Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca Part 7

The driver of the boat hopped out and helped us remove our bags. I noticed he was wearing a hat that said “Toronto Police” on it. What a small world I thought as I followed the rest of the squad up the hill towards the retreat.

We were happily greeted along the path by a very interesting character named Martine. He approached me and grabbed me by the arm and wrapped his limbs around me. I lifted him clear off the ground and he escaped onto the wooden railing of the stairway. He then noticed the woman in the summer dress and decided her hair was too lovely not to play with and pounced at her head.

Martine gave her a shock, but being a Woolly monkey and all, was easy enough to keep at bay. One of the male staff whistled at Martine and made a gesture, causing him to scurry off, just far enough ahead to make sure we were still following. That little guy didn’t leave our sides for the entire trip and I’ll never forget him.

We made our way to the main building. A kitchen and laundry area on the main floor, the second floor featured a large meeting area furnished with couches and hammocks (oh the hammocks, universe bless those hammocks). Adjacent to this room was an enclosed area with a large table used as the dining area. There was a small library and a bathroom in here as well.

The owner arrived and led us to our individual huts where we would be spending the next 12 days. We passed a large hut with a high ceiling that he explained was called the maloca. This is where the ceremonies would be held on nights we were taking Ayahuasca.

Now. The huts.

Sundress woman (im gonna need names for these folks…lets go with AJ) was about a minute away from the maloca along with woman and the cat(catwoman…umm…Michelle Pfeiffer). We walked another minute or so to where the Owner (…Owner is fine I guess) and the male guest (we’ll call him J Balvin) were housed. Then Owner led me to my hut. About a five to seven minute walk through the jungle.

Unable to outrun a jaguar for five minutes, I was pretty convinced my hut would end up being my tomb. Nevertheless, I checked the place out. Pretty badass set up for a hut in the middle of the rainforest. The outside of the house was fashioned with netting to keep out any unwanted guests. I had my own hammock in the main room and a bed with even tighter meshing in case my dumbass forgot to close my front door allowing mosquitos inside (which was pretty much a certainty). I stepped into the bathroom and my jaw dropped. I had a personal, flushing toilet and my own shower with above average water pressure.

This was a big fucking deal for me. Indoor plumbing. In the middle of the jungle. And even though I’m bald I can appreciate solid shower water pressure. I was stoked that if I had to use the bathroom I wouldn’t end up with bug bites on my ass or a snake swallowing my dick and given the humidity I was exposed to, a cold shower would be so god damn refreshing.

Things were looking up.

Part 8 Here:

Part 6 Here:

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Simple life

Imagine taking a man from a small village in Africa, blindfolding him, and bringing him to superstore before unveiling him. Then telling him he had $100 to buy whatever food he wanted.

His fucking mind would explode at all the options. There’s like 200 different kinds of crackers. It would take him an eternity to narrow his choices down. There would be foods there he had tried before and knew he enjoyed but there would be so many things around that looked like they would be amazing that it would cause him anxiety knowing he had to decide on only a few of them.

Do I go with what I know? Do I try this kind because the packaging is flashy and fun? That guy told me this was good but do we have the same taste?

To a much, much, much, (like seriously not even close to this), smaller extent this is how I feel about life sometimes. We live in such an unbelievable time and I am fortunate (and often not grateful) enough to be living in a place with so much accessible to me.

There is so much, however, that I find it difficult to commit to one thing and am very indecisive. I spend too much time staring at the endless wall of crackers instead of just grabbing a box and going bag deep in sour cream and chive deliciousness.

I spend so much time looking at all the things I don’t have and all the ways I could be spending my time or how others are spending their lives, that I don’t allow myself to enjoy my life and everything I have.

I enjoy reading, writing, physical activity where I get to chase balls around, and sour cream and chive flavoured crackers and I am grateful that I can have all of these things in my life.

It’s the little things…

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Why are you crying?

I hate going to the gym.
That’s the only part though. Not even the journey to the gym because it’s a really short, pleasant walk.
The idea of beginning the walk to the gym is the part that I…hate?

Do I hate it? I pretty much enjoy every other part of the entire process including, but not limited to, the walk there, the actual lifting of heavy objects, talking with a bunch of other lovely, positive people trying to better themselves, the eventual, gradual results, the feeling of accomplishment, and the guiltless gluttony that follows shortly after. 

The sweet, merciless, savage consumption of the greasiest, fattiest, pizzaiest platters should be enough of a pull to have me flying out of bed every morning like Tinkerbell came glitter all over me.

But for some reason my asshole brain tries to convince me every single time that it’s going to be the worst experience in the world.

My brain is like a tired 4 year old who’s parents are still dragging through Rona to look at patio sets and could not give less of a fuck so he just drops to the ground and starts crying and saying “no, no, no..” over and over again.

