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  • Selva Lawler

#28 - The Bank of Ayni & Reciprocity

Ayni. If you've done our work, you know that the Quechuan term Ayni means reciprocity. In some places in Peru, Ayni is translated as, "Today for you, tomorrow for me." That order is highly instructive. Namely, offer something before you ask for something in return. Big offerings (eventually) beget big requests. Don Howard always emphasized that Ayni is a constant exchange, but it isn't about counting the beans. One of the reasons why I've always been a fan of Onnit and Aubrey Marcus is because they both believe in and practice reciprocity. If you're looking for cheap supplements, you likely won't be drawn to Onnit. (Parenthetically, if you're looking for the cheapest retreat center, SpiritQuest is not going to be your cup of tea. As Don Howard told me, "SpiritQuest is not interested in the K-Mart shoppers of plant medicine.") With respect to value, the quality of Onnit's products is extremely high. They use the best ingredients. They don't exaggerate the benefits of their products. When it comes to their supplements, they have an extremely liberal return policy. If you order an entry size Alpha Brain, take it, and think it sucks, you simply inform them of that (hopefully while not being a total a-hole!) and they'll immediately refund your money and you get to keep the product.  When I first heard about that policy, I thought that surely some unscrupulous types would take advantage of it. Some people undoubtedly have. On the other hand, I suspect far more people like me deeply appreciate how much of a pain it is to return something, and accordingly want to go out of their way to support an ethical company that is starting from an exceedingly generous position where they're giving you a no-risk proposition of testing out their product. Right from the jump, Onnit is running a positive balance in the Bank of Ayni.  It's an instructive example of how a mission-driven company led by a person like Aubrey (who absolutely reciprocates in everything) does its earnest best to, from the outset, give something greater than what they are receiving. And when that happens? People who appreciate that goodwill will want to return the favor and make a deposit in Onnit's Bank of Ayni. And guess what? Onnit will want to pay that kindhearted gesture forward. The scarcity and solipsistic model of "What's in it for me?" goes out the window and abundance abounds for everyone in the flow of the Ayni exchange.  Aubrey has been a huge supporter of Don Howard and of SpiritQuest. His message and authenticity have a real stickiness factor. When he tells his audience that he recommends a place like SpiritQuest, or produces two video documentaries about Ayahuasca and Huachuma at SpiritQuest, we greatly benefit. With all that Aubrey does for SpiritQuest - and I assure you it's a lot! - he is significantly in the black in the SpiritQuest Bank of Ayni. Aubrey created the Smiling Jaguar collection to show his support for his spiritual mentor, Don Howard, and to support SpiritQuest's continued mission. As Aubrey explains, "The Smiling Jaguar represents the understanding that when you are truly fearless like the jaguar, there is every reason to smile. You are free. It’s why Don Howard chose it as his own symbol, and it’s why that image is permanently tattooed on my right hand." Aubrey sent me a message to pass along in this newsletter to the SpiritQuest community. He describes a vision that he had during Huachuma, writing, "I remember riding on a boat with Don Howard, the last time I saw him at the Sanctuary. It was during the Earth mesada, and I was sitting behind him. I knew he didn't have too long left to live, and I started to cry. Without turning his head, he met me in the vision space. I heard his voice loud and clear. With that classic smile he said to me 'Where do you think I'm going hermano?' I smiled then, and I can still smile now. Because Don Howard is always with us.  The symbol of the Smiling Jaguar is a way for us to keep him in mind, as well as everything he stood for. The collection that bears his mark is as stylish as the Maestro himself, but represented through custom cut and sew fashion manufactured in Italy. Don Howard used to talk about a vision he had on Vilca where he would enter a room of masters, and be given the most incredible ceremonial robes made of stars and galaxies. These aren't quite that, but they are designed to help you keep the message of Para El Bien De Todos with you as you walk in daily life. A portion of all the proceeds will benefit SpiritQuest Sanctuary and the indelible legacy of the legend himself: Otorongo Blanco." The gear is really beautiful. If you'd like to support us, please go to and then scroll down and click on the Aubrey Marcus Capsule Collection to check out these stylish clothes.

