A new José Stevens Article
This is a personal story of recent events in the Amazon and the extraordinary experience I had there. The upper Amazon region of Peru is the home of the Shipibo people, a tribe of indigenous people who practice their ancient shamanic traditions and are known as the go to people for training shamans from all over the Amazon. In early June I returned from my bi-annual trip to visit the Shipibo Shamans we regularly work with and their extended family in their village. I went specifically to accompany our Shipibo Shamanic teachers and friends back to the United States for a month long visit. I also went to diet with plants and to bring back a fresh supply of Shipibo textiles, powerful and beautiful song cloths that we resell to raise money for our non-profit, the Center for Shamanic Study and Exchange. One of the main activities of the non-profit is the education of Shipibo young people to help them bridge the gap between their own culture and the powerful forces of the Western World that threaten their way of life. The Shipibo people in their village do not always understand that their cloths are the critical part of a big money circle that goes right back into the community, yet they are most grateful that we buy their crafts year after year.
There was only one glitch in my overall plan. At the eleventh hour the Shipibos did not get their visas and were thus unable to come back with me. Lena and I just could not get to the bottom of the visa problems and no one would give a clear explanation of what the problem was. Legal documents were demanded, one after the other, each with the assurance that this would be all that was needed, all to no avail. Since my ticket was already purchased I went down anyway to do the diet and pick up the textiles. Later we were to discover that no indigenous people had been cleared for visas and there was a very definite reason that no one would tell us about. The problem turned out to be political and a very big one at that. The president of Peru decided to honor his free trade agreement with the United States by giving the clearance for multinational corporations to cut down the rainforest and confiscate indigenous lands for mineral, oil, and agricultural development. The native people were not consulted and even though they went to the capital they were not given any audience with the president. They responded by defending their lands with roadblocks, spears and their own bodies. The army and police units were called in and with advanced weapons they began to slaughter the indigenous people including women and children. We knew nothing of this until I actually landed in Peru when the whole issue became international news. The indigenous people were being denied visas because the government did not want word to get out about what they were doing.
When I arrived in the jungle city of Pucalpa indigenous people had blockaded the road that connects this town to Lima and no supplies were getting through. Police and army units were everywhere patrolling the streets and were a strong visible presence. The Shipibo had not yet been drawn into the fray but they knew that if they did not band together with all the indigenous tribes that their lands would be lost as well. They were visibly frightened by the unfolding events.
Being June, when I stepped off the plane I expected the usual humid heat of the jungle to strike me full blast. Instead I was stunned to feel a cool breeze more like California’s San Francisco. When I arrived at the village many members of the community were sick with flu, pink eye, and all manner of coughs and fevers. They are simply not used to the cold and suffer greatly on the rare occasions when the temperature plummets. They told me it had been unseasonably cold in the jungle, the result of the climate changes affecting the whole planet. I wondered what would happen to the jungle if cold began to permeate the Amazon.
My visit was about eight days and I was determined to stay well, a goal that I was able to meet because of the intensity of the plant diet that I undertook. Over the years I have dieted often with different plants and this time I was on a diet of a species of the Tobacco plant and Boasca, a hardy shrub that gives vitality, strength, and special abilities to heal hard-core diseases and illnesses. The process of the diet requires drinking an extremely bitter concoction of the juiced plant substances first thing in the morning and then remaining without drink or food until late afternoon. The shamans prepare the brew and then bathe the dieter with tobacco smoke to clear away obstacles and help open the body to the gifts of the plants. Then there was a short walk to a wonderful round ceremonial building just outside the village in the intensely green jungle where I climbed into a hammock for the duration of the day.
Late in the day I returned to the village for a simple meal and a plant bath. On three of the four days of the diet, in the evenings, I participated in ayahuasca ceremonies attended by many members of the family. During these ceremonies, lasting until two or three in the morning, I was asked to sing and perform healings on the Shipibo while they performed similar healings on me. They are appreciative of an outsider’s healings because often family members cannot heal members of their own family. An outsider like me is like an infusion of fresh energy.
These were truly amazing experiences of intense light and power. There was a moment during one ceremony when I felt as if I had truly come home and could stay there forever. I experienced the joy of the collective plants of the jungle, the moonlight filtering through the trees, and noises of insects, birds, and the howls of the monkeys. What power, what delight, what amazing people filled with love and kindness!
