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  • Selva Lawler

Nutritious & Delicious

Hey fam! I wanted to send an update sans words that rhyme with Jonah Cyrus. Given that we still haven't conducted any retreats since March, I decided to share a few reflections from an era that seems like it was several ages of the Earth ago. In fact, it was earlier this year. A SpiritQuest Huachuma mesada (ceremony) led by Selva, Don Howard's daughter and prodigy. Whereas Ayahuasca's popularity continues to skyrocket, Huachuma flies more under the radar. Huachuma deserves a way better PR person than yours truly. Aubrey Marcus and Mitch Schultz made a beautiful and authentic 45-minute video documentary about the SpiritQuest Huahuma experience that you can watch here. Working with Huachuma is like living, seeing, and experiencing a world without filters. Huachuma, among many other things, turns the volume up on all of your senses. Describing the whole experience would be too lengthy for these purposes. There's a good reason Don Howard said that Huachuma is like living a lifetime in a day. I'll pick up the story from the point in the day when we concluded the first part of the ceremony and took a boat ride to visit our indigenous friends, the Alamas tribe. Don Howard always advised SpiritQuesters that having a soundtrack to listen to on the boat is a value-add. I pull up my Huachuma Boat Ride playlist. I chuckle as I instruct Spotify to randomly play the songs. I enjoy being surprised. Plus, the order of the songs never feels random. To the contrary, it seems extremely methodical. The songs feel like they're playing in a perfectly constructed order designed exactly for me.  Even if you've listened to a song a million times, on Huachuma listening to a song feels like an entirely novel experience. The meaning behind the song becomes so much more clear. The lyrics speak to you in a way that they never have before. On Huachuma, you have a heightened sense of the energetic connection with whatever energies in your setting that are present, including sounds and music. You have a much deeper sense for what the songwriter or the band wish to express. Noise-canceling earbuds or headphones are worth every cent.  The difference between Huachuma and other plant medicines is that Huachuma is a highly active teacher. Huachuma commands presence. When you are fully immersed in the present moment, life is truly blissful. As one recent SpiritQuest participant stated, "on Huachuma, each moment is delicious." As my friend Martin clarified to me, the Selva Huachuma experience is a parade of infinite delicious and nutritious present moments. Cheetos or Double Stuff Oreos may be considered by some folks to be delicious. Under no sane definition are they nutritious. The Selva Huachuma experience is no empty calorie affair.  We hop off the boats and walk a few minutes to the village of the Alamas. Unlike some of our other local indigenous friends, who receive visits from various tourist groups, SpiritQuest is the only group that visits the Alamas.  I come bearing a few gifts, including a handful of soccer balls and bouncy balls that I bought at the Iquitos mall. If your heart isn't completely closed off, you would make that exchange every time. I also give the tribal leader, Delicia, a considerable donation from SpiritQuest's GoFundMe. The tribe is using the funds to repair their maloca (ceremonial building), which is in a sad, pathetic state. The arts and crafts that each family makes and sells are carefully displayed. Each one of them is infused with so much heart. I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't buy something from each family, so I embark on a shopping spree.  Our group shares some laughs. The synergy of this group of participants is spectacular. There are some real kindred spirits in this group. It reminds me of a passage in a book, which states: "Kindred spirits share a mutuality of being. Kinship is experienced as an inner solidarity of souls. Kinswomen and kinsmen are mystically dependent on one another. They belong to one another, because they see themselves as members of one another." That definitely resonates.  An ice cream vendor approaches the village. Unquestionably, the right move is to buy frozen treats for the whole tribe. I buy virtually everything in his cart. Amounting to a whopping $6, the satisfaction of supplying ice cream to the whole tribe is undoubtedly the best ROI on anything I've ever purchased. "It's better to give than to receive" might sound like a trope that you'd read in a Hallmark card, but on Huachuma when you practice that, you feel that confirmation in every cell of your body. Reciprocity is rewarded. Pay that forward, and it comes back to you a million fold.  Huachuma harkens back so many people to being a kid. And as a kid, you can't forget to play. Be light. Dance. Exude happiness. Have fun. Channeling my inner kid. I pretend to be the most inept soccer goalie ever who has ever drawn a breath. I must be the only soccer goalie in history with a 0% save percentage. The kids score on me left and right. "GOLLLLLLLL!" I instruct them that they have to add a cool celebration at the end of every goal, and they happily oblige.  I feel grateful for my physical vessel. I realize how quickly I can dive to the ground. How lucky am I to be so healthy! You can't spiritually bypass the human, and having this army of 37.2 trillion cells that is so supportive is criminally underrated.  The opening movements of Huachuma can sometimes feel like a gentle feather. There are periods when the experience is so powerfully gentle. Don Howard asserted that on Huachuma, "reality is the vision and vision is the reality." You don't need any kind of pyrotechnics. You experience everything without any kind of filter and harmonize everything around you. You recognize how beautiful and interconnected everything in life is. Some alone time on Huachuma is a wise idea. The group is doing spectacularly well. I'm a hard grader, but we have some highly attentive students in this group. No one is in need of a babysitter or a "Huachuma bouncer" intervention. I branch off from the group and make my way to a local stream.  The real magic comes in paying very close attention to the subtleties in Huachuma. Heed the subtleties on Huachuma, and all of a sudden they aren’t the least bit subtle. The subtleties turn into supernovas. I gaze at one particular leaf of a tree and am awestruck by the celestial beauty in it. This leaf, like everything in nature, has such divine engineering. "Intelligently designed? Of course there's intelligent design!", I say to myself. I get quiet. Very still. A message comes to me: "The currency of the Cosmos is love." There's no way I'm clever enough to have come up with that. It felt like it was channeled through me or I tapped into it. On Huachuma, you don't simply intellectualize things. Rather, you somatically feel them in every nook and cranny of your being. Blasts of love caress me all over. The sense of time evaporates. Full immersion in the present moment is such absolute bliss. Time doesn't just dilate. It ceases to exist. The sense of time doesn't even make sense. As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated. But Father Time is undefeated with an asterisk, because with Grandfather Huachuma, you can battle Father Time to a draw. You get to legitimately live and experience that lifetime in a day. I reunite with the group. One of my best friends is connecting with the pure Pachamama energy of one of SpiritQuest's staff members. They hold hands (remember when holding hands with someone was a thing we routinely would do without any sense of foreboding?) and a surge of Mother Earth energy rips through him. The connection they forge by merely holding hands is ineffably profound. I'm not saying it would be impossible to mimic this experience and obtain a heightened sense of connection without Huachuma, but I'd have no clue where to even start on cultivating that kind of awakening. It would be Mission: Very, Very Difficult.  The whole group assembles, and we listen to a speech by the leader of the Alamas, Delicia. It's a five-minute speech in the Quechua language about the history of her tribe. I don't speak a lick of Quechua, and neither does anyone else in our group, but she's such a powerful storyteller that we seemingly understand the meaning and sentiment behind every word. It's unbelievably impactful. The Amazon Rubber Boom was not a boom to the indigenous communities in the Amazon. The science of man's violence is all too apparent. As the Chief explains, a buffet of slavery and atrocities were unleashed on these loving, peaceful communities, and a few ancestors of the Alamas tribe thankfully escaped that horror show and fled to this remote jungle village. The Alamas radiate such goodness. Despite having virtually zero material possessions, they live in abundance. External economic forces have been and continue to be unspeakably cruel to them. It was tough to hold back tears after seeing how they have craved to live a simple life (and the extreme beauty that exists in that simplification of life) and how they were forced off their land and faced brutal oppression. Taking this all in on any normal day would be gutwrenching enough, but on Huachuma this feels heartbreaking on so many levels. Even to this day, as refugees on a small patch of dirt, the tribe merely seek a few dollars for some repairs for their ceremonial maloca. What any one of our group makes in a day far exceeds what they collectively earn in a month. All they ask for is a simple, communal life connected to nature. It's all so intense and massively messed up. It hits me like a tsunami. Several members of our group feel the weight of this impactful lesson. If any person couldn't feel genuine compassion for their plight, I think to myself, they must be a complete psychopath. Huacuma comes at you in waves. The Alamas are so kindhearted that their loving energy is an unstoppable force, and the heaviness of this moment abates. We buy some more trinkets. We share some food and drink. The children demand that the world's worst soccer goalie report for duty once again, and I gladly play along. The sun begins to set. It's time to say our goodbyes. We head back to the boats. Once in the boats, the water starts to literally leap out of the river onto our boat. It's totally alive. I lend my noise-canceling headphones to Reyna, Selva's mother. While she's amazed with the cutting edge technology (and it is astonishingly impressive), today I find myself far more enchanted with the sounds of the jungle as our boat cruises at a leisurely 15 mph. It's an orchestra of thousands of insects and animals that are overpoweringly singing their song. Mother Nature's soundtrack can sometimes blow away even the most epic of Spotify playlists. Yacumama – what we call the Mother Spirit of the Water – has some remarkably charged spirit to her, particularly in the Amazon. If someone didn't perceive that today…they weren't paying close enough attention. Water can be powerfully gentle, or gently powerful, or straight-up powerful. Very similar to Huachuma. I feel like I've got Don Howard on line 1. I connect with him and remark: Me: "You know that I love you, Don Howard. But Maestro, I have to most respectfully and yet most earnestly report that Selva is somehow better than you at this. I'm not sure how that's possible, but those are my candid thoughts." Don Howard: "She is better than me! You can quote me on that."  Once we return to the Sanctuary, well...the plot thickens some more. In the interest of keeping this a somewhat readable email, and not a dissertation, I'll leave it there for today.  There's an adage that sometimes if you don't toot your own horn, there's no music. At SpiritQuest we don't want to be self-promotional. We find it all the more powerful when others sing our praises. A few SpiritQuest grads who each worked with Huachuma with Don Howard several times expressed how the experience felt even more enhanced, and the medicine even more powerful, than their mesadas with Don Howard. In highlighting some observations from members of our group, they shared the following:

