Support needed for new film on plant medicine

– These plant medicines can treat health issues where there are no better cures in Western society, especially at the mental level, the filmmaker Javier Prato explains.
This week he is launching a Kickstarter campaign to finish his latest film Spirit Medicine which explores the healing potential of Ayahuasca, Peyote, psilocybin mushrooms and Iboga.

It all began three years ago when Javier’s friend’s father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He did a treatment with herbal medication and plant juices and three months later he was rid of the cancer. That is when Javier Prato first heard about Ayahuasca.
– I needed to know more so I went to Peru to try it and basically documented my experience. I soon got to know of other similar medicine plants such as Peyote, psilocybin mushrooms and Iboga, so instead of making a film about Ayahuasca I broadened my vision.

Since then he has visited several ceremonies and conferences and has interviewed shamans, participants and scientists. Javier wasn’t sick going into his film making journey with plant medicines but was still very helped by them.
– These plants are very revealing. You detoxify your body, learn about yourself and become less stressed. It is often described as ten years of therapy in one session, which I fully agree with, and in the film I have scientists explain how that is scientifically proven.

The money raised by the current Kickstarter campaign will be used specifically to do more interviews, to film an Iboga initiation in Gabon and for post-production.
– I’m hoping to premiere the film in November this year and after that I will be taking it to film festivals and conferences on psychedelics. I will be donating 10 percent of the proceeds to psychedelic research organizations such as MAPS and the Heffter Research Institute.

Read/see more and donate:
Kickstarter donation page
Film homepage

Photo: courtesy of Javier Prato
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Naysha: Save the Palo Santo tree

A couple of days ago I called my mom in Peru to order some Palo Santo wood that I use in my work. To my surprise my mom said that the Palo Santo tree had being declared IN DANGER OF EXTINCION and I would therefore like to ask the people buying online to make sure the Palo Santo comes from sources with certificates to prove that they protect the environment. If you are in Peru there are places that are authorized to sell Palo Santo.

Palo Santo means “Sacred Wood” and is the name for Bursera Graveolens. It was also called Quebracho by Spanish settlers because it was so hard that the axe broke when people tried to cut it.

The tree

At about 18 meters high it is a medium tree with small leaves, lots of branches and dark green fruit capsules. The tree lives in the South American region of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil’s Mato Grosso. The Palo Santo we import comes from the dry forest of Lambayeque region of northern Peru and is known worldwide to have the highest quality of all because of its privileged location.

To use essential oils by steam distillation the tree should die by itself and should be allowed to dry for at least 4 years. From the wood of the tree body oil, incense and aroma are obtained. The bark macerated in alcohol is used to increase sweating and against rheumatism. The leaves are used against spasms and as an insecticide.

Aroma

It has a surprisingly strong and sweet smell when burned which is why the Palo Santo is used as incense. It is considered to be a tree with medicinal qualities. Its multiple benefits make it a perfect energy cleaner due to substances like LIMONENE, which there is a high percentage of in the trunk. The LIMONENE belongs to the family of solvents or turpentine which are responsible for cleaning physically and spiritually.

The Palo Santo is used to cleanse and purify the environment from evil spirits, negative energies and other negative forces. By burning a small piece of wood you will have a peaceful environment which leads to a relaxed state of mind. This wood has a very pleasant and soothing aroma, not comparable to any other .

The aroma of Palo Santo is sweet and woody. Palo Santo fragrance reminds of a combination of sweet incense, atlas cedar, sweet grass, lemon, eucalyptus and a subtle hint of mint.

Collection process

The tree must die naturally and should remain uncollected for about 7-8 years. In this natural process of decomposition the tree secretes oil and acquires its medicinal and aromatic properties. In fact, if we cut the tree without all this we will not benefit because there it will not have acquired its properties.

By collecting dead Palo Santo trees we contribute to cleaning the forests where they grow and protecting the habitat in a completely organic way .

