by Kiran Lakshman
A recent visit to the Shipibo shamans in the jungle terrain of Peru opened my eyes to a new level of unity between humans and Nature. It was inspiring to learn how humans, the animal kingdom, and plants could cooperate in the context of a traditional ceremony. Two memorable conversations, one with a mature shaman and the second with an elder shaman brought about the dawn of my understanding.
In the first conversation, I was interpreting between an English-speaking group member and a Spanish-speaking mature shaman who was selling her hand-embroidered tapestries on the wooden floor of a round maloka. One tapestry featured a thick brown snake curled around a central circle. I asked the shaman if the snake in the tapestry was an Anaconda (of course, it was) and if she had ever seen an Anaconda.
Graciously, she began storytelling. She said that there are times when her family holds ceremony down by the river. They launch into ceremonial singing, and the Anacondas come up out of the river. The first time she experienced that she was alarmed – here she made big eyes as if looking at the approaching Anaconda – but her father, an elder shaman, urged her to “keep singing, keep singing.” Then, she said that the Anacondas sat around the people, and when the ceremony came to a close, they returned to the river in the quiet of the night. I believe that the anacondas both passively received the healing energy of the ceremony and actively contributed their species own healing frequencies. Without their contributions, the unique medicine of that ceremony would not have been complete. How relieved I am that somewhere on this planet, there is still enough unity among life forms to create that medicine.
The second significant conversation occurred on the final morning of the group’s ten day stay, after the closing ceremony the night before. The elder shaman was unassumingly sitting near me at the long breakfast table. Bits of conversation could be heard all around the table while group members shared what that ceremony had guided them to learn. I turned and respectfully asked the elder in Spanish if he had any visions during the past night’s ceremony. Kindly and graciously, he affirmed that he had seen the group members’ specific plants from their dieta period growing hale and hearty up around each person’s shoulders and head.
With those words, the second stone wall in my mind crumbled. As I looked through the open space, I saw myself through the elder shaman’s eyes, with shamanic teacher plants growing strong in my central nervous system. Suddenly, I understood at a cellular level, the elder’s role of mystical farmer, and I felt like a piece of valuable, fertile ground capable of hosting powerful medicinal plants. I felt gifted with the plant intelligences that would work on their own wherever I went, to spread their medicine for the greater good. This was a relief, because my little brain could not do what those plant intelligences could do. Similar to the previous experience when I heard the story of the Anacondas, I felt struck with awe that Nature, humans and ceremony could collaborate to offer healing assistance to the world this way. Each on its own was an untapped resource, but all together – ripe fruit to nourish personal and global systems of change that couldn’t be measured or predicted.