Mmmm... My first home grown & home cooked batch of nopales!! It’s been a goal of mine to stick my hands in the dirt & my face in the sun & grow more of my own food + herbs. I highly recommend it to any modern human. Thanks mama for inspiring me & thanks Ayah for the cactus baby so long ago! 🌵
Also known as Prickly Pear Cactus, this exquisite superfood is indigenous to the Americas and helps to reduce inflammation, prevent cancer, regulate blood sugar, lower (bad) cholesterol, heal ulcers, and... it’s loaded with vitamins & minerals, including magnesium. It has a lovely tart flavor & silky, substantial flesh.
It was easier than I realized to throw on thick latex dish gloves & scrape off the spines. Simply lightly boil for 20 minutes, strain, & sauté with your favorite veggies! Shown here: onion, cumin seed, & plum tomatoes. Yum!
"This manual for self-realization comes not from a mountain but from the mud.... My qualification is not that I am better than you but I am worse."
This book is not just for people struggling with hard addictions! Though it could be especially helpful in such cases. This book is for any being that happens to be human. At some point, every human will face some form of addiction—and grapple that tendency to satiate the insatiable. It is the human condition: endless and wandering craving, grasping, and attachment, all fired up by fear. However, the opportunity to transmute addiction is also part of the human condition, and Russell Brand serves as an inspiring and seasoned way shower.
With his classic ruthless honesty, reckless humor, colorful analogies, skinned-alive humility, philosopher's perspective, oracular tongue, familiarity with non-dual states, artful cussing, and grandiose vocabulary, Russell entertains as he educates about the 12 step program and his journey of recovery. By the way, you've never heard the 12 steps quite this before. Even seasoned 12 steppers will enjoy Russell's radical rendition of the process. He shares that he's been sober for 14 years—and confesses to still taking it one day at a time. That's all he can grasp.
Raw, intimate personal stories are woven through the exploration of the steps. Brand himself has experienced multiple addictions: heroin, other hard drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sex, work, fame, digital media, fame, chocolate, and even overusing his professional taxi account. He reaches beyond his personal specifics and speaks to all forms of addiction with compassion and clarity.
12 step groups may not be right for everyone, due to a slew of various reasons. This 12 step guide is accessible to anyone, whether inside or outside of AA, NA, everything A, and especially to cynics, the impossibly misunderstood, and those who consider themselves to be worse than anyone. Whoever you are, you will find some solace and resonance reading this, and that heavy, armored shell might start to crack a little.
12 step work can be a wonderful compliment for integrating entheogenic medicine journeys, with the right mentor and community. In my experience, good integration work and ongoing self-reflection can help one to receive all the long-lasting benefits of entheogenic medicine work, and this book could be helpful for that process.
Brand freely offers comprehensive program materials on his website. Right alongside a mantra addressed to divine power, supreme truth, and love, you'll find each of the 12 steps laced with the "F" word, starting with Step 1: Are you a bit f*****?
This book is a radical act of courage and another gem in the growing culture of transparency. Cheers to the the journey of recovery and infinite personal development.
If you experience the audiobook, you will get to hear Brand's delightful Estuary English accent.
Addiction is when natural biological imperatives, like the need for food, sex, relaxation or status, become prioritised to the point of destructiveness. It is exacerbated by a culture that understandably exploits this mechanic as it's a damn good way to sell Mars bars and Toyotas.
I don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘Wow, I’m on a planet in the Milky Way, in infinite space, bestowed with the gift of consciousness, which I did not give myself, with the gift of language, with lungs that breathe and a heart that beats, none of which I gave myself, with no concrete understanding of the Great Mysteries, knowing only that I was born and will die and nothing of what’s on either side of this brief material and individualized glitch in the limitless expanse of eternity and, I feel, I feel love and pain and I have senses, what a glorious gift! I can relate, and create and serve others or I can lose myself in sensuality and pleasure. What a phenomenal mystery!’ Most days I just wake up feeling a bit anxious and plod a solemn, narrow path of survival, coping. ‘I’ll have a coffee’, ‘I’ll try not to reach for my phone as soon as I stir, simpering and begging like a bad dog at a table for some digital tidbit, some morsel of approval, a text, that’ll do.
Support the beauty and buy this book on Amazon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Since rising to fame in 2003, Russell Brand has established himself as one of one of the world’s most celebrated stand-up comedians. Aside from stand-up, Russell is also a successful author, broadcaster, actor, podcaster, columnist, political commentator and mental health & drug rehabilitation activist. He has 2 cats, a dog, a wife, a baby, 10 chickens and 60 thousand bees, in spite of being vegan curious.
DEA WHISTLEBLOWERS CALL CORRUPTION: The Pharmaceutical Drug Industry Now "Owns" the DEA -- & Congress
"...I think that the drug industry -- the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drugstores -- have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before. And these people came in with their influence and their money and got a whole statute changed because they didn't like it."
- JOE RANNAZZISI
There you go. A whole fleet of DEA agent whistleblowers state that the DEA—and congress—is now pretty much owned by the pharmaceutical opioid industry. Never mind the 200,000 people who have died in two decades in this opioid epidemic (of abusive practices), right?
And oh... A new bill, introduced in the House by Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, makes it "nearly impossible" for the DEA to prosecute criminal practices of the pharmaceutical opioid industry.
The cherry on top? ...Tom Marino was Trump's pick to be Drug Czar!