There’s no convincing that person to do anything at that point so my only option is to pick him up, suffer through all the tears and eventually he shuts the fuck up and I can go on with my day.

I can’t imagine having children when I have myself to deal with everyday.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca Part 6

I awoke the next morning and made my way down to the lobby of the hotel to meet with everyone. A man was seated on one of the couches and I took a spot on the couch opposite his. We looked at each other and gave that little nod of “yaaaa, you too?” Turns out he was one of the other guests. About a minute later a woman in a summer dress walked into the lobby and gave a similar, “y’all here for the? Nice,” nods and sat next to me. We all introduced ourselves and got to know each other a little before a second man came through the doors and approached us, introducing himself as the owner of the retreat.

After a brief chat, the owner (who also happened to be a big, white dude from Seattle which threw me off at first but he seemed hippie enough to run a psychedelic jungle retreat so I went with it) led us out the door and into a couple of cabs. We arrived at the Refugio headquarters in Iquitos and picked up the rest of the crew; two women and a cat named Medianoche.

We took the cabs down to the harbour. A little street urchin ran over and helped me with my bag by gently patting it as I heaved it out of the back and then stood there staring expectedly. So I handed him the equivalent of about 5 Canadian dollars and he took it and looked at me like I had just handed him a first edition charizard and then ran over to his friends to brag.

We headed down to the dock and 2 fellas packed our luggage into a boat (an actual boat not another canoe). As we were stepping into the vessel, a young boy was sitting on one of the posts at the end of the dock. The male guest gave the kid a smile and a wave. The kid responded with the most ominous blank stare and slow head shake sending chills down my back. The woman with the cat explained that the opinion of Ayahuasca was split down the middle in Peru. Half the people thought of it as a wonderful life changing medicine. The other half (including our young friend here) saw it as evil voodoo black magic.

Once everyone had boarded, the boat left the harbour and we headed up the river. We puttered along for about an hour up the large part of the Amazon and then took a detour down a much more narrow river into the jungle.

It was at this point that I began to look around thinking, “Fuck. I’m not getting out of my chair once I get there. If I even cut my leg the closest hospital is a 2 hour boat ride away. And I don’t even trust THAT one. I’m gonna fucking die out here.”

My anxiety was silenced briefly as we rounded a final bank and I saw the sign. We had arrived at our destination.

Part 7 Here:

Part 5 Here:

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca Part 5

After a much needed shower and a quick (long) nap I got ready and met Chris in the lobby and reluctantly got back onto his death cab. We ripped down to the harbour and met with his friend whose name I can’t remember and I’m not even sure I ever properly pronounced. We’ll call him Homeboy from now on. We arrived at the dock and Homeboy presented us with his boat which was essentially a rusted canoe with a weed-wacker fashioned to the back (I really don’t know what I was expecting). But, blah blah was probably gonna die, so I hopped (gingerly stepped) in and we were on our way down the Amazon river.

The scenery was unreal, nothing but rich, green forests on either side of the big ol’ dirty brown river. We booted along for about 20 minutes before finally reaching our destination; a little restaurant hut right on the side of the river. Chris assured me that they served food that followed the Ayahuasca diet so I put my trust in him again and let him order for me. Once we had ordered, Homeboy and Chris suggested we go for a swim while we waited for the food.

Without thinking, I jumped in the water and waded around for a little while. The water looked super murky but aside from that it was quite refreshing given the level of humidity in the rainforest during this season.

After swimming for a bit I got out and sat on the dock with my feet dipping into the water. It was then, staring into the cloudy abyss below me that it hit me…

“Hey Chris, aren’t there piranha in this river?”

“Oh ya! It’s ok, they only come to surface at night.”

“Chris…it’s fucking 6pm right now, that is close enough.”

“Ya there’s piranha, anaconda. But they stay low.”

I pulled my feet out of that water so gawd damn fast. I saw the movie Anaconda and I wasn’t trying to end up like Owen Wilson. I was pretty sure I was gonna die but like hell I was gonna end up as food.

Speaking of food, it was ready so we ate. Chris came through once again (you better believe this guy got a fat tip) and the food was amazing. Completely distracted me from the monsters surrounding me in both the jungle and the river (as food tends to do).

After eating enough to help me cope with the almost certainty of death awaiting me on the trip back, we hopped back into the canoe and trekked back to Iquitos (spoiler alert, not dead).

We strolled through the harbour market for a bit, dropped Homeboy off at his crib and Chris took me back to my hotel. Having done about 30 ceremonies himself, Chris wished me luck with my upcoming journey and sped off. I decided to call it a night at this point.

Tomorrow morning I would be meeting with the other guests and heading to Refugio Altiplano.

