Hosted by Ralph Miller and Peter Richardson, Heart of the Initiate.
Colombia June 8-15, 2013
Ralph has spent most of his life passionately pursuing a quest for spiritual understanding. He has been compelled to learn and understand everything first-hand and by personal experience. He has traveled over 1-million miles to over 58 countries and had personal interactions with a wide variety of diverse cultures, religions and people from all over the world.
In September 2000 Ralph began a project he called Heart of the Initiate as a path to help people approach their authentic heart through the use of ancient shamanic traditions. Over the last 12 years, Heart of the Initiate has run 94 experiential shamanic workshops. Ralph has worked with over 1,600 people from 55 different countries around the world. He is dedicated to his own path of self-mastery and healing, and shares a powerful sense of compassion for the brotherhood of humanity.
In 2010, Ralph began an organic produce delivery business with Peter Richardson in their small mountain community in Arizona. They converted their home into a retreat center to promote healing through a diet rich in raw plant based foods. Their most recent project, Art of Transformations, is a human alchemy process to teach people how to live in a sacred way.
Ralph is a prolific writer and lecturer on the evolution of human consciousness. He has now published 34 articles on various websites, some translated into 3 languages. His writing authentically communicates to the reader in a way that invites people to approach their own authentic source. He is a connector of people, a kind soul, and has a deep compassion to help others. Ralph’s body of experience communicating and carrying people through this intensive healing process is unsurpassed. He is a true visionary.
Hosted by Ralph Miller and Peter Richardson, Heart of the Initiate.
Colombia June 8-15, 2013
Kambô is both the name of the Amazonian green frog Phyllomedusa Bicolor and also the name of the medicine ceremony that uses the poison secreted from the frog’s skin.
Kambô contains peptide substances (dermorfine and deltorfine) that are analgesic and that strengthen the immune system provoking the destruction of pathogenic microorganisms. The substances in Kambô also have antibiotic properties, and strengthen the immune system through the body’s production of antibodies.
During this ceremony a series of ‘dots’ are made on the skin using superficial burns. These dots expose a layer or two of the skin and allow Kambô to enter directly into the lymphatic (immune) system.
During this process one experiences a purgative effect, detoxification of the liver, of the intestine and of the entire digestive system. The main effect last about 30 minutes and many people report feeling an increase in their vital energy and overall sense of wellness.
The indigenous communities that use Kambô believe that it removes spiritual blockages, creating a psychological reorganization. From this place a person changes their attitude and their future patterns of health. They also believe the mission of Kambô is to protect the health of those who defend the forest.
"Kambô circulates in the heart. When we take kambô it makes the heart move accurately, so that things flow, bringing good things to the person. It’s as if there was a cloud on the person, preventing the good things to come, then, when they take the kambô; it comes a ‘green light’, which opens the way, making things easier."
Kaxinawá kambô shaman
Kambô Scientific Research and Healing Treatments (PDF) by Giovanni Lattanzi, Professor of Sociology
Hosted by Ralph Miller and Peter Richardson, Heart of the Initiate.
Colombia June 8-15, 2013
LAKOTA INIPI (SWEATLODGE)
The traditional Lakota ceremony of the inipi (sweatlodge) utilizes all the elemental powers of the Universe: earth and the things that grow from the earth, water, fire, and air. When we use the water in the sweat lodge we should think of Wakan Tanka who is always flowing, giving His power and life to everything. We should even be as water which is lower than all things, yet stronger even than the stones.
The willows which make the frame of the sweat lodge are set up in such a way that they mark the four quarters of the universe; thus, the whole lodge is the universe in an image, and all the things of the world are contained within it. The stones (grandfathers) represent the father, which through the water receive the reflection of the earth mother’s love. The masculine and feminine are united in the undifferentiated form of Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit). The fire which is used to heat the stones represents the great power of Wakan Tanka which gives life to all things.
When we enter into the lodge we enter back into the womb of the mother, of the earth. We enter in for purification through the heat and steam. We are reborn again into this world as small children.
Hosted by Ralph Miller and Peter Richardson, Heart of the Initiate.
Colombia June 8-15, 2013
Living in the eastern Orinoquía plains of Colombia, the Sikuani indigenous community makes use of a visionary snuff called Yopo. In their tradition, they inhale this shamanic medicine in order to have the ‘vision’ to see what healing is needed for themselves, their community or for the patient they are healing. Archeological evidence suggests that this tradition is over 4000 years old.
The Yopo tree, Anadenanthera peregrine, thrives only in the tropics, where it prefers drier locations such as the savanna-like regions of the Orinoquía plains. The leathery, dark brown seedpods grow as long as 35cm and contain a very flat reddish brown seed 1-2cm across. The dried seeds are lightly roasted and then ground into fine powder that is mixed with an alkalizing powdered river shell and ground plantain. The alkalinity from the ground shell helps to activate the psychoactive alkaloids found in the Yopo tree.
