Plant Medicine Part 3 of 5, San Pedro


This San Pedro ceremony took place in September of last year, about a year after my mother’s passing and was written at that time. I share it today with minor edits.

San Pedro, September 2016

We had just arrived in Olón – about two weeks ago when (my then-partner) and I began looking for Ayahuasca ceremonies in the area… a shared intention for the trip. He made contact with Johnathan, a local shaman, about an upcoming San Pedro ceremony he found listed on a website. San Pedro is another sacred plant (a mountain cactus, whereas ayahuasca is a jungle vine) that used in sacred ritual.

Johnathan required a 3-4 hour consultation with each of us, separately, prior to the ceremony. During our meeting, he clarified details about the plant (what it will vs. will not do for you), what his intentions are in leading the ceremonies, and details about his personal life. We also delved into my background, issues, and intentions for the ceremony. He wanted to spend the time necessary to build trust (as he would be entering my spirit and reprocessing my CPU, essentially my neuro-hacker), as well as for us to build a “profile” of each other. Eventually, this was distilled into an intention for the ceremony, a prayer to San Pedro: “To hear my own heart”. I wanted clarity on my career… What on Earth should I do with myself??? My heart, however, had other concerns.

That night and the time that’s passed since San Pedro (just over a week now) have been 10 years therapy. I still can’t believe it. My intention was to hear my heart… and I did! While there was much to experience: an awareness of many energies not normally perceived but there none-the-less (felt like an echo in the night), and seeing the white-violet aura around my shaman… the lessons I’ve learned are what remain and are what I’ll be sharing here.

My heart was battling the medicine and so I asked the shaman, “How do I stop blocking it?”

     “Is there a lock on your heart?”, he said.

     “There is.”

     “What color is this lock?”

     “Green,” I said, referencing my heart chakra.

     “Bright green? Dark green?”

     “Bright green.”

     “And is there a symbol?”

     “Yes, a heart.”

     “And where is the key?”

     “I don’t know. I’ve been searching for it!!!”

I thought of all my travels… more than 30 countries! My professional pursuits – the many of them. My spiritual pursuits, a lifetime seeking God – the exploration of so many religions and techniques searching for desperately needed peace. My physical pursuits: adrenaline activities like skydiving and trapeze, running marathons, my extreme yoga, my extreme skiing – all of it – the list goes on… “I must master” has been my mantra. All of this has been me trying to prove that I’m worthy of this long lost key to my own heart.

     “There is no key,” he said. I began to weep.

     “There is no key,” I whispered to myself.

     “This is a magic lock. You need only to touch the lock. You can open the lock.”

The shaman spoke simple words, but they made so much sense. I was ashamed that I couldn’t figure out how to unlock my heart when it was so simple. I cried and cried.

Somewhere during the ceremony, the shaman told a story to the group that we all needed to hear, apparently. It was quite long and Johnathan took many breaks, but the essence of the story is this.

     A man offers gold to me, and I am immediately suspicious, “This gold is for me?” I say.

     “Yes, I want to give you this gold.”

     I wonder… If I take this gold, what will he want in return? What do I have to give this person? Angry I say, “Why are you giving me this gold? What do you want from me?”

     “I don’t want anything from you,” he replies. “I like you. I have plenty of gold. I can always get more and so I am giving you this gold.”

     “What do you mean, you have plenty of gold? Where are you getting all this gold?”

     “I have gold in my heart. So do you.”

     I look into my heart and I see the gold, but the gold is trapped in rock. I can not get to the gold! “I can’t get through the stone to get to my gold. How can you just give me your gold???”

     “It’s easy. I have found a place where the gold flows out as liquid. And there is always more gold. It never runs out. And the gold isn’t just inside, it’s everywhere. The gold is everywhere and you can have it all.”

As San Pedro was having its way with me – nausea and exhaustion, I moved to the ground unable to sit up any longer. I laid down, turning my head away from the smokey, incense filled fire into the night for a deep, fresh breath and fell into a light sleep. As I drifted back into awareness, inside of that tiny moment after you’ve woken up but there is nothing yet on your mind, inside of that tiny moment before you realize you’re even awake, in that quietest of all moments I heard a small voice say…

“I only want to be loved. Please stop making it so hard.”

My heart was speaking, and I knew with my body exactly what she was saying.

Then, my mother came to me. Though I did not see her, I felt her presence to my left. San Pedro is said to bring you into contact with the spirit world and this was my experience.

     She asked, “What did you learn when I died?”

     Righteously I said, “Well I won’t die like you did. I don’t drink as much… I don’t take Ibuprofen or Hydroxycut anymore either.” She died of liver disease and I, myself, was previously addicted to diet pills amongst other substances throughout the years.

     She replied emphatically, “If that’s what you learned, you’ve learned nothing. I died so you could know love.

I suddenly realized that my mother died of a closed heart and that in the universal scheme, her death was a sacrifice so my heart would open to receive love.

Despite her lifestyle, she was very Catholic. She believed in an authoritarian and judgmental God and because of this, she struggled greatly with her own behavior. She often slept with a crucifix. For me to see her death as anything but a sacrifice, for me to have learned nothing from it, would have been for her to die in vain.

She hadn’t died from the alcohol – that was a side effect of something far more damaging. She died of a closed heart. She died because she would not let anyone love her. And now that I see this, it is up to me to avoid the same fate. While I’ve softened in many ways throughout the years, when it comes to a truly vulnerable love… I have fought it tooth and nail. I’ve been fighting it so hard. I’ve fought every man who has ever tried.

After the conversation with my mother, I was surrounded by her love – held inside of a warm and loving embrace. I really felt my mother loving me – perhaps for the very first time in this life. Have you any idea how healing that was? I cried. I cried so hard, I couldn’t keep it quiet.

I was able to see see through all my own emotional garbage, all the baggage, and I’ve continued to have illuminations about my limiting behaviors and my beliefs. I’ve identified a couple of lies I told myself, perhaps the most important being that I was “rejected” by my mother. While I was certainly mistreated by her, I was by no means “rejected”. It’s clear she loved me and craved connection as much as I did.

I heard an analogy once on The Joe Rogan Experience – that our brain is a computer and that when you take “x” (he was referring to mushrooms, I believe), you get a view of the desktop and the chance to delete or save files and programs as necessary. I realized the “I was rejected by my mother” story was an old program that needed to be deleted.

I didn’t mention it in this original writing but throughout the night, I was able to feel the IUD implanted in my womb. I grew very uncomfortable and began to fear that I had done irreversible damage to myself with decades of hormone altering. A week later I had the IUD taken out and I couldn’t be happier with the choice.

In addition to drugs, alcohol, and crappy food, we do so much to alter our own chemistry – taking us further and further from natural ourselves. For me, this was a choice that made sense and a necessary step toward becoming more Me. Everyone has the right to their own choices and I would never judge another’s path – it’s not my place and I don’t want to. I just want to love you.

About six months later I began to get clarity on my purpose, what I’m meant to do with my life. This is a process and I’m now in my infancy as I take these wobbly steps. I could not step into my purpose without first accessing the gold inside of my own heart. I’ve realized that everything is revealed to us in divine timing and we can not force it. It is, however, our responsibility to make the inquiry, to ask the questions and reflect, to take steps forward.

No, this ceremony was not an instant fix to a life-long pattern of self-denial and disconnection, but in the year that has passed I have gotten better and better at hearing my own heart. As my shaman said, This was not the ceremony. The ceremony of your life begins tomorrow when you get home. You must integrate what you have learned.

What have you learned?

I love you.


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