plants. I can go on and on, and could never properly convey the amount of wisdom they are ready and willing to share with everyone that will listen. You can tell that this is their passion. That this is why they are here on this beautiful planet.
We got up at sunrise. It’s a lot easier to succumb to our natural circadian rhythms when immersed in nature as we were, compared to living in a city, or in a house, or in an office or apartment building that might not immediately show you when the sun is rising or setting. Your setting may not even have much grass or earth to walk around on (without shoes!). But out here in Bell, Florida, it seemed second nature. We had no choice really, as it should be. This experience got me more connected and accepting of the entirety of nature, including all the creepy crawly creatures of the forest floor, than ever before.
In fact, I remember coming out of one of the medicine sessions, and I saw ants, flys, and other insects crawling on me, and it didn’t bother me at all. So much so, I felt I was almost protected from the normal barrage of bites – because we were one and the same (the bugs and myself). However, I was quickly brought down to reality when one of the horse flys did in fact bite me shortly thereafter. Which reminds me of the story about the scorpion and the frog (there’s other versions of this story using a multitude of different animals, etc).
The scorpion asks a frog if he will help the scorpion cross the river since the scorpion can’t swim. The frog frowns, as he’s worried the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion replies, explaining that that would be silly, because if he kills the frog, he would drown with him. So the frog see’s the logic in this, and decides to be nice and give the scorpion a ride across the river on his back. About halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog is dying (as well as the scorpion), he asks why would you do that, you doomed yourself as well! The scorpion replied, “I couldn’t help it. I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature”.
Even though I felt one with nature and the creatures within it, it doesn’t take their nature out of it. There’s always that part of the equation. It’s how nature survives, evolves, and just is. It’s our nature. All of ours.
We start the day sun gazing. I’ve never even heard of this before. Apparently, during the first hour of sunrise or sunset, the UV rays are at about 0 level, which is not harmful. So the idea is you stare at the sun for 10 seconds, and each morning, you increase this by 10 seconds. So the first day is 10 seconds, second day is 20 seconds, third day is 30 seconds, and so on and so forth. Eventually, your body starts getting energy from this process, through photosynthesis (contrary to the belief that you need to be a plant with chlorophyll). And once you get to longer periods of time staring at the sun, you no longer will require food (such is how breatharians survive). And once you get to 45 minutes, you stop (it starts hurting your eyes if you do it any longer). And then you need to just walk barefoot on the earth for 45 min a day and get recharged and get all the energy you need to survive without eating.
Now I haven’t done much research into this. That being said, I did this for about a week and could already feel the affects quite significantly. The only reason I haven’t continued it, is because in San Diego in June, the mornings are typically overcast and you don’t always see the sun in my area. So I just couldn’t find the sun some mornings and by the time it burns off the clouds, the UV levels are too high to make this a viable option where I’m at. Technically, I could do this at sunset, but who remembers to do anything at sunset?
After sun gazing, we practiced sun salutations, which is a form of vinyasa flow yoga. It helps start the day out, get the blood moving and you can show your appreciation of the Sun. Renée also showed us a cacao ceremony. Cacao is an amazing plant/drink and reminds me of the Mexican hot chocolate my mom used to make for our family every Sunday. It warms you up, tastes great, and gives you energy without the come down and other negative side effects of caffeine.
Most of the day, we were fasting. Drinking only the most amazing juices and a little bit of fruit. We practiced a vegan diet at night for dinner, again, thanks to Renée’s wealth of information on good diet and health in general, as well as her amazing chef skills.
Meditation and breath work
We meditated in the morning, as well throughout the whole day. Numerous times. And we also practiced fire breathing. It’s a specific method of breathing through your nose, quickly and repeatedly with your whole body and chest, and you do it for awhile. After 5 or so minutes, I started feeling the oxygen rushing through my entire body and head. After a few more minutes, I started feeling the blood flow moving so quickly, it was hitting the ends of my fingers and toes with such veracity that it felt like someone was inside my fingers, beneath the skin, punching the interior of my skin rapidly and violently. My whole body started vibrating and started feeling like I was floating. Then you hold your breath for as long as you can, and continue meditating. It’s a powerful experience.
