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A Lockdown Dieta with Huachuma


I wrote this last night as a prayer to send through Facebook, my main line to the world right now for better or worse. Laying down what I want to put out there - and call in - as seven ceremonies’ worth of San Pedro reduced on the stove.


Huachuma guarding the gate, Ibarra, Ecuador.


Today I begin my third dieta of this stint in South America. It’ll be two weeks, ceremony every other day like Papa Gilberto does it in Paoyhan. Back in Peru a few months and another world ago I completed only two of the three dietas I had hoped to. I wondered if a last one would come to fill that space, either with another maestro or maybe alone; I’ve been seeing solo dieting on the horizon for a while now. Though I’m relatively new to this specific technique it’s a sort of natural confluence of my most well-worn practices to date. And, inclination to spend extended periods of time alone. “My life is like an isolation dieta”, I remember saying one afternoon to my fellow dieteros in the jungle. It’s true. Deeper, more stable connection is a piece of healing I know I need, but on my particular kind of path solo time is unavoidable if you and the universe are brewing up anything serious. I believe that, so I place high value on it. Yes, it’s sometimes lonely, but even in isolation the stuff of this world is so brimming with personality I haven’t found it as lonely as one might think. One of my teachers said to me last year, though, that that’s not the same as connecting to HUMAN people, and that’s a really important thing to be doing too. He’s got a point.


Now we’ve all been tossed in the deep end of isolation practice in some form or another and the entire planet is in a high-stakes ceremony unfolding IRL with no clear end date. Getting stuck here in Ecuador when the borders closed did feel somehow like fate. I wasn’t quite sure why right away so I’ve just been rocking that quarantine life, trying to “be, not do” and other such Zen chestnuts. I settled in and soon found myself eyeballing the towering mountain of a San Pedro plantation growing outside the front gate of the property. I can see it peeking over the wall from my house, huge and old, like it owns the place.


I guess I was one dieta short after all, and not going anywhere until I finish my homework.


San Pedro, Huachuma, the grandfather medicine of the Andes. We’ve had a handful of memorable encounters. This spirit welcomed me to Peru the first time, back in 2014 in the north where there are many San Pedro shamans and few gringos, and notably a tradition of female healers as well which is why I went there. You can still see paintings of this cactus in the local ruins of pre-Incan civilizations. I began this trip in October with a return visit to that beloved region, a fast in the mountains and a reunion with old friends. I’m quite touched that this is how it’s all coming together now. Thank you, San Pedro, for showing up for this dieta. I’m excited and definitely a little nervous to sit at your feet and learn a thing or two, you my teacher during this unprecedented time, with all of us here in such fertile soil.


There’s no single person to hold my hand on this flight, so I’m inquiring: where’s my support coming from? I’m working on that, asking that, and being open to receive it. I have to stop and think about it, it doesn’t come all that naturally for the most part yet. “We all KNOW already you can do everything yourself,” I was told recently on the topic by my mentor/therapist, before being advised not to try to do everything myself.


So, dear people, I would like to ask you for support. In the form of playlists. Yes, playlists! I’m going to be incorporating dance into this dieta, not traditional either and yet it was coming through strong on my last two dietas so I’m going with it. Curating two weeks of playlists feels overwhelming, and unnecessary when I’m so resourced as to be a part of a community chock-full of musicians, healers, dance therapists and generally big-hearted, talented people who can totally lend a hand on this. I do absolutely believe in disciplined study of classical methods, but decentralized, self-organizing collaborations are the name of the game right now. In light of that, I’m interested to try this out. What a prospect: rather than doing everything alone, to be held up by a little help from my friends.


The themes of this dieta are present in this writing already: connection, collaboration, community, collective healing. Trust, letting go, growing roots down deep. Discovering the ones that already exist. One thing I know: when fear, death, and illness come to the fore as our teachers, something big is about to crack wide open. So please, weave in your prayers and your visions and send those dance journeys on over. This means YOU, don’t think it doesn’t! I would be so honored for any of you who wish to put your thumbprint on this prayer practice to do so, here at this critical juncture - so I don’t have to do it alone, and because not doing it alone is I think one of the main calls to action for us all at this very moment in our shared existence. So, right now in this little way we can pray, dance, and create meaning as we are all, in our own ways, in this retreat together. Little ways are the road to big ways, and quarantine won’t last forever.


A special note that I’ll be weaving in protection for my father, head of the physical therapy department at an elder care facility about an hour from New York City. Coronavirus broke out there this week and some of the faculty are home after testing positive. Eight or nine of the residents have died. I fear for my dad who is still going to work every day and I’m calling in a cosmic suit of armor for him. Please, include your prayers for him and my mom, and for any of your loved ones you wish to keep safe.


I won’t be going into full isolation, I’ll be avoiding internet chit chat and surfing while still checking messages daily. I’m keeping tabs on my family. I’ll be dancing with my community at events online, listening to the guidance of my teachers there who are putting out some pretty powerful stuff right now, also amazing support I’m grateful for. I’ll be monitoring the situation a bit with one eye out and the other in. There is a distinct sense of what’s happening in the world being the exact right environment to contain this dieta space, the exact right medicine, so I’ll be remaining marginally connected to it in a critical way. Other than that, I’ll be keeping myself close and out in two weeks.


Thank you, friends. Spotify is probably the best format for me, or if you have other formats you prefer we can try them. Playlists you create specifically for this are very welcome, as are older ones you made for other occasions that feel meaningful for you now.


Wishing you all health, strength and lots of learning, reaching out with an IOU for a bear hug when such things are once again possible.