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GERMAN NEW MEDICINE

The NEW MEDICINE understands the body as a unified organism, a unity, with the psyche being the integrator of all functions of behaviour and all areas of conflict, and the brain being the main computer of all behavioural functions, conflict areas and organs, and the sum of the consequences of all these events. “- R.G. Hamer, MD

Dirk Hamer, son of Dr. Geerd Hamer, was shot by Emanuele of Savoy- son of the last king of Italy in 1978. Awakened in the middle of the night with the horrific news, Dr. Hamer remained in a state of shock as he attended to his dying son for 3 continual months. Within a year after their son’s death, both Dr. Hamer and his wife developed cancer. Being a doctor and a scientific researcher, he suspected that there was a correlation with the sudden death of his son and the onset of his testicular cancer and his wife’s breast cancer. Following his strong intuition, Dr. Hamer began to question what has long been accepted and taught through allopathic medicine- that disease proceeds dysfunction of the organism.

As Chief of Internal Medicine at Munich University in Germany, Dr. Hamer had 200 patients under his care and in the position to conduct research on his hypothesis. He began to survey his patients asking if they experienced a shocking, emotional event prior to their diagnosis. He called the trauma a biological-conflict-shock- a DHS, short for Dirk Hamer Syndrome in memory of his beloved son.

Dr. Hamer’s discovery was remarkable. Every single one of his patients that he interviewed did indeed suffer a DHS. After years of pursuing his research, Dr. Hamer was able to distinguish what kind of specific shock affected a particular tissue organ. Furthermore, CT scans of his patients’ brains detected extraordinary findings. In every single one them without exception, were lesions shaped in concentric circles in various locations of their brains.

The astounding factor was that each cancer type presented brain lesions with an undeniable pattern. Through studying the patterns, Dr. Hamer identified that the nature of an emotional conflict correlated to a specific area of the brain- the brainstem, cerebral medulla, cerebellum, or the cerebral cortex (ex: Ductal Carcinoma showed a lesion in the cerebral cortex paired with a “separation” conflict, lung cancer presented in the brain stem paired with a “death fright” conflict). He found the direct link between how the psyche processed trauma- to where the lesion appeared in the brain and the relay to the specific tissue organ in the body where changes took place.

40,000 case studies to date have confirmed the same pattern of disease development without exception. A highly acute, isolating, shock that catches us completely off guard triggers an instant, biological, simultaneous response in the psyche, the brain, and the corresponding organ. Dr. Hamer’s continual findings developed into the 5 Biological Laws that is the core of German New Medicine. The Laws explain the cause, the evolution, and healing phase of the dis-ease process based on natural principles. Some call it “La Medicina Sagrada” the sacred medicine or simply New Medicine-a paradigm shift from conventional medicine.

Dr. Hamer’s most important discovery is that the body responds to trauma in primal ways in an attempt to ensure our survival. Symptoms of disease although unwelcome, are actually meaningful biological changes to aid us through the conflict, the resolution and healing. For example, even though a high fever is scary, it is the process of healing for it to peak and break before the body restores its balance. Whether the tissue/organ responds to the conflict by proliferating cells (ex. tumour growth), cell loss, or by impeding function- every change proceeding a DHS is designed to improve our overall function in an emergency state. When resolution takes place and stays resolved, our perfectly designed system restores it’s balance.

While deepening my understanding of GNM, what I found most interesting is that 2 people can have the exact same type of conflict yet have symptoms in different areas of their body. Our personal perception of the conflict determines how our body responds. This is because our psyche absorbs and interprets the world through our individual experiences. What we believe in, our culture, personalities, conditioning, what we’ve been taught, what we’ve known, makes us completely unique in the way that our psyche interprets an emergency situation.

If I was to lose a loved one, the immediate primal response from my own life experience could be a separation conflict (ex. milk ducts) and for someone else, it might be an existence conflict (ex. kidneys). In GNM terms diseases are referred to SBS a “Significant Biological Special Program“. Every SBS runs in 2 phases as a development towards healing. Phase 1 being “Conflict Active” – fighter flight mode and Phase 2 which is the “Healing Phase” proceeding conflict resolution.

The SBS sometimes don’t resolve- which is what chronic disease is. The psyche continually gets triggered in a “hanging healing” and stays in an emergency state. It’s set on a track and loops in a cycle that never has the chance to resolve and heal. The length and intensity of the shock determines the size of the lesion in the brain and how symptoms present. Since healing can only happen once the conflict is resolved, GNM focuses on identifying the original conflict, the associations with the conflict, and finding a resolution specific to the individual. In essence, it’s about identifying the exact trauma and creating a liberating relationship with it.

Dr. Hamer found that when conflicts resolved permanently, cancer cells stopped growing and the extra cells broke down. Some masses that did not break down became benign and neutral. The lesion in the brain also disappeared. By understanding that “symptoms” are actually a progress towards healing, we can free ourselves from fear and work on completing the SBS.

The greatest fear with cancer is that it will spread like wildfire and render you terminal. The idea of malfunctioning cells breaking off my tumour and hitching a ride through the blood/ lymph to randomly land in a completely different body part didn’t make any sense to me. Not to mention having the ability to cross over to a different germ layer. Even though my rational mind could thwarted that fear, it still existed in varying degrees depending on what kind of day I was having. It’s a collective fear that has been fed to us from every angle and it’s mighty powerful.

Dr. Hamer scrutinized the metastasis theory with common sense. Why, if cancer spreads through the blood/lymph didn’t it primarily spread from the affected organ to the surrounding tissue? Shouldn’t cervical cancer spread to the uterus next? Why doesn’t everybody who has cancer have Leukaemia if it spreads through the blood? If cancer cells travel through the blood stream why isn’t donated blood screened for cancer? If cancer spreads through the lymph system, why does it develop in the bones where it is not supplied by lymph fluid? How is it that cancer cells can bypass the blood-brain-barrier that is specifically there to protect against invaders? We don’t ever hear of a brain tumour spreading to an organ but only the other way around…why is that?

The metastasis theory discounts the fact that all cells in the body is fist controlled by the brain. It is assumed that rogue cells are doing it’s own thing without the electrical impulses sent by our control center which is the basis of every cellular function. Even reports from Yale University in 2008 declared “How cancer cells become metastatic still remains a mystery”.

Dr. Hamer did not believe that cancer “spreads”. His discoveries indicate that malignancies are separate shocks and separate SBSes. Unfortunately, the shock of a life-threatening diagnosis could be a DHS. Nobody is ever prepared for a cancer diagnosis… The scary options of invasive therapies, the fear of dying, the loss of life as we know it, the loss of what we value in ourselves, carrying life responsibilities with a disease, worry for our loved ones…all translates to our system as an emergency to be managed.

Truth rings like a bell- it rings so clear that the reverberation dissolves all the gunk out of the way. My mind was blown into pieces and put back together again to form a clear picture. Everything I was learning from GNM reflected what I intrinsically knew all along. My body wasn’t falling apart and failing me…it was healing. I was determined to discover the exact conflict that started my program and help it along to finish what was started.

