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  • Selva Lawler

#8 - Todos Somos Una Familia

We take the work at SpiritQuest Sanctuary incredibly serious, but we don't always take ourselves super seriously. don Rober and I have a longstanding joke whenever I check in with him at the Ayahuasca kitchen on the morning before our Mapacho ceremony. I’ll say to him, “What’s cooking, Maestro?” He looks at me with a half-perplexed, half-amused face 🤔😆, responding, “La medicina. Que mas?” Translation: “The medicine, what else?”

Following this exchange, I inform don Rober that the group is going to visit the kitchen shortly. He frequently answers saying, “Sí, hermanito. Es un placer. Todos somos una familia.” Meaning: "Yes, little brother. It’s a pleasure. We are all a family."

I’ve come to learn that when don Rober says, "Todos somos una familia," he isn’t just talking about his wife, doña Eliana, and his son, don Carlos. Nor is he confining the scope of that familia to merely the SpiritQuest participants and the workers at the Sanctuary. If you think don Rober’s sense of family stops at humanity as a whole, you're still not contemplating a big enough picture, and similar to how Eames instructs Arthur in the movie Inception“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling!” There’s virtually no limit to that definition of family: humans, insects, animals, plants, spirits of all the above, entities from a parallel universe, that funky purple part-human/part-emoji/part-doctorcita/part-lizard entity with wings and four heads that you encountered during one of our ceremonies. Channeling that heart consciousness, don Rober views us all as one family. What a beautiful way to succinctly articulate the oneness of which we are all a part. 

How remarkable to think that four words - todos somos una familia - convey such a powerful message. It’s akin to the iconic five words that constitute our mission statement at the Sanctuary: “Para el bien de todos!” For the good of all! 

SpiritQuest has a lot of interchangeable names. The Sanctuary. Jedi Training Academy. The Amazonian Hogwarts. The don Howard University of Higher Consciousness. 

One of the favorites names I’ve heard the Sanctuary referred to comes from my hermano Paul, who at times calls it The School of Hard Knocks. (He also has labeled himself as a "SpiritQuest Taste Tester", which causes me to chuckle.) The master sacred teacher healer plants have a way of “schooling” all of its students. Said schooling has been known to take the form of a loving bash on the head - or in my case, numerous lovingly hard knocks on my noggin as I initially fail to grasp the takeaways from the lessons - to ram the point home. Many times we ourselves are the ones self-inflicting the bludgeoning. 

This scene from Fight Club may resonate with you on some level:

Lou [after punching Tyler Durden]: Do you hear me now? Tyler: No, I didn't quite catch that, Lou. [Lou hits Tyler again]  Tyler: Still not getting it. [Lou continues to kick Tyler's rear end]  Tyler: Ok, I got it. Shoot, I lost it. [Lou continues to pulverize Tyler] 

I'm not one to celebrate gratuitous smacks to the head. If that's a repeated practice, you may be practicing the wrong thing. On the other hand, perhaps that’s all a necessary part of our own path of learning. Sometimes it takes heaping servings of reinforcement combined with some failures along the way for the lesson to deeply sink in. 

All of the work that we cultivate at SpiritQuest requires patience, surrender, courage, self-love, love for others, and the secret (or not so secret) ingredient: self-compassion. The more we quiet our minds and get into our hearts, the more accelerated ways in which we level up. 

Paul has learned his lessons extremely well from the plants. He has a truly brilliant mind, which can be both an asset and a liability with our work if the mind is not properly tamed. In sharing some of his eloquent words on that topic, he has written that, “My knowledge, though satisfying an inner desire to know, means squat. Compared to a simpleton with an open heart and a cup overflowing with Love, knowledge of the highest order is minuscule. It’s all about Love and if you can Love unconditionally, then that’s all you need to know. To put it bluntly, the dullest of dullards who has an open heart and freely offers Love is infinitely wiser than the brainiest Einstein among us who remains closed off from connecting with others.”

