... 101 and FAQ ...
DIETA VS DIET
WHAT IS A DIETA?
In the Amazonian, specifically Peruvian tradition, dieta is a core component of learning and healing. It is not to be confused with the 'diet' that a person is encouraged to follow before a meeting or retreat with certain sacred plant teachers. It is wholly other, and completely separate, although many administrators or facilitators these days are unaware of the difference, in part because they may not have walked this path, and sometimes because of the language barrier / similarities in sound. There is no blame in this, only the observation that one cannot give knowledge of something they do not know. Yes, there are some similarities, but there are many differences.
For example, for a meeting with a plant teacher in a retreat format, let's say; one is encouraged to eat a vegan or plant based diet, minimising salt, sugar, spice (bland food), maximising fruits and veg for 3-7 days beforehand - and following. One is also encouraged to avoid stimulus in the form of movies, etc. One is also advised to abstain from sexual intercourse or masturbation (self-pleasuring in a sexual sense). Alcohol is eliminated for a week prior to the event. Pharma and recreational drugs ( including cannabis ) are eliminated from one month to one week before depending on the substance involved. Ok, these are the basics, and they can greatly amplify the possibility of receiving a deeper experience, healing or teaching, mostly because they purify the mind and body and help create a stable container - i.e, the body / mind complex. ( Same rules and time frame apply to after the retreat for best results and best health ).
However, dieta is of a different nature. Dieta is an agreed period of time given to a plant teacher or medicinal plant for teaching and healing to take place. This time frame is contractual, meaning that it is agreed beforehand. In the Amazonian tradition, if a die-ease or malady cannot be cured by usual ceremonial and healing means, then dieta is advised. These periods of time usually range from one week to one year, although most run for no longer than a month at at time. (Due to constraints of the modern world, I should say).
Dieta gets to the root. There are hundreds of plants that can be deited, most have no discernible ( as in psychedelic or otherworldly ) effect, yet they are discernably profound in the depths that they can open. During dieta, there is:
No salt, no sugar, no spice, no sex, limited intake of food, usually no fruit or vegetables, only 4 or 5 foods. In many cases, the time is spent in isolation, in silence and contemplation. Silence is one of the most important components of the dieta. Dieta where there is much conversation, chit chat, ruminating and mulling over, is not dieta. Likewise, it is a time for no engagement with the outside world, no cell phone, no internet, no communication. No computer, no listening to music and no reading, unless reading material is given. No distraction. A little discipline goes a long way.
How are we to break that pattern of distraction and consumption if we are still feeding it? How are we to learn from a plant when we are learning from another source, or inputing data that is not congruent?
Dieta is opened by a medicine man or woman who has done that dieta with that plant, usually many times over many years, and has permission and blessing to do so.
One who opens a dieta or offers it without having done it themselves has no permission or authority to do so, and having done a dieta also does not mean one has permission to then offer it to another person.
This is important to note. Dieta is a crucial time, and the respect has to be correct, plants and dietas can be broken and crossed, causing harm to all involved. It is a journey of responsibility. Some plants can be less easy to cross than others, some more advanced or potent plants ( for want of a better word ), far more easy and the repucussions far greater.
These can manifest in sickness greater than the original. Ways of crossing dieta can include events that happen in the dream space, so it is recommended that this path is walked from the beginning, beginning with more gentle plants for shorter periods of time, and working up. There are many reports of people becoming sick after dieta. This is because the dieta has either not been held correctly, or ended correctly.
Dieta is ended, or closed, by the master. The word is given back, so speaking is now allowed. A time period no less than half the time in dieta is essential to continue the same regulations in order for the body to integrate and assimilate. This means - in simple terms - that the same rules apply. If you dieted a week, then 3.5 days extra, if you dieted a month, then 2 weeks extra, none of the other foods, no sex, no this, no that. Breaking these rules ( I would usually call them guidelines, but in the case of dieta, they are rules ) can carry a heavy and serious consequence.
