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Ayahuasca – An Amazonian Journey

Written by Sam Slovick (from LA Yoga Magazine)

Vegetalismo is the indigenous Amazonian tradition of spiritual herbalism practiced in the Peruvian Amazon.  It’s an elegant and refind sacred science.  This LA Yoga Magazine story, “Welcome to the Jungle” and accompanying video was shot at a center called Espiritu De Anaconda near Iquitos, Peru.  The compound was founded by Shipibo shaman, Guillermo Arévalo (aka Kesenbetsa), whose objective is the protection, organization and diffusion of traditional Amazonian medicine.  The center offers traditional cures at the healing center site as well as training with traditional shamanic preparation in the isolated jungle.

Arévalo’s medicine name, ‘Echo of the Universe’ is a decidedly prophetic moniker.  His global vision of the ancient practice is rooted in the jungle and developed by his people, the Shipibo-Conibo, and has woven it’s way into the Western world and beyond.

Guillermo is recognized worldwide in the field of Amazonian indigenous medicine, from both western academic and indigenous organizations, and especially by his own people. Vegetalismo is conceivably the most evolved and sophisticated tradition of Amazonian Master Plant healing.

Arévalo is the subject of a documentary film (Other Worlds) by French film director Jan Kounen.

Ayahuasca, Shamanism And The Diets Of Healing

I’ll open your thoughts. By doing so I’ll fill you with joy. By doing so I’ll straighten your thoughts. By doing so I’ll straighten your body. now I’ll heal you to the depths of your heart. By doing so I’ll fill you with immense joy. By doing so I’ll return life to your body and to your thoughts. I’ll heal your being, your body, with the powerful essence of the tree and the universe. so you are joyous, remember my words. so you remember them, I will chant them. Though I’m small, I made your thoughts shine. The universe is in harmony.The word is and ever will be.

–– Shamanic Chants of Kestenbetsa (Echo of the Universe) From Jan Kounen’s Documentary About Ayahuasca, Other Worlds.

Krishna Das New Release

Written by Sam Slovick (from LA Yoga Magazine May 2010)

“Chanting is called a practice for one reason: It only works if we do it. Chanting has been my main practice for years, but it took me a long time to realize that it’s only by doing it regularly that we begin to experience ourselves changing. If we want to get wet we have to jump into the water. If we want to stay wet we have to learn to swim, or at least float!” ––KD from Chants of a Lifetime

Krishna Das (KD) is drenched. He’s standing under a cloudburst of grace with his feet in a puddle of love. If you stand anywhere near him you’re going to get wet.

His karmic trajectory is well documented. He put out the call for transcendence in the summer of love and the response materialized as the living embodiment of the Simian God, Hanuman, in the form of his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. KD crawled out of a bottomless pit of despair in New York all the way to the subcontinent and…well…you can read the rest in his new book, Chants of a Lifetime.

Four decades later, the street-certified kirtan road dog who opened the door for generations of western seekers has transcended the role of portal keeper to the East. The lotus has blossomed; a career crescendo manifested in the release of his new CD, Heart As Wide As The World has certified his bhakti adhikara.

Krishna Das brings a lot of light. Presumably, he also casts a commensurate shadow, but all I can see is the reflected glare from his gleaming king-sized tour bus in the parking lot just outside the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. The show he is sharing with Deva Premal, Miten and Manose is, of course, sold out.

“Krishna Das is my name. My guru gave me that name in India in 1972. It means servant of God,” he says. “It’s something to grow up into, I think. When you first start doing spiritual practice, it’s very much you’re trying to pull that splinter out, that nail you stepped on. You’re trying to get it out of your foot.

My practice, of course, you would say is chanting. Obviously that’s my main practice. But that’s really just a part of the practice. The context that all the chanting is done within is trying to be in the presence of that love all the time.