This is where Tyler steps in. His wisdom is in the medicine ceremonies. It’s important to do these types of things with someone you trust. Someone you know has been taught a safe, and proper way to handle these medicines. Someone that has lived with the people that were taught by their elders, on how to properly administer the medicine. Someone that has taken the medicine themselves many times.. Someone that knows the dangers, the things to watch out for. Because make no mistake, sacred and ancient medicine is extremely powerful, and not something to be taken lightly, or done on a Saturday night out of boredom. You will have a calling for the medicine. You will know when it’s your time. But until that time, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Kambo is an interesting ritual. It’s venom from a South American frog, that is quite poisonous. However when it’s placed subcutaneously, it gives a different, less deadly reaction. It makes you purge (generally vomit but can come in many forms). Supposedly getting rid of all your toxins and anything that has accumulated in your body unnecessarily.
I don’t know what it does scientifically. The process isn’t pleasant. We were told to drink a bunch of water, almost a gallon or so, rather quickly. Then we had to dig a “purge” hole in the forest floor with a shovel. I volunteered to go first again. I didn’t used to do this. I would never want to be the first of anything. Too many eyes on you, too much unknown. I like to know what I’m getting into. But my view on this has been changing as I’ve been learning how to change so many other things in my life. I try to do the uncomfortable. Doesn’t matter what it is. And it’s not always very easy. For example, dancing in front of other people is almost a non-starter for me. But when it comes to doing something physically or spiritually risky, I’m a little less against it. I still have anxiety, but I think much less than others when it comes to risking my health. Risking my ego is a whole other story. Embarrassment is something I avoid more than death. Though that’s been slowing changing and I’ve been getting braver. Simultaneously (but not coincidentally I’m sure), my fear of death has been growing to a more healthy level I think. I hope…
Just say yes
The more times I choose to do what is uncomfortable (things I ordinarily would shy away from), the more I grow. I see it as clear as day. So it’s something I’ve decided to keep trying in most aspects of my life. Ideally, in every aspect of my life, but I’m still resisting in some areas for whatever reason. I think it just takes time, to chip away at my ego. To allow my true self to flourish.
Tyler and Renée sat with me quietly, determining the best place to tag me. I had to take my shirt off so Ty could burn my skin with a lit, scentless incense. Multiple times. 5 along my spine on my back to be exact. Ty then scraped the dead burnt skin off the spots, and he placed the venom on the wounds. Within a minute or two, it starts to take affect. You start feeling flushed, and warmth rolls over your body and face. Then the nausea sets in. And it doesn’t take long after that before the purging starts. This lasted about 10 minutes for me. Was longer for others I think.
But after an hour or so, and I had a glass of cold pressed, organic blend of juices… I felt amazing. On top of the world. I felt like I could run a marathon. And I had eaten nothing all day. No coffee. No alcohol. No meat. I’ve never felt healthier than I did at that moment. I’m not saying I’d want to do Kambo on a weekly basis or anything, but I will for sure try it again sometime, as the results were so positive and so immediate.
The Bufo toad (or 5meo-dmt) was the highlight of the weekend. It was why we were there. To learn from this sacred medicine, their ancient wisdom. To go to the source. You’ll know when it’s calling you. The opportunity will arise in some form or fashion, and you’ll know that you need to act, when it’s the right time. Ty has called me a few times since our meeting two years ago… And I’ve always wanted to hang up the phone and book my flight that day. Because he has changed my life (twice now). How many people do you know, can you say that about? And I’m not talking about quitting smoking cigarettes… (though that may be a pivotal point in anyone’s lifetime. I’m not trying to downplay that great feat). I’m talking about having such a transformative experience that my own family not only feel the affects of this type of change, but also are able to contribute to the positive behavior changes that is affecting our lives.
But I didn’t go back to see him or any of his amazing trips he’s facilitated (no pun intended), until two years later. It was just time. I knew it. Even when everything was stacked against me going on this trip. I felt it so strong that I ignored what may have seemed like “signs”, but instead I treated them as uncomfortable obstacles that I could learn and grow from. And that’s a fine fucking line… Knowing when to listen to the “signs” put forth in front of you.. Or deciding you’re going to overcome the “obstacles” and learn from the experience, good or bad. To force yourself to be uncomfortable… To lift those spiritual weights, ripping apart your rigid, inflexible ego and allowing your soul to dance freely…
It’s not easy to know which way to go. It’s risky. And some people live perfectly full, content lives playing it safe. I am not one of these people. I never fit in that mold.. Or any mold of any kind. It’s like the plants bursting through concrete to live…
That’s not to say I don’t listen to signs, and stand down on occasion. That’s probably saved my life more times than I can count. It’s just difficult for me to know when that’s appropriate and when it’s not, and I utilize my friends, family, and therapist to help discern between the two. The risk is high, but honestly… isn’t it always?
