Ayahuasca was beautiful. That wasn’t my first time and it won’t be the last. However, after journeying ayahuasca, sleeping a mere hour and a half, drinking the water of two coconuts from the estate, spooning an entire property papaya and making love to a local aguacate, I moved on to commune with the King of the Desert (a cactus that is commonly used by Native American shaman in the United States south west) and the sacred tobacco plant (which they call jungle tobacco down here. cool.).
I and ritual are cousins from the way back. You know the cousin that not only gets why you are hiding beneath the dessert table at family gatherings, but even joins you there – to swipe a tiny handful of candies, avoid the loud group and have a more meaningful hidden one on one instead. Ritual is that cousin for me. My little blonde Midwest cousin with blue eyes like dolls the next door neighbor girl plays with – with blue eyes like mine. Deep in the eyes, even as children, recognizing discomfort in groups; the start of a lifetime questioning authority and reality.
Ritual and I go way back and I’ve certainly practiced sweat lodge ritual with my pagan family in the past. I have to be honest; a mouse freaked out once and ran up the inside of the blanketed dome and fell right on my head. The women gasped but I took it as exceptional fortune that the critter chose my nog. The mouse made it out of the steaming ceremony and so did I within the first 15 min – I wither in heat like a mason jar of alfalfa sprouts set in August afternoon Sun, anyone whom truly knows me will confirm. I embarrassingly also have a case of energetic claustrophobia.
Must. Be. Free.
I heard the frame drum, an elegant urging, beating time in the forest. By the time I arrived, the chiseled capoeistra man was attending the small earth altar, the tall man had others talking and laughing and the others seemed truly happy I’d joined. We circled and our Israeli Priest warmed up the space vocally and with casual simplicity explained that the desert is a temple and mustn’t be abused, but treated with respect. The desert is an intelligent, generous ecosystem we would connect with through consuming the peyote cactus today. From rain forest to desert in one afternoon. Beautiful intention.
Palming a small baggie, the Priest deposited a little or a lot in my cupped palms. As soon as the blue crystalline cactus touched my skin I felt it’s power and was confident I would receive this plant well. I’m fortunate to have sensitivity training as a long time raw vegan and have intentionally dieted many plants; eating one, two or three doses of each every day for three months, six months – sometimes permanently if it’s a good relationship. I’m sensitized to feel and smell extra information now, (especially from plants) and peyote felt good when I chewed – the giant crystals cracking between my front teeth into dust, mixing with saliva, beccomming wet with enzyme and life again, then so thoroughly and thoughtfully swallowed.
Wine wants to be ritualized for consumption this way, too, really.
A non-inhaled hit or five of sacred tobacco to liberate the truth spirit of the smoke by blowing it back on bug bitten skins, stomachs, arms – and into the air: we are being honest. A final smudge with sage. A kiss to the rich clay soil. A welcome, voluntary deosil entry to the the blanketed hand-built lodge.
The frame was low, so I used all my thigh strength to move around the pit, empty for now, hand shaped and smoothed inside. It was tight – I’m not gonna lie. It was knee to knee – girls opposite boys. Meanwhile, a man bowed strong back hoisting pitchfork to stir and lift from ritual fire a giant volcanic rock, glowing red with heat. Another stocky rhythmic and very physical male slapped fire stone with a branch of leaves to dust off embers. One by one, the rocks, sparkling like ignited charcoal, were deposited in the cramped dome’s central pit to the words spoken and responded with by all each time, “to all my relations”.
And when the blanket door was closed behind the final ritualist, I meditated like a guru right though that claustrophobic hyperventilation panic attack by recalling my hot yoga training: a daily lesson of mental control over physical responses like heart rate and breathing depth. Plus the majestic ability to surrender to prolonged, intense sweat. I slowed my heart rate, I chose the appropriate breath control. I created a new neuro-pathway and eliminated an unuseful panic response habit in that very moment. I could not have worked in the sweat lodge had I not learned to communicate with the automatic systems of my body through daily hot yoga.