We aim to give you the best, most rewarding, and most fulfilling SpiritQuest experience we possibly can. I constantly talk with our staff and Maestros about how we can optimize the participant experience. I consistently tweak and fine-tune my talks and style of doing things, especially when one of you provides me with a salient insight that I think is worth sharing with future groups.  We all set the gravity of our own planet, and at SpiritQuest, we genuinely do our best to put out authenticity, truth, integrity, value, and be of service. With that gravity comes a gravitational pull and a reciprocal force, and it's no surprise that we are like a magnet for attracting incredibly high-quality human beings. People that come to SpiritQuest are genuinely some of the most fascinating and impressive and "of service" people I've ever met. We're fortunate to have a very diverse and robust community, and it feels like we get back 10 fold, 100 fold, 1,000,000 fold in exchange for what we put out there. If you're truly dedicated to practicing reciprocity, the ROI in the Bank of Ayni is infinite.  I get a lot of messages from people, both during our retreats and afterward, who tell me, "I'd love to support what you're doing. How can I further support SpiritQuest and Don Howard's mission and vision?" Well, to be honest, apart from supporting the Smiling Jaguar collection, I thought of 6 other ways. I could think of a lot more, but 7 was Don Howard's special/lucky number, and sometimes less is more, so 7 ways seemed like a good start.  2. If You Feel Called, Return for More For people wanting more, two Don Howardisms come to mind. He used to say, "It only gets deeper," and "There's always more." Selva continues to masterfully lead our Huachuma ceremonies. Without creating undue expectations, but while also relaying candid feedback, the percentage of people who have shared in our group talking stick circles that the Selva Huachuma mesada was the best day of their life is staggeringly high. Many former SpiritQuest alums have told me how Selva so impeccably carries forward her father's Chavín Huachumero lineage, and all the while brings her own loving energy and pure heart to the mesada. One multiple time SpiritQuest grad remarked that he had never experienced the mesa pulsating with so much energy as the Selva mesada. (It doesn't hurt to have an assist from Don Howard from the Other Side.) If you thought that the Selva Huachuma experience would be a watered-down one, you thought...poorly. Meanwhile, Don Rober, Doña Eliana, and Don Carlos still belt out icaros at 2 in the morning. They love the work and at the end of the retreat always express how they can't wait for the next group to arrive.  After being mostly closed for a period of 1.5 years as Don Howard's health began to rapidly decline, we're proud to say that we've been hosting retreats each month for the last year. We've had multiple people come back for more. We're honored and humbled. With all thanks to the Great Spirit, we'll continue to listen to the plants. I have a friend who is an expert on automobile design. We were chatting about how the design of the Lexus SUV looks almost entirely the same as it did 20 years ago. That’s not because the makers of Lexus are lazy. It’s highly intentional. “Once you have a really good design,” he advised me, “you don’t screw with it.” At SpiritQuest, we're doing our best not to tinker with a proven, winning formula. The intelligent design and perfect engineering is all Don Howard's doing, so we're not messing around at all with that.  For those who want to do some more work...and it is indeed work!...there is always more, and it only gets deeper. We have retreats on our calendar scheduled through December of 2020, and we'll be adding some 2021 dates in the coming months.   3. Support Our Indigenous Friends We set up a GoFundMe to assist our indigenous neighbors and friends. Here's the link: Our indigenous neighbors live in abundance. While undoubtedly spiritually rich, they are not materially rich by many of our standards. I haven't performed a forensic accounting on their operations, but I can assure you that the amount of time that it would collectively take their whole tribe to net USD $100 is way, way longer than you might guess. (For many of you, I suspect earning $100 would take you a day, a few hours, or less.) During certain times of the year, our SpiritQuest group might be the only group to visit them that day. They have various projects - building or repairing malocas, school supplies for children, clothing needs, miscellaneous tools - for which they'd be eternally grateful for some financial assistance. Your donations can make a gigantic impact. A huge thank you for those of you who have recently donated. Thanks to your generosity, we generated over $1,000 in the last 2 weeks and would love to keep that positive trajectory going because there are a lot of fantastic projects that we can finance with your assistance. Perhaps our neighbors' kindness impacted you positively, or the way that they live life with an affluence mindset and a loving, open heart gave you a helpful blueprint and an indelible example to follow. Please consider donating and sharing this GoFundMe with others. 