Tag Archives: nature

Jumping to conclusions

My guide in the Chitwan national park in Nepal was from the indigenous population in the area. They used to live inside the national park, in the jungle, but then the government forced them to move out.
– That’s terrible! I spontaneously burst out when he told me.
– Oh? Why?
– Well, governments forcefully removing indigenous people… It’s just awful!
– Why is it awful? he asked.
– You can’t just displace populations like that.
He looked at me and shook his head a little. Then came the explanation.
– It was really stupid of us to live there. I have no idea why we did. We lived in grass huts in a jungle full of wild animals. One night a crazy elephant would bulldoze right through the village bringing half of it down. The next night rhinoceroses would do the same to the rest, so we had to rebuild the entire village over and over. When we did our laundry in the river crocodiles would attack us. I really don’t understand why we lived there. It was the worst place imaginable to live in. I’m happy that I got out alive.

It is easy to think that you have all the answers before you have all the facts.

We need to remember that our kneejerk answers often have a strong bias. They are programmed into us from an early age by the culture we are part of. Although we have treated (and still treat) indigenous populations in the most despicable of ways in the West, there is a way of talking about them as noble savages that live in harmony with nature and should be left alone. We don’t think of them as really bad village planners that are on the verge of going extinct by their poor living choices. My answer had absolutely nothing to do with the real situation. It was my society’s programming expressing itself through me.

Most of the time it is much better to ask questions than to try to give answers.

Photo: In Chitwan by Daniel Wilby

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Psychedelics, plant teachers or whatever you want to call them

First of all it is important to point out that all words are made up. People have had a good think and come up with a word which in some cases has caught on. But understand this – they are all make-believe. Even the most precise of words with the clearest of definitions is made up by someone.

The meaning of a word is determined by the consensus people find around it. Some words have very precise meanings, such as the word centimetre. Other words have a general consensus, but can still be open to interpretation at some point, such as the word chair or forest. Yet other words are the cause of constant quarrel. What is art? Define love. Describe ego.

When it comes to words describing experiences and plants or substances with psychedelic properties there are many different words, but little actual consensus, in part because we are still in the process of trying to agree on them. There is often no exact right or wrong, but as with most things there are plenty of people with strong opinions on the subject. But just so that we are clear about this – those opinions are made up about words that are made up. In the end it is all make-believe.

Since there is still little consensus on these words it is important to ask the person using them what they mean by them, because what the words mean to them might be very different from what they mean to you. And if you are getting worked up about what they mean to you only to find out much later that they mean something totally different to them… well, it’s a whole lot of arguing about absolutely nothing.

It is also important to understand that the words and definitions we use are a reflection of what we need them for. A scientist needs very well-defined words, so the wording is very precise. This often leads to the words being quite complicated, because in the scientific world it is not a problem if a word is complicated, as long as it is well-defined.

I am not a scientist. My goal is not to be precise, but rather to be understandable. In order to help people I need them to understand what I am saying, which they won’t do if I use a scientific jargon. I need words that people at least have a clue about, and then we can take it from there.

So let’s talk about some of the words that are floating around out there.

Plants and substances

This is a distinction where there is much consensus, but which still causes confusion, especially for people who do not work with such things. A plant is something you will find growing in nature. It can be a cactus like the San Pedro or a vine like the Banisteriopsis caapi, which is used in the brew Ayahuasca. The psilocybin mushroom is by a biologist’s definition not a plant but a fungi, but for the sake of making this understandable I group it with the plants, because it is something that grows in nature.

A substance on the other hand is an isolated molecule or combination of molecules. It is something that a person has isolated, extracted or produced. Mescaline is a substance which one can get from San Pedro, DMT is a substance which can be found in Ayahuasca and psilocybin is a substance which can be found in certain mushrooms.

It is important, at least from a shamanic perspective, not to confuse these with each other. Eating a San Pedro cactus is not the same as eating mescaline. The San Pedro is a plant and as a plant it has a spirit connected to it. Or to put it in other words, it is alive and is able to communicate with us. Mescaline might give some similar effects, but there is no spirit there to communicate with.

