I wish you a happy new year and a wonderful new journey around the sun.
Many of you have joined us at our rainforest home in the Peruvian amazon, and are aware of the multi-faceted nature of the healing work that we offer to our global ayahuasca family. Besides the love and care that we offer our guests at the Temple, we are also proud to participate and innovate in other areas that are relevant to all of us who are working with plant medicines and indigenous medical systems.
Spreading the message of the plants and bringing awareness of the power of these healing traditions to a wider public is an essential aspect of our commitment to our community. Although ayahuasca is quickly becoming more popular and its unequivocal therapeutic and medical qualities are being recognized by more people in western countries, there is still a lot of disinformation, prejudice and fear that stops many of us to seek the best and optimal treatments available.
I believe that everyone should have access to the kind of deep healing that we all deserve.
One way to get this message out is through the methods and practices of scientific research. The Temple of the Way of Light is proud to provide fieldwork opportunities for researchers doing innovative and conscious work, and is proud to sponsor and participate in some of the main and most important conferences and gatherings in the arena of psychedelic science and drug policy. I am confident that we are contributing our part to bring psychedelic and plant based medicine back to their natural place as a birthright of every woman and man on earth.
Kickstarting 2018 with the right foot, we are traveling to Mexico in February to attend Plantas Sagradas en las Americas, one of the most exciting conferences of recent years, curated by our friend Bia Labate. Gathering 150 speakers over 3 days in 4 tracks, the Temple will be amply represented by 6 speakers including me, Adam, our Integration Director Dr. Tanya, the wonderful Shipibo sisters and healers Lila and Laura Lopez, superstar facilitator Carolina Jaramillo, and sociologist and yoga teacher extraordinaire Samantha Retrosi. I hope to see many of you at this groundbreaking event!
Photo courtesy of XXIV National Congress of Anthropology Students
In the past few months, I have been presenting work that has been generated at the Temple also in specialized international academic conferences, such as the Congress of the Latin American Association of Anthropology held in Bogota last June. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to present in two major national student conferences in Peru, including an invitation to give keynote presentations at both the XXIV National Congress of Anthropology Students, held in Iquitos, very close to our rainforest home, and the XV Colloquium of Anthropology Students, held at the prestigious Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, in the capital city of Lima. I feel this is a great sign that a new generation of young urban people are eager to learn more about the beauty and power of this work.
Under the tagline “Anthropology and the Revaluation of Cultural Diversity”, the XXIV National Congress of Anthropology Students united young students and well-established professionals from all over Peru for a week of interactive sharing, intercultural cross-pollination and discovery of Amazonian and Peruvian culture.
Photo courtesy of XV Coloquio de Estudiantes de Antropología PUCP
The second event, the XV Colloquium of Anthropology Students, was also a beautiful gathering commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Anthropology department of one of the most prestigious universities in South America, the PUCP. Both events afforded a wonderful opportunity to give more visibility to the Amazonian medical systems, practices and worldviews amongst a crowd of young and open-minded future professionals and researchers from all over Peru.
Guided by frameworks in ecopsychology and critical medical anthropology, and based on my experience working in western psychiatric institutions and as a staff member and researcher at the Temple, I presented a vision of health that, emerging from the rich and diverse Amazonian worldviews, has a lot of value and relevance for the wellbeing of all of us, whether we chose to engage with plant-based medicines or not.
The solid message that was presented in both conferences included the need to move forward towards a vision of health that goes well beyond the individual.
The dominant streams of western thought and medical practice often consider our individual wellness, or illness, as inherently personal biological processes, independent from the wellness of others, our communities, and our environments. Biological medicine is only starting to understand many of the truths that traditional healers have known all along: the body, the mind and the spirit are inseparable. Imbalances in one aspect of our holistic being will inevitably impact the rest. Furthermore, we don’t exist in isolation; our health is contingent with the health of everyone else.
Amazonian medicine emerges, inevitably, from a worldview where nature and culture are not radically separated. A lived experience where the human and the non-human are not in opposition to each other, but exist within a continuum of reciprocal relationships. Amazonian forest societies are not alienated or disconnected from the vibrant, sentient world around them, but are woven within it. The human and the non-human form a wide community of beings, always in reciprocal and harmonious relationships with each other.
Being born out of this worldview, the local medical systems follow the same logics of reciprocity and harmony. From the perspective of Amazonian medics and healers, people seldom ever “just get sick”. Sickness, illness and dis-ease are perceived to be the direct, observable result of a loss of harmony and balance. It can be a loss of individual balance, when the mind and the heart become disconnected, or it can be a loss of harmony between oneself and the social group, or oneself and the wider community of sentient, intelligent, communicative plants, trees, animals, rivers or spirits.
For traditional Amazonian people, the primary way to restore health is the way to restore harmony, balance, and reciprocity between all the community members, human and non-human alike.
Photo courtesy of XV Coloquio de Estudiantes de Antropología PUCP
From the Temple’s perspective, we believe that participation in these events is an essential component of the work that we do. Spreading the message of the plants and bringing awareness to the wisdom and needs of the rainforest and its people is essential for the healthy continuation of these practices and traditions. While we enjoy sharing our work, we also value enormously the exchange of knowledge and wisdom that is the hallmark of these conferences.
Furthermore, while we focus intensely on offering our guests the best environment, tools and practices to maximize their own individual healing and transformative processes, we are also aware of the important implications that working with ayahuasca, and truly understanding the cultural context of the Amazonian medical traditions, can have for society at large. Looking at the root causes of our psychospiritual dis-ease allows us not only to get better ourselves, but to examine the social, cultural and environmental mechanisms that are contributing greatly towards the rampant epidemics of anxiety, depression and trauma in much of the industrialized world.
Although the individual and collective therapeutic potential of ayahuasca is immense and powerful, it is just as important to address the structural violence that creates or exacerbates our suffering and dis-ease. This level of analysis, presented to the future generations of social scientists, contributes greatly towards the next big step in the global transformative process. Once we have been able to identify and work through the elements in ourselves that are creating the pain, we are able to identify and address the obsolete structures, institutions and systems that are responsible for much of our psychospiritual suffering.
I believe that courageous, deep personal work that is also grounded in sound social and medical research to be our best chance to imagine, envision and co-create new forms of harmonious and sustainable social organization and cultural systems based on reciprocity, sustainability and collaboration.
I am truly happy, honored and encouraged by the reception that these last presentations have had from the participants and organizers of the conferences. I am proud to be doing the work that I do, to spread the message from the plants, and to contribute to the understanding and academic formation of a new generation of social scientists who may now become much more empathetic to medical systems and practices that for too long have been suppressed and devalued by the dominant ones.
I am looking forward to the conference in Mexico this February and to join forces with other members of the Temple to bring the latest word on our work and research. I hope to see many of you at Plantas Sagradas en las Americas!
Much love and the best wishes for this coming year,