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Amazon Shop: Ayahuasca

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Invisiblec0sm0nauttM
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Posts: 10,297
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The Shaman - Need feedback on fiction piece
    #11233690 - 10/12/09 04:51 PM (8 years, 1 month ago)

I just wrote this piece of microfiction, and I'm looking for some feedback. Please don't be afraid to be critical. This is intended for a larger audience, so one of my worries is some of it will not make sense out of a psychedelic community. Thanks you for your time in reading it. Here it is:

The Shaman

    The two guides rowed with decreasing fervor as the obsolete canoe slowly took on more water. Jonathan, in his still preserved kaki pants and expedition boots, poured another bucket over the side of the canoe. The water was a murky brown, a sign that it was constantly moving, constantly changing. The Amazon basin was littered with trees and shrubbery, leaving no inclination of human life. The forest contains over forty-thousand species of plants, but that is only partly the reason Jonathan had made the flight from upstate New York.

The guides were both metizos – of mixed Peruvian and Urarina decent. To Jonathan’s surprise, a lot of the younger men reject the traditional ways of the tribe, moving out of the villages to become guides and other mobile occupations. The Urarina are a strong people. They have survived the cultural genocide of the colonial and post-colonial era. The Urarina are willing to die before losing their identity.

Jonathan had worked nearly a summer at a dead end retail job to afford the trip. A four-year university degree had done nothing but indebt the twenty-two year old in a crashing American economy, where unemployment was over fifty percent for young people. These hard times were a blessing in disguise. Jonathan, and young people everywhere, were starting to rethink this rampant American consumerism, this Military Industrial complex, this oligarchy of transnational corporations. Jonathan couldn’t help but to wonder that this world system could function in a more positive and sustainable way. He needed to see with his own eyes peoples living a sustainable existence.

The expedition set up camp for the night. The canoe was docked in a clearing on the basin, where a Christian mission once operated. Jonathan couldn’t believe the brightness of the stars. He thought of the missionaries who once lay and saw these same stars, decades or even centuries ago. He thought it was almost funny. What did the natives think when they were told they would be sent to hell if they didn’t convert? They must have thought the idea laughable. They had been living with their own profound sense of spirituality for thousands of years, and NOW they needed to convert? Jonathan thought the world would be a lot better for everyone if we stopped trying to control each other. The Urarina didn’t want to control anyone.

When the morning arrived, the embers of the once blazing fire were nearly smoked out. After a meager meal of canned rice and beans, the expedition set out for another day of rowing. Jonathan let one of the obviously worn-out metizos be the bucket dumper for the remainder of the trip. The fog hadn’t  yet lifted from the water, and the three men could hardly see more than a few yards in front of them. Staying close to the contour of the shore, the guides could predict the turns ahead. They had memorized the rivers path, just as their ancestors had done thousands of years before them. The forest was lively. The symphony of animal sounds offered great company, and almost inspiration, cheering the two rowing men onward the next several hours.

As the sun receded behind the tree line, a plague of mosquitoes surrounded the small boat. An army of bats darkened the night sky, diving and swarming erratically, helping the men fend off the insects. The smell of smoke was a relief. The village was right around the next bend. A human couldn’t survive in these parts with the heat and protection of fire. The fire was sacred, it was synonymous with life.   

As the boat was pulled onto the shore, several little boys ran up to the three men. The metizos were greeted like cousins. Jonathan was treated like a new toy, a spectacle of interest. The little boys tugged at his pants and danced around him as if he were a totem pole. Several women brought over a plate of cooked bananas. The Urarina were a foraging people, gathering and hunting what they needed from the forest. They never took more than they needed.

Using his two metizos as translators, Jonathan made it clear to the tribe why he had made the nearly four-thousand mile trek from New York. He was here to see the tribe’s Shaman. The Shaman is the spiritual leader of the tribe, an intermediary between the physical and spirit world, capable of treating illness and entering supernatural realms to obtain answers to community and personal problems. Shamans employ a variety of methods to induce their trances, anything from rhythmic dancing and drumming to consuming psychoactive plants. Jonathan had come to drink the sacred brew known as ayahuasca. 

Ayahuasca is a foul tasting brew native to the Amazon. Jonathan has come, like the many ayahuasca-tourists before him, on the hope that the physical and psychological healing properties of the sacrament would be based in truth. Ayahuasca is known to have cured everything from anxiety disorders to opiate addictions. The brew is prepared by combining a certain vine with the leaves of a certain species of shrub, which contain a MAOI (monoamide oxidase inhibitor) and DMT (dimethyltryptamine) respectively. The MAOI blocks an enzyme which normally would break down DMT before it could be actively digested. DMT is the strongest psychedelic substance known to man, found in every mammal, and plants from every ecosystem. After the ingredients are boiled for several hours, the thick dark liquid is ready for consumption.

The Shaman, whose name went unuttered, was a brittle eighty-six year old man. He spent the majority of his days sitting in quiet meditation in his small hut on the outskirts of the village. He rarely would be seen outside of his hut. Jonathan’s guides told rumors that the Shaman would be seen entering and returning from the woods, alone, with nothing more than a walking stick. When Jonathan approached the old man, the sight of Jonathan’s white face was all the Shaman had needed to see. The old man smiled and nodded, and uttered with his ancient tongue, “You come to be healed.”

Jonathan was directed not to eat anything for the next several hours. The men and women of the village worked in synchronous fashion to chop and cut the vines, preparing the brew. Jonathan couldn’t help but marvel at the compassion of these people. They didn’t even know him. He had nothing to offer them. Yet, with one sentence spoken from an eighty-six year old man, they dropped everything they were doing to ensure the brew would be ready by midnight.