  • Selva managed to level up the SpiritQuest Huachuma experience.

  • That was the best day of my life. I laughed for the first time in forever. What a life-changing experience! I'm not the same person I was prior to this experience.

  • I felt like I was attending a wedding. A matrimony with my truest and highest self. 

  • Selva is a prodigy. The world became so much more magical and alive. I felt like a kid on a kindergarten school trip.

  • The reconnection with water was profound. I recognized how many of the best experiences in my life have involved water.

  • SpiritQuest is the best-kept secret on Planet Earth. How has this not gone viral? Parker said Selva was extraordinary, but he undersold her. I sensed how proud Don Howard is of Selva. I felt like I was able to completely remove my head for the first time. I'll need to write an autobiography of today's experience because it was such a lifetime lived in a single day.

  • This was the most sacred thing I've ever been a part of, and as a midwife, I constantly deliver babies! The more I gave, the more that came back to me. 

  • The options for appreciation are limitless. I learned more in a day than in 30+ years of my life. Coming from a background where violence and hate were such constants in my life, I was able to feel at peace for the first time in my life.

Don Howard noted that most people will never quite be the same after the SpiritQuest Huachuma experience. Why is that? He explained that once you realize the true magnitude of what’s going on around you, that definitely sticks. That has real staying power.  To be continued. After all, as Don Howard famously remarked, "it only gets deeper." I'll look forward to that day when we can resume this work, whenever that may be. 


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