Dieta is a period of contraction, and, if all goes well ( the responsibility is on you, your commitment, and the teacher for being transparent and honest about their responsibility ) this contraction will be followed by a period of expansion. It is akin to getting to know someone well, earning trust, a time to take a plant as a friend, a teacher and an ally. As with all relations, respect is key. The knowledge, healing and friendship of the plants is an honour to receive, and is vast.
Dieta is usually, although not always, supported by ceremony. In this write up, I shy away from writing of the spirit of the plant, although that is what we are speaking of.
A well held dieta will bring much healing, teaching and wellness, a renewal and revitalisation of energy and inspiration. Most songs, icaros are given in dieta to the apprentice. This has traditionally been the case and continues to be the case. For me, the most potent songs are gifted by the plants during this time, and dieta is the time of the true icaro.
A poorly held dieta will result in little good, much confusion, unclarity and fantasy; and the likely potential for sickness of mind, body and spirit ( all are connected ).
These are some thoughts for today, I may add to them at a later date, but I do hope that they shed some light on what is often a confused or confusing topic for those who wish to know the difference between diet and dieta.
I do encourage anyone with a sincere interest in plant medicine to engage in a formal dieta if they wish to progress in their understanding, but also advise caution as to where and how this is done. Who we entrust our spiritual and psychological well being to is of paramount importance and not all dietas are the same. For this reason I have been making my dietas in the same place, with the same teachers for the past decade or so. I trust them to be able to hold that space with the depth of their knowledge and experience, to support me with their prayer, and to guide me to walk a true path, one that is grounded and real, and leads to true healing and understanding.
Beyond support, protection is offered, and a clear space in which no unwanted energetic intrusions are permitted to enter. This, to me is essential, that coming under the guidance and protection of a teacher, I am guided and protected for this very sensitive time when we are most open.
For more information, you can write to me for recommendations or time when dieta can be arranged here in Peru in the space of my trusted colleague, mentor and friend, either in the Sacred Valley or in the deep jungle.
To finish, this is a deep and almost infinite topic, and there is much to share, but more to be received from opening the door. Back to back dietas with different plants is not recommended, the adage of less is more applies. We are not wishing to apply the same model of rushing or consumption to the world of plant medicine. For some, they wish to enter dieta so they will become something or someone, or become able to lead ceremonies etc, but this is not the best of intentions to begin with ( in my opinion, and in all that I have seen and learned from myself and others so far ). The path of dieta quiet often challenges us to become nobody.
My final thought is that both diet ( pre and post ceremony ) and dieta deserve total respect. For a ceremony or a retreat, diet is fundamental and is for everyone, without exception.
What you put in, you get out - it's a waste of time and money to convince yourself you are doing a serious work and then throw it all away by not preparing well - or coming back well.
Dieta may not be for everyone or in everyone's field of interest, but when we choose to engage, to do so with respect and humility is key. If not, we may learn those lessons the hard way.
HAPAY or RAPAY
SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE USE
It's a common question, how to use this sacred medicine in a safe and responsible way. It's something I have encountered along the way in many places and spaces, and from my own experience. So, here are some ideas, from where I learned this medicine, the leader of the Yawanawa Tribe in Brazil.
Rapay is a very strong medicine that commands and deserves respect and responsible use. It is not to be used recreationally or conversationally. By this, the invitation is to always create a sacred space before use, and maintain that space for the duration of the effects. That means, no conversations, distractions, put away the phone, meditate and pray with this medicine.
Rapay can be addictive ( as all forms of tobacco can ) and when overused can cause some serious complications. It is not recommended to be used more than twice a day. Wash your hands and hydrate well before and after use. Regularly clean your instruments of application and always ask for permission to receive the medicine in a good way, with prayer and intention.
If you are giving to others, please be extra careful, clear and focussed on the task in hand, this is not a position or responsibility to take lightly. It is not your position to enforce your concept of what " you are doing " on another. Very seldom in this life can one know what is best for another. This is absolutely not a space for energetic intrusion, mental manipulation or the creation of confusion or illusion.
