From a Marine Corps Vet
I'm a Marine Corps veteran of 8 years with a combat tour in Iraq. I've been diagnosed and treated unsuccessfully for all the usual suspects: PTSD, TBI, Adjustment Disorder, Bipolar, etc. What I learned here is something that I will never be able to put a price on: forgiveness and acceptance of the past, and a firm commitment to a better future.
I can think of many words to describe my time spent there: serene, introspective, and magnificent. Among them is not the word regret, not in any way. Of course I can't speak for all veterans or anyone else. There are millions with far worse stories than mine and far bigger problems than I will ever know. But I came to know that your backstory is irrelevant because Peyote doesn't care about your past. What Peyote does care about is allowing you to see the perfect you; free from irrational fear, shame and hang-ups.
Put all judgment aside and come here for the possibility of a better you. Worst case, you spend a quiet weekend away from it all, enjoying the beauty of the desert. Matt and Annie are great people who are committed to you making this experience your own. When they tell you, "It's your Spirit Walk," take that as gospel.
A few words of wisdom from experience:
- Bring some fruit
- Sunblock isn't a terrible idea (especially if you're super white and burn easily, like me)
- Use your odometer to navigate once you turn off highway 70 onto (a dirt road) Klondyke Rd. then later, Bonita Klondyke Rd. Your beloved cell phone is a fancy paperweight out here.
- Above all trust your instincts. Peyote gives you what you need and doesn't much care about what you want.
— Stan, July 2015
A Spirit Walker Shares His Journey
I stepped out of my car and approached the church. I was greeted by two smiling rabbis, two dogs, two horses, a handshake from the sister in the sunhat and a "Welcome, brother!" from the longhaired holy man. My pilgrimage brought me to The Peyote Way Church of God located in southeast Arizona where the only thing higher than the mountains is the level of love projecting from this sacred place. I was given a tour of the church facilities, first was the three main Spirit Walk locations, which consists of a canopy, foam mat, fire pit, reclining camp chair, and small table. Next I visited the green house where the peyote cacti were growing and I received a brief education in its history, growing method, and the current state of the plant(conservation status G3- at risk of extinction). Next I was given a tour of the ceramic studio where the church leaders have made Mana pottery for 60+ years. I later learned that their pottery is in the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian collection. Finally I was inside the church and rather than having religious dogmatic symbols this church was a vegan grandmother's house with a library any psychonaut would envy. Most of the hanging art was produced by the church's founder Immanuel or by the family now running the church, save for a few exquisite pieces like the signed Alex Grey 'Tranquility' piece hanging in the room I stayed in. After my tour I had great conversations with both of the Rabbis, Matthew and Anne, about a wide range of topics and any lingering concerns or doubts I had about this experience were thwarted. I was in the right place with the right people.
The following day I loaded up on water and more conversation with my hosts. At 2pm it was time for me to begin my Spirit Walk so I collected my supplies, gave thanks to my Rabbis and scampered off to my spirit walk location. My supplies were: my mason jar of the peyote tea sacrament, my sleeping bag, my journal, a knock off Bob Marley 'one love' hat and sunglasses worn exclusively by 90 year olds and the blind (dilated eyes and Arizona sun are water and oil).
The rule of thumb at the church is at least 20 minutes between sips because the nauseating effects take a while to come on so if you drink the tea quickly you will see that tea all over the desert floor in an hour or two. My solution was to place a large stick between rocks in the fire pit and mark the edge of the stick's shadow with a stone every time I took a sip so I had a rough estimate of the time between sips; this worked well until the wind reminded me that it exists.
These are direct quotes from my journal:
- Sip 1- Ingested. Not bad.
- Sip 2 - Bitter. Smell and aftertaste are pleasant. Lemon juice is delicious. I want to drink this stuff quicker.
Nothing visual so far, body feels relaxed and accepting.
- Sip 3- Slight body tingle when I'm still. Very clear headed. Thoughts and memories are abundant and concise. Taste is getting easier to deal with. Mmmmm lemon.
- Sip 4- Lethargic. Getting up to place the stone on the edge of the
shadow felt similar to the effects of indica. I don't think I'm
waiting 20 minutes between sips but I have no stomach pains. Not even
Stick fell and stomach hurts I've waited about 2/3x the length of time between sips. Thinking about food.
- Sip 5- Stomach pain and nausea died down. Lethargy is increasing,
almost over 9000.
