Photos, Artwork, & Musings on Life, Spirit, Entheogens, Time, & Travel

Posts tagged “travel

Sacred Land ~ Sacred Journey

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[Click any image to enlarge to full size]

I will be soon returning to the wondrous landscapes of the Four Corners region here in the US, especially to the sacred, sculpted redlands of southeastern Utah. I’ve been drawn to this amazing land since the mid 1970s, and I return here as often as I can. The great National Parks of Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef (not to mention Zion and Bryce Canyon further west) are the heart of this unique topography. It is a place of great beauty, danger, adventures, and an almost visceral spirituality.

The part of this country that is in Navajo hands, such as Monument Valley, is and always has been utterly sacred to them. All of it feels sacred to me. There are many special places I like to go in this high desert, but there is one private spot I picked many years ago that I reserve for my own meditation and shamanic journeying.

I’ve posted the original photo of myself in this spot before, but recently I was experimenting with the new Deep Dream code from Google. They use it to search, organize, and perform image recognition on their vast image databanks. It can also be used to create strange, visionary alterations to existing images, such as mine. I used several Deep Dream “filters” to create multiple versions of this photograph, then I chose parts of each to make the final combination.

I like this kind of processing when used artistically. It is, obviously, best suited for visionary or psychedelic style images like this one.

I’ll post much more (traditional) photography (like the one below) of these special landscapes upon my return in August.

 

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Costa Rica Waterfalls


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Today, I’m presenting a virtual getaway, especially for anyone stuck in this year’s snowy winter. I’m pleased to offer you my short (7 min.) nature film I shot in November on location in the beautiful country of Costa Rica.

I love waterfalls, and Costa Rica has many lovely ones, both small and very large. All are situated in rain forest settings that invoke images of a lost, green, wild world.

This film also features my original symphonic music score. Be sure to go full screen and volume up.

I hope you enjoy “Costa Rica Waterfalls”!

 

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Mariners We Are

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My posting frequency on this blog has slowed recently due to my becoming deeply involved in writing my first novel. The book, an epic science-fiction/fantasy series, is approaching completion and I will update this blog as I can, but I thought that for now I’d post some recent thoughts in the forms of a poem and a digital image or two.

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Often, I find myself simultaneously holding different visions of my humanity. On one hand, I sense the melancholy (which is not the same as sadness or hopelessness) of our situation here in this physical reality. It is the conundrum of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s metaphor of the Stairs that I’ve spoken of several times in these pages. Upon those stairs, we awake and know not whence we came, nor where we are bound. It is an authentic and enduring melancholy for every person–a melancholy borne of that mystery.

On the other hand, I feel a strong imperative to constantly and consciously create real happiness and fulfillment for myself within the time I exist upon those mysterious stairs. I do so by being a creator and I live that role right now. This is the only way to be in this life that brings me (or, I will maintain, anyone else) true joy. It is what Casteneda called a “Path with Heart,” and it brings unexpected delights and challenges to us, while each of us also remains involuntarily bound to that mysterious river of time that leads us to an unknown destination.

Those two visions emerged into two different creations recently, and I thought I’d share them here while I may be away from more regular blog posts for a while.

The Melancholy observation is represented by a poem that is my take on Emerson’s Stairs. It came fully formed out of sleep and the spirit realm of dream last night. The accompanying image (above) is my digital art alteration or enhancement of a detail from one of my favorite painters, Thomas Cole. (It’s from his four panel “Voyage of Life” series from 1842.) His paintings include some directly religious elements, but I believe the idea of guidance from “outside” of ourselves is possible in many shapes and forms that cannot be empirically measured. We are, in any case, on the boat and in motion to an unseen destination.

The Creative/happiness/joy/challenge observation is an original saying and a digital artwork rendered on a moonrise photograph I took along the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica a few months ago.

May we all continue to look, wonder, and choose to make our time upon the waters of life worthwhile by creating joy.

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Mariners

We are,

Passing through

Unknown lands

In fragile boats

Clad with skin.

 

We make no stops–

Frail vessels that

Set no anchor.

The wind blows

Without cease.

Our measured course

Fades in mists

Ahead.

 

[David P. Crews, 2015]

 

[Click any image for full size.]