Let’s take one of my favourite substances as an example. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a substance in the meaning that it is an isolated molecule which does not have a spirit attached to it, in the shamanic sense of things. It is a very powerful medicine to work with and many of the effects might seem similar to mushrooms or cacti, but when working with it one is not doing so with the help of a spirit which is attached to the substance.

While all this is perfectly clear for people who work with such things, it is often very confusing for people who for example make and enforce laws. They often name a substance and confuse it for the plant, or the other way around. In a shamanic setting it is a world of difference and it is well understood that a plant cannot be reduced to a certain substance contained within it, because it will be missing the spirit.

What are these plants/fungi being called?

Madarchen hud by Nic Dafis on Flickr
Madarchen hud by Nic Dafis on Flickr.

When writing this I asked people for the words they use for such plants. One person simply replied Teacher. Short and to the point. This is a common perception and while it might be figuratively speaking for some, most who say it mean it literally. They see the plant as a spirit separate from themselves who teaches them things, and this is an understanding which has been around for thousands of years in the cultural settings in which such plants have been used. It is a term that not only conveys what the spirit does, but it is also a word which shows respect.

In that cultural setting it would be disrespectful to confuse for example the San Pedro cactus with the word mescaline. It would be disrespectful in the same manner as if you called your university professor Book. Your professor is as little a Book as San Pedro is Mescaline.

A similarly respectful and common expression is Master plant. It says with all clarity that this is no silly little spirit, but a spirit worth listening to carefully. It is also common to call the plants by what help they give, such as Medicine plant or Visionary plant. They are medicine. They give vision.

A few people called them Spirit helper or Spirit guide. It still conveys the sense of there being another intelligence, but for me those terms carry a different meaning that are not connected to a plant.

Sht my Dad paints by Ryan on Flickr
Sht my Dad paints by Ryan on Flickr

Other words that try to capture the essence of these plants and substances

The fact that we are dealing with both plants and substances which have similar properties does confuse the situation. While the plant spirits have been known in shamanic use for many millennia they are still quite new to us in the modern world. These things haven’t really been known to us for more than a century, and to a broader public only half that time.

One thing that we are very good at in this modern world is playing with words, so it comes as no surprise that there is a wealth of different words trying to describe these plants, substances and experiences. Some are quite good while others are awful. Many are catchy and accessible, while others confuse things even more. Here come some of the ones that I like better:

Psychedelics

The best thing about the word psychedelic is that it is well-known. People at least have a vague idea what it is, and even though the ideas might be off, it is a starting ground.

The term means “mind revealing” and is derived from the Greek psyche (soul, mind) and delein (to manifest). It was coined by the British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1957. At the time he and Aldous Huxley were discussing what to call these wonderful plants and substances. Huxley sent Osmond a rhyme with the word he preferred: “To make this trivial world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme” (thymos meaning ‘spiritedness’ in Greek.) Osmond wrote back “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.

I wanted to share that story with you to show the playfulness and ingenuity that bright minds have put into making these words up.

Personally I think it is a word which is very suitable and it can be used for plants and substances alike. They are truly soul and mind revealing. They put us in direct contact with our inner workings, with or without the help of a spirit.

It is also a word that is easy to connect with other words, such as psychedelic mushroom, psychedelic medicine or psychedelic therapy. In that way it is good for communicating, which suites me.

I have heard several negative remarks about the word. A shaman friend of mine dismisses the word because it somehow doesn’t take the plants spirit into account. It reduces the plant to a mere substance, is the argument. I do not agree. There is nothing inherent in the word which says that it refers to a substance or which excludes a spirit. Those restrictions are not in the word itself, but in the critics own head.