In just a few hours morning arrived and the next days diet began. As a result I averaged about three to four hours sleep each night but was not sleepy or tired all day long.
The first couple of days of the diet were very tough and I suffered nausea and dizziness throughout the day. I huddled in my hammock with a blanket to ward off the cold, closed my eyes, and felt the churning of my insides as the plants did their work. I read early transcripts of the Michael teachings from the 1970’s and was able to contemplate and absorb these mighty teachings on a new level. I also listened to teachings on the Course in Miracles on my I-pod and so put the time to good use.
On the third day of the diet I was again lying in the hammock listening to spiritual talks on my I-pod and drifting in and out of dreams. I felt guided to work with self-hypnosis, something I have practiced for many years with good results. I put myself into a deeper state using a counting method and then proceeded to go deeper and deeper into delta states in order to reach a profound trance state that would allow me access to my subconscious mind. I wanted to see what programs I still have that hold me back from freeing essence to express itself fully. I was able to reach a profound state of relaxation and sensed myself being filled up with vitality or Spirit. I then began to see that each person, each animal, each plant, in fact everything I experience as outside myself is filled with the essence of the Great Spirit and that essence is exactly the same as what is in me. Therefore I could see that there was nothing really outside of myself. It was all a part of me.
As this perception filled my awareness I began to see how powerful and profound this shift in awareness could be. I saw that if I truly allowed myself to see the divinity of everything that I would be so overwhelmed and awestruck that I perhaps could not function normally in the world. And with this fearful thought my perception instantly contracted and I lost the awareness of divinity both to my great relief and utter dismay. For about fifteen minutes I marveled at this extraordinary perception. I was dumbfounded at how quickly the fearful thought drove out such a powerful and wonderful experience of Spirit. I realized that I must be holding this thought all the time in my subconscious mind and I saw what an effort, what an energy drain holding this thought was. Imagine trying to hold out the ocean from filling up a glass sunk deep under the water. The truth is that divinity is all around us like a great ocean and each one of us on the physical plane is trying to maintain the illusion of separation from all that.
No wonder people breathe such a sigh of relief as they die, just to get away from the constant effort of keeping Spirit out. But physical death is not the solution because it actually solves nothing. When people die they may be treated to a nice temporary glow of white light or a tunnel with beautiful light at the end. Yes, they may visit with long lost relatives and bask in the glow of reunions but in the long run it does not last according to those who are experts in death like the Tibetans. After a period of rest it is back to chopping wood and carrying water. After death there are still lessons to learn, illusions to break, and obstacles to work through. Physically dying does not solve anything by itself but it does offer a respite, some much needed rest for a time. On the other hand living in the body with an awareness that Spirit is in everything is a major accomplishment. In order to do this successfully a person has to get past the fear of annihilation, of being destroyed, or rendered helpless by the experience. Essentially it means weathering ego death and discovering that just because ego disappears does not mean that awareness vanishes. It doesn’t go away and if anything, awareness grows stronger than ever.
After several hours of contemplation on all of this I staggered out of my hammock and headed outside to feel the earth underneath my feet and stabilize myself. I walked out into an environment of staggering beauty. I had never seen such a beautiful sight. The jungle was glowing emerald green and the sunlight filtering through the leaves was extraordinary. I looked up marveling and at that very moment an eagle flew directly over my head and I burst into tears knowing that this was a wonderful gift from Spirit for my efforts to see the truth. This was such a powerful event that I knew that in some way I had been transformed permanently. I could simply never go back to seeing the world exactly the same way again. This exceptionally altered state lasted for many hours but I did gradually come back to a more normal state of perception. Nevertheless what happened out there is still with me and I feel quite different now than before. I feel more open, more loving, more optimistic, more confident, clearer and more certain than ever before. Just in time considering what is coming down the pike for the world.
That night during the third ayahuasca ceremony a Shipibo elder sang icaros (sacred songs) into me and remarked how full of light I was. Later his nephew was singing more icaros into me and he too remarked how full of light I was so I knew then that what I had experienced was actually visible to these powerful shamans.
When it was time for me to leave the jungle, the Shipibos seemed perfectly accepting of the events that had unfolded to keep them from coming with me. They cheerfully wished me well. Next year we will once again make every effort to bring them back to the States for another visit.
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