• sqsanctuary

#24 - There's Always More



(Quick initial note for people receiving this e-newsletter for the first time: I've recently connected with a number of you, and if you wanted to read the previous update, or any other update, they are temporarily hosted here and will be part of the new biopark.org website shortly.)

Sixteen days have passed since Don Howard transitioned from his body. The world hasn't stopped spinning on its axis. Last time I checked, a lunar month remains at 29.53 days. It is a cosmic, metaphysical certainty that the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west.

SpiritQuest represents a quest towards what might be seen as the culmination of Don Howard's life's work. And that work continues. As Don Howard previously said, "I am still going to be at SpiritQuest in spirit. SpiritQuest will be exactly the same - there's not going to be any qualitative difference in SpiritQuest. Regardless of whether I am physically present at the Sanctuary or not, my life’s work is still there. And all of the SpiritQuest family is carrying my work forward - both when they are at the Sanctuary and after people depart from the Sanctuary in the example they set in their lives." 

The Byrds in the song "Turn Turn Turn" emphasize how we have to ultimately reconcile contrasting emotions and feelings. That there's a time to laugh, and a time to weep. A time to build up, a time to break down. A time to dance, a time to mourn. A time to gain, a time to lose. The only constant as Father Time keeps on ticking is, as the Byrds highlight, that the season and everything will turn. The only constant is change. The only constant is the fluidity of each and every fleeting moment.

When it comes to a time to mourn or a time to weep for somebody special like Don Howard, there's no bright-line formula. There's no algorithm that spits out a perfect period of time commensurate with the degree of whatever indelible impact that the person made. I know a few things about metrics and big data coming from the startup world and tech space, however, there is no way that you could ever quantify those items with a fixed number.

It's been an honor to connect with a number of you who I didn't previously know who have written me such kindhearted messages about Don Howard. I know that life can seem unjust or cruel due to the fact that he isn't physically around, and some of you who have voiced those frustrations to me...believe me, I get it. If there are words to provide some solace as to that piece, I'm not nearly a gifted enough writer to articulate them. 

I would only suggest that it may be worth bearing a thought to fully consider, as you understandably process the sadness with other emotions, how much Don Howard had been experiencing excruciating pain and suffering these last several years, and especially the last handful of months. 

He had a rare blood cancer in Amyloidosis. There's no effective treatment for Amyloidosis. He underwent chemotherapy at The Mayo Clinic, and chemo completely wiped him out. There was absolutely no way his body could have taken another round of chemo. 

Don Howard had kidney failure and experienced many other painful physiological setbacks. Due to the increased amyloid production, he developed painful carpal tunnel in both of his arms and hands. His joints were stiff and sore. His body got ridiculously itchy. There were times where he would, seemingly out of nowhere, scream out in pain when a part of his body would flare up with extreme intensity. It was almost like an invisible person would periodically and indiscriminately bludgeon him with a baseball bat in random parts of his body. I can't express how excruciatingly difficult it was to witness this.

Sleeping became a real challenge for him. The last few months, he had major, major difficulties breathing. For anyone who has ever been choked out in jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts, or if you've ever held your breath underwater for a really long period of time...make no mistake about it: having your air supply shut off is a terrifying feeling. He perpetually dealt with that sensation. It was heartbreaking to see him in the state that he was in, incredibly weak and at times gasping for air. Talking even became problematic, and he would become completely gassed out after a five-minute conversation.   

In his last several months, Don Howard had zero physical strength in any part of his body from the waist down. His legs and feet essentially were shut off. He told me that an eight-foot walk from his bed (he was almost 100% bedridden the last handful of months except for his dialysis appointments) to his bathroom felt like a journey of 1,000 miles, and he'd need to put on his "Good Coach" hat and motivate himself with a 30-minute pep talk prior to doing it. He told me and many others that climbing one flight of stairs after dialysis felt as daunting as scaling Mount Everest. 

He's in a much better place now. While I so miss his physical presence, I do my best not to forget the immense physical pain that he experienced in the last few years. Consider including the state of his physical health and the quality of life (or lack thereof) these last handful of months - and even last several years - in the overall calculus of his physical passing. Don't nonchalantly sweep that under the rug. If you do that, and accurately assess his incredibly low quality of life with no remotely realistic chance of improvement, in many ways his passing was a real blessing.

