Kambo has been gaining popularity the last few years and for right reason; it really works in helping human beings (and even animals!) reach proper balance and eliminate unhealthy patterns and blockages.
So, what is it?
Kambo is the name of both the actual amphibian (Phyllomedusa bicolor) a tree frog from South American jungles, as well as the secretion that comes from the frog itself. It is a substance that contains a massive amount of peptides – essentially very active chemicals that the body readily understands and integrates – that quite intelligently work with the person at hand in the way they need to be worked with. It has been highly revered for millennia by different tribes from Brazil to Peru, the latter of where I learned about its proper approach and use.
The experience of working with this medicine goes as such: First, several ‘points’ or ‘gates’ are made with a small stick that has one end burned and this is gently applied to the upper arm to remove the first superficial layer of skin. This opens up to the lymphatic system, so that the secretion can run its course through the body. Then the reconstituted secretion is gently applied onto the gate and within a minute or so, sensations began; rising heat, head throbbing, sweating, a pulse increase… When the secretion enters the body via the lymphatic, the body immediately begins the process of metabolizing and working with this intelligent substance. Some people get to a place of release, and the kambo brings to the surface anything that isn’t serving that persons’ highest health. Others do not purge, and that is of course okay, for as soon as the body receives the secretion, it begins to work profoundly with the body, scanning and searching out what needs to be worked on and potentially worked out.
Unlike many other medicines coming from the deep South, Kambo is non-psychoactive yet very visceral, and can elicit a deep cleanse of the mind and body while simultaneously strengthening the entire organism. When I say cleanse, I mean throwing up, or as some like to call it, ‘getting well’… It is an attitude brought to the session once one recognizes that the temporary uncomfortable feeling of nausea and purging is followed by a longer term sense of well being; quite a good trade in my opinion!
I have been working with this since 2017, when I was first introduced to it by my dear friend in the Amazon, Laszlo. Since then, I have practiced quite a bit with myself and loved ones, and eventually those nearest to me started to ask me for this, and so I slowly began to serve them.
With most people, I suggest 3 sessions within 28 days for a complete experience, as was taught to me and seems to be the standard. This is a great thing to do, but if one has further health complications or just wants to go deeper into their process, going the extra step of doing a full consultation with me will help illuminate exactly where I can guide and point the way to what things to first eliminate if any, and then new elements to incorporate in the realms of food, herbs, supplements, and/or lifestyle changes.
What does the Kambo do in conjunction with the health consultation? The Kambo acts as a catalyst for the entire process to take off, with the ability to show incredible changes rather promptly. Shifts such as increased sleep, less anxiety, better digestion, better bowel movements, improved mood and emotional stability, increased energy, reduced physical pain, and more. A lot of times I also witness that it can bring to the surface emotional components that we may not have been privy to, that are actually central to the healing process. One way I like to describe the importance of a health consult is that I can give someone the suggestion for a particular herb, the kambo, breathwork, you name it, but if that person is doing things every single day in direct opposition to the intended desire of the therapy… it is in a way canceling itself out, or at the least diminishing its potential in being able to help realign the human to their best nature.
Note: There is a lot more I can say about the ways this divine substance can work with people, but I will leave you to do a little research yourself to avoid triggering the medical mafia 🙂
If this is speaking to you, please reach out at RememberPlants @ gmail.com and send me a message for more info.
It’s important to state: I am not a medical doctor, so please do your due diligence in seeking the appropriate guidance from your health practitioners. None of this is medical advice.
(all photos are my own)
Kambo, Phyllomedusa bicolor, the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog
Harvesting the medicine from frogs after hearing them sound off, usually beginning around 10 pm and peaking before sunrise.
This is especially for those who feel confused, trapped, or unable to voice what it is they are going through.
A dream remembered, waking me up at 5 am:
“I confront our old teacher for continuously abusing people and especially those close to him, calling him out for the same behavior that also made me and others leave. I recall that it was the hardest decision I had ever made in my life; me leaving. It was a dream of standing up for others and expressing the collective anger in order to bring understanding. Tears streaming, energy moving, waking up from the slumber of ignorance; ignorance to how we hurt others through our lack of receptivity.”
In a separate note, I write directly after the dream, remembering my own experience years back:
If one has to muster up all the courage they have to tell the truth to a person in power, and they stand alone in doing so because everyone else in the related community is too afraid to challenge such a “teacher” or “elder”, then the problem is actually a lot worse than we think it is. This power gone unchecked will hurt countless people through manipulation, lying and all kinds of subtle psychobabble that aims to make the other feel insane for ever trying to bring up their lived experience to said person(s) in power.
How does this happen? I have long reflected on the ways that ‘spiritual’ communities (or any organized communities that have a person or a group of people in power out of balance) can operate in a state where nothing changes, because I lived in one myself. After finally leaving, in a relative way, I was angry. I was bitter, hurt and wanted nothing more than for the story of the suffering to disappear so I could get on with living ‘normally’. Yet, of course, it surfaced again and again in other communities, where folks were too afraid to be “kicked out of the circle” for voicing the shared experience, feeling too threatened by the power dynamic that loomed over them and their potential decision to either say something or even leave the community. In seeing the metaphor so easily in the garden, if that vigorously growing weed isn’t paid attention to in the beginning it becomes way harder to deal later! All that hiding and making believe all is good under some guise of hoping it evens out or that something will change (when nothing does) shows me that the hiding just gets accrued in some invisible but very felt way, and that this inevitably brings the house down.