Origin

Widely used by ancient pre-hispanic cultures like the Tiwanaku and the Incas.

Inca Shamans used it in their religious and spiritual rituals as a tool to attract good luck, ward off signs of negativity and as a means of getting a better spiritual communication with their gods. Their settlers used it on a daily basis in their spiritual activities, in prayers, for luck, to improve mood and for cleaning spaces and environments.

This tree is also present in the ritual of indigenous marriages. In the absence of witnesses the couple must plant a seedling of this tree to link their destinies and to make their union last forever.

It was used to ignite Sacred Fires in ceremonies and rituals, thus protecting the space in which it will work. It has been used in rituals to harmonize with the natural elements to this day.

The Language-Maskoy have the belief that a fire made with Palo Santo wood prevents evil spirits from coming to the houses. They attribute this property to the particular clarity of flames emerging from this wood when it burns. In fact, it can be seen that many Language-Maskoy make their fire almost exclusively with Palo Santo wood. If someone from the indigenous population has seen an evil spirit or had contact with a person who has seen a spirit they purify all the people with this smoke.

Often you can see that old Palo Santo trunks are hollow inside. In these holes rainwater remains. The Paraguayan Chaco, where this species is naturally distributed, has a dry climate and seasonal water shortages. The Language-Maskoy drank from it during their migrations or hunts when supplies were exhausted . Nivacle indigenous however never drank the water found in the hollow trunk.

Women use an infusion of the tree as birth control and the ash is used in the treatment of external wounds.

Naysha Silva Romero

Photo: Palo santos against Beagle Lake by Sara Yeomans on Flickr

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Testimonials and looking for a new job

When I help save a single life
I help save an entire universe.

That universe is surrounded by other universes
so when I help save a single person
I help save all of creation.

Selfie of Daniel Wilby.
Selfie of Daniel Wilby.

I have begun collecting testimonials from clients I have worked with, which you can read from the menu above. One reason is of course to give prospective clients and partners a glimpse of the work I can do. Another is to try to explain to my grandmother what it is I do and why it is so important.

At the moment I am looking for a new job. If you have one, please get in touch with me. As my former clients can testify to I am pretty amazing at what I do.

Main photo: Happy Blue by August Brill on Flickr

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Angel Walk – awakening the heart through touch

The angel walk is a wonderful exercise that I picked up from Natha yoga. It gives the participant a sensory overload of loving touch which often leads to an opening of the heart and an abundance of loving energy. It is best if you are quite a few participants; at least 15 or so.

Setup

Stand on two rows facing each other. There should be enough space between the two rows for a person to walk through it. At one end there is a sender and at the other a receiver. The sender should be someone who is confident and calm while the receiver should be someone who gives phenomenal hugs.

Before doing the actual exercise, have the master of ceremony explain what is going to happen and clearly state which level of intimacy is acceptable. Then lead the group in focusing their intention on unconditional love. Awaken the heart and bring that energy out to the hands.

Performing the angel walk

The sender takes the first participant and holds him/her from behind, preferably with hands over the heart to give an opening at the heart level. Tell the person to close his/her eyes and to keep them closed during the whole walk. When the person is ready (don’t rush this) send the person off to walk down the rows of people facing them. Walk very slowly.

The people standing in the rows gently, lovingly and appropriately caress the person walking down the line. In the mean time the sender takes the next participant and holds in the same way with eyes closed. Be calm and take your time. Let there be plenty of space between the participants when walking so that they get the full experience.

When the participant has come to the end of the line the receiver gives the person a long closing hug. After a while the person can open his/her eyes and stand last in line, caressing the participants coming after him/her.

Repeat until all the participants have done the angel walk at least once. The sender and receiver can also. Just have someone else fill those positions when doing so.

Photo: Hey you! by Jesse van Kalmthout on Flickr

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Taking the edge off with hugs

I was on my way to a meeting where I knew there would be a fierce debate, anger and resentment. Unfortunately I was in the middle of it all. On my way there I shut my eyes, meditated and then visualized hugging each and every one there. In my mind I lined up all the people that I held a grudge against and hugged them.