I am not a fan of the DEA and their treatment of sacred medicines as Schedule 1 drugs, despite clear scientific research demonstrating the evidence of their value when held skillfully—and eons of indigenous traditions. However, I do appreciate the ethics and backbone demonstrated by the whistleblowers here, going after the real criminals.
My 2 cents: The answer here is not solely in granting the DEA the power they need to go after these greed-riddled companies. That's just a part of it. Let's ask: What got us into this opioid epidemic in the first place, in retrospect? How are doctor's educations and protocols influenced by the interests of pharmaceutical drug companies? What measures can we take to address the root issues that lead people to abuse drugs? And how can we all be more empowered with our own health care to begin with?
READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON CBS NEWS
She opened her lips... and children suddenly became quiet, guests took a deep breath and forgot their names (and everything else outside of the present moment), heartbreak revealed its sweet side, fairies smiled somewhere, and portals opened to celestial realms. I will never forget that first time I heard the music of Marya Stark. She is a divine siren and wise woman, who's songs spark awakening, love, prayer, peace, magic, myth, dreams, and everything beautiful about human life. That was over a decade ago, and since then, I have watched in awe as she evolves, deepens, and expands in the realms of music, performance, sound healing, addiction recovery support, and teaching...
How did you come to understand that music could be a healing modality?
I think a part of me always knew intuitively. When i was young I would sing to my pains, I would sing to ease the children I worked with. I would have moments of ecstatic singing where I would feel to myself "wow, there is a multi-dimensional gate opening to the mystery," and I could feel myself remembering codes of sound. I could feel the power of music in the choirs I sang in to move us all to tears when it hit just right. Even as I began writing songs as a part of my own developmental journey, I could feel like something mysterious was going on that was profound, but it wasn’t defined for me until I took my first class in music therapy. That was a game changer.
What was your inspiration for pursuing a degree in music therapy?
You know, I think it was more kismet than anything particularly inspired. The only thing I had really been into was music. I knew Chapman University had a music therapy program, and I think on some level my soul knew before I did that I was going to do it. I chose to take the class once I was there cause I was curious about the relationship between music and spirituality—and that seemed like the gateway. Once I landed in that field, everything shifted in my worldview, and it felt more like I was coming back to something I had always known
How would you say that music can be a vehicle for self-realization?
I can speak to my own process. Once I got into writing songs for my healing, I kept a close chronological track record of them. I now have access to hundreds of songs from the last 20 years of life, and I have realized much about myself through both the process of writing these songs, how they come in, and looking back and seeing bigger cycles of emotions and themes that run through. I think of songs as time-capsules, as tools for my own souls embodiment. Having powerful experiences with music, getting to reflect and be able to tap into different states of being and stages of development has been incredibly insightful as I’ve come to know my psyche a bit more. Sometimes I have written songs, and it takes me years for my nervous system to integrate the energies carried through those muses. Those songs feel like gifts to my future self, that carry codes that help me open to deeper states of presence. Also, just from an emotional integration perspective, I can’t tell you where I’d be without the formative songs of my youth. Hearing songs from older songwriters who could articulate my felt experience helped me to go to deeper layers of understanding and feeling, mourning, and expansion. Its like we pull through clues for each others process, and can then journey together back home to where ever it is this awakening train is guiding us.
Did you have any reference for a "coming of age" stories, songs, or ceremonies before writing your own?
Not at that time. Receiving those songs on the Fork In The Road felt like a special initiation into learning about the hero’s journey. I only had a reference for that in hindsight, and then began seeking out other "coming of age" stories, learning about the architecture of mythology. It emerged spontaneously.
Did you ever come up against the limitations of classical music as you were discovering yourself as a musician?
The main limitation I found in studying classical music was the relationship I had to "performing," and, as a child, it wasn’t an issue. I found classical training to be amazing and helped me to learn music faster, but in a music conservatory environment, I could intuit the inherited structures of our value being our ability. By that time I was having a complete existential breakdown, and had no capacity to find myself within the hierarchy of the opera reality—so the muse grabbed me by the hair and life became my master teacher. I find myself now coming back to classical training, but from an intuitive embodied perspective. Classical structures are like good yoga teaching: once the body is flexible, movement is easy.
What are “song lines”?
What I call song lines are energetic threads I envision run through our souls. People talk about the earth having lay lines, an energetic grid; it is the same with humans, we have channels where energy moves through. There are times when I vision songs coming through us, traveling on similar lines of energy—from other dimensions, star systems, universes, timelines, multi-dimensional star light passage ways where universal poetry and magic comes in like some potent alchemical force. I like to picture myself as a vessel, standing at the center point of a constellation of these lines catching songs through my being.
Could you tell us more about "Scarlet Moon" and the archetype of the shadow feminine?
When I was in college, and receiving many of the visions I still hold today as part of my life's work, Scarlet Moon was an archetype that kept coming in. I knew that I would be going within to learn about the feminine mythos. I think our culture really elevates a few versions of the feminine: the beautiful one and the kind, gentle, loving one. The raw, angry, wrathful rage filled one, not so much. She is demonized, and so there is a whole spectrum of emotional range and nuance that goes under ground. This is one small piece of the pie on this conversation—and Scarlet Moon is where she comes alive in me to dance and find her voice.
Who is Magdalene, to you?
