Trip Report: Mother Ayahuasca, Colorado Veterans, Conscious Cannabis Ceremony, Aspen NORML Legal conference, Bassnectar at Red Rocks, Ramadan, Toad Venom and a visit to back home to Hawaii or How I Lost 15 pounds in 2 months and kept it off

“each psychedelic drug is quite literally a different access code to a certain circuit of the human biocomputer”  John Lilly

Active Recon

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Mother Ayahuasca

It wasn’t the first time I had drank ayahuasca.  It wasn’t even the first time I had taken it with a healer still connected to an authentic living tradition.  That last time was over fifteen years ago and I had taken it a few times and a few years before that.  When I first got hold of some ayahuasca that Terence McKenna brewed himself out at his place on the Big Island, I had expected and hoped for the Disneyland of extraterrestrial amusement parks and UFO’s and maybe even some self-transforming machine elves on the side.

I put ayahuasca at the top of the psychedelic food chain after getting my education with all the other plant food groups spending three years straight on the sacred plant diet while in law school.  Instead those other times and with the healer Don Agustin Rivas Vasquez I got a total heart focused relationship based experience.  That last time was authentic and revealing, but did not change my life or provide me the healing that I certainly knew was possible.

This most recent journey was certainly an exception to that.  It was the most intense and amazing medicine experience of my life.  I felt reborn.

I participated in a three day ayahuasca ceremony under the guidance of a healer and his partner.  There were around thirty participants evenly split between men and women.  Everyone was wearing white pilgrim clothes around a big circle under a tent with no sides.  Preparing for the weekend ceremony over Mother’s Day required following a certain diet in advance of the ceremony to safely prepare for taking the medicine for three days straight.  In addition to a strict no salt, no sugar, no processed food, no sex, no drugs regimen, the proper spiritual preparation was necessary to fully benefit from the healing on offer.

This preparation made total sense as I was accustomed to fasting for Ramadan and in about a month I would be fasting for my twenty first time.  I have a daily prayer practice and practiced raja yoga open eyed meditation for a number of years.  I have a regular yoga practice.  So I was ready to be sitting on a yoga mat in a circle for up to eight hours a day for three days while under the influence of the brew.  I had also participated in a ceremony using peyote while in law school with the Native American Church on a reservation within the state of Oklahoma.

I knew from back in my undergrad years of study at Psychedelic State that working with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAIO’s) you had to be very careful about your diet.  Back then it was combining the tryptamine-based mushrooms with Syrian Rue (MAOI) and now it was the tryptamine-based psychotria viridis with the ayahuasca vine (MAOI).

I have been working on eating my way to health for the past ten years including super foods, adaptogens, nutraceuticals and kombucha.  I was a vegetarian for over five years.  I know that the overwhelming majority of your immune response takes place in your gut and with my probiotic supported digestive ecosystem, I have not been sick in eight years.  I also know that you have a second brain in your gut the equivalent of a cat’s brain and that you produce more serotonin in your digestive tract than in your brain or anywhere else in your body.

I’ve colonized my biome (the superorganism of me and all my yeast and bacteria) with natural creatures that optimally support our mutual environment or living space.  They exist in our relationship because even with our potential for epigenetics (changing our genes on the fly rather than just passing them on to another generation), they are able to evolve through an inconceivable number of lifetimes during our one life genetically adjusting to the inputs in to and on to the body from the outside world. So they are our primary conduit to nature and everything that is outside of us.

The word was that the first night of the three ceremonies was supposed to be a gradual introduction since everyone was getting in no later than 6 pm that first night of Friday.  There was enough time to set up your tent for your personal camping before the sun went down and walk the half mile to the ceremony site for the 8 pm start.

Instead of a smaller dose the teacher in the Santo Daime tradition who I will call Robert had other plans.  We would be taking a regular dose and we needed to get started as we would begin the Saturday session at 2 pm tomorrow.  We had a good crew of participants and Robert and his partner who I will call Sally had beautiful love and healing chemistry between them.  They both sang and shared a guitar.  Robert told us that we were children of the earth and that we had a right to this healing.  I certainly believed that.  He told us that this medicine and the process where all designed to promote health in the body, peace in the spirit and love in the heart.  It all made perfect sense to me.

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In my nervousness about the journey I was about to take I reminded myself of Terence’s advice that “nature loves courage.” Even with my advanced studies in entheogenic protocols, I knew something was up early on.  The medicine went to work very quickly.  After being on the diet for four days my digestive system was healthy and ready for action and the ayahuasca was absorbed accordingly.  Then it was the pulsing.  It was regular and continuous.  It was accompanied by the most beautiful yellows and oranges and reds and organic geometric arabesque patterns and all the time pulsing.  The pulsing told me that it was alive.  I could feel Mother Ayahuasca inside of me.  The earth that the Great Spirit created and out of it created us its children along with the rest of creation was alive, inside of me and communicating with me.  It was not only talking to me but she was healing me.  Going over every line in my genetic code, repairing, recoding, defragging-whatever clean up tasks needed to be run.  I was getting a scrub down to the cellular level.

There was not a question of whether you could surrender to this reality because nature is already alive inside you.  We are part of nature and nature is part of us.  There is no dividing line that can be drawn or genetic tree that can be separated.  Is it a cosmic joke that our pineal gland makes dimethyltryptamine and ayahuasca is orally activated dimethyltryptamine?  Is it an accident that plants could communicate with humans through this shared chemistry?  Mother Ayahuasca was definitely communicating with me.  She was my teacher, my coach, my counselor, my doctor and more.  Having had my share of flight physicals when I when I was a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in the Army, she knew it was time for a full physical and she was giving me the entire battery of tests.