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“Big Bend – The Scale of Time” (film)

 

As a follow-up for the summer photography in my last post, I’m pleased to present a six minute film titled “Big Bend–The Scale of Time.” This is a short preview for my upcoming reflective landscape film about Big Bend National Park in Texas. I am in the process of re-shooting footage in high definition to entirely update and replace the imagery from an older film, while retaining the music track and eventually the incidental poetic script and narration elements. This HD film is hosted on Vimeo and is best seen full-screen.

The cinematography and photography in this short version all come from a brief three-day visit to the park in June, 2014. I plan to return at least twice in the coming months (for longer stays) and obtain much more footage to fill out the main feature. What imagery will I get on my next trip? In June, I didn’t expect to get caught in that dramatic lightning storm or see a cloudy, no-sunrise morning suddenly erupt into an amazing spotlit fan of golden light. Big Bend always surprises me with unexpected scenes of wild and gentle beauty that translate so very well into visual art.
I hope you enjoy my film.

A note about the music: This is my original composition and performance excerpted from the longer film. It won the Calypso Award from the Moondance International Film Festival in 2006, and also a prestigious Silver Telly Award in that same year.

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Big Bend National Park–Summer Photography

I have just returned from a short visit to the wonderful Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas, USA. I’ve been traveling here off and on since the spring of 1962, taking photos and video, hiking and camping, and doing inner work and vision quests. With some extensive new photography equipment in hand including a Nikon D5300 and a computerized slider, I’m setting out to shoot new cinematography and photography of the park in multiple seasons. This is to remake an artistic film I created some years ago using standard definition video. Now, I can remake it in full HD with professional rigging for camera moves.

I’ll post more of the video elements later, but for now, here are some of the still photographs I made this week, accompanied by some script excerpts from the original film.

I hope you enjoy them!

I urge you to click through to the larger images for much higher quality!

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In Big Bend
The scale of time is different from
our time – the observers, ourselves – who come.

It is a different scale of time and of movement than
our time – our movement.

We are too fast to see it.
We cannot slow down.

Slow                 Down

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There is an enchanted doorway –
a wonder and a sign.

A Temple of water
and air,

And walls of determination.

We briefly enter – and return again.

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There is nothing between this sand and that yonder star
but empty space and a thin breath of blistered air.

A Weight Bears Down.
Relentless.
We cannot escape.

Our branches grow tough – and dark.
Our water, our blood, our thoughts
Dwindle . . . down.

The white light sears our flesh into dust,
and there is no wind to blow it away.

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Stillness

The desert does not sleep.
It is an endless movement – the motion of survival.

We look and listen . . . and there is

Stillness

Silence

You can see it move if you are slow enough.
You can feel it, anyway,
if you are still enough.

Do not listen for it or watch for it.

Be Still

and Listen

and Watch

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This desert is young. This desert is old.
It depends on your speed, you see.

Some have come to change this land.
Some have changed it – some.

All who have come
Have Been Changed.

Some have gone now.
A fragrance lingers in secret places.
Their song echoes lightly on adobe and wood and stone.

The mesa shrugs, and it is gone.

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She is clothed in riches. Bejewelled in green and yellow and brown.
An extravagance on this plate of rock – standing up, tasting the water.

Big Bend is not barren.

LIFE is everywhere in this Desert –
this Living Land.

Raising faces – arms to the air,
feeling deeply down for the lifeblood –
a watery current within.
Knowing how to keep that – and to hold it.

A Treasure.

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The desert is a mirror.
The desert is a portal.

It reflects our souls back at us,
and then offers a Way
into another Realm.

We are opened up
and slowed down.

The soft voices of the Plants can be heard.
The wordless brotherhood of the Animals is known.
The marvel of the Eternal Moment can be felt
In our very ground.

Big Bend is a Heart Land.
A place of shifting Shapes.
It is a healer of the Spirit.

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Quiriguá – Mayan Monuments and Time

 

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[Click any photo for a larger view.]

Meet K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat, or in our best interpretation of his name: Kawak Sky.

Time for a travel post and photos.

Whenever I’m not focused primarily on landscapes and scenery, travel for me often involves ancient cultures and archeological sites. I’ve been scanning some of my older photo collections, and these images from the Mayan site called Quiriguá came up today. Quiriguá (our modern name for it) is a modest Mayan site in terms of architecture, but its collection of carved stelae and zoomorph stones are amazing.

