Medicine Man

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sha·man
ˈSHämən,ˈSHāmən/
noun
  1. a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.
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Pablo, the medicine man had arrived!  I felt an instant connection to him and his calm, relaxed, peaceful energy, it seemed as though he could see right through me.  This medicine man had come to help a wounded man, a man riddled with addiction, a man who wanted to change, to get better, to change his ways.   

We had an instant connection.  He spent his first day preparing him for the ceremony that was to be performed the very next day, we shared breakfast together. I made a delicious breakfast burrito for myself and another for the next lucky person to walk through the door that day, it was Pablo. Conversing easily he shared with myself and another couple there from Tel Aviv, a doctor and dentist, that he was a Shaman, a medicine man, that he brings the medicine YOPO from deep within the jungle. 

Curiosity bubbling up inside me.  

What is YOPO?

Anadenanthera peregrina, also known as yopo, jopo, cohoba, parica or calcium tree, is a perennial tree of the Anadenanthera genus native to the Caribbean and South America. Yopo snuff is usually blown into the user’s nostrils by another person through bamboo tubes or sometimes snuffed by the user using bird bone tubes. Blowing is more effective as this method allows more powder to enter the nose and is said to be less irritating. In some areas the unprocessed ground beans are snuffed or smoked producing a much weaker effect with stronger physical symptoms. Some tribes use yopo along with Banisteriopsis caapi to increase and prolong the visionary effects, creating an experience similar to that of ayahuasca. (wikipedia)

He explained that he lives deep in the jungle with a tribe of natives, he was invited to live in the village after many years of mentoring by the elders, the seniors, the holders of traditional wisdom and knowledge.  After many years of mentoring, practice and studying the ancient traditions he was ordained as a Shaman.

What is Shaman?

Shamans have always been recognized leaders in their communities performing sacred ceremonies, singing, chanting and dancing, expressing themselves artistically, acting as the bridge between the living and the dead, and communicating with the spirits to receive knowledge and teachings of plants, animals, and the elements. (https://shamanicpractice.org/new-to-shamanism/)

The word shaman originates from the Tungus tribe in Siberia. Anthropologists coined this term and have used it to refer to the spiritual and ceremonial leaders among indigenous cultures worldwide. The word shamanism can be used to describe the ancient spiritual practices of these indigenous cultures. (https://www.shamanism.com/what-is-shamanism)

My curiosity peaked, my body reacting with excitement at the possibility that this Shaman man might have been put on my path for a very specific reason, an opportunity to have a deep spiritual experience.  I was unsure.  Both excitement and fear welling up inside me at the very same time, I was intrigued, interested and wanted to know more.  The following day was ceremony day, he rested most of the day in preparation.  The full moon one day away from completing its cycle.

Pablo and I shared dinner together that night, he cooked a dish called gooey potatoes which was basically potatoes soaked in a white cheesy sauce, absolute comfort food, delicious in every way.  My curiosity raging I pestered him with questions about YOPO and the ceremony that was to take place that evening.  He explained that the journey was a spiritual one, going deep into the spiritual world, he was gentle in his explanation.  He was certainly speaking my language, we were on the same page conversing easily back and forth; I was in awe of this human. 

Enamoured with this Shaman man, comforted with all of our similarities, our commonalities, our journeys and the crossing of our paths.

The medicine man explained that the ceremony would be started by chewing on (Banisteriopsis) Caapi in preparation for the YOPO.  Caapi, one of the two plants that is used to prepare the ayahuasca brew, very mild – offering a tingling sensation in the mouth along with a general numbness, . Although Yopo can have a powerful effect by itself, when combined with Caapi its effects are potentiated.

He explained that each person would have their own unique experience, taking you where you needed to go, seeing things that you needed to see, an experience that the mind itself could not understand, beyond thought, a place only accessible through years of deep meditation.  YOPO bypassing the years of practice and taking you there instantly.  Yopo can bring you into a dreamy, psychedelic state.  He told me that he would be offering the medicine tomorrow evening at the local yoga studio for anyone interested and invited me to join him.  All of my senses were tingling, I knew this was something I had to do, my gut knew right away this was an experience I had to have, my mind, on the other hand, not quite so sure certainly not on the same page, immediately going to all the things that could go wrong, all the reasons NOT to have this experience.  My EGO essentially have a tantrum.