The snuff is then inhaled through a hollow bird bone tube during a ritual ceremony. During the ceremony we also chew a piece of ayahuasca Caapi vine to strengthen the Yopo’s effect. The Yopo snuff contains a combination of DMT, Bufotenin, and 5-MeO-DMT psychoactive compounds and produces a visionary experience.
Yopo shamans describe this experience as an opening of the 3rd eye to be able to perceive into the light of the non-physical spiritual dimensions.
Central to the Sikuani Yopo tradition is the use of prayers to invoke healing energies. They believe that their word and the tonal vibration of their prayer is the very force of creation. For every imbalance and sickness that is created, there is a corresponding prayer to heal that sickness. Sikuani elder shamans know 2000 or more prayers and study intensively from about 8 years old.
Hosted by Ralph Miller and Peter Richardson, Heart of the Initiate.
Colombia June 8-15, 2013
Ayahuasca is a medicinal tea brewed from the thick woody stems of the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine and the big bushy leaves of the Chacruna (Psychotria viridis) plant, a member of the coffee family. With great reverence, intention and prayer, the plants are prepared and cooked for 8-10 days. All the while the shaman sings his sacred songs of healing making this tea into a medicine.
An ayahuasca ceremony in the traditional sense is a time when the tribe would gather together in an evening to drink the medicine for its healing, visionary and spiritual transformation effects. Each person's experience is highly individual and is a direct communication with the deepest parts of who they are. The heightened sensitivity created by the plant unlocks a state of consciousness where the person is fully awake, yet aware of their inner subconscious mind. Shamans refer to this state as ‘dreaming while you are awake’.
There is a natural detoxification process or purge that begins when working with ayahuasca medicine. It is known for its properties of physical cleansing of the digestive system and whole body, removing stored mucus, killing parasites, and other impurities that rob energy from the body. Part of the way ayahuasca medicine works is by literally purging out of us anything that is imbalanced and not in harmony with who we really are. This purge can come in the form of sweating, crying, laughing, diarrhea and vomiting. This is considered a benefit of the plant as it uses your body's natural responses for cleansing itself.
For some people the heaviness that is felt in their life is the weight of old emotional baggage. These memories can often be brought to the surface, confronted and released during the work with the plants. It is in this clearing process that we allow the space for new creativity and vibrancy to enter back into our life.
People often ask what an ayahuasca experience is like. This can only be known by directly having the experience. Even after drinking ayahuasca there are parts of the journey that cannot be fully translated on a conscious level. No part of the journey is ever lost, but is more like seeds that are planted and continue to grow in your life over time. The effects of ayahuasca medicine continue months afterwards as this new vibratory state grounds and integrates in your life.
Hosted by Ralph Miller and Peter Richardson, Heart of the Initiate.
Colombia June 8-15, 2013
Welcome! We invite you to experience a powerful week of inner exploration and healing. We have organized a trip to Colombia for a small group of friends who wish to experience the deepest part of who they really are. We will learn directly from drinking ayahuasca medicine and participating in other shamanic traditions. This will be an intimate and profoundly deep experiential journey.
We will spend our time exploring and opening the subtle doorway through the heart energy. This is the path back to awakening your authentic self. As we work through our old, limiting patterns, we begin to heal and reclaim our lost personal power.
Since 2002, Ralph Miller and Peter Richardson have brought hundreds of people from 55 different countries to experience these sacred traditions. We continue to explore on our own personal journey and offer an approach that is friendly, safe and very personable. We maintain close personal communication with each participant during the entire process before, during and after the retreat.
The logistics for this trip are fairly easy. We will help organize all of your flights to Colombia. You don't need a tourist visa, any vaccinations, and we organize all of the arrangements once in Colombia.
- Seven nights at Eco Retreat property
- Two ayahuasca medicine ceremonies
- One yopo medicine ceremony
- One Lakota inipi (sweatlodge) ceremony
- Three optional kambô medicine sessions at $25 per session.
Read about our Support Staff
Total price for the Shamanic Retreat is US$1750.00, with a $750.00 deposit required to hold your space. Places are very limited and our trips fill up quickly, so please do not delay if you intend to join us.
All accommodation is shared. All meals, snacks, juices are provided. Local transportation in Colombia to/from airport and eco retreat are included. Flights to Colombia, passport and other travel costs are not included, but we will be happy to help you book all of your travel arrangements.
LET GO OF EGO?
We have come to view ego in and of itself as basically a learned coping structure. Ego is an assembly … sometimes a tower.
We suffer unpleasant experiences as children from scary to traumatic. Since we want to repeat the pleasurable experiences and avoid the unpleasant ones, even at a very young age, we devise ways to get attention to insure we are not left alone or abandoned. The first time we learn what abandonment feels like, we objectify it … thinking, “mental note ... don’t want to have that happen again.”
If we feel neglected, perhaps we adopt a more ‘needy’ posture towards others. Our neediness then becomes part of our structure.