Quiriguá lies in southern Guatemala, not far from its large rival city, Copán, just across the modern border to Honduras. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Quiriguá was the first Mayan site I had the privilege to visit, and it was a good introduction to the Mayan world.

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Kawak Sky was the “k’ul ahaw,” or “Holy Lord” of Quiriguá. This small city was active during the Maya Classic Period from about 200 to 900 AD, and is noted now for its important carved stone monuments. These represent the most dense collection of Mayan hieroglyphic stone stelae known to exist in one site, and the tallest freestanding stone monuments in the Americas. Stela E stands 35 feet high. The local red sandstone is solid and clear of fractures, which allowed the Mayan artisans to carve deeply and in large format.

Quiriguá was a subservient city to the much larger and more powerful Copán until Kawak Sky managed to ambush the elder king of Copán and haul him back to Quiriguá for a ritual execution. This occurred in 738 AD, establishing the independence of Quiriguá from that time forward and making Kawak Sky the most celebrated of its rulers.

It was fascinating to walk for my first time among ancient Mayan carvings and see a real ball court. At that time, I was recently married and we enjoyed climbing the carved stone steps of the central acropolis and listening to the forest birds as we soaked in the strange air of this place. It’s history, often very violent, was so different from our own culture. Yet here it lies, surprisingly close in physical distance to my own home in Texas. I’ve been to a number of other Mayan sites since this, but I never tire of the sense of wonder and history one experiences when actually walking these old cities and monuments.

In the early 1930s, author Aldous Huxley visited Quiriguá. He was also impressed by the stelae, writing:

 “And there they still stood, obscurely commemorating man’s triumph over time and matter and the triumph of time and matter over man.”
Huxley, Aldous (1950) [©1934]. Beyond the Mexique Bay: A Traveller’s Journal (Reprint ed.). London: Chatto & Windus.

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An Earth Blessing

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Bless me, O beautiful Earth.

Bless me, O beautiful Earth.

For I have come forth from You,

And, I return again to You.

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Bless me, O beautiful Earth.

Bless me through my feet.

Bless me through my legs.

Bless me through my body.

Bless me through my arms.

Bless me through my hands.

Bless me through my face.

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Give me your blessing

As I gaze at your beauty.

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I return your blessing

With every movement and

Every sacred Word.

I am filled up with You.

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Bless me, O beautiful Earth.

I am your Child.

I am Earth.

 

 

[Click any image for a larger view.]

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Emptiness and Substance

“But to me nothing – the negative, the empty – is exceedingly powerful.”

– Alan Watts

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“Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.”

– Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

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Autumn Fire – Golden Aspens in Colorado

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“He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 

Autumn is my favorite time of year in Texas because it lasts longer than spring and the temperatures are such a relief after our hot summers, but there is little leaf color until early December, and then only a hint of the kind of color one sees in the northeast or in the mountains of the great American West. I love to make a special trip to see the aspens change in Colorado. Here is one of my photos for you – just an autumn greeting and a wish-you-well for the upcoming Thanksgiving and other holiday times.

I took this one just outside Silverton, Colorado a couple of years ago.

 

What does autumn go on paying for
with so much yellow money?”

― Pablo Neruda

 

 

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The Tribesman who Facebook friended me

I thought this was an interesting article from Salon.com about how our global communications technology is rapidly and energetically changing the world, but also how our perceptions and preconceptions about traditional tribal cultures are so often wrong and even insulting.

All these tribesmen really wanted after a visit to our Western culture was feather technology.

 

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My Photo Tour–Ayahuasca in the Amazon

 

 

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I’ve been on a bit of a ‘blogcation’ lately, but one of the things I’ve been working on is a PHOTO GALLERY of my recent trip to the Peruvian Amazon to work with Ayahuasca. This was my second trip to work at the SpiritQuest Shamanic Sanctuary, where I engaged with the great spirit medicine in five intense ceremonies. This photo tour will take you with me, showing the sanctuary, the verdant grounds and jungle, the process of preparation of the medicine, the actual ceremonies, visiting with some of the local tribespeople (Yahua, Bora, and Shipibo), and a special ceremony to work with Huachuma.

See my previous posts on this trip for more detailed information about these events. There is general commentary provided with these photos, but as this gallery is intended for a broader audience,  it does not present the in-depth detail you’ll find here on my blog. There are a lot of photos in the show, and I do hope you enjoy them. I have some video and audio elements I will share later.