LESSON: Readers, I’d like to emphasize that this is my personal experience. Every therapy, every idea, every belief that resonates with me sustains me. I’m no expert in anything I write about. I’m just an expert on myself and whatever upholds my pillar of strength is what I go by. I choose to live fully- without the ghost of cancer haunting me. This is how I’m doing it.

Moving Forward

Dr. M is a tall man in his mid to late 60’s with impeccable posture and a steady demeanor. He listened to me intently as I advocated for myself in the kind of help I was seeking. “I respect your decision but it’s my job to give you my professional opinion. What you are asking is not what I would be recommending for you.” said the surgeon.

I held on tightly to the pile of notes I’d used to state my request with conviction. I couldn’t let his words shake me because I’d already made my decision. Prior to my initial meeting with Dr. M, I’d spoken to best selling author and naturopath Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur who wrote “The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer”. Dr. Kaur’s book bridged the gap for me to cross over to conventional medicine with an open mind. In our one hour appointment she helped me to form a strategy that made sense to me and fortified my decision to have surgery. By the time I’d met Dr. M, I was crystal clear on what I needed to do.

I breathed deeply and settled into myself before speaking. “I appreciate your professional opinion but I won’t be doing the recommended procedure. My hope is that you will agree to solely remove the tumor and the enlarged lymph node above it. I do not want an Axillary Node Dissection. I understand it’s merit as a diagnostic and preventive measure, but I’m not willing put myself at risk for Lymphedema. I won’t be getting radiation or undergoing chemotherapy.”

I agreed to the Sentinel Node Biopsy since I was prepared to take out the enlarged node anyway. A Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy shows if cancer has spread from the tumour to the closest lymph node. If cancer is found in it, what is typically done is an Axillary Node Dissection where 10-40 lymph nodes in the armpit would be removed to biopsy and possibly contain the cancer.

In my case, the Axillary Node Dissection with the Lumpectomy was the obvious go to because the scans clearly showed an irregular shaped lymph node next to my tumor. I was reminded again that the “safer” option would be to remove my right breast entirely and better yet, to lop off both for good measure. That reality never entered my field of consciousness in it’s fullness. In regards to removing body parts, I’d set a firm boundary on how far I was prepared to go.

I’m an artist, body worker, lover and mother- cherishing the use of my hands as the extension of my heart. I couldn’t possibly jeopardize my mobility by cutting out segments of the fluid network integral to flushing out cellular waste. Damaging the lymphatic system could impede the draining of fluids and cause painful edema. I was mostly concerned about the host of other issues that could arise linked to that procedure. I would not gamble with that possibility.

At no point during our meeting did Dr. M talk down to me nor judge me- if anything, I think he found me intriguing as I clearly had taken the road less travelled. He repeated my request at least a couple more times to be absolutely sure he understood what I was asking. That’s when I knew I had found the right surgeon for the job.

I echoed him with my own words so we were both on the exact same page. ” Doc, I just want you to scoop out the tumour with minimal margins and the one lymph node in question. I don’t want any extra nodes taken out for testing. We can test the one we take out but regardless of the prognosis, that’s as far as we are going to go. That’s it.”

” Ok, I’m clear on your request and I’ll do that for you.” He replied.

The question that was stirring up in me finally bubbled up to the surface. I kept telling myself it wouldn’t matter, that there’s no point in asking because I’d made the decision…it wasn’t important because I’d come to know myself deeper and the surface stuff was just that… but vanity is real and nice tits are hard to let go of… so I asked. “Will my breast be deformed? Like a shark bit a chunk out of it?” Smiling he answered, “You’re lucky that tumour is on the outer contour of your breast, I think I’ll be able to make it look ok.”

Everything was clicking in place so I shot him my final request. “I’d like to book in for the surgery working with my menstrual cycle as my tumor grows and shrinks depending on my hormones. Can you take it out when it’s in its smallest form so I can preserve as much of my breast as possible?” Clearly amused with my line of questioning he said, “Let’s see what we can do.” I looked him in the eyes and thanked him from my heart with a resounding YES inside.

Al and I both had a good feeling about Dr. M. I’d scrutinized the surgeons hand movements throughout the whole of our meeting and felt confident in his steadiness. When I told Al that he laughed and said, “Of course you did babe, you had it all covered. I trust you and I’m proud of you.” “I’m excited to meet the German New Medicine lady tomorrow.” I replied.

“What side of the body do you walk you bike with?” she asked. Confused I visualized myself pushing my mountain bike uphill and answered, “Right.” “Great, let’s just double check. Clap your hands please.” she said. Puzzled, I stared at the attractive woman behind the desk and clapped my hands. “You’re definitely right handed so it has nothing to do with your mother or daughter.” she stated. What the hell does that have to do with my lump?

LESSON: “The Pessimist Sees Difficulty In Every Opportunity. The Optimist Sees Opportunity In Every Difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

A Look Inside

Returning from Vipassana, I fulfilled the promise I made to myself and got the ball rolling on having a look-see inside.  I’d been MIA from the medical system for 6 months. It was crucial to prepare mentally and emotionally so I wouldn’t be rocked by the system. No doubt there would be fear inducing questions and recommendations because my lump was obviously still there. All I wanted was the truth. Had the tumour grown and had it spread? That was the first and only step I chose to focus on. Everything else would have to be white noise.

I contacted my MD instead of the Oncologist because I felt more comfortable with him. I needed my head on straight to navigate the medical terrain in a way that supported my wellbeing. I just wanted information and not to be bombarded with “should do’s”.

My MD is a lovely man. I sat in his office looking at the very same painting of yellow tulips as the day I got my shocking diagnosis. I felt my pulse quicken and my heart lunge forward. Grounding my feet, I closed my eyes and deepened my breath. I breathed my whole body back to equilibrium and steadied myself.

He walked in with a smile but there was worry in his eyes. The last time I spoke to him he told me that the cancer could kill me if I didn’t do the recommended procedures. It was his job to tell me so, but it also came from a place of genuine care. It took all my strength to ask him to respect my choice and to stop checking up on me. I was not the same person I was then.

Doc was probably wondering what the heck I’d been up to for half a year with an “Invasive Carcinoma”. I gave him the quick down-lo of my esoteric healing regime while watching his eyebrows morph into different shapes. “Ok…….so what can I do for you now?” he said. He didn’t know how to deal with me but what he did accept was that I was calling the shots. To this day I am grateful for his openness to assist me even though he did not agree with me. “Can we start with an ultrasound?” I asked. One step.

The ultrasound result showed that my tumor had grown by a mere 1-2 mm. Some may have taken that as bad news but my immediate response was a giant sigh of relief. It hadn’t mutated into a monstroso entity! I took it as a sign that everything I was doing was keeping it at bay. I’m definitely a glass half full kinda gal. The fact remained that the tumor had stayed put pretty much the way I’d found it. So, the question was do I keep going and hope that it would shrink or do I change course? 

I started a conversation with Lump during meditation. “It’s time for you to go. Thank you for coming into my life and revealing my true nature. I’m so grateful for the radical shift you initiated in me to become a more conscious being. I am in love with my life and ready to move forward…I’m ready to part ways with you now. Thank you.”