That meeting went far better than expected. The exercise took the edge off me, but on a subtle level it also seemed to have taken the edge off the opponents. It was as if I had actually hugged them.

Give it a try. Practice loving people. You just might be as positively surprised as I was.

Photo: חיבוקי by CityTree עץבעיר on Flickr

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Writing with a therapeutic intention

I published my first book a little less than a year ago. It portrayed a small part of my spiritual journey and a relationship I had a while back that posed quite a few challenges. In the book I shared insights and techniques from that period and I am happy to know that many readers have been inspired and helped by it. That was however never more than a secondary objective. My first objective all along was to heal.

Photo: Monks sweeping away the colored sand mandala of Shri Hevajra, Tharlam Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal by Wonderlane on Flickr
Photo: Monks sweeping away the colored sand mandala of Shri Hevajra, Tharlam Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal by Wonderlane on Flickr

I was on a forgiveness walk when the ascended Master Isaac first told me to write the book. The objective was to heal but it was very unclear what I was going to do with it once I was finished writing. Perhaps I was simply going to print one copy and give it to the other person in the story, or perhaps I would erase in the same way as the Buddhist monks sweep up their sand mandalas. Not knowing what was to become of it helped me write as if nobody was reading.

Life conspired to have it published which triggered both feelings of fear and accomplishment. Accomplishment because I have wanted to write a book since I was in my teens and this was the first book project that I have actually finished. Fear because it is a very naked and honest description which I know that many people will not only not understand, but also actively misunderstand and use to judge. Undressing and stepping into the light to confront that fear was all part of my healing and growing.

I had a therapeutic intention when I wrote the book and that intention has been fulfilled. I have healed and by facing the challenges of publishing the book I have also grown. I am no longer the person portrayed in the book or the person who wrote it. Since then my journey has become ever more interesting. The question that lingers is what to do with a couple of hundred books that no longer feel relevant to me.

Picture: part of the painting Änglakvinna by Susanna Dalla-Santa, which is also the cover of my book.

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Why psychedelics are illegal

Many people crudely think that all illegal drugs are illegal because they are physically dangerous to the user. That is not the case. Different substances have been made illegal at different times and for different reasons.

Some substances are rightly illegal because they are physically dangerous. Heroin, crack and GHB are examples of dangerous substances that pose a very real risk to the user. Ironically though the two most dangerous drugs – alcohol and tobacco – are not illegal.

Other substances are however illegal for very different reasons. Two reasons are very prominent: because they are perceived as dangerous to the status quo and to target and persecute specific groups.

Just the other day I was asked why psychedelics are illegal. They are obviously extremely useful medicines and also very safe when used correctly. Well, there are several reasons for them being illegal and most of them have nothing to do with health, but let us begin with the health issue.

Psychedelics are commonly non-toxic and pose no physical threat even at extreme doses. Most of these substances are not even possible to overdose to the degree that they would be life threatening. But there is one real health risk and that is to the user’s mental health. Psychedelics have the unique capacity of unlocking the doors of the unconscious mind. They can release what has been carefully locked away and repressed. This is of course what makes them such powerful therapeutic tools, but if the person isn’t open to taking care of what comes up the experience can be quite traumatic. The same goes for other kinds of therapy, meditation and contemplation. If you aren’t ready to meet what you have repressed you shouldn’t do or take anything that will uncover what you have buried.

nixon_militaryBut besides this, what were the perceived dangers that made psychedelics illegal? To grasp this one must look at the historical setting. Where did the push to criminalize come from and what is the backdrop? To understand this we need to go back to the USA in the mid 1960’s. Government at all levels were in a cold war state of mind trying to root out possible dissidents within. The Vietnam war had dragged on for ten years, US involvement was sharply rising, as was the death toll. It was a time for hardliners and hawks. JFK had been murdered and the much less diplomatic Lyndon B Johnson took his place. He was then followed by one of the fathers of the War on Drugs – Richard Nixon.