 

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Peru 2013–Pre-trip 4: “Body and Soul Flight”

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SpiritQuest Sanctuary on the Rio Momón, Peru

 

Well, I’m off to see the wizard.

On Saturday, the work and the adventure begins with that most unlikely of activities, hurtling through the air in a metal tube filled with strangers. I’ve always loved flying, though, so I will be busy looking out my window, trying to grasp the reality of the beautiful landscapes and seascapes so far below me.

I will also be working on my specific intentions for the ceremonies as the reality of the Work approaches.

My group at SpiritQuest will be relatively small this time. This should provide a wonderful time to get to know everyone and be supportive of each other in the work with Ayahuasca. The gathering is diverse, about nine or ten people including participants from the US, Canada, Australia, and France. Most seem to be coming to work with Ayahuasca for the first time.

For me, even though nothing will replace that first exciting and joyous time I had in the jungle a number of years ago, it will be interesting to see how my perceptions will be different on this second trip. I think I know what to expect, but I will certainly be surprised by new things – at least, I hope so!

PacksForPeruThis should be my last post before switching to my new tablet for updates during the trip. I will endeavor to keep posting during the travels and especially once the ceremonies begin.

I’m glad to have you along as I follow a path with heart.

 

 

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Monument Valley – Artist’s Point

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Click image for larger size and better resolution.

With my upcoming trip to Peru, I’ve been blogging a lot about Ayahuasca lately. I thought I’d give you some unrelated eye-candy for a change!  Here’s a photo I took a few years ago at the incomparable Monument Valley on the Navajo reservation on the Utah/Arizona border. This is a special place not only to the Navajo, but to all Americans. There is no other landscape quite like it or the other great canyon vistas of the Colorado Plateau.

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Ancient Songs & Green Magic – Link

This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for current posts!  Thanks.

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A main feature of this blog is the journal report I made of my initial experiences with Ayahuasca in 2006. This sticky post is here so you don’t miss my five-part series of essays called “Ancient Songs and Green Magic” covering my entire experience in the Peruvian Amazon.  If you are curious about how a traditional, authentic Ayahuasca ceremony happened to someone who had never experienced it or anything like it before, I will take you with me through an entire arc of experiences from a lesson of sheer terror to a wondrous encounter and love from Mother Ayahuasca herself, plus life-changing after effects that still resonate now. Begin the journey HERE or click the ceremonial image below. I welcome your comments.  –– Scroll down for current posts.


Peru 2013–Pre-trip 3: Border Crossings

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While preparing for my trip to the Upper Amazon in two weeks, I’ve been thinking about my main area of interest and inquiry – contemplating and exploring the possibility of the actual reality of the other “spirit dimension” that one is so forcefully carried into when working with Ayahuasca. This is such an impressive experience that most who encounter it come away from it  convinced that it is real and does exist independently somewhere or somewhen other than this physical universe we normally live in.

I’ve been reading a very interesting book that, while not speaking specifically to the plant teachers, analyzes and compares the phenomena and practices of shamanism with that of the psychological approach and theories of Carl Jung. I’ve always found the two sets of ideas to be very much intertwined and comprising two ways of describing the same thing. I’m particularly struck when Jung says things that show he understood the apparent reality of the “spirit dimension” of the shamanists. The book is “Shamanism and the Psychology of C. G. Jung – The Great Circle,” by Robert E. Ryan (2002).

One passage where Ryan speaks of Jung’s ideas really resonates with me:

“. . . one of the most important touchstones of Jung’s thought and the shaman’s experience (is that) events experienced by the mind in what we would call the ‘psychic or inner world’ would have their own claim to a reality equal to that which the same mind imposes on the unknowable world presented by the senses. Each is a realm of experience in which we seek durable laws with their own universality which allow us to track and predict change or transformation in that realm. We must suspend our reductive tendency to regard as ‘merely psychological’ an inwardly encountered pattern of experience capable of producing transformations in a process which has enlisted the depths of the human mind for perhaps tens of thousands of years, thus holding a pedigree enduring far longer than any of the discoveries of our Western scientific materialism.”
– “Shamanism and the Psychology of C. G. Jung – The Great Circle,” – Robert E. Ryan, Vega, London, 2002, p. 102