Except that she was the nicest doctor ever because I lived in her natural matrix and she cared about my health and how it affected the world’s health.  My health was her health and hers mine.  So in her classroom I didn’t get any directions on what to eat or not to eat. Instead I got reeducated and reprogrammed psychospiritually and biochemically around my mental and physical attachment to more natural sources of sustenance.  She dialed that up.  Almost like she said see how you’ve been dieting preparing for me and see how good you feel and see how much energy you have after I clean you up.  And she was right because the next day after saying yes to the second cup and going to bed at 5 am and not getting much sleep I still felt like I had been completely drained and then given a total recharge, except that I had completely added on new capacity to my system that I never had before.

The thing that I plugged in to was that I was really biochemically tuned to maximize the impact of the medicine.  I understood that once your neurochemistry got reset on the medicine that it would be working far beyond the time when you were on it and the real goal was to maximize that as much as possible.  The food that we were eating was simple fruits and cooked vegetables and I was not motivated to eat much in the morning before getting our 1 pm start on Saturday.

At this point I began to hear that this medicine was made with banisteriopsis caapi vine from Brazil that was that was a big around as a tree, over one hundred years old and sustainably harvested from some of the remotest parts of the Amazon rainforests on an eight year cycle.  To be communicating with a plant that had been on the planet that long was pretty intimidating after the Friday night ceremony so exceeding and overwhelming everyone’s expectations.  I said to myself that there was more healing to be done and that I could continue to respect the medicine and maybe this time just limit myself to one cup.

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Saturday was all about love.  I was already missing my daughter’s senior prom and Mother’s Day to attend this ceremony which deep down I knew I really needed to do long before the possibility ever presented itself.  The hundred year old vine tasted different and felt different and it was different.  Friday as record smashing as it was, was just the beginning.  Mother Ayahuasca announced her arrival the same way with beautiful colors and entrancing pulsating natural geometries, but she quickly got down to business.

Now that she had already determined what my body was capable of she began the heart work.  She was polishing and clearing my heart-removing blockages and releasing negative energy.  I would think this is amazing and she would go on and on.  When she finally let me take my new heart out for a ride it went to one of my early traumas.

I was sodomized by an older neighborhood boy in the bathroom of my own house when I was in first or second grade.  The medicine made sure that there was no fear so I was able to reenter that space of the event very deeply and with immediacy.  I don’t know that I can say that I was re-experiencing it, but it was almost like I was disembodied and I was watching him do that to the real me when I was a little boy, but instead of caring about what was happening to young me, I looked at Chris and I said something like “brother what happened to you in your life that you needed to do this.”  My heart only ached for his pain and in that moment I had complete and total release of that trauma.  In that shift of empathy and perspective my heart exploded like a super nova in an infinite number of pieces except that it didn’t fall apart as my personal doctor was there to put me all back together again.  And so it went all day long for hours until you couldn’t take any more.  Polish, clear, remove blockages, test, explode, reconstitute at higher capacity, rinse, wash, repeat.   I fully realized that love is infinite and our capacity for it limitless.

At one point I was crying tears of happiness and joy and I walked out of the tent and began hugging the ground and it was beautiful.  I cop. I hugged a tree.  There was no separation and the idea of humans being apart from nature was the craziest idea anyone had ever come up with.  It was completely impossible and incomprehensible.  The fact that this one hundred year old vine boiled down and sitting in my stomach was not just preventing the monoamine oxidase from breaking down the dimethyltryptamine in the brew thereby making it orally active, but the fact that it was really controlling my metabolism through its manipulation of a neurotransmitter already made by my own body in my endocrine system was blowing my mind.

I realized and understood lots of things that in Ayahuasca school made perfect sense when the teacher put them up on the blackboard which of course was just the now polished mirror of my heart.  I understood that veterans are the moral conscience of the country because we have to exercise the will of the politicians and policy makers.  We are sent to right or wrong to do the things that only God should do.  This is why veterans need this healing.  We as a sacred congregation have been an instrument of, a deliverer of and a witness to the most horrendous and impossible things a human being can experience and need to be reintegrated in to the matrix of nature if our society as a whole has any hope of healing itself.

I finally was able to reconcile my understanding around suicide.  I understood that the teaching that God could not forgive suicide simply meant that when a person killed the God that lives inside of them that they stopped the process of God experiencing God’s self through that human and that in the enlightenment of the life after death that someone who had taken their own life would have to spend as long as it took in that place beyond time to forgive themselves.  I was ready to sit ceremony next to my fallen brothers and sisters and hold sacred space for them and to serve as a reminder to them that signing up to be willing to give your life away is a special promise that not everyone makes but one that should be honored.

I said to Mother Ayahuasca after my success with processing my sexual trauma and accepting veteran suicide that I was ready to understand the horror that my brothers and sisters faced in their deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  She said I was not ready and although she didn’t laugh at me, I smiled and I agreed with her.  That day I had respectfully taken only half a cup on the second offering but that second cup just made sure I got another couple hours of the same intensity experience added on.  So I remember wondering to myself when was it ever going to end and it was just so overwhelmingly and constantly strong and overpowering you thought you just couldn’t take any more but of course you could.  As an experienced traveler I knew without a doubt that it would eventually end, but I had to be content with reminding myself that I was being healed the whole time and there was never any reason to want less of that right?!

