On the evening of December 6th, I and two close trusted friends journeyed to an off-the-grid cabin in a rural area outside of my hometown to attempt a velada using the approach described here by Elfstone. I had been planning this getaway for months; my original intent was to emulate Stan Grof's approach, in which two sitters (male and female) would assist me in a sensory-deprived death/rebirth initiation-style session. My objective was to work through some recent conflicts with my family members, conflicts which arose as a direct result of my enthusiasm and convictions related to shamanism and mushrooms, which they misunderstand, and even find to be threatening and frightening. By necessity I have invested a lot of time and energy into understanding this dynamic, and the negative ways it has affected me and my ability to find my calling in this life. My circumstance is far from unique. I believe that the absence of organized rites of passage has resulted in widespread apathy, depression and fear for many many people of my generation (I am in my late twenties). This has resulted in a kind of metaphysical "bottleneck" through which we are forcibly passing, and many young people like myself are now embarking (with varying degrees of conscientiousness) on a path of self-initiation.
When I read this thread, I became inspired to rethink my plans. I decided to try the Mazatec way, not out of a desire to be trendy, but because it occurred to me that a time-honored tradition filtered through thousands of years of strategic communion with the mushroom might well contain a truth that has largely eluded the western mind. I realized that, while surely effective for many, the clinical roleplaying style of the Grof approach may neglect the reality that every interaction is a dynamic collaborative exchange. The top-down doctor-patient configuration creates a boundary of superiority, as if the facilitators or sitters are somehow in control of or invulnerable to the emotional forces emanating from the patient. It seems to me that traditional forms of shamanism attempt to manifest psychological or social equilibrium through the dissolution of habituated egoic personal boundaries. Decreased inhibition allows repressed emotions to flow freely, thereby achieving the ideal conditions for the expression of love and unfettered imagination---communion. Individual healing is an illusion, true healing is a mutual exchange, a balancing act of the soul.
With all of this in mind, I went about gathering objects and images to construct my own altar. I chose objects that contained deep personal significance for me, objects of beauty imbued with symbolism and powerful memories. I selected images that served as points of self-reflection; a personal cosmology. I suggested to my friends that they bring their own contributions in order to instill their identities into the altar. When we arrived at the cabin, we stoked the woodstove and set about organizing the place to minimize clutter and erected our altar near a large window to a view of the wilderness. We waited until after dark to commence the velada, about 8:00PM. I and my male friend had chosen to fast for the day in order to avoid gastric conflicts. I ate 3g of the Chicon Nindo strain of Ps. mexicana, he 2g. Additionally we each ate about 50g of high-quality cacao purchased from a local chocolatier. Our female friend did not partake, choosing instead to tend the fire and offer her comforting presence when needed. She was very sensitive to our needs throughout the night, and I was thankful for her gracious company.
A few nights previous to this one, I had taken a "test drive" in front of the altar alone in my room, at the significantly lower (but still plenty powerful) dose of 1g Ps. mexicana (Jalisco strain). I was very grateful that I did so, as it provided good practice for staying aware and focused on the altar. It wasn't too terribly difficult to do this at the 1g level, and it resulted in some profound openings. I became aware of a dynamic of thought that may be best visualized as a tunnel projecting forward from the eyes. When focus is maintained, this tunnel points straight ahead toward destiny, the ideal, or the imago form of one's self. When focus strays, unconscious deviations or pathologies form tunnels that branch away from the path of focus. If the divergent course is not realized and corrected, paranoid delusion and anxiety can emerge, and the body may in turn initiate a fear response. This can quickly spiral out of control and create a feedback loop of body-checking---a panic attack. At the 1g level, these delusions were never permitted to spiral out of control, and I eventually passed through a "membrane" into a state of serene revery that lasted for the remainder of the night, until I fell asleep at about 6:00AM.
In terms of potency, I found the Chicon Nindo strain of Ps. mexicana to be on par with the Jalisco, though a little friendlier in spirit. It was very lucid and clear, with no body discomfort whatsoever. Visually, they were not as animated as cubensis or Ps. cyanescens. I would gauge them to be about 2-2.5x the potency of cubensis, and probably slightly less potent than Ps. cyanescens. At the 3g level, it was far more difficult to return from a pathological thought deviation. It was very helpful to look straight ahead at a candle flame or an object, breathe deeply and repeat to myself the phrase "I am love". The delusions were much more convincing this time around and gained momentum at an exponential rate of growth. Still, the practice session payed off; I avoided a panic attack entirely, though I wasn't spared from total psychological annihilation.