Western society is so immersed in materialistic way of thinking that it is easy to simply dismiss visions or powerful dreams as “just psychological phenomena” – that is, happening only in our brains and not exhibiting an external reality. In other words, brain fiction. Anyone who has worked with Ayahuasca will tell you that this is simply not believable. The vision space Ayahuasca takes us into is not only vivid and self-generated, but it is far richer and more detailed than one can ever imagine producing in one’s own mind, upon an instant, and with imagery so vastly original and unknown to that person in normal life. The entities one meets in this realm are vivid as well, and have their own agendas, interact with us as separate beings, and sometimes even require communication and the making of deals or arrangements between themselves and us.

It would be the equivalent of accusing the early European explorers of the Americas of having made their stories up, deluding themselves into believing that there was such a vast and amazing New World out there with all those strange things and beings in it.

Perhaps the spirit dimensions revealed by Ayahuasca are merely “brain fiction,” but if so, that hypothesis speaks of vast depths within our human machine that are not only unmeasured, but totally unsuspected and inexplicable. Why would we have evolved such a thing for the straightforward needs of an animal’s survival purposes? One may as well hammer a nail with a hydrogen bomb, or fill a tin cup by pouring in an ocean. For those who have ventured into it, this dimension or realm and the things that are seen on its shores is a great mystery – a new world and a new frontier that reduces all other human explorations to insignificance. As Graham Hancock has said, it may even represent the next stage of our own evolution. Who, seeing it this way, would not be thrilled and excited to go on such a journey of discovery?

I’ll be crossing quite a few borders on my way to and from Peru and the Amazon, but it is the esoteric border I will cross while sitting still in the heart of the great forest that I am most interested in, apprehensive of, and hopeful about experiencing. I can think of no greater adventure and no better thing to do with my energies and time than to plan my expedition well, board the magical boat of Ayahuasca, and venture into that new continent, slipping between the folds of space and time and seeing around that strange bend that no one can normally find. It is a bend not of this dimension. It can be navigated with the help of the teacher plants and the experienced human guides – our shamans. However, we must be ready, alert, and open to discovery not only about the new universe itself, but also to powerful discovery of our own selves as we cross and recross that often frightening border.

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Peru 2013–Pre-trip 1: “Remodeling and Moving”


SunsetHighway-borderPeru and Ayahuasca 2013–Pre-trip 1: “Remodeling and Moving”

I’m back to some blogging after taking a few hard-work weeks off to remodel my old house for sale and then move myself and all my stuff into a new place. This has been a physical task that has taken a toll on my now aging body, but it is just one of those passages in life that re-adjusts us into a new set of possibilities going forward. It is also an apt metaphor for the kind of spiritual/mental “remodeling and moving” that I will be engaged in with my upcoming trip to Peru to work with Ayahuasca once again.DCsunburst-art1

I will be in the Upper Amazon during most of June to participate in a number of ceremonies with Ayahuasca and Huachuma. These two are sometimes spoken of as Grandmother and Grandfather spirit medicines, complimentary in their effects and influence on us. This will be my first encounter with Huachuma, also known as the San Pedro cactus. This is South America’s version of the peyote cactus, and contains similar compounds.

It will be my second series of encounters with Ayahuasca after my initial passages in 2006 (see my five-part series here). I have been thinking about and longing to return to re-engage with Ayahuasca ever since those special days, and I am flooded with a wide range of emotions and thoughts. At the same time, my cognitive brain is busy figuring out all the travel and logistical arrangements. Good to let each part of me do what it is best at!

From airfares to immunizations, the travel details can get a bit complex, but they all work themselves out, of course. The emotional/spiritual aspects are far more interesting and are the focus of my work, so it is good to sort through them and express them at each stage of this new journey. So, here are some of the things I’m thinking and feeling about this upcoming encounter.

Apprehension
Stories of Ayahuasca visions can make it seem like a marvelous, loving, and wondrous experience only. They certainly can be a marvelous, loving, and wondrous experience – but not only. Ayahuasca has also been spoken of as the ultimate in psychic inner work, usually in a phrase like “One Ayahuasca session is worth 10 years of psychoanalysis.” However it manifests for each individual, it can, indeed, be an extremely powerful self-work and self healing experience. Sometimes dark and terrifying. Intense.