Cobalt resin, like chalk, was traced across the rocks to bless them and move our journey through scent. Mountain water was slapped on the glowing rocks and the steam erupted, the heat spiked, the pressure built – my lungs burned. The Priest sang songs of eagles and freedom while beating that glorious frame drum. The ritualists joined in shaking rattles and seed pods. Somehow I knew the words, too, and sang with a yet undiscovered ancient tone to my song. The sound stayed inside the heated dome and vibrated through us – losing vision, gaining visions, breathing deeply, sharing the same air. Useless habits and outdated ways of being dropped away like layers of winter coats no longer needed for protection. Clothing dropped away and the muscular men silently united in a singular prostrate bow – foreheads to earth – across the burning floor from we women, stretching our legs, circling our rib cages, grounding our palms, surrendering so well.
How many sessions I do not know before we busted out as a widderchynnes circle into liberated, cool air. As a tribe we ran down the jungle hill for a leap and full submersion into a frigid mountain pool. Alive. Awake. Purged. Affected. Clearer than I’ve ever been in my life.
Sol Circle, Costa Rica Moksha Yoga, Los Angeles
I wake to the sound of my name being called from the temple. It is time to begin circle.
All in white we gather in the rain forest, in a grove of tropical trees, with a grand roof structure that lets moonlight, but not precipitation, through.
In Santo Daime traiditon, there is singing of what I call devotionals – though if they are animistic, pagan, Christian or Rastafarian, I can not denomenate. After the community mind is established we one by one approach the altar to receive a shot glass of a what chocolate soil must ferment into. Many purge. We continue simple synchronized step dancing, men on one side, women on the other – building energy by twisting/pulling our gender polarity. Song raises energy. Priest plays guitar. Priestess holds space. I’m remembering songs from some paralell reality where music is monarch, as if I’ve always known the words to these Portuguese incantations. This is ayahuasca.
There are two tents with five of the familys’ children sleeping, sometimes rousing, from within. There is a newborn in circle sitting between her chanting mother and father. There is a fire on the perimeter if we need space, fresh air or a quick transformation. There are mats, mattresses and blankets covering the floor, suggesting that one or many might at some point later in the evening, prefer to lay the fuck down.
Singing and dancing go on forever and my body soon ripples with internal earthquakes, though for me, the first glass of aya is mild, bright and enjoyable. After what might have been three hours or days, the altar bar serves a second round and this time the shot glass is a spoonful of dirt soup – a viscious scrape from the bottom; thick like mud and similarly palatable. Immediately I feel I will purge. I wish I could. Most have.
The ritual songs continue and my focus is wholly on the discomfort in my gut. A tall man bounces. A baby nurses. A young woman drums. And the rest of us are soon pulled to mats by the intensity of the medicine’s voice. I no more than touch eyelids together and rotating geometric visions of deer antlers and bird plumage replace waking vision. I could spend hours navigating the bells and whistles of vision, but as a magickian I choose to work. First, I effortlessly I project myself out of body through space and time to choice family and friends offering astral embraces, encompassing love or sending specific messages I have for them (one friend has confirmed his simultaneous vision of me). Next, I work with my ritual intentions (alignment, inspiration, receptivity and beauty) by placing the ideas into the ether and allowing each to morph and reveal it’s internal psychological process, not all of which is very pretty. Finally, the medicine slows and a relaxing and enjoyable meditation blankets me until dawn.
Dew condensates, children stir and never does the community song relent. The Priest strums, the initiates chant, the Priestess smudges the perimeter again. We rise with half energy – one eye open to the mountain side, one still scrying the other side, and we sing together again. Ayahuasca has whispered, shaken and touched us all. Lifetimes more potent than any chemical I’ve experienced and a million times more gentle. Without pain I great the new day. Tired and changed.
Sol Circle, Costa Rica
It’s a rain forest. Not a jungle.