Every time my body moves it signals to my brain "nah".
2/5 of the tea ingested. Lethargic, curious, anxious but anticipative not worried. I want hamburgers or Mexican food.
- Sip 6- The medicine is getting harder to swallow. Rectal enema next time. Sun went down.
- Sip 7- The game is over. It is now a chore. Best chore ever but a chore nonetheless.
- Sip 8- Gag. Chore. What if I declined the lemon? The lemon is going to be the only thing to keep me from expelling my stomach contents... Or it's going to make the puking taste worse. Save me lemon. Be a good fruit.
Fire has been lit.
- Sip 9- Shake jar, remove lid, count to 7, and get that liquid in my belly.
Lemon time. The burning wood is mesquite and it's making me want BBQ. Fucking fasting man. Holds up a mirror to my addictions.
My stomach is uncomfortable and I'm too nauseous to drink any more. A little over 1/3 of the jar remaining.
End of journal entries.
At this point I stopped drinking. The peyote tea contained 15 crushed up peyote tops or “buttons” so I figured I got a dosage between 9 and 10 buttons. Sips 1-6 was spent reclined in my chair getting up once or twice between sips and it took about 4 hours. Sips 7-9 took at least 2 hours and required a bit of convincing to continue. Once the sky was getting dark I laid down on my back gazing at the moonlight reflecting off Mt. Turnbull. This was the beginning of the real peyote experience. The previous 6-7 hours were insightful and somewhat eventful but those moments pail in comparison to the experience that comes after reaching the peyote place.
Before I go into the details about what happened in the peyote place I need to quote my journal and thoughts from my spirit walk and also explain my thoughts on what peyote is now that I'm entirely sober.
"Peyote is kind, funny, subtle, extensive, educational, therapeutic, incapable of malice, thoughtful, thought-full, and nearing extinction."
"Peyote is mother earth's MDMA"
"Peyote is so much more mental than I expected. I knew it would be spiritual and it surpassed that expectation too but I had no idea that it would be so involved with my thought process and thinking abilities."
"The entertainment I expected was visual patterns or at least something visual in my third eye but my vision is unaffected. Instead the entertainment has come from the incalculable number and scale of ideas I have generated, the delivery of those ideas and the reaction I formed to those ideas. Peyote has the attitude of a trickster or a court jester who showed me that every thought can be seen in an objective or positive light. Every memory can be experienced objectively, with humor, and with empathy for everyone involved. Every feeling is a combination of your prior experiences and current situation and at any time you can choose to bask in this sacred fact."
Peyote completely diminishes your comprehension of linear time. You'll notice my time estimations seemed vague, that's because I couldn't really tell the difference between 10 minutes and an hour. My only "clock" was the moon and even that was a guesstimate.
The best teacher is a teacher who makes the student believe that they taught themselves. This is why I call peyote subtle, a trickster, and a teacher. If Rabbi Anne had not warned me about the subtlety of it I might have thought that peyote didn't work because I had no hallucinations, which is what I expected and wanted. But she did inform me of the subtlety and once I recognized that I was in the peyote place I embraced it and the stronger I embraced it the less subtle it became. I felt as though I was riding a raft of consciousness down a river and the water was being supplied by my stream of conscious right brain dominated thoughts. At any point in the ride I could stop the stream of thoughts, expand on an idea I had 30 minutes ago, jump back to the thought I had been working on 4 hours ago, and then hop back into the river of thoughts, feelings, and memories until I formed an idea worth expanding again. Once the idea was expanded, back into the river.
Angry memories that came up made me angry at first (thanks to my neural pathways) but I was able to cut the anger off and actually experience the memory from my adversary's point of view. It was a level of empathy I have never attempted to reach.
Sad/depressed thoughts that arose were met with immediate humor and a total dissection of why the thought is completely untrue or it's self inflicted. One vivid example of this is I had the thought "I'm so lonely". The thought repeated a couple of times and by the third time it was said in a (potentially racist) Asian voice so I heard "I'm so ronery. Rook how ronery FGMH is. Sooo ronery." I immediately burst out laughing of course and realized that not only was it just a thought that has no usefulness but it's also my responsibility to make sure I'm not lonely. No one besides my self is forcing me to not make friends. No one besides my self is keeping me from connecting with my old friends. I can call any family member or friend any time I want and talk but I choose not to most of the time because of a list of bad excuses and laziness. Other sad thoughts included memories of dead family members but I didn't really tread in that territory which has given me the mission for my next spirit walk.