I touched on this in an earlier post, speaking of how this kind of teaching vision experience will come to us, but we do not know when it will come or how intense or troubling it will be for us. That’s where the apprehension comes in. There are also apprehensions about the physical rigors of taking the tea, of course. It is not a pleasant drink, and Westerners often have scruples with the strong purging that is part of the process. These are not things to be dismissed or ignored, nor is our apprehension about them something we should consider as wrong or misplaced. The apprehension is useful and is a good sign that the partaker understands what category of experience he or she is getting into and does not take it lightly or for granted. Drinking Ayahuasca is a sacred act, and one that demands our full participation, even as we know it may not be easy – even as we know it may be very hard and uncomfortable.

Or, it may be wondrous, marvelous, loving . . .

or both!

So, yes, I feel apprehension about my upcoming experiences. It has been seven years since I’ve partaken, and I’m curious about how I’ll handle and interact with the brew this time. Many have reported that after a long hiatus like this, when they take the tea again, it’s as if they continued right where they left off last time. I hope that is true for me. I would like to build on my experiences and insights and go deeper into my self-work and on further into the spirit dimensions to learn and to understand more.

Joyful Anticipation
I also recently touched on the joyfulness of being with others when working with Ayahuasca. This is the flip side of apprehension. I am truly looking forward to meeting a new group of fellow travelers. My particular everyday life does not include many who understand or “approve” of working with psychoactive spirit medicines, so it is a fulfilling and enriching experience to be surrounded for two weeks by a group who is nothing but sympathetic, interested, and encouraging in these matters. I felt this way when I attended an Evolver conference a couple of years ago with Graham Hancock and Alex Grey and about 40 others of similar mind and spirit. We were at home together.

So, I’m anticipating the joy of being with like-minded people from all over the world, gathered in this most unlikely and magical of places for such wondrous and useful work and play.

Just a little more than a month away. I am eager to begin.

I’ll continue to post my pre-trip thoughts. When June comes, I will be off the grid for at least two weeks (as far as I know) and will be journaling on-site every day for future posts and other creative works. Then, I will catch everyone up on my new experiences after the fact. I’ll be traveling a third week through Panama, but will have internet access for certain there.

Moving forward!

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Ayahuasca and Passages through Darkness

CaveOfJaguar-borderWhen we contemplate working with Ayahuasca, we must be prepared to encounter the darkness as well as the light. This is one of the most sacred and valued aspects of working with the medicine.

As I prepare to return later this year to the Amazon to work with Ayahuasca once again, I’ve been looking at some of the prep work I did a few years ago, prior to my first encounter with the great spirit medicine. One striking thing (especially looking at it now, long after the fact) was an I Ching reading I did a few months before I left for South America. I see and use the I Ching (the ancient Chinese life guidance oracle system) as a “synchronicity system” that reflects our greater selves back at us from outside the normal time stream. This can inform in ways that are surprising, especially if there is an emotional or life-altering component to the question one asks of the oracle (or rather, of one’s Self).

I asked, “Can I expect Ayahuasca to change my life in a positive way?”

The answer (which I’ll partly quote from my favorite English interpretation of the symbols by Stephan Karcher) was hexagram 36, “Brightness Hiding” (field over radiance). The symbol is of a setting sun, indicating travel through demon’s country.

It told me:

Brightness Hiding describes your situation in terms of entering the darkness to protect yourself, or to begin a difficult new endeavor. . . Conceal your intelligence by voluntarily entering what is beneath you, like the sun sets in the evening. There is real possibility of injury in the situation. [Meaning the current life situation outside or before this action.] By dimming the light of your awareness and entering the darkness, you can avoid being hurt. This becomes a chance to release from old problems and inaugurate a new time.

Putting your ideas to the trial by accepting drudgery and difficulty will bring profit and insight. Adapt yourself to the situation. . . . Don’t lose your integrity. Be clear about what is really happening.”

[“I Ching – The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change-The First Complete Translation with Concordance”, Stephen Karcher, Vega, 2002, p. 405.]