So we modify our ‘structure’ to incorporate those learned survival tools into our personality and system of belief. If you look at the concept of ego as resembling our best version of self, you realize what amazing function it has in the pursuit of simple survival. Our traumas and insecurities are masked by the bravado of, “It doesn’t matter” or “I’m stronger (better) than that” or other coping skills.
There is a certain gap or variance that exists in all of us which is the difference between who we think we are versus who we actually are. The difference is variance. The less you have of it, the more you know your true self.
Ego, while a brilliant tool for survival, tends to separate us from our inner (higher) being. It separates us from our authenticity and vulnerability. It is only when we actually agree to fully accept ourselves that we can then ask for the same acceptance from others.
Encounter your true self. At least get closer to it … maybe even for the first time … in that place there are no limits!
The process of transformation always begins with an encounter with yourself. In coming to terms with our most authentic self, we create the possibility of a foundation to learn and to change addictive behaviors.
We begin again. We create on a pure white canvas.
RENEW. RECONNECT. REMEMBER!
Essentially the artist must let go of ego to propel his or her deepest creativity. In order to do that one must undergo multiple transformations. You have to ‘clear a path’ to the fullest capacity of consciousness.
Let me try to explain.
Ego is for the most part a static structure. The ways that we interact socially as well as the tambour of our internal dialogue are fixed within. It’s the way our ego functions. The ways we cope are well-worn pathways. The way we react to conflict, pain or disappointment is fixed. Typically our ‘inspiration’ will also come from this fixed structure of our ego. This I refer to as static inspiration.
Dynamic inspiration is born from the purity of a deep-seated knowing. When we encounter ourselves in a true and authentic way, there potential exists to unlock dynamic (full motion) inspiration and creativity! Letting go of self-imposed structures and limitations creates infinite novelty or possibility in our life. The skill and talent of the artistic part of us breaks out and literally everything becomes possible.
This begins to shift your consciousness back towards its original clear state.
Our consciousness profoundly sits at the very pinnacle of human experience. Everything we are or will be; all our experiences; all of creation flows through human consciousness. The support of consciousness is what I am going to refer to as a ‘bridge’. It is about our access to our individual consciousness.
BRIDGES TO CONSCIOUSNESS
There are 7 bridges to consciousness. Our unhindered approach to these bridges allows us to completely know or be who we are! Take a moment to notice the themes that are associated with each of the bridges.
1) FOOD TASTE – HEALING – REGENNERATION – LIFE FORCE 2) SOUND VIBRATION – MUSIC – HEALING 3) COLOR VISION – PINTA 4) MOVEMENT YOGA – HEALING – CHI ENERGY 5) NATURAL WORLD PLANTS – LIVING BEINGS – GARDEN 6) FAMILY TRIBE – INTAMACY – AHO MITAKUYE OYASIN 7) CEREMONY AGNIHOTRA – ANCESTORS – THE SHAMAN – NOSTALGIA
Because these bridges are to the most sacred part of us, they in and of themselves become sacred practices. The idea is to integrate these various elements into a sacredness around your life that involves, plants as food, plants as medicine, music, movement, stillness, natural world, sound vibration, tribe, ceremony and color.
When people begin to incorporate these sacred practices into their lives the gap that people feel with themselves and with each other closes. We realize that we are all interconnected. New relationships begin to emerge and the very way that we interact with each other redefines itself. People work together in collaborative relationships and in sacred communities. We work together to sustain each other.
Our connection with the earth and our land grounds us, helping us to remember where we came from. By forming a connection with the land, we grow food and create a self sustainable and earth-conscious way of living. Our bodies begin to heal, renew and regenerate through eating pure organic foods. Through ceremony we offer gratitude to the land and to our ancestors who created the path for our lives.
People used to live in a way that integrated these 7 different bridges into every aspect of their daily lives. Indigenous cultures live closer to the natural world and are more integrated into their natural world. Song, art and movement are a part of their daily work and routine. Community and ceremony are held in high importance in balance with work and play. All aspects of these different elements exist in balance and in a natural flow or cadence to their lives. This is simply the expression of human consciousness.
As we ourselves began to explore more meaningful ways of living, our home and our lives began to take a different form. By shedding old restrictive ways of living, more dynamic new ways began to emerge. Our home began to feel like a canvas for this expression. Suddenly a home began to feel more like a sacred space or a temple.
Our move to the White Mountains of Arizona was a very interesting transition. At the time we were living in the suburban sprawl outside Denver, CO. In 3 years time we went from living in the countryside to living in a housing development project. We did not even know our own immediate neighbors. When they began to build a Starbucks two blocks away is when we decided to leave.
The contrast and strangeness of that experience is very different to our home now. The land itself here feels alive. Ancient artifacts and rock glyphs from the Anasazi can be found nearby. We live just a short drive from the Apache reservation and their sacred mountains. We feel a strong sense of community and connection with others in this place.