I have come to embrace Magdalene just recently in my life. There is a potent narrative I've come across where "Mary Magdalene" is spoken of as a female counter part to Jeshua, one who holds the keys of the lineage of sexuality that she and Christ held together. I appreciate the ways that the remembrance of this aspect of her archetypal fits into the grid of what is emergent right now within the collective reweaving around sacred sexuality and feminine empowerment. So, I've been aware of these perspectives, and considering where that energy lives within me. Many folks come up to me with dreams that I am of the "Magdalene lineage." And I love the energy that I experience when feeling into those dimensions.
In recent years I have gone deeper into healing my womb stories, activating the energetic creative blueprints of the womb, and opening the possibilities of a greater collective story at work within my psyche. I wrote the song Child of Magdalene after watching the film Magdalene Sisters about the Magdalene Laundries, which is a totally wonky piece of recent European history. Seeing how the name of the feminine was dragged through the mud in the religious structure I grew up in burned something raw in me. I could feel the historical oppression of female sexuality carved in my bones, and this song came as an apology and honoring of that aspect of the Mother, the one who went underground, into the shadow with her magic. I keep finding this story over and over. Claiming Magdalene now, poetically speaking, is reclaiming my own sexuality as sacred, rather than the prostitution-sin situation that we need as women to spend the rest of our lives apologizing for.
What is your relationship to the witch burning times?
My interest in the burning times is a spectrum, from having personal recollections, visions, dreams, and soul connections with others where I have experiences of us all having been from that time. I’ve written songs inspired by that period of history, and it feels like an aspect of the collective epigenetic unwinding that comes through inside of the cauldron of exploring music and storytelling as an opportunity for healing on a DNA level. Currently I have a special interest in grief work, and the power mourning as a vehicle for emotional freedom. The burning times to me occurs as a huge piece of our history that has gone largely unmourned in a way where the quality of life and breakthrough can be felt at a cultural level. Our Western culture, I think, is resonating in a state of collective amnesia and PTSD around not only the burning times, but slavery, genocide and many other historical archs where numerous people suffered unimaginable horror, and then certain infrastructures that are a part of our system of operation came into play to organize the peoples. There is one in me who tracks this in my own nervous system, and the nervous system of the collective woundology and heart. When I chose to create art about it, my prayer is that these stories can be told in a way where repair can happen and we can begin to rework the narrative of oppression and violence from our bloodline, and make space for a more coherent way of relating to come online, one where we are not afraid of differences, and where we are honoring again of the mystery and our relationship with all of life.
Do you ever feel that the music industry pressures artists to fit neatly into a specific niche or genre, for commercial success? If so, how do you navigate, as an artist that cannot be contained by a niche or genre?
Ha! totally. I have navigated it by both trying to fit inside a box, completely ignoring the box, pretending I’m not part of the music industry, and then deciding firmly to dissolve within me the places where I’m playing into hierarchical art making. I’m choosing to live more intentionally as a multidimensional being who makes art and expresses my profound love for life. Wholehearted expression. What does this look like? This is the question of every day. I will continue to receive visions of music and do my best to make them happen. I feel myself more and more in devotion to the muse with less attachment to how its received. Before, when more "industry" based in my strategies, I was much more concerned about being "successful" as an artist. This internalized way of seeking feedback externally is something I'm tracking in my ego process. As an artist, of course we want to reach as many people as possible. I also don’t want to change my tune to do so.
Fork in the Road is a therapeutic concept album as well as a curriculum for people working with addiction recovery. Can you tell us a little about your own journey with addiction?
When I was in college studying music therapy, I was in a deep process of substance use as a way to numb out and manage the complexities of interfacing with the impact of traumatic experiences. After recognizing the impact of my behavior from years of use, I started therapy, and began working to heal these edgier places in my psyche. I was looking for the first time at family of origin fractures, sexual experiences in my coming of age that were imprinted with fear and intensity, and sorting out the cultural trances of being an empath, shutting down the deep feels, silencing my own voice in order to survive and stay in good social standing. The songs and vision of Fork In The Road came through during this period of detox. My experience with addiction didn’t stop there, but this body of work helped to orient me towards a path of resolving and healing.
There is a big stigma around addiction. I didn’t formally come forward with my story even though my first album was about addiction because I didn’t want to talk about it with my family, didn’t want it to have a negative impact on my "brand," and I really hid from it. It's coming forward more and more now, because I think its really important for us to have community dialogues about how we are managing our pain. I was in a lot of pain as a youth, and I felt alone in it. I long for greater conversations around the impact of rites of passage, and how badly we are missing that in our culture. Once I began having rites of passage, finding my tribe, and being held spiritually by the elders in my community, and once I had that level of being seen, celebrated, and tracked, my need for substance use shifted.
Have entheogenic (visionary/psychedelic) medicine been a part of your journey? If so, how?
My experience with entheogenic medicine has played a critical role in my healing and creative journey. When i was in high school, I had my first experiences with mushrooms, and MDMA. These experiences opened me up to multi-dimensional reality, as well as had an impact on my capacity for empathy, shadow work, emotional intelligence, and intimacy.
In college, I formed some daily use habits with more addictive substances. When I went to my first Burning Man at age 20, I sat in my first ayahuasca ceremony (at Burning Man.... seriously) and that experience changed my life. It played a major role in my awakening, I had a full cosmic soul rebirth experience, which purge my system of the toxicity of my addictive patterns, and of the substances i had formed dependency on. This was a cornerstone of my journey with writing The Fork In The Road, as the songs and vision of this album came directly from that first sit with Aya.