Back to the toad…
I’ve talked about the bufo toad before… But this experience was different, for many reasons…
- We did it numerous times, allowing us to peel back layers of shit we needed to release.. Allowing us to do it a step at a time. And I think this is much more therapeutic than a one-time deal where they send you on your way 15 minutes after coming to, without any support or integration, or even allowing you to sit with yourself for a few hours and process wtf just happened, because I promise you, it is a wtf moment. It always will be…
- We did it in nature. This was so amazing and what I loved about this trip… I mean, I don’t camp. I goto 4-5 star hotels if possible, or I generally just won’t go. I don’t do bugs. I don’t like the buzzing, the hooting, the biting, the itching, the humidity, etc., etc. I don’t like setting up tents without any instructions… I don’t like bug spray even though it’s a necessity (for sure!). But being immersed in nature and the trees, and the bugs… yes even the bugs.. They all taught me so much. I’ll go into more detail when I describe my experiences below…
- We did it together. And I mean that in a couple different ways. In the past, I was usually the only one doing the medicine, and it was done in a home or office. But this time, I did it with several other people (five). I saw how others handled the medicine, their reactions, and so forth. I saw how they reacted to how I handled the medicine. We spoke about it. We processed it together. No one judged. We all had very supportive energy between us, and held space for each other as long as we all needed. It was pure love. And that’s what this medicine can do. I can’t overstate this enough. It brings a level of connection and empathy and love that not much else can compare to, and if you were the only one doing it, I don’t think you’d experience it the same way (though still very powerful).
- We did it together. And I mean that we also did it at the same time, as a group, sharing one larger dose so that we wouldn’t blast off. We would stay present in this reality. Sitting criss cross apple sauce, right next to each other, chanting a mantra, hoping to elevate the groups energy to a whole other level. And I think we accomplished our goal.
I titled this post Avatar because that’s what it felt like when I was staring up at the tree’s while still under the influence of the medicine, like the above photos illustrate. I’ve never felt more connected to nature than I did at this moment. It felt like when Sigourney Weaver’s character (in the movie Avatar) was dying and the whole tribe was sitting on the jungle floor and praying, holding hands, joining energy with each other and the planet and the trees, and all the other life around them, to try and save her life. You could see the energy flowing between them. This is what I see every time I do any form of DMT or similarly strong hallucinogen. But this time was different.
It’s a bit difficult to put into written (or verbal) language, but I’ll try and describe what I saw and felt. Once I flipped my body around so that I was laying on my back, I opened my eyes knowing I was still in the mix of an entirely different reality. Or perhaps it was the same reality, just with a better set of eyes and open-mindedness.
What I saw almost looked like CGI (computer generated imagery), and if it was possible, I would’ve done a double-take (but that type of sudden body movement would be impossible in this state). All the leaves on the trees above were all in fractals, like a kaleidoscope. You can see in that last photo what it looks like to a camera but to me it was different. The leaves started closing in together, closer… so I couldn’t see the sky anymore. As if the trees were hugging me, protecting me, making me feel safe. And then I started seeing the veins in the tree.
The veins in the tree, like veins in a human being, were pumping life throughout the trunk of these very old, wise trees surrounding me. I then saw it flow through to every branch and limb of these magnificent organisms, these examples of the beauty of nature, the power of nature, the entirety of life. To every twig and leaf extending out to the world, from these trees’ arms. And it was pulsating to the rhythm of my heart and breath. My life force became one with the forest. And it was as clear as day. And this was just the first part of a transformative process I underwent. This process was a shedding of faith. I no longer needed it. It was like the skin of a snake falling off when being replaced with new. You don’t need faith when you just know. And this was why I went to Florida.
