Getting Schooled by Grandfather Peyote

As many of you already know, CDA has become associated with The Singing Stone Native American Church. All of the facilitators at CDA have full membership status with The Singing Stone Native American Church.

The Singing Stone is headed up by Chris Long. Chris is a Peyote “roadman” and a Lakota Sioux Yuwipi medicine man. He has 15+ years experience doing this work.

There are more than one Native American Churches that we could have aligned with and because this is the case we felt it necessary to be selective with this alliance. We felt it important that we not only look at every aspect  of such an alliance including the energetic aspects. This is why we (Zach, Scott, Amy and Sean) took the time to spend a week with Chris and Andrea Long on their land in Crestone, CO. During this week we had the opportunity to spend some face time with The Singing Stone family, participate in three of their ceremonies ( Sweat Lodge, Yuwipi Ceremony and Peyote Ceremony).

Crestone, CO is about 4 hours south of Denver in a flatland valley with dramatic Rocky Mountain views. It is a hub of spiritual retreats and activity with several Buddhist monasteries, Ashrams and retreat centers scattered around the tiny town. Apparently it is sometimes compared with Sedona, AZ in terms of energy vortexes etc…. I don’t know all the details about the vortexes, but when Amy and I went hiking up into the mountains above Crestone we were both happily surprised to feel quite mariado (sans medicine) a few minutes into our hikes…pretty damn cool.

We planned our visit to allow for some private meeting time with Chris Long and it also coincided with a weekend retreat already scheduled such that we were joined by about 25 other people from Denver. This way we could maximize our understanding of how The Singing Stone worked, their philosophy, their medicine and vice versa.

In the days leading up to the weekend retreat Chris and I traded stories about our backgrounds/lineages, how our respective work has evolved and what our visions for the future are. It was during these discussions that we discovered Chris’s Lakota Sioux lineage is from Norbert/Elmer Running. As it turns out my family, when we lived on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, went to Norbert Running’s healing ceremonies and Sun Dances on a regular basis. Chris indicated that there was a good chance that the spirits from that lineage were calling me back!

Talk about synchronicities! Both Chris and I had already felt a connection from our phone conversations and with this new information, the bond became even stronger.

The weekend schedule was as follows:

Friday Afternoon- Sweat Lodge Ceremony (cleansing/purification to open the weekend)

Friday Night- Yuwipi Ceremony

Saturday Night- All Night Peyote Ceremony

Sunday Afternoon- Sweat Lodge Ceremony (final cleansing/purification to close the weekend)

The Yuwipi ceremony is quite unique on many levels. According to archeologists, it is the oldest known ceremony on “record” with some saying it was performed back in Neanderthal times. This ceremony existed in ancient Europe, Asia, and Siberia before moving to the Americas.

The Yuwipi ceremony, as I understand it, is used for healing illness, to find people who have gone missing, or to find a lost object. Other ancillary information may be received by the medicine man from the spirits during the ceremony as well.

At the beginning of the Yuwipi, the medicine man has his hands securely tied behind his back, then a blanket is wrapped/tied over the medicine man’s body/head. Then the medicine man is placed face down on top of a buffalo robe in front of an altar. On and around the altar are several rattles, round stones, eagle feathers, tobacco ties, animal skulls and mole hill dirt.

Once the medicine man is in place on top of the buffalo robe, the lights are turned out such that there is complete darkness in the room. In a corner is a team of singers who start to sing specific Yuwipi ceremony songs and continue throughout the night with the medicine man instructing them what songs to sing and when.

During the ceremony the medicine man is calling on and connecting with his spirit allies to come help with the work at hand (healing etc…). He is using his body as the channel through which the spirits can travel from their world into ours such that they can help during the ceremony.

This ceremony does not use any plant based medicine such as peyote or ayahuasca. Despite no medicine being ingested, there is definitely some interesting stuff that goes on.

In this particular case/ceremony, as soon as the lights went out and the singing started I saw flashes of light and heard rattles 20 feet in the air. Rattles and light moved all over the room- around me, in the corner, near the ceiling (20 feet up) for the entire ceremony. Animal howls were heard across the room and loud thumps on the floor were heard/felt right in front of me. I could also feel the spirits as the came through doing their work. It was clear that this type of activity was not due to any person in the room as it would have been physically impossible for them to do so. My experience was by no means unique as others in the group confirmed my personal observations. In addition, at the end of ceremony, when the lights came on rattles and round stones were randomly strewn about the room. The round stones had been flying around and then lightly landed in various strange places like participants laps etc… This was all without any medicine ingested by anyone in the ceremony. Wow.

The next night was the all night Peyote ceremony. This ceremony was the big one for us as none of the team had sat with “the Grandfather”. We were first timers once again…it is always a good thing to remind ourselves to keep a “beginners mind” and these situations help with that intention.