Yopo is a snuff prepared with dried seeds of the tree Anadenanthera Peregrina. The dried seeds are lightly roasted and then ground into a fine powder that is mixed with ash (it helps to bring about the alkaloids), tobacco, honey and other ingredients that vary, usually to give the substance a pleasant odor. The scientific name of the Anadenanthera Peregrina makes clear reference to the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’ meaning bliss.  It can be said that yopo is a cousin of the sacred vine, Ayahuasca in two ways. One is that it also contains DMT. Secondly because yopo is usually ingested along with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, one of the two plants that are used to prepare the ayahuasca brew. (https://fractalenlightenment.com/24280/culture/yopo-the-ancient-amazonian-dmt-snuff | FractalEnlightenment.com)

I let the information sit, stew, ruminate for the rest of the evening, the following day and by Saturday morning I knew this Shaman man was put forth on my path for a reason and I was not going to let it pass me by.  I wrote.

Excerpt from journal Friday:

I had the most beautiful day virtually all alone, all day, no worries about him, his state, my defences, my guards all let down.  He and Pablo wandered off somewhere all day, I wrote, I bathed in the sun, rocked in a hammock reading my book, showered in the middle of the afternoon.  I enjoyed complete peace and quiet, no other guests, Vianca was away all day, Rocky was roaming around somewhere, delightful, enjoyable, happiness, relaxed this is what I envisioned this month to be finally 9 days in I get to experience the beauty, tranquility, silence, aloneness, me and my pack of dogs on a deserted island … my calling.  I want to close up my world and go inside; since the robbery meditation has been difficult, I maintain my beautiful yoga practice daily – this has been my meditation.  Something switched inside me since Pablo has arrived and he has gone into hiding.  I believe that everything is going to be okay, I pray that this man can do it, that he finds the inner peace he is searching for … I am at a loss for words as I know this is all universally orchestrated and I am going on the ride of my life.

I contemplated.  I decide.  Thursday night the ceremony happened.  Friday they slept the entire day, left alone with my thoughts.  The following morning we all boarded the boat to to Bocus Town; once on land we parted ways Pablo and I agreeing to meet again at 6pm; come to the studio before dark he suggested, its not safe around here after dark.  I agreed and went on my way. 

Having the whole day to squander away I decided I would take a tour somewhere to keep my mind off what was going to unfold that evening.  I checked in with the local tour company and asked if they had any tours going out in the next little while; he looked up and me and said NO.  I started to walk away and then he jumped up and said wait come with me; I followed.  He spoke very quickly in Spanish to another man who shook his head yes and he said we have a tour going out right now to monkey island and then to the beach, $40, okay I paid the man and got into the boat.  Already in the boat was a with a family; a dad, a mom, a baby girl about 14 months, two boys, 12 and 10 and off we went.  I sat in the back which allowed me to see the entire family and the way in which they communicated with one another, it warmed my heart to see the father so attentive, so loving, to his family especially his baby daughter; kissing her tiny head each time he took her into his arms allowing her to sleep through what was to be a rough ride.  The sea was rough that day, the sun was shining brightly, it was hot.  We bumped along for what felt like an eternity until finally the motor slowed down and he was pulling over; at this point there was no english speaking people, the driver spoke no english and the family only spoke Spanish.  They had been conversing along the way, me not having a clue what anyone was saying.  We pulled over and the man and his sons got out of the boat, I followed.  It seemed logical that we were there and that monkey island was behind the restaurant we had pulled up to, I followed the man and his sons and who went into the washroom, perfect I always have to pee.  I peed and then went the other direction not wanting to follow the family around and found a very limited english speaking man whom I asked how it worked, he looked at me bewildered, where is your captain, he asked?  Over there I pointed, we stared at each other.  I asked how do you explore monkey island, he just looked at me, where is your captain?  I got the message we were not communicating well, I said I’ll just go find my captain and I walked back to the boat to see the man and his sons back on the boat and the captain undoing the ropes, I got back into the boat.  It was just a pee stop. Doh!  We take off again this time into the vast open sea with the waters getting rougher and rougher, the boat rocking back and forth, the boys in the front looking back for reassurance from their parents who did not have life jackets on themselves or their baby daughter, both boys had their life jackets firmly in place.  I put mine on at this point and held on for dear life, I can’t deny that I had those familiar thoughts that perhaps this was going to be my fate.  It was a scary ride I was was filled with relief to see the captain slowing down and maneuvering the boat towards this pretty pink building “monkey island” never so happy to see land in my life.  

