Part Four (The Mushroom)
Through all of my journeying, one thing has remained the same. It is the thirst of my heart to realize how healing happens or is made possible. Because for me, if one person heals, we all heal. If I heal, the world heals. If you heal, the world heals. We are all a part of a collective ecosystem, and we are all connected to the Earth. And if there is one thing that is apparent to me at this time, it’s that the Earth is giving us some really clear signs to heal and correct ourselves.
When I arrived into the family’s home where we would be staying for the next three days, it was made apparent to me that these guys were the ‘real deal’. Whatever that meant. I guess it was a felt sense of their sincere dedication to the healing of others. I felt like a weary traveler welcomed into a home of strangers but felt immediately at home, accepted as I was, for what I was. This heartbroken, confused, in-between-worlds yogi-medicine-man traveling with a guitar a shruti box and backpack and an invisible book filled with lyrics and songs from my many adventures. I put down my bags and enjoyed the first quesadilla I’ve had in ages as I attempted to practice my Spanish with the medicine family who spoke almost no English. Somewhere, deep down, I reconnected to that sense of “home” that seemed to disappear in the previous days where I was uprooting my life from the Costa Rican mountains and preparing for the next leap of faith. It was a great feeling. Peace was in my heart.
Me and the brothers, Christopher and Andrew
on the shuttle up into the mountains of San Jose del Pacifico
from left to right: Andrew, Jessica, me, Chris (Zlatka is not pictured)
Accompanied by my dear brothers and sisters from Costa Rica -- the facilitation team for an upcoming mushroom retreat that I was going to be playing music for -- we had landed into the nest of the Maliollin tribe, right there in the center of San Jose del Pacifico. To speak to the appreciation that I feel for these four souls would require additional time and writing. While this essay may not be the place for sufficient praise, I would be remiss not to acknowledge their work, their dedication to the healing path, their devotion to service and helping others. It is and has been an honor to walk alongside these four: Andrew, Jessica, Christopher, and Zlatka. Much more can be said, including all of the different stories that interconnect us and created the story of “us” in the first place, but I feel it is enough to just say thank you. Thank you all so much for choosing me as the musical bard for this adventure, and for the opportunity to be in the pre-retreat retreat where we got to immerse ourselves into the wisdom of the mushroom according to the traditional ways of the elders in this sacred land.
By now you know enough of the adventure that I’d been on to arrive here, in San Jose del Pacifico. You’ll know enough of my heart and my philosophy, and you are able to connect more to my story. All of this, I feel, are very important parts of the narrative in order to understand what I, as Grant, was doing there and what called me there. At least, for me, as I write this, I am able to reflect and receive more understanding myself. Perhaps it is the same for you.
from left to right: Gabby, Obed, Chris, Zlatka, Andrew, myself, Jessica, Guadalupe, and Manuel
As I shift gears into what I wish to share about the ceremonies with the family, I wish to also send immense gratitude and love as I introduce Manuel (the elder father), Guadalupe (the elder mother), Obed (the son), Gabby (Obed’s partner), Iris (the daughter), Simon (Iris’s partner) and Manu (the family friend) who were all key characters in this part of the story. Together, this team had assembled specifically to assist the five of us (Andrew, Jessica, Christopher, Zlatka and myself) in our journey.
And as I get to the point in which I can share details, I realize with equal parts dismay and relief that it is not really necessary to share particular details. As we all know, healing that happens often does so in inexplicable and mysterious ways. But, being as I am someone who wishes to carry this wisdom forward in the best and most integrated way possible, I will do my best to distill the important and practical pieces for the reader (and myself).
I guess I’ll start with the most important piece, which is a repeated emphasis on the healing space itself. The family was relaxed and comfortable, which put me at ease immediately. This was a theme throughout, despite the level of intensity that our ‘work’ approached. They seemed to be experts of their craft. And indeed they were.
We went through a series of diagnostic experiments and embodiment practices with them in the first full day together for both us and then to get a clear sense for WHY. Why we were called to work with the Mushroom. What was the specific healing work that was to be done? How should we approach the unseen and hidden parts of us that, despite all our other attempts to heal them, remained shrouded in mystery and confusion? How would we receive clarity on our path? What needed to be cleared? The first day a chance to discover all of this without the use of medicine. The preparatory work allowed us to go into the ceremony day with more intention and focus -- which are, as far as I’ve been able to tell, essential parts of successful healing rituals. We have to know who the enemy is before we pull the bowstring back to release the arrow, otherwise we can shoot all the arrows we want with minimal chance of success. This is true for nearly everything in this life. It is no different in shamanic work or yoga practice. You must know what it’s about when you show up to get the most out of it. Replace “it” with whatever you want. Life has many parallels if we look carefully. The mind, when used appropriately, can be the most healing device on the planet or the most distracting. The preliminary work we did together was all helpful in sharpening the focus of the mind towards the task at hand, and also a chance for us to create a coherent field between us all. The establishment of trust was and is also very helpful for this work to occur. Thankfully we were able to do this.
By the third day with the family, Sunday (we arrived Friday night) it was time for ceremony. I was eager to go in. My anticipation was rising and, although I felt comfortable with the family, I was still deep in a process of transition, and knowing that I had some deep inner work to do. I was ready. Ripe, you could say.