Hallucinogens

Psychedelicological III by Derrick Tyson on Flickr
Psychedelicological III by Derrick Tyson on Flickr

This is another word which I like, but which is often (mis)understood in ways that narrow it down to something it doesn’t inherently need to be. The word hallucination was coined by Sir Thomas Browne in 1646 from the Latin alucinari meaning “to wander in the mind”.

That word goes well together with the notion that a hallucination is a visual projection of what is going on in the mind, which many such experiences obviously are. But many visual effects on such plants and substances are not projections of what is going on in our mind, which leaves many feeling that the word is incorrect. Many visual effects are universal and people report similar geometrical patterns, energy trails and other visual experiences that seem to emanate outside themselves.

I find that the anthropologist Jeremy Narby explains this wonderfully in his book The Cosmic Serpent where he studies shamans of the Amazon and compares their knowledge to Western scientific knowledge. There he makes a difference between inner and outer hallucinations. Inner hallucinations are projections of what is going on in our own mind, while outer hallucinations are things that are really there, but which are normally hidden from us. These outer hallucinations can be things like auras, spirits, energetic patterns and the fabric of existence. It is all there even when we don’t see it and what the plants and substances do is open us up to being able to see.

If the word hallucination or hallucinogen is used to only mean “projections of your own mind” it is not a suitable word to describe these plants and substances, since it leads us to believe that what we are experiencing only originates from within. If the word is used to mean inner AND outer hallucinations, then I find it to be very accurate. The visual effects are projections of what is going on inside AND they also reveal other realities to us.

Entheogens

The word entheogen was coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists who wanted to capture the spiritual aspect of the experience. This also comes from Greek and is made up of entheos (full of god, inspired) and genesthai (to come into being). An entheogen is a plant or substance which wakes the God within, which inspires us, especially in a spiritual way.

I like this word because it captures the spiritual aspect in a way that the other words don’t. These plants and substances are to a very high degree being used in spiritual settings and with spiritual intentions, so it is fitting to have a word which highlights this.

I once channelled information from the spirit world about how dangerous drugs are. After having a list of different plants and substances I noticed that some were obviously missing. There was no mention of mushrooms, LSD or DMT. When I asked why the answer was very clear. “Many people have completely misunderstood these plants and substances. They are not drugs. They are keys to speak to the Gods.”

I couldn’t agree more. That is the most common view among people who work with such plants and substances in a serious manner, and that is also why no amount of legislation can ever stop people from using them. It is simply ridiculous to think that people will obey laws that try to stop them from speaking to God or themselves.

Substances of essence

This is not an expression I have heard being used, but when I asked for words someone wrote this. I think it is a wonderful expression, because it shows that respect can be directed towards a substance too. While I have heard several in spiritual settings dismiss substances and molecules, they are also truly miraculous and hold as much healing power as many plants. I find such dismissal to be disrespectful and lacking in knowledge in the same way that others disrespect the plant spirits out of lack of knowledge.

A couple of words I think are really bad

Dr. Mom by Bart Everson on Flickr.
Dr. Mom by Bart Everson on Flickr.

Drugs/dope. No one who has the slightest knowledge on the subject would use such words about plants or substances with psychedelic properties. When you hear someone using these words it is a red flag clearly stating “I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about”. Unfortunately drug laws are often written and upheld by people who haven’t a clue.

Phanerothyme. I’m just using this as an example among many similar words. It translates into “producing visable feelings”. The person who created this might have put a lot of thought into it and the meaning might be quite true, but trying to communicate it is horrible. It is bulky, hard to pronounce, hard to combine with other words and nobody has the slightest idea what it means. It might work with a scientific intention, but in everyday communication I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

In conclusion

There are a lot of good words out there and there are a few bad ones too. Use the good ones and let the bad ones die. But perhaps more importantly, there are good and bad interpretations of the words.

If you meet someone who uses the words in a way that you don’t think you agree with, don’t take for granted that you don’t agree with one another. Simply ask them what they mean and have a friendly talk about your different choices in words. In many cases we get tangled up in trying to say that something is right and something else is wrong. When we do so we are missing the crucial point – it is all made up. Our language is make-believe. We often confuse the use of different vocabulary with being of different opinions.