Unsure of the distinction here in the crumply volcanic mountains of Costa Rica, covered with fronds so cartoonishly massive I feel like “Eat Me” must have been inscribed on something I, Alice, ate today (probably that string bean – seemed to have some sigil to it’s skin). This jungle – pardon me: rain forest – features highlights from southern California’s all-star house plant team – growing in technicolor so vibrant, the Wizard of Oz is envious. In dimentions so numerous, Avitar’s eyes cast downward. With fruit so abundant, a raw foodist stops making mental meal maps. Twenty feet high, these jungle giants; fruiting, flowering … outdoors.
Quite a jaunt from Playa Caletas on the Nicoya Peninsuala, where I was living on a quite uninhabited beach without running water nor electricity. We flushed by carrying water from the ocean and pouring it down the stool. It was one hundred degrees and too hot to do anything but hammock the day. At night we tracked turtles til sunrise. The ocean was never clam nor quiet; the waves a constant 10 feet or higher, the moon; a dramatic actor giving show stopping performances come 3am. I held hundreds of ancient endangered sea turlte babies one by one between my thumb and forefinger before setting them to sand, whispering a silent “grow” and midwifing them from protected nest to wild water destiny with an easy release.
But here in the rain forest, where I’ve come to partake of the plant medicines ayahuasca, peyote and sacred tobacco, the continuous cacaophony of deafening ocean orchestration is replaced by the fairy brigade’s soft shoe sonnet of gentle rain drops across some far above overhead canopy. Here we flush with saw dust.
I am a plant worshiper. By goddess, it’s practically a religion at this point (I surely have been saved). I firmly expeirence plants as intelligent beings, each one a teacher with wisdom to impart. It is my training, as student, to develop my senses, sensitivity and sensuality so that I can hear the teachers’ lesson. An adept student will hear the teachers voices whose wisdom she is ready to recieve. The fact that some plants’ voices are so clearly heard by all of humanity suggests all humanity is ready and requires the lesson.
Medicine: I am listening.
It’s the end to Vegas. Again. Wrapped in my towel after massaging this drag make up off in a hot bath. Feeling super empowered because I conquered another venue, engaged another crowd energy, connected with my sisters-in-psysical-art. If you don’t know who they are, then please don’t ask, just read more so we’ll get on the same page.
I thinks it’s hilarious, discovering – now without dread locks for the first time in a decade – that really short hair sticks straight up like a Halloween costume of Big Boy or Archie or Max Hedroom after you towel it. You might expect me to be out partying at the Hard Rock or parkouring another casino landscape, but I’m an introverted performer. Gasp. Now that you think about it, the introverted performer is an archetype that you are familiar with – you’ve actually met many. I have great social skills and really enjoy company. But I’d very much prefer that company to be EITHER an audience watching me craft my humaness for our effective communication OR be with the right person, just us, intensely, warmly, geniusly one on one.
When we can really be bags of bones animated and so very alive.
Instead I’m sitting in a damp towel with outstanding punked up hair savoring a joint all by myself. All by mySelf and not ashamed or regretful of that whatsoever. Another wise plant of nature that is stepping forward because it has something to teach us. And we are imbibing to learn. We are eating to learn. We are breathing to learn. We take in and learn the consciousness of that plant. Every plant has wisdom and is a potential teacher. Speaking loudest when humans or the individual is ready (and needs) to hear. That, and I’ve found myself to be fabulous company without much exception, so smoking a joint alone is special.
La Brea is the new Melrose. Remember the artists – of the fashion and fabric sort – remember how they dreamed of having a store front to display their designs. Back in the day that was Melrose. Where they could afford it. Where they all found their dreams coming true. And they did and they established a street famous now for the radiant, urban, west coast open air fabrics that decorate many a Hollywood body and every few years, the rest of the country as well.
They made it the center of local fashion and the rent went sky high and the new, young designers dreamed of Melrose openings, while only the established could showcase.