Proud and ego centered thoughts were met with "Oh you're bad ass? What about when you used to shit your diaper or suck your thumb until 5th grade? What about all the times you actively tried to hurt people emotionally and physically because it made you feel not as bad? Really? You think most of your past behavior is something to be proud of? What about the hours you wasted watching porn? You've spent more time watching porn than some people have spent existing on this planet. You were on default thinking mode for 20 years and you've had 1 year of productive, moderately enlightened thinking and now this 1 year has made up for those? Really? Are you sure? You should probably keep working on your self because its the only thing you physically control in this universe and give up this silly idea that you're cool, which is a temperature and an idea propagated entirely by advertising and pop culture. Everything you project for others to see is 1/1,000 of who you are. You're showing people .1% of who you are and you usually try really hard to make it the best aspect of who you are and then you act like that .1% is somehow an indicator of who you are. You select thoughts carefully and censor your self to keep the good image of "you" in other's minds. Imagine being forced to broadcast every thought you had. What then? Are you still going to be cool? Are people still going to think you're funny? And why does it matter? You might never see that human being again, you might die 2 hours after talking to them and you're going to have wasted your final moments with them playing a character, not being who you truly are. You're fraud and you know it yet you continue with this charade. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. You've been playing this character for 21 years and it doesn't seem to have done very much for you. It's done wonderful for other's perceived idea of who you are but what the fuck has it done for you?
Jealous thoughts were met with "You know personal property is a joke, right? You wont take it with you when you die. Who cares if they have it, you don’t have it and you're alive aren't you? Do you think certain collection of atoms make you happy? It could but that's temporary happiness until your greedy little eyes focus on something else you want to get your grubby little paws on and then the old apple of your eye becomes a pile of kitty litter."
One of my fearful thoughts was met with a vivid almost cinematic fantasy of a channel 2 news show introduction where one of the news anchor actresses said "This just in, we're all going to die." And then the camera cut to the weather guy with the most shocked look on his face. He ran over to her and hit her with a folding chair, curled up in the fetal position and rocked back in forth while yelling "I'm never going to die!” Of course this put my fear of death in perspective and entertained me. Peyote has a fun way of teaching lessons.
Now, as we all know nothing is free. The abundance of revelations I received led me to believe that I was the best peyote user in existence. I didn't think I could make a mistake. Around 11:30 I put out my fire and returned to the church to eat, attempt sleep or just lie in bed and continue this beautiful experience. I came into the church through the kitchen and started grabbing munchies as if I was 10 seconds away from starvation. I ate 2 bowls of almost cooked beans with a healthy portion of hot sauce, 1 chia fruit bar, a banana, peanut butter, and a cinnamon raisin bagel. Between 11:30pm and 1:00am. I played guitar almost the entire time and had it not been for what happened next I would not have had one single negative word to say about this experience.
First I went to the bathroom and diarrhea’d out all my peyote tea. Cool. That was liquid anyway, no biggie. I returned to my room and wrote in my journal "It came in sweet and left like lava, the rear end razor blades". About 5 minutes goes by and then I get the feeling. The feeling where throwing up is inevitable, find something with the ability to catch liquid in 10 seconds because you're going to mouth poop.
I spent 2am to 5am on the toilet with my head in the garbage can throwing up until I dry heaved for 15 minutes. Not to mention every 15 minutes I shit out something that felt like glass, looked like A McDonalds advertising campaign, and made me sick like a coca cola advertising campaign. I will try my best to never make that mistake again and I hope you never go through that.
I only included the lessons and things I felt were important for others to know about this entheogen. The bulk of my spirit walk was forming artistic ideas, developing projects, analyzing habits and judging which were beneficial and which were detrimental.
I encourage everyone who has a strong desire to attain their highest level of consciousness to adopt peyote into your religious practice as I have. I love you, we are the same you and I, it's only our inner monologue and the inner monologue of others that convinces us we are separate.
—Anonymous Spirit Walker, April 2015
From Another Spirit Walker
I want to thank you and your family for everything you did while I stayed at your place. I am still in awe of my experience there and will forever treasure it. I can tell you truly that I am a changed person, all for the better. My outlook in life is brighter now, I feel a sense of ONENESS and also a peaceful feeling and so much more... Thank you for sharing such a gift from Mother Earth with me and so many more. I hope to experience it in a near future once more. Thanks again to you and your beautiful family.