Another point that I see in all this is that although there are several very good words out there, these plants, substances and experiences are so diverse and complex that they are hard to capture in a single word. Any way you choose to describe them you will automatically be missing other crucial points. The plant is a teacher, but is that all it is? Yes, these plants and substances help us sort out our inner workings, but is that all they do? Yes, they cause inner and outer hallucinations, but is that what it is all about?

I don’t think that the solution to all this is to make up yet more words, trying to capture that which cannot be captured. I think a good lesson is to simply understand that language itself is a limitation.

Main photo: A bumble bee hovering over a lavendar bloom by Steve Slater on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Naysha: San Pedro cactus – part 1

The original name for this cactus in the Peruvian tradition is Wuachuma or Huachuma. In Peru the shamanic use has been tracked back to at least 1500 B.C. When the Spanish came to conquer the Incas the people started to use the name of San Pedro, because it is a plant that can open the doors to heaven for you, just like San Pedro (Saint Peter) from the bible.

Kinds of San Pedro

There are several kinds of San Pedro cactus, and I won’t name them because that is a classification that scientists love to do. In the shamanic tradition the following differences are noted:

  1. The female and male San Pedro. The first one doesn’t have many spines around it, while the male San Pedro has a lot of spines. The male San Pedro is stronger and the shamans or curanderos often prefer them.
  2. The lines. The cactus has a numbers of lines, or columns, which also indicate the power of the cactus. Shamans prefer to use cactus with more than four lines. San Pedro with four lines are used for exorcisms.

Uses

  1. Better connection with nature. You might for example perceive the aura of trees, animals, rivers, lakes and people. For San Pedro ceremonies the ceremonial place is therefore very important, since it is the most important part of the ceremony. The shaman knows this.
  2. Healing. The energy of San Pedro harmonizes the chakras and helps us to get more benefits from practices such as reiki, reflexiology, kinesiology, massage, taichi, yoga, etcetera. The San Pedro shaman is one of the first practitioners to work with hands on healing of the body.
  3. Opens our creativity. It is very good for artists, painters, musicians and dancers, because it opens our eyes to the beauty of our mother earth.
  4. Visions. The San Pedro spirit shares visions and knowledge, which are really vivid experiences.

Naysha Silva Romero

Photo: Wuachuma by Pipe Acuña on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

The shit the Dalai Lama doesn’t give a shit about

DSC_0027I have a hard time understanding this picture. I took it on my way up to McLeod ganj, the suburb of Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama lives. Less than a kilometer from his residence this beautiful spot in nature has been littered with plastics, diapers and all kinds of crap.

You can call me an eco nut, but for me this is a sign of zero respect and zero intelligence. It takes a certain kind of stupid to shit all over nature like this.

But what really bewilders me in all of this is the fact that it is less than a kilometer from the Dalai Lamas residence. He must have personally seen this creek a hundred times. A thousand times. It’s practically in his backyard. He MUST have seen it.

Why hasn’t he asked his chauffeur to pull the car over so that he can personally clean it up? If he did a hundred people would be falling over themselves to help out and five minutes later the mess would be gone. Or if he is too lazy or busy to do it himself he could ask his monks or servants. Or by all means, while giving away scarves to the thousands of tourists that visit each year he might mention that he’d appreciate it if they all chipped in and picked up some crap on their way down.

Instead this is what you’ll see. It isn’t what I would expect when visiting a spiritual leader of his caliber. In fact, it makes me question the whole thing.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Naysha: Why shamans aren’t vegetarians

I will talk about shamans and not about gurus or healers. I will talk about the reasons not to be a vegetarian or vegan from a shamanic point of view. I won’t say that one way or another is wrong or right. IT’S A DECISION. But there is a lot of judgment and misinformation on the subject. The silent war between meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans must stop. It is not helping nature.