I live in the La Brea / Wilshire hood. The Beauty District. SoHo: South Hollywood. I am drunk and walking home. I live here. There are three noteworthy wine bars in my hood and I walk home from a Masi, northern Italy, Amarone style tasting with my television development partner and see the parking attendant, with his mohawk, reading a book while he waits for the next wine bar patron, like me, probably drunk already upon arrival.
Bless the northern Italian wines.
Graffiti hedgerows, cacti and succulent lawns, a stumble, a stagger – even the industry executives look deeply in the eye and they are real people and I am just a misty inhale, unafraid of … anything. Longing for the intimate adventure and learning everything I know from the community consciousness. All I do is listen. Really well. I don’t watch tv. I don’t read any newspapers. I don’t listen to the radio stations or even watch the Youtube. I listen hard to the people who talk to me and take it in like it was the voice of the Universe giving me vital information.
What is so vital about living? C’mon now. It’s not actually that hard to keep living. Anymore.
I’ve been to paradise where the people don’t need money. The land gives so much food, none would fathom paying a price for a banana. They gift and give and socialize and sit. And there isn’t a lot of work to be done. There is no property to own. I’ve eaten the raw cacao in paradise and I’ve walked the glittering sidewalks of Hollwyood. And the people – the people in both locales are the great variable. They are surprising beyond belief, but all the while predictable. Perhaps we should listen to each other deeper. Looking in the eyes of the executive and wasting time on a chit chat with the native.
My native people – the designers, the artists, the producers, the neighbors laughing every nite – so stoned – watching sports. I love them. I cradle a bottle of Masi Massianco in my arms. A gift from the tasting at 320 South Wine Lounge on La Brea in Hollywood tonite. A birthday gift. Because every day of October is a day to celebrate being alive to me. Happy birthday. No drunk driving. Just a stagger home and a chaser of oj, spirulina and MSM.
How did I grow up a farm town girl in Michigan and turn into the most integrated, authentic wild woman in the majorest of cities? I don’t feel any conflict. I feel every day with my wide open, screenless windows, I am outside. I am in nature. I am with community. I am healthy. I have opportunities. I am stimulated. I am curious. I am in the right place. Give me love, give me music, give me wine. I will do what I must to continue this blessing. Without revision, I offer myself complete. I give and give and receive. I receive, too.
How far back is your earliest memory?
In support of a modern physician’s perspective on the effects of marijuana, I have no clue what I was doing yesterday at this time. I can’t remember if I saw your number on the ID of my phone. I can’t actually remember what I was walking into the other room for and why there is a pen covered in wax on my nitestand and why the heck is the light on in the hallway again?
But I pioneeringly propose that short term memory loss not be seen as an unwanted and often embarrassing side effect of euphoric herbal ingestion. Rather perhaps, short term memory loss is the secret to true happiness.
My short term memory is blindfolded in the back of a passenger bus – we still get to Colorado, we just have no idea how. My long term memoirs though – watch out – are hovering on the moon making maps of Universal history for God’s remodeling plans. I mean, get this: I can remember counting Easter eggs shades of spring flowers from behind white crib bars. I also remember the way the people’s feet sounded on the second story apartment stairs from my apartment below – I moved from that home when I was 2.
And somehow, if I really put some effort into it, I am convinced I can remember things before I had words to describe them. What if I could go back and have an actual memory of that warm, dark cave. What if there is a memory before that?
My long term memory is challenging my simple earthly happiness, but like an avalanche gaining momentum, the motion is addictive. I am endlessly curious, I love to learn and heck, I am good at this long term memory shit, so why not feature your assets:
I can remember watching television standing up. I was very very small. I saw two young black men on a show they called Star Search (the old skool series) and those two young seemed really alive, more than any other person I had seen on the screen, and they wore matching white suites and their skin was so so black.
This is how I remember it from 3 years old at least. So intelligent. So honest.