I can, with a high degree of confidence, convey that Don Howard wouldn't want a period of mourning or weeping for him to be overly prolonged. 

And as for SpiritQuest, Don Howard wanted the work to continue. That much is not mere speculation. Don Howard communicated that to me repeatedly. He also wanted everyone he knew to be happy. To be optimistic. To be empowered. He would tell groups when they left the Sanctuary that "All of you have got the torch now!", and he meant exactly that.

I was not present for the August 2018 group, which was the last retreat that he conducted. A number of members of that group have messaged me and described how there was a clear, passing-of-the-torch moment of his role in leading the Huachuma mesadas to Selva at the end of that retreat. By all accounts, it was palpable and profoundly moving to witness.

Fast forward to our September 2019 group. The mesada that Selva conducted received impeccable reviews from the entire Huachuma group of 17 people. There is no doubt that this gave Don Howard a tremendous amount of comfort. When I informed him about Selva's performance, or read to him different testimonials and written thoughts from others in that group, he flashed that enormously proud, smiling jaguar-esque trademark Don Howard smile. It's the same, beaming, proud papa smile that he'd give you when you stood at the altar when Don Rober would be in the midst of pouring la medicina. The kind of smile that's cartoonishly big, and you wonder how he could even physically be capable of such a large cheek-to-cheek grin. The kind of smile in which it's not possible to smile even the tiniest bit more. 

I believe Don Howard battled and endured for as long as he could, and once he got confirmation as to both of those items with the August 2018 group and the September 2019 group, that was massively significant to him and gave him much needed relief. I could be wildly off base on that, but something in me senses I'm not missing the boat. Don Howard additionally mentioned to many people that he envisioned dying on the day of a Huachuma mesada. That was how he wanted to go, and was how he was meant to go, and sure enough, on the morning of a Huachuma mesada, that's how he went.

The broader takeaway is that Don Howard's work is continuing, and he was genuinely enthusiastic that we would be doing more work. He would politely correct people when they would tell him that they wanted "his mission" to continue following his death. He would say to those people, "It's not my mission. It's our mission." I'll leave it to you as to who we meant by "our", but if you need a hint, construe that "our" very, very broadly. And then multiply that by the largest number you can conjure up.

Don Howard would often say, "There's always more." There's always more is such an insightful phrase that Moana wound up stealing it! (Sensational song and movie, though!) The lyrics to this part of the song "More" in Moana speak to me:

"She always knew more She hungered for more She taught me more And somehow I know She'd want me to go

To navigate, you have to keep your island in your mind You'll know what lies ahead if you remember what's behind you Want to find the answers to the questions that you still don't know? You just have to go Find more I wanna know more There's always more."

On a slightly more advanced, Don Howard University of Higher Consciousness way of thinking about it, Don Howard once remarked, "Work with sacred plant teacher-healers is the freest form of human spiritual consciousness, and also one of the most advanced. It’s unconfining. You accept what you experience. And there's no end to it. It's an open-ended process for as long as you want to pursue it. That's the beauty of it; there's really no end to it."

Sometimes less is more. Given how long my written diatribes are, I'd give myself an exceedingly generous D-/F+ with respect to integrating the "less is more" lesson. Sometimes a modest size helping is more. And sometimes more is more. Only you can know that. There's always more.

It's in that vein that I hope the following doesn't come across as overly self-promotional, but it is newsworthy and I've therefore included at the bottom of this update a schedule of our retreat dates through December of 2020. Our team met late last week and we finalized all of these dates. Starting in February, we will have (1) retreats for people that would like to work with both Ayahuasca and Huachuma; (2) retreats for people that would only like to work with Ayahuasca; and (3) retreats for people that would only like to work with Huachuma. Vilca will not be among our offerings, nor do we anticipate reintroducing Vilca. 

Sometimes when you don't toot your own horn, there's no music. The right balance is doing so in a way that is both humble and proud. Don Howard would say how it's not mutually exclusive to be both humble and proud. 

Don Rober fully sensed Don Howard's finite remaining time as Don Howard's condition continued to fade. Don Rober asked me if we would continue the work without Don Howard being around. When I told him we would, his face lit up, and he exclaimed, "Adelante!" (meaning Forward!). I responded, "Vamos!" (meaning, Let's go!)