We lost the connection with our food when we let go of shamanism and our shamans. We are responsible for the pain that’s going on and when we become conscious of the importance of shamanism and reconnect to nature, then we will begin to understand how to correct our errors.

The comfortable life that each of us has chosen has disconnected us from nature. The city provides you with so much comfort. You fill your refrigerator with food that you buy from the supermarket, since you don’t have time to grow your own food, because you must work 8 hours a day in order to maintain your comfort. It is the same in all aspects of modern life. We have given up our power of being INDEPENDENTS and INTERCONNECTED and instead we DEPEND on corporations and governments. These problems won’t be solved by us becoming vegetarians or vegans.

A real shaman knows how to provide their own food. All good shamans that I have met hunt and fish their own food, as well as grow vegetables. Their diet is of course depending on where they live, so shamans in northern Greenland almost only eat meat.

For me the experience of fishing has helped me develop my connection with water and other elements. When you are fishing you learn how to read the water and the weather conditions. You need to become the fish and this is how shamanism works. I can connect and feel where the better areas are and where the fish are at that moment in the day. And then when I get them out of the water I never feel sorry or offer apologies. I thank the fish for giving me its life energy.

When you kill an animal you understand life and how fabulous our existence on this earth is. Our bodies are containers than contains a great source – THE SOUL. In the eyes of the animal you can see when the spirit leaves. It’s the light that disappears from this reality to pass to another that is better. Life is a cycle. Death is not bad. It’s a process, a continuation. We are never really born; we are constantly dying since we came to earth.

When you live a genuine shamanic life you understand that everything that surrounds you in nature is ALIVE and HAS A CONSCIOUSNESS – animals, plants and even rocks. Just because they don’t move fast does not mean that they are not alive. They are just having a different experience on earth. Shamanism was born in the hunting cultures.

Is the pain of an animal a reason to become a vegetarian or vegan?

No, it’s not. Everything that is alive CAN EXPERIENCE PAIN and EMOTIONS, but this is not a bad thing. It is one of the reasons why we are here, to FEEL. Plants can also FEEL. We are just not used to listening to their pain, but they can still feel it. It is trough the pain that we know that is better to feel LOVE.

It’s a different thing when we kill animals in factories. There is no respect in it, no consideration in the way animals are killed anymore. In the shamanic traditions the animal must die fast and with as little pain as possible. In the Sami tradition for example they kill the reindeer by first cutting the nervous system and then with a knife to the hearth. Then they wait until the animal does not move the eyes anymore before taking care of the meet and everything else. They use every single part, to honour the animal, the skin, the meat, and the antlers. This is how it used to be when the shamans actively worked in the communities.

Nowadays even the vegetables are being dishonoured in the way they are being grown. People are poisoning the vegetables with chemicals in order to make them look pretty, which is not good. There are a many lands and forests being burnt down right now in the Amazon, in Africa, in Asia in order to grow vegetables.

We must find the BALANCE in OURSELVES, because that is where all these problems begin. The problem is not if people eat meat or vegetables. The problem is how it is being done. If you want to make a change and help nature, start collaborating in your community with farming projects, permaculture and such. Get active in politics.

We must stop the industrial way of producing meat and vegetables. And the most important is to truly start to reconnect with nature. It’s easy to admire nature through your car window, but to live in harmony with nature is a different experience entirely and that is what shamanism is about.

Naysha Silva

Photo: Hunting and Mentoring by USFWSmidwest on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

Give me spiritual freedom

People have always searched for the higher meaning of existence. In their search they have had sensations of the highest divine and tried to name that which cannot be named. They have sacrificed to Zeus, thanked Freya, asked Shiva for focus and God for mercy. They have searched inward and outward with dance, prayer, singing, yoga and meditation.