My last semester of college, and the time shortly following graduation, I sat with Aya several times. I traveled to Hawaii for a 3 week Aya cook. I experienced things there that seeded my life's work currently with women and womb healing. In fact the story I told at the Yoniverse Monologues last year was about my journey to Hawaii, and sitting with Aya, and the clusterfuck of drama that occurred on a hilariously mythic archetypal level in my relationship to my blood and the moon time mysteries. I also received visions of creating children's meditation based albums at this time.
I have not sat with entheogens since that time, over 10 years ago, as my guides in the esoteric trainings I continued with after graduation requested me to abstain from uses of any substances, including entheogens, so I chose to walk the way of cultivating visionary states through meditation and qi gong practice.
The truth is that entheogens helped me heal from addiction and cracked me to be open enough to receive visions of my life's work, the destiny threads I continue to walk to this day. I feel grateful for those times and experiences, and how they have informed my hero's journey.
VOICE OF MY WOMB
Online course starting Nov 7, 2017
ANCIENT VOICES RETREAT
Feb 15-20, 2018
We are in the midst of a global opiate addiction and overdose epidemic. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in its 2017 World Drug Report, “Opioids were the most harmful drug type and accounted for 70 per cent of the negative health impact associated with drug use disorders worldwide.”
One of the most promising opioid addiction therapies involves treatment derived from a powerful psychedelic plant medicine from Africa – iboga. Iboga and ibogaine, a psychoactive alkaloid derived from iboga, are being used as an alternative medication-based treatment for addiction in some countries and they have seen high success rates in cutting drug cravings and supporting drug abstinence. However, iboga and ibogaine-based therapies are not a magic bullet; they require sincere intentions and quality aftercare.
In general, iboga and ibogaine can be administered safely and without incident, especially when done with proper medical screening and qualified supervision. However, ibogaine treatment can be fatal when complicated by additional factors: contraindicated medical conditions (insufficient medical screening), contraindicated drugs or medications, improper dosing, inexperienced providers, self administration, or adulterated medicine.
If you are considering using iboga or ibogaine for addiction therapy, here are some important safety tips... (CONTINUED)
Photo by Laurent Sazy
With global opioid abuse reaching record levels, opiate users are turning to an ancient and powerful plant medicine, that some say is many times stronger than ayahuasca in ceremonial doses, for healing.
Iboga is a visionary medicine held sacred by the indigenous people of Central West Africa. The name generally refers to the Tabernanthe iboga plant as well a broader group of perennial shrubs belonging to the Apocynaceae family, found in the tropical forests of Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of Congo. Seven common varieties of iboga are known throughout Gabon, where it is most abundant, though some findings suggest that many more varieties could exist in the highly biodiverse environment.
...Iboga and ibogaine are both known for spiritual exploration, psychotherapeutic healing, rapid physical detoxification, and addiction recovery. Promising results have also appeared in the treatment of a number of other conditions including Parkinson’s disease. The two medicines share some similarities, but there are distinct differences in both content and context.
There are actually three forms of the medicine to consider: iboga root bark, total alkaloid iboga extract, and ibogaine... (CONTINUED)
In the face of widespread drug prohibition in most of the world, unregulated treatments in other countries, and traditional shamanic cultures that do not provide diplomas or licenses in the same way, how do you go about finding a qualified iboga or ibogaine provider?
You are going to want to conduct independent research, consult with the global psychedelic medicine community, inquire for personal referrals, ask the right questions, practice critical thinking, fact check, and listen to your intuition. Be empowered.
Finding the right provider is especially critical as iboga and ibogaine are among the most powerful and medically volatile of all visionary medicines. As the shaman Moughenda says, “taking iboga without a qualified guide is like driving a car while blindfolded.” For those who would like to consider the indigenous perspective: the Bwiti express that specific codes and elements of ceremony are required in order to unlock the full potential of the medicine. Both iboga and ibogaine require nuanced skill and extensive knowledge for safe and effective administration.
Iboga and ibogaine should never be mail ordered as the quality and purity is likely to be compromised. In laboratory analysis by ibogaine researchers, mail ordered medicine has often been found to be adulterated, old, weak, moldy, the wrong plant, or outright poisoned. It may not have been procured in an environmentally sustainable, culturally sensitive, or ethical manner. Good providers will have access to high quality, ethically sourced medicine.
Here are some steps to support your research process… (CONTINUED)
Here we are, all bright-eyed and throwing sparks, after having danced and sang in a high voltage ceremony all night, for 10 hours straight, surpassing all our preconceived limits of physical exhaustion, guided by light doses of the iboga medicine.
For the second time, Chor Boogie & I visited Mother Africa to receive teachings from the Bwiti tradition and experience the sacred iboga medicine at its roots.
Africa was supernatural, to say the least...
Much love and thanks to the Bwiti people, who so generously share their beloved tradition and offer healing to all sincere human beings. The Bwiti and the sacred iboga medicine are the inspiration behind my intimate memoir, Heart Medicine, which chronicles our healing journey with the iboga medicine. To learn more about the iboga medicine, explore this article.
We are also deeply grateful to the Bwiti community who embraced us in Africa, all lifelong devotional artists, musicians, dancers, and healers.
The Bwiti is not a religion in the typical sense, as it is not "man-made." It is a tradition stemming from the wisdom of the plant teacher, iboga.