Those men in the matching white suites danced and made sounds with their feet – nice sounds. Their aliveness and those nice sounds made my feet move, too. They danced without music. The nice sounds were the music.
My mom caught me grovin and said, “Tonya, do you want to take tap lessons?” I started tap dancing when I was 4 years old – only one year older than Shirley Temple. When my shoes were the size of a deck of cards, and my little tiny taps already sounded nice, I imagined I was a lot like Shirley Temple, indeed…
Chicago, IL hosts The Human Rhythm Project, an phenomenal annual tap festival where famous hoofers perform and give class and create community. I was getting schooled in a master class by Dan The Man Porter, after he had taken a Polaroid of us together, written his digits on the bottom of is, and handed it to me saying how “good we look together”. He taught me everything I know about a shuffle in one week and he told a little story about how in the day, he and his tap partner snuck two costumes from racks backstage and barged out on the Star Search stage before they were anyone doing anything. They just riffed off of each other, hoofer improv style, and of didn’t even use any musi. They danced a capella.
Today I just got out of a tap class with my favorite tap choreographer, Amanda Leise, and well … I can’t remember if I ever thanked my mom and dad enough for just throwing me in tap dance lessons at age 4. They didn’t know. I didn’t know. But little kids have to try. And the more chance you give them to love something, the more things they will discover they really love. And shouldn’t a kid have a basket of things to love that they can choose from or not even have to make a choice. Just have it all. Just have everything. Just die with a store house of beautifully connected, fully appreciated memories. Now if I could figure out how that light got turned on in the hallway again.
I went to Toronto’s raw restaurant today. Boy, was it chilly. Not cold, but downright chilly. I walked to the restaurant and passed another vegetarian on tour, Rob, the set designer and lighting lord – a real punk rock dude. I brought him with me.
The place was bright and simple and clean and healthy feeling. Green and orange and yellow accenting well stated white. Nuevo 50′s diner chairs. Upon entering: a warmly lit dessert display case featuring strawberry cheese cake, Greek halva and a suspect stock of lavish cacao bars like Willy Wonka, like “I’ve got a golden ticket” shit. All gold, green or orange foil each one costing an oompaloompa $20.
I looked closer at the ingredients and there were almost-familiar ingredient names that I recognized as almost-familiar entheogen names. Entheogens are consciousness altering plants. Like morning glory seeds, kava kona root and the exceptional marijuana. Not all consciousness altering plants are drugs. The word drug implies only that a substance is illegal in the United States. Like cocaine, Ritalin and for some reason, marijuana. This ingredient list, however, listed items quite similar to some legal fungus and vine entheogens I am rather familiar with. I will research it on the apple laptop later.
Cool. So don’t ask me why my cell phone decided it was time to leave me. Was I avoiding intimacy and withholding sex? Don’t ask me. All I know is she was not in my pocket as I sat at the table, removing my metal wallet, skeleton gloves, patchouli oil (the touring artist’s absolute) and a concierge desk Toronto map.
The Live Health Cafe has been open just over a year. It is the only raw vegan restaurant in Toronto, ONT. 5 million people live in Toronto, ONT. Jenny Italiano is the founding owner of The Live Health Cafe. For some reason, they decorate with plastic plants, which to the best of my knowledge, don’t even kinda do what a real plant does. Or fake me out in any shallow way. I looked up the ingredients of that chocolate bar and yes, they include potent aphrodisiacs and a mild hallucinogen without side effects besides having trouble falling asleep. I, Veruca Salt, “want my golden ticket NOW” and bless Canada, five bites of that of that $20 chocolate bar made me skin roll, feel quite amphibious, and had me squeezing my legs together for two full days.
I never found my phone.
Salvia quietly quietly go insane.
“Are you stoned?” she said, the gorgeous girl behind the counter, as she packed a fresh pouch of Unity Tea: a fragrant blend of lemongrass, black pepper, cardamom, ginger and that unflavor of flavors, licorice root – identifiable in throat but not on the tongue.