I needed a surgeon who would agree to do as I asked and not push the protocol. I did not want my tit lopped off nor did I want chemo or radiation. Knowing the vital role lymph nodes played in moving toxins out of the body, taking a string of them out for testing was not an option. After much contemplation and receiving clear signs, I knew exactly what my next step was. I’d do the bare minimum- to cut Lump out along with the one enlarged lymph node above it. I put my order into the universe for the perfect surgeon to do the job.

Magic and synchronicities unfold when we are aligned with our essential nature. Pure potentiality exists when you know yourself as whole. We vibrate at that elevated frequency and attract what benefits us. I was a living testament of it. A surgeon who I will call Dr. M came into my field a few days after I put my order in. I had to get a referral from my Oncologist to get my initial appointment with him which meant I had to do more tests.

In one week I had all the scans I avoided for all those months. The scans emitted radiation which I previously believed would aggravate Lump. I accepted it as a necessary compromise so I took a bunch of kelp tablets as an anecdote for the onslaught of radiation. Whether it helped or not is beside the point. I believed it did and that’s how I endured a mammogram, a bone scan, and another CT scan without a head trip.

I received a gift from moving in that direction. The findings from the scans showed that there was no cancer anywhere else. The info was passed onto Dr. M and I got the green light to meet him.

Right around that time I received a surprising text from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while. It read, “Hey, have you heard of German New Medicine?”. Well meaning friends have given me plenty of advice and suggestions on what to do. Most of the time I did not heed their advice. I had an automatic response to bypass suggestions because I was so focused on following the breadcrumbs set before me. That text felt different- like a breadcrumb. So I followed it.

The information on the website was a magnet that lured me in. GNM (German New Medicine) reflected a totally unique and resonant perspective on the disease process. It stated that there is a direct relay between our physical symptoms, our brain and unexpected conflicts/traumas. Everything I was reading made perfect sense! It explained what my intuition knew right from the get go. There was a specific biological reason my body manifested the tumor! GNM is a roadmap to understand the EXACT cause of the disease process. It it not a theory, it is a proven science. My whole body resounded a YES!

The universe gave me another big wink when I discovered that out of a handful of GNM practitioners in BC, there was one 30 min from Dr. M’s office which was 4 hours away from where I live. A coincidence? I say absolutely not! I booked a GNM consult right after my appointment with the surgeon. I knew in my gut I was moving in the right direction one step at a time.

LESSON: LIFE IS A REFLECTION OF THE VIBRATIONAL FREQUENCY WE EMIT.

EARTH DAY 2020

Vipassana- Part 4 Exit

ANICCA TO ALTERED STATES

Day three and six was like driving on the highway full speed with my hands tied behind my back. What I learned was that even with my mind right out of control, I still had the ability to sit through it.

I stared down at my dishevelled meditation throne and stifled a laugh as it evidently reflected my state to a T.  The 3×3, cushy, piece of real estate had become my primary domain of existence. It changed form in various ways to support me through my purification. I straightened my back and sucked in a deep, shaky breath and settled in with a slow exhale.

There’s a powerful container of energy created within a group when sitting together with a common intention. We held each other in our collective struggle to be the equanimous witness of our inner workings.

I loved the silence. It was such a relief to take communication completely out of the picture.  The deep sense of camaraderie felt between the meditators came not from knowing each other’s stories, but from the common denominator to find solace within. Without the use of words there was no need to find the slot where I fit in. To be in their presence without having to make something of it was an authentic experience I cherished.

Through practice, I began to understand the simple yet profound truth about Anicca; the law of impermanence. I challenged myself to sit through a 2 hr block without changing my position to test the principle of change. Over and over again I was seduced by habitual thought patterns, distractions, reactions and excuses to abort my intent.

When my body registered pain, my mind immediately gave me escape options. Change positions, go to the bathroom, skip the rest of the meditation, you don’t have to do this… The throbbing nerve pain in my legs, the pins and needles in my feet, the sharp stabbing beneath my shoulder blade, my head that felt like a 100-pound weight compressing down on my spine gave me every reason to quit. Time and time again, I came back to the Vipassana technique- screening my body parts bit by bit with all the detached attention I could muster.

As thoughts became more spacious, I discovered subtler sensations. I attuned to varying degrees of vibrations, variances in temperature and currents of energy. I followed sensations like a detective. Changes began to reveal themselves in the most amusing way. When I came back to acute areas, I noticed a shift in it’s quality. Like the pulsing was more distant, or the stabbing was duller, or the temperature was not as hot… I noticed new areas with louder sensations and sometimes pain disappeared all together. This discovery thwarted my misery and brought on curiosity and excitement. Before I knew it, the gong rang. I did not move for 2 hrs. I crossed the threshold.

On the seventh day, I experienced something extraordinary during the four-hour block. The moment my seat touched my cushion, magnetic energy locked me in. There wasn’t even a little bit of shuffling or adjusting to get comfortable. My eyelids softly closed and cradled my eyeballs to fall back into its sockets. My breath immediately fell into a deep, relaxing, rhythm and my attention rested on the Anapana breath between the wings of my nostrils. I just let myself rest there. There was pure contentment in not needing anything. 

I felt a warm, incredibly euphoric feeling bubbling up from the base of my belly and moving upwards. I don’t want to taint what I experienced but, I can only relate the feeling to a prelude of a great Ecstacy high. I felt held in a container of bliss and everything was just perfect as is. Unlike the narcotic Ecstacy, there wasn’t the synthetic force of bliss making behind the feeling. It felt so organic and wholesome. My body was in complete homeostasis. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t really embodying my body, it was as if I was feeling it from a distance. There was no physical edge to my experience. I became a vessel- open to waves of beautiful breaths moving in and out. It would fill the space of my being then rest in what felt like an eternal pause before emptying effortlessly out. My awareness was complete with the expansiveness of what was happening.

I stayed in that space without the constraints of linear time. Even though I was completely in an exalted state, there was no attachment to the feeling of anticipating anything else. There was a certainty in that experience that I AM Soul. Is this death? Some call it “The Unified Field”, that’s exactly what it felt like. Somewhere else but of the same, I felt tears streaming down my face.

Suddenly, I knelt in meditation in a completely different environment in what felt like a different time. I was in a small, simple room with my palms gently resting on my thighs in the exact same state. The recognition that this person was me was absolute. I was there for a split second then I was back in the hall with an unshakable certainty that I had practiced Vipassana in another life.

The bell rang. I sat there awestruck. My logical mind could not grasp what Soul knew. I sat still not wanting to disturb my transcendent state. I stayed there until it changed. 

LESSON: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
― Alan Wilson Watts

“Transcendence”- Acrylic on Canvas by Maasa

Vipassana- Part 3

SITTING WITH DEATH

I used to pride myself for being Multitasker Extraordinaire- a Go Get Er Done Er kinda gal thriving on achievements. Like a Pac Man, I swallowed adversities whole with my eyes on the prize always. Digesting it properly was not an option because it was not efficient. I sidestepped my vulnerabilities and presented the good side with an exclamation mark. The question marks were left unattended.