How fitting, and what a genuine honor it was, to have Paul rejoin our circle with this past group along with other new recruits! All of the groups that have visited the Sanctuary this year have been sensational, and our latest group was no exception. I could write a lengthy book about the things that I learned from this past group. In so many ways, I was the apprentice and they were the maestros.

I’ll share two salient stories. One of our seekers had an amazing vision in la medicina as he sensed everything breathing as one. Team People + Team Insects + Team Plants + Team Earth + Team Universe + Team Parallel Universe + Team Multiverse + Team Funky Purple Part-Human/Part-Emoji/Part-Doctorcita/Part-Lizard Entity with Wings and Four Heads...all inhaling and exhaling in perfect unison. With one heart, beating as one. And then, to top that off, the entire maloca got in on the action and started breathing together with everybody else. Everything constituting its own unique facet of this giant superorganism that we’re all an integral part of, breathing in glorious synchronicity as one. I’m not going to forget that image anytime soon. It's scorched onto my retinas and I hope it never leaves.

don Howard remarks that “warriors’ hearts beat as one." I always thought that with that expression, he is identifying special humans that are in this grand adventure together, with bonds strong as steel forging a fellowship with other kindred spirit warriors serving the greatest good of all. But I clearly wasn’t dreaming big enough, darling. Warriors transcend humans, and it's not only the hearts of humans that beat as one.  

The second vignette stems from a participant that had a vision of pure connectivity. As the Sanctuary is located in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest, spider webs periodically grow around the property. The jungle swallows the Sanctuary if we don't meticulously and frequently maintain and clean it. Although our staff constantly wipes away those spider webs multiple times a day, they organically keep popping back up. Although spiders don’t like to reside in the bedrooms, something about the Bridge to Eternity often tickles their fancy. Throughout the retreat, we had at least one unrelenting spider that kept spinning a highly impressive and complex web every day. While our workers would repeatedly and dutifully wipe the spider web clean, this undaunted spider was not to be denied, and kept resiliently weaving its web. 

Getting back to the vision, this person had a realization of the interconnectedness of every person at the Sanctuary, and witnessed threads of spider webs forming between the other members of our group and him. Spider webs were also forming between the Maestros and him, and the room quickly transformed into a massive spider web. Not only was he feeling the oneness and unity in all of that, he additionally felt a web forming between other previous kindred spirits that have visited the Sanctuary who previously sat in his spot in the maloca. Connecting all of the dots and webs in this revelation, he basked in a radiant sense of connectivity. He understood that this spider web's reach completely exceeded its grasp, and had spun and continues to spin a web connecting across infinite dimensions without any end in sight. 

How fitting that during the retreat, I received a message from an hermano who wrote me, “That feeling of connection and love with the people you share the maloca with is probably similar to what a soldier feels with his brothers in arms. The courage to show up with an empty cup seeking truth and facing confrontation. The opportunity to share and show vulnerability is such an important aspect of SpiritQuest that’s really neglected in modern society. As a graduate - or more appropriately, currently enrolled student  of the don Howard University of Higher Consciousness - the responsibility is to bring those lessons forward to wherever one stands in the world.”

Both the image of the collective SpiritQuest spider web and the message from that SpiritQuest alum brought me to tears. Similar to people that do the trabajo at the Sanctuary and are rewarded with "Ah ha!" moments, I had a moment of epiphany as well. It’s as if the feats of audacious desire from all of the members of the SpiritQuest network have been sewn into the tapestry of the maloca and the historical narrative of SpiritQuest. The web that we're all weaving will never stop aggressively expanding. Armed with an endless supply of silk extruding from our spinnerets, we weave unquantifiably large, complex, and majestic webs of all different shapes and sizes across multiple dimensions. This spider web is one that no broom can ever eradicate. don Howard’s life’s work and vision is like a bolt of lighting that has electrified the entire world. And each one of us has offered our own creative contribution to that indelible spider web and continue to add to it in a way that only each one of us can. 