Correction, it’s one of the reasons I went to Florida. I’ll explain further below…
The next session was a little stronger. I don’t remember why but I think I was sitting up? or maybe just looking up (laying on my back), but I remember getting a little scared or something. Don’t remember why. But then all of a sudden, Ty was right in front of my face staring into my eyes. And pretty soon his “outer layer” was dissolving in front of me, showing me just his soul/energy. It was like our souls were connecting. Then I saw his energy being pulled into mine and vice versa, slowly… I don’t know how long this lasted, but it seemed like forever. It was a wave of contentment, and acceptance, and love, and sun, and everything that is right in the world. What I experienced with the trees, I experienced with another soul now.
The only thing I can compare it to (and just forewarning, this is a little dark), is when I’m overdosing. After the first few times, you pretty much know when it’s happening, in real time. It’s not usually a surprise. This knowledge unfortunately allows you to process what’s happening a little more than if you were caught off-guard. And it’s scary at first, very scary, but when you finally accept it… it’s the most calming wave of surrender I’ve ever felt or heard of (I’ve never heard anyone that was able to accurately describe what a nirvana type of moment this is). Everything is perfect. Everything is the way it’s supposed to be. I’ve never felt more at peace than those final seconds. All the pain is gone. All the worries. All the sadness. Everything is finally okay. It kind of feels like when you’re first in love.
Perhaps, another way to look at it…
I’m scared of dying. I think it will be painful, torturous, scary, not fair, etc, etc.. But I imagine that describes more like what being born would feel like. So it’s opposite. Maybe death shouldn’t be so scary. Being born seems a bit rougher.
That feeling of pure energy, love, connection, empathy I experienced when I saw Ty’s energy and whatnot, it reminds me of those other experiences I just wrote about. This was the second part of the transformation.
After most of these sessions, I ended up crying like a baby, for what felt like a long time, and I didn’t even know why. It just had to come out and I couldn’t control it. There wasn’t a sense of sadness… It was more closer to feeling a sense of loss, before you lose it. Like saying goodbye to someone you love, someone you really just never want to let go of, ever… ever again….
This was the final time I was using the medicine this weekend. But it was different. The last couple sessions were pretty strong. I was releasing a lot, perhaps to make room for what I needed to take in, this round. Buster was the male dog (there were three in total there). He is a wise and gentle soul. Always laying with us in ceremony.
This time, I sat up and I locked in with Buster and he turned to face me and was staring into my eyes, and I into his eyes. And again, his outer appearance was weakening in front of me and I could see his beautiful, shiny soul vibrating. He never stopped staring into my eyes, with such care and intention. And then I saw him start to fall into the earth where he was laying, and then floating back up, and then back down into the earth (so just his eyes and top of his head and top of his back was showing). He did this for a minute or two then came back up. And like before, his energy and mine were morphing together, meeting in the middle of the distance between us.
And then as the medicine was wearing off, as if he sensed I was back on planet Earth, he walked over to me and just laid against my legs. Not wanting to get pet, not needing anything… Just to be with me. This was the third part of this mysterious process.
When I came back, I felt that contentment again. I didn’t have to release. I just needed to be. It was a beautiful end to an amazing journey with such wonderful people (and their animals).
What a trip
After we all packed up and said our goodbyes to each other and to the land we were just borrowing from nature, I got in my new friend’s car, who was driving me to Tampa airport. I think it was like a 2 hour drive, but we got to talking, and it made it feel like the drive only took a few minutes. I miss everyone… But I’m sure we will be friends for a long time to come though! I got on the plane and made it home (thanks to my sister picking me up at the airport) around 10pm that night.
Came home to an empty house which was kind of a bummer, but I was tired anyhow. My dogs, cat, and daughters were all at my ex’s home, while I was gone. It was a wonderful homecoming though when my girls hugged me when I first saw them the next day. I love them so much.
Don’t worry, I don’t mean in the “borg” sense of the word. Perhaps integration is a better word. So these kinds of retreats are amazing. You can peek into the healthy lifestyle of others, while experiencing a very powerful transformation, as a group, and individual. But to positively benefit from this type of spiritual adventure, you need to apply what you have learned, into your daily life, as much as you can. Otherwise, it will be similar to a temporary detox. Which is great, in and of itself. Probably have saved many of lives…. But if your goal is to improve yourself in any way you can, for the long haul … Then you need to at least try and incorporate the good, and toss out the rest. You don’t need to live your life exactly as someone else does. What works for them, generally won’t work identical to another person. You can’t have such expectations. But just because you can’t duplicate what they do perfectly, doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others and they you… and they you.
