Love and the Jaguar

The last ceremony started at 7:00am and went until almost 3:am the next day. It was with the San Pedro cactus, and the shaman for the ceremony was Santiago. He takes the traditions passed down from his elders very seriously. But he also has a wicked sense of humor. This was the “light” ceremony of San Pedro. The one before, also with Santiago and San Pedro a few days earlier and in the night time was a “shadow work” ceremony.

Ayahuasca was like a stern grandmother -tough love- but San Pedro was more like a warm grandfather. He might tease you a little, but he opened your heart while showing you things that reformed your mind. During both the dark and the light ceremonies, Santiago unrolled a pelt of the jaguar in front of the fire and we were encouraged to “ride the jaguar”, taking turns sitting on it and letting go of what wasn’t ours into the fire to be purified, or expressing our difficulties, desires, quandaries. Some people were carrying very heavy burdens. Abuse, both giving and receiving. Trauma. Fears. Loss. Painful relationships. Some were looking for answers or resolutions. Some just expressing gratitude.

Santiago would listen and watch. He would sometimes circle the fire while someone was speaking, tossing in copal, sage, powders. The smoke would shift and dance, extending tendrils. When the smoke drifted by my place in the circle, I would pull it to me with my hands, over my head and shoulders, to my chest. San Pedro spoke directly to our hearts, telling us that we were all one.  Every person’s challenges, difficulties, trauma, joy, gratitude was felt by those in the circle so deeply with such compassion and beauty shining in everyone that sometimes I felt tears streaming down my face like rain. For their pain, their happiness. For their sorrows. Their being human. The lessons of grandfather showed us a natural love that wells from the core of our beings when we are able to drop artificial divides that separate us from others. Santiago would offer incredible insights with a few words, a story, a piece of song; but as he said many times: he was just a man, the real teacher was the intelligence of the plant and the sacred space it created for us to heal, to see, to understand.

When I rode the jaguar in this last ceremony I just wanted to express thanks and gratitude, for the opportunity to meet these spirit teachers, for the lessons I’d received but couldn’t verbalize. For renewing conversations that my spirit once had in childhood and now has again with the wind, the earth, the fire and water. The vibrant streams of the living elements in existence. It’s hard to express what these mean to me. On so many levels. And I had lost touch so long ago with the ways they had once spoken to me. For each person, Santiago had a different message. For me, he told me I was once again connected with my lineage and was taking my place in the tradition of the guardians of the fire. It struck me odd…one of my ancestral lineages is the Potawatomi tribe, who are known as the Keepers of the Fire. But the fire is sacred in many lineages and it’s associated intimately with purification, with a vitality of spirit, which is something I find myself deeply engaged in at this stage of my life. As I returned to my place, I was outed to come back to the Jaguar and play a song with the small backpack flute I had brought secretly in my bag. They seemed to enjoy it, and I was glad, because I had no idea how I was playing.

All in all, this was an amazing journey. And while I’ve over-used that word, “amazing” in these stories, it’s the only placeholder I can think of. I witnessed issues that  people carried healed with San Pedro and Ayahuasca, faster and deeper than I imagine could be done with years of psychotherapy. I witnessed the power of love that humans can feel and express when they realize the deep connection that we all have as children of this beautiful, magnificent planet. And I received a level of teachings with a depth I have never experienced before. I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet these teachers in my lifetime.

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin
“to all my relations”

Everything is Waiting for You 
Your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone
as if life were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden transgressions
to feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings
surely, even you at times have felt the grand array
the swelling presence and chorus crowding out your solo voice
you must notice the way the soap dish enables you
or the window latch grants you courage
alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity
the stairs are your mentor of things to come
the doors have always been there to frighten you and invite you
and the tiny speaker in the phone is your dream ladder to divinity
put down the weight of your aloneness
and ease into the conversation
the kettle is singing even as it pours you a drink
the cooking pots have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last
all the birds and creatures of the world are unutterably themselves
everything is waiting for you
-David Whyte