CaveOfJaguar[neon]-borderThis passage one takes is not darkness for the sake of darkness – not an evil trip with no purpose for the voyager other than harm and fear. With Ayahuasca in particular, it is always a purposed passage through the underworld of our soul in order to learn what we are and where our weaknesses come from. We can benefit from this dark passage, this study of our under-structure. If we are shown them, we can better repair the creaking beams that hold up our thoughts, our egos, our presumptions, our social mores and norms, and our very beliefs. We can gain a holistic view of ourselves that will inform us once we are back in our ego-based persona, ingrained in the consensus reality flow of our “normal” lives.

This is not an easy or comfortable journey, this trek through the basement of our being, but it can bring us great value if we consent to do this work. The thing with Ayahuasca is that you will encounter this trying but important task, but you won’t control when it happens. Therefore, one must be ready for it at any time and we must truly and heartily consent to do this work from the beginning.

The rewards are definitely worth the real work we do and the apprehension we naturally feel as we approach the mouth of the dark cave of ourselves.

[For more comprehensive information on Ayahuasca, see my five part series, here.]

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Ayahuasca and Pioneering the New Frontier

AyaPileReadyAyahuasca is the great Spirit Medicine of the Amazon. It brings one directly into a different realm of reality. Whether one wishes to name that state as another dimension, a spirit or spiritual realm, or simply non-ordinary and alien, it is the most amazing transformation any human can safely experience and still remain on this planet in this human form.

AyaSpiritOfBrewAfter seven years of life reaction to my first Ayahuasca journeys (for which story see here), and processing and integrating the life changes it caused for me (all challenging but totally necessary to heal me and re-create me into a better man), I’m making plans to return to the Upper Amazon this summer or fall to continue my studies and explorations with that supreme medicine of the jungle. In doing so, my goal is to re-engage with the spirits of the plants and learn what I can about the things that I do not know. Sounds simple enough, right? However, this is a bit like saying, “I think I’ll go to Mars next month and do particle physics research.” The trip is extremely challenging, and the knowledge one is after is esoteric and in many ways alien to our current understandings or way of being.

DCprepAyaEven though that is so, it is what I and others who work with Ayahuasca attempt. It’s exhilarating, to say the least, to cast one’s self into the raw frontiers of human perception – a pioneer in a fragile human ship, tossed by waves and seeking a comprehensible and attainable shore. It is even more remarkable when said pioneer suddenly realizes he is being guided by an interested, even friendly hand, but a hand that is distinctly and obviously not human. This force, this spirit, seems to want the pioneer to understand this new and intimidating realm and to help him or her process the information. This spirit also seems to want to influence the explorer’s own human life, both to heal the body and to affect the life path they take from that encounter going forward.

This is what has happened to me, and I’m thrilled with the prospect of setting sail once more and, hopefully, encountering that elemental spirit in some form again.

 

AyaCookingTambo(Click any photo for full size.)

I was brought up as a Christian and I took it very seriously for over 40 years, even to the point of writing an influential book on New Testament interpretation. Taking the path of shamanism and exploring beyond the borders of current knowledge (religious, political, societal, and scientific) is viewed askance by those still embedded in orthodox structures of belief. It is often judged as a negative moral choice, influenced by the devil or the “world.” For the person who seeks knowledge beyond those structures, however, the process has nothing to do with moral choices. The acquisition of knowledge (especially “new” knowledge from unknown and untapped sources) leads to completely different and unexpected perspectives on everything, especially our worldview and the philosophies that worldview engenders in us.

AyaPouringOffIn my search for What Is Real, the old orthodox religious worldview is simply inadequate and it has been left behind me as I have grown into new paradigms. Now, I and others like me, seek knowledge where it is most different from what I know. We seek not what is known, but what is unknown. This is the mantra of science and of humanity.

BlessingAyaInCeremonyThe unknown exists beyond the borders of our paradigms. We must seek it by traveling to and beyond the true frontier. Wish me a good journey and I promise to report any curious sightings in the new worlds beyond the veils of our mundane lands.

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A New Vista

 

 

 

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In a New Land

 

Long I have struggled in the valley, only

To look up at the end and realize with a

Sudden start,

That I have arrived at the top of a

Mountain, instead.

 

The view ahead is one of beauty

And favor. The path before me is

Enticing, promising.

More hills in view, but

The slope is gentle

And green.

 

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I’m anticipating a very big change in my life, which I will describe at the right time, but this poem came to me today to speak of the way change can sometimes come unexpectedly upon us, just when it seems that all things are stuck in an old pattern and won’t ever change. Maybe that valley we’ve been struggling through is not a valley after all. Maybe we will suddenly gasp as we gaze into a new vista. Then, we must not fear. We must take action and step confidently into our new world, creating it as we go.