Vipassana was the gateway- an invitation to get intimate with the unattended.

On the third day, I sat with death. It started with sharp, stabbing pains between my ribs near my lump. Someone told me that cancer is like having PTSD, with every new symptom of “abnormal” the mind goes to the worst-case scenario. Like a confirmation reminding you that there is an end and it might come sooner than later.

The pain I felt was significant. I tried to lasso my breath but couldn’t catch it. The sharp dagger in my chest dove deeper pressing against where I didn’t want to go. My body constricted, my heart raced. What if this is really serious? What if it metastasized into my lungs? Is this it? Maybe I came here to learn how to die? 

Fear penetrated my very essence and froze me in place. My mind wrote, edited and recited my own eulogy. A full blown panic attack exploded beneath the shell of my quiet seat. What would happen to my only child? How would my life partner of 20 years survive without me being his constant? How will I be remembered?…

I really don’t know how I managed to sit through that 90 min of hell. Perhaps it was a primal instinct of survival…to just hang on. I left the meditation Hall debilitated and collapsed into a shaking heap in my room. 15 minutes later I was back in the hall where Beast was waiting.

When babies are left to cry it out they eventually give up and stop crying. That’s what happened for the remainder of the afternoon meditations. I just gave in and let my mind shake, rattle and roll. I discovered a sliver of space between the escalating pain and my reaction to it. I struggled to come up for air there. I faced my greatest fear which was that my faith was misplaced….that the very making of me was a farce. Was I wrong and ignorant? Had I let cancer spread everywhere because I chose to believe in myself?

What sprung from the dark side was the urgency to face the truth. I needed certainly which meant I had to have a look inside. It became clear to me that the “not knowing” was the seed that fragmented the very structure of me. Was I riddled with cancer or had my healing practices helped at all? I hadn’t seen my doctor, oncologist or had any kind of scan for 5 months. I held fast to my conviction that everything that I was doing so diligently was healing me. The underbelly of my certainty was the epicenter of my fear. The trepidation of being wrong diverted me from facing facts. That was the real reason I hadn’t checked myself.

Ding! Gut check! This scary realization was the gift I received in those excruciating hours I sat with death. I committed to booking a diagnostic scan upon my return but first I had to survive the rest of Vipassana.

THE FRIENDS AND ENEMIES OF MEDITATION

There was a new notice on the bulletin board that described the friends and foes of meditation. As I read through the enemies list “Obsessive Scepticism” jumped out. Simultaneously, I heard a defensive voice in my head say “Oh no, you’re very open. You’re not skeptical at all!”. As I clung to scenarios where my optimism shined, I saw with blatant clarity that in regards to healing my optimist held hands with a rigid skeptic .

After my first and only appointment with the Oncologist then the Surgeon, I completely shut the door on conventional medicine. I poured every ounce of energy into researching alternative and holistic approaches to healing. I was very quick to be skeptical of any ideas or beliefs that challenged my own. Heck, I was skeptical of pretty much anything and anyone that didn’t align with how I wanted to shape my reality.

My initial feeling was one of dread but then it quickly shifted as I realized that the very awareness of the skeptic in me was a step in the right direction. Perhaps it was the effect of Vipassana that I was able to see the program that I was running. Being stuck in any which way of thinking shielded me from being receptive to potentially very important information. Being fixed on any kind of program may have inhibited not only my healing but my evolution. Wow, what a breakthrough….

Looking at the list again I was utterly humbled. I’d been in bed with the enemy without even knowing it. I realized what a trickster mind can be. It veils the scary stuff, the ugly stuff and disguises them as noble qualities. I was amazed that I didn’t immediately go into self-sabotage mode with this new awareness. Awareness… it’s on the list as my friend! Thank Christ! I stood there and burned both lists into my brain.

5 FRIENDS OF MEDITATION:                        

FAITH                                                                

EFFORT                                                              

AWARENESS                                                     

CONCENTRATION                                            

WISDOM                                                            

5 ENEMIES OF MEDITATION:

CRAVING

AVERSION

AGITATION

OBSESSIVE SCEPTICISM/ DOUBT

MENTAL/PHYSICAL SLUGGISHNESS

LESSON: “WE DON’T LIVE LONGER WHEN WE TRY NOT TO DIE. WE LIVE LONGER WHEN WE’RE TOO BUSY LIVING”

-Mathew McConaughey

Vipassana – Part 2

Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It is believed that the Buddha himself developed Vipassana meditation to end human suffering. This ancient practice has stood the test of time by continuing to attract modern mankind for the very same reasons it did centuries ago.

Liberation is a state of mind. Vipassana is the practice of purifying the mind by accepting things as they are. In observing what IS with an equanimous mind we are no longer self-sabotaged. We become the witness rather than the afflicted, thereby accessing the possibility of reaching  the height of our human potential. Imagine holding the key to peace, love, and harmony in a world that is riddled with so much pain and suffering.

The only truth is impermanence, which is reflected in the law of nature. All of creation ebbs and flows with the law of change. Yet our pain springs from reacting to the inevitable pendulum that swings from one spectrum of experience to another.

We want to keep what brings us joy even though it will eventually change. We don’t want to accept pain and misery yet it’s unavoidable. We push death away even though it is the only inescapable certainty in life. We want to avoid what hurts us and cling to what we can’t stand to lose. The dynamic of craving and aversion is the root of our hardships because we are pushing against the blueprint of creation.

Even though Vipassana is Buddha’s teaching, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice it.  It is non-sectarian and available to all. The quiet practice of observation allows us to identify reactive thoughts and feelings. Cravings and aversions create Sankharas – grooves in our path that trip us up or keep us stuck. If we do not become aware of the trenches we are in how can we ever get out? We would forever be wandering lost in the labyrinths of our own making.

In the Prairies, the day is born from the ground up, almost as if the sun was birthed from Earth. Hues of dazzling orange, red, purple, and pink streak against the bluest of blue skies. The brilliant rays of color reach out to caress mother in her sparkly snow blanket. Soaking in the luminous beauty, my heart cracked open and my eyes involuntarily watered. The ability to be emotionally moved by anything was a positive sign that I was healing.

9:00 AM The gong rang for the next round. I took my seat in my private room convinced that I could sit through 2 hours. Who was I kidding? Within minutes I was already squirming in my seat with an unbelievably itchy face.  My right shoulder started its dull, rhythmic throb sending electric shocks into the base of my skull. Like a drumbeat sounding in crescendo the pain magnified and my attention latched on like a blood-sucking leech.

I cracked my eyes open- only 15 min. had passed… then, a tidal wave of aversion swept over me. I slammed my eyes shut and focused ferociously on my flaring nostrils, breathing like a dragon. My mind became a sports commentator announcing the play by play of every breath. Breathing in…that’s good, just take a nice deep breath, now let it out…no, no do it smoooooth and let it all out before you take the next breath in….don’t try so hard to breath….just relax…Am I doing this right? Fuck… Feeling defeated I considered a nap. A full shut down…no one would ever know…

Beast came and set me straight. You are avoiding what you must face! Get on with it! Sit through it! Do it!