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When I got up Sunday morning to get our 11 am start for our last day I was certainly not thinking I needed to take any more medicine but of course that was exactly the plan for the last day.  I thought to myself that I could continue to respect the medicine and maybe just take one cup total.  That happened on Mother’s Day but one cup was all she needed.  Each night was a different brew and this night the dimethyltryptamine from the psychotria viridis or chacruna leaves in the coffee family were from Robert’s own land in Brazil that he and Sally had grown together.  When he told us this in the ceremony before we drank I knew that tonight would be different but I mean how much different could it really be?

Mother’s day was definitely for the mother.  Robert and Sally led us in an exercise after we took our first cup which of course was a full cup.  It was everyone in the group dancing with a partner while one person was blindfolded.  That person would, after slowly dancing a bit, be gracefully handed over to another unblindfolded person, and then again all through the group.  Eventually the blindfolded and not traded places and we repeated once more.  This exercise brought me to tears in a way I had never previously experienced.  Tears of vulnerability, of joy, of trust, of love, of peace all just flowed and the medicine we had just taken hadn’t even begun to take effect.  This is when I realized the power of the medicine to both activate and support your biochemistry and also facilitate the psychospiritual reprograming necessary to clear trauma at an epigenetic, somatic and cellular level.

Sunday blew everyone away.  Even Robert acknowledged that.  When he finally offered a second cup I couldn’t believe that anyone could even conceive of taking any more as I was so overwhelmed in the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.  So when this other person near me took their second cup I basically laughed out loud at myself at this and Robert immediately picked up on that and came over to me.  Even though I was so under the influence I spoke with Robert and thanked him for everything and bringing his medicine that he had grown himself to share with us.  After receiving my thanks he then generously offered me a second cup at which point I said while laughing “absolutely no way!”

I thought I was cool because I had never thrown up on ayahuasca and Mother Ayahuasca showed me on Mother’s day who was boss.  As soon as the medicine came on I was on my knees dry heaving like my life depended on it in to my bucket.  I was not in charge.  There was a fear that I had no control.  Lesson number one entheogenic warriors remember, let go!  Nature loves courage.  So I let go.  She pretty much completely had her way with me in any way that was even possible.  I was like holy shit with these two molecules put together in a drink from two different plants mother earth can totally both control and heal me.  I realized that I am not separate from nature.  I am a child of mother earth.  We are all made from earth with a spirit breathed in to each one of us.  Humans are no way in charge but are part of an entire shared biome- the planet earth, that we have to play our part in saving as we are destroying it instead.

Most of the music played was either Sally or Robert playing guitar and both or one singing some traditional songs and lots of Sally’s own songs.  It was all amazing.  She did one cover song during the peak of Sunday’s ceremony and it was “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas.  With her beautiful voice and heartfelt performance the rendition was killer and almost overwhelming.  It was off the charts.  The medicine was so powerful and the circle was strong and Robert and Sally knew exactly when someone needed help.

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I remember when Robert came around to offer the final medicine of the ceremony and the three day event.  He said to think of it as something that more than anything would connect with the next time you were able to drink the medicine again.  I was down with that.  And then he said even if it was just a drop.  I said to myself I get it symbolic.  I love it.  Totally makes sense.  Then I got concerned as he worked his way around the circle.  I thought a drop it is symbolic because of the idea that when you merge with God you don’t disappear like a drop in the ocean, the ocean actually comes in to the drop.  Then I thought after taking this strongest of brews could I even risk taking in one more drop if it ended up containing the entire ocean because at that instant I totally knew it was possible. So I passed.

Then a friend in the circle past me did it right.  He got a bit of the medicine poured in to his hand.  He touched his finger to the medicine in his hand, then to his third eye, other places on his body and the final bit on the ground.  That took the drop and didn’t risk having the whole ocean come in.  Well done brother.  Note to self.

Robert finished the entire process by telling us that the work that each one of us is doing makes the world a better for place for him to live in.  The purpose of taking this medicine was to heal ourselves to be able bring love and light back in to the world for all the inhabitants of the planet.

When the three day ceremony was finally over we began the walk back to base camp.  Walking was still serious work at this point as we were still under the spell of the medicine but I truly felt like a pilgrim that had just returned from a journey reborn never to be the same person ever again.  A good number of us made a bee line right to the stream that was yards from base camp.  To say it felt amazing was an understatement.  That was the perfect way to represent that baptism of spirit which for me was connecting to everything that is alive down to the subatomic particles.

We finished the whole process by sharing one by one our experiences with the entire group in upstairs of the barn.  That was a marvelous celebration and launching pad for our work with universal agreement between all participants that now the real work of integrating the experiences back in to our everyday lives began.  I knew this to be true as I followed the teaching of Huston Smith who said the goal of the mystical experience is “altered traits, not altered states.”

So I continued the diet for a few days afterwards as I began my reintegration process.  The experience of the medicine was like my spiritual battery had been given a complete deep drain and then full recharge, erasing all the normal charge and discharge patterns that I had accumulated over time and habit.   I had more energy than ever and for the first week I was completely fine on six hours of sleep instead of my normal eight.  My food habits had been reprogrammed to try to figure out what was the maximum benefit that I could get out of the limited amount of digestive space that I really had or needed to work with.  I had activated my internal dimethyltryptamine receptivity by activating that hormonal neurotransmitter in my endocrine system.  My pineal gland (or so called third eye which secretes dimethyltryptamine) had been tuned by the ayahuasca and wanted to maintain that higher level awareness and biochemically mediated reality so it in turn programmed my metabolism to want to eat even more plant based higher density natural products and less crap.

