Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Here I am, sitting on the ground overlooking a high altitude lake in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 4,200 meters above sea level, writing these words to express my feelings. As cold wind blows on my face, I see wild ducks floating on the water. They look so comfortable and peaceful. To my right a herd of llamas and alpacas pass by, shepherded by a dog and a woman wearing traditional Andean clothes. Further in the distance, I see a village surrounded by farmland. The animals and the land is what sustains people’s lives here. Not many things can grow at such altitude.
The kids here are wearing sandals in cold mountain temperatures, their faces show frostbite.
Life is tough in the highlands of Peru. When I come here with our guests, we buy handmade crafts from the locals to support them – every little bit helps. They know us and are always happy when we come by. We help them as we can without interfering in their lives.
They are Catholics by faith, but historically it was not their religion of choice. Christianity was forced upon them in the early 1600’s by conquistadors, the treasure hunters. Through violence and domination, they brought them God in written word. The religion of the people of this time was different. Inca’s dynasty that was here just 500 years ago ruled the land. But the Incas were the latecomers. In the scale of thousands of years of rich Peruvian culture, they were here last week. For millennia, there have been cultures preceding the Incas living on this land, farming and herding livestock just as the people living here today. Not much has changed since – no matter the religion, life in the Andes has always been vastly the same.
These people live in a different world. They don’t have the internet, they don’t watch news.
They are busy living their lives. If the world collapses tomorrow, or even gets nuked, they wouldn’t even notice. Their lives will continue in the same way as they always have. From a Western perspective, these are poor and disadvantaged people who deserve compassion and help. And yes, to a point it is true. Warmer clothes and better house insulation would certainly make a difference in their lives. Financial support and infrastructure can be helpful as well. Good things can be done without strings attached.
But with all this hardship, when I talk to them, I don’t see even a trace of self pity, depression, or any kind of negative emotion. They seem to be living in total acceptance and harmony with their environment. They are friendly and positive. Even their dogs are friendlier and more pleasant to be around than some people I’ve met in privileged societies. People are living below the poverty line without hospitals, pharmacies, banks, heating systems, internet and all the other things that we are accustomed to in a civilized world, and yet, their faces, though reddish from cold winds, reflect peace.
How can this be? Is it not what we all want in our lives after all, this serenity and inner peace? This precious state of being fully at peace with yourself is not something you can buy with money – it’s priceless to live freely without a mask on (and I don’t mean for COVID.) And what is the source of this inner peace in such a harsh environment? A deep connection to the land fills these people with a sense of purpose, as they spend their days fulfilling their basic needs of life. Farming the land, building their own homes, and herding their animals connects them with the flow of life in a way we’ve simply lost in the modern world. From a modern perspective, we might see this way of living as primitive or even wasteful, as their focus is entirely on survival. But in truth, it’s their grounding lifestyle which brings them a peace we strive for, and rarely achieve, in the modern world. Going to an office to push papers, then picking up dinner from a freezer in the grocery store to eat at home in front of the TV leaves us disembodied from our natural state of being, creating an underlying state of anxiety and disconnection. Through a far more simplistic way of living, these mountain people are simply more connected to the energy of life, and are not ailed by the psychological turmoil we experience in more “civilized” societies.
Is this connection to life not the medicine that keeps them going? Is it not what keeps them sane? They don’t know what neuroticism even means. They cannot imagine that. Neuroticism is a product of a life we’ve created through convenience and technological progress. With all of our basic needs instantly met, we’ve advanced ourselves to “save time” that we don’t know what to do with – and it simply results in worry and anxiety over things that simply don’t exist in a more grounded way of living.
These would know neuroticism only by traveling to Lima and staying there for a couple of days. Lima, like any megacity is abundant with neurotic charge. When I was living in big cities, I never felt at peace. I felt disturbed. I always felt like I was living in a war zone where there is no place and no time for my soul to rest. The noise and fast pace of a city is a poison for the body, mind and spirit.
This is an essential part of the healing we do in Peru. We take you to nature where you can tune into a different frequency, a frequency of Nature. This peaceful and slow paced environment is where healing begins. Your heart beats more harmoniously with nature, not with engines. Your mind works better in silence, not noise. Your body finds the rest it needs to recalibrate itself and heal. This is the setting in which we take sacred Huachuma medicine, also known as San Pedro.
Huachuma connects you to nature in the most profound way possible. It allows you to heal yourself by merging with its peaceful energy. It’s a long overdue tune up for your body, mind and spirit. This experience brings you back to yourself. It’s what I call grounding. It grounds you in your body, in which many of us barely live in our daily lives. Mostly, we dwell in our minds in an imaginary world, either in the past or in the future. We’re never here and now, fully present and aware. In fact, this moment is the only place where we actually live. The rest is all imagination.
This is what I observe in people who live in the mountains. Their connection to the land is strong. They live in the present. It’s only in the modern world that we need to be taught about presence – a state of being that shouldn’t be intellectualized at all. These people do not understand presence intellectually because they don’t need to – they live it.
My fingers are getting cold as I write this. A hot tea would be nice to have. But I didn’t bring it with me. I feel like I can sit here all day and just keep writing. How different life can be in the same geographical region. We live in the Sacred Valley, 3000 meters above sea level. We have all the comfort we need and yet, we live in nature surrounded by magnificent mountains. It’s a perfect balance of civilization and wilderness. But just 1000 meters higher is a harsher and wilder place that provides a great contrast and teaching.