Obed, son of the Abuelo
getting smudged in the ceremony space
Again, what are words when it comes to explaining these worlds? I’m at a loss. But practical details can be helpful to ground ourselves.
We arrived at the ceremonial space and began with an opening circle. The whole time I was observing the Abuelo and Abuela. They were carefully setting the environment and creating the appropriate ‘field’ of healing. One can get a sense for when something important is about to happen. This is the idea of ritual or ceremony. To make a place sacred -- whether that be a church or a Maloka or under a tree -- all one must do is call in the guidance of whatever one believes in, as if to summon all the faculties of the person or persons present to witness the moment-to-moment unfoldment of the ceremony, rite or ritual. In the end the result is the same -- the complete and undivided attention of participants and facilitators alike, bringing consciousness to a focal point and essentially raising the amount of energy or light present in a particular location. As the consciousness rises, it is highly likely that whatever distracting or obscuring thoughts that are operating in the default mode of one’s individual mind network begin to fall away as a greater group harmony arises. We become focused on one thing, together.
For each person this process is, of course, subjective and even though the results may vary, there is a universal theme present. We connect to the healing power of the Spirit and it is this that the ideals of religion and spirituality manifest. One realizes in these moments that all of these traditions, whatever name or names they go by, are after the same common goal. To heal, to grow, to understand the meaning of life, to realize the Self, to gain clarity of purpose, to free oneself from their past so they can walk forward towards the destiny that life has for them, to come to peace, to feel love. It would seem that all of these things are interconnected in some way. And this ceremony, in the presence of elders who know almost nothing of my own native tongue, I was witnessing the Spirit and the healing properties of it unfold. My writing about this is my own attempt to understand this mysterious force. I am developing my own understanding and relationship to the Holy Spirit and the mysterious force of healing in our Universe that helps us more forward and find peace in our minds and hearts.
After opening the circle, the mushrooms were distributed. We were instructed to chew very slowly and speak to the spirit of mushroom as we did so. I listened to the expert and did exactly that. I carried my prayers and processes inward on the back of freshly picked, well-chewed saliva-bound psilocybin mushrooms. By the time I finished my dose I was already feeling them. Obed came and delivered another small portion into my hand, informing me to eat a little more. Again, I listened, and did so. Even though I had a vague feeling that I had had enough, I was trusting at this point and surrendering to the process that I signed up for.
After consumption we were free to wonder. I made my way up to the fire that they built for us and it was there that I remained for the rear of my journey. Details are impossible but as best as I can recall, here they are.
I laid for awhile, feeling the onset of the mushrooms and allowing them to take me deeper into my subconscious mind and my heart. I recall in the opening ceremony how Manuel and Guadalupe both told us to not be afraid of the fear and to go into the cave of pain, if any of that were to arise. I seemed to enter the “cave”, pretty quickly.
I contemplated on my life. I began to feel really sorry for myself. I felt a sense of worthlessness overtake me. It was painful to say the least. Many of my faults came to the forefront of my consciousness. I thought about my recent separation, I thought about my choices that led me to this point, I thought about my path as a whole. I wondered what, exactly, I was doing. I began to doubt and criticize myself. I couldn’t find an answer that would satisfy my critical mind. I rode these waves of pain inward into more confusion and it was around this time that I began to weep. I was crying for myself. I was crying about myself. I was feeling pretty terrible.
Sometime around these moments I heard Jessica going through a very intense process. She was nearby and I could hear her. The sounds she was making told me she was in a lot of pain. I felt my heart pause it’s own process and go out to her’s. I became naturally drawn to lending the energetic support to her because I felt that whatever she was experiencing needing more attention than my own process for that moment. Even though I remained laying there, I turned towards her energetically and sent love to where she was, across from the fire from me.
At some point in the family of healers - the shamans - came up and began to ‘work’ on Jessica. Her sounds intensified and I could see what could only be described of us as spiritual or psychic surgery being performed on her. They were all gathered around her, blowing coral smoke and singing as Guadalupe held her head and stroked her hair. Others were holding her hands as she clenched and unclenched them. The pain appeared to be excruciating - I couldn’t imagine what she was going through but I could tell it was deep. I became fully absorbed in her process and forgot my own for the time being. It was fascinating. Eventually, thankfully, she appeared to clear it and the intense energy subsided. The family had finished their ‘work’ and I felt them shift over to me that this point.
The next thing I know I was surrounded by four of five of them. My eyes were closed, not by choice it seemed but by the energy of the process that began to take place. My inner vision turned intensely towards the pain that I had forgotten. It started to gather in my heart. What happened next I cannot say but I remember a series of convulsive movements and spasms of energy that shook through my body. Coughing, shaking, opening and closing of the mouth involuntarily, sticking out the tongue, arching the spine and other violent outbursts of energy overtook me. I remember the abuela working on my with her hands, drawing and pulling energy from my shoulders, neck and throat out and past my finger tips. She kept saying “sacarlo, sacarlo” (release it, release it). At one point the energy in my heart grew so intense and felt like it would burst. My hands were pressed firmly in prayer together and they were all singing around me. I was sitting up by now. I’m not sure if I was crying any more or not. I don’t think I was. But I felt my heart. It was expanding like never before. I felt it begin to cle