—TA, August, 2010
From a Member
It has been almost one year since I had my first experience with Peyote. It took place at the Peyote Way Church of God; it also, in a way, didn't take place anywhere. I think this last perception is exactly the point: that experience took me out of what I know as normal space and time to something new. I'm not talking about the traditional mystical experience of oceanic boundlessness where the ego is shattered and time ceases to exist; I'm talking about much more mundane changes to my reality that, although mundane, were in no way profane. Sitting on top of that mountain ridge in the middle of an August night and with a butter-yellow full moon about the size of my fist overhead and with a couple ounces of Peyote tea in my stomach, I had a spiritual experience.
The following day, I was discussing my experience with one of the clergy and I said that I thought I would wait a few months to tell my mom about this. The cleric's response was "Good, maybe by then you'll know what happened!" I did eventually talk over my spirit walk with my mom, as I do with practically all-important experiences in my life, a few months later, but I don't think I completely understood what happened up on that mountain ridge. I still don't completely understand it, nor will I ever because I keep on remembering that night, revisiting what happened, and discovering new meanings that those twelve hours of silent contemplation have to offer to my life.
It was a very powerful experience, and because of that I have very strong memories of that night. Returning to those memories is as much of a journey as was physically finding my way to and from the Church out in the back hills of southeastern Arizona. When I said that my experience with the sacrament Peyote at the Peyote Way took place outside of normal space and time, I meant that, the effects of the tea aside, traveling to that mountaintop allowed my to temporarily leave my normal life behind and to concentrate on the world revolving inside of e instead of the world around me. The clergy's recommendation to leave society for a short while every couple months to be by myself and examine my conscience is a deft one. That is exactly what I did on that mountaintop with the aid of the sacrament Peyote. I had an all-night meditation; I lived an all-night prayer. I am extremely grateful for the religious experiences that the Peyote Way has afforded me with Peyote, my sacrament, and for the mountains, stars and moons that accompanied me on my spirit walks through the Aravaipa Valley.
From a Member's Spouse
It was really great to meet you guys. I was hoping I'd get the chance to meet the people who enabled Marc's Spirit Walk. As I told you in Berkeley, I feel like I benefited from his experience in so many ways: First, simply, by witnessing his own personal transformation and opening. His energy, light, spirit, connection to the universe, vision and commitment to compassion have all kicked up a notch or two. He was already a very gentle and awake person. But I've definitely noticed a shift since the Spirit Walk which was extremely powerful for the first days and even weeks after his return. He grew in every way from this experience. In particular, I find him even more committed to balance and connection -- between us and in other relationships, including the relationship he has with himself. His eyes tear up sometimes when he talks about the Spirit Walk. It was such a powerful experience for him. "Nature Way" was a message he received during the walk, and he has changed aspects in his life in order to walk a natural path. For example, though never a big drinker, he stopped drinking completely. One thing he did struggle with was sugar, also a drug, in my opinion. And since the walk, no sugar! This is a feat for a man who was seriously addicted to the stuff. In general, he came back kinder and gentler. Softer. He talked about the plant medicine being female. Who knows? Perhaps this gave him a new appreciation for women. I can't say. All I know is that his walk was soulful, spiritual, transcendent. But most of all, it's something he took back home with him into the practice of everyday life. Thank you both for giving us this incredible gift.
Response to a Questionnaire
1. Why did you choose to come to the Peyote Way Church? I came to the Peyote Way Church in order to satisfy my curiosity about entheogenic sacraments such as Peyote, and to learn the ways of Peyote from true apostles of the Peyote Way.
2. Did you have preconceived notions about what are your experience would be like? Yes, 1 think I was influenced by books and articles I read and also by the eloquent articles on the Peyote Way web site.
3. What is it that you expected to gain from this experience? I hoped to gain an introduction to the holy light and to undergo an examination of conscience. My experience surpassed all expectations.
4. After experiencing the Holy Sacrament Peyote, what are your expectations for the future? I fully expect to serve as an apostle for the Church, and plan to return (at least annually) for affirmations of the Holy Spirit.
5. How is it that you came to find out about the Church? (People, internet, etc) My daughter, through a school assignment, chose to read "Doors of Perception " by Aldous Huxley. Discussing this book with her, and rereading it myself, kindled an intense desire to learn more about entheogenic sacraments and what religions may be active in that practice. The internet, of course, was the research tool.
