The MEDICINE might manifest as yoga or prayer or sacred visionary plants or martial arts or AA or artistic expression...
The medicine path is the path motivated by love rather than by fear.
Sometimes the medicine is a straight shot to the moon. Other times the medicine is a winding path that crosses volcanoes & raging rivers.
Medicine can be messy and work in mysterious ways that become clear over time.
Medicine flows from the divine intelligence that is beyond the human intellect.
No matter the terrain, we can choose to be devoted to the medicine path.
Once you truly speak with your own soul, there is no turning back.
One year ago exactly, my beloved friend Psalm Isadora took her own life.
It has taken me this long to share these words. I knew I had to—eventually. As with many who loved her, her death presented a journey into the belly of darkness and back, all laced with hard questions and deep wounds. These words did not come immediately; they formed through seasons, cycles, and earthly forces. Grief, like death, is a process.
Psalm was a teacher of yoga, tantra, sacred sexuality, and source of inspiration for many. Psalm was a powerhouse of a woman, an advocate of health and empowerment, an passionate activist, and a prolific creator.
As a community, we were all left asking: How did this strong, driven woman come to that point?
She left us with only shards to sort through… I know that she would want us to look at these shards, tell the truth, and learn something from her tragic departure. She would appreciate the REAL TALK.
I first encountered Psalm as she was just emerging into the seat of the teacher. She was fresh from India, activated, and in love with the path of yoga and tantra. She was just taking root in her own practices and integrating her profound transformational experiences. Still, as green as she was, she was on a mission to heal the sexual trauma of the world, like a juggernaut.
I hosted her at my yoga studio and attended one of her early retreats. She shared sweet practices that were accessible to rushing Americans. She brought in the drums and the Kali chants, she lifted the spirits and provoked the bravery of many beings. She held a potent space for presence, connection, warmth, beauty, and ritual. She taught hatha yoga to sex workers in the slums of India. She founded a non-profit called Courage to Rise, dedicated to women’s empowerment with programs in India and America. She raised awareness about our culture of sex-shaming. She was willing to reveal herself so fully to the world as a sexual-spiritual being. She was not a scholar; she was a lightning rod for Shakti, the dynamic primordial creative embodied energy.
Psalm seemed to be an unstoppable force of productivity. I often pondered how she summoned the force to produce as much as she did: events, projects, photos, writing, media.
In that early Women’s Leadership retreat that I attended, I remember her playing a motivational video of a male athlete training like a beast, encouraging us to generate that kind of relentless drive and momentum. “You can sleep when you’re dead!” she was famous for saying, preaching a regimen of scant rest and long work hours. She was ambitious and wanted to reach the masses. When I asked her about honoring the menstrual cycle, she felt it was something to push through rather than a ceremony to surrender to.
As a facilitator and educator, Psalm’s personal approach was not sustainable for my body, mind, or soul. It left me feeling depleted and disconnected. I needed eight hours of sleep a night if I was to be naturally functional. I needed to retreat into an intentional moon lodge with my menstrual cycle. I valued spaces of silence, hermitage, and non-doing. I decided that I’d rather have a good quality of life than break myself in efforts to produce more than felt organic for me.
Though I remained friends with Psalm and appreciated all that she was, I did not continue to attend her events during the last few years. I followed the intuitive, quiet call of my soul in other directions. I watched from the distance via our connections on social media: her professional output remained remarkable, her beautiful photos were increasingly polished and business professional, and her marketing was ever sleeker, boasting all the answers to sexual fulfillment, financial abundance, and personal empowerment.
However lovely her new persona, I missed that barefoot yogini that I first met, drunk on devotion with wild hair always on the verge of dreadlocks....
Then one day, when she appeared to be on the fast track to all she had desired, I received the shocking news. She had committed suicide. Psalm? It seemed impossible.
Very slowly, I gathered the shards… bits of information from those closest to her in the final days.
I learned that Psalm had at some point started taking Adderall, a highly addictive form of pharmaceutical speed, for productivity during the day. And then to sleep at night, she would take Xanax, a benzodiazepine.
Apparently this pharmaceutical recipe was inspired by other “high functioning” professionals. She took these drugs without professional medical supervision, and began to harm herself all under the banner of serving others.