Our home is our ongoing exploration of the potential of how people can live … it comes alive when we have others here to share this with!
We invite you to our home for a 3-Day exploration of your deepest creativity. Feel the openness of being with others who seek to bring transformation into their own lives. With each other we will begin to rebuild these bridges that connect us with ourselves, with our land and with each other.
This retreat is hands on so get ready to work, play and be vibrant! We will experience music while we plant seeds into the earth, movement of our body during sacred ceremony, the brilliant color of food while we prepare delicious raw organic meals. With our whole being we will experience this reconnection with each other.
Both Ralph and Tatiana will guide you through this self-exploration process. They each bring different elements that synergize and work in alchemy together to bring a truly dynamic experience. The retreat is set at our home. It is close, personal and real. Our hope is to inspire you to create your own sacred living space in your own home, and in your own community.
LINDEN MARKET & GREENHOUSE
Last year Ralph and Peter began an organic farming project to grow and supply organic produce to the community. Ralph calls it the food factory. We began to connect with our own land to create a more sustainable way of living. Growing your own food is one of life’s greatest joys. It is a form of healing. When you plant seeds into the earth, a bridge is created with the natural world that reconnects you back with the primal force of creation.
The idea with this project was to do what we love to do, and create a business that was both interesting and a service to our community. This is a new way of working in which we share, sell and barter with others in a collaborative way to support each other. This is a model that we wish to share with you. With a little bit of creativity, we can create new ways to support ourselves and sustain each other through cooperatives.
Visit our Linden Market Organic Produce website to read Our Story and how we began this project.
RAW FOOD EXPLORATION
The importance of consuming uncooked fruits and vegetables cannot be understated. Cooked food is depleted of enzymes (the ‘living’ aspect of raw food) and phyto-nutrients. Simply put, viable enzymes in uncooked food are essential to digestion, nutrient transport to the cells, and are literally the energy conductors to our body. Cooking food essentially ‘kills’ natural enzymes. Phyto-nutrients are natural bioactive compounds found in fruits and vegetables essential to healthy living.
We incorporate the philosophy that raw, uncooked living vegan diet can transform a person’s physical state of wellness and energy no matter what their current diet is. We believe that living food is for everyone!
Breakfast: Raw muesli, green juice, wheatgrass
Lunch: Nut pate wraps w/ sprouts, dehydrated kale chips
Dinner: Raw tacos, curry corn salsa, green salad w/ tahini ginger dressing
Juices & Smoothies: green juice, pear kiwi lime, carrot ginger beet
You will learn that raw food is not necessarily restrictive … raw food is exciting! There will be food preparation and demonstrations in our kitchen. All of our fruits and vegetables are organic, much of it locally grown in season. In addition to meals we will have fresh juices, smoothies and snacks throughout the day. You will not go hungry!
Retreat Cost: $345.00 in house, $295 camping
This 3-Day retreat (Friday–Monday) includes:
- 3 night’s accommodation; in house rooms on first come first serve; 5 spaces in guest rooms, 5 spaces for camping are available
- Delicious all raw vegan meals and juices of fresh organic food
- Daily demonstrations on gourmet raw food preparation, juicing, and natural diet
- Activities including sound vibration healing, color and art design, sacred ceremony
- Bound workbook to get you started; sections on raw living foods, some our favorite recipes, articles, and other information on organic farming and natural living
- Airport pickup on Friday and drop off on Monday from Phoenix airport
You are welcome to stay as our guest for a couple days before and/or after, just contribute $20/day towards cost of food. Planting party ~ Help us plant our garden this spring!
Arrival & Departure: Plan to arrive on Friday and depart on Monday; if you are staying additional days communicate with us about your plans.
Transportation: Cost of flights is not included but we can help organize travel to Phoenix with an optional regional flight directly to Show Low; drive from Phoenix is a scenic 3 hour drive; we will make one airport pickup and drop off by shared van.
We are located in Linden, Arizona (next to Show Low pop. 11,000), a small mountain town located in the White Mountains (3 hours northeast of Phoenix).
The White Mountains of Arizona remain a best-kept-secret tourist destination with ample year round activities. Our place is at 6,300 ft elevation on 4½ acres of tall pines (very secluded).
If you want to take a day trip we are a few hours away from many attractions to see in the area: Sedona/Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Navajo Canyon de Chelly, Apache Mt. Baldy hiking & camping, Hopi petro glyphs, Anasazi cliff dwellings, Red Rocks Lavender Farm, Alpaca Ranch, and many other places.
For more information about this experiential retreat please contact us:
(720) 837-0215 Arizona (US)
Article by Ralph Miller
It is with overwhelming gratitude that I want to announce the end of the Heart of the Initiate workshops. I want to try to express the depth of my appreciation and thanks to those that have joined us in this project. I will do that with words and memories from my heart. But I want to first talk about what gratitude has come to mean for me.
Gratitude for many people has been reduced to utter crassness as we all hear the phrase, “Thanks and have a nice day”, uttered many times every week of our lives.