6. What other experiences would you compare this to? (Psychedelic, religious, etc) Partaking of the Holy Sacrament Peyote, and the revelations 1 experienced cannot compare to any prior experience. This event is the only true religious experience in my life. (61 years, so far)
7. How do you feel the location and scenery affect the experience? The isolated, primitive, and Calvinistic environment, all surrounded by beautiful Nature in the raw, enhances the essence of the solitary and natural world of Mother Earth. It is the perfect environment in which to cleanse mind and body and find the Holy Light within.
8. What differences could you predict assuming this church was located in the city? See also # 7-there is no way a communicant could properly prepare or obtain the right frame of mind in the cacophony of the city and its materialistic influences.
9. Do you think Peyote is a dangerous drug? Absolutely not - it is a gift from the Great Spirit.
10. How did the legality of Peyote affect your decision to use it? Legality was never an issue for me. 1 signed a Declaration of Religious Belief and will fight for the doctrines espoused by the Peyote Way Church, including legalization of Peyote and its preservation as a Holy Sacrament.
Peyote is a Healing Herb
Peyote is a Healing Herb. It contains powerful medicine to heal the body, the mind, the heart, and the spirit.
It connects me to the source, my source, the light that is inside me - that calm knowingness of grace and compassion - the ageless wisdom which shines its light upon the path before me.
Peyote is a Teacher
Peyote is medicine
Peyote is an herbal healer
Peyote is a road
Peyote is the way
Peyote is my Path.
Another Spirit Walker's Experience
Thu, 13 Jul 2006
37 year-old male, 158 Lbs.
8 oz. Peyote tea (15-20 grams powdered dry Peyote tops)
1 OO size veggie cap dried Peyote
Set: I approached this experience from the point of view of someone with a variety of carefully planned, spiritually focused entheogenic experiences. Over the course of many years I've maintained a serious commitment to use substances such as LSD, mushrooms and San Pedro for personal and spiritual growth. San Pedro, of course, which I've used five times before is the most similar to Peyote because it's primary alkaloid is also mescaline.
Setting: Late in the afternoon I arranged a desert campsite on a ridge with an extensive view of the surrounding countryside. I supplied myself with everything I'd need for the next 12 + hours, including water, warm clothing, sleeping bag, firewood, a comfortable chair Etc. I'd prepared myself by omitting all processed food and alcohol from my diet for several weeks in addition to doing the "Master Cleanse" juice fast for five days to detoxify my body a few days prior to this experience.
The sun was about 1.5 hours from setting as I smudged myself with sage and offered it to the four directions, Mother Earth and Father Sky. I spoke a prayer to the spirit of the Peyote although praying has never been part of my spiritual practice. This established a deep sense of reverence for this powerful plant ally and a focus on the vast potential of such an experience.
I took my first sip of the tea, noting that instead of tasting worse than san Pedro, it was easier to drink. I looked forward to both a beautiful sunset and full moon. By the third sip I felt my stomach absorbing the medicine, sending powerful energy to my entire body. I closed my eyes and saw hard to define dancing female entities in blue, green and yellow. A short while later I tried to discern more CEV's (closed eye visuals) and could almost make out the definition of a room or some other space of some kind, but lacked enough internal "light" to see this image clearly. I knew much more would appear with a full supply of tea, patience and time. The sun sank in a brightly glowing turquoise sky over the hills as I continued to carefully sip my tea. I made sure to drink a sip every 20 or 30 minutes for fear of the nausea that is legendary with Peyote. If I perceived any nausea at all I'd wait until my stomach absorbed the liquid before continuing. I intuitively felt that the practice of avoiding impure foods, refined sugar, alcohol and the master cleanse helped me better assimilate the tea.
During the sunset the rays of the sun turned the high thin silver clouds above and in front of me a vibrant pink. Darkness came slowly and I turned my chair 180 degrees toward the future moon rise and lit the fire.
Later I closed my eyes and I saw a large brown gate adorned with incredibly ornate and intricate black designs. Although quite unlike any I'd actually seen before, these images appeared characteristically Mesoamerican. After three hours I felt the medicine's effect rapidly increasing in intensity and took the vegi cap of powdered Peyote. The moon rose, appearing bright and vibrant. It illuminated the surroundings and I could clearly see and appreciate many of the desert plants, cacti and features of the landscape around me. My body surged with the familiar power of mescaline and I felt a deep connection to nature, all sentient beings and the entire universe. I spent a few minutes thinking about my girlfriend, brother and few friends I'd told about this journey, enjoying feelings of love, support and connection.
