Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now
It all runs on mutual reciprocity.
You have to get it to give it away, I heard, and you have to give it away to get it. As one leg of my tour yields to another, the experiences I've had are all about mutual reciprocity.
There were the Greek permaculture farms where we worked according to the cycles of planetary bodies, creating from destruction the life that keeps the whole system running. The Glaswegian independent brewers, crowded out by corporate interests, who make their own spaces for creation and collaboration. My Scottish pal working nights at the queer club to run his CBD café without taking a profit, not only to share the healing power of plants, but because he gets so much from the customers in return.
There were the stone circles and fairy glens in southeastern Ireland where my friend and I exchanged energy with the earth spirits and each other. The ruins of Eleusis, where the gift with no name, the one you discover through direct divine experience, was disbursed for centuries. Everywhere, small producers making consumable art and craft served in sacred communion. And it all came full circle on my last day in the UK, when I called in all I learned in Greece to help my friends expand their smallholding to a CSA scheme while educating people about the power of knowing your origins.
There are so many incredible people I’ve met along the way, and I smile to recall the hours spent together, perched on barstools, sipping tea, or breaking bread; wandering downtown streets or traipsing through muddy glens. In every interaction, in some way, my experience was their experience, differentiated only by the details. This is the importance of community: you have to get it first to give it away.
They call it Ayni in Quechua language: the concept of mutuality, cooperation, and interconnection. It’s evidenced everywhere in nature: the way trees breathe carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen in perfect counterpoint to people; how the land feeds the critters who expel waste that births new life. It's only fitting, then, that the next leg of the tour will take me to the most bountiful, biodiverse example of interdependence on Earth: the Amazon rainforest.
I’m going on my first ayahuasca retreat, and it’s also the first retreat, to my knowledge, specifically designed to help LGBTQIA+ people heal from individual and collective trauma. It incorporates the Compassionate Inquiry model of Dr. Gabor Maté as well as group sessions and yoga to integrate the experiential medicine. Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian brew commonly made from the Banisterioperis caapi vine and the leaves of the chacruna plant, and drinking it takes you on a journey to transform your deepest traumas into healing, confront your fears, and account for your wrongdoings. The plant is a divine feminine spirit, often referred to as Mother or Grandmother, and when you set the intention to work with her, you enter into sacred relationship.
But even Ayahuasca doesn’t work alone. Like the entourage effect enhances the positive properties if cannabinols, the Mother works with other plant spirits called in by the medicos, as the shamans are called in Peru: our metaphysical physicians. The whole team, people and plants, will work in symphony as precision surgeons to extract all that's been keeping us patients stuck.
To receive the profoundly healing power of the medicine, you must give up all number of sensory delights, following a strict detox diet, and your spirit and mind must be readied with deep reflection and time off work. While I haven’t deviated from the dieta, the other two elements have proven much harder, and here I thought it was going to be the other way around. The whole process has brought up a lot of fear, anxiety, and scarcity beliefs that are often simmering just below the surface, including the fear of losing this self I've worked so hard to craft. The ego is attempting to barricade itself inside me with weeks’ worth of provisions and a shotgun, but it will not be a match for the Mother.
I can't imagine doing this work with anyone other than my queer family, and even though we've only met on Zoom, I already feel connected to the group. For their experience is their experience, my pain their pain; only the details differ. The more work I do, the more I realize that so much of my suffering comes back to the trauma of growing up queer in a binary, heteronormative, and homophobic culture. When you’re told that you’ll burn in a lake of fire for listening to your inner voice, believing what your body tells you, and following what you truly feel, you learn to deny it all—mind, body, and soul. You stop trusting yourself: wracked with self-doubt, soaked in shame, always secretly hoping that someone will save you. You learn to play your part, certain that anytime someone gets to know the real you, they’ll be disappointed, or worse.
Other plant teachers and healing modalities have helped me begin to unravel this, but a lifetime of trying to unthink your thoughts is a lot of neural pathways to reroute. Sometimes you have to force a reboot of the whole system, and that's what I'm trekking into the jungle to do. We may be disappearing from the map, disconnecting from the outside world, but I have a feeling this is going to be the least alone I've been in a long, long time.
It's about the whole ecosystem, and nowhere is this more evidenced than the rainforest. Our very surroundings will be alive. Our mother will be working within us. And we'll have each other, forming our own interreliant web: cyclical and reciprocal, healing ourselves to heal each other, and from there, just maybe we can heal the world.
See you on the other side, folks.