Huachuma makes you see and feel that which is hidden from your mind. It penetrates the fabric of your being to its core. This is what Christ meant when he said that if you lift the rock, you find me here. It’s the Divine presence he was talking about. When one is awake, one sees it everywhere in everything.
How old are these mountains? We can only guess. But surely they are here to stay for as long as the planet lives. And this can be billions of years. From this perspective they are eternal and our lives are nothing but a moment in their existence. From this perspective, you are forced to think in a different way. How do you spend your precious time on Earth?
When I think about my past, before becoming conscious of my life, I felt like nothing could be different. I had no guidance. I was trying to figure out my way all alone. Reading books and taking psychedelics was the best part of it and most enlightening. A step towards my future. Today, things are different, and I myself became a guide, the inner guide for whom I was looking for so long.
Expressing “Thank you plant medicine” hardly does justice to the gratitude I feel for what my life has become. It’s like being lost in a desert for many days without water and finally finding an oasis to rest and drink from. This is how I felt when I came to Peru for the first time in 2005 for Ayahuasca and Huachuma journeys. I felt alive. I found an oasis abandoned with clean water. I returned for three and a half years working with the medicine until I felt it was my time to move to Peru and serve it.
Today, 12 years after moving to Peru, I am living my dream which has become reality. I have dedicated my life to serving Huachuma medicine, a medicine that is closest to my soul from all. With all respect to other plant teachers who have helped me on my path, Huachuma is the one I chose to merge with. We are now one. Sometime I don’t even know if I am human having a cactus experience or I am a cactus having a human experience. An interesting feeling I cannot describe.
At Huachuma Wasi, our healing center in the Sacred Valley, you can find that which you were seeking for and perhaps even more, as it usually happens. People come to stay with us from all around the world and more often than not they don’t want to leave. We do ceremonies every other day to allow our guests to dive deep into the world of ancient mystery, find healing and clarity on their paths. We help you tune your spiritual strings, so that like a tuned guitar, you can play music with your soul.
This experience, among other things, helps you to actually feel yourself, and when you feel yourself you know yourself – and your true Self is not what you think it is. Your little self that has a name, a job and a mortgage is not the Self you meet here. The nameless, jobless and homeless is your true Self. The Cosmic Dweller is the real you, you never thought existed. Or if you did, you couldn’t touch it with your senses. You become that which you were when you were a kid playing under the rain. But back then, although in essence you were it, you weren’t conscious of the world around you. You didn’t know that you were a reflection of Divine Light, a cosmic consciousness that was given an incredible opportunity to experience itself in human form, to learn to love and grow through human experience.
This is something you can find here. Returning to the purity of your essence with an expanded consciousness and wisdom. Reconnecting to that child within you from the height of maturity. Making peace with the past from the present moment. A journey through time takes on a new meaning with Huachuma medicine.
Spaceless, infinite and immortal as the Universe itself is the nature of your soul and true identity. The rest is decoration and the roles we play on the stage of the theatre of life. When one is conscious, one can choose the role they play – which doesn’t actually matter. You simply do whatever you like to do in life. What matters is the awareness of Divine Play and your episode within the Cosmic Drama.
Consciousness means choice. Without it, we live mechanical lives with our fate determined by outside forces. This is the main point of the work we do with Huachuma, the rest is extraneous. Finding your innate powers and using them for healing and spiritual growth is what we focus on.
With Huachuma, Self discovery takes on another meaning. Huachuma, when properly taken, is a gateway to presence and realization of your full potential. You understand that whatever is possible for you is possible for you Now, not sometime in the future, and you become empowered to act on it. Taking action on your visions and insights after a Huachuma experience is then a key part of integration and creating real change in your life.
Through Huachuma, awakening to the truth of who you are is no longer is a faraway concept borrowed from Eastern philosophies. It becomes a reality that you can directly experience as your state of Being. Tears of gratitude often pour down your face in this state, as you realize that there are no words to even describe your experience, and you become inspired to bring this state into your daily life.
In our world today, it’s more important than ever to reconnect to the energy of Life and recalibrate our state of being with that of Mother Nature. Plant medicine is the perfect bridge between our modern world and an Earth-based way of living and Being that truly heals the body, mind, and soul. Thank you plant medicine for living together with us on Mother Earth and allowing us to connect to what’s real without the hardship. Through sacred plants, we don’t need to give up a comfortable way of living to experience the joy of inner peace, magic, and connection to Life that’s possible when we merge ourselves with nature.
Divine Cactus, a film by Sergey Baranov
Recommended articles by Sergey Baranov:
- Psychological Immunity During The Time of COVID
- Plant Medicine vs COVID Anxiety
- Why Huachuma (San Pedro) in 2021?
- The 21st year of the 21st Century: A Year of Chaos and Great Awakening
- Psychedelic Therapy and the Democratization of Psychoactive Experience
- Militarized Psychiatry vs Plant Medicine
- Huachuma: The Unforgettable Mystery
- Climate Solutions are Obvious – But Profit and Politics Stand in the Way
- What is Shamanic Healing?
- Consciousness in Exile: A Shamanic Perspective
About the author:
Sergey Baranov is the founder of Huachuma Wasi, a healing center in The Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru. He is the author of Path: Seeking Truth in a World of Lies, The Mescaline Confession: Breaking Through the Walls of Delusion and The Cactus of Sanity: Huachuma in a Time of Chaos. Sergey’s passion for life on Earth and its preservation is the driving force behind his work. You can contact Sergey at www.huachumawasi.com.