Part 6 Here:

Part 4 Here:

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca Part 4

It was at this moment I believe, flying over endless seas of lush green forest with streaks of blue rivers running through it, that I began to think, “what the fucking fuck have you gotten yourself into fuckhead. You’re actually flying over the middle of nowhere, good job dingus.” Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful. But in the same way a Siberian Tiger is beautiful. Looks lovely…over there. But now that I’m up close I’m pretty sure it’s gonna kill me (spoiler alert, not dead).

We landed in Iquitos (a city literally in the middle of the jungle) in just over an hour. Thankfully the hotel I booked sent a cab to wait for me because I may have overestimated just how far my 3 months of duolingo Spanish would take me. Apparently 15% fluent is 100% bullshit and the only words I could instantly recall were, Agua, Cerveza and Baño (water, beer and bathroom).

The cab was essentially a motorized tricycle with a bench seat and an awning and my cabbie Christopher drove it like the first time you get a dirtbike in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas but hey, after seeing all the forest surrounding me for miles I was pretty sure I was going to die on this trip anyway so, yolo.

We sped off, weaving through traffic into the city. He asked me if I was here to do Ayahuasca. Which was a pretty safe guess considering a white guy in cargo shorts was either there to learn from the jungle or to chop it down and I didn’t have an axe with me. He also asked if I had boots for the jungle. I showed him my hiking shoes I brought and he said something which probably translated to, “are you fucking kidding me with those shoes gringo? You know how big the ants are around here, you’re gonna die in those.” So he told me he would take me to the market to buy boots because he “knew a guy.” (of course he did).

We arrived at the market and he suggested I leave my giant backpack on his cab and that his fellow cabbies would watch it for me.

Now…

…looking at the market and its tight quarters and many curtains, it would have been like carrying around my bag through the blanket fort from the show Community. I had my money, passport, visa etc with me, so I decided (probably not the smartest decision) to put my faith in this man’s humanity and leave my bag behind. (spoiler alert, not stolen).

He brought me to his good friend who supplied me with a tall pair of wellington boots. He then presented me with some ‘all natural bug repellent’ ensuring me that it was made from natural products and would keep mosquitos from landing on me. I assured him that my OFF deep woods bug spray would bring pain and torture to every insect that came within 100 yards of me but thanked him for his suggestion. He did haggle me into purchasing a bag of mapacho cigarettes however. I don’t smoke but I was pretty sure I was gonna die on this trip anyway so, yolo.

Chris dropped me and my unstolen belongings off at my hotel and asked if I was hungry. I told him I’ve been living in airports and hadn’t eaten in a day so yeah, a little famished. He said he would be back in 2 hours to pick me up and take me to a restaurant on the Amazon river, I would just have to chip in for gas because he “knew a guy” with a boat.

Part 5 Here:

Part 3 Here:

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Identity Crisis

How you identify yourself is very important.

I don’t mean based on things like your political or religious views (I’m a conservative or I’m a Christian) or based on your career (I’m a pilot or I’m a dinosaur hunter). I mean in ways that help you portray your characteristics.

For example, I’ve always identified myself as the funny, fat guy. I used to weigh around 210lbs and I’ve always been somewhat of a character/ class clown. So the description definitely fit.

But now I’m down to 175lbs (probably closer to 180lbs with the vacation/post vacation/ Shawn has been a lazy asshole and has eaten mall food for 3 days diet) and subconsciously I still refer to myself as the funny, fat guy all the time and when people tell me I’m not fat I don’t fully believe them.

I’m really not that fat and who knows if I’m funny anymore (I’d like to think so and it’s what I think that counts anyway right?) But, I lived for so long identifying myself as a fat guy that it’s been beaten into my psyche. When you talk about yourself to yourself, yourself listens to yourself and that becomes your self.

But what if I started calling myself a fit, funny guy? Would my habits change? Fat guys eat mall food every day and hate working out. Fit guys take care of themselves and enjoy exercise. Fat to fit; can your mindset be changed by switching out a single letter?

Think of the ways you identify yourself. Be conscious of the ways you describe yourself throughout the day and listen for anything that makes you go “hmm, nah that doesn’t sound like me,” and swap them out for something that you feel you are, or even can be. Anything that you think will have a positive change on your mindset. I am confident, happy, beautiful, tall, tanned, hilarious, tall, hilarious etc.

Beat those positive affirmations into your brain until they’re so set in that whenever somebody (including yourself) suggests otherwise, it actually confuses you because that couldn’t be who you are.

*Disclaimer* This does not work for things like being a pilot or a dinosaur hunter. You must actually be able to fly a plane or have hunted a dinosaur or at least a Komodo Dragon to achieve these titles.