There was still about an hour left. I swore then and there that I would commit to sit through every meditation in the Dhamma Hall. No more escaping. I would do it as if my life depended on it. I could not exist in a linear timeline as it would only cause more suffering by aligning reality with the ticking of the clock. The “Are we there yet?” mentality had to go if I was going to survive 10 days. No matter what arose in my mind I would simply have to sit through it. I sparked my oath of commitment and made my way to the Hall to complete my meditation. 

An interesting occurrence transpired after that. In the hall I relaxed because there wasn’t any anticipation to go anywhere. Surrender greeted me as I let go. I leaned into discomfort and accepted agony. I sat with every shade of aversion and noticed that feelings came and went. I allowed myself to change positions if I could no longer stand it. I undulated with my experience and sat with all my distractions.

When my attention was fully cocooned in the cave of my nostrils I floated effortlessly on the surface of my breath. My sensations became acute. I felt the temperature variation between my inhalation and exhalation, that subtle difference in how much air passed through each nostril. The little hairs on my upper lip moved like seaweed in the ocean of my breath and carried me to the great emptiness in the space between thoughts. The gong teleported me back to the hall.

Outside, the boundaries were clearly marked and enclosed us from the great expanse of the prairies. Crisp snow cloaked the large field and I could hear the crunching steps of the meditators as they walked off their last sit.  They had already forged a pathway around the circumference of the field by the time that I got there. As I joined the quiet contemplators I couldn’t help but feel like another prisoner in line. Perhaps it was the confinement of space and the manner in which we all walked… Were we all prisoners of our habitual mindscape? Are we all imprisoned by our cravings and aversions?  Why are human beings predisposed to create our own suffering?

LESSON: “The only conversion involved in Vipassana is from misery to happiness, from bondage to liberation. Real wisdom is recognizing and accepting that every experience is impermanent. With this insight you will not be overwhelmed by ups and downs.” – S.N. GOENKA

“Liberation”- Acrylic painting in progress by Maasa

Vipassana – Part 1

What if my mind takes me to a place I can’t come back from?

Standing in line waiting to register, I strained to recollect the mandatory agreements for enrollment.  Once it was my turn, the registrar took my information and reinforced what I was signing up for. I was to commit to the entire 10 days adhering to the 5 precepts without exception. I’d travelled 10 hours for my peace of mind- how ironic would it be if I’d lost it?

The 5 Precepts and the Questions In My Mind:

  1. Abstain from killing or harming any beingAren’t all creatures considered sentient beings? What about the flies and mosquitoes I’d intentionally killed…the animals I’d eaten?
  2. Abstain from stealing- Is inspiration from someone else’s idea stealing?
  3. Abstain from sexual misconduct and all sexual activity during the course- What about after the course…if I want to keep practicing Vipassana meditation? Is vowing celibacy a necessary sacrifice on the road to enlightenment?
  4. Abstain from telling lies (this includes exaggerating)- I’ve exaggerated to make myself more interesting…call it a self-preservation tactic for a gal with a devaluation conflict. It will be a good practice to form an alliance with silence...
  5. Abstain from all intoxicants- Escape from reality with any substance went out the window the day I got my diagnosis. I’m golden. 

I had more questions but I set them aside. My stomach lunged into my throat as I signed the document sealing the deal.

We were to renounce all forms of prayers, talismans, religious objects, mantras, and devotional practices. Yoga and exercise were discouraged. Music, reading, writing and other forms of mind stimulants were prohibited. I reluctantly discarded the crutches I clung to when shit hits the fan…

To ensure that our environment was Vipassana friendly we were to wear modest clothes, and hand over our car keys along with all our devices. “Noble Silence” commenced and would continue for 9.5 of the 10 days. There would be no physical contact, no eye contact, no gestures, nor any form of communication between students. Men and women were segregated. Dread hit home like a punch in the gut. 

I was assigned room C125. Peering into the room, I was relieved to see that it was a single. Relief was replaced by guilt for playing the cancer card to attain my solitude. It was the first and only time that I’d mentioned the cellular dysfunction in my body to my advantage. I quickly recognized my old program and cancelled my guilt. I’d put myself first, something I was incapable of doing prior to life with my Lump. I was making progress.

Sitting still for 10 days with my insides in a Gordian Knot was risky. I was prepared for an encounter with the Beast- the creature of many faces residing in my mind. It grabs me by the scruff of the neck and drags me down to its formidable lair. In the past it had held me captive with my bones rattling until I could fathom my way back up to the surface.

DAY 1 THE OMG FACTOR

The morning gong went off at 4 am. I implemented daily skin brushing to my monastic life at Vipassana. I brushed right over Lump thus stimulating blood flow to the stagnant area that had become the focal point of my life. That morning it was the size of a walnut. Being hormonally influenced it had a life of its own. That meant it morphed in shape, size, and texture depending on what signals were firing in my body at any given time. Even though I knew it was a shapeshifter, the big days still did a number on me.

4:30 am: The gong rang again to initiate meditation. We were given the choice to sit in our rooms or to convene in Dhamma Hall. I left my room since the potential for giving up would be too easy in private. I carried the familiar heavy feeling fastened to the now largest version of my lump down the dark hallway.

My piece of real estate in the hall for the rest of the program was in the last row. I patted myself on the back for having the foresight to bring my buckwheat meditation cushion. I used it as a moldable base on top of 2 pillows. As a result my hips were higher than my knees in a cross-legged position on my metaphorical throne. Thankfully as an avid yogi, I knew just where to place my props to sit comfortably. Suffice it to say, I’d never sat still in one position for 2 hrs. so I had a back up kneeling stool and an arsenal of more props to get me through the first long sit of the day.             

Imagine this: You are naked and bound tightly against a tree. A mass of crawling, skipping, pinching insects traverse your bare skin. The tidal wave of millions of rapid, tripedal gaits overwhelms you but you can not escape. The struggle to get away is all consuming. That is the best comparison I can imagine to what I endured that morning.

The instruction given to us was simple. Use the Anapana breath to solely observe the air moving in and out of the nose. The focus is on the very limited space between the upper lip and the wings of the nostrils. The little triangular space was to be the entire focus of the meditation. We were to objectively feel the sensation of every breath without changing its natural flow. Thus, began the training of the untamed mind. The focus it entailed literally blew my mind.

My thoughts were like leaves wildly swirling in a storm. They lured me into the manifold vortex of internal babblings. The moment I recognized my attention was away with my thoughts, self sabotage would take over.

Get it together, focus on your breath. You’re wasting meditation time on stupid thoughts. Do it right! No, don’t give yourself a hard time… Just let them go… No judgement… Just observe… How long? How much longer? When’s the fucking gong going to go off? GOD, I AM IN AGONY!

No, no, hone the mind…equanimous mind! Just fucking breathe for fucksakes! I’m breathing too loud...Fuck this, fuck, fuck, fuck! Why the hell am I doing this? Why do I make things so hard on myself? Am I a masochist? What is wrong with me? Right…I have fucking cancer…cancer…cancer. 10 hours a day for 10 days…OMG I can’t do this… How long? How much longer? How long? How much longer?