The come up during the first hour and a half was gentle. I felt a bit jittery as this was my highest dose to date, but once the mushroom really sunk its claws in I became flotsam and my nerves were pacified. Engaging with the altar so intimately resulted in some truly remarkable experiences. The smell of copal and the beauty of the objects and images helped to anchor my psyche and prevent a "wipe-out" (it does feel a little like riding a bike). A powerful thought struck me in a moment of serenity: "We're trying too hard to be what we already are". I spoke this out loud, and my female friend who sat by the fire exclaimed "I knew you were going to say that!". When the spirit really descended, I perceived the velada with an intense nostalgia. Owing to the fact that I never looked over my shoulder, I felt that I was quite literally transported to the mountains of Oaxaca. It really seemed as if I had done this hundreds of times before, and I was reuniting with a long-lost friend. I say "seemed as if" only in retrospect, but at the time there was no doubt that I was experiencing a very real transpersonal memory.
This deep identification with the velada led me to a great struggle, which presented itself as intense shame and guilt for having trespassed on something so holy. I felt a crushing sorrow for my negligence and naivety. I was not able to dig myself out of this tunnel, instead I was left with no choice but to surrender fully to the awesome power before me. I won't elaborate too much on what happened next as it was a little disturbing, but I can say that it was simultaneously the most magnificent and horrific experience of my life. I was forced to accept the inevitability of my death; not just a psychological death, but a real physical death. I sensed the presence of knifeblades covering the whole surface of my body. My entire being surged with nihilism, and I was swallowed, decomposed, digested and excreted by reality. I distinctly recall saying out loud to myself "thank god life is not always like this, thank god I'll be whole again".
After passing through the worst of this struggle, I entered into a place that I would describe as the "continuum of infinite regress". In this crystalline palace of boredom, there is a solution to every problem. Therefore, there are no problems, because there is nothing to create the differentiation that generates a problem as such. There is also no time, since time is the measure of distance between problems. There are no memories, no references, no benchmarks; there is nothing but the eternal chaos of awareness. It is in our incarnated form that we find suffering, problems, and time, because incarnation is
suffering. It is the willful suffering which we, as emanations of the eternal, have forgotten that we willingly chose in order to experience the beauty and splendor of the fractured Self. I was able, for just a little while, to step outside of the high walls of the pantheon, to glimpse into the emptiness beyond the metabolic ebb and flow of the soul, and look back over my shoulder to observe the cosmic stage I normally perform upon.
I spent a good long time speaking gibberish like a baby and drooling while barely able to keep my paralyzed body from falling from my stool onto the floor. My short-term memory was fried, but I felt quite talkative and wanted to chat, though this was not easy. When my body reanimated we put on our coats and boots and went outside to fire up a celebratory cuban cigar. It was very cold outside, and the ground was a jeweled blanket of hoarfrost. I was dehydrated and very chilled; I thought about how lucky we are to live in warm homes with fires, insulation and electrical heat. I thought about the thousands of years humans spent out in the cold, when life was little more than survival. Then I thought about all of the people in the world for whom this is still a reality. As my memory returned, the embrace of consensus reality brought a joyous confidence like I have never known before. I was released from all shame and guilt, wholly embraced by a complete forgiveness. I was so happy and grateful, just to be alive and in good company, in a safe and hospitable environment. This joy carried through our lively conversations that lasted til sunrise, and then a gentle sleep took hold. Throughout the following day the joy, calm and gratitude remained. I knew that the previous night's experience was the pinnacle event on my timeline. Despite how extraordinarily difficult it was, I wanted to do it again as soon as possible, and I intend to do so as frequently as I'm able.
In the days following the velada in the woods, I've found that I can apply the same principles of focus and awareness on the altar to my daily life. I perceive my path in life as a tunnel toward destiny. When I go about my day, i know that I'm on the right path if I'm obeying the directives of synchronicities or the call of my own curiosity, or if I'm using my skills in service to others. Occasionally I find myself deviating from this path, and I'm increasingly able to identify these distractions as "side-quests". I'm getting better at knowing when I'm on a side-quest, and how to extricate myself and return to the main path when necessary. There have been a whole host of other sensations too, but at this point it's a little bit too difficult to write about. I'm sure I'll continue to write, as it brings me a great deal of satisfaction. I think of writing as an enzymatic process by which psychological boundaries may be dissolved to allow for the generation of new ideas. I'm looking forward to what the future holds now that I've overcome a lot of the fear that prevented me from really engaging with the mushroom. I believe the Mazatec velada is an ideal container for the relationship. A good analogy might be to say that it makes more sense to bake a pie using a tried-and-true recipe, rather than eating a jumble of raw ingredients. The pie is well worth the extra effort! I hope that others will feel inspired to give this a try. It's pretty intimidating at first, but overcoming the fear is very rewarding, and there is peace on the other side. Thank you Elfstone for sharing Natalia's wisdom with us here.
Edited by DonShadow, 10 December 2018 - 04:43 AM.