By Troy Rampy, Editor, The Wellness Blog™
– Terence McKenna
I grew up in Cupertino, California during the late 1940s and 50s on my grandparents’ eight-acre apricot, prune, apple and cherry orchard. We were completely surrounded by other orchards, as well as vineyards.
Santa Clara valley at that time was a bucolic Eden where tourists from nearby San Francisco would come during the spring to experience the white and pink, fragrant fruit blossoms that festooned and energized the entire valley floor. It was like a scene right out of some post-Depression, Woody Guthrie song.
For a young boy, it was heaven. Plenty of trees to climb, fresh fruit to eat, and a connection with the earth that was direct, visceral, and palpable.
Years later, as a grown man with a young family living in Petaluma, California, about 85 miles north across the Golden Gate Bridge, I longed for that kind of direct connection again with the earth.
For several years I had been having a recurring dream. It was always the same. I was running. Somehow I would become encumbered and weighed down and slowed to a walk, then a crawl. Finally I was slowly groping on all fours along the ground.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized this dream was whispering to me to slow down and bring myself, and my heart, into closer contact with the earth. After 12 years in Petaluma, my former wife and I moved our family to Nevada County, California where we bought a small, solar-powered house in a forest near a stream-trail that I regularly walked with our dog Majik. That’s when the recurring dreams stopped and I felt more at peace.
Whether because of my upbringing in the orchard or just my natural proclivities in that direction, my connection with the earth has always been essential to me. But when my partner Lynn recently proposed a trip to Peru to work with a shaman, earth connection was perhaps the last thing on my mind. All I could think about was the cost, the many unknowns, and all the other places I’d much rather go for a three-week adventure.
Lynn knows a local author who had worked with a shaman in Peru. This friend said the shaman was adept at journeying with Huachuma, also known as San Pedro cactus, one of three master teacher-healer plants. The other two are Peyote and Ayahuasca.
But this shaman did not turn out to be what I expected. I originally envisioned some old grizzled Peruvian who talked in veiled, laconic, broken sentences … when he talked at all. Our prospective shaman, Sergio, was different. Very different.
For starters, Sergio isn’t an indigenous shaman, or even Peruvian. He’s originally from Russia … the Ukraine, actually. At 12-years-old, he and his family immigrated to Israel when General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980s.
From Israel, Sergio further immigrated as a young man to the U.S. where he lived for eight years. And Sergio is a talker, a real talker: articulate, animated, engaging, funny, and exceptionally well informed.
That’s all well and good, but by now I was truly worried. The cost of the trip, all the unknowns of travel, not to mention psychoactive substances, and a Russian “shaman”?
Before deciding, we spent about an hour talking with Sergio via Skype. Through this interaction, many of my fears were allayed. Actually, I liked him; I liked his energy; I liked what he had to say. And I’m not easily impressed, or duped, by so-called shamans.
I worked with them to design a wide variety of workshops and seminars, including two, intense, one-year training programs, on various topics dealing with ritual healing and indigenous African wisdom.
During those three years, I got to know Malidoma and Sobonfu quite well, often staying with them while we were offering workshops. Malidoma is the real deal. He’s a true African shaman and one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve ever met.
He’s written several books about ritual, healing, and shamanism. One of them in particular, Of Water and the Spirit, reads like something from Carlos Castaneda. It tells the story of his life including his six-week, other worldly initiation in the African bush and the alternate realities he’s able to access.
A few years ago, I also studied and worked with American anthropologist, shaman, and best-selling author Hank Wesselman. He’s authored the well-known Spirit Walker trilogy, as well as several other books on healing and shamanism.
Hank provided me with an in-depth understanding of the full arc of shamanic understanding and practice beginning from prehistoric times. He helped to bridge the cultural gap that I often experienced with Malidoma, in translating multicultural shamanic experience into realities I could directly relate to as a westerner.
So we listened to Sergio and we made our decision to go. Within two months we were off to Peru filled with hope, anticipation, and still some unanswered questions.
However, this blog post is already getting too long. So unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until my next post in a few days for more about our adventures in Peru.
I look forward to continuing the story then …