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Colorado Veterans

So Colorado was next.  She had been my new best friend from the previous year when I went to the NORML legal conference for the first time in Aspen in 2014 when recreational cannabis had first come on line.  The freedom experience of being in a state with legal cannabis was actually more intoxicating and powerful than the legal cannabis itself.  This time was going to be even more epic than the last as I was putting a ten day trip around the continuing legal education on the front end to visit friends in Colorado and see what the universe had in store for me as I entertained which wave I was going to try and surf on this green revolution and to finish the whole thing off I was going to see Bassnectar Sunday night (of his three day stint) for the tenth time but the first time I had ever been to Red Rocks before I left early Monday for Austin.

When I got in to Denver on the first Friday night I got my rental car and headed straight to my friend’s house who we will call Cos.  Cos is a veteran and one of the most transparent and gracious human beings I have ever met.  Even though veterans can have complicated shit that they are dealing with, experiencing the reality of your own mortality allows for the easy discussion of otherwise way too serious, deep or totally insane material that would disturb a civilian.  Cannabis could turn that in to real live therapy back and forth.  So let the healing begin.  That night at his place I was repeatedly dabbed by the first person who dabbed me in a DC hotel room when we were doing our veteran cannabis activism in the nation’s capital earlier in the year.  By this time I knew how to do it myself.  I had been given free access with a bunch of other cannabis activist veterans by High Times to the Cannabis Cup in Denver back in April, 4/20 weekend to be exact.

Heading down south to visit my next vet buddy up in the mountains I got to drive past the Air Force Academy.  As a West Point graduate I could appreciate the architectural experience they were trying to create with this fantastic canvas of mountains in the background.  This friend who I will call Sasha had recently moved from a non-legal state to Colorado as a medical refugee with his family.  This of course had saved his life from the zombie pharmaceuticals given to him to treat his PTSD which led him all the way down the road of suicide.  Unsuccessful that he was, thank God, we were going to get to talk molecules and receptor sites and all the great drug geek stuff that could be discussed and with plenty of religion and history and politics all thrown in together for good measure.

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This was the same kind of joyous freestyle sharing that happened to you right after you went to a Terence McKenna lecture for the first time.  You had just taken some Terence, it had blown your mind, your cultural boundaries had been dissolved and you questioned the entire overlay that you were being sold, and now equipped with the knowledge that you are living in an artificial mass agreed upon societal psychological construct, you knew that you had the power to change everything and you wanted to talk to your best friends about the strategy and tactics for hours.

Sasha and his amazing wife and partner who I will call Ann were ready for Sasha to take ayahuasca for the first time as part of his healing on the plant path but had some natural fear that they shared in our conversation.  Of course that was normal and I had just the solution.  Some natural dimethyltryptamine extracted on to passion flower.  I suggested he try vaporizing less than a full 50 mg dose, maybe like 15-20 mg to get his bearing on the tryptamine space.  He was immediately up for it and on the living room couch of his own house he vaporized the material and took flight.  The best part of the whole experience was just watching the whole face smile immediately arrive and stay there for the next 10-15 minutes as he experienced reality in a whole new way.  He was definitely ready for the orally activated dimethyltryptamine now.

After positively reconnecting with an old friend about working together I headed back up to Denver.  I got to join a bunch of other veterans in a teepee in the back of some fellow activists’ yard in a sacred circle.  Veterans are so inspiring to me.  I got to meet a vet who I will call Finn that had such bad TBI and PTSD that he could only walk with assistance, but it was like he channeled the spirit of Terence McKenna right there and we had an awesome rollicking conversation.  I met a veteran who I will call the senator who had a plan to bring landrace seeds from Afghanistan and Iraq back to the US to help veterans with PTSD.  What a beautiful closed loop system of natural healing.

This was going to be my first time to visit a veteran who I will call Bear.  Bear was someone who I had met on the Internet but had yet to meet in person.  He was all in for the sacred plants to heal veterans and knew and understood the whole religious, medical and spiritual background.  So me and my spiritual battle buddy got to compare lots of notes, talk different religious teachers, traditions, the sacred plant path and how veterans were both blessed and honored to be leading the charge to get these plants resacralized and relegalized for the benefits of all who need healing.  After hearing from Bear that he had come to sacred plants by getting some DMT while in community college in Alabama I left him the remainder of the dimethyltryptamine for a future journey of his choosing.

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Conscious Cannabis Ceremony

My last task now left before driving to Aspen was participating in a conscious cannabis ceremony in the house of a healer in Boulder.  I will call him Steve.  Steve is a transpersonal healer and counselor and practitioner in the plant path.  He wanted to test the hypothesis that cannabis could be used an alternative to the classical psychedelics especially for veterans with PTSD.   This is important since cannabis is legal and medical in a number of states and doesn’t last as long as some of those substances.  Adding this to the toolbox would be a significant accomplishment.

I arrived at 6 pm at his place.  We would perform the ceremony in the living room of his house.  He had an altar set up, a mat on the floor and this would be a guided meditation.   He had a playlist queued up that matched the music to the process and would be talking to me during certain parts of the process and also performing some hands on bodywork.  We spent some time getting to know each other more before getting started as I had only met him back on 4/20 weekend in Denver for fifteen minutes.  My trust in him was complete though and that combined with my experience with sacred plants in a ceremonial context, and my respect for the cannabis medicine, I was ready to go.  I took seven sacred inhalations of his special blend to the four cardinal directions and then three more to go 3-D, up, down and finally the center as he spoke to each of those.  Seven was enough and I laid down I entered the cannabis-induced psychedelic space.  I was amazed but not all surprised that I was having a full blown experience within minutes on the sacred medicine.