Big exhale. Then the pain! My folded up legs felt like they were between vice grips, both feet throbbed, my neck and shoulders buckled under the dense weight of my head, and my hips cramped struggling to maintain my faltering body structure.

That first sit knocked me flat out. There was not a sliver of peace-only a wild and raving rebellion. Every moment was an eternal longing to abort. There was no clock in the room and the anticipation of the gong ringing to finish was unbearable. When it finally rang, it took the greatest self restraint not to cry out. I painfully unravelled my rigid body and dragged my defeated self into the dining hall for breakfast.

Who gives a rats ass about enlightenment? I’d happily run with ignorance into bliss. That’s where I was at whilst slowly consuming stewed prunes on porridge. Listening to the symphony of food munching around me, I convinced myself I would be just as dedicated if I sat through the next session in my room. Ignorance is surely wonderful. I filled my bowl with another round of deliciousness and savoured every bite.  It was a delectable intermission before my next round with the Beast.

LESSON: “The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”-  Pema Chödrön

Sitting to find a seat in myself.

I Feel Therefore I Am

I stood in the forest clearing and screamed into battle. Gripping my invisible Samurai sword I slashed viciously with tears blinding my swollen eyes. The primordial, shrilling, shriek awakened the beast that lay dormant inside.

That morning, I faltered. I did what I had consciously avoided the previous times I had the bout with my eyes. In Google’s search engine I wrote- Breast Cancer/ Eyes. My heart seized as pages linked to Ocular Metastasis. It was as if I stood in the middle of a frozen lake- terrified by the sound of ice snapping. The resounding chorus of cracking threatened the very structure of what held me up. My entire approach to healing came apart at the seams.

My 5th round with Rocky Balboa Eyes was by far the worst. I called them so, because I looked like I got my face pummeled by the Champ himself. My practice of loving myself was confronted by the grotesque face that looked back at me in the mirror. I felt defeated, exhausted, and utterly lost.

I had relentlessly dedicated myself to a deeper human experience- trusting that by doing so, I would ultimately heal. I had rigorously detoxed, renounced pleasures, fueled my body solely on live foods, resolutely practiced my healing protocols, and held fast to my spiritual rituals.

I accepted my circumstance and believed in the higher purpose of the challenges I faced. I gave way for my true self to crawl out of the shell of the old predictable self. Yet, 6 months later…I still had my lump and had potentially made my condition worse. I felt like a fool.

The beast that had leapt out of me was Anger. I didn’t even know I harbored such a gastly thing until it exploded out. The compulsion to “take the high road” was usually an automatic response. In the past, the impulse to overcome anger and convert it to something useful had been ingrained. Anger is not productive, it’s ugly- it doesn’t solve anything- it’s just a waste of energy…

My rage emerged like the Incredible Hulk. I felt robbed of my life. Everything I had endured and deprived myself of was a joke. Accepting failure after trying so hard made me livid! I wanted to freak out, go on a drinking binge, drown myself in Ecstacy- escape reality, bathe in debauchery and rebel against the unfairness of life. Is there no meaning to anything? Did I seriously just get a shitty break and this is it? Should I have submitted to being butchered? “Fuck You Universe!” that was where I was at!

Bending over, I pressed my hands into my thighs while catching my breath. Heaving from my outburst, I felt it slip away. The crazed beast subsided and in its place was emptiness. The lesson from Anger was yet another example of what was left unfelt. There is no wasted emotion- all feelings collaborate in making us human.

In “When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress”: Gabor Mate- MD and author, reveals the common thread between chronic disease and stress. Working in palliative care, he found that there is a physiological link between the body’s systems and our coping mechanism to manage negative emotions. Life experiences from an early age condition us to suppress what we feel or to override it in order to function. By doing so, there is a ripple effect causing a biological consequence. Maintaining my composure throughout my life may have been the root cause of my undoing…

I was due to leave for Vipassana the following week. I laughed at the absurdity of voluntarily choosing to sit with myself in silence for 10 days...especially at such a time. Pandora’s box had been opened…

LESSON: FEEL WHAT IS LEFT UNFELT

The Vision Vine

Little did I know that I would go through a hellacious resurrection and my life would be set on a new trajectory. It was in the heart of the Amazon jungle that I met Isis...

SHAMAN ON THE RIVER’S EDGE

I shifted uncomfortably from one ass cheek to the other on the wooden seat of the canoe. It was a 2 hr river ride from Puerto Maldonado to Tambopata Jungle Reserve where our 3 day Ayahuasca ceremony would take place. The hike up to Machu Picchu punished my body and depleted my stamina. Perhaps it was due to exhaustion…for the first time on that trip, I felt the foreboding of things to come.

The jungle straddled the river with shades of luscious greens. The vibrant symphony of its resident creatures accompanied us along our way. With my head resting on the railing edge of the canoe, I fell into a hypnotic trance watching the paddle go in and out of the murky water.

The sudden change in our course urged me to look up. Standing on the river’s edge stood a compact man with aged skin that hung off his bones like leather. His face was etched with deep set wrinkles that showed no expression as we pulled up. Slung over his shoulders were green wine bottles, tied by their necks with woven rope.

We had entered the community of Infierno. I subdued my imagination before it ran wild with theories of how the village came to be named after Hell. It was the chief of the pueblo, the shaman, who was waiting for our ride. A chorus of clinking glass synced with his movements. Inside the bottles the dark liquid sloshed around as he boarded our wooden vessel. He quietly took his seat with purpose. I instantly acknowledged the big spirit living inside his small body and cowered at the thought of ingesting a potion made by the Chief of Hell Village.

ENTER THE VISION VINE

We fasted for 3 days to purify our bodies in preparation for the ceremony.  Ayahuasca, also known as the “Vision Vine”, is a brew made of the Caapi vine and leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub. The DMT from the leaves alone does not work by being orally ingested. However the harmaline-containing vine neutralizes this problem to deliver DMT’s powerful psychoactive properties.

The natives of the Amazon have been using Ayahuasca for over 5000 years. Shamans claim that the plants themselves revealed the secret of combining these companion plants. If humans were experiencing altered states of consciousness in the infancy of our evolution, perhaps our brains are pre-wired for it. What is there for us to gain by accessing areas of the brain that are otherwise out of reach without the use of mind altering plants?

We gathered around the fire when the sun went down. I looked around the circle, at the serious faces staring into the flames. No doubt we were all feeling the uncertainty of stepping into the unknown. None of us had experienced Ayahuasca before except Da. Da sat across from me behind the flames, next to the Shaman. Each one of us brought an object of importance to place upon the ceremonial altar. I whispered a prayer for insight as I offered the large shard of quartz crystal Mama had given me.

The Shaman blessed the altar and ignited the ceremony with an Icaro chant. The Icaros are sung to attune to the energy of the medicine and to call in spirits that may help us. The whistling, humming and vocal melodies are used to navigate uncharted territories of otherworldly realms.