The teachings that unraveled over the years for me, played into the fact that in an absolute way, it was perfectly orchestrated so that I could learn to stand up for myself and learn to listen to my own guidance, which is hard to do when you have handed all that power over to someone else. After all, who asked to be put up on the pedestal? I was starving for spiritual knowledge and jumped head first into a teacher-student relationship that ended up being manipulative and quite damaging. It was one where the responsibility of the teacher seemed to be able to rationalize their experience, to justify their actions, as being superior to the student(s) (i.e. me and the other members of the community).
The tricky part about relationships like these is that alongside the strange and traumatic parts are also aspects of great learning and love. The nuance here is thick and can be very difficult to differentiate, which also seems to be very human. It is challenging for the initial anger to transform into understanding. Something like, “hurt people hurt people” comes to mind. I have seen many of these retreat centers pride themselves on ‘transformation’, but they don’t seem to really be transforming…
So they say “if it lands in your lap”, then now you have the opportunity or even the responsibility to say something. A handful of old and new friends have come to me in the years that followed with very similar situations and these encounters really inspired me to start to put together these thoughts and write this out. I appreciate the patience had by all.
So, what are some of the signs that you may be entering into a community with a dynamic that is unhealthy? Here are some I have gleaned.
1. The community has been running for many years, but no one has stayed for a significant period of time. Those that have stayed for a while then choose to leave all for similar reasons, OR you aren’t able to find out why they left at all, something like a cover-up. When asking about previous folks’ about their experience, you will get a feeling in your body; it might be obvious that something unpleasant caused them to leave.
2. If anything challenging is brought up, the folks in positions of power have little to no receptivity to take in the information and instead transfer it back to you as your fault. (Bypassing)
3. Lying and manipulation are seen to be common threads.
4. It is or becomes difficult to voice your concerns and you instead hold them in for fear of being ridiculed or left out.
5. The greater vision seems to justify the actions of using and abusing those closest. As I say, the vision can be blinding.
The truth is that difficulty will be found no matter where we look. That is time tested and human and I would even say necessary in order to forge the experience we need to grow. So, this isn’t a call out to a perfect and flawless community or group, because they won’t ever be found! What it actually is about, is accountability and receptivity, and the ability to face ourselves, together. This is certainly not easy, but the truth doesn’t shift to make us comfortable.
Time will teach trust in our experience. I remember first meeting my main teacher’s dearest friend, a brother who had lived with him for nearly a decade in Iquitos. Upon even hearing the name of the institute where I had lived, he shook his head in sadness. He exclaimed how several of those who sat with the medicine elsewhere had been told that where I had lived and its subsequent leadership was misguided and needed to be straightened out, one way or another. Even having not met him, he could feel this. He also pointed that people will continue to go there, and that it wasn’t my job to convince them not to, as everyone has their path and will experience what they need to in order to grow. For how are we in our limited view able to see what it is that people really need on their path?
This behavior seems rampant in the world, and with all good intention, I know most are out there trying to make a difference and inevitably get their own things entangled in the mix. Once again, this isn’t a call out for a perfect formation of rigid wonkers who ‘never’ make a mistake… this is a call out for actual leadership through living humility, not some bullet pointed list of actions to hope for. In being part of several communities in the years past, I can see where it becomes very easy as well to hide behind the mask of doing work for others in the name of good, yet is there a system of true accountability in place? What does that look like?
Adages exist for good reason, and “forgive and forget” is absolutely one of them. So, in the bringing up of these sort of feelings and experiences in myself, and even without specific detail, it is critical that I can commit to the latter, and reduce my clinging to remembering the pain. The beginning of the phrase we sometimes use that goes “I’ll never forget when…” has me always immediately reflect “but maybe I should!”
Sometimes it feels that folks you may meet in your life are supposed to be teaching you, supposed to be guiding you, paradoxically are teaching you in a more subtle and even direct way through their own error. How fortunate are we to be able to learn from this! If we can see these experiences as such, without necessarily keeping the cycle continuing, I think there is great capacity for healing through understanding. This naturally takes time.
This article is a call for deeper humanness, deeper commitment to respecting our brothers and sisters in this world, a head nod to sharing the stories that may benefit others to fully express what they need to, and to inspire the liberation of the things we hold back.
I haven’t made a film in some time. A creative block has, maybe partially consumed me in the past years, allowing for a massive build up of visual and audio content. It starts to spiral in on itself, revolving around being overwhelmed with how much I haven’t released, as well as feeling anything I have produced is inadequate to what I experienced in such a large degree. Yet, I thought of what a dear friend said to me, that the path can curve and go in strange directions, but it is natural to do so. Releasing the funk, I put together some footage of a recent return to dear friends in the Iquitos area. Some black and white film photos are also tucked in there.
Every year, the beginning of April marks a countdown to an anniversary of being liberated from 48 days in a hospital in South Florida, barely able to take care of myself and fully dependent on the loving support of my family and friends. A nervous system crash left me paralyzed from the feet up, and writhing in pain. I have posted about it in various years, and some years I am quiet. Yet, I always feel it, and reflect deeply upon the journey since 12 year ago. So, I want to start sharing stories on this day of 4/20, to commemorate the struggle with Guillain Barre syndrome and hopefully bring inspiration forward.
“…You used the phrase to be given your life back. As a gift. So it came from somewhere. And if it came from somewhere, it left a hole in order to come to you. By the same token, by the same understanding you got a chance to live again, that came from somewhere and it made a hole. that’s not sin, that’s not pain. But the hole yearns to be spoken to. it yearns to be… maybe we can say fed. If you don’t say paid you say fed. It’s maintenance not punishment. ”
A hospital stay has a lot of unique circumstances come up, but for some things, a lot of standards. One is the drawing of blood.