So I’ve taken many things I’ve learned from this amazing weekend retreat, and have tried to apply them to my daily routine as much as possible. Some amazing success, and some not so much. But I’m learning from my mistakes and making changes to provide a better outcome. Just that basic cognitive behavior therapy type stuff.
But for example, I put much more intention into anything I put in my body. In some strange way, it makes me not need as much of whatever I’m ingesting, if I just pay attention to it, and give thanks and appreciation and intention with it. And this goes for food, drink, smoke, drug, fruit, whatever…
Another habit I picked up from this retreat was the daily cacao consumption. It is so wonderful. It provides such a wonderful, warm feeling. Gives you energy without the crash. Just an overall great sense of well-being. And since quitting caffeine, it was wonderful to find a cousin that can aid in that sensation when needed.
Sun gazing was one of the rituals I really wanted to continue and/or replicate when I got home, but it just so happened, that when I got back, was “June gloom” they call it here. It’s overcast from the very start of the morning… Meaning it’s cloudy and doesn’t really burn off until way past sunrise (sometimes not till 11am). I got lucky the first few mornings I got back but it didn’t last. I haven’t seen a sunrise since those first few mornings (despite being awake every morning at that time).
Dancing … Renée had us literally just dance and move to the music some mornings. Very uncomfortable for me to do, especially if not drunk or high. But it just felt so good to get some of those old muscles and all that tension sitting between my tissue and bone and cartilage. To feel the release of such pent up (what seemed like) aggression… pain… hurt… trauma…
Well I found myself listening to music with the volume super loud, like I always do throughout my house in the mornings.. and dancing… it just feels good, and is so simple. It’s like singing… whether you’re good or bad at it… it just feels good and who gives a fuck what it looks like or feels like to others.. That’s just envy wrapped up in superiority.
I’ve also experienced a giant leap (in evolutionary terms) in my understanding and acceptance of (my relationship with) nature.
Have you ever taken LSD before going out with your friends, going to a bar, for example… After an hour or so, anyone you don’t really know usually ends up looking like lizard people… (it feels like your brain is just applying a “strange” or “unknown” packaging to people based on your categorization of them as it applies to your daily experiences and memories with said people or lack thereof). Or perhaps I just watched “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas” one too many times.
Well when this happens, it takes me awhile but I will eventually start accepting such drunk lizards guzzling and slurping and burping their alcohol with their long tongues curling and flapping about whilst talking such nonsense that no one is even really listening to…
When I can finally accept such strange creatures as I accept I am… that’s when the playing field get’s leveled… That’s when I can finally come to a consensus (or agreement) on an interpretation of the true way of things.
This sounds like a a complete derail of what I was writing about originally, but the reason I brought up the lizards was because it felt very similarly to my relationship with bugs (and life, and nature in general). The differences between myself and an ant, or bee, or some crazy moth or assassin bug, or spider or whatever majestical being I came in contact with… The differences were so vast. So prominent. So obvious and sharp. But that’s the beauty of psychedelics, isn’t it? It breaks down that barrier. That tsunami of difference comes crashing down into a plain of nothingness… It’s a breath of fresh air really. Because it’s a great weight off my shoulders when I experience this.
I can’t imagine what a weight it must feel like, if I was as narrow minded as some (insert any angry, extremist group here). A close friend of mine was trying to get me to understand I need to prioritize my energy. That I spend too much energy on “undeserving” people. I try to explain that in order for a shift in our group conscious – we need to change that way of thinking. Perhaps those underserving people are the ones we need to focus our energy on the most? Maybe it’s not entirely genetics or evolution, or bad luck that we, as a people, are so polarized? Maybe it just takes a shift in the way we think, and in our interpretations and expectations of the universe unfolding in front of us…. And maybe it starts with us, as an individual… and then as a group. But it has to start somewhere.
Okay I definitely went on a tangent there, I digress. Sometimes just gotta go with the flow…
Buy a ticket, take the ride…Hunter s. thompson