They say that when powerful shaman gather together, the weather can be unpredictable so it came as little surprise that the weather in Ibiza was stormy, rainy and moody from the day I arrived to the day I left, as shamans, academics, researchers, drinkers and psychonauts travelled from all over the world to attend the First World Ayahuasca Conference, facilitated by ICEERS, the International Centre for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service.
To bring so many people together to discuss ayahuasca, and plant medicines in general, was an enormous achievement and there was a definite buzz in the air as people connected, networked and shared experiences and stories.
It was a very left-brain conference, with little indigenous influence. However, I think this was important, as well as necessary. The conference took ayahuasca out of the limited sphere of Amazonian shamanism and into a more Western academic framework, legitimizing it from a new perspective.
The most important message I gleaned from the conference was the importance of ingesting Plant Medicines in order to help shift our consciousness. Plant Medicines remind us that we are a part of nature, not apart from it and they have been an essential part of our diet for millions of years. Plants keep us healthy, alive and connected to the natural world.
However, our diet has changed dramatically since the last century, influenced by the advent of processed foods and the need for ‘convenient foods’. We have slowly eroded our relationship with the nature in our pursuit to control it. In so doing we have forgotten our symbiotic relationship, and our systems are now completely overloaded with toxins and chemicals. Compounding this separation with the natural world is the war on drugs. Every manufactured ‘drug’ is derived from a plant, and making these plant medicines ‘illegal,’ limits our ability to perceive and shift consciousness, and the freedom to choose. The Ayahuasca conference endorsed for me that things have to change.
During the panel ‘Challenges of Globalisation: Sustainability,’ Dennis Mckenna was very clear that us monkeys are in crisis; the ecosystems are in crisis, the oceans are in crisis, the air is in crisis and the soil is in crisis. If we don’t take action soon we will end up killing off the human race. It’s time for us to wake up and realise what we are doing to the natural world around us, to life, to our future generations.
At the ‘Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and beyond,’ book launch, Glenn H Shepard suggested Ayahuasca shows up when a community is in crisis. He mentioned the Matsigenka and the Yora (Nahua), from the Southern Amazon basin, and the Guarani from Brazil, as indigenous communities who have only very recently started to take the ayahuasca formula and using Ayahuasca-based shamanism .
The Matsigenka, have always used the Banistreropsis caapi vine, but have only recently introduced the Psychotria leaf to their brew. The Yora (Nahu) began using it in 1985 when their community was decimated by contagious disease brought by outside contact. Indigenous groups shared their Ayahuasca knowledge with the Yora who adopted it. The Guarani in Brazil adopted Ayahuasca thanks to a number of different influences, including Members of the Sacred Fire of Itzachilatlan, followers of the Santo Daime religious Ayahuasca church, and a health team employed to provide primary attention to Indian communities. Shamanism is having a revival, just as it always has in times of crisis.
However, this resurgence of shamanism and plant consciousness is different. As Carmen Vicente, a medicine woman from Ecuador, so eloquently put it during the, ‘Perspective of Gender: Role of Women in the World of Ayahuasca’ panel.‘ “It’s women’s time. The earth is not well. How many trees are left?” This message is being echoed by other spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth. I also received the same message from my teacher Don Juanito, who told me I was chosen because I was a woman, and from the West.
Since the rise of Patriarchy we have been dominated by left-brain thinking. The domineering masculine, scientific, logical, rational thinking, has suppressed the mystical, emotional, intuitive, creative, feminine right-brain. This imbalance is creating a schism within our psyche as this egoistic left-brain thinking is no longer serving humanity. We must realign our consciousness so that we can start seeing solutions and a way out of our crises. We have to balance our left and right brains and women are the obvious forerunners to bring this into being, as we are naturally more right-brained.
People like Dennis Mckenna believe plants like Ayahuasca wake up the dormant right brain, reconnecting us back to the mystical, the intuitive, the creative, and most importantly re-igniting our relationship with Mother Earth and the plant world.
I hope this World Ayahuasca Conference is the first of many. Certainly, if we are to keep the channels open so we can continue to ingest Plant Medicines, and enable many more to experience this awakening legally and openly, we must come together as a community, and show our allegiance to the Plant world. The more of us that shift consciousness, the quicker we will see the changes in the collective. It only takes five percent of the population to shift consciousness and to see that shift in the collective 100th Monkey Theory , it’s time to start recruiting some monkeys.