Gratitude seems to be inherently coupled with a distinct insincerity. This insincerity is so pronounced that the words ‘thank you’ no longer carry any meaning. The polite ‘thank yous’ that we all utter are in most cases, automatic and obligatory. It is so easy for us to say ‘thank you’ without even thinking or feeling. When we hear a quick thank you, at times we sense insincerity on the part of others who say the words to us. The insincerity towards us reminds us of the insincere ‘thank yous’ that we mouth ourselves.
For me, I knew it would be impossible to write about gratitude without recalling what I consider to be my one true lesson about gratitude. It was brought to me one night in Colombia.
I was with a few friends and many of the Southern Colombians I had just met in a very strong traditional ceremony with ayahuasca. This was the occasion when I first met my dear brother Warinei, our shaman in the Heart of the Initiate workshops for these past 5 years.
During the ceremony I had a vision that terrified me. I found myself in a very dark place of my own shadow. This was a part of me that lay just underneath the surface of my psyche and rarely appeared in the light of day. It was a part of me that was completely callous to others. It was the part of me that was rude and intolerant. It was a sort of disgust with everything and everyone. It was the part of me that would curse someone who inadvertently stepped in front of me while waiting for a cashier in a shop. It was my insincerity magnified a thousand-fold. The feeling was gaining intensity in me at a fever pitch. I felt myself losing any control to stop it.
I became the devil. I was somehow trapped on the other side … frozen beyond my own life and unable to return. In that place I resented everything and everyone … all turned outwards … blame and resentment towards everything outside of me. The feeling of regret, loneliness and frustration was overwhelming.
In the vision I saw faces of family members and loved ones appear before me and in each case, I felt nothing. Only distain and selfishness towards each person rose up within my gut. I was scared to death. But there was also a rising tsunami of anger and resentment within me. Even the faces of my wife and children could elicit nothing but defensive anger and scorn. I couldn’t control it. It was as if I had descended into a hellish place where all love and compassion had disappeared. The misery that I felt to the core of my soul was unbearable. Nothing offered a way out.
After quite some time I had become exhausted and desperate, and from deep within me there was a cry for help. I felt the wall of darkness all around me and was desperate to escape, but I couldn’t do it on my own.
I remember mouthing the words … “Help me.”
It felt like a scream but the words were barely audible. As soon as I said the words a face began to emerge in front of me. I saw compassionate eyes first that I could not identify. The eyes were alive and beautiful beyond description! Slowly I began to recognize my wife Anna’s loving eyes. She appeared to be searching; looking for something.
In desperation I was saying to her, “I’m right here. I’m right in front of you.”
Suddenly I saw a ‘there-you-are’ look in Anna’s eyes … she saw me. She had found me!
It is hard to describe the feeling that overcame me in that instant. It was as if she had reached down into hell, grabbed my soul and brought me straight out. My eyes flooded with tears and my breathing was hitching uncontrollably. My heart burst wide open. The depth of gratitude I felt in that moment is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. The purity of the gratitude I felt in that moment was linked to the ‘truth’ of it.
Anna was not actually there with me on this trip to Colombia, but thank god she had come to me in the vision! I remember my friend Lonnie coming out into the garden where I was to check on me.
I pleaded with Lonnie with tears clouding my vision, “Lonnie, tell me it’s going to be OK.”
Lonnie replied matter-of-factly, “Ralph, it’s going to be OK.”
I asked him to repeat himself, “Tell me again it’s going to be OK.”
Again he said, “Ralph, it’s going to be OK.”
Your Heart Remembers Forever
Living authentically is living in a way were you are habitually truthful not only in your outer-actions but in your inner-attitudes and feelings. This experience was a great lesson for me about sincerity. It was a great healing. I resolved myself to not pretend anymore. I resolved to be genuinely grateful for everything in my life after that experience. I reached my arms to the sky and I said, “Thank you!”
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.”
The words of this often repeated simple quotation from Jean-Baptiste Massieu who was an 18th century bishop of the Northern French province of Oise, coalesce into the most profound description of true gratitude that I have ever read. Even when all of the memories of a person or event in your life have faded, you are still left with the tracks of that memory in your heart. They surpass even the negative memories we have about someone we never really liked. It is the reason that at the end of your life you have a deep gratitude even for those who hurt you.
Memories of the heart can never be erased. You carry these memories with you forever. Heart-memories form an aspect of your karma. They carry you into eternity.
When I made my first trip to Colombia, I had envisioned the possibility of a shaman with a humble spirit and a good heart. I was searching for a shaman based on the remote (in my mind) possibility that such a person could exist. I not only encountered such a gifted shaman but a dear friend as well. Warinei has the bear as his animal ‘teacher’ and so do I, so I think we have a connection on many levels. Over the years we have become good friends and I know his children and his sweet wife Margarita quite well. I know that I will continue this friendship with my bear-brother for a long time to come. I am fortunate to know Warinei and my world is brighter because of him.