One of the oldest traditions in order to get in touch with the highest divine, and with the other realities that surround us, has been by using plants. In the beginning humans were very close to nature and talked with the sun and the plants, the wind and stones. Nature was a teacher who shared its wisdom, but who also helped humans to be able to get in contact to other realities.

department of truth by new 1lluminati on Flickr
department of truth by new 1lluminati on Flickr

Over time some people have however made the experience more academic than spiritual. While the original spirituality was based on every persons own experience and their own contact with the highest divine, nowadays many people are content to believe in a constructed religion. They do of course overlap, but I’m guessing that most religious people today do not have a personal experience of contact with the highest divine, but are satisfied with believing others’ descriptions of it.

To me there is big group of illegal substances that is intimately connected with spiritual exploration – mostly those we would call natural psychedelics. I’m talking about plants and preparations such as Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Peyote, Cannabis (semi-psychedelic), psychedelic mushrooms and Iboga.

● ● ●

Ayahuasca is a preparation made from a jungle vine and another plant. Shamans have probably used it for more than 6,000 years to have contact with other realities and heal people. It is used almost exclusively in ceremonial contexts, but is banned in Sweden because it contains the natural substance DMT, which is also found in the human brain and appears to be heightened and released by prolonged meditation, sleep, and at the moment of death.

San Pedro and Peyote cacti are used in similar ways and in similar contexts, for deep transformative and spiritual experiences. As far as we know the knowledge to work with them is probably more than 4,000 years old, but as with all these substances it might very well have been used for much longer than that. Today the knowledge is kept alive by South American shamans and North American Indians. While the cacti itself is legal in Sweden, it is illegal to consume it because it contains the natural substance mescaline.

Cannabis is regarded in Hinduism as a gift from the god Shiva to mankind, created from his body. It has been used for more than 4,000 years, both spiritually as medically in Hinduism and Buddhism, but more recently also in religions such as Islam and Rastafarianism. It is celebrated for its spiritual, mystical properties, but also because it allows people to see through illusions and lies. In the drug context cannabis is among the least dangerous substances, much less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, but it is being fought with tremendous zeal. The active ingredient THC is easily spotted with a quick urine test.

Liberty cap
Liberty cap

Psychedelic mushrooms are available in hundreds of varieties and on every continent. The most famous Swedish psychedelic mushrooms are the Liberty caps, used by witches and shamans. In Europe, however, the Christian mass murder of dissidents makes it difficult to track past use. The mushrooms produce similar deep spiritual experiences including contact with other realities, past lives, a connectedness with nature and with the universe. Liberty caps are commonly picked in cow meadows after the first frost, but if you do so you are a criminal. All mushrooms containing the natural ingredient psilocybin are forbidden to handle.

Iboga is a West African shrub that contains the illegal natural substance ibogaine. It is documented to have been used in Africa in a spiritual context since the 19th century, but before that it is difficult to say. It gives deep transformative experiences and having taken Iboga one will often lie down for an entire day. Nowadays Iboga is most famous for its medicinal properties, as it has been proved to be able to break even deep rooted addiction with only one or two trips. But to do so is illegal.

● ● ●

These are just a few of the illegal substances that have been used in spiritual practice for thousands of years before such recent phenomena as Christianity came along. Natural psychedelics are found on all continents, and maybe even in all countries. The tradition of using them in order to get in contact with other realities and with the highest divine has been preserved in many places in the world – by shamans in South America, witches in Europe, yogis and shamans in Asia and medicine men/women in North America, Africa and possibly Australia. However, they have for long periods been forced to go into hiding, because above all Christianity has violently persecuted them. Today this continues with the help of the disrespectful and discriminatory drug laws.

Drug laws thus not only violate minority rights, but also each person’s inherent right to their own spiritual experience and journey.

There are those who argue that these plants should only be used in their original cultural contexts, that is only the shamans of the Amazon should be working with Ayahuasca, and only the medicine men/women of North America with Peyote. With that logic the Liberty caps should of course be legal in Sweden. But besides that these people seem to overlook that we live in a globalized world and that the spiritual search has never let itself be confined to places or cultural context. Just as religions spread across the world and have borrowed freely from each other’s cultural contexts, shamanism is also worldwide and practitioners are inspired by each other. There have also been new substances used in similar ways, with similar spiritual effects and with similar healing properties – LSD, MDMA and Ketamine, to name a few.