We all climbed board this beautiful little tiny island with monkeys running all over the place.  (see monkey island post for more details)

Once everyone had had their fill of monkeys we headed to Bibi’s on the Beach.  A popular restaurant in Bocas de Toro.  (see Bibi’s post for more details)

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Once we arrived I headed straight for the restaurant, I was starving, as I walked up a young woman came up behind me and started chatting easily with me; we were both one our own so grabbed a table together and talked non stop from the moment we met.  Clair from England was to be my next new friend.

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Clair and I returned to Bocas town together and had a smoothy overlooking the water and I told her about the experience I was about to undertake, she was intrigued and admitted it was on her bucket list as well.  She was heading off early in the morning to a yoga and meditation retreat just an island away.  As the sun started to set my anxiety was filling up all the spaces; Claire walked me to the studio about 10 minutes from Bocus Town, down a street off the beaten path, broken down, dilapidated homes, a tiny park filled with children playing, dogs everywhere barking, stray cats, laundry hung from every line, garbage lined the streets and noise bellowed out from all corners, cars and motorbikes drove by, people on pedal bikes it was a whirlwind of activity.  As we reached the studio, my mind in full panic mode so much so I have having a hard time be in the moment with Claire. 

We sat and watched the sun set together, it was beautiful.   We hugged and she went on her way.  A beautiful soul, a connection made. 

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As I walked up the stairs my heart pounding, my mind racing, the questions arising.  Pablo met me at the top of the stairs and greeted me with a hug and his calm, peaceful energy which settled me instantly.  The ceremony was to start at 10pm, we’d talk for awhile, I set up my space with a yoga mat, some cushions and a blanket, we each took refuge in our own thoughts for awhile, we conversed a little and we enjoyed a spot of tea.  Candles, mats, cushions, buckets lined with bags, fans all set up for those who would be joining the ceremony.  I sat silently taking it all in.   The Genesis yoga studio on the second floor open to the outside world a large V shaped open wall that overlooked the ocean, to the right a restaurant/bar with blaring reggae music and patrons enjoying drinks, to the left a concrete pad with piles of garbage and broken down piece of things strewn around.  Dogs barking continuously, music coming from all different directions, voices of strangers talking. 

Arranging my mat, cushions and blanket I settled into meditation or a form of meditation it was more calming myself, my thoughts, my questions.  The time ticked by so very slowly, moment by moment waiting with anticipation, with fear, with excitement knowing that something amazing was going to happen.  It was finally time to start, everything started to flutter, my mind, my body and my soul a flutter with excitement & nervousness. 

Pablo set up his throne; a round wicker stool to sit on and in front of him a table with various wicker boxes, bottles, zip up bags all set out in a special order, in a special place.  Pablo started by draping himself in beaded necklaces, moving things around on his perfectly arranged table until everything was exactly in the right place, once everything was set he called me over and explained step by step what was going to happen and what the likely outcome could be.  He explained that the Caapi would relax me; the Yopo would activate inhibitors causing a trance like state allowing you contact with the spiritual world, the past, the present and/or future lives, tapping into generations, taking a look at the unconscious you carry around allowing a healing to take place, allowing a glance, a look into the shadows of darkness, allowing a glimpse into who you are, all sides of who you are, your mind, your body and your soul.  You will travel through a tunnel into your own spiritual room without dimensions or constrictions, no boundaries, no expectations, no guarantees, to infinity, each to have their own unique experience; a journey unto yourself. 

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We would start by chewing Caapi – a yellow substance ground up, the consistency of ground pepper; this would evoke a settling, a slowing down, a sleepiness – filling the small area in the palm of my hand he instructed me to put it into my mouth, move it to the side of my cheek and chew it, chew it, chew it continuously chew it and eventually swallow it; we would do this three separate times separated by 40 minutes.  I tossed the Caapi into my mouth and chewed it; the consistency was woody & dry with a taste like no other certainly not delicious in any way, taking a little bit of water was the only way it was going down.  After the first chew he instructed me to just lay down and relax, I felt a little sleepy, more relaxed, my mind was slowing down, my body letting go. 

Pablo started the ceremony with a rattle …

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along with his voice making throaty, nasally sounds until he ran out of breath, he would take another deep breath and continue making these sounds coming from deep within him.  The medicine man was in his zone, he was doing his thing, I laid on my mat with my eyes closed and listened taking it all in; the sounds outside were loud and vibrant, dogs barking, music playing, voices in the streets but each time Pablo’s voice rang out the noise from the outside world stopped and all I could hear was his voice and the sounds of the rattle.  Smoke filled the air, tobacco, a hand rolled cigarette rolled from home grown tobacco, he filled his lungs with smoke and exhaled fully filling the studio with the smell of tobacco; this seemingly part of the ritual. 