At some point of being a patient in Bethesda hospital, I received what most would say was an excessive amount of blood drawn. It was insane, and my father fought for me where I couldn’t. Everyday a cart would come by, and sometimes in the middle of the night to awake a very sick person from regenerative sleep, to prick them and throw life juice into a tube to be spun and studied and maybe misunderstood.
I became friendly with an Italian looking Northeast accented guy for his frequency of visits afforded such familiarity. We got to talking once and he always connected to me in a profound way. Once, he told me a story, docked at my bed. He shared how when he was younger, he was in the war of Vietnam, as a paratrooper. War was war, and people died and one of them was a dear friend of his. In remembering his friend, he kept with him a rock that had had some of this friends blood stained on it. Some time after this, while still in the service, he jumped from a helicopter and had a near fatal accident, landing terribly and becoming unable to walk. He was discharged and returned back to the United States with the diagnosis of never walking again. So, he tells me this, as he is looking down at a scared, helpless, and depressed in every which way, paralyzed young man. I continue listening because I know there was more. He gets home, and his son reminds him to try something; to put all of his faith and love into the rock that he had, into this piece of remembrance. He did just that. He prayed over this, and he believed in something that is beyond the beyond.
Staring at him, I realize what I had previously taken for granted, a back belt on him, and maybe even a certain way he utilized the blood cart to be mobile. Mesmerized at such an account of what seemed to be impossible, he left me, with sure odds of seeing him again soon. The next day, he passes by my room, walks up to my bed, and he drops a black asymmetrical rock in my numb and pain filled lap. Through even the double vision in both eyes, and the excruciating and unrelenting fire and lightning nerve pain that coursed my being, I wept at the meaning of what had just taken place. The rock stayed by my side through the help of those close to me, putting it in my rigidly open hands that then I had no control over. The details in between are a decade’s worth of mental blur, but the feeling remains; something saw me on my death bed. Something turned around for me at that point, and looking back, it seems as if the Earth herself spoke in her own tongue of symbols through this Ricardo, and in rock, in stability, in the weight that my body so desperately needed to continue living. To fill myself with this energy and immense gratitude, was part of the recipe that got me through such dark times.
I am aware that not everyone is afforded such luck. I am cognizant that some people are forever in the wheelchair and have complications far worse than mine, so I don’t mean to say that you can wish it all into the hope department… I am respectful of the fact that there is great mystery involved with my recovering, alongside the pieces that continue to unveil themselves to me over the years, of which I will share in time. Yet, maybe a take away for me is that just because you practice prayer or have eyes set on healing, doesn’t mean your healing is based upon your physical condition. I was not cured. I am healed and maybe forever healing even deeper, the disconnect of what brought me there to begin with.
Obviously, I somehow made it out of that situation and today am walking and mobile. Yet, I am left with a pretty constant stream of chronic pain in my body and at times, weakness and jolting nerves. It is a great reminder of my balance and the reality that bodies eventually decay, break down, and die, so what are we going to do with them while we have them? How are my daily decisions an action based in gratitude for having this movement and privilege?
Maybe my story telling will be of some maintenance to whatever hole it is that this healing came from. That the waters of life may flow for me until they do not. And that our collective humanity can feel into the unique work they have come here to do.
Cada año, el comienzo de abril marca la cuenta regresiva para un aniversario de la liberación de 48 días en un hospital en el sur de la Florida, que apenas puedo cuidarme a mí mismo y depende totalmente del apoyo amoroso de mi familia y amigos. Una colisión del sistema nervioso me dejó paralizado desde los pies hacia arriba y retorciéndose de dolor. Lo he publicado en varios años, y algunos años estoy tranquilo. Sin embargo, siempre lo siento y reflexiono profundamente sobre el viaje desde hace 12 años. Entonces, quiero comenzar a compartir historias en este día del 4/20, para conmemorar la lucha contra el síndrome de Guillain Barre y, con suerte, llevar la inspiración hacia adelante.
“… Usaste la frase para devolverte la vida. Como un regalo. Así que vino de alguna parte. Y si vino de algún lugar, dejó un agujero para venir a ti. De la misma manera, por el mismo entendimiento, tienes la oportunidad de vivir de nuevo, que vino de algún lugar y se hizo un agujero. Eso no es pecado, eso no es dolor. Pero el agujero anhela ser hablado. Anhela ser … tal vez podamos decirlo alimentado. Si no dices pagado, dices alimentado. Es mantenimiento no castigo. ”
– Stephen Jenkinson en Griefwalker
* La roca de Ricardo *
Una estadía en el hospital tiene muchas circunstancias únicas que surgen, pero para algunas cosas, muchos estándares. Uno es el sacar de la sangre.
En algún momento de ser paciente en el hospital de Bethesda, recibí lo que la mayoría diría que era una cantidad excesiva de sangre extraída. Fue una locura, y mi padre luchó por mí donde no pude. Todos los días pasaba un carrito y, a veces, en medio de la noche para despertar a una persona muy enferma del sueño regenerativo, para pincharla y arrojarle jugo de vida a un tubo para hilarla y estudiarla, y tal vez para que no la entendieran.