There can be no words to describe the feelings that you carry in your heart for those who labor with you side-by-side over the years. The best thing about these past years is that my family has grown. Peter has lived with Anna and I for around 7 years now and he will always be a part of our life. Anna refers to Peter as her brother and I refer to him as my brother-in-law.
My heart is forever bound to all those who worked in our workshop in Brazil including Jean, Sandra, Michelle, Fiona and for every one of many others who have helped us in the past. For each and every one of them I have so much gratitude in my heart for you. I feel to my core that our work will carry on in some other way as we move forward from this transition. Sara Ñusta I have always referred to as my big sister or hermana major because I have never known a young woman of so much wisdom and grace. Catalina welcomed me into her home the very first time that I visited Colombia and it has been such a joy to work with her again this past year.
The courage and strength of character of each workshop participant that has joined us over the years exemplifies the true nature of the initiate … the heart of the explorer. The collective intentions of humankind in this age are stretching out and evolving in a way that is unprecedented. What I feel in this moment is a combination of cautious optimism for the future and deep gratitude for all that has past.
With tears in my eyes I am thankful for each of you who have supported us by attending our workshops. I am equally thankful for those who have visited us on our website. We are all one unique tribe and nothing will ever change that.
Medicine for the Soul
Ayahuasca is a combination of two plants, caapi and chacruna. There are in excess of 100,000 identified plant species in the Amazon. The process of MAO (mono-amine oxidaise) inhibition, which allows the transcendental human neurotransmitter DMT (dimethyl tryptamine) to pass the blood brain barrier was only discovered by Western science in 1952. The story goes that when indigenous shamans were asked the source of their knowledge millennia ago, in preparing the ayahuasca plant medicine, how they could select just two plants that would work together in this unique way, they answered saying that ‘the plants told them how.’
Our world is a unique and wonderful place because it in fact contains this special medicine. For me, it seems quite plausible that ayahuasca might never have existed in the first place. The fact that it does exist is comparable in every way to any ‘magical’ technology or property uncovered by science through the centuries. Nanotechnology, magnetism and electricity harnessed by Western science in no way surpass the magic of this special plant medicine.
At this point we are only beginners embarking on a journey of the evolution of our consciousness that is in perfect symbiosis with a dynamic connection to nature Herself. What is certain is that we have only begun to experience her gifts.
End of a Cycle
My wife Anna and I began the Heart of the Initiate project over Valentine’s Day weekend with a small workshop in Colorado exactly 9 years ago today. As I said, we are now ending and closing the Heart of the Initiate workshops.
I realize that we recently announced that we would be conducting a scaled down schedule of workshops during 2010. But after more consideration we have made the decision to end the program now. We have consulted with our staff and our shaman Warinei Wanare about the current dynamic in the collective human consciousness and in the consciousness of nature Herself. This very special medicine is now in the process of an evolution towards a new sacredness of this ancient ceremony.
We respect with great admiration the many experienced shamans across the planet who are now advancing very humble and traditional ceremonies with this sacred medicine. But there are also many neophyte Western guru-teacher-type individuals that are beginning to attempt to define the ayahuasca consciousness and force it into their own concocted ceremonies.
There has been a significant change of energy in the collective mind and consciousness of many people, which is a reflection of a waking-up process that is occurring. Many people are becoming more and more sensitive to fake charlatans masquerading as teachers, shamans and gurus. This is a stressful and sensitive time for all of us.
Heart of the Initiate workshops in Brazil were anchored in the firm belief that because the Brazilian government endorsed the use of ayahuasca there was a liberty and acceptance of the ceremony that was unique to this country. Our commitment to Brazil was further advanced in working very deliberately over the past few years to secure permanent visas and work permits to conduct this unique program. We did that. The guidelines of the Brazilian government further recommend that these ceremonies should not be offered directly for commercial profit. To that end, we have also been working for the past few years to structure our work under the auspices of a non-profit organization for the preservation of the traditional shamanic ceremony with ayahuasca. There is a need for research and careful progress as the ayahuasca plant-consciousness advances.
We have used three different very special eco-resorts, which have all been near the beautiful beaches of Bahia. As we thought of the people who would be coming to our workshops, we realized early on that a new context had to be created. The plant works her best when new people are in a safe, beautiful and secure setting. The ceremonies were offered in an atmosphere of support, comfort and security for our participants. In most cases many participants were not only coming to Brazil for the very first time in their lives, but also having their very first experiences with ayahuasca. Given in this context, the Heart of the Initiate workshop presented a unique alchemy that allowed over 1,000 people from 55 countries to experience Brazil and ayahuasca, her most sacred tradition.
Our ayahuasca ceremonies for several years now, have been conducted by Warinei Wanare and his assistant Sara Ñusta. We have increasingly seen the vital importance of offering these ceremonies in accordance with the oldest and most sacred traditions passed forward from elder-teacher to student. I met Warinei 5 years ago after an extraordinary synchronicity that led me to the South of Colombia in search of an authentic shaman.