Less is more, allow people the space to be with the medicine rather than feeling the need to shamanise over them while they are in this sacred, sensitive and delicate space. It is easy to invade the space of another by accident and interfere with the process, even with the best of intentions. If you consider yourself to be a healer, please remember that the first rule of this is to ask for permission from the person you are working with, they may or may not be open to what you feel called to do, this is a sacred contract and in this, honouring the other and the medicine is of paramount importance. When finished, thank the medicine. This will help establish a relationship which is based on respect and responsible use.
The nature of the human system is that it can become addicted to almost anything, so again, be aware of this, and be careful. That said, enjoy and appreciate the medicine and all that it can offer for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual clarity and connection, and the healing and teaching that it brings.
* For those who are new to Hapay, and those who are not new, it should be taken under advice that this medicine does not need to be used everyday. Primarily, a medicine, by definition, is to be used infrequently and only as and when needed. Take care of your body and listen to your needs as they arise. Ask the question, "Do I really need this right now, and why, for what purpose or reason?"
Many people use Hapay somewhat habitually, and I have also been in that trap. Take it from me, the nose and the brain don't fare well after some time, so give yourself a good break from time to time, and consider your body, especially your nose. Maybe get into the habit of Neti, nostril cleansing from the yoga traditions, and don't blow your nose too hard. Take care of yourself. Again, you WILL need to hydrate after - drink good clean water, around half a liter should suffice.
Many also use this medicine for grounding, as tobacco products have that effect, but be mindful that there are many other techniques that do not require medicine to have that effect. Grounding can be a conscious practice, feet on the earth, feeling that support, some form of embodiment practice will help. Above all, it is advisable that you are already grounded well before receiving any medicine in a sacramental way - the same applies for those who are giving the sacrament. Explore this area and you will find new ways of relating with the earth and the ground, finding more centre in your own body without the need for external tools to achieve that result. I wish you well... be safe, be healthy, and be happy.
The Spirit of Service
There is no one way, there are many ways.
As much of the Northern Hemisphere is embraced in the cold and snows of winter there is much to be received. Time to take stock of the year maybe, time to give gratitude and release sadness, time to rest, to surrender into the arms of Wintertime. For me, this time of the year holds a unique space, a space of some sorrow and loss. loss of loved ones, separation from loved ones, and fond memories of years gone by. For many the season can be challenging, for others a time to take a vacation, whatever seems fit. With the world in the state that it is there is a whole spectrum of emotion and sentiment to be explored, felt and held. As I write, there are tears in my eyes for so many reasons, the tenderness and strangeness of life and love.
I wrote in a song recently that "Sometimes I think that the oceans are filled with all the tears of every human that's ever loved and lost, every human that's ever lived". Whatever our circumstance, we share this common trait, no-one escapes life without experiencing great extremes of loss within their capacity to love. In fact, the capacity to love encompasses a great capacity for grief, not only for the self, but the other, all others. With compassion we move beyond the freezing cold of desolation, sometimes slowly.
I was asked a question recently by a brother who felt he was being called into service. I knew in this context he was aiming to be in service to ceremonies, but it opened up deeper questions. Many are called to the apparently glamorous world of ceremony and wish to assist, to help others, and themselves, in that journey. This is one layer of the onion.
In my reflection I could see that the greatest act of service I was ever able to make was to my grieving and dying father. To be present for him, even with all my resistance to that duty at times. I felt that while I have given a lot and learned a lot in more glamorous settings over the years, it was only one sphere of life, and life touches all spheres. To go beyond the ceremony, to go beyond the other dimensions and fully enter this one, this one of the most touching reality, and be of service to those we are most intimately connected with.