Me hice amigo de un hombre de acento del noreste de aspecto italiano por su frecuencia de visitas que brindaba tanta familiaridad. Nos pusimos a hablar una vez y él siempre se conectaba conmigo de una manera profunda. Una vez, me contó una historia, atracado en mi cama. Él compartió cómo cuando era más joven, estaba en la guerra de Vietnam, como paracaidista. La guerra era guerra, y la gente moría y uno de ellos era un querido amigo suyo. Al recordar a su amigo, mantuvo con él una roca que tenía manchada de sangre a algunos de estos amigos. Algún tiempo después de esto, mientras todavía estaba en el servicio, saltó de un helicóptero y tuvo un accidente casi fatal, aterrizó terriblemente y no pudo caminar. Fue dado de alta y regresó a los Estados Unidos con el diagnóstico de no volver a caminar. Entonces, él me dice esto, mientras mira a un joven asustado, indefenso y deprimido en todos los sentidos, paralizado. Sigo escuchando porque sé que había más. Llega a casa, y su hijo le recuerda que intente algo; para poner toda su fe y amor en la roca que tenía, en este recuerdo. Él hizo justamente eso. Él oró por esto, y creyó en algo que está más allá del más allá.
Al mirarlo, me doy cuenta de lo que antes había dado por sentado, un cinturón trasero en él, y tal vez incluso de cierta manera utilizó el carrito de sangre para ser móvil. Hipnotizado por semejante relato de lo que parecía imposible, me dejó, con una probabilidad segura de volver a verlo pronto. Al día siguiente, pasa por mi habitación, camina hacia mi cama y deja caer una roca negra asimétrica en mi regazo adormecido y lleno de dolor. Incluso a través de la doble visión en ambos ojos, y el dolor insoportable e implacable de los nervios y los rayos que recorría mi ser, lloré ante el significado de lo que acababa de suceder. La roca se mantuvo a mi lado a través de la ayuda de los que estaban cerca de mí, colocándola en mis manos rígidamente abiertas sobre las que no tenía control. Los detalles intermedios son el valor de una década de confusión mental, pero el sentimiento permanece; algo me vio en mi lecho de muerte. Algo me dio la vuelta en ese momento, y mirando hacia atrás, parece como si la Tierra misma hablara en su propia lengua de símbolos a través de este Ricardo, y en la roca, en estabilidad, en el peso que mi cuerpo necesitaba tan desesperadamente para seguir viviendo. . Para llenarme con esta energía y gratitud inmensa, puede haber sido una gran parte de la receta que me llevó a través de tiempos tan oscuros.
Soy consciente de que no todos tienen la misma suerte. Soy consciente de que algunas personas están siempre en la silla de ruedas y tienen complicaciones mucho peores que las mías, por lo que no quiero decir que pueda desearlo todo en el departamento de esperanza … Respeto el hecho de que haya un gran misterio. Con mi recuperación, junto con las piezas que me siguen revelando a lo largo de los años, de las cuales compartiré a tiempo. Sin embargo, tal vez lo que más me quitan es que solo porque practicas la oración o tienes los ojos puestos en la curación, no significa que tu curación se base en tu condición física. Yo no estaba curado. Estoy curado y quizás para siempre sanando aún más profundamente, la desconexión de lo que me trajo allí para empezar.
Obviamente, de alguna manera salí de esa situación y hoy estoy caminando y moviéndome. Sin embargo, me quedo con una corriente bastante constante de dolor crónico en mi cuerpo y, a veces, debilidad y sacudidas nerviosas. Es un gran recordatorio de mi equilibrio y de la realidad de que los cuerpos eventualmente se descomponen, se descomponen y mueren. ¿Qué vamos a hacer con ellos mientras los tengamos? ¿Cómo son mis decisiones diarias una acción basada en la gratitud por tener este movimiento y privilegio?
Tal vez mi relato cuente con algo de mantenimiento para cualquier agujero del que provenga esta curación. Que las aguas de la vida fluyan por mí hasta que no lo hagan. Y que nuestra humanidad colectiva puede sentir el trabajo único que han venido a hacer aquí.
In the last leg of four months in Peru, we had the fortune of meeting Mamos of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. They were being hosted in the Sacred Valley via Cultura Viviente as they shared their teachings on how they live in this world and what sort of messages they have to impart to the people they consider “little brother”. To sum up our time in a post on the internet remains very difficult, as I am still processing so much of it all.
Yet, a situation begs me to stop and share this: their entire village, upon returning back home, was burned down from all an out of control fire. I put together a short video explaining this, and Brennen Lüka and Evin Bliss Laurel of Cultura Viviente have put together a go fund me to directly support our beloved friends.
They make the energetic payments to the sacred spaces of the world, checking on the well being of the Earth herself. They are guardians of a wisdom that the modern world can barely begin to understand, but has to in order to get themselves back on track to living in right relation. Please consider sharing this fundraiser or donating yourself and definitely keeping them in your hearts as these weeks and months of reconstruction continue forward.
There are few cultural experiences to relate to in my upbringing that I could possibly point to for reference of what we recently experienced. Kogi and Wiwa brothers Mamo Zenshina and Mamo Awisen Awimaku and Mamo Daniel held circle with us from 7pm until 12:30 pm the next day. 17.5 hours of sitting. We were not going by the schedule or the plan, but by what the nature was timing us on… cooking down a massive pot of several strains of tobacco to create a resinous concentrate, orally applied while chewing coca. This was the center focus the entire time, meanwhile, sharing on the cosmology of tobacco and allowing hours of singing and dancing to celebrate life and make the Earth happy, which was not asked of us, but expected! For if we are just there rigid and stone cold, then nothing opens, and very little work gets done. “Ahora, vamos a bailar, asi…” and Mamo Awimaku would show us a dance of the condor as Mamo Zeshina was playing the condor song with his tambor or maraca. These are the payments to the Earth that have not gone forgotten in Kogi life, payments that they say are part of why everything is wrong in the world. Forgetting the balance of how things actually function, and putting ourselves in the center of all of existence, is a sure fire way to melt the house down.