What was surprising though was that some of the markers of the ayahuasca ceremony that I had completed less than two weeks ago quickly began showing up.  Then the realization began to dawn on me that Mother Ayahuasca had come along as an attending physician.  I was flabbergasted, but of course I knew what to do-let go, don’t get distracted by shiny objects and let the plants and Steve do their work.

He cleared my entire body of negative energy, and after doing that body work and establishing my baseline he asked me where my attention went.  It went to my heart which made total sense.  Then my attention went to my parents, which kind of bummed me out since I had been spending way too much time there in the past years.  However the focus quickly shifted to the death of my sister-my first trauma in my first car accident.  I was nine months old and she less than two years old in the car with my parents and other relatives.  I only knew the story as it was told to me, which other than the fact of her death, I knew very little.

I totally accepted the fact that my parents not having ever done the work around the death of their daughter, weren’t going to be able to share what really happened.  I would never know from them.  This is the defining story of my family mind you.  So I accepted that, accepted that even though I wanted for my parents to have that healing for themselves that it was not for me to decide for them.  I knew that I would know the full and true story someday.  I told myself that in the next life I would remember everything!  I would be reunited with my sister.  I said to myself that I totally and completely accepted all of this and I had no regrets over the loss of my sister.  Once I had complete acceptance and total surrender to that reality I had total release around this trauma that I never had before.  It was all fireworks and the most amazing light show you’ve ever seen coming out of my heart.  Steve confirmed it later in our debrief.   He did some hands on work at that point on my heart to continue the release process.  It was like his finger nail was a knife edge, but I knew to give in rather than fight back.  The more I let go the more that my heart opened up.

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Then just for good measure after cannabis showed her power, I got some classroom instruction thrown in from Mother Ayahuasca after she reintroduced herself with a snake motif.  I abruptly sat straight up as I had the ayahuasca kundalini snake come up my spine and I was swaying back and forth like a cobra without actually moving.

It was really like that.  Here is what she taught me.  Each person has a diamond like object contained in their heart.  This object can bring in light from the Divine above and from plants below.  The complete marriage of heaven and earth.  Humans would share this light on the perpendicular orientation.  This same object would absorb light according to its owner’s heart’s capacity and then reflect this light by that same capacity to other beings.  I saw a meta-level view of all humans connected together in a molecular matrix with Divine and plant light being absorbed in to the matrix and flowing throughout.  The better your heart was cleared, polished and cleaned the more you light you could shine and absorb to reflect again.  The final download thrown in almost for fun, was that when you die this object transmigrates to your pineal gland to complete your transition to the next phase of existence.  Whoa!  Just like that.  Couldn’t have taken more than five minutes.

Then ninety minutes after my first inhalation I was done.  We excitedly debriefed and compared notes since even though my experience was guided, we really only talked once during the experience.  Steve gave me a little vape pen with some CBD only oil and I took a few puffs to bring my energy levels from the ceremony back to a more baseline level.  Moving down my chakras to my heart from my crown.  I ate some food and drink and when I was ready I got in the car to drive to Aspen.

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Aspen NORML Legal Conference

It was a three hour drive, at night on a road I had never driven on, over what’s called the Roof of the Rockies to get to Aspen, but fortunately I had logged many night vision google hours as a Blackhawk pilot.  I knew how to get in to hyper-focused accomplish the mission and leave no one behind mode, which in this case was me.  Light, Silent, Deadly.  That was our motto in the 7th infantry division.  Mission First, Family Always.  That second part always made me laugh as my Blackhawk battalion had the highest resignation rate for commissioned officers in the Army because of our being over deployed.  60 Minutes did a segment on my unit which focused on the danger of flying helicopter using night vision goggles.  Remember the aborted Iranian hostage rescue attempt?  Night vision helicopter debacle.  More people in my aviation brigade died from training leading up to Operation Just Cause than in the actual combat operations.  After Operation “Just Cuz” (as in just cause we felt like it), my aviation unit got rolled up in to the Task Force 160 or Special Operations, you know the Blackhawk Down guys.   I arrived in Aspen safely making sure not to run over any of the porcupines crossing the road through the high mountain pass which had been closed the previous night.

I had attended the cannabis legal conference in 2014 for the first time when Colorado had just legalized it.  I said to myself legal cannabis and continuing legal education about cannabis in the town of Aspen.  All three were completely novel experiences- getting to have them simultaneously.  How could I resist?  I’ve always experienced for any conferences I attend, the most important thing is getting to meet the participants, no matter how many cool talks you go to.  This time was no exception.

My roommate who I will call Kurt and I had met in 2014 and this time we were bunking up.  He was a criminal defense attorney who also had been a district attorney and also was an accomplished entrepreneur.  Kurt was a surfer and an ex-football player.  He could name every Phish song within a few bars with perfect accuracy.  We spent lots of time on the rooftop of the conference with the other attendees and it felt like being rock stars.   You can’t smoke or vaporize cannabis in Colorado in public but on the top of the 2nd story hotel Gant with the conference you could.   We spent hours talking in our room figuring out how to surf the waves of the cannabis economy.  I’m not a surfer, but growing up in Hawaii I was an avid bodysurfer and skim boarder.  All the same criteria.  Timing, wave selection, working together, avoiding how to not get killed or permanently crippled and of course the most important measure of all – to enjoy the ride.  These were real issues of life and death still within the cannabis legal patchwork constantly shifting and changing.