The practice and the path seem to be about your own pain and removing your own pain and suffering. But the more you do this stuff, the older you get, you begin to see that your own pain is no better or less or more than anyone else’s pain. You kind of lose the ability to cut off and keep people at a distance. Then your practice begins to get…how to deal with…” He pauses, “How do you keep your heart open with the huge, humungous amount of suffering in the world?”

Pranayama Yoga – Breathwork

Written by Sam Slovick (from LA Yoga Magazine April 2010)

The Kyoto Hotel in downtown Los Angeles is a portal today. Braced against the streets of chaos, the Little Toyko-5 star is pressed tightly against the homeless vortex of Skid Row. In a few hours, Reluctant Healer, David Elliott will incite another kind vortex here. A whirling mass of self inflicted healing in a pranayamic workshop.

Neatly dressed in a sweater and jeans, he’s breathing easy in the pristine sanctuary of the rooftop garden. Elliott listens with the detached indifference of a spiritual clinician. He speaks with the calm reserve of a Southerner.

A practiced wordsmith, he has just released his second book, Healing. His first work, The Reluctant Healer, was decidedly well received and remains a valuable resource for anyone considering the path of healer.

“I teach people how to heal themselves by getting in touch with their energy, and teaching them how energy can melt through any block or illness, and ultimately the energy I’m talking about is love…self-love.”

Pranayama is a healing modality. From the Sanskrit; prana or breath is the life-force; yama, means to suspend or restrain. The breathwork is an aspect of what David Elliott does in totality. It’s one element in a larger toolbox that makes up his practice.

“It’s a tool to help people to get out of their heads… to help people to open up. Open their heart up and stop thinking or being focused outside themselves. So with the breathing meditation we’re teaching people to focus inside. To still themselves and ultimately to open up and let the universe come through as love…as self-love,” he says.

Deva Premal & Miten Ancient Mantras

Written by Sam Slovick (from LA Yoga Magazine March 2010)

It’s early afternoon; the sun sparkles on waves crashing on the beach below the bluffs. Deva Premal and Miten are in repose in Malibu sitting in the expanse of a large tastefully appointed living room bathed in a reflected glow.

They’re light-hearted. They’re laughing a lot. Not a counterfeit smile or moment of manufactured bliss in the space between the words. In soundless relief, no remnant of stress lingers from the relentless grind of their perpetual trans-continental touring schedule… because it’s effortless for them. They move in a sannyasic bliss fueled by devotion. The mystery of how the globe-trotting mantra singers maintain their collective bliss on tour is about to reveal itself without words.

Deva and Miten lean into our conversation over a glass of coconut water. I ask the two of them questions and they answer as one.

How did you get so lucky?

“That’s what I keep asking myself,” Deva says. “We were galley slaves in our last lives,” Miten adds.

How do you do what you do? That is…how does the mechanism of your modality, your practice of healing by mantra work?

“Deva’s a translucent channel for the mantras to move through,” Miten says, “She was born to her father chanting the Gayatri [mantra]. People don’t understand the difference between a language that is energetic and a language that is created by the mind.”

“The meaning is secondary. The word table is not the table,” Deva cuts to the heart of the matter. “With Sanskrit, the word anon is the sound vibration of bliss. In sound the energy of bliss. We have to say bliss; we have to make it smaller by putting it into an English word. Just the sound; anon, If we were sensitive enough we’d just feel the entire scope of that energy that’s contained in this sound.”

Miten sits motionless in a comfortable silence as she continues.

Shipibo Tradition – Iquitos Shipibo Shop

Shipibo BraceletFound nestled along the ruddy dirt road on the way to ESPIRITU DE ANACONDA (Iquitos, Peru) is a small shop honoring the Shipibo tradition.  Two beautiful souls, Bastian and his wife Vanessa operate the cool little store about a half hour’s walk from the healing center.  They buy everything from the Shipibos in Pucallupa and always have amazing stuff.  Checkout the video to see some of the different bracelets and textiles they carry.  Most of the goods contain different patterns of Master Plants used in the healing practice of Vegetalismo.