“Tomamos agua, comemos comida, pero no estamos cuidando el agua, no estamos cuidando la tierra… Estamos aqui para cuidar todo el mundo”
“We drink water, we eat food, but we aren’t taking care of the water, we aren’t taking care of the land… We are here to take care of the whole world”
I felt all kinds of things, especially related to the dedication to the path and upholding of such important teachings. Teachings walking the span of human existence, all based on right relation, mirrored from nature herself. Fasting the entire night until late morning, we chewed coca and listened intently, paying close attention to the translation, and the native tongue of our brothers who quickly checked in with each other before translating the essence into Spanish. “Tobaco is the semen. Without the semen, there is no life.” After sharing their cosmovision with this plant, words that I feel are meant to be transmitted directly from them to the heart of the listener, they asked us to individually speak to our relationship to tobacco. We wove our stories of healing, of waking up to the power and wisdom of this master plant through dieta, and infused the cooking medicine in front of us with the respect it so deeply deserves in the world. We dipped into the topic of the commercialization of tobacco, the massive toxic chemical based plantings still upheld to this day that distort the depth of what tobacco really is: sacred person, medicine, connection to Creator. “In every ceremony space, there is tobacco.” I have for years photographed the black magic insanity of the demonization of tobacco and it’s twisted message across the board, especially after visiting Peru and then living here. This overnight vigil dedicated to the nightshade of so many’s smoky escapes, brought to me even more peace about it’s truth and origin. If plants aren’t free, neither are we.
“No todavía…” Mamo says with a sideways glance, gleefully piercing my wonder with an innocence that is deeply entwined with lived wisdom. An answer to a verbally unasked question of “is it done yet?” becomes a sort of joke for the final hours until our watery decoction becomes its resinous result. I don’t know if any of you have met someone whose presence speaks before their words, whose life is dedicated to the only thing that they know of to be beneficial. I sat, knees up high, and feet in the fire pit away from embers, super close to Mamo, attentively awaiting his instruction to check the reducing water in the giant pot sitting on three rocks.
At one point, i saw the smoke rising up from the teepee, a fire keeping tired relatives warm, and the smoke of the tobacco cook fire meeting this smoke, and weaving together, forming one solid stream to the sky. Looking back, it felt as if the little brother and the older brother were visibly harmonizing, coming into recognition of our shared humanity and the deep need to get to the work!
If you feel called in supporting the work of the Mamo’s traveling to the sacred waters of the world to make payments and teach little brother how to live, please see the work CULTURA VIVIENTE is up to in Peru.
I have sat here for months, starting to type this, starting to get out what I know I need to, from what I feel you have shared with me through presence and attitude alone. The last few days, for some reason, I have felt you ever stronger, just spontaneously arising in my mind, in my space, and in that way, I know it is really you and not just me thinking of you on my own.
This story starts before you passed, as I attended the second funeral of my life for a dear friend’s father. It was a ‘traditional’ funeral, complete with preacher who did his thing to a group of seriously affected and mourning people, all stunned by the sudden death of a man who could have had many years more until old age. I just found this, of which I wrote the day after the experience:
“The reverend reads from a dead book, not a microwave cook book, but not far from one, telling us that our emotions are ‘ a bit off right now’, that life isn’t fair for the reason of death and for a parent to bury their son. That all we have when someone is gone are memories to cherish. Through this, he effectively tried to sever the magic of maintaining the sacred… whatever that may be between people and their kin. Explaining about a reality he didn’t seem to understand, he taught me so much as he preached to those who mostly never asked for it: that I will die and be celebrated and sung over, danced around by friends and family, and all emotions allowed to be fully felt. That it will last as long as it does and not a single preservative chemical will enter my being. No burden and no price tag. The Earth is my coffin and that is all. ”
Fast forward to the end of May 2016, and I wake up from a dream that I must call a friend. I call her, and hear the news, that Thomas Fekete had passed away. It took me some time to process, and I don’t think I cried for a few days, and then it suddenly hit me very hard. I met Thomas back in 2009, and had heard of his skating back before then even, in the South Florida circuits. Yet he was more legend then, as I didn’t know him well, but I got close to him due to a dear friend of mine, Lindsey Mills. Through her, I was permitted to enter into his life in a more profound way. I was visiting him in the hospital, sharing healing songs with all the machines hooked up to him, Jessica, his wife, standing by, feeling it. It was then that David Winston’s “anything that changes your mind is medicine” took full evidence in me… watching his heart rate and breathing normalize after singing. I visited him in his home with nourishing foods and herbs and knew that I didn’t know enough, but still could offer myself in some way.
(Picking back on up on this now, 7/12/18)
This was the last post that I had started to write out, and so it feels right to finish it.
I witnessed so much with Thomas, in the few times I had shared with him. I remember one time, bringing a flute over to his apartment, and thinking it would be a better application of working his healing lungs, by simultaneously activating his breathing and making harmonious sounds. I realize the benefit of music to a musician is obvious, but at the level of energy he had, I remember it hard for him to hold the guitar and do his thing. So, as he played the flute, working his lungs, I played chords in key to that of the flute. Just to simply jam back and forth like that, it was like magic illuminating his being. To his request, I left the flute at his place.