The moon full and bright; a full moon signifies completion and is an ideal time for letting go of things that you no longer need.

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Candles burning around the room, settling into the deep dark night, the full moon lit up the sky drawing lightness in the deep darkness; the animals outside aware of the fullness of the moon, the howling and barking echoing through the open air studio.

Three times we would be called for Caapi, each time moving a little slower, sloth like, sleepy, relaxed, taking it all in, fully conscious and aware of everything happening around me.  Each time Pablo would perform a ritual, a ceremony of rattling, humming deep throaty sounds, smoking his home made, home grown, home rolled cigarettes.

The clouds rolled in to fill the sky with darkness, a chill settled upon us and the rains poured from the sky pelting the tin roof.

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Finally the time came to take the YOPO; he asked me to come and sit before him as he took 4 clumps out of a plastic container and put them onto a little wooden plate that he heated up over the candle light, he then smashed the clumps into powder, going over and over and over with his specially designed tool, continuing to grind it into a fine fine powder.  He took a brush and gently sat it on top of the crushed yopo, the brush soaking up the powder like a hungry wolf.  He left some powder in the wooden bowl and said he would go first, I was a little shocked by this thinking he was going to be watching, managing, supporting me in my journey through the spiritual world.  I realized after it is part of the ceremony for the Shaman to be in a spiritual state in order to work with the spiritual world.  

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I watched as he snorted the fine powder through a two pronged device, snorting tube, to be inserted into each nostril and a long piece running between them that would be used to snort the powder into the nostrils.  I watched as he snorted all the powder in the dish and immediately went into a trance like state, he sat on his wicker stool bent over his plastic lined bucket between his knees, his eyes were closed, he didn’t make any sound, he kept spitting until finally he vomited many times into the bucket, he stayed in this trance like state for about 30-40 minutes, mesmerized.   

The next thing I knew he was calling my name, it was time, he had the powder ready in the wooden bowl, he explained what to do and handed me the nose piece, I have come this far there is no backing out now.  I put the contraption in my nose and I inhaled through my nose taking in the powder, tap tap tap, another inhale, tap tap tap another inhale.  Done. 

Go and sit down he instructed, I went and sat in my nest; a yoga mat with a round cushion, a large throw pillow at my head and a couple small bolsters on either side of me and a blanket.  I sat back down and put the bucket between my legs, as instructed and I waited.  I felt it immediately pumping through my body, just as Pablo explained.  I felt as thought I was on the inside of my body watching, hearing, feeling, seeing the blood rushing through my veins, into my capillaries, my joints each awakened by the rush of blood, a pressure in my head, behind my eyes, and then nothing, blankness, a clean slate, the feelings in my body were centre stage, not painful but nothing I had ever felt before, like the rushing of a river inside my own body. 

I waited, as Pablo explained this too would pass, and I would enter into a tunnel filled with colour and shapes with no dimensions, pictures, visualizations, all rushing at me at the same time; impossible to put into words.  I saw a myriad of colours and shapes, each individual yet at times all blending together, swirling, twirling, rushing past my conscious mind I was unable to comprehend what was happening, what it all meant, what it was trying to tell me; I had to lay down, next thing I knew I had to sit up again the vomit was coming, violently gagging and puking into my plastic lined garbage can that would become my best friend for the next little while.  Like the scraping of the bottom of the barrel, the gags coming from a place unrecognizable to me, a depth I have never experienced before, deep down into the bowels of my being, the emptying, the purifying, the purging, the getting rid of years of build up, years of pain and suffering, all moving through my body and excreted out of my mouth, my nose, my body shaking, my mind at rest watching a movie screen of images that were not part of my understanding, not part of this human experience, it was place that my mind could not fathom, could not process, could not put into context.  There was darkness, shadows, images, pictures, unrecognizable faces. 

calm would come, nothing left to purge, I would lay down and all would be quiet, a peaceful place, floating, watching, conscious but not understanding;  suddenly it would be upon me again, more purging, more letting go, deep scraping of my inner world, a cleansing.  The sounds that came out of me foreign, sounds I had never heard before releasing through me; suddenly he would appear standing before me he would remind me to breathe, Jodi just breathe, I would hear myself repeat, Jodi just breathe, slowly he would instruct, Jodi breathe slowly, deep slow breaths I would come back, I was here now, I felt his presence.  