The bottle was opened to release the brew into the ceramic cup that was passed around the circle. Knocking back the potion, Da’s face screwed up into the likes of a walnut. If it had that kind of effect on the toughest guy I knew, it had to be bad-really bad.  My breath caught on anxious nerves as I watched each participant struggle to get it down.

When it was my turn the smell from the slimy swamp in the cup made me gag a little. I knew that if I prolonged the moment I would never get it down.  I tasted the bitterness even before it hit my tongue. I opened the gate of my throat and drained the fowl brew . Ayahuasca is notoriously nicknamed La Purga, The Purge. It took all my might not to instantly projectile puke into the center of the circle. I laboured with heavy breaths and managed to keep it down… initially.

I don’t know how long I stared down the fire before I felt it. The symphony of the jungle which up until that moment was just in the backdrop suddenly came to life inside my head. I was saturated in the vibration of sound emitted from all the strange creatures of the night. Dumbstruck by the intensity of what was happening I locked eyes with Da before my body gave way and I fell back. My physicality dissipated along with my reference to reality and the visions hit full throttle.

I transformed into a dazzling, emerald serpent. Blades of grass parted before me as I powerfully weaved forward. My slinky underbelly glided on the earth unobstructed then my movement suddenly changed to rocking forward and backward giving me a vantage point altered to a higher perspective. I was riding on the back of an immense, black jaguar. It was Da. He showed me around the jungle as we conversed telepathically. I don’t remember what we talked about, only that we had full capabilities of understanding each other without speaking.

WADING THROUGH HELL

If there is a Hell it must be personalized because that is what I experienced next. After a violent puke session wrestling my insides, I found myself wading through a sea of dead bodies. The horrific landscape was formed out of countless carcasses and severed appendages. It was dark, endless, bloody, and terrifying. I slogged through hell frantically looking for a way out. I was utterly alone in a silent world, imprisoned amongst the dead.

While writing about this experience, an old memory surfaced from the depths of my psyche. I now know exactly when the seed of my personal Hell was planted.

When I was 8, we went on a trip to Shirahama- a resort town on the South Coast of Wakayama Prefecture in Japan. We stayed in my grandparents’ luxurious condo by the beach. One night, my parents turned on the TV to watch the breaking news. A plane from Japan Airlines had crashed in  Gunma Prefecture and killed 520 people. It was to become known as one of the deadliest plane crashes in history.

My parents didn’t have the chance to warn me before I saw the image that shattered my reality. Up until that moment there was no reason to question the ending of things. There I saw mounds of lifeless people in the rubble of a monumental disaster. Embedded in the scattered plane parts, I saw a torn-off arm laying next to a leg poking out at an unnatural angle. Personal belongings lay in disarray, no longer belonging to anyone.

I hung suspended in shock, understanding that life could end abruptly and violently. Life didn’t always progress, it could be taken away without warning. I was paralyzed in fear, unable to undo what I had seen even after I shut my eyes.

I felt like I was in Hell for eternity. My determination to escape was eventually overwhelmed by despair. I finally stopped pushing against the corpses. Kneeling down, lifting my arms and looking up, I declared “I accept!”. I genuinely accepted that there was nowhere to go. I stopped fighting against the harrowing reality I was in.

It was as if I had said the magic word. The moment I stopped looking for a way out, it happened. Golden wings broke free out of my shoulder blades. I lit up the world of the dead as I flew right out of Hell.

My enormous wings enveloped me in the most heartfelt embrace. I was held in a cocoon of light in an exalted state. I don’t know how the name came to me. It just did. ISIS. She came as consciousness rather than a separate entity. Her powerful voice declared, “Do not forget who you are!”

It was a resurrection of Source that was long lost to me. In some kind of revelation, I opened my mouth and spilled out otherworldly melodies in a strange tongue. I became the vessel in which my song tethered me to all that is. Ecstatic moans from our circle beckoned my voice to stay…

“Suddenly Maasa began to sing in a totally mesmerizing language that clearly was out of this world. Any attempt to try to describe its profoundly spiritual beauty is just not possible. It was not just a song. It was a presence that arrived through sound…like an Angel was sitting amongst us and healing us with it. I have never since experienced anything of that sublime beauty and benevolence in any other ceremony. Isis had come to us using Maasa as a vessel-as the purest way to reach us by sound.” – John

THE MERGING POINT

I layed in my hut, still between worlds as the medicine seeped out of me. I felt my predictable self merge with an awakened being. The message was clear. I AM all that IS. I am made up of what has been, what is and what will become. The song that came through me was a primordial call of remembrance echoing across all of time and space. My wings are omnipresent, always accessible and deeply aligned with truth.

The message was powerful but so is the human condition to fall back on old, familiar ways. It is so easy to forget. Perhaps we were initially intact but life experiences can break us into pieces like deep ravines separating us from the original landmass from whence we came. I was determined to stay awake with Isis.

The adventure in Peru had come to a close. Each one of us received gifts of great importance. As the group dispersed homeward bound, we all felt the daunting task of holding onto our insights. On my way home I made a commitment to engrave the message into me. I would etch my awakening into a tattoo as a daily reminder of my remembrance.

The symbol that came to me represented my experience. The scarab, in Egyptian mythology, is a token of resurrection and transformation. The scarab beetle’s life cycle moves from dung to life. It is a perfect metaphor for the quest to rise out of the shit and align with the truth. These shiny insects roll manure from East to West in the same direction as the moving sun. The ancient Egyptians revered these tiny creatures as representations of the immortal cycle of creation. On my left forearm now is a constant reminder of that:  I AM, I AM, I AM.

LESSON: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE

“Merging With Isis” – Acrylic on canvas by Maasa

Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

My lungs gasped for air but there was no such substance. Day 2 of our trek- clinging to my determination gulping fast, shallow breaths. I coaxed oxygenated blood to my heavy limbs to drag me up Warmiwainuska-Dead Woman’s Pass. At an elevation of 4215 meters, we were at the highest point of the Inca Trail, notorious for its challenges. 

Synapses in my brain were on strike. The steep incline through desert-like terrain was a vast change from the rolling paths and stone staircases we had trekked the day before. The single track path reaching to the summit was flanked by the perilous edge that fell into the pit of the valley. I willed my cognition to stay alert in the rarified atmosphere. I was convinced the trail was given its name for its treachery. Maybe some poor woman perished attempting to reach the summit...I later found out that the original people of Peru the Quechua named it so, because from below the crests of the valley resembles a supine woman.

I gave way as another energetic porter, a man in his mid 60’s smiled and left me in the dust. Keeling over trying to catch my breath, my ego crumpled in his wake. I was certain that the porters had some kind of Andean superpower, giving them the ability to rip up the range like mountain goats. They took swift, easy steps, expertly maneuvering around unbound rocks under the weight of our massive bags. Poking out of their sandals made out of car tires were brown, hardened, toes covered in dust from the miles we trekked. I felt embarrassed sporting my overpriced hikers, which clearly did not possess any magic to expedite my ascent.

