I'm in Lima Peru. It's 6:35am, which leaves four hours until my flight to Iquitos. I'm sitting in the food court of the Lima airport, which boasts a Papa John's Pizza, KFC, McDonald's, China Wok, Starbucks, and two places that look like maybe they're relatively local - a chicken place and a warm sandwich place. 4500 miles from home and everything looks nearly the same - brightly lit with obnoxious fluorescents and filled with 20+ high tables, but like 12 chairs. Covid precautions, I assume.
The flight to Lima was relatively uneventful — I sat (double-masked, per requirements) next to a tiny Korean guy in row 18 who was not interested in making conversation; he played games on his phone while I attempted to sleep, to no avail — and also a curious melange of midlife disaster: I couldn't figure out the bathroom door on the plane (empujar) and stood there like an idiot for far too long looking at it, trying to discern the mystery. I wanted to take a picture of the white quilt of cotton clouds out my window as we were landing in Lima and I somehow dropped my phone into the no man's land behind my seat instead (between the seat and a wall), and I also spent a long minute twisting the overhead reading light like some kind of idiot rather than using the touch screen control in front of me. What is happening to me? When did I become such a blundering fool? So very un-cosmopolitan? I'm 49, and such a weird caricature of my self already.
But I am so excited to be here. I've wanted to study the medicinal plants of South America since college when I saw a poster sort of glowing on the wall with an opportunity, but dismissed it because I was a journalism major. I figured something so fabulous couldn't possibly be for me. In my anthropology courses we read about the indigenous healers of the Amazon now and then, and I was always intrigued — how did it work? what did they know? — but I could never allow myself to go and find out.
In the last few years the idea of coming here has been growing again since I took up the study of herbalism in various ways. At one point I read a book which mapped out an energetic architecture of the universe and showed the usefulness of knowing the correspondences between people, plants, and planets for healing, and just reading it lit me up like I'd discovered a way of seeing the world that I'd been looking for my entire life. So yes, healing with plants always made sense to me, but was always tempered by a healthy dose of skepticism that the world of the shaman could truly exist in parallel to lives the rest of us are living.
What finally pushed me over the edge into booking my flight, was that three months ago a good friend of mine texted me on a Saturday morning and said that a good friend of hers was hosting a night of healing on her farm. He was a therapist and had asked for some mugwort and yarrow and other native plants, which made her think that maybe I was supposed to be there, too? The group would be ingesting mushrooms, the magic kind, and though I'd never done anything hallucinogenic in my life (okay a little pot back in college but it felt like a roller coaster into the ground to me, which didn't bode well), the mushrooms kept popping up in my life experience in various ways, what with all the talk about microdosing and the what not. So I said to myself hmm, I can not go to this and Sunday will come and I will be the same exact person as I am at this very moment, or I can find some courage and go do this and have a shot at something being different. Have a new story to tell, at least. And so I did. I went to the mountain and we said our intentions and called to the directions and ingested some dried mushrooms with honey and went to our mats under the stars to wait.
Or-i-on is a-ris-ing you can see his stars a-blaz-ing in the mid-dle of a clear and cloud-less niiiiiiiight....
Each of us (9 of us in all) had very different experiences that night; some were laughing and some were crying, some were singing, and at least one was beating her chest rather desperately, but I - I was swimming in bliss the entire time, having a conversation with what I knew to be my Higher Self, the calm voice of certainty and eternity that is always within us and yet — for me at least — often so tricky to hear.
I was scared, going into it, and she reassured me that it was okay to let go, that everything would go at my own pace, and it did. I would feel a question arise in my mind and the answer would come almost immediately, like a gentle wave sliding onto the shore. And I could see that I was the Light, the whole time, that I had never been anything but the Light — wouldn't it be easier to be the Light all the time? — and that life itself was exactly like this experience with the mushrooms, that there was nothing to do but relax, watch, and enjoy the show. I could see that life itself was no more real than the altered experience I was having of it at that moment, and that there was no reason to be afraid of anything, no reason to get worked up, because whatever was happening, it too would eventually pass.
At one point in the experience I noticed that I couldn't move the right side of my body at all, but it wasn’t frightening to me because I knew it was showing me that I'd been leading my whole life with my masculine side — my need to be strong, powerful, unbreakable — and that it wasn't going to work anymore. I didn't know what that meant exactly, didn't know how to lead with my feminine side (had to google 'divine feminine' at home in fact), but the message was clear: I needed to allow a new way to be, through me.
I sat up from that experience with a few strong thoughts:
That this was the closest I'd come to the experience of God in the ten or years since an experience of God;
That everyone should do this.
That I finally understood what they meant all these years by healing plants — there are plants that help your body and plants that help our minds, but these plants connect us with Spirit. They open us up to receiving information in a different way, and help us see what we can't about our selves and about existence from our normal perspective.
And finally this one, clear as day: I have to go to Peru.
I booked this trip — a ten day retreat to a remote camp off the grid — that very week. I originally booked 20 days, but cut it down to 10 about a month ago in a moment of sheer panic about the whole thing. What had I done? Why was I doing this? What if it's horrible and I can't get out? What if I can't get home? Panic.
But here I am, in Lima Peru, drinking peach juice out of a bottle, under flourescent lights, the only gringo in the building, as far as I can tell. I really need to learn Spanish . And I better go catch my plane.