It’s hard not to overhype the freedom experience in Colorado.  Yes I get it that if you like to consume cannabis, Colorado and especially Denver will be catering to you and because of that you feel validated that your demographic is finally getting the recognition and respect that it deserves. But it goes way beyond that. The freedom to make that choice is what is really intoxicating.  That spirit of coming out was in full expression at the Cannabis Cup in Denver a month earlier.  It wasn’t about consuming cannabis in public.  It was about coming out as consumer of cannabis, in public.

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Exercising your God given right to alter your own consciousness is being recognized as what it has been all along, an essential right and one of our primary desires along with sustenance and sex.  What we are really arguing about is the means not the end.  We all want a healthier body and mind, a more peaceful spirit and a more loving heart.  The argument is about how to best get there.  In our race to master the technology we lost the high tech plant technology hiding in plain sight but thankfully kept alive by the masters and students of light.  As the planet is speaking out to its children, that technology is coming back in to the mainstream and as Terence has been saying all along, “and not a moment too soon.”

We finished up at up at Hunter S. Thomson’s Owl Farm for the final day party, then a good night’s sleep before the drive back to Denver.  Kurt and I got the full tour of Hunter’s place including getting to see his office and meeting his beautiful wife.  Driving on this same road during the day was a great metaphor on perspective.  In the beautiful late May morning the Roof of the Rockies up at 14,000 feet were spectacular.  What had been the previous night a grueling three hour mission where lack of focus for a split second could be seriously punished, was turned in to a complete 360 degree immersion in the sheer beauty and awe of creation.  Nature in full effect.

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More Colorado Veterans

I rolled back in to Denver to reunite with Cos and the rest of the cannabis activist veteran crew for a final sesh before departing to Bassnectar at Red Rocks.  I got to see Sasha and Ann again and it was clear to me that they had both been mutually activated by Sasha’s DMT experience.  I was in awe and loving it.  Entheogenic acolytes in full force.  Testifying to the power of the plants to heal and save the planet.  “Ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you.”  Job 12:8

Another veteran who I will call Steve had just showed up that day back in Denver with his all in for the new life adventure girlfriend “Flower” from a less cannabis friendly state twelve hours away.  Another medical cannabis refugee who was being forced to choose between his family and his daughter and being able to have the legal medicine to treat his PTSD.  This is a life and death decision.  Soldiers make those all the time.  He had already tried living in Denver once before but missed his young daughter too much and eventually moved back home.  At home he was a criminal for using cannabis over the zombie pharmaceuticals prescribed by the VA for his PTSD that had led him to try to kill himself in the first place.  WTF?!

That constant state of hyper-arousal of being a criminal 24/7 for years because of drug prohibition has parallels to the challenge of PTSD caused by not being able to fully extract out of or reprogram that hyper-aroused emotional memory circuit.   So you take someone who has stress and anxiety and make that worse by making them be stressed and anxious about having their life destroyed by being thrown in jail because they self-medicate with a natural plant put on this planet by the highest intelligence.

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Bassnectar at Red Rocks

Me and Cos were going to see Bassnectar VIP.  Cos had been to Red Rocks innumerable times including three weeks ago for Tipper.  So he was my personal Red Rocks concierge.  Of course that meant party favors.  I was about to take a spring ride on Hoffman’s bicycle in these beautiful Rockies instead of Albert’s remarkable Alps.  I hadn’t taken Albert’s problem child more than ten times total and the last time had been back in law school.  But Cos had taken this same amount of this same stuff at the Tipper show and it was the special he suggested off the menu.  I was all in.

Red Rocks is spectacular and awe inspiring.  The view is amazing.  There is not a bad seat in the house.  It is a perfect natural amphitheater.  It holds 10,000 people and this was the third night of his three day sell out.  Cos had never seen Bassnectar.  He was a virgin.  That’s why I made sure it was VIP even though we sat with our friends in the regular part.  It was going to be just like Sasha and the DMT.  His mind was going to be blown and I was going be there to support him the whole way.  I’m sure that Cos was thinking the same thing.  Ian hasn’t done this in years and his mind is going to be blown just being at Red Rocks.  Best possible set and setting.  Please squad in support.  The opening acts were entertaining but really DJ’s doing warm up sets.  Cos knew exactly when to drop the mortar rounds in to the tubes because once you let go of the round and it hit the bottom of the tube and triggered the firing pin, the impacts where real and life altering.  There was no going back.  After the last warm up act Cos gave the command and we commenced Operation Whomp, Whomp.

Using sound and music to alter consciousness is as old as humans are.  What are we doing but having a unified congregation synched up with the music.  10,000 bodies trance dancing together.  All individual particles with their unique spin yet all in alignment with the same external field of the music.  That is what creates the waveform.  Quantum entanglement in full effect.

On his final night you could feel the climax of the three day event and Lorin brought everything together in the final mixdown.  There was this 360 video feed that he showed the audience up on the screens behind him that seemed to come from his perspective on stage, but we could see it from where we were sitting.  He could rotate it in every direction.  The videos created to accompany the music are truly world class and the music itself was amazing.  The whole thing was all working together in a completely seamless flow between the artist and the experience.  Cos said that he had never heard music that loud in his entire life.  Everyone is fully jacked in and synced up and then at the climax of the show, the entire set up, all the tech fails.  Dark screen and no music.  The laptop is dead. Lorin says that’s never happened before ever.  Mutters “Apple.” Then has the lights turned on and says to the entire crowd to look around in the crowd and make a new friend.  While the tech is getting a reboot Lorin and a Fungineer friend do a live puppet show for the ten thousand with Lorin as himself and his friend as a unicorn from outer space. The show gets back on and it still seems to go on forever.