 

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Autumn Color in the San Juan Mtns. – Colorado

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
-Albert Camus

Late September is always a special time in one of my favorite places to visit: Silverton, Colorado. The mountains have yet to acquire their winter white and the aspens shimmer and dazzle the eye.

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The famous Silverton – Durango narrow gauge steam train pulls in to the old western town, just like it has done since the 1800’s. I never tire of watching it come and go and hearing that incredible whistle and the rumble of the locomotive.

 

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Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?
– Henry David Thoreau, Solitude, Walden, 1854

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The Shape-shifter’s Tale

 

The Shape-shifter’s Tale
(a fragment of a myth)

He asked the Turtle, “Would you like to learn about things? Would you like to see what the world looks like for a horse?”

The Turtle replied, “A horse? That big thing? I don’t know what that would be like. It is too different from being a Turtle.”

“Yes, but you would learn what it is like!”

“I like being a Turtle. Turtle makes sense. Turtle is comfortable and safe.”

He approached the Horse. “Would you like to learn about things? Would you like to see what the world looks like for a Sparrow?”

The Horse whinnied at him and said, “Neigh – OK, that was a joke. So is that little Sparrow. I’m a Horse and I am happy to be a Horse. That’s the mane thing!” And he whinnied several more times causing the Sparrow to fly away in disgust.

He did not bother to remind the Horse that he might learn what other things are like.
He came up to the Boy and said, “Would you like to learn about things?” The Boy smiled at him, so he continued, “Would you like to see what the world looks like for a Lion?”

The Boy said, “I AM a Lion!!” and, still smiling, he ran around the meadow making a roaring sound.

 

 

 

 

[Click on any photo for a larger image.]

The petroglyph panels above are from the remarkable (and remarkably accessible) Newspaper Rock State Park site, right along the roadway to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah.

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Turquoise Seas and Barrier Reef

 

“It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

 

My photo is from Caye Caulker in Belize, Central America. The breakers on the horizon mark the location of the second largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The colors of the waters in the Caribbean never cease to amaze me and no photo ever does them justice.

 

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The Shamanic Path: Profile of David Crews

I was recently profiled on a travel and camping blog by Daniel Lawton. He interviewed me about my shamanic experiences with Ayahuasca and my world travels.

Here’s the link:

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Tikal – Mayan Axis Mundi

The name “Tikal” has always held an air of exotic adventure for me, and rightly so. It is the name of one of the most famous and best understood of the ancient Mayan lowland cities, featuring some of the most iconic pyramidal structures in the world. When visiting Belize a few years ago, I took a rather adventurous day trip across the border into Guatemala to see this World Heritage Site.

The city’s original name is Yax Mutul. The modern name, Tikal, is from the 1800’s. The city is no small place. It stretches over more than six square miles and features over 3,000 individual structures from small rooms to the numerous massive pyramids, some taller than 200 feet. Six such pyramids form the main complex, rising sharply out of the Petén jungle like broken stone teeth. Tikal boasts six of the famous Mayan ball courts.

Tikal was home to as many as 90,000 people during its prime. It was established around 2,400 years ago and was abandoned about 1,100 years ago.
[Click on photos for a larger image.]

We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson – Over-soul, from Essays: First Series, 1841.

The idea of the “axis mundi” or world axis, represented by a “world tree” was important to ancient Mesoamericans. In Mayan lands, it was called Yaaxché and was believed to be a ceiba tree like the one in this photo. This amazing tree is only found in the tropics. No temperate zone tree looks like this! It has such a fantastic form and color, it almost seems like it must come from an alien planet – plus, it is simply huge. Whitish gray bark is topped with lines of dark red brush-like leaves and blooms. It is believed that the Maya planted four ceremonial ceiba trees at important sites like this: one at each cardinal direction. They are still highly regarded and respected by modern Mayans and other tribal people throughout the tropics.

The world tree reaches from the underworld realm through the human dimension and up into the spirit dimensions, connecting mankind with these esoteric realms in a directly shamanic manner. Some also understand the tree to represent the band of the Milky Way.

All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man… the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”
– Chief Seattle

 

 

 

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