“I just got out of a Bikram Yoga class,” I responded feeling purged from an hour and a half of sweat racing to the surface of my pores as if I had been holding it hostage and upon it’s release, it had a long lost lover to attack in an aggressive oral embrace to discover if all the wet parts thereof were still loyally his claim.
“That explains it. I wondered what that otherworldly glow was you have.” She put the boiling water in the steel teapot, like my nitely bath water, the steam rised. The words, “otherworldly” and “glow” resounded in my mind.
Again, I have been traveling, this time a week in Chicago, where life changed forever. But there I go again, being redundant, as if travel or change haven’t become givens in my life. A wedding on the weekend with Smashing Pumpkin’s Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin, but most importantly my best friend, Jdrive, in attendance, was half Rock-n-Roll/half Midwestern – kinda like me and the things I love most: Downhome Flamboyant, Girl-Next-Door Superhero, Just the Good ol’ Bizarre Boys. Then two days shooting a Perkin’s commercial, but this time instead of being talent, I was choreographer – part of the production team – and I tell you, the collaboration and appreciation I experienced from that perspective is definitely something I invite into my career again. Finally, a long anticipated reunion with a few new blatantly brilliant and belligerent magickal friends exposed me to a plant that shattered my concept of reality – even my concept of Chaos, left me baffled and confused and wondering why anyone would ever choose to delay gratification on this earth one day longer. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is what we call the Muppet Show.
All this in five days. My life, oh, my life. Swallowing licorice root, surfing free coffee house wireless, looking at a near full moon with an otherworldly glow. Not stoned, but undeniably high. Doing exactly what I always dreamed of doing. Oh, my life.
I stood over the glass display, so clear Sherlock Holmes’ monocle would certainly prove futile – no finger print, no belly lint, no DNA detected here. The enclosed case, doing just what a fine art gallery display should do: focusing the critique’s attention on the enclosed crown jewel – in this case, a well positioned, quite erect blown glass masterpiece. A swirling, swelling, serpentine face in every color of the glass bubble gum rainbow. So haunting, so reveiling, the onlooker is left feeling responsible for the world’s perversion – wondering if every act of originality hasn’t been subliminal “sin” since that metaphoric apple bite in the Garden of Eden. And if that is the case, if innocent sin really isn’t just a natural desire for growth where stagnancy existed before. Oh, how art asks the questions not meant to be answered.
Most of the display case artwork was well above my spending limit for…um….the entire month. But the Big Spender Who Could certainly spent her money well, for in addition to owning a character-releaving oracle and magnificent coffee table conversation piece, the owner will also be able to enjoy the finest herbs – passion flower, white willow, chamomile, and any other fine herb freedom will alow – via this chef-d’oeuvre. Each fine glass piece of art doubling as a high-class glass smoking pipe for those who wish to truely create ritual out of sacred plants and their bodies.
Intelligent hip-hop was spun over the sound system. Creatively dressed twenty-somethings danced a bit at the door. A group of jovial men stood in a circle. Absolutely no one coughed.
In the summer evening air on the back patio, I felt profound unto myself as I gazed over Commercial Dr. alley murals, a few potted flowers, the occasional Harley Davidson cruising slowly through. The Bikram Yoga instructor from next door talked Love. A fellow Rasta talked truth with simple words. The owner provided one of his favorite masterpieces for the table to enjoy. When we all finished our ritual in smoke, we worshiped plants this time in the stomach. Freshly juiced greens, local and in season tomatoe-based soup, basil salad dressing fresh picked from patio pot. All served with a smile from the most powerfully life-loving equal I have met in a long time – The Living Source’s raw chef. That smile. These plants. This art gallery / raw cafe / Safety Zone. There is no where else in North America doing this. How did everything happen so perfectly in my life to lead me to this very moment?
Just another question not meant to be answered.