Lady Girl open hands by Beshef on Flickr
Lady Girl open hands by Beshef on Flickr

Some people speak of religious freedom. I guess that would be the freedom to settle for believing in other people’s descriptions of the highest divine. I’m not interested in religious freedom. I require spiritual freedom – the freedom to have my own spiritual experience and my own contact with the highest divine. If my spiritual path happens to involve working with plants and in a tradition that is older than any religion, that is my business as long as I do not harm anyone else. A law that tries to stop me from doing so is nothing more than oppression and discrimination institutionalized.

Main photo: Headlong by Brad Hammonds on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

“Why this need to be intoxicated?”

Why do people feel the need to be intoxicated?

● ● ●

This is a question that I sometimes get from people who do not understand why others want to get involved with “drugs”. The question itself is revealing, because it is obvious that the person has alcohol as a reference, which limits their understanding of other substances. It is rarely clear in everyday conversation that “drugs” can have other uses than intoxication.

Intoxication is only one of several states that alcohol and drugs are used to achieve. To broaden the subject, I would rather use the phrase mind altered states. Why do people want to achieve altered states of mind? By changing the words I hope that it will be clearer that substances may have more to them than only intoxication.

But let’s still begin with the state of intoxication. Alcohol is the typical example of an intoxicating drug, because it has few other purposes. In small or moderate use it can work well as a social lubricant or as relaxation. At high consumption it is an excellent escape drug, which explains its high potential for abuse. There are a large number of drugs with similar characteristics, or that are at least used in similar ways – as intoxication, social lubricant or as an escape. Opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, some prescription drugs and cannabis, to name a few.

But what other altered states of mind are people who take different substances looking for? Speaking of cannabis, there has long been talk about the plants medicinal properties. Some medicinal properties can certainly be isolated so that you can get the medical effect without the altered state of mind, but in other cases the altered state is strongly linked to the medical effect. Cannabis is used to relieve chronic pain and difficulty coping with stress, to name just a couple of uses.

Another group of substances that is much more mind altering is psychedelics, also called hallucinogens or entheogens. With these I have experienced everything from extreme confusion to total clarity, but I have never felt intoxication to be a valid word for my experiences. From a Western medical perspective, these substances can be used as therapeutic tools. They might give me the opportunity to become aware of and release that which is restricting me, help me heal past trauma, give me insight into who I am, give me a sense of purpose and my place in the world. The question of why I choose to intoxicate myself becomes very strange, because I am working therapeutically with the substance in order to heal and grow. The abuse potential of these substances are remarkably low, since they typically raise your awareness in a manner which makes you want to quit any substance abuse.

Another place where virtually all cultures seek altered states of consciousness is in the spiritual. Some achieve it through prolonged meditation, others in intense dance, through drumming, singing, beating themselves, with yoga, in prayer, in ceremonies, sweat lodges, through sex, separated from the world, or in close, intimate contact with it. One of mankind’s oldest ways to connect with the higher divine is by plants, which is a tradition that we know is more than twice as old as the Bible, and probably many times older yet. There are a few scenarios where it might be relevant to talk about intoxication, but in most spiritual contexts the word intoxication is extremely inappropriate, as the goal is rather to open up to other realities, for example so one can be able to speak with nature, spirits, ancestors, angels and the highest divine.

I understand that I have not given an answer to the original question. I have rather tried to explain that there are several other reasons to take drugs than just to get intoxicated. If we seriously want to answer the question of why people want to get intoxicated, we first need to take a step back and make these distinctions. Otherwise there is the risk that we confuse abuse with use, medical use or spiritual exploration. It is not helpful if we actually want to understand why people get intoxicated.

