6 Replies to “Ayahuasca Pilgrimage?”

  1. It was a pleasure reading of your experiences, thankyou.
    I would like to add something, if I may:
    there is no such thing as “ayahuasca tourism”. I’ve been here in Iquitos for 16 years now, married to a local with two children. The only “passengers” I have seen coming here, are here with serious intent. Tourists don’t participate, they watch. To have “ayahuasca tourism” it would require that there be bleachers put up outside a ceremonial maloca where the tourists could view a sacred ceremony. The passengers coming here are in the maloca, vomiting, defecating, traveling with the icaros, seeking their own personal spiritual, emotional and physical healings. Many have come because they felt called as the western ways are not answering the void in their souls. When I came here 16 years ago, the shamans complained to me that their own children and grandchildren no longer wanted to diet and learn the shamanistic ways. Since the arrival of the gringo and the way the gringo shows incredible respect to the grandfather shamans, the children have seen that and they have seen that the gringos pay the curanderos (shamans) for their services… they see their grandfathers now being able to pay for their school supplies (books, pencils and papers, etc.) and see how there is more food on the table and their homes are more comfortable… and so they now want to learn. It is because of the gringos coming that the children want to learn about the plants and how to heal with them.


  2. I recently saw you speak at City Lights and have begun reading your book since. This (old) post of yours imho touches on the most important issue that was brought up that night and I’m glad it is getting the attention it deserves here and in de Rios’ book (i just ordered it-thanks for bringing it to my attention!). given the context of your book, i’m sorry to have seen this topic pushed to the side at the bookstore gathering.

    Having not read de Rios’ book, I can only go from my own observations that both ayahuasca tourism and ayahuasca pilgrimage are in almost all cases the same thing (maybe i agree with alan, who is perhaps a little biased in his remarks because of his role in the…ahem…tourist industry). therefore both have a similar impact on the indigenous (but let’s get real, mostly mestizo) ayahuasca culture of the amazon. there is definitely power in vegetalismo in its “purest” state, however, it is not beneficial for us to idealize and believe that vegetalismo was ever a stagnant practice that wasn’t evolving with amazonian culture over the history of its use as a healing and spiritual practice. the introduction of the gringo’s interest in the medicine, however we choose to judge his/her motivation for seeking the medicine, is simply the next step in the evolution of the practice/culture. i like many others who have a relationship with the medicine, I find myself wanting to preserve its ancient form, while also sharing its powerful beauty with people who would benefit from its healing touch. But do I really have the ability to know its ancient form?

    What I have found is that medicine culture, like all things, evolves with everything going on around it and time. we can always call back to days long ago when it was “better”, “more pure”, etc (like we do with all things dear to us) but i have always found that what feels solely like dilution is often goes hand in hand with the beauty of adaptation and proliferation. with increased communication through the internet and globalization (of commerce and culture) the old ways of being in the world (even the most sacred) will change to fit the new world if they have value or disappear if they do not. the question we are truly left with is whether or not they can adapt with integrity.

    what i struggle with is what does adaptation with integrity look like? there are definitely curanderos that put on quite the performace for gringos during their ceremonies. there are definitely ones who play up the psycho-spiritual aspects and downplay the healing potential. there are ones who use westerners for money, fame, power and sex. there are those that learn to speak like a west coast, new age, psychonaut to appeal to that aspect of the market. does it matter? i think a continued discussion of this topic is key to the education that you mentioned above, is of utmost value. but at the same time, the process of discussion and debate is the solution and unlikely anything more. because in the end, we each must decide when we approach medicine, what works best for us individually at any particular time in our life. to create law or even to shape by idealizing dogma is a step in the wrong direction when we want to share the beauty of Spirit and Healing with all beings.

  3. In over 12 years spent studying within these indigenous traditions with these medicines, I can say from personal experience that this work is utterly life transforming. It helped me where Western medicine did not and has given me answers to my deepest inner questions. Indeed my experiences have provided deep and lasting healing on all levels and have given me a renewed sense of purpose.

    During my times in the mountains and jungles of Peru, I have not met even one “ayahuasqua tourist”. What I have encountered there are people searching for something, for answers, with a deep desire to heal, to transform their lives. Some discover that they are called to study and carry on this work.

    When someone comes with an open heart, with gratitude, humility, and respect, for these ancient indigenous traditions and the curanderos that practice them, one can learn a great deal. This experiential work is uniquely personal. It cannot be observed. Fortunately, it can still be experienced.

    Western comercialism is not sustainable. Healthy indigenous traditions and their ways of life are. We, those of us born in the West, have much to learn from our elder brothers and sisters.

  4. Here is what I don’t get. The middle to upper middle class folks that seek out all this healing “where Western medicine has failed” sometimes have a very facile sense of the world and their place in it. What I mean is, they don’t go to other cultures to experience the culture, they go to have an awesome experience and make themselves feel authentically spritual after being part of this ritual, but where is the awe and wonder at all of the other aspects of the culture? And so much of the time it’s just that a lot of new age types won’t reflect on their whiteness or privledge, because they are all defensive. Meanwhile, they are without a proper understanding of the critique of colonialism, imperialism and empire that have structured their own ways of understanding their relationship to other cultures. Lookie there. Their reaction to the aspects of Western Culture that they don’t like (tech or pharma or alienation or whatever) is to turn away immediately and seek authenticity and meaning in a very small segment of other cultures – and that very segment is all ready made and wrapped up fro them with them in mind. I’m sorry – it’s hard to be white in the West. Deal with it. Cry about it. Above all, read about it and participate actively in any part of the culture that you can embrace.

  5. Hi Rob, got your comment on my posting in roamingthemind.com.

    If you’re curious about my pedigree, I would recommend you read my book, The Jaguar that Roams the Mind, which recounts our work with Juan Flores.

    Best, RT

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