The ceremony was held in a large teepee with a sizable fire in the middle. Just like an Ayahuasca ceremony Chris and his team sat on the West side of the teepee and the medicine was passed clockwise. Following the medicine was a long decorated staff, a sage bundle and a rattle. In addition there was a small water drum with a designated drummer that followed the staff. Whoever held the staff/rattle could sing. For the first three rounds of the staff/drum, only those who knew Peyote songs were allowed to sing. The fourth round they opened the singing up to other sacred/medicine songs.

Just like Ayahuasca, one asks a question or puts an intention as we take the first serving. We were also advised to look/stare into the fire to gain insight to our question/intention. One of my intentions for this ceremony was to understand what it would take for CDA to prosper.

The Grandfather kicked in fairly quickly (faster than San Pedro) and after about 40 minutes I could feel the medicine flowing through my body and noticed some visual activity- heightened awareness, vivid colors and movement of energy through the room. It was gentle without too much nausea (this not the case for all- there was plenty of purging going on). The singing was great and quite different from our icaros given the different medicine, the fast paced drum beat and rattle. I was enjoying myself immensely…..until it came time to sing.

As the fourth round approached I was getting excited to sing some of our icaros…..I have to admit there was some ego there. I was getting more and more mariado with each round of medicine and the medicine arrived about 15 minutes before the staff arrived and I took a big heaping dose of medicine knowing it was the last round. Both Scott and Amy were before me in line to sing and while they sounded different than normal (with Ayahuasca), I did not think anything of it.

The staff arrived and it was my turn to sing. I could feel my heart pounding and some nervousness started to creep in….I was not sure how this medicine would jive with our icaros. I held the staff and started in with the rattle. The drummer looked at me for the signal to begin and started in with a rapid pace, the same pace he kept for everyone. I did my best to key into the drumming and started to sing a tree icaro. It seemed to start off ok, but then the mind got distracted by the damn drum which did not seem to follow the icaro and the mind was having an awful time trying to follow the drum beat. My heart started to sink…ugh it felt awful!! The internal visions were getting really weird….I lost my direction in the icaro struggling to finish. I got through one and something in me said to continue with another….the same thing happened…it actually felt worse. I quickly finished it up and passed the staff.

As I passed it I turned to Scott and said, “Wow, that was weird.”

He smiled and replied “Yeah, your right…it was weird.”

When he said this…my mind immediately created a story that Scott was telling me that my singing was “weird” i.e. bad.

For the next 10 minutes my mind went into a downward spiral of insecurity, disappointment and embarrassment. It was awful. It was like I showed up to the first day of school naked. I felt like I had failed a test miserably. I felt like giving everything up. I thought to myself, “I am done with this medicine work, I can’t hang”. Internally my visions were of complete identity destruction, despair etc….there was something dying.

Then, it all stopped….suddenly, an overwhelming sense of emptiness/nothingness/peace replaced the suffering. I laughed at the silly stories the mind was creating as I realized that this whole thing meant nothing in the larger scheme of things. The mind was speculating what others thought of my singing, the mind had no basis or true evidence for the story it was creating.

It was at this moment that it hit me “I can either tuck my tail between my legs and give up medicine work, OR pick myself up and keep going.” I decided on the latter.

With this decision I realized that my question/intention for the Grandfather had been answered. In order for CDA to prosper, I needed to face my biggest fear…i.e. I needed to fall on my face in front of a large group of people. Then I needed to get back up and continue. If I could do this I could do almost anything. With this new understanding, everything in my experience expanded into a peaceful spaciousness. “Holy shitballs” I thought. “Thank you, thank you Grandfather.”

It was soon after this return from my self created hell that the ceremony ended. The sun had come up and inside the teepee it was quite light and as we stepped out of the teepee we discovered that it had snowed several feet during the night. The sun was shining bright and it was almost a painful re-birth as we stepped outside into the ultra bright environment caused by the sun and its’ reflection off of the snow, but once the shock wore off appreciation for the immense beauty that surrounded us crept in.

Scott and I looked at each other and quietly said, “Holy SHIT!” at the same time followed by giggles.

As it turns out, Scott’s comment about the icaro being “weird” was more about his own experience singing, not my singing. It was simply our own minds messing with us….our own minds making up ridiculous stories that we bought into, albeit temporarily.

All of us agreed that Grandfather works in a very different way than Ayahuasca. He can seem to be gentler than Ayahuasca aaaand he can be a surprisingly stern teacher. It was exactly what we all needed.

The mariacion continued through the afternoon. The physical body seemed completely confused….I felt like I wanted to sleep yet energized. Food sounded good, but when I ate I lost interest after the first bite. I swear I felt the need to pee for like 6 hours, but was unable to actually pee. It was not a suffering state, just a bit confusing. Luckily we had a Sweat Lodge ceremony in the afternoon and that seemed to mellow things out significantly such that we could sleep.

The next night it was our turn to share a ceremony with Chris and his Singing Stone “family”. It went very well with Chris honoring us with compliments after the ceremony. This meant a lot to all of us on the CDA team as Chris has been doing this work for over 15 years and to have him compliment us in such a way was not insignificant.

For those interested in “The Red Road”, we would recommend people consider visiting The Singing Stone and we are happy to facilitate making those connections.







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