I sat by the fire and my heart opened to an intense sadness. I thought about the genocide suffered by the native people on whose land I sat as a wave of pain swept over me. I'd though about this before but never with the depth of emotion the Peyote made possible. Tears streamed down my face and I opened to a sickening feeling deep in my stomach.
I moved to the fire feeling clumsy and clearly impaired in my ability to manipulate the logs. No doubt about it- I'd been poisoned by Peyote.
I appreciated the protection this brave little cactus had evolved for itself and yes I was grateful for the poisoning. I smiled knowing it wouldn't really hurt me.
The moon and I continued our journey through the night. I saw classic multicolored "web" patterns that weren't as intense as I'd expected. On the other hand I saw a field of dozens and dozens of colored concentric circles that were surprisingly vivid. At one point I saw an unbelievably intricate Native American geometric design similar to those on textiles or pottery, but this went way beyond any such pattern I'd ever seen. I saw into a complex of rooms lined with two inch square tiles the color of earth and the vision was quite stable so I could clearly look around inside.
In two locations I saw areas filled with tiles arranged in a perfect progression of the colors of the rainbow. Several times during the night I saw the classic mescaline visual of what seemed to be glimmering precious stones or colored class, usually in tones of red, blue or green which appeared to be inset into a curved ceiling as if in the dome of a temple. At one point I got impatient that I wasn't seeing a progression of outrageously colored forms resolving into dramatic visions. I insisted the Peyote to show me the color and immediately looked into a large space resembling an enormous stage set. This room seemed an awkward juxtaposition of both Indian (from India) and European elements that I took to be French. Suddenly bright splashes of color appeared on the white walls as if splashed with enormous cans of paint. I got the message.
The colors one sees while using Peyote aren't simply given for the sake of color as entertainment and therefore you shouldn't be greedy. Sitting by the fire with closed eyes I visualized a representation of how various elements come together to form the infrastructure and collective experience of our country. I saw a sort of representation of people, places, structures, pollution, nature and many other elements fitting together in an increasingly fast and complex way. The intensity built further and further until it reached a peak. Right at that moment I ceased to perceive this as an observer and merged with it. For a second I was completely at one with and absorbed into totality and enormity of it.
This, I believe was what Zen Buddhists call a "Kensho" experience in which one completely merges with elements in the outside world normally perceived as separate and outside of oneself. Wow. It was incredible when it occurred and then ended suddenly. I then returned back to the Peyote space I was familiar with.
On the way to my sleeping bag I stumbled around the fire on rubbery legs.
At one point I swerved really close to the cactus growing by the fire and sat down next to it for a closer look; it was a typical flat type with large curved sections on the main body. I appreciated how quintessentially cactus-like it was and what a good job it was doing by the fire. I then got up and look a good look at other cacti and desert plants in the area revealed by the intense moonlight. They were all so beautiful and each contributing in their own way to the whole. Birds I'd never heard before called out in various locations while dogs barked in the distance.
I felt grateful camping at this beautiful ridge site for the night, and the Peyote brought the experience up several notches. I felt the powerful transpersonal feeling I'd experienced before on San Pedro, most clearly the first time (I used it). I felt bliss and connection to everyone, everything, everywhere, and a commitment to see things clearly, to act compassionately, and to be a better person.
I reflected on my efforts to purify my mind and body for weeks leading up to this event and the motivation I felt and knew I'd continue along that path. Maybe not as perfectly or completely, but I knew I'd stay motivated to eat in such a healthful manner, not gorge myself and avoid refined sugar. I'd been a vegetarian for years, at times consuming varying levels of diary products. I felt in tune with the feeling of compassion that motivated me to give up eating meat in the first place and felt I'd come full circle after twenty years. I couldn't ignore the suffering inherent in meat production but also in the entire factory farm system producing other animal products like ice cream and butter. I knew I couldn't continue to ignore this, that I must renew my efforts to alleviate suffering by minimally consuming all animal derived foods. I came to terms with the unhealthy nature of alcohol use personally and the enormous suffering it has caused humans for so long. Maybe I had the expectation that when using Peyote alcohol would seem unappealing because so many Native Americans have quit drinking after using the medicine. Whether this was the case or not, the insight was true for me and I haven't had a drop to drink since then.
