From a single seed planted, a garden is born – what seeds are you planting in your mind?
It’s been many years since I got drawn into the world of shamanism and plant medicine. Working and learning from indigenous people was and still is a privilege, I have loved every minute of it and proudly wear my Curandera Peruvian Shipibo Conibo name - Neten Biri.
The word “curandera” means "a female traditional healer". Curanderas often use even healthy and appropriate humor during sessions along with prayer, spiritual cleansing, and all sorts of ceremonies with or without plants, where the goal is to restore balance and harmony to the body, mind, emotions, and spirit of their patient. Curanderas never impose their will on another. Compassion, generosity, dedication to life-long learning, and commitment to the work — and all people, is the hallmark of the true curandera.
And do not get me wrong, while I completely fell in love with the work and the magic of the Amazonian jungle, I have also gone through cycles of denial, resistance, confusion, incredible fear, and illusion to deep unconditional love and clarity. It was and still is quite a process and journey, however, it is the most rewarding experience I could have asked for, especially in my role as a coach/therapist and a holistic shamanic practitioner.
What is plant medicine?
Our world is truly magical and has a natural remedy for anything, yes, anything! Our world is full of beauty, sustenance, and healing if you would just only open your eyes. We learned thousands of years ago that all our needs can be met by plants, animals, and all sorts of natural resources. And isn’t it incredible that some of these indigenous people have had the courage to mix and match, to chop and boil, trying all sorts of plants available, to find cures for helping others overcome illness or pain of any sort? They’ve even figured out that some of these plants expand the mind too and placed them at the heart of their spiritual traditions.
With their limited mind, they have discovered more power than any of us have discovered now, and how these plant medicines are capable of healing the mind, the body, and the soul. As we realize that what was once disregarded as superstition is actually based on multiple proven facts of human neurochemistry, physiology, and psychology, we are in many ways rediscovering this understanding through the lens of science. And we are still skeptical about it, go figure. We need more proof. I guess magic is hard to believe, for some people at least.
When people discuss plants as psychedelic remedies, they typically mean Psilocybin cubensis (magic mushrooms), Mescaline (Peyote and San Pedro), B. cappi, and chacruna (common constituent plants of the Amazonian brew Ayahuasca) or Ibogaine (Iboga). These plants have psychoactive and psychedelic properties that, when ingested, lead users on a deeply transformative inner journey that can profoundly expand awareness and change their life for the better. Stronger plant-based psychedelics like ibogaine and ayahuasca are anything but recreational because they usually cause extremely unpleasant physical side effects, which we refer to as "purging," like nausea and vomiting, as well as intense psychological distress or "ego death" during certain parts of the trip. This is a natural process of “shedding” everything that is no longer serving or helping you as in your human body, like traumas, ego masks, toxins, mental blockages etc.
The therapeutic benefit that results from these experiences, as well as the insightful and revelatory moments that arise, is extremely transformative and quite often ranks as one of the most significant spiritual experiences of a person's life. Thus this reason for why these plants are highly valued and treated with the utmost respect.
The potent psychedelic plant medicines also appear to be accelerating neurological and physical recovery. It has been demonstrated that both ibogaine and psilocybin start neurogenesis, or the generation of new brain cells, which is a crucial aspect of brain development in children but much less frequent in adults. Despite the fact that our knowledge of the importance of neurogenesis in adult brains is still limited, it appears to point once more to the existence of a physiological and scientific basis for the remarkable brain rewiring that both traditional cultures and contemporary proponents attribute to transformative psychedelic experiences.
Being in service for so long, I see such a large number of people suffering, walking unconsciously from one condition to another. These plants have shown promise in helping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opiate and nicotine addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, and depression.
What does a plant medicine facilitator, curandera, or shaman do?
Shaman is an ancient Evenki word (the language of the indigenous people of Siberia) that means, "one who sees," or, "one who knows the origin".
Shamans are highly spiritual humans who are believed to be visionaries and spiritual intermediaries and generally, they have a deep understanding of the human body and mind, medicinal herbs, and spiritual healing practices. Humans spend their lives in pursuit of connecting with the nature of the universe which also means that they have a desire to better perceive truth and ultimate reality.
Nowadays, facilitators or shamans are seen across the world, literally everywhere. And how wonderful! Generally, the abilities that they embody vary from person to person and culture to culture. Their capabilities can be:
Physical healing through knowledge of holistic natural medicines, pressure points, and meditation techniques.
Faith is healing through prayer, meditation, and miracles. This can manifest in supernatural healings which cannot be explained by science.
Mental and emotional therapy through insight into the patient's life, direction or guidance on important decisions, and consultation with nature or spiritual forces to help bring the patient to inner peace.
In contrast, shamanic ceremonies are all about facing one’s ego, and difficulties in a safe and supportive environment. Ingestion of these plants is taken very seriously and with a lot of respect and the ability to use them is now seen as a privilege. Facilitators create a safe physical environment, help participants think about their intention or goal for the ceremony, assist during the ceremony as needed, and help participants integrate the insights and lessons received during the ceremonies into their lives.
All is a mirror..a mirror of your Being. Smile and be happy, here, now. Neten
For more information about Plant Medicine, you can download the below document.