“ I really do love myself. What could make me love more is if I could get other people to feel that way about themselves before they fucking die”
I don’t think there is a higher one than this view. It really speaks volumes about the way we run around in our lives, distracted from drama to drama that we convince ourselves is somehow more important than recognizing our humanity, and from there, becoming more kind and compassionate from knowing we don’t have forever. Thomas surrendered to this truth, and he reminded me by presence alone.
Thomas has me often reflect, especially after he passed, how there is a major difference between being healed and being cured. There is no cure for dying, no cure for losing all the things we will lose in this life. Yet, through his illness that took him, I feel Thomas was gifted a compassionate perspective that allowed anyone to come in contact with him to become immediately self aware of anything they might need to be aware of. In this way, he was healed, to me, of a closed heart, the most prominent sickness I encounter. His love continues on in the stories we share about him and the love the world showed him in his crisis.
“Suddenly, I have this circle of actual brothers and sisters and we are just going through the motions together, in heavy hitting profound ways that mean a lot, mean a lot to me. I could cry over it. The scariest thing now about death, is not feeling these things anymore. Where as before, I didn’t really give a shit, I guess I wasn’t really feeling anything at all anyways. Well, now when my cousin sits down and gives me a foot rub just to be nice, you know I want to cry because she is so sweet, she doesn’t have to, and I’m gonna do that now to somebody… I sound like a kid again, learning things the way they should be learned.”
“Dad was finally agreeing to something that maybe I should’ve offered myself, but we know how those things go, too close for effective measure. So, after hearing about the discomfort and distention in my Papa’s belly (around his heart and stomach), our friend offered him a Thai massage session to which Papa agreed on.
We huddled into the spacious yurt and allowed the room to be set; my brothers and I sat on the couch, one of their partners sitting with us, and we observed the beginning of any regular body work session. Warming up, getting comfortable, and gentle movements.
Only Papa is a bit different. Ever since I was a young kid, I would watch him on the chiropractor’s table getting an adjustment and moving his body in a way that seemed like he was having a sort of epileptic experience, convulsing with his arms outstretched at his sides, palms up, eyes rolling back, and breathing intensely the whole time while letting out deep outbursts of sonic release. After many years of now witnessing people discharging emotional turbulence and stored traumas of the bodies, I know that he has learned a skill that is nearly unteachable. He refers to it as somatic breath work, a practice he learned when I was just a baby. His body undulates like water and he breathes through it in a trance-like state with nothing stimulating the process besides his own volition and attitude.
As our friend starts to work on him, within minutes, Papa moves into this state of deep exchange of breath and movement. He then, out of nowhere, rises up off the floor and breaks out into the most deep and guttural cry that I have ever heard from my own father since I have been able to remember. I had been in a relaxed state prior on the couch, but upon witnessing this break through, I calmly dipped down to the floor to level with him and started to focus more intensely on relaxation. I called upon my plant teachers and my nervous system lets me know when they come, of which all did.
Some of my family members were concerned in these intense minutes of vulnerability. I mean, how often do we see each other in such a delicate place and feel safe in doing so, from either vantage? It seems very rare to me. Yet, working with ceremony and the daily checking in of myself and others through community, it is of no shock to witness a very necessary human experience, one that most of us have learned to stifle to our very detriment.
If grief has a way in, then it definitely needs a way out. We are capable of carrying and holding onto things for such a long time that we forget why the music of our lives has been so harsh and strangely out of tune. It takes a safe space and deep trust to know that we can even express what needs to be expressed, for fear of judgement and being fully seen can totally block such a catharsis to unfold naturally, as it should.
My family member returns back to the room after a few minutes outside to calm himself down. I explained to him quietly but directly that if he wants to help my father, he must only empty himself and pray. I look beyond him and my family has begun instinctively chanting mantra in an effort to assist.
As we all formed a semi circle concave to my father, our hands guided by the Thai massage practitioner started to gravitate towards my papas hands and legs and I landed my gentle hand on his chest. I began to pray in Spanish, quickly rolling into a spontaneous feeling based thought-less connection to All That Is. I am working with tobacco at this point, blowing it on myself and my fathers hands and heart and head, cleaning him up. I then come back to his heart, and I recognize how close it is, and so I connect to my own space and feel him. The grief is heavy and I erupt in tears, I flow like a river, I cannot stop myself for that would be the failure of the entire session! I cry so hard with him and many of us start to at this point, purging the tension through our eyes, grieving for life herself and the hardships that come of Samsaric dancing. The intensity rises between us all,; the drumming up of an inevitable breakthrough on the horizon.
After a minute of intense crying it starts to slow down and I open my eyes and lift my head off the floor to see my father smiling through tear soaked cheeks, bringing me to recognize the clearing of his chest, the blockage unblocked. We all come up to him on as he is on the floor, one by one, and kiss him and tell him our love. We rise up from the grounding ground and hug each other proper, just like anyone would after a vulnerable release.”
– Listen to grief and praise talk by Martin Prechtel
– We are not usually accustomed to one releasing emotions… How do you react to this experience when it happens around you? How can it get better?