In conclusion I should probably have a go at answering the actual question. I think of the word intoxication as being connected to the word escape, which in turn connects to the word abuse. Intoxication is a very narrow and limited way to use a substance; a way that suggests that the person is out of balance. People are trying to escape themselves for many reasons, but what these people seem to have in common is that they often lack the tools and/or the driving force to handle the situation differently. People who live their lives in a haze do so because they don’t understand how it could be done differently. To unlock the mechanism that makes people want to escape through intoxication, we first need to identify what the person is trying to escape from and then confront and come to terms with it. When the reason we want to escape is healed, we no longer have the urge to do so.

Main photo: Self portrait – Me and my right hand man by MattysFlicks on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

My medicine bag

About a year and a half ago I had a mushroom session where I was told to make my own medicine bag. In meditation I got in contact with a red deer and asked permission to use its skin, which it gladly gave me. At first I thought I would have to shoot the animal myself, but I soon understood that it was all right if I got the hide from the hunters.

I had to wait for half a year before the hunting season started and meanwhile I put aside money to afford everything. The hunting team in the area that I was shown gave me a skin to collect from the butcher. When I asked what they wanted for it, I got it for free. I drove off with an untreated skin, directly from the slaughter.

The next thing to do was to figure out how to tan it. On the internet I found some tanning firms, but it was expensive and not the quality I wanted. A butcher gave me the phone number to a man close by that works with Stone Age techniques. I went to his home with the intention of paying him to tan my skin, which I knew could be pricey. He showed me the different qualities of leather and when I got one particularly soft one in my hand, I knew it was what I wanted.
– Well, that’s the most expensive one, because it takes a lot of work, he said.
We continued talking and after a while he asked me what I wanted it for. When I told him that I was going to make a medicine bag, he interrupted me.
– In that case you want to do it yourself, he said. You just come here with the hide and I’ll show you how to do it.
I was happily surprised, but could imagine that it would be expensive. When I asked he told me that it wouldn’t cost anything.

I have spent a lot of time out there – scraping, brain tanning the hide and finally smoking it. And while I learnt how to tan a deer skin from scratch, I also found a wonderful new friend.

It took me a while before I actually dared use my scissors on it. The third bag I sewed was mine. I did it outside with the sun in my face and a bumblebee by my side. The only thing that is not buckskin is the button, which is a beautiful wooden piece with three Swedish woods that another friend made. I think it resembles a leaf, which reminds me of the contact with nature. When I did my ceremony with the finished bag I found out that it holds love in many forms. Unconditional love, healing love, physical love and forgiveness.

One and a half years later, it is ready and I am happy and grateful. Very happy and very grateful.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

That’s why I’m burning my vote card

I can no longer be a hypocrite.
It ends now.

I will never again vote for a political party that believes that it should be criminal to use substances to heal oneself. I will never vote for a party that believes that spiritual exploration with a holy sacrament should be prohibited. I will never vote for a party that denies me the right to my own body and criminalizes nature.

But more than that – I will not support a political system where it is believed that is has the right to determine what substances I choose to explore. I will not support a system which threatens me with violence if I did not abide by unjust laws.

Today’s drug laws are moralistic, abusive and discriminatory. They are a mockery of nature, a mockery of the human free will and a mockery of the Supreme Divine. They kill, destroy and isolate people.

This political system does not respect me, my fellow human beings or nature.
Therefore, I no longer recognize this political system’s legitimacy.

I burn my vote card.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather

My guru knows

My guru.
My guru.

We were at the megalithic monument Ale’s Stones, my daughter and I. I think it is an incredibly powerful and impressive place. She was not nearly as impressed. She was more impressed by the cows. And the sea below.

And when I think about it – what is any man-made rock formation in comparison to the FORCE OF LIFE and POWER OF NATURE? It is kind of ridiculous to stand there and be impressed over some mossy old stones when there is a real live cow and a wild sea just next to us.

My guru knows what to be impressed by.

Photo: 2010-05-22 06-05 Schweden 0600 Ales Stenar by Allie_Caulfield on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
Facebookrssby feather