In our Eurocentric and enthnocentric culture, it may be challenging for some people to understand how a plant can be a teacher, however science is finally starting to catch up with the indigenous traditions by discovering plant intelligence. Furthermore, plants have no ego, which can be one of the great downfalls of human teachers.
Unlike some religions, the Bwiti do not hold "beliefs" in the sense that no one is expected to adopt a dogmatic ideology that has been dictated by someone else. Rather, seekers are encouraged to verify knowledge through direct experience. The Bwiti is a study of life; they practice the art of knowing rather than believing.
There are no authoritarian hierarchies in the Bwiti. Everyone is equal and free to make choices.
The front of a Bwiti temple is always wide open. Everyone is free to enter, and everyone is free to leave at any time.
*All photos were taken with permission, with the shared intention of raising awareness about this beautiful tradition.
Here, Chor and our friend Manima lovingly prepare raw iboga roots for our ceremonies.
These roots were sustainably harvested from wild iboga plants, deep in the jungle of Gabon. This means that only a few roots are carefully gathered from each plant so that it may continue to live.
Before cutting any roots, there is a ritual for "asking" the plant for permission to harvest some of it.
Every part of finding, gathering, and preparing the medicine is infused with reverent ceremony. The medicine is known to respond to the intentions with which it is handled.
Some special plants may be up to 35 - 70 years old. The older the plant, the more potent and spiritually mature the medicine is.
Though our friends in Gabon have expressed that they have no shortage of the sacred medicine, other contacts have witnessed the devastating social and environmental impact of overharvesting in different areas of Africa.
For reasons of sustainability, safety, and ethics, is critically important to never order the medicine online. Refer to the SAFETY TIPS on the IBOGA page.
A better approach, though one that requires more patience, is to develop relationships with local communities and Bwiti trained facilitators.
We do not recommend seeking the medicine in any country where the medicine is illegal.
It was so beautiful to be at the roots of this magnanimous spirit! The Missoko Bwiti regard iboga as the "godfather" or progenitor of all plants, though it is essentially a dual spirit in the sense that is can serve as both "mother" and "father" at different times.
In addition to initiation and healing, the iboga medicine also helps people with ongoing spiritual discovery.
The Bwiti is an oral tradition. According to the Missoko Bwiti, when this plant was first discovered by the people, the spirit of iboga revealed that it had been "watching" the human beings for a long time and "listening" to all of our spiritual and existential questions, and it had come to answer these questions. This is not so outlandish, considering both the depths of plant intelligence and the origins of modern human beings being from Africa.
In Gabon, I sensed that I was at the very roots of the human world...
And the roots are powerful. As Chor puts it, the Bwiti ceremonies are like a roller coaster on a freight train on a rocket ship. Drums pound, aromatic torches illuminate visions, rattles tremble, hands clap, voices sing, hips shake, bare feet pound on bare earth, shamanic transmissions flow through the mouth of the nganga. The dancers' bodies move in elegant, surreal, and seemingly superhuman ways, so agile and swift that one can barely see the limbs.
Through the movement, medicine, and music, the community is woven into one harmonious whole.
Beholding all this, I revere life all the more. My spirit is fortified. Joy is stoked along with the fire.
In the Bwiti temples, I could literally see the origins of all sacred ceremony on the planet.
Many elements of Bwiti ceremony can also be found in other parts of the world, such as the sacred fire, the anointment of the 3rd eye with symbolic pigment, drumming, communal dancing, singing, and more, and it all began in Africa.
Shown above: Okume, my teacher and friend.
We were blessed to witness a traditional music jam in the jungle...
Our friends have tremendous strength, passion, and endurance in their artistic expression.
Their love for life and nature was palpable. They kept going and going, until everyone was dripping in sweat and radiant. Music and dance are also beautiful medicine!
Thank you Danny Mikala, Andy Mikala, Ashil, Pharrell, Manima, Papi, Brice, Kifa, and Silver! (Forgive my spelling!)
We were also blessed to spend time with the great Bwiti harpist, Boussengue Guy Roger.
One can hear a lifetime of devotion and discipline in his music...
Have you ever met your own soul, face to face?
I will never forget the first time I did, three years ago.
In the Bwiti initiation, people are guided to connect with the tradition, the iboga medicine, and their own soul. It is a rebirth, and a gateway into one's full humanity.
During this initiation ceremony, one young man discovered his abilities as a seer, after being guided into the visionary state... Moughenda invited each person in the temple, one at a time, to sit in front of him. He then proceeded to stare into each set of eyes and "read" them, speaking their deepest secrets, life challenges, good qualities, and some things that might be yet to come. He said things that should have been impossible for him to know in the ordinary world.
As I watched this amazing scene unfold, I wondered what he would see in me. When I sat down in front of him, I intentionally opened my heart, mind, body, and soul. I wanted to be completely transparent, hiding nothing, so he could see into me as deeply as possible. When I looked into his eyes, I could see that his personal ego was simply not there at that time. I was looking into the eyes of the medicine itself. I will never forget the first two words he said to me:
The temple chuckled. Two words that hinted at so much more.
He then went on to tell me a few intimate, resonant things. How could he know? I will keep these sacred gems to myself. It was affirming to be so deeply seen, and powerful to be receive prompts from the medicine itself. My purpose, direction, and spiritual prescription were solidified.