4. References or Referrals Are Grand! A few people have told me that they envision SpiritQuest being akin to Fight Club, with the first rule being that you don't talk about it. I'm not sure where they're getting that's not true! But for Aubrey and Amber Lyon talking so authentically and positively about their experience at SpiritQuest, I would have never made my way to the Sanctuary. I know I'm far from alone with that sentiment. It's not your obligation to be the spokesperson for SpiritQuest. You're not duty-bound to grab a megaphone and head down to the busiest street corner near your home to persuade others to come (in fact, please don't do that!). How much or how little or how zero you talk about your experience is totally up to you. We never want to come across as self-promotional, but to say that we don't genuinely appreciate it when other people toot our horn or mention what a transformative experience they had at SpiritQuest would be breathtakingly disingenuous. References and referrals mean the world to us! They are the lifeblood of our work. Having someone you know and/or you trust who can vouch for the integrity of a center (when sadly, so many other places cut corners and lack such integrity) is invaluable. It's priceless.  I get a huge Don Howard-esqe grin on my face when I see an email from a new person who mentions that a SpiritQuest grad told them about SpiritQuest which sparked the spark in them. That's when I know that the SpiritQuest fire rises!  5. Pass Along a Testimonial If you'd like to submit a SpiritQuest testimonial, please send it to me. We can use your first name or initials if you'd prefer rather not to leave your full name. Any kind of testimonial is wonderful, although we'd especially appreciate anyone who recently experienced a Selva-led Huachuma lifetime in a day and would be willing to write a little something about it. As I mentioned above, the number of people who told me that Selva delivered "absolutely, hands-down, the most incredible day of my life!" in our talking stick circles has been staggeringly high, so kindly consider memorializing this and sharing it with us so that others may benefit.  The length is completely up to you, but it needn’t be long. Several sentences or a couple of short paragraphs are phenomenal. It also doesn't have to one-up Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" or Churchill's “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”. Simply explain, in your own words, why you found the experience to be valuable. Send us a video directed by Christoper Nolan. A 20-second selfie YouTube-style video. A Haiku. A PowerPoint. Whatever medium floats your boat or finds your lost remote. 6. Pass Along a Memory of Maestro If you'd like to share a memory of Don Howard that we can insert in the Memories of Maestro section of our website, please pass it along. The ones we have are sensational and I'd love to add some new perspectives to the mix.  7. Be the Light Don't feel called to come back? Don't want to buy anything or send any funds to our indigenous friends? Don't want to write anything? That's fine! You're not persona non grata. We don't carry a resentment gene. Jane Goodall observed, "You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."   A recent SpiritQuest participant remarked how he came to the realization during Huachuma that the ceremony at SpiritQuest doesn't end when the candle gets lit around 2 in the morning for an Ayahuasca ceremony or when we exclaim "Para El Bien De Todos!" to adjourn a Huachuma mesada. His epiphanic moment was the realization that every day of our lives is a ceremony. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second is a gift. We're all on borrowed time merely trying to borrow a little more, so why not unwrap and celebrate all of the gifts we've received?  Pay that forward in your own unique way by being that light and being that positive example. Don't discount the effect of your upbeat demeanor and optimism. That light is going to attract other lights, with people striving to do their best who could use a positive example like yours to emulate.

Thank You! Don Howard told me several times that, "A lot of people talk a great game. That doesn't impress me. I like people that walk the talk." Reciprocity is rewarded, so wherever you stand in the world, consider paying it forward. Much gratitude and love, -Parker


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