– Do you have a regular way of safely releasing what has been accrued?
c. 1200, “contemplation; devout preoccupation; devotions, prayer,” from Old French meditacion “thought, reflection, study,” and directly from Latin meditationem (nominative meditatio) “a thinking over, meditation,” noun of action from past participle stem of meditari “to meditate, think over, reflect, consider,” from a frequentative form of PIE root *med- “take appropriate measures.” Meaning “discourse on a subject” is early 14c.; meaning “act of meditating, continuous calm thought upon some subject” is from late 14c. The Latin verb also had stronger senses: “plan, devise, practice, rehearse, study.”
“The term meditation is difficult for some people to grasp because it may connote exotic Eastern cults or Christian monks who spend most of their waking hours in monastery cells contemplating God.” – Dr. Herbert Benson
~~who are you, meditating one~~
Meditation is more often than not, utterly confused. Much like the words God and Love, it has been so over conceptualized and misinterpreted of which in some ways has created a near unbridgeable space between the word and the actual lived experience.
Take the etymology of the word meditation in English. There are elements within this breakdown that give evidence to me (thought, think, plan, devise, etc) that it may not be the right word for the action it is attempting to represent. Is this just the inherent dissonance of the modern languages we are living with? Smiling may help.
To understand this set of strung together letters a bit more, I can paint a scene. Meditation is at first like setting a dirty pot in the sink full of warm water and soap; It is doing ‘nothing’ but the pot is releasing all of its debris because of that water and soap. It is passive work, a result of the natural arrangement of being in body. Meditation is like the water and soap and we are that dirty pot. We are dirtied from an untamed and childish mind yet these daily movements are training us to live better if we can learn to see them as such.
The origin of meditation, if we can say such a thing, is thought to be come from the East.
The methods that have been preciously passed down and preserved from these Eastern traditions are beyond valuable and I practice them daily. It may be how you found meditation too. However, if we believe that it was existing just there based solely off documenting then we should also look for evidence of when we started to breathe through our noses… My feeling is that meditation brings us to a universally shared state, one that is beyond all creeds, classes, sexes, and colors. That because many popular formal practices come from the East, I personally conceptualized this tool as an Eastern one, sort of distancing myself from it in a way for I wasn’t from there and didn’t feel allowed to be so interested. Yet, can we see how foolish this is? All beings have the inherent connection to the truth of our nature. It has been shown to me that this our birthright and cannot be boxed in as much as it may be tried to. Indebted to all those before us, we are connecting to the Source of which is the heartbeat of all that is.
There were a good few years where I may have meditated 10 times a year, and yet told everyone and their mother to sit, because I knew it was good for them. I remember being so intent on sharing this amazing piece of information, yet I myself at that time had never truly committed to the practice and therefore had not yet actualized it! How many people listened to an idealistic experience-less me? N o n e.
I feel this to be a commonality in the world now a days. We read some article (like this one, :)) and then think that we know something and share it with the people in our lives. Sure, our intentions are prime and we want others to do better, but it is not in the most skillful way. Our efforts could be focused in on our development first (inner landscape) and then, for the most part, we really don’t need to say that much. People will come to you and ask what it is that you do in order to achieve wellness.
There is something undeniable about the way meditation affects me. It truly began as a practice while living in Peru for almost two years, studying the plant medicine and ways of the Amazon and Andean mountains. It was quite a journey in the beginning! I actually remember the first night that I attempted to sit as long as I could… it was something like 45 minutes. I remember after a mere several minutes my legs being foreign pieces of immovable steel, my mind wandering and wandering, and just being impressed that I didn’t fall asleep. As I type this, I smile in recalling how I would intend to sit and meditate in the night and would suddenly catch myself, completely in a different position on my bed! So much work it took just to sit there and do nothing.
I guess that is the first part of this magic. There is this space that is attainable from trying at nothing, and attaching nor rejecting nothing. It is insanely simple, yet increasingly profound as I continue on this path. It is also something intrinsic to our very nature as beings: beingness is our natural state. We can experience this state that is right under our nose and our nose too, a place that allows for the life force to effortlessly do what it does; flow!
In connecting to the river of energy that is us and surrounds us, a few things can start to become noticeable. We may realize that the thoughts have been wrongly deified and overly paid attention to, leaving the knowing whispering heart to be suffering from unconscious neglect. In a culture that focuses almost entirely on just the cerebral existence, the guilt or sadness of being so headstrong can only be an impetus to rise above our conditioning. We may realize that we are not the endless stream like ticker of thoughts, and start to recognize the identity with something that encompasses even the ticker, for the thoughts in and of themselves are not bad or wrong; we are only readjusting our focus from the thinker to the feeler.
In this culture, it might be radical to renounce something when it seems all we are geared for is to want more of everything. Renouncing doesn’t always mean that you shave your head and move to Nepal and sell all your ‘extra’ organs and nice guitars. We are making a trade; the delusions of our head full of thoughts and judgements and wonderings for connection to peace and well being. It can be as small as taking ten minutes out of our day to sit and meditate. Renouncing the potentially mindless activity of scrolling on the internet or flipping through the strangeness of television and instead working on our inner development.
Some may still wonder: What does this really accomplish? How about this: Most of us, I would say, are trying harder and harder to avoid the chemical onslaught of our corrupt food systems. We purchase the best that we can, or we eat from our gardens, or we pick fruits from where we can find them. Yet, if we get biological about it, the body itself produces a pretty harsh array of chemicals when it goes into fight or flight mode, of course a necessary process when it is actually needed (to fight or fly, lets say) but not if we are constantly pushed by the normal ebb and flow of daily life. So it is not our natural expression of emotions that we are trying to change, these are actually human and should not be suppressed! It is more so the over reactions where these tools help us so greatly in seeing ourselves where we may have been blind.