With the aid of the iboga medicine, the Bwiti know that we can enter the spirit world, which is actually a spiritual realm rather than a hallucination. This may sound wild to some, but after you actually travel there, you will understand.
In the temple... reborn through INITIATION... I see...
LIFE is a GIFT, freely offered from Creator, to do with what we will.
We are free to create healing, art, beauty, & discovery--or darkness and misery.
I am the artist of my own life, my purpose, and my mind, in every breath.
They start 'em young here!
One can see just how deep the roots of this tradition go, watching this young nganga move...
The RITE OF PASSAGE in Gabon is a test of strength, patience, endurance, skill, & humility. You'll know what you're made of at the end of it.
It is generally for young people between the ages of 6 - 18, and it serves as the entrance to the community of respected adults. There is no common equivalent in our mainstream culture.
For this visit, Chor was able to help facilitate the men's rite of passage, being a graduate himself.
The women have their own rite of passage, which I experienced during our first trip.
Some elements must remain a mystery, but I'll say that everything in life feels easier—and more precious—after it.
This was a traditional cleansing treatment, with medicinal aromatic smoke. After a few intense minutes of sweat and tears in that hut, my eyes and breathing passages felt brand new.
I like to say... the Bwiti are the original Jedis....
Below are images from a rare healing ceremony. More often, ceremonies are for other purposes such as initiation, welcoming visitors, marriages, or spiritual discovery.
This particular ceremony was requested by a family who wanted help from the Bwiti. They had been practicing dark sorcery, and they wanted to cleanse their lives of it.
The Bwiti itself is a healing culture, but other practices are known to exist in Africa that are malevolent.
So what differentiates the benevolent from the malevolent? This is an important question. During colonial times, prejudiced Christian missionaries brutally persecuted the Bwiti people and demonized their tradition. Even today, sometimes Bwiti temples are burned and the people are stigmatized. Though no one should be hurt for their personal esoteric practices, the ignorance of the differences still persists.
The Bwiti know that whatever one puts out into the world comes back, ten fold or a hundred fold or infinitely stronger. They are the healers and protectors. And they know that the most important "battle" between dark and light is in one's own mind, every day.
As my Bwiti elders have said:
Bad spirits try to control free will.
Good spirits support free will.
My humble observations:
Malevolent practices are rooted in fear—hate, greed, envy, rage all sprout from fear.
Benevolent practices are rooted in love—you know, the true kind, without self-centered attachments.
Bad spirits try to dominate nature.
Good spirits harmonize with nature.
What are your reflections?
Many long days in village were spent doing nothing other than JUST BEING—in the heat. It was the perfect pressure cooker to connect with myself and the people around me.
No one seemed to hurry anywhere, and there was no strict schedule. Each day, "time management" was dictated by an organic process and full presence. Moughenda spoke to us about valuing our quality of life more than so-called efficiency.
Though cell phones are starting to penetrate even remote villages, internet access is still extremely limited. I was happy to unplug from the matrix for a while.
I noticed, someone was always playing with the baby... The baby had countless relatives around at all times, and thus, everyone had fresh energy and attention for him. This is very different than our mainstream culture, where the nuclear family model leaves people isolated, stressed, and fatigued. I see how people here in Africa grow up feeling loved, supported, happy, and confident.
Everyone spent most daytime hours outside, in nature. Sunlight and fresh air are also forms of medicine that we all need more of! We cooked, washed dishes, played soccer, washed laundry, all outside. I did not miss my stove or dishwasher or washing machine, and I began to doubt the value of doing everything in such a fast, automated way.
With no running water, the men in the village had to go to a local well with containers, every day. It was a communal effort infused with fun. Though running water is a great thing, I found myself appreciating every drop of that water—and especially the bucket-showers on those hot days.
There was no television in this village. (GASP!) In the evenings, everyone sat around actually talking and enjoying each other. Chor and I noticed, jokes and laughter filled the air continuously.
As they say even here, no place is "perfect." Africa is a great land, rich with tradition and nature, and we were fortunate to connect with wonderful people there. And yet, Africa has problems, too. It has good people and troubled people. It has political, economic, and social issues, like we do.
It can be easy to idealize one place over another.
It can be easy to dream of far away places as the source for fulfillment.
It can be easy to put off tending to your own soul, by fixating on some external circumstance that has not yet come into form.
LOVE NOTE: No matter where you may be in the world, the greatest temple is within & the most important person is the one in front of you!
"for it is the seeking that keeps you
from being where you are"
—excerpt from Traveler, a poem by Martin W. Ball
host of the Entheogenic Evolution Podcast
Check out the iboga inspired artwork by Chor Boogie...
Art by Felix Morel
Sadly, measures to address addiction treatment are woefully inadequate. Even when an overdose doesn’t kill, heroin addiction often leaves the user with an abysmal quality of life. Many addiction therapy providers believe that commonly used drugs like buprenorphine, suboxone, and methadone do not facilitate true recovery or sobriety. Methadone, for example, is a maintenance drug — instead of using heroin daily, an addict uses methadone daily for the long term. Furthermore, methadone is an opioid agonist and binds to opioid receptors like heroin does, and unsurprisingly, carries its own alarming rate of overdose. To make matters worse, anticipated and drastic cuts to Medicaid funding will dramatically reduce access to any medication-assisted treatments.