He was all around me now chanting (chanting allows the Shaman to move the spirit and universal energies in a positive direction), rattling, allowing sounds to be released from deep down within himself, off I would go again into a place, tumbling, falling, swirling, twirling, more unrecognizable sounds, words not making any sense coming from within and moving out, letting go, purging, releasing. 

He would be there again, this time spitting water through a straw into my face, the cool sprits of water bringing me back, he was circling me changing, putting his hands close to me all around me but never touching me; at one point I needed a ground, I reached out to touch him, I wanted to hold his hand and I said “I need to touch you” he jumped back and said no, he continued changing, rattling, all around me. A calm would come and I would lay down and just be until it all came again, the purging, the letting go.  He explained to me that you cannot touch a person who is tripping on yopo because their energy would combine with your energy, not something you want to happen.  

He would go sit back on his stool and let me do my thing until he felt the need to be present again and he would be there; he asked me my name, I said Jodi, he said no what is your name, I said Joanne Jean Mellott, white light liberation, white light liberation, he said yes yes white light liberation.  White light liberation is the name I received from Dharma Ocean during the final ceremony.  

I went from being in a state of mumbling incoherently, unrecognizable to a calm peaceful state, floating, watching it all play out in my mind although not making no sense at all to my conditioned mind back to violent gaging and purging, over and over and over again. 

It was a wild ride, something I will never forget. 

The yopo lasted about 7-8 hours as I started coming back I was fuzzy, off balance, recognizing that I needed to clean myself up, to blow my nose, to wipe my mouth, to remove my shirt covered in vomit.  Slowly, slowly, slowly the yopo wore off and I was coming back to reality, to humanness, I sat up a few times only to return to a laying down position, I was wobbly, dizzy, unsure, still partly there and still partly here, somewhere in the middle.  I rested, I waited. 

Finally I could wait not longer and I had to use the toilet,  I tried to stand, it took a few attempts, once standing my body would not move, it would not do what my mind was telling it, Pablo came over and gave me his hand and guided me to the stairs I had to navigate to get to the washroom downstairs. Once I arrived, I vomited for a long while, holding onto the toilet I let it all come out, release, purge and I flushed it all away.  I made my way back upstairs and continued coming back slowly moment by moment, once I realized I was almost home I looked over at Pablo he was watching me, a smiled spread across my face like no other, he smiled back.  We had done it! 

Next he instructed me to come and sit on his stool overlooking the ocean, I was still very wobbly, I sat and he looked up at me and spoke telling me he was now going to perform a ceremony and rid me of all the bad energy, call the healing spirits through the vibrations of his voice and the rattle helping to break up the energy and carry the power from the spiritual world back to this one, he started chanting and moving all around me, using his voice as a tool, shaking his rattle, similar to Reiki but moving quickly. This time he did make contact with my body touching my stomach, my lower back, releasing all that pent up old, negative energy I no longer needed.

I felt the need to put my head between my knees, that familiar feeling of vomit rising up again, I would put my head down and he would sit me back up continuing with his ritual ridding me of all the bad energy and ceremoniously keeping the good energy flowing all around.   I vomited over and over again, releasing, letting go.  What seemed like about 45 minutes later, we talked about my experience, I literally had no words, I kept saying I have not words but I have a feeling, a feeling that I just shed a whole bunch of invisible weight, lighter, happy, joyful, something had changed inside of me.

There are no words to describe this experience or how I felt during and after the ceremony although I have tried, I do not believe it gives the experience the justice it deserves.  It is an experience that is not consistent with the human world and all that our mind is conditioned to compartmentalize, organize, make sense of, it was a deeply spiritual experience that I cannot validate with words.

I stayed for a couple more hours resting, recuperating, coming back to this world until I felt steady, ready and completely back.

I departed and went on my way. 

Pablo hugged me and told me he loved me and I felt the same strong feelings toward him.  Having gone through such an experience together it can only be described as a deep love, not the regular relationship kinda love but a newly experienced deep level love for another human being who brought me into the spiritual world and helped me rid myself of some of the baggage I had been carrying around, someone who was a witness to my spiritual experience, someone who supported and cared for me on a level that was new to me. 

I took a water taxi back to Dolphin Bay, I walked to my cabina and stayed there for 24 hours sleeping, writing, processing, nurturing and loving myself for taking another brave step inward. 

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