Warinei started his teachings with ayahuasca in 1996 with a grandfather shaman of the Inga community of Colombia in the Southern Amazonian region of the Putumayo River. His apprenticeship continued there for 6 years. In 2003 he continued his shamanic training with a yopo medicine man of the Sikuani community and made frequent visits to their community, in the eastern Orinoquia River region of Colombia. He received his sacred name from his teacher, Kasulú who gave him the sacred name of Warinei Wanare, meaning ‘star from which come forth the warm and cold crystals with which it is possible to make healings.’
While we have had several people who have expressed their interest and support for the evolution of the project, the progress towards transferring Heart of the Initiate to a non-profit structure has been difficult to accomplish. I remain steadfastly interested in a non-profit research organization to preserve sacred shamanic traditions and to accomplish ongoing study of the plant medicine itself.
The ancient alchemic symbol of the snake that is swallowing its own tail is called the Ouroboros. This symbol represents the cycles that are in our life as individuals and as a community. Our lives are marked by the passing of cycles … just as the sun sets and rises every day. Warinei explained to me that when any cycle ends, before the beginning of a new cycle there is a time in between that doesn’t belong to the last cycle or the next cycle.
Since this past September Anna and I have been in such a transition-space between a cycle of the past and a new cycle yet to come. I was shown that there was a closing or ending of a cycle in my life that was connected to the work we have done these past 9 years. I spoke to the group I was with in Brazil about this in September.
I saw clearly that this ‘closing’ heralded a new beginning. I see clearly now that this is the beginning and I feel no loss. I only feel great hope, great adventure and the great opportunity that lies just ahead!
Article by Ralph Miller
Intention is something we take into the sacred moments of our life. It is the prayer that we offer with each breath we take. It is a reflection of who we are moment by moment. We can try to grab onto the thoughts about those feelings. We can try to reduce to words what it is we want and then create an intention to move towards those things … but when we do the thing we felt behind the thought, many times it just doesn’t translate into words. Real intentions are our will to act and do in a way that guides our souls through this universe. What should those intentions be? Can they lead us to contentment and peace?
There is a growing awareness about the sacred plant teacher ayahuasca. This medicine is an interface with nature herself and can help those who encounter it to overcome attachments that are not serving them. There are many people who intend to come and meet this teacher, and do. Others ‘intend’ to have an encounter with this plant and do not. Yet, either decision is a good one in that moment. The universe has a way of allowing for a freedom that is within a perfect timing. You can never be late and you can never be early. Our true intentions will always lead us to peace and freedom.
Our lives are guided by a desire for happiness and contentment. In the last centuries western civilizations have shifted to materialism in a quest for happiness. We have drifted far away from the notion of inner contentment that one achieves despite material possessions or wealth. The idea of ‘rising expectations’ as an economic principal that relates to the notion of members of an economic class or culture who adopt an attitude of reaching further and further towards products and services that are obtainable and affordable. Plainly stated, the principle is that ‘the more you have the more you want’. The media bombards us with messages that are geared towards desires and wants born out of cultural materialism that is running amok in our societies.
Expectations are not always about material things but they are often about something you want for yourself. Our cultural story is a survival story brought to us from eons of wars, striving and competition. We live in a world of every-man-for-themselves. This preoccupation that members of our cultures have about the perfect job, perfect body, stress free living, perfect relationship or perfect life is at its best a way that individuals are trying to better themselves. But at its worst is a reflection of a deep-seated group narcissistic psychosis.
The great thinkers of old such as Socrates who was the founder of Western philosophical thought, suggested that true contentment and happiness is only achieved when a person discovers peace within themselves irrespective of the circumstances of their life. Enduring happiness is the result of a deep knowing of oneself. Socrates said, “Everything the soul endeavors or endures under the guidance of wisdom ends in happiness.”
Crisis or traumatic life events bring many to a search within. It doesn’t matter how much money you have when you are confronted with a serious crisis. Crisis will always lead you to search within. Many people approach their lives as well as their spiritual development with intention in their hearts. We each have goals and aspirations for our lives. We want to make our futures brighter and happier. In order to do that we first need to understand what makes us tick. What will make us truly happy? Is it money or things? Or is it something deeper?
I find some of the law of attraction self-help philosophy to be pretty disturbing, because it focuses on materialism as the means to happiness. Old habits die hard, I guess. But, the idea of using intention to ‘attract’ a new house, car or boat seems to me to be like some kind of a new currency that can be used to obtain ‘things’ instead of money. Now you don’t have to pay for it, all you just have to do is wish for it. The point is, it’s still about material things. With all the ‘law of attraction’ stuff, Santa is probably getting concerned about his job security.