...Iboga started to grow in popularity in the Western world when it was discovered that ibogaine – one of the primary active alkaloids in the iboga plant – was extremely effective in treating drug addiction. Since this discovery, ibogaine rehab clinics have begun to pop up wherever the drug is legal, from Costa Rica to Canada. Unfortunately, its prohibition in other countries, such as the United States, where is it a Schedule 1 drug, has slowed scientific research.
Iboga and ibogaine have been shown in observational research to interrupt multiple types of substance and behavioral addictions, mitigate opiate withdrawal symptoms, detox the brain and physical body, illuminate the root causes of addiction, and promote psychospiritual healing... (CONTINUED)
I had the pleasure of meeting Rachael Madori at a talk that Chor Boogie and I offered about the iboga medicine with the Aware Project in Los Angeles. At the time, this polymath was exploring her expression as an adult film star, in addition to other gifts such as writing, activism, culinary arts, and fitness education. I would come to know Rachael as a multifaceted and compassionate being; she shared her inner world and raw struggles on her blog and social media platforms as much as she did her physical form and fire. It's a paradox: in the world of mainstream professional erotica, it is supposed to be about "revealing," but it generally only goes skin deep. Personally, I find the holistic, honest view of an artist far more compelling than any marketing mirage. (And yes, erotica can be art.) Through Rachael's journey and authentic unveiling, she has helped educate and inspire many people about mental health, mental illness, suicide awareness, psychedelic medicine, creative freedom, and what it means to be a real, whole person...
Rachael Madori resides in Hollywood, California. She is pursuing opening a restaurant on the east coast. Both her and her fiancé, a chef in Beverly Hills, plan on combining their love of food and service to own their own establishment. Currently she’s learning skills at a fine dining restaurant on Sunset Boulevard and taking classes with Ashworth College.
Rachael is a mental health advocate and social activist. She is a suicide survivor and has been diagnosed with Bipolar 1 and Borderline Personality Disorder; she helps to educate people about these issues. She volunteers with and fundraises for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Rachael advocates for alternative psychedelic medicine. She supports the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. She also attends events put on by the Aware Project in Los Angeles. Their mission is to “balance the public conversation about psychedelics, spread accurate information and give a new face to psychedelia”. A self proclaimed psychonaut, Rachael tries to teach the world through her understanding and years of experience using psychedelics as healing medicines, not only for her mental health but her overall well being.
A passionate writer, Rachael has published articles at sites such as SimplySxy and AVN. She is also a contributing author at Consumer Health Digest. She has accomplished her first written piece of fiction which will be published by Cleis Press in a book curated and edited by Asa Akira. Rachael continues to blog as an outlet for her advocacy and creativity.
A former adult film performer, Rachael holds multiple awards including 2015 Inked Awards Starlet of the Year and 2016 Inked Awards Best Scene of the Year. Her proud and unadulterated voice as a pervious sex worker sheds light and dismantles the stigma associated with the sex industry.
Her blogs pertain to many different subjects but the main objective here is voice. The point of a voice is to be heard, she writes not only to be heard but for anyone out there to find comfort knowing that someone is listening.
Do you feel that living with transparency helps us, as a collective, to heal?
Absolutely. I look at humans as this one large organism and we all, whether we recognize it or not, affect and feed off each other. Not always in a bad way. Truth, transparency and honesty will feed truth, transparency and honesty. Facades will feed facades. Negative will feed negative. It’s all about whether we choose to heal or poison. I want to be on the end of the spectrum that is helping society find what it means to be real again.
What do you feel are some of the gifts of being bi-polar?
Being bi-polar creates this completely altered reality that I live in and because of this I’m creative, different and expressive beyond words. I feel hard, I feel deeply. Sure it’s all over the place but there’s some kind of beauty in the constant chaos inside my mind. Honestly all I’m trying to do is focus on manifesting that chaos into beauty. I feel like we’re all trying to do that in one way or another.
How can people be sensitive and supportive for loved ones who are dealing with mental illness?
It's not easy loving someone who has a mental illness but patience is key. I think the best way to be supportive is to be open and frank about it. It's not something anyone should be embarrassed or ashamed to struggle with so their loved ones shouldn't feel that way either. I can't tell you what a difference it made to finally have an open dialogue between my family and friends about my diagnoses. Sometimes when I was having an episode they could tell when I couldn't. I need that. I don't want to be treated any differently, I just want to know someone will be there when my mind fails me.
What drew you to the adult film world, initially?
I was always fascinated with pornography. I used to envy the women I would watch in videos because I found it so amazing that they had the confidence to show to the world an intimate action that most people shy away from even talking frankly about. I wanted to know what that position of empowerment was truly about.
What did you like about it?
I loved that I had a safe environment to practice and learn about myself and other people sexually. I enjoyed how much emphasis is put on safety and consent. It honestly helped me appreciate how we are all sexual creatures with our own likes, dislikes and boundaries. It let me develop a confidence and sense of self worth I didn’t know before.
What didn’t you like about it?
I didn’t like how political it can all be. Whether it be award shows or the aspect of “Who you kiss up to”. I think all the arbitrary ideas and cliques take away from the industry what it should be about which is creating amazing content.
What changes would you like to see in the industry?
I would like to see performers act more like a family of coworkers and less like competitors. Pursue being the best, win awards, become a top tier performer but leave your ego at the door. We all face enough stigma from the outside world, to create drama within your own industry due to ego is unjustified.