As the music finally has to end I wonder where does all the energy go?  Shouldn’t this ticket come with a bioethics warning?  Warning!  This experience may cause you to generate excess amounts of energy shared in a waveform containing upwards of 10,000 people.  Failure of the individual to extract properly and completely out of the waveform upon termination of its expression can result in undesirable side effects.

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Ramadan in Austin

Back to Austin and family and love and continued integration of these peak experiences.  I remember the teaching from Jewish law in law school, “make your deeds greater than your wisdom.”  Take the wisdom you get from altering your consciousness to reprogram yourself and be a better person in the real world in a lasting way.  Plus it was time to get ready for Ramadan.  Now I was going to be fasting for a lunar month and reading the Qur’an and continuing the work of figuring out who I wanted to be when I grew up.

Ramadan in the US is different from how it can be in majority Muslim countries where it’s part of the dominant cultural overlay like Christmas is here.  So here you can really be in stealth mode about your fasting and thereby focus more on the deeper levels of self-mastery and empathy.  Fasting for Ramadan I would get up around 4:30 to be done eating before the dawn prayer at 5:15.  This was similar to the eating during the ayahuasca ceremonies where you weren’t really hungry, in this case because of the time, but still wanting to maximize the benefit of the small amount eaten.  My thoughts were around what was the most nutrient dense, highest quality and most long-lasting sustenance that I could put in my body.  It became an exercise in creating the best and most attractive package that would benefit the machine that is my body to hopefully sustain it all day on one small meal until I could make it until sunset and break my fast.   I already knew how to fast but this time I realized if maintained properly the human body is a miracle that can run on very little but high quality fuel and produce unbelievable results.

I try to read different English translations of the Qur’an each Ramadan and I came across one on Kindle I hadn’t yet read that was also free.  It was Decoding The Quran (A Unique Sufi Interpretation).  It used some modern English terms like programing that aligned more with our technological worldview and I understood the underlying Sufi metaphysics.  “God, who creates everything programmed according to its purpose.”  I thought to myself that’s what I’ve been trying to do the whole time with my healing myself with religion and sacred plants – figure out my programming and make sure it is operating properly.   It got my validation around suicide from the ayahuasca ceremony groking this more sci fi high tech reading.  “And it is not for one to die unless it complies with the unchanging program formed by the Names of Allah in one’s being.”

I came out of Ramadan not the normal ten pounds lighter, but instead five pounds lighter.  This was after already losing ten pounds on the run up to Ramadan starting with the ayahuasca diet.  Lose fifteen pounds in two months.  That sounds like some kind of internet scam.  Every other twenty Ramadans I would always gain back the ten pounds I regularly lost.  This time that didn’t happen.  I had used the spiritual boot camp canvas of Ramadan to integrate my ayahuasca bodywork tune up and reengineer my relationship to food to elevate its purpose and benefit.  I certainly was not feeling a need to self-medicate with food to deal with traumas.

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5-Meo-DMT (Toad Venom)

The last few nights of Ramadan I was reading the Qur’an and decided after some sessions to go out and kind of do a walking meditation.  Each of those nights I ran in to a Bufo toad in the neighborhood who let me take pictures of it each time.  I even shared them with friends.  Of course it made me think of the famous cousin in the Bufo family that excretes a substance that psychoactive. It is called 5-MeO-dimethyltryptamine and is just DMT with a methoxy group added on in the fifth position. When my friend “Kermit” suggested we hook up after Ramadan he was like what’s up with you and toads these days and I’m like no kidding right.  When I disclosed that I had some toad venom from way back in the day laying around that I had only ever gotten the nerve up once to it once with a friend, he asked why I never had repeated the experiment, and I said I couldn’t ever find someone to do it with and he smiled and said you have now.  Uh, oh.  Me and my big mouth.

We went to his house out in the country with our mutual friend “Don.”  We had all taken ayahuasca together with Robert a little over a month ago.  We would take the 5Meo in a ceremonial space that we would create for ourselves.  One person would partake while the other two would function as sitters and helpers if necessary.  It was funny to watch us not want to volunteer to go first when we got things set up for what we thought was the best vaporization route.  We all had a very healthy respect for the plants, fungi, secretions, bark, root, you name it.  The first route didn’t work when Kermit courageously went first and had an aborted launch.  When we figured out a likely more beneficial set up, I volunteered to go first.  I sat on Kermit’s couch and had the same feeling of standing at the top of Maunawili Falls at the 50 foot jump.  If you spend too much time thinking about it you can’t make yourself jump.  Don was on my right and Kermit on my left.  I said one, two and on the two I took one complete hit and vaporized all of the material.  I closed my eyes and was immediately gone.

There was no ego loss.  There was no moth immolating itself in the light.  It happened so fast there was no sensation of motion.  There was only the essential reality of existence.  There was no time and there was no space.  Only the godhead and that was all that existed.  There was no need for time and space travel because once you completely stripped away the veil there was no time nor space to need to travel through.  Even though my perspective still existed, there was no Ian, no soul, no ego.  How could I have been in ordinary consensus reality one breath and the next after vaporizing a few tiny crystals of venom completely sublimated in the source of all existence?  My first words after opening my eyes about five to seven minutes later was, “this is real.  This is real.”