Expectation vs. Intention
The understanding of letting go of expectations is an important aspect of the ayahuasca ceremony. The plant will always bring profound lessons to you, but you never know what that lesson will be. What this plant medicine does is offer a perspective of yourself and your world that is unique. Encounters with this plant will confront the ego in a way to disarm it. You know your own excuses and justifications and so does the plant. Those things are placed before you, for you to see. The perspective is fresh and new and free of resistance and justification. They say that the master lesson of this ayahuasca experience is about letting go.
Ayahuasca is a teacher plant. It teaches us to connect to the natural world. It is interesting because this business of expectations is not something that fits into the natural world. The plants do not expect to have the sunlight to nourish them. The birds do not expect to find a worm to eat; they just go eat a worm. Or they don’t and they get a little hungrier. There is no currency. There are no material things that the natural world wants or requires in the same way as humans do.
Creating an intention about anything in our life can be tricky ground, because it can be just another way of having expectations. It may be a way of saying the same thing in a different way. Expectation creates an attachment between you and the thing that you want or expect; or ‘intend’. And, attachment to anything is like putting a piece of yourself into that thing. The things that we want; the situations in our life; our relationships; are all things that we need to let go of in order to be consolidated within ourselves. Consolidation within yourself means that you get to be fully YOU. There are not bits of you scattered into all the situations and things that are in your life. Consolidation is about personal freedom.
If we can’t or won’t let go, then that situation, person or thing that must change or happen in the way that we want, we are subject to the ramifications of the outcome whether we like it or not. It may work the way you want and it may not, but you have attached to only one of these outcomes. If it works out … then great. But, if it does not work out the result is profound disappointment that disempowers us.
The reason it works that way is this. Let’s say there is a complicated situation in your life that you are attached to. You need that situation to have an outcome in a certain way or you will be devastated. You make all kinds of ‘intentions’ for it to be the way that you need it to be. You pray that it will be that way! You have attached to a certain outcome that you want to have happen. It must be this way or it’s going to be really bad for you. When you attach to that certain outcome you are in effect creating the ‘possibility’ of that outcome’s polar opposite … that it will not work out the way you ‘intended’. Your attachment to one side of the equation has allowed for the possibility of a negative outcome on the other side of the equation. Your biorhythms are off. Bad hair day … whatever. It just doesn’t work out the way you intended! You can only look to your attachment as the thing that has set you up for this.
The answer is to just let go! I always look at it this way, “You’ve mastered everything else, why don’t you just let go?”
The Wisdom of Happiness
What wisdom can guide us to happiness that Socrates spoke of? Much of the Socratic philosophies are a mystery. Most of what we know was brought through his student Plato. One thing left to us in his own words was that there is a wisdom that can lead us to contentment. I surmise that part of the wisdom of happiness is threefold.
First, letting go and detaching from outcomes in one's life that ‘have to happen’ is one of them. There is an attitude one can adopt of making every outcome perfect. The wisdom of the Taoist sages would instruct us to walk a path free of commentary about the things around us that we could want or not want. Wanting too much creates attachment. Not wanting too much also creates attachment. If you truly let go … you free yourself from comment or judgment about whatever the outcome.
The potential we have in our lives is collapsed as soon as we attach to something. Difficult situations have unique ways of resolving. With attachment, the spontaneity of the universe is lost. The possibility of it going either way is no more. Novelty is gone. Maybe the other path would have opened a whole new world of possibility. Your freedom from attachments will make every potential possible again.
The second wisdom I would like to suggest is that we need to learn to live in the real world. We need to learn to live in the present moment. It is common to hear people say when speaking about something they want, “If only …” or alternatively, “I wish”. I find this interesting because ‘If only’ has to do with the past. It is the regret of something that is lost. It is pining away for something that could have worked out differently but didn’t. ‘I wish’ is about the future. Hoping for the right lotto numbers, the right partner, the grass that is greener over there. It is the ego’s attempt to stretch into a future that will never arrive.
True gratitude for our breath and our life will help us to be in the moment that we have right now. When you are thankful for everything in your life you are present. When you notice the beauty of every person you encounter, you see them in a brand new way. Living in the moment is real and it means you are awake. The past and future are a dream that will never be.
The third wisdom is to create true intention in your life. Intention is only your will to do or to act. The bird getting the worm simply goes over to the worm and pulls it out of the earth. You can make an intention to let go of attachment. You can intend to live in the present moment. You can intend to love, because it is an act of your will. You can intend to be free … and free you will be. Every possible outcome is perfect … it really is!
“His followers said to him, 'When will the kingdom come?' 'It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here it is,' or 'Look, there it is.' Rather, the father's kingdom is already spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it."
- Jesus, Gospel of Thomas
Most religious philosophies teach of a heaven. The idea of a heaven that is waiting for us when we die is kind of scary to me, because what if it isn’t. I would like to suggest that heaven is our responsibility and that is not a place that is far off into the future. The potential of heaven is all around us. Heaven is a place that is here now on earth. All we have to do is to see it. It is a decision of gratitude, letting go and peace with all things. I like that idea.