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Embracing Plant Allies: Exploring Spiritual Connection with Ayahuasca & Master Plants

In 2021 I made bravest and most beneficial decision of my life. I booked myself into a retreat center in Peru for a 30-day journey with Ayahuasca, and "Master Plant Dieta", which I will explain more about below. The retreat was labeled as an apprenticeship, and I was there to learn to sing the magical songs of icaros, in addition to working through a (very) long list of other intentions that spanned decades of trauma, codependency, emotional dis-regulation, intense back pain, depression and anxiety.

I packed a backpack which included some clothes and the smallest cosmetic bag I've ever taken on a trip, because I was about to embark on a cleanse and reset like no other. This journey would strip away every single comfort and crutch I had built around my ego to protect myself from my own naked truth. It would even claim my moisturizing cream. I also took a small steel tongue drum and several notebooks which I would play and fill during the long days of integration, in isolation in my hut (Tambo).

Into the jungle I trekked, with my backpack and about 10 fellow travelers, finally arriving at the Psychonauta Center's retreat center, deep in the Amazon basin, several hours from Iquitos.

During the next 30 days, I would face some of the hardest truths about my own psyche, my past decisions, and the generational trauma patterns that I had been unconsciously carrying with me. It was the hardest things I've ever done, but after years of being in the "dark night of the soul", I was ready to commit to my spiritual healing path!

Every day revealed new pathways of possibility for healing, growth and most of all, spiritual expansion through writing, singing and channeling the most beautiful songs, the titles of which speak for themselves: "Humble, Mother I come", "Stuff of Stars", and "Through the Trees", to name just a few.

As for my apprenticeship, I was surprised to learn that my teachers were not only the two sweet and gentle shamans I worked with at the center, Maesto Esteban and Maestra Olinda, who were from the Shipibo shamanic lineage and the other facilitators. In fact, the process of "dieta" mandates that I engaged with other people as little as possible. How then was I to learn? The answer revealed itself over the next few weeks: the plants were going to teach me.

You see, the Shipibo believe that every plant has a spirit. Every single plant. And some plants have a very special spirit that has the ability to teach you specific things. They call them "Palo Maestros", which means "master plants" or "teacher plants". This center specialized in Master Plant Dieta's, where you worked with both Ayahausca AND another special plant that was prescribed to you by the shamans. I will not reveal the name of my prescribed Master Plant here, but I will tell you that this is one of the more difficult plants you can diet. Someone at the center told me afterwards that he thought I would not make 30 days without giving up, but was impressed that I did.

I ingested this non-psychoactive plant several times on specified days between ceremonies. During my first weeks, Esteban had me hold a piece of the plant in my hands while he sang me the special icaro of this plant, with the purpose of building a connection between me and the plant. As the days and ceremonies wore on and the plant took hold, it intertwined with me, influencing my thought patterns and understanding of self. It taught me how to heal myself - specifically my chronic back pain, and cracked through the masks of protection that my ego wore, which had calcified around me over years.

By the last day, I was meditating for 10 hours a day, in complete bliss, so grateful for the saltless oatmeal sludge I'd had that morning, and communing with the birds (who were becoming increasingly curious about me). I reflected on how needy and edgy I had been when I arrived, and how peaceful and still my mind was. I had awoken to my wholeness.

To sum up what I'd learned about plant allies, here is a summary for the curious:

  • In the Shipibo shamanic tradition (and in many other shamanic lineages around the globe), plants are vital in healing and spiritual evolution. Plants are regarded not merely as a resources but as sentient beings with their own wisdom and consciousness.

  • When you work with Ayahuasca, Sacred Acacia or Master Plants, it is very important to develop relationships with these plant allies, viewing them as guides and teachers on the path to self-discovery and enlightenment.

  • Reciprocity and respect for the plant spirit is essential to building a beneficial relationship with the ally. We approach the experience with humility and intention, understanding that we're entering into a sacred dialogue with the plant.

  • The Ayahuasca brew and her avatars (Sacred Acacia, Mimosa etc.) acts as a conduit, opening channels of communication between the human psyche and the spirit realm. Through visions, insights, and heightened states of awareness, individuals embark on a profound inner journey, confronting their fears, traumas, and suppressed emotions.

  • In this way, Ayahausca is used to open us up to spiritual connection with the spirits of other plants, allowing those plants to speak directly to our psyches and teach us truths that exist beyond language and form.

What is the role of the shaman?

The shaman's role is multifaceted, encompassing healer, visionary, and mediator between the human and spirit realms. Through icaros (healing songs) and energetic interventions, shamans navigate the psychedelic landscape, assisting participants in integrating their experiences and navigating the complexities of the psyche.

What about icaros?

It was in my 3rd week that the shamans instructed me to sing during the ceremony and began to teach me singing techniques, encouraging me to sing even if was in the grips of intense physical pain, or in the middle of an internal journey that had brought me to my knees, bowing in humility in a prayer for absolution (a pose commonly seen in Ayahuasca circles).

"Cantar! Cantar Icaros!" they would say to me, which means, "sing icaros". Sing through the pain, sing through the tears, sing yourself to joy and freedom. And I haven't stopped. Its remarkable to say that I have healed myself from the abuse-cycles of my younger years, and redirected the course of my life and lineage, living in joy, inner peace and enjoying healthy and loving relationships like never before. There is still always work to do on the path of self-mastery, but the transformation has been remarkable and I am full of reverence and gratitude for the plants and the lineage that brought this medicine into my life.

I founded Sacred Waters based on Maestro Esteban's instruction to help other people. I highly recommend a trip to the Psychonauta Center in Peru, however, I realize that many people in search of healing may not have the funds, the luxury of time, or the inclination to dive in the way I did. We also work with an Avatar of Ayahuasca, Sacred Acacia, to respect the cultural significance of Ayahuasca and because Ayahuasca tourism is putting the sustainability of the plants at risk, making it harder for indigenous people to work with the plants like they have always done. This is how we are upholding the principles of ethical conduct, reciprocity, and cultural sensitivity.

In today's rapidly changing world, marked by environmental degradation and spiritual disconnection, the teachings of Ayahuasca hold profound relevance. As humanity grapples with existential crises and the urgent need for collective awakening, the wisdom of indigenous traditions offers a guiding light. These sacred plants serve as a potent reminder of our symbiotic relationship with the natural world and the importance of honoring and preserving the Earth's precious ecosystems.

In conclusion, the journey with Sacred Acacia offers a profound opportunity for spiritual growth, healing, and communion with the natural world. Through the guidance of plant allies and the wisdom of the shamanic traditions that we hold reverence for in our ceremonies, individuals can embark on a transformative odyssey of self-discovery and collective awakening.

As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, may we cultivate a deep reverence for the Earth and all beings, recognizing our interconnectedness and our role as stewards of the planet.

In the words of the indigenous elders, may we walk gently upon the Earth, in harmony with all of creation.

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