If we want to prove something, because some of us like these sort of things, we can see here: “In an analysis of the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, Matthews et al. (2004) found that IHAT ratings above the sample median were associated with a 60% increased risk of cardiovascular death over a 16-year follow-up, compared to men with lower hostility scores…”
That is a significant increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease, is it not?! So, we can start to see that the tools that are available to us are invaluable to begin working with our basic human systems, so as to prevent unnecessary catastrophe and strive to live life fuller and happier. Meditation is a foundational tool, an internal technology that is fueled by your breath and costs nothing but your time.
Another example of practical measure, although extreme and likely to never occur, this group of Thai students and their teacher, stayed present and conserved energy, following the lead of their teacher who had studied for 10 years at a monastery.
~~on setting up a space for meditation~~
There are perhaps 1000’s of meditations to choose from. Styles range from all of the ways of guided meditations with the voice of someone helping to create an atmosphere or environment in which you travel to, to the completely simple ‘calm abiding’ meditation, in which the foundation of every practice can be said to come from.
I like to do this practice either after I wake up and get settled or near the evening… I have found that doing it on a stomach that has already digested its food (or even an empty stomach) allows for easier stillness. Yet, go with whatever you can!
The space can be your room on the floor with or without a cushion, on the bed, or even in a chair. If in a chair, if possible, try to allow yourself to be on the edge of your seat so as to not let the spine rest against the back of the chair. Altar pieces and bells and whistles are great, but are not necessary to really attain what is being desired, especially if they are just ornaments.
It can be as simple as ridding yourself of distractions in the outer worlds like a cell phone and also the inner distractions of the thoughts and plans of the busy mind. This takes awareness and skill of which develops over repeated practice, just like anything else. Someone once told me, “thoughts will come, but they don’t need to stay for tea.” There is no battle to have against our brains as thinking is natural. It is the constant engagement that we are learning to relax.
Deep stillness could be said to be easy to attain when sitting in a room full of incense and with altar pieces abound, but is that where the meditation stays? Of course not. The real practice is to bring the meditation to all the aspects of our lives, most especially the challenges that we may face everyday. The meditations we do will prime us to have less reactivity and more peace. This is where we can start to see the benefit of working with our mind, with our inner development. We can come to recognize that this work is essential and maybe even arrive at questions like, “Why didn’t we learn these sort of things in school?”
This is not a contest. Quality will always top quantity. A perfectly not moving body doesn’t mean that the mind is tame. Also, forcing the thoughts to stop or the scrolling to cease just calls on will power which further entraps us. This is a process of allowing. Experience points the way, as the screen can only inspire one to eventually put it down, at least for a little while.
Meditating with someone else, consistently, is a great way of both reminding each other of the commitment and also a wondrous way of mirroring the baby steps in growth of such a shockingly simple and monumental practice.
Through my experience of finally coming to a practice of meditation, I can say that if we have no time to set aside to do nothing, than something is not right. It is also pivotal to remind ourselves that although some of the more common practices are Eastern in origin, the essence is human and inherent and our birth right to be able to experience.
A very important aspect to meditation within the tradition that I have learned so much from, speaks to the motivation behind our meditation and our spiritual practice in general. It is done for the fact that others are suffering, and which therefore brings us to want to better our out of control minds to therefore affect the space in a beneficial way. If our realities are truly intertwined like ancient wisdom knows and of which quantum physics echoes, then the goodness I achieve can only last as long I am extending it beyond myself.
As with all things on the path of wellness, this is just a piece, albeit an important one! To focus entirely on mediation as the sole medicine may work for some, but of course nutrition and healthy relationships and so on are all integral for most of us in being (fully) alive.
Although there are many ways up the mountain, here are a few articles explaining a bit more than what I have here. Folk might say to find a teacher in order to have guidance in this way, but I would suggest in at least starting as soon as you can and in becoming consistent and dedicated to clearing your life of delusions, the teacher will appear. Of course, if you feel called to find one, please do!
“Prayer is when the mind is one-pointed and man talks to Infinity. Meditation is when the mind becomes totally clean and receptive, and Infinity talks to the man.” – Yogi Bhajan
“Your Infinity is you when you stop thinking. Have you stopped thinking? That’s the end of it. Awareness takes these things away from you: thinking, reason, logic, argument, fantasies, planning, scheming, knowing and worrying. These nine things must go before you can say that you are on the path of awareness. Do you know why? Because the One who rotates the Earth can take care of your routine. These nine things you do are unwanted. They only satisfy your ego. Where there is ego, there is no Amigo.” – Yogi Bhajan
A baseline anxiety seems to exist in many of us. Like a low buzzing sound that isn’t noticed until its finally turned off.
And one may wonder how it was ever even not noticed for so long, for sometimes years, like it was for me.
The essence seems to be in continual releasing of tension, accumulated through various experiences throughout the day and night, eventually becoming 1st nature to be spontaneously relaxed and aware. It’s like the muscle of presence gets so tight and can cause so many issues until it is finally allowed to rest. For me, meditation has played a crucial role, as well the path of reconnecting to plants and nature. Meditation is so often misunderstood and overly conceptualized when it is shockingly simple: imagine allowance, nothing to do but be, nowhere to go but here, nothing to achieve besides breathing and being. This tool allows us to be able to become quiet enough to listen to the subtleties of communication that surround us. Let’s call them synchronistic spaces. The mystery reveals itself slowly but surely, and for some, rather quickly. All is a process. Patience is key. Keep flowing!