In India, ancient scriptures divide spiritual paths into two main roads. The path of the monkey and the path of the cat. The path of the monkey implies, that similarly to the way the baby monkey has to reach and cling to his mother when she moves around, the practitioner has to make his own efforts in order to reach the peaks of spiritual experience. It is the aspirant who has to practice, meditate or in other words work towards his spiritual goals. The path of the cat on the other hand is the path of devotion. The kitten walks about the playground and when in danger meows loud enough for his mother to come and pick her up by her neck. Bhakti, or the path of devotion seems somewhat similar. The devotee chants, or “meows” to the divine above asking to be rescued. In other words, the effort, the salvation comes by the grace of God.
In Brazil, the native Shamans divide spiritual practice also into two main roads. The path of the sheep and the path of the goat. The sheep is walking towards the peak of the mountain. They stay together and walk slowly up the winding road until eventually they reach the top. And the goat? – the goat jumps vertically, from rock to rock, risking its life with every move. The goat takes a more dangerous path, but definitely ascends quicker.
Walking the medicine path, and especially when mother Ayahuasca is involved, is definitely a combination of all four of these paths. On one hand it is a shortcut, a risky ascend to the peaks of consciousness. It does involve some degree of danger and requires much attention and alertness. Yet, on the other, serious aspirants walking this path know that though you get to witness and see the vastness of the universe within, you still have to walk the winding road towards healing, understanding and integration. You drink her wisdom and love, “meowing” her to beckon and pick you up, yet have to take tremendous effort to change, to bring forth the light, the love, the compassion you have been shown and given.
Walking any spiritual path in such an influential material world is very challenging. We are brought up to expect results. Tangible, “hard evidence” results. We keep measuring our progress and have concepts of what our spiritual trophies should look like. At the very least, those should be a cessation of suffering and less haunting thoughts. We seek the peace of mind and coveted states of enlightenment. With such attitude, walking any spiritual path requires tremendous patience, perseverance and in most cases the ability to stay centered and focused facing so much distractions and being given so many reasons to sway off path.
When taking a sacrament such as Ayahuasca, in a way, you are shown or even given your coveted spiritual trophy. You get to see, feel, and experience the highest peaks of human consciousness and in most cases even more than you can handle. Many Ayahuasqueros will tell you, “Ceremony begins day after ceremony”. In the decisions and actions you will choose to take after witnessing your vastness of self. Even though you ascend to the peak of spiritual unity, and witness divine glory, you do come back a few hours later. The laundry will still be there, the dishes, your children and your job. You however are forever changed.
You will come back to a changed world. You have witnessed the depth of your connection. The dependency each tree, each flower has on and with you. You now know that you are not a stranger to this world, but that you came out of it. You have witnessed the astral planes and the dimension of spirit. That, my friend, cannot be undone. But, just like the Buddha said: ‘There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant, what’s wrong is choosing to stay that way”. You can at this stage choose to follow and remain in ignorance. Ignorance after all is bliss.
Watching an inspiring movie, even if it is your own, does not yet inspire action. What does inspire action is a thirsty heart and a hungry soul. A knowing, deep inside, that you have the energy and the necessity to live differently. There’s an urgency that comes with such experiences. A knowing you have to change and live your life in a different way.
Walking the medicine path as your chosen spiritual journey is challenging mostly because of the fact that if you don’t take action, your thirsty heart will start weighing on you and heavily. That is, if you don’t choose to change and attempt to ignore what you’ve been shown. When our spiritual ascension is slow and gradual, we can change slowly, step by step, year after year. But when mother Ayahuasca calls you, there is very little time to waste. You will be given all. You will be shown the love, the compassion, the tremendous innate connection you have within you. Opening your eyes the following day will require change.
In that moment, though you ascended the mountain to its peak, to stay and witness the spiritual sky, will require tremendous effort. A paradigm shift of who you are, your choices and the way you live and interact with nature, life and others around you.
I’ve heard many who walked the medicine path say Ayahuasca told them they are ‘complete’ no need to drink any more. Though that might be the case, in comparison to other paths it would be the equivalent to stopping to pray, meditate or express compassion. In most cases when the signal is to stop drinking, what Ayahuasca is actually saying is – “you’re not taking action, you’re not changing to reflect divine love, there’s no reason for you to keep coming to drink from the fountain of life.”
Ayahuasca, as a sacrament, is a divinated tea. It is brewed as a combination of two different elements. The leaf and the vine. These two don’t necessarily grow in close proximity; they don’t look similar or have any external indication that they should be combined. To become active as an entheogen, they have to be combined in a very specific way and cooked with lots of water for a long long time. The Shamans of the Amazon explain that the plants have ‘told’ them how to bring forth this sacrament. There is no way it would just be “stumbled upon”.
It’s hard to express to someone who hasn’t taken Ayahuasca as a sacrament what truly happens within you when you actually do. It was Thomas Aquinas who said “To those who believe no explanation is necessary, to those who do not, no explanation will suffice.” Partaking in an Ayahuasca ceremony is an experience of mind, heart, body and soul. It brings forth a knowing, an existential knowing that is undeniable. For those of us who walk this path as our spiritual guiding light, truly, life, divinity and the forces of nature are no longer a belief. But, as mentioned, it is an experience and not a mental ideation of even a spiritual aspiration.
For many years I’ve walked and practiced almost every spiritual path there is. I lived for years in an austere Hindu ashram, practicing Chi Kung, Yoga, Taoism, Zen and Buddhism in so many forms. I have attempted to reach the peaks of human consciousness in every possible way. I can’t say I totally failed, but my experience was limited, confined to a spiritual setting and definitely didn’t feel integral with nature, life, others. I would usually feel isolated and confined within my own “spiritual world”.
The medicine path is where I have found my calling, my heart, and my fountain of youth. The divine love, the compassionate guidance that comes not from without but from within. Mother Ayahuasca has been showing me, directly, who I truly am and guiding me, step by step to fully, unabashedly fall in love with myself.
I’m excited for the day after ceremony. I’m excited I get to see and experience what to change, how, and how deep that will affect those around me and the planet I belong to. I live inspired, more whole and connected than I ever imagined possible. The dragon blood in my veins boils so I will push forward, demand more of myself. Know that together, we can make a change; we can affect the outcome of our reality. I know this is a conversation, not a monologue. I am no longer a passive listener to what life has to offer; I sing along and offer my prayers.
Walking the medicine path might not be easy, but if there’s one thing I’ve witnessed time and time again, those who do become active participants in the story of life and truly fall in love… with life, with nature, with themselves and each other.