Porters passed by me one by one while chomping on their coca leaves. The Coca leaf is used in the Andes as a traditional medicine for altitude sickness and stimulant to ward off fatigue. Apparently chewing the leaves is harmless, but the very same foliage prepared with toxic chemicals will make the renowned king of drugs: Cocaine. I had accumulated a saliva ball the size of a big marble which I stored in my cheek like a hamster. I let the acrid essence dribble down my throat in the space between my breaths. The spiteful taste kept my eyes on the prize and legs moving. 

I periodically looked over my shoulder to check on the group. Da was last in line behind the trail of bowed heads- sparsely spread out. Trudging behind the lady who arrived in Cusco in a pantsuit and high heels, Da patiently pushed her forward with his charisma. We all faced the mountain carrying our metaphorical baggage. It was up to us to transform our burdens into fuel- to just keep climbing one step at a time.

Standing on the summit of Dead Woman’s Pass I was exhilarated, giddy and exceptionally exhausted. I felt like a champion for actualizing my potential. I was high fiving and hollering as each participant crossed the threshold. My joy had an expansive feel to it- weightless, like I was levitating above the clouds. The sudden violent whirling in my head smashed me back down to Earth. My bliss flipped on its backside in a matter of seconds in a knockout blow.

DESPACHO CEREMONY

My head rested on Da’s lap while the world spun around me. I lay discombobulated inside the cave of the 4 man tent. The best way to describe how I felt was akin to an epic hangover- like I had recklessly consumed copious amounts of mismatched liquor. Da had his broad palm cupped over my forehead as he always did when I was sick.

Our guide Alberto, sat across from us- his gentle face illuminated by a single candle. He was crouched over his Mesa, purposefully laying out symbolic objects for a Despacho ceremony. The items were offerings to Pachamama; Earth goddess and to Apus; the mountains. I surrendered the weight of my achy body while my head rhythmically pulsed against Da’s hand. Alberto called upon the spirit of nature to siphon my suffering and transform it into something good. His lulling incantations pulled me in and out of consciousness. I chose 3 coca leaves from the pile laid out on a piece of woven cloth in slow motion. Instructed to hold it into a fan shape, I blew on it three times and released my plea for vitality. 

I recalled fragments of the ceremony when I awoke feeling noticeably better the next morning. Either I acclimated to the altitude while I slept or Alberto truly summoned the Earth Spirits to work magic on me. I tested my feet by walking over to the edge of the ridge. We were poking above the clouds at Puyupatamarka: Temple of the clouds. Sandwiched between the sun and wispy clouds, I took in the alpine breeze deeply into my lungs and exhaled gratitude. With the daunting task of surviving two more days, I packed up my things and set off at turtle speed. 

THE GLORY OF MACHU PICCHU

Walking through the Sun Gate, my Soul illuminated at the first sight of Machu Picchu. The glory of the ancient citadel was still intact.  At 2,350 meters above sea level, the Conquistadors never found the stone city. Terraces, buildings, and public squares were quietly nestled between the peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. The hardships of the previous days dissipated as we forged forward to the finish line. 

Leaving the Sun Gate, the group scurried on with renewed energy propelling us forth to the Lost City of the Incas. The mystical presence of ancient times permeated the maze of stone structures.  We scattered to explore the many buildings and sectors that blended in beautifully with the surrounding landscape. It was as if the Almighty himself carved the city right out of the mountain.

Yearning to be alone, I navigated the sacred site by avoiding sounds of clicking cameras held by zealous tourists.  My hands dragged across the cold, archaic rocks perfectly shaped to fit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The bricks were meticulously constructed to fit together without the need for mortar.  There wasn’t a single space to slip a note between the stones. How did people in the 15th-century mine and shape these rocks to perfection? What did the people eat and where did they get their food from? Who lived here close to the gods? 

I befriended a Llama in my wanderings before I found the Funeral Rock. The enormous slab of rock sat in a cemetery site exuding a sense of purpose. Three steps and a flat landing was sculpted out of the bulk, clearly for one principle objective. It was large enough for an adult to lie on.  Were the dead laid out here so their spirit could rise into the cosmos? Was it used for sacrifices to please the gods? Perhaps a platform crafted for the Shaman Astronomer to commune with the stars?

Pondering its purpose, I gravitated cautiously towards the solid bulk.  It beckoned me to lay my back against it’s smooth, dense surface… but it was roped off. No one was around and they would never know….The voice of my desire ultimately conformed to my manner of restraint to “do the right thing”.  I was yet to find my own set of rules to live by- to smash down the invisible walls built on other people’s shoulds.  I regretted not seizing the moment and letting the magic pass me by.

Back with the group, I told Da about my urge to lay on the Death Rock. Rather than giving me a pat on the back for being a respectable tourist, he quickly devised a scheme to get me on the slab. Da does not play by the rules. He nonchalantly declared that we were to come back at night and simply bribe the guards to let us in after hours.  Mama was usually the one who dealt with Da’s crazy ideas. She’s won a few battles but by the time his spark turned into a raging fire no one could stop him on a mission. I immediately regretted telling him about my fancy. Afraid of potentially getting arrested for bribery, I implored Da to drop his absurd idea.  The glint in his eyes assured that it was a done deal.

We took the shuttle bus down the winding mountain road to the town of Aguas Calientes located at the foot of Machu Picchu. Da leaned over and informed me that we were to execute our late-night escapade after soaking in the hot springs. He wasn’t going to let it go. 

“Machu Picchu cerrado”. The taxi driver repeatedly told us it was closed but Da persisted- “Si, Si Yo sé… I know”. Da smiled, nodded and pointed up the mountain. The Cabbie eventually shrugged his shoulders and took our fare anyway. Squirming in the backseat, my heart synced with the rushing sound of the Urubamba River. I couldn’t possibly survive a Peruvian prison! What would become of our group? We’d make the headlines in the Kansai news… “Irresponsible tour facilitators arrested for bribery at one of the 7 wonders of the world!”

At the gate, I stood frozen a few meters behind Da while he negotiated with the guards. Fear and shame bubbled up in the coulden of my belly- a concoction that made me want to throw up.  “Muchas Gracias, Muchas Gracias” Da shook hands with the guards. “Let’s go!” I felt the frame of my body relax. The churning in my stomach subdued into a glowing feeling of excitement. Enveloped in the mystery of an onyx night sky, Machu Picchu was entirely ours to explore.

Roca Sagrada- the sacred rock sat dominantly in the Central Plaza at the foot of Little Peak-Huayna Picchu. It’s dark, massive, silhouette matched the profile of the mountain behind it which was a few shades lighter. We stood in reverence as the soundless citadel amplified its sacredness from all around us. 

Time leaned against us as a reminder of our mission. Clicking our Petzl lights back on, we broke the silence. With our foreheads beaming the way, we miraculously backtracked to the cemetery without getting lost. There was a vast heaviness in my body as I lay down…as if I was made of the same material as the rock . Pressed between the mystery of the past and the starry sky, there was a spark of remembrance of a time before mine. Tethered to the human experience, my heart cracked open. 

Mesa’s laid out and a ceremonial smoke with Da.
Keeping my eyes on the prize.

The glory of Machu Picchu.
Andean superheros .
Soaking in Aguas Calientes with some of the members of our group.