Why did you limit it to three years?
I always heard this saying that three years is the best time frame for a female performer. I didn’t go into sex work for the money, I did it because I felt drawn to it and ended up falling in love with performing. I knew it was a side step off my path so I figured giving myself a time frame would keep me headed towards all my other life goals.
What did the adult film world teach you about human beings?
The good things it taught me about humans was both physical and mental. I learned ways to please and be pleased that I think would take a lifetime of experimenting with different partners and I’m proud of that. I learned about having pride in yourself as a sexual creature and holding steadfast to that. We’re all organic, developing beings and the adult film world taught me never to be ashamed of that.
I also learned that ego can destroy people without them even knowing it. I found out very quickly that to some people - how popular they are, how many followers they have on social media, how many trophies they hold and what they see in the mirror is all that defines them. And it’s sad.
Have you ever encountered judgment and/or discrimination from people in reaction to your work in adult film? How so?
I’ve experienced people who were caught off guard by how frankly I talk about adult films and sex in general. I’ve gotten hate mail from religious people, I’ve gotten called countless slurs because I did publicly what people do behind closed doors. It even took a long time for my family to see me as credible because they feared this industry, clouded in mistruths and taboo, had destroyed a part of me. My love and life partner has been harassed online by people who cannot see sex work as work. I’ve been misjudged as unintelligent and have been discriminated against far enough that I’ve been told my choice to be a performer was due to my mental illness. At first I ignored it but to be honest it started to hurt me. Not my confidence or sense of self worth, but I hurt for all of the people who have developed such a distorted view because that kind of tunnel vision leaves zero room for growth of your inner self.
Most porn stars I’ve seen tend to create a very slick, one dimensional, “adult fairy-tale” image for marketing purposes that appears to have few real world human challenges. Yet, while in the adult film industry and beyond, you have been so open about your full-spectrum human self, sharing about your experiences navigating mental illness, psychedelic medicine, personal relationship, dreams, and multi-faceted creativity. You started this intimate expression on social media, then it expanded onto your blog. What made you want to break that mold?
For a while I marketed myself the way everyone else did. I only posted what I was told to, I never kept my presence online too serious and conveying a brand like that and separating it from your true self is successful for some people. I just don’t happen to be one of those people. People have been trying to fit me into boxes my whole life and I wasn’t aware that there were boxes for pornstars too. I have this innate and deep conviction to bare my true self to the point were upholding a manufactured image of myself online wasn’t even possible. I am sexual and filthy and heated, all the things a sex performer should be, but that’s not even half of me. So I decided I wasn’t okay with only being seen as that. It’s just not in my personality and I had this deep feeling to throw my entire self out to the world. Whether I lost or gained fans because of that didn’t concern me. This became a movement to show the world something much more intimate that me having sex.
What kinds of feedback (positive & negative) have you received from your adult film fans after revealing more about yourself?
I received some negativity. I was told to stick to the basic frame work of a pornstars internet presence because I had no business being anything else. I was told that people weren’t there for me they were there for my body. Which I’m all well and good with. My career was of the human body. However, that doesn’t negate my right to express every other aspect of myself.
I got a lot of positive feedback too. There were people struggling inside and outside of the industry who reached out to me because they knew I wouldn’t judge them or they knew that what they saw is what they got. I have lifelong fans that started watching me because they loved my videos but now they follow me on my life journey because at some point sharing my humanity became just as entertaining.
When did you start your public blog?
I started it two years ago. My website has always had my blog section because I love to write. I’ve been writing ever since I could spell. I used to have links and such to my adult films but once my fan base started growing from outside of porn I made the decision to make my site completely PG about a year ago. Not because I wanted to hide my career, I embrace it fully. I did that so now my words could reach a wider range of people who may need to hear something that touches them.
What kinds of people follow your blog?
All ages, genders, interests. A lot of young women and men. Fitness and wellness is one focus on my website so a lot of people looking for tips or motivation tend to follow along. I also converse with a lot of people who struggle with mental health or live with someone who is struggling and I’ve been told I help them by putting into words that they otherwise cannot to describe what’s happening to them or their loved one. There are still fans of my adult films that continue to follow my life and my blog which I think is great. I broke this barrier where you can enjoy my sex work but also the rest of me as well.
What kinds of feedback have you received about your blog from your readers that are not necessarily your adult film fans?
Some people call me brave. I’m not sure how I feel about that word because I just feel like I’m doing what I have to do to help. There’s a few particular fans of mine who live with wives struggling with Bipolar Disorder and they’ve let me know how much my blog has helped their understanding and their marriage. I feel like some people are taken aback that I went from a one layer pornstar to such an open advocate for many things personal to me but the feedback has been mostly positive. If I can make one person feel even a little better, I think I’m doing my job as a human.
Now that you’ve retired from adult film, you are onto other projects and visions. What is next for you? What are you excited about?
I’m focusing on my position in the restaurant industry and opening one of my own. I’m working in a great company at a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles until I move back home to New York City to pursue a second degree in Culinary Management. Another creative endeavor I’m working on is a streetwear line called Feel Hard where I’ll be donating a percentage of the proceeds to non-profit mental health organizations. I’m also trying to dedicate whatever free time I can find to compiling my first book.
*Check out the DONATE section on the website with links to the organizations that Rachael fundraises for including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies.
Support Rachael's Fundraiser:
Streetwear Line for Mental Health Awareness