This is the second part of the interview with spiritualist Anahata Menon about her experience with Ayahuasca deep in the Amazon jungles of Peru, healing nature of this sacred plant and alternative healing as compared to modern interventions.
How has it transformed your life?
I have tried to portray the essence of an Ayahuasca ceremony in one of the chapters in my book Song Journey Home, and I encourage people to read it. If I were to look at Ayahuasca in context of my life and spiritual growth, it has addressed parts of me that weren’t comfortable with, a growing new-age ‘religion’ with its own deities and dogmas.
It gave me incredible healing, an authentic experience and access to Spirit and to Higher Creation, not because of a religious teacher, a guru or the more popular ‘non-guru’, but because of an awareness that I am part of a rich tapestry of information, harmonics and aesthetics, and the intelligence that I represent reverberates with a knowing of all intelligence in this Universe… and that freedom is our inherent nature.
What role did the shamans play?
The shamans have a profound contribution to this expansion and rebirth, their icaros or medicine songs pulsating through one’s veins and consciousness, helping the individual navigate his own shamanic journey safely.
The undeniable and tangible nature of this transformation is personally felt by the individual alone, and that to me is truly an empowering medicine.
Having said all of that, Ayahuasca is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The experience is rigorous and merciless at times, flushing the person of physical toxins, emotional poisons and spiritual obstacles. The accommodations are basic in thatch-roofed jungle huts and facilities can be quite primitive. However, the positive effects of the medicine are apparent soon enough as the person begins to feel more energetic and lighter.
Also, the clean air of the Amazon, the strict diet regimens that accompany the Ayahuasca experience and the expertise of the traditional shamans, are major factors to a beneficial Ayahuasca healing.
The jungle is like a safe womb, buffered from the civilized world by massive communities of ancient trees, spectacular butterflies and colorful kingfishers. Being in this enchanted environment, which is teeming with life, is healing by itself.
Do you think many people in India are open to such experiences?
Though I don’t think enough people in India have even heard about Ayahuasca and a major part of our work at The Anahata Foundation is focused on creating awareness about it, we have met with an enthusiastic and curious response in a whole cross-section of people.
Other than people who are looking for serious solutions to physical, emotional and spiritual problems, our Ayahuasca journey in Peru also appeals to culture enthusiasts, adventurous travelers and spiritual seekers in the psychedelic community. It is our understanding that India is a land that historically believes in plant medicine, having birthed a major plant medicine modality like Ayurveda.
As a culture, we identify with nature much more than the western mind, and we hold trees, plants, fruits, flowers and spirits of the plant civilization in high reverence in almost all communities. In our experience, people are very open to life-altering healing ceremonies with Ayahuasca because the truth is that people are suffering and they want their bodies back, their minds unburdened and their spirits to be freed, wherever they are. This is the inspiration that led the three of us – Anindita, Megha and me to establish The Anahata Foundation.
The Indian traveler is often wary and cautious of foreign cultures and most of them wouldn’t travel to the Amazon even if they felt called to it, on their own. This is understandable, also because there is a booming and often unethical Ayahuasca tourism industry catering to foreigners who are just looking for a ‘high’. Hence, recognizing authentic curanderos and choosing the right experience can be a bit of an experiment which could go wrong and does for many.
We bridge this lack of information by working with excellent shamans who are reputed for their medicine and knowledge. Since the cost of travel to South America is on the higher side for Indians, we also negotiate with our shamanic friends in Peru and request rates that are more suited to the Indian as against first world travelers. However, our journeys are open to people from all cultures and walks of life.
What are the kind of ailments or illnesses Ayahuasca is known to or has healed?
Ayahuasca has been seen to have amazing results with almost all ailments and diseases, since the medicine removes blockages from inaccessible subtle realms, so the symptom rarely matters beyond diagnosis by the shaman. The traditional treatment in the ceremony clears out toxins at so many levels that often the symptoms begin to disappear never to come back as a relapse or in the guise of another imbalance. I have heard of people with AIDS and major cancers to have successfully treated themselves in the jungles.
I have personally met someone who has been returning to the jungles for extended periods, often months, to reverse the damage modern medicine has caused her severe cancer condition. Emotional depressions and substance/chemical addictions are healed in almost all cases. Ayahuasca is also anti-ageing in its properties and helps in reversing the effects of toxic radiation that we are exposed to through our processed foods, medicines, electronics, cellphones and from what I gather, even the air we breathe in most cities.
It is my understanding that Ayahuasca has no tolerance for imbalances, fears and toxicity, which is what makes the purging at the ceremony such a meaningful, intense and tangible ‘letting go’ process.
What are your views on alternative healing as compared to modern interventions?
Well I am not one of those who dismisses the virtues of modern medicine. There are innovations and technological leaps that modern medicine has demonstrated in all areas of healthcare that are commendable, often life-saving and inspiring. However, when one looks deeper into the world of modern medicine, the academia behind it, its industry, politics, harmful toxicity and side-effects, one notices a pattern of ill-intent, control, monopolizing market behavior and irresponsibility to the welfare of the human race at large. The whole industry is focused on maintaining customers and hence, maintaining their customers’ diseases.
When I compare it to alternative healing, I see a huge difference in the very ethos behind the modalities. A shaman, and here I am not referring to new age healers and therapists, but a traditional medicine man treats an individual with the intent that may the patient never need to return to him for help again. The power of intent is phenomenal and I believe it is this intent in a healer that I resonate with and respond best to.
In my opinion, we as a collective need to recognize the presence of an oppressive global political agenda, which strategically indulges in suppression of indigenous medicines and entheogenic plant teachers, backed by powerful corporations, pharmaceuticals and political lobbies. Since their capitalist motives are not so mysterious to most of us, it is also important for us to acknowledge that they are not going to stop.
“So as individuals, we need to assess to what degree we choose to let our bodies, minds and spirits be controlled. We need to decide if it is important for us to stick to a modern healthcare paradigm or explore other ways of supporting, nourishing and nurturing our bodies, minds and spirits.”
What are your future plans? Is there anything more you want to learn in terms of Ayahuasca medicine healing etc?
Always. I haven’t even begun unraveling the gifts of Ayahuasca at its deeper levels. I perceive myself as an enthusiastic and respectful student of the medicine and since Creation and Reality are both infinite experiences, I don’t wish to limit my journey with the medicine to any one outcome. I like Changing constantly and growing expansively for no reason or purpose, and so I hope to always return to the jungles for the rest of my life.
As for future plans, I look forward to many travels, serendipities and epiphanies, many kindred connections and recognitions, many magical revelations and joys for myself and the world we live in. I am quite a recluse by nature, so somewhere in the future, I see myself in a mountain home, probably connecting with the Earth more intimately, writing more, making music, healing people and exploring art more deeply.
(Take a look at the events, healing sessions to be organised by Anahata Foundation in 2012, you can email her – ana(dot)heartistic(at) gmail(dot)com – if you are interested)