In part 1 of “The Benefits of Doing Local Medicine Work” I compared my experiences of coming back to America after two different stays in Peru. I learned that thrusting oneself into a completely foreign physical and cultural landscape immediately after finishing a retreat is a recipe for chaos. I also learned how valuable a supportive community of people is when it comes to integrating all the work that has been done during a retreat. While a slow and steady reimmersion into “real life” supported by understanding friends is helpful, I’ve found that there are two other factors that can maximize one’s ability to grow during and after a retreat: dieting local plants and committing to a daily spiritual practice.
When I returned to the US and first started dieting North American trees, I found the ability to connect with each tree much easier than in the jungle. It almost seemed as if these trees had more to say to me, and also had a higher capacity to guide me through the finer psychological challenges I was facing in America. Now after working with the North American trees much more, I have found there are a number of reasons why that was the case.
First off, North American trees and people share the same land and thus, are interacting with many of the same energies that are constantly wafting through the shared space. In short, because physical survival is less of a struggle in a ‘civilized’ society, the ego’s focus turns towards mental, emotional, and social issues. When less energy/attention is needed to prevent physical threats, people tend to spend more time focusing on the subtler refinements of health. The trees seem to have also followed this pattern evidenced by their lengthy average lifespans and the potency of their respective medicines. The North American trees are particularly good at dissolving and contextualizing 1st world problems, weeding out self destructive habits, establishing a foundation of grounded mindfulness, and illuminating the underlying interconnectedness within all of Creation. In the third part of this series, a variety of North American trees and their specific medicinal offerings will be discussed in further detail.
Secondly, regardless of what plant is chosen for a dieta, it is commonly accepted that if one does the dieta while surrounded by the same plants, the connection will be noticeably stronger. This became very clear for me in comparing my Redwood and Sequoia dietas at home (San Diego) to the dietas where I was camping out with the trees. For this reason, it is particularly effective to diet whatever trees are in your local surroundings. Not only will the connection with the tree during the dieta be stronger, but even after the dieta is formally closed, the tree’s resonance will constantly be present offering guidance and support. This can be enormously helpful in keeping any commitments made during the dieta, and putting each tree’s teachings into practice after completing a retreat.
Surrounding oneself with the external support from a nourishing community, and having the internal support of local trees are essential integration tools, but I would argue that the most important tool of all is an ongoing personal spiritual practice.
The purpose behind developing a spiritual practice/discipline is that it effectively catalyzes and supports one’s continuing development of presence, mindfulness, love and compassion, peacefulness, integrity, wisdom, and overall resonance with the Sacred. These practices can take a variety of forms including, but not limited to: the many schools of yoga, meditation, breath work, prayer, sacred chanting, tantra, qi gong, spending large amounts of time in nature, deep contemplation/introspection, fasting, creative arts, studying holy texts, shamanic work, selfless public service, guru or deity devotion, counting one’s blessings, etc… Any discipline that helps one transcend the ego and see the sacred unity of The Divine in all of Life’s manifestations and beyond is a spiritual practice.
One of the amazing gifts of communing with Ayahuasca, particularly when combined with a plant dieta, is that the participant is put in a catalyzed learning state. By either starting or developing one’s use of any of these practices during and after a retreat, large amounts of progress can be made in a very short amount of time. It is not uncommon for guests to enter a retreat with mental or emotional blocks that have been plaguing them for years, and then suddenly they are able to resolve them and move on to new material. The true difficulty is retaining, and hopefully expanding upon these new levels of spiritual insight when one leaves the retreat center and returns to less conducive conditions. In terms of integration, these daily practices serve as a familiar reminder of the clarity and connection felt during the retreat. Tapping into that inspiration and committing to actively pursuing one’s purification process or sadhana is key in making the most out of these retreats and the time after. I would consider these daily practices as the foundation of consistent spiritual evolution while tools such as Ayahuasca are catalyzing supplements.
Ayahuasca and the trees are incredibly effective at getting people out of deep-seated ruts, dissolving illusory conditioning, cleaning out inferior influences, and inspiring growth. However, in order for these plants of wisdom to truly take root, each person must offer their own humility, sincerity, and lasting commitment to doing this spiritual work in and out of ceremonies.
To quote the I Ching: “A wind that changes direction often, even a very powerful one, will disperse nothing-it only stirs up the sky. The wind that causes real change is the one that blows consistently in the same direction.”