At the same time a very vocal and at times even revolutionary opposition was forming at home. There were many different movements with many different objectives, but when talking about psychedelics the hippies are of course at the focal point. What were they up to? They protested, burnt draft cards, let their hair grow, dressed strangely and promoted free sex, just to name a few things. In the eyes of a person like Nixon, and there were many like him at the time, they were trouble makers who were upsetting the status quo. They were anti-establishment peacemongerers and as such perceived as threatening by the establishment.

At the very core of that opposition was the experimentation with drugs and the one that has forever been associated with the hippie movement is of course the psychedelic LSD. So what was it about LSD that sparked this opposition and backlash towards the establishment? I think the ethnobotanist psychonaut Terence McKenna was spot on when he said that “they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”

Photo: DaveHippie by studio muscle on Flickr
Photo: DaveHippie by studio muscle on Flickr

What LSD did was to awaken people from their cultural programming and indoctrination and let them see the world with other eyes. When they did so they could not accept what they had been taught, so they rebelled. They rebelled against violence, militarism and domination and instead sought “peace, love and understanding”.

On a side note both the CIA the American military had experimented heavily with LSD before it found its way to the hippies. One notable side effect was that quite a few soldiers that had been given it laid down their guns and refused to pick them up again.

For a person like Nixon this was all extremely threatening. To him America was losing its youth to a drug culture that was in direct opposition to the establishment. And he certainly had a point. If you want people to follow orders, be aggressive towards one another, go to war and kill people you will not want to give them LSD, because they will start thinking for themselves, refuse to follow orders and will refuse violence.

LSD was not made illegal because it is physically harmful to the person taking it. It was made illegal because it makes people question authority and social injustices and prompts them to do something about it. LSD and psychedelics threatened and still threatens the fabric of domination culture by showing people that another world is possible.

While many believe that our drug laws are there to protect us we have in fact inherited most of them from a time when domination culture was scared of losing control. Our drug laws are in many cases in place to hinder mind expansion and rebellion against the violent domination culture and the status quo, and most certainly so when it comes to psychedelics.

This is a pattern of dominance which is repeating itself.

Today the political establishment are the ones oppressing and persecuting the users of psychedelics. Yesterday it was the church. The brutal persecution of witches, witchdoctors, healers, shamans and anyone seeking other modalities of healing or other ways of reaching the divine was the church’s version of the War on Drugs. The vocabulary surrounding it all was different but still quite similar. Instead of safety and health concerns the church would talk about being in contact with or possessed by the devil or evil spirits.

Witch BurningWhile they might well have believed their own story, just as many do with the story of domineering culture of today, it was ultimately based in a fear of losing control over people. As many, perhaps even most, who work with psychedelics will attest to, psychedelics are often a door to the divine. They break down the limitations of our cultural programming. When it comes to the church there has often been an idea that certain people should act as intermediaries for the rest of us, thus the control over the contact with the divine and the divine will has been hijacked by priests and such. What psychedelics often do in that case is give the user his/her own personal contact with the divine, making the intermediary superfluous. For someone who wants to maintain control over other people this is of course extremely threatening and also provocative to the point where the church would be willing to kill people.

One needs to remember that the greatest threat to the church is that each and every one of us would be able to have our own contact with the divine. If we did have that contact the church would soon be redundant, at least as an interpreter of God’s will,  so it lies in the interest of the individual career makers within and also in the organisations themselves to see to it that people do not have their own contact with the divine.

And that is of course the pattern of domineering that is repeating itself today. A lot of people, organisations and companies stand to lose a lot of money and power when psychedelics are let free. It is in their interest to keep them illegal. If you could solve addiction, PTSD, depression and such with one or a few psychedelic trips the medical and pharmaceutical industry would take a huge dive. If people would stop tolerating violence that would mean the end of the military and the industries that profit from war. If each and every one would be given the tools for connecting with the divine themselves the world religions would lose their strangle hold on the minds of people.