Each of us is touched by grace, and graced by touch. Each of us has walked a path through this life that has twisted and turned, sometimes we have walked in the light, other times in the shadow. Each of us shares similarities in our experience and unique differences too. Om asato ma sat gamaya tamasoma jyotir gamaya, mrityor ma'amritam gamaya... lead us from the unreal to the real, lead us from darkness to the light, lead us from death to the eternal life, om shanti, shanti, shanti, om.
So, this life is a walk, and service is a gesture best aligned with the heart. At this time of year, and in these worldly circumstances we are experiencing - new lockdowns, loss of job, liberty and the like, the likelihood of less travel and fewer meetings with loved ones, some of whom we may never see again in the fleshly world - I feel drawn to those who will sense this as I do, the sense of some isolation, confusion over world circumstance and the desolation and desperation that can come at this time of year for many. As multitudes celebrate holidays, many experience loneliness in extreme measure. Those who have no family, those who have no home, those who for whatever reason seem to be excluded from the Netflix curated narrative of life. Service to life goes beyond the ceremony - it goes out in all directions and our prayers to make it real are tested as to how far we will go in that direction.
This year, I once again cannot be with my loved ones and blood family at Christmas or New Year due to the fact that am still unvaccinated for travel to the UK and / or other countries, as more are added to that list and more restrictions come into place to restrict that movement even further. But there are many who can benefit from real contact, real touch.
My mother lives in a nursing home inhabited by elderly people who suffer from Dementia. She is not alone in this, I am not alone in this, we are not alone in this. Across the world there are many who are in the same situation, many who could benefit from a visit, from family or otherwise. Same goes for those in other situations, those on the streets, those who will receive no toys or gifts at this time of year, those who are the often forgotten.
We can all be of service, we can all put our hearts into this, and our hands in our pockets if need be, to help strengthen the bond of love that life can sometimes test to breaking point.
This is a rambling writing, but through it I hope that the message is clear; there are always brothers and sisters who need support and love, they are often marginalised, and may not come to a ceremony or a celebration. Service can be a helping hand, a dollar or two, taking phone calls for an organisation people can contact if they cannot cope, being and older brother or sister to a younger brother or sister, bringing a smile into an old people's home, donating food to a food bank, gifts to a gift bank, paying some love into the universal love bank. Each of us can find a meaningful way to be in service in the mundane everyday reality, it is too easy to slip into the out of this world existence. If we have time and energy to spare, and the spirit of service is there, then what is there to stop this from manifesting in our lives.
I would love to be with my mother this Christmas, spend the afternoon with her and the other residents of her home, knowing that over 75% of them will receive no visitors this Christmas. I wonder how best to be in service given my own circumstances of life, and the events that have shaped my life and where I orient my attention. These are the fruits of this question so far, and they will continue to gestate with me over this season... sure there will be more to come.
I hope it provides some inspiration of how to be in service to life, our friends, family, community and the family of life, knowing that we are connected and most definitely in this together, no matter how separate we may feel ourselves to be. This journey we are on began a long time ago and it will continue long after we are gone, so, my prayer is that we make it worthy of life...
I will share that the human sphere can often be the most challenging for me. I have found it easy to pay back and care for animals, donate to shelters, provide food for them and the organisations that care for them, same with plants and trees.
How to embrace the human family in a direct way, beyond ceremony, beyond teaching has its challenges as we are often confronted with our fear and shadow, or we don't think it is our place. Donating food to a homeless shelter is one thing, volunteering there, donating time and energy another level of interaction that places us in front of that reality that we often prefer not to look at directly. The same goes for Altzheimers and Dementia, maybe it is because there is a fear that it could happen to us, or an inability to comprehend the depths of it, but people afflicted by this experience are often marginalised, forgotten, not seen or spoken to or about. Many people do not like to visit their friends when they pass into this stage of existence, yet, it is in this stage that they need love and friendship the most. We are all human and in confronting this we meet our humanity and the exquisite fragility and resilience of existence along the way.
May our touch be tender and empowering and may our service be always to life.