Having gotten the experiment to work, I supported Don and Kermit on their journeys.   Sacred plants are psychic magnifiers and if you have shadow material that needs attention you will end up there.  For sure.  Don had spent a good amount of time there during our ayahuasca ceremony and I remember going to check on him once off in the woods where Kermit had been helping him work through some of this stuff.  He went there again and frankly it was difficult.  When he came down after we had been supporting him through this work he related that hell is real, God is real, and he totally understood suicide, insanity, murder, war.  He got a tour around the dark side of human nature.  He said that in this state that there was no issue of belief, there was no surrendering, accepting, understanding, it was just reality.  Kermit went last and had his merger with the godhead without any of the darkness that Don had to work through.  Feeling fortunate on the cosmic roulette wheel I counted my blessings and began preparing for my trip back to Hawaii.

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Hawaii

Hawaii was always a place of healing for me.  I see now the healing that paradisiacal world did for me.  I would climb this mountain behind our house.  Mount Olomana was literally right behind my house.  I would walk through my neighborhood up to my elementary school, through the cow pastures of the bad girls school and then straight up the mountain. I could climb the two and a half mile trail to the 1,643 foot top in an hour if I was going fast.  Coming down was even faster going complete George of the Jungle style, barefoot no less.  I figure best guess I’ve climbed the mountain over 50 times but more likely as many as 75.  What I figured on this last trip, the first ever to not climb the mountain, was that I used to do my therapy and vision questing up there.  I would climb up there by myself and meditate for hours.

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When I arrived on the first day I went straight to Lanikai beach, which couldn’t have been more than 100 yards from the front door of the place I was staying.  In the water, looking at the Mokulua Islands, I thought to myself about the difference between a memory or a picture of something and then encountering it in reality in real time.  I was in the water soaking myself in the mana, the spiritual power of place, the place that my roots where soaking in when I grew up here.  Just then a Blackhawk helicopter entered my consciousness over the islands.  It was like the universe was talking to me in that moment.  I thought those islands, this life, my flying that helicopter, this is all part of my creation program.  What a beautiful gift.  Thank you for my creation program.  May I operate it and program it to the best of my ability.  All those thoughts brought me to tears.

Fin

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I want to share with you two things.  The first is called the Ayahuasca Manifesto.  I had it but only read it after my recent ayahuasca experiences and it is an excellent explanation of the purpose of ayahuasca and its role in planetary healing.

Second is a very partial list of some traumatic events that I have experienced.  I want to share these mainly because I want to show what these plants combined with a spiritual practice can deliver in the way of healing and reintegration.

car accident with sister dying

almost getting struck by lightning

almost drowning at Bellows beach

car accident in Hawaii x 2

car accident in Alabama

house burned down, ex-military burglar and arsonist eventually committing suicide

Santa Cruz bodysurfing-stuck in the riptide-drowning

29 Palms Blackhawk-almost crashing in to power lines, and I must confess many, many other times flying helicopters almost crashing

car accident in Mississippi

other sexual trauma

you know family shit

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4 thoughts on “Trip Report: Mother Ayahuasca, Colorado Veterans, Conscious Cannabis Ceremony, Aspen NORML Legal conference, Bassnectar at Red Rocks, Ramadan, Toad Venom and a visit to back home to Hawaii or How I Lost 15 pounds in 2 months and kept it off

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About Ian Benouis

Ian Benouis is a West Point graduate, former Blackhawk helicopter pilot, US Army officer and combat veteran who participated in Operation Just Cause in the Republic of Panama. This operation was the largest combat operation in US history focused directly on the War on Drugs. He was a pilot-in-command and his aviation brigade flew more night vision goggle hours than any unit in the military except for the Task Force 160 Special Operations which his unit was ultimately rolled up into when the Fort Ord, California military base was shut down. Ian grew up in Hawaii in the 1970’s where cannabis was decriminalized and fully integrated in to the culture. He has been healing himself of trauma for over 25 years with sacred plants, a spiritual practice, and being a student and practitioner of ethnobotany. Ian was a pharmaceutical representative for Pfizer after he got out of the Army witnessing firsthand the meteoric rise of the SSRI’s and synthetic opioids in the early 1990’s. He is a casualty of the drug war having been busted for a friend’s cannabis while in law school. Ian is an intellectual property attorney who has been working in the corporate world for over 20 years in the primary roles of VP of Sales and Marketing and General Counsel. He is a political activist in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space nationally and locally in Texas. Ian was previously the Chairman of the Board for a public policy foundation in Texas for over seven years. Ian was featured in the Spike Jonze produced episode Stoned Vets on Weediquette the cannabis focused series on Viceland on HBO with a number of other veterans protesting the VA’s policy on medical cannabis and trying to end the veteran suicide epidemic. In 2016 Ian organized a trip for six veterans with PTSD to Peru in May for a 10-day plant diet including ayahuasca and other plant medicines with three Shipibo shaman brothers that are third generation plant medicine healers. Ian also took some of the same veterans to Mexico for treatment with iboga and 5-Meo-DMT. This experience was captured on video and was released as a documentary on March 2017 entitled Soldiers of the Vine. He is member of the team working on the movie From Shock to Awe a feature-length documentary that will chronicle the journeys of military veterans as they seek relief from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with the help of ayahuasca, MDMA and cannabis.