Taken on a daily basis, each of those drugs have serious side effects, even more so in that combination. The dangers are magnified with the addition of the alcohol, which she regularly had in the mix. Even greater risks are present for people with bipolar disorder; Psalm had been open about her distant past struggles with mental health.
Then one day, she decided to quit all the drugs cold turkey. She was advised against this. She flatly refused professional medical supervision to help with a safe weaning process. Adderrall withdrawal alone can cause suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, violent behavior, extreme fatigue, and insomnia. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can also cause suicidal ideation, extreme anxiety, depression, abnormal sensory perception, panic attacks, hallucinations, seizures, psychosis, loss of memory, irritability, sleep disturbance, physical pain, tremors, headaches, palpitations, confusion, and more.
Psalm was up against the perfect storm.
Yes, we can blame it on the Xanax & Adderall. But what led to the drugs in the first place? Let's look at the shards.
“It’s not about me,” she’d often say. She had put herself on a drug induced cross.
Maybe it DID need to be about her, first and foremost.
How do we as facilitators, creators, and women too often over-give, over-work, and sacrifice ourselves to the point of self destruction?
We cannot truly serve others if we are in pain and poisoned. It's essential to have a healthy, grounded, nourished, clear self in order to show up for other beings on the earth plane in a sustainable and genuinely visionary way.
To offer the fruit of wisdom, we must grow it from wise roots... from a balance of giving and receiving.
Psalm’s life seemed to express a microcosm of what's happening on the macrocosm for the feminine—and the earth.
“She stopped practicing,” observed one close friend of Psalm’s. When her personal spiritual practice no longer existed, she had become a symbol of tantra—rather than a vessel.
How can we as healers, guides, and educators put our personal practice first?
A strong personal practice is where all the gold comes from.
The moment that our marketing becomes more important than our morning ritual, we are loosing the essence of what we offer.
Psalm did not want anyone to know what she was going through in the final year, aside from just a couple confidents sworn to secrecy.
How can we support our mentors to be truly human and transparent?
Professional facilitators too often try to portray a false front of perfection and invincible strength. Indeed there may be strength there—for periods of time, but like all living things, we are always changing, growing, learning, shedding, and encountering new challenges.
"Enlightenment" could instead be called “enlighten-ing." The layers of learning are virtually infinite, from my humble glimpses of the Great Mystery in mystical states.
Facilitators, like everyone, need space to continually evolve. And the greatest teachers lead by example: not by showing us how to be be perfect, but by showing us how to be HUMAN. This means falling without trying to hide it, asking for help when it’s needed, receiving feedback, and taking accountability for mistakes.
The “beginner's mind” is not just for beginners.
“I eat people’s pain. Not many people can do that,” Psalm said on a video toward the end. I wonder where this conclusion came from.
She was known to binge on alcohol at times to the point of purging, and she would say this was her way of processing people's pain. This was a dangerous method.
As facilitators, can we really "eat" anyone's pain?
In truth, we can only create opportunities for people to digest their own pain. We cannot save anyone, we can only create opportunities for people to save themselves. We cannot do the work for people, but we can remain present next to people as they go through the fire. All the while, we cultivate our own spiritual immunity—and continually cleanse. We need healthy ways of composting and releasing the energies and stories of other people.
All these reflections come in retrospect, only after carefully examining at the shards.
Of course, Psalm is not here to respond to these words, but I know she would want us to extract some diamonds and blessings from the truth.
There is much we do not know of the dark night when Psalm left or the intimate experience inside her skin. We cannot, after this close look at the shards, reduce her choice to a few simple wrong turns. We cannot fathom the vast and complex nature of an individual’s karma or the broader intelligence that guides our collective evolution.
My intention is not to shame or blame or judge...
My intention to bear witness, understand, practice compassion, find meaning, educate people about the dangers of these drugs, promote balanced productivity, and help prevent similar tragedies in the future.
My intention here is to make medicine… and create a mosaic out of the shards she left behind for myself and the community that loved her.
Love & honor thyself first in order to help heal others.
Thank you, sweet Psalm-ji, for your love. You offered your devotion and facilitation, in the best way you knew how. You offered beautiful teachings that continue to live, though you have transitioned. You have always shared your life so that we may learn from your shadows. It was not easy to play this part, I know. I will walk a little slower through my day in your honor.
Please help to educate friends and family
about the risks of Adderall & benzodiazepines dependency and withdrawal.
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...