Huachuma, Sacred Mountain Cactus

February 7, 2018

It’s Day 7 at Hummingbird Retreat. We’re on another day off after our Huachuma day yesterday. Tomorrow is my last Ayahuasca ceremony, and then the next evening I fly out. It’s going by, and I feel both excited and apprehensive about going back home. It’s hard to see shifts in ourselves sometimes. Has this place changed me? Will I go back  and start making changes in my life? What if I don’t?

I’ll set those thoughts aside for now though and tell you about Huachuma, AKA San Pedro cactus. The Huachuma spirit is seen as another benevolent healing spirit, a peer to Ayahuasca; they tend to work well together for a lot of people on retreats like this, though they have different healing methods and provide vastly different experiences. 

Yesterday morning we congregated at 8am to take it. It was extremely unpleasant. Gritty, sandy, repulsive dried cactus skin… we just had to mix it into juice (a slimy, sandy, bitter, thick, revolting concoction) and toss it back. It took me 30 minutes and I couldn’t even get it all down. I was nauseous as soon as I started drinking it, which was horrible because we had to hold it down for two hours to let it all absorb. I had to be soooo gentle with my body during that time, and I was only able to keep it in an hour and a half before hurling my guts out into some plants. Thankfully I felt a lot better after that.

The Huachuma experience was very different from my Ayahuasca experiences. It came on really slow and lasted most of the day. It was a kind of dreamy and energetic psychedelic experience, less visual and intense, and altogether more pleasant. Jim told us we basically had the run of the property for the day and could do what we liked, but that we’d benefit from taking chunks of time to ourselves to ‘just sit with the medicine’. He put on music, which made for a very nice and friendly backdrop to the experience.

After my purge I set myself up in a hammock for a couple hours. I put headphones in, listened to Pure Comedy by Father John Misty, and let myself drop into my own little bubble. The Huachuma put me in a very gentle, responsive headspace… it was easy to just put a thought or intention out there and think on it, feeling emotions about it very openly. For the first time while I’ve been here I spent a lot of time thinking deeply about my present life, things I’m unsure about back home, patterns I’ve been seeing in my life lately.

I thought a lot about the stalling that’s happened in my life between college and jumping into a career. I’ve spent so much time in my head, starting in college but especially over the past year and a half after finishing my hike of the PCT, wrestling with what I want to do with my life. I’ve had many conversations with myself, where I basically tell myself that I need to press forward past my fears and anxieties and just do it. After these sporadic conversations my motivation is reinvigorated and I go on little sprints of trying to make things happen, but then I just lose it again, collapsing under my uncertainties and fears. It has been annoying and fatiguing to say the last. 

As tired as I am of seeing myself in my confusion, avoiding things and letting my fear-based view of things dictate my consciousness… I have to admit at some point that the “just do it already” approach has not been very successful. In a way, I realized yesterday that all of this isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about where I am, what I’m doing, and whether I’m being successful. It’s really about the way I choose to see the world. Do I let myself sink into my fears and confusion, imagining all the things that could go wrong? Or can I let that go and choose to be optimistic, expecting good things to come? I really want be more trusting towards life and myself, enough that I can take steps towards things I am not sure about and expect the best. I’m all too familiar with the alternative, which is where I’ve been. Staying in my safe zone. Feeling small, afraid, confused, and disempowered. Holding myself back from discovering and expressing my true potential, which necessarily is on the other side of my fears.

That means that one of my steps forward isn’t physical at all, but mental. I’m learning that there is real value for me in spending focused time with my mind. I already have a meditation practice, but I think I need to spend more time integrating that into my daily life process. I want to create habits of thinking about and visualizing what I want, and of noticing and actively changing my state of mind when my thoughts are unproductive or self-defeating. I can gently guide myself into better beliefs about myself and life, and drop the frustration and anxiety that comes with trying to force action out of a place of confusion.

The more I walk along this path of personal growth, the more I feel that what really matters most is my state of consciousness in the moment. If I am agitated, stressed, worried, etc…. that is not the place to act from! That is a moment to go inside myself and refocus, come back to the breath, let myself relax. A relaxed headspace is a creative and happy headspace. It is also a state of peace, and if you want to bring peace to this world you have to bring peace to yourself and your own life FIRST.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my conception of our spiritual reality, too. About my concept of God, and my bigger purpose in life. Ultimately, it really does have to be about something bigger than just me. I want to make progress in my life and put myself in places where I can be of greater service to the world… not just for my own benefit, but for everyone’s. I want to be in the habit of asking myself in my daily life, “Is this good for everyone? Or just for me?” I spent part of the day seeing life as a war between good and evil. There are some tangible benefits to seeing things in this way. It makes me take my life seriously, like I’m being asked to show up as a warrior every day and there isn’t space for me to be complacent and lazy. I want to be on the good side, is another way of saying it. 

It is difficult to bring back the feelings from experiences like this and put it into words, and I’m not sure I need to, past what comes to me now. I see some of what happens in these visionary states as a conversation with our subconscious mind, and things happen there that can’t really be understood by the conscious mind anyway. It’s just… healing. It’s something that seems to be good for me and for a lot of people. 
I’ve been reading a book called The Cosmic Serpent today, which is a fascinating book! If you are curious about a very well-researched, creative, experiential perspective on shamanism in indigenous cultures around the world and the psychedelic/mystical experience, check it out.

That’s all for this report, friends. If there’s anything else I can offer you right now, it’s an invitation to take a deep breath, or a few. If you’re struggling over anything, remember that a process is happening underneath your awareness, that we are always growing and changing, and it gets better if we let go and get out of our own way. Let’s try to be present with each other and help each other along the way, we all know the journey is not always easy. Thank you for being you, and many blessings! ❤

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