The beauty inside and all around me continued to unfold for hours and hours. "Peyote is strong medicine"-a vast understatement but one I came back to many times over during the night. I felt lucky to have prepared so well and been given the chance to experience the power of this ally.
Sitting up in my sleeping bag looking south at the landscape I heard the unmistakable voice of a Native American man speak two words clearly in my head. "Nature Way", he said. I took this as an encouragement to live a healthier lifestyle as I'd just described. This also seemed to refer to the way of life I'd been progressively living more completely over the years. Living life joyfully with maximum awareness and intuition. Without trying too hard or forcing anything, everything gets done. Tao. Nature Way.
From time to time I'd close my eyes and be rewarded with an interesting visual. I looked into a factory space where gigantic whirling machines frantically turned out piles of sugary pink and white crap and I laughed at the scene's overwhelming absurdity. One particularly interesting sight was a variety of what looked like animal images drawn in a petroglyph style in neon tones of green, yellow, turquoise and orange. I often looked down into a landscape and one that I made an effort to really check out looked blatantly extraterrestrial; it was filled with a completely unfamiliar array of unusual plants as they might look on another planet. I brought an IPod with me, which turned out to be a really good idea. I appreciated the silence of the desert and birdsongs but figured some music I had might be a nice addition to the experience especially because most of it was ambient/tribal/mystical (e.g. disk two of Yatra by David Parsons and Catalogue of Desires by Loop Guru). Several times the tribal rhythms were so perfect I had to get on my feet and dance by the fire. It amazed and humbled me knowing humans have been doing something similar for thousands of years.
As the night progressed the effects of 34+ hours without food intensified. The energy of the medicine continued but as the night wore on I could feel the strain of fasting. Time seemed to pass slowly and it seemed the moon had much sky to cover. The desert temperature continued to drop and eventually I'd put on every warm item I'd brought including my sleeping bag. Most of me felt warm enough but my feet remained cold. I put them over the coals glowing in fire pit and it seemed I felt intense heat but at the same time the feeling was pretty similar to the numbness of the cold and I realized I might also not recognize the difference. Each feeling just simply felt uncomfortable. Luckily I knew I wouldn't get frostbite so there was no need to panic. Being a Californian I had trouble managing the layers of clothing, hat, hood and gloves that continually came on and off. Over and over again when my hands got cold I'd look for my gloves and find them right next to me or on my chest. I'd put them on and smile, feeling a sense of abundance and gratitude in knowing I had all I needed and it was always all right. One time I really couldn't find them, searched the entire area and my backpack and they weren't anywhere. Eventually I found the gloves tucked into my back pockets....bigger smile.
I knew I'd be on the ridge all night and was committed both to the bliss and the ordeal of the experience yet the point came where I was ready for the sun to rise. From time to time I looked to the direction I thought was east as I stirred the coals of an awesome mesquite log that kept me warm.
Sometime later I turned in an unexpected direction and saw a glow of neon blue green rising from the mountains in the distance which quickly transformed to a golden yellow as the sun rose. All I could do was cry- powerfully with a fully open heart.
Three dogs who lived nearby suddenly arrived at my campsite and were very happy to see me. They practically knocked me over jumping on me and licking my face while we laughed together. I sat by the cooling embers of the fire and enjoyed the warmth filling my body. I stood up, put out the fire and organized my gear. I gazed with deep appreciation at the new rising sun then slowly made my way down the hill.
A Ring of Stones
I need to build a fire. I am absolutely freezing in this desert and I go to the stones.
My fire is lit with great respect. I feel some moderate anxiety in my now full peak experience and I think this is due to this barren ground around me. Lack of foliage really implies desolation and that is some of the theme of my lesson although it is subconscious by osmosis that I am learning…
I had written a simple piece of music pre-peyote, a song that I feel came from the spirit of Mana and the home in general. It is a sad yet hopeful joyful sorrow and as I am taken over by the spirit I will play it, as stressed as my body currently is, I need to play it and send it over these cold winds to reach every grieving, suffering soul. I owe the world this small act and I will play it:
As I sit by this fire I can now see what were formerly "just a ring of stones" for what they really are. These are the most ancient souls of the earth and I am asked "What on earth is older than rock? I cannot think of anything and I am in awe of what I see as I play…
Each rock has a face now, an impossibly old face and set in the ring around the fire I now have an audience of ancient souls, souls that may have not felt music in millions of years and I play for them and I feel they are thankful and I weep at the joyful, hopeful, hopeless sadness in my heart.