Don Rober is excited to be of more service, as are Doña Eliana and Don Carlos. Selva is excited for more. The rest of our staff is excited for more. And I'd be breathtakingly disingenuous if I didn't express that I'm excited for more. We could put a moratorium on our work, sulk around with a dour demeanor, and wear black for some unspecified time. Or we could roll up our sleeves, and move and shake, head up and heart forward. I firmly know that's what Don Howard wanted, and it's an honor to be a tiny piece of the continued Para El Bien De Todos! unfolding at the Sanctuary.

In a Parker V. Sherry: Master of the Obvious Observation: the work at SpiritQuest is definitely work! We would never want anybody to come for the first time that wasn't willing to openly embrace and tilt your lance at highly challenging work. Similarly, we would never want anyone to return who didn't feel a legitimate calling to do more work. 

In short, there's always more. Now you know. The rest is up to you.

A few final notes:


  • Many of you sent me beautiful, poignant, and deeply touching written reflections about Don Howard. My good friend Jourdan had a phenomenal recommendation that we devote a page on the new website and call it Memories of Maestro to honor Don Howard's legacy and the impact that he made on so many people. For those of you who would like to submit anything, you have carte blanche to share whatever you'd like. It could be one piece of advice that he gave you that stood out, a particular epiphanic moment when he sparked the spark in you, or an overall reflection on his life's work. It could be a couple of sentences or a couple of pages. It could be a YouTube video. A song. A poem. The best way to send your submission is to simply reply to this email or email me at sq.sanctuary@gmail.com


  • A number of you asked me what you could do to help Don Howard's family during this trying time. Two things come to mind. First, a group of Don Howard's closest friends established a GoFundMe in which the donations are going to pay for some final medical expenses that Don Howard incurred with the remainder going to his family. I'm not sure how much longer we will keep this campaign up and running, so if you're looking to make a donation, now would be the time to do so. Here is the GoFundMe link: https://gf.me/u/vsiunj


  • Second, my good friend Zerin and his company XPAND are offering several hats and a shirt with the smiling jaguar logo that are available here: https://www.xpandyourself.com/apparel  100% of the proceeds are being donated to Don Howard's loving family. I've heard from a number of you who don't know Zerin at all personally but have raved about the high quality of the materials and how nice the items are to wear. Please consider giving the XPAND website a visit and supporting Don Howard's family through the purchase of some beautiful gear.


All the love, -Parker


FUTURE SPIRITQUEST RETREAT DATES


Late November – December Retreats

  • November 30 - December 8, 2019: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • November 30 - December 10, 2019: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (1 Huachuma ceremony)

​Late January – Early February Retreats

  • January 24 - February 1, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • January 24 - February 3, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (1 Huachuma ceremony)

February Retreats

  • February 14-27, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • February 14-22, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • February 22-27, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

March Retreats

  • March 13-26, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • March 13-21, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • March 21-26, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

April Retreats

  • April 3-16, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • April 3-11, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • April 11-16, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

​May Retreats

  • May 1-14, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • May 1-9, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • May 9-14, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (2 Huachuma ceremonies)

June Retreats

  • June 12-27, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • June 12-20, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • June 20-27, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

July Retreats

  • July 4-19, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • July 4-12, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • July 12-19, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

Late August – Early September Retreats

  • August 22 - September 6, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • August 22-30, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • August 30 - September 6, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

September – Early October Retreats

  • September 19 - October 4, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • September 19-27, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • September 27 - October 4, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

October – Early November Retreats

  • October 17 - November 1, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • October 17-25, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • October 25 - November 1, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

November Retreats

  • November 7-22, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • November 7-15, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • November 15-22, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

Late November – December Retreats

  • November 28 - December 13, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants + Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

  • November 28 - December 6, 2020: Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants

  • December 6-13, 2020: Huachuma Mesada Initiation (3 Huachuma ceremonies)

Warriors' Hearts Beat As One

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The Premier Traditional Ayahuasca And Huachuma Healing Center Near Iquitos, Peru Since 1995.

¡Para El Bien De Todos!

© 2020 Choque Chinchay Journeys E.I.R.L.