It is in the interest of anyone who wants to dominate someone else that psychedelics are kept illegal and are continually persecuted.

That is why psychedelics are illegal.

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Naysha: Uses of tobacco in shamanism

The image of tobacco nowadays had been severely damaged thanks to the industry of commercial cigarettes and the ego of the business man.

I remember a beautiful experience that was shared with me after an Ayahuasca ceremony. A guy from England told me that the tobacco spirit had talked with him:
– I saw a beautiful black woman crying. She introduced herself as the female energy of the tobacco spirit. She told him that she was so sad for what people are doing with her. “They are putting poison in my leaves and then people believe that I am making them sick. You must tell them this. The traditional way of using my power must be known and people should know the difference between a cigarette and the tobacco itself.”

Why is tobacco used in Ayahuasca ceremonies?

Tobacco is known to be a very powerful spirit which is used for protection, cleaning and also as a vehicle to give energy.

1. For protection it is used to open and create a safe ceremonial area before ceremonies. The shaman uses it to bless the four directions – north, south, west and east – and to call the spirits that will guard the ceremony. Spirits love tobacco; it’s like chocolate to women. When closing the ceremony some shamans like to go to each participant and give them protection against other energies that can disturb the person after the ceremony is closed. When the shaman closes the ceremony again he or she thanks the spirits for the journey by using tobacco.

2. For cleaning. If the space where the ceremony is being held has a kind of heavy or stuck energy the shaman will detect it and blow tobacco smoke to clean it, and it is the same with people. If a person feels that the energies that s/he is seeing during the ceremony are not of a good vibration the shaman can blow tobacco smoke around the aura of the person.

Tobacco also helps with vomiting. If you are struggling to vomit during Ayahuasca, smoking a mapacho will fix the problem. A mapacho is a natural cigarette made from dry tobacco leafs without any additives. It is what the shamans in the Amazon always use.

3. As a vehicle to give energy. When a person feels weakened during the ceremony or is struggling too much with the purge process, then the shaman can transfer a part of his or her energy in the mapacho smoke. This action is known like “ikarar”.

Some shamans like to give tobacco purges before the Ayahuasca ceremony because it helps with cleansing and purifying the energy. It is also good for activating the third eye.

What is a tobacco purge?

The night before one leaves a couple mapachos without the paper in glass of water. Next morning you will drink the water and after a couple of minutes you will vomit. Don’t try to do this if you don’t know how many mapachos you need, because if your tobacco purge preparation isn’t strong enough you won’t be able to vomit and you will just end up intoxicating yourself. Never cook tobacco from mapachos because it’s already a hot plant and if you boil it you are just making a poison. Some shamans likes to cook the Ayahuasca with mapachos and in my experience it just creates distractions for the body. My liver hurts most of the time and it’s an ugly experience. I don’t know why these shamans do it? In my opinion it is pure stupidity. If you want to meet the tobacco spirit it would be better to cook the Ayahuasca with a fresh leaf of tobacco.

The tobacco diet is an important diet for the shamans that need protection for the work they are doing. It’s a hard diet and its follow the same diets rules but you only drink the tobacco/mapacho juice for 3 days.

Can mapachos create addiction?

No, in my experience it does the absolute opposite. Before my training and diets I used to smoke a lot of store bought cigarettes, like 2 or 3 boxes per day. Then somebody invited me to smoke a mapacho and as soon I smoked it I just couldn’t smoke ordinary cigarettes anymore because I immediately react to the poison in the cigarette. I can feel all the chemicals inside the cigarette and it is disgusting. When I moved to Sweden I didn’t even notice that I was not smoking because it’s not possible to find mapachos in regulars stores in Sweden. After having smoked mapachos I didn’t have any problems even not smoking mapachos. After almost two years away of Peru the cigarette smells still make me feel sick.

Naysha Silva Romero

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Heal and grow