I’ll share one final passage from Paul's writings, as he stated that, “There are infinite paths that lead to Love and none are the dogmatic, correct way. To get there, the path you choose to travel must have heart. But if it doesn't, and you fall down, The Great Mother will be there to forgive, forget, and help you back up.” His awe-inspiring words remind me of the scene in Batman Begins where Alfred instructs young Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall, Master Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up." 

Paul and I first met at the Sanctuary almost four years ago. Neither of us left the Sanctuary gifted with the Midas Touch. Far from it. That isn't, nor will it ever be, in the cards. We’ve had our downs. Obstacles along the path. Setbacks. Disappointments. Failures. Encountering all of those things in life are a cosmic, metaphysical certainty. But we’ve come to a place where we’re supremely grateful for everything that's happened to us, everything in our lives, and recognize that we’re each on our own particular path of learning. While we'll never know every step of the journey - nor would we want to, as what's the fun in that! - we feel that we have momentum, a positive trajectory, and are passionate about walking our own path with heart. 

Paul was a positive chacaruna - the Quechuan term for bridge person - to the new recruits at the Sanctuary. One of our new summa cum laude graduates went through pure hell in his second ceremony. Paul had some heartfelt and meaningful conversations with him, as Paul had been there before. Our work can, at times, bring to the surface an inherent darkness in us all, and so many of us have gone through our own version of visiting that demonic place. In the trailer for The Force Awakens, a voice provides that: “There has been an awakening? Have you felt it? The dark side…and the light.” We all have our own interpretation of what our own heaven and hell looks like. We all have our own shadow self and our own force for good. With Paul providing an assist, this person climbed his way out of that inferno. This new alum left the Sanctuary with a beaming, undeniable light that could illuminate the planet, and however he continues to expand upon that brightness will provide incredible healing for humanity and Mother Earth. 

The newest grads departed from SpiritQuest fully armed with a playbook and an extreme enthusiasm to start writing the next chapter in their own Book of Life. They will be positive characrunas for others in their own lives. That’s huge! So many people become inspired when they see that person around them being that positive example. Being that light. Being that model for what they want the world to become. Being that best version of themselves. Being superior to their former selves. Or simply being. All of this is highly contagious and has a positive, radiation effect.

While I’d like to highlight our Instagram (give us a follow!), or get a few additional testimonials for the new website (they can be anonymous or we can use your initials if that helps; and many thanks for those that have submitted one to me!), reemphasize upcoming retreat dates, or provide a reminder to let me know if anyone from SpiritQuest isn’t on these emails so that I can plug them in to these infrequent updates, I won't water down the message. We don't water down our medicine. All of our recent alums commented that on the last night of their cycle of Ayahuasca, the constitution of the medicine seems indistinguishable from sludge. It’s almost physically impossible to drink. And yet when people muster the fortitude to do so, that's when the most valuable lessons are learned.

Upon further reflection, why shouldn't I embrace being a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks? It takes courage to keep getting off the mat and having a willingness to absorb another blow. I once wrote to a friend that I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. She replied, “I'm impressed with your degree from the School of Hard Knocks! If only we were all privileged enough to attend. I went to Naive University and majored in idealism."

Naive University with a major in idealism? Sounds like an enlightened place to me. Sure, there are plenty of reasons to be an inveterate skeptic. Humanity has our share of unsavory types. It's the special ones - like the SpiritQuest grads - that make me optimistic that humanity will eventually get it right. All of you deeply motivate me to be the best version of myself and convince me that life is amazing. I'm anteing up, so deal me in. The next item on my to-do list may be to enroll at Naive University and study idealism. 😁😁

Many times less is more. Peyote taught me that lesson back in October, but time and time again I've failed that course. Time for me to reregister for that class at either the don Howard School of Hard Knocks or Naive University! 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♂️

don Rober is certainly on to something when he says, “Todos somos una familia.” That really says it all, doesn’t it?

Much love, familia! 💚💚💚 -Parker


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