Jonathan had read many books about the brew, but nothing could prepare him for this night. His anxiety was building up inside his chest like a balloon filling with water. He knew what to expect. Ayahuasca, within an hour or two of consumption, propels the user’s consciousness into a waking dream, a supernatural realm. The experience is hardly describable within the mere constraints of human language. Users often report this supernatural realm to feel more real than waking reality. Taking ayahuasca will almost always induce vomiting, which the Shaman’s equate to the negative energy being released from your being. 

As Jonathan awaited the brew to finish boiling, he found himself once again watching the stars. He thought about how his friends at home would find the Urarina so primitive, so backwards. They didn’t have television or automobiles, yet they were content, even happy. Why were things like anxiety disorders and depression so prevalent in our Western society, where we had everything, yet nearly absent from this society which had nothing. Where did we go wrong along the way? Did we lose the sense of community which these tribal people fall back on for everything? Who do we have to fall back on besides our immediate friends and family? Were we living in Eliot’s Wasteland? Jonathan looked at his brand name hiking boots he had paid top dollar for and thought, “This doesn’t fill the internal void.”

As midnight arrived the full moon was sitting above the sky, illuminating the village with a surreal twilight glow. The village children were asleep in their huts. Only a few men and women stayed awake to watch the Shaman’s ritual. The ayahuasca brew was poured in a tall ceramic glass. The Shaman’s brittle hands held the glass with a tight stern grip. Jonathan and the old man locked eyes as they drank. The brew was the most horrific thing Jonathan had tasted. It took all his strength of being to swallow the bitter brew and not make faces of disgust. The Shaman smiled as he smoothly downed the brew. He told Jonathan he would employ helping spirits to protect him in the otherworld.

Jonathan lay on a straw mat awaiting the onset of the chemical combination. Suddenly the village and environment around him began to take on an entirely new character. It was like a light-switch had been turned on and extra-dimensional light began to filter into his waking realty. A few minutes later, a feeling of lightness and euphoria signaled the first wave of intense visuals. Jonathan was emerged in a sea of hyper-dimensional light and color, losing his sense of self, merging his identity with the experience. Space and time were no longer relevant. Images of intertwined serpents and winged creatures, made entirely of holographic pulsating light, fed into Jonathan’s very being, cleansing his fears, judgments, and negativity. Jonathan rolled over in a daze, vomited violently onto the floor next to the mat. He could feel the purge on the deepest levels of being. Looking up, in between the intense waves of the experience, he could see the old man watching over him. The Shaman didn’t seem to be effected by the brew, at least not in an obvious external way.

As each wave of the experience hit Jonathan, he went deeper and deeper into his self. He thought this is what the monks strive for during intense meditation. The visuals were archetypical and ancient. What made us humans see the same things during these experiences? Why serpents and not something else? Jonathan felt as if he was experiencing a level of reality far beyond, yet more foundational, to that of waking reality. The cleansing of his spirit lasted nearly 4 hours. He knew he would never be able to tell of his experience, words would do no justice.

The afterglow of the experience would last several days. Jonathan had felt as if his very core had been rejuvenated. As the sunrise proceeded over the tree line, Jonathan asked the Shaman how he could maintain this bliss, this feeling of being whole with everything. The Shaman, replied with a stern face, “You are not your thoughts.” This apparently ambiguous answer would plague Jonathan’s thoughts, only for the plane ride home.


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Offlinewalkingeyeball
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Re: The Shaman - Need feedback on fiction piece [Re: c0sm0nautt]
    #11236398 - 10/12/09 11:55 PM (8 years, 1 month ago)

:laugh: I think this is beautiful! The way you write relates to me on many levels...I deeply long for an experience so similar to this. Ever since I've read about ayahuasca, this is exactly what I've pictured it to be like. I also question the validity of an "average" American lifestyle and enthusiastically refuse living the rest of my life as a wage slave. One thing I'd suggest is adding more imagery to your writing...Describe more of the surroundings, as many people have never witnessed the Amazon with their own eyes :smile: I think everything else is wonderful. Thank you for writing this! :thumbup:


--------------------
"We come from the stars
We have no ships
We travel from mind to mind
As you open your heart
We enter your body
As you open your heart
We enter your imagination
As you open your heart
We enter your dreams "


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Invisiblec0sm0nauttM
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Registered: 05/19/08
Posts: 10,297
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Re: The Shaman - Need feedback on fiction piece [Re: walkingeyeball]
    #11238607 - 10/13/09 12:24 PM (8 years, 1 month ago)

Thanks for the feedback. I went through another few edits and I think the final copy I handed out to the class today is fine tuned.

I long for an experience like this myself. I guess that's why I wrote about it hehe. I'm graduating college this Spring and I have a little bit of money saved up. I'm thinking about Burning Man but I may just hop on a plane and go to Peru. :smile:


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Offlinewalkingeyeball
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Registered: 09/14/09
Posts: 236
Loc: SLC, UT
Last seen: 2 years, 1 month
Re: The Shaman - Need feedback on fiction piece [Re: c0sm0nautt]
    #11239272 - 10/13/09 02:37 PM (8 years, 1 month ago)

Burning Man would be the best time of my life! How much are tickets going for now? Peru would be one of my first choices also. That, or Mexico...or Africa. Haha, traveling is my dream. I hope you get to go!!


--------------------
"We come from the stars
We have no ships
We travel from mind to mind
As you open your heart
We enter your body
As you open your heart
We enter your imagination
As you open your heart
We enter your dreams "


Post Extras: Print Post  Remind Me! Notify Moderator
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Amazon Shop: Ayahuasca

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