I’m recently back from another trip to indigenous shamans in the rainforests of Latin America and from teaching a “Sacred Plant” workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY. Now I am full of wonderful anticipation around my upcoming trips to the Kogi of Colombia in December 2018, the Maya of Guatemala in January 2019 and ayahuasca shamans in Costa Rica in January 2019.
The plants have been on my mind and in my heart for a great deal of my life; and they are speaking louder and more forcefully than ever, right now. As readers of this blog well know, I believe we humans are experiencing a global Consciousness Revolution and the plants are reaching out to push us deeper into this revolution.
Michael Pollan, in his ground-breaking book How to Change Your Mind, as well as many other scientists and researchers, discuss the newly emerging science around the intelligence and communications skills of plants. Just a couple of examples:
When one plant was hooked with electrodes to a machine that converted its energetic expressions into audible tones and another was placed beside it – unhooked – the hooked plant made screaming sounds every time the unhooked one was injured by a human scientist;
When a cabbage sitting on a plate that measured changes in energetic vibrations was cut with a machete, it made similar screaming sounds;
A vial of small shrimp was set over boiling water near a plant that was hooked up with electrodes. When the shrimp started dying, the plant was seen to go frantic, on a polygraph setup. (1)
Today botanists know that plants can send chemical signals vast distances through their root systems to warn other plants of changing climatic conditions and other threats. The shamans I have worked and studied with for many decades also have learned to tap into this plant consciousness and in the process gain an understanding of what plants can do to help us humans. Such help includes healing through ingesting plants as medicines and applying them as ointments and poultices. And now, a new consciousness arises from the plant world to boost human awareness…
Plant consciousness recently has emerged in part through the growing interest around what are referred to as “psychedelics,” such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, San Pedro, and Nicotiana rustica. On my trips, and in most of my workshops, I offer people the opportunity to experience at least one of these.
Although all these plants – when taken with respect and under the right conditions – are powerful, the latter, N. rustica, is especially important. A great teacher in many ways, it is a particularly potent variety of tobacco that grows wild in the Latin American rain forests and is the most widely used of all the plants held sacred by the shamans there. It has much more in common with ayahuasca than with the Nicotiana tobacum that is used (and corrupted with chemicals) to make cigarettes.
N. rustica contains high amounts of beta-carbolines, including the harmala alkaloids harmane and norharmane – the same that are found in the Amazonian vine Banisteriopsis caapi, the principal ingredient in ayahuasca. These MAO-inhibitors stimulate the central nervous system by obstructing hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine. Shamans long ago discovered what science has confirmed, that these harmala alkaloids have antidepressant properties and are often able to help people become more grounded and “awake” to the deeper realities in their lives – personal and communal. (2)
Many botanists and anthropologists believe that Native North Americans used N. rustica in their pipe and other ceremonies – until the Europeans arrived. They theorize that the shamans decried that the colonists were so out of touch with nature that they could not handle the power of N. rustica and relegated its keeping to those who lived in the remote jungles of Latin America.
One of the reasons that I find N. rustica so magical is that it teaches us that perceptions rule human realities. When I tell people at workshops or on trips that they will have the opportunity to “take tobacco,” I find that their reactions often reflect the perceptions that have been molded by advertisements for and against cigarettes – N. tabacum plus chemicals. Once they try N. rustica (usually as a liquid or powder sniffed through the nose), their perceptions change – and so does their reality!
As the shamans stress and I emphasize during workshops: All plants are teachers. For example, the poison ivy thrives not in the deep woods but in areas invaded by humans; it warns us to stick to the path, stay away from the fragile forest– or at least walk consciously and gently. The blackberry has sharp thorns to remind us to honor its existence and that work is required to savor the fruits of life. Standing before a plant you can feel the beauty of the exchange – you send it CO2 and it returns the gift, sending you Oxygen. The sacred teacher plants, like ayahuasca and N. rustica, have emerged into our collective consciousness because they are needed at this time.
Let us remember that these plants are teachers. They are not “drugs” and not to be used lightly or recreationally. They have a message. And it is up to us to take our time, to listen, and then act in accordance with their message: To insure the survival of the plants, the animals, the rivers and forests, and us.
We are at a pivotal time in human history. We are waking up to the fact that we are in charge of our Living Earth’s navigational systems and we are navigating into disaster. It is time to reprogram and reboot those systems. Time for a new consciousness of what it means to be humans on this planet and in this universe.
The plants are getting it. They are speaking to us.
Let us listen. With respect and humility.
The dangers of the corporatocracy and the Death Economy – a world created by economic hit men and now manipulated by many of our “leaders” – and the powers of the rising Consciousness Revolution: These were the topics of the three speeches and numerous media interviews I gave at the Melting Pot conference held within the Colours of Ostrava in the Czech Republic. It was attended by more than 50,000 people in late July 2018.
It was an amazing event, a happening of world-class musicians, quantum physicists, media giants, philosophers, economists, and thinkers from many walks of life. To me, the venue itself represented the transition from a Death to a Life Economy, our evolution into a new consciousness. A huge and once highly successful coal mine/steel mill that went bankrupt because it used up all its coal has now been converted into a magnificent series of stages and auditoriums. This symbol of the Death Economy now conveys inspiration, hope, joy, and – above all – ideas for catapulting humankind into the new era, a Life Economy.
I can’t begin to express the extent of my joy at how the teachings and prophecies of the indigenous people I’ve so often written about are being manifest in places like Ostrava. As the groups I take to the Achuar of the Amazon, Kogi of Colombia, and Maya of Guatemala learn, we all come from indigenous ancestors who are part of (versus “apart from”) nature. They know that a Life Economy that is itself a renewable resource is essential to the future survival of our species and many other species. They live in a present that supports the long-term, unlike the Death Economy that advocates a materialistic, greedy and selfish presence and insists on maximizing short-term profits.
The Melting Pot, the Colours of Ostrava, and the venue they have chosen are the perfect symbol – a metaphor – for this renaissance from systems that are failing us to ones that will thrive and bring new meaning to the human presence on this fragile space station we call Earth.
I was asked to provide a simple take-away at the end of my talks, something everyone can practice. That was easy because it comes right out of the pages of the book I’m currently writing, “Touching the Jaguar.” First, a bit of philosophy that is also presented in the book:
We know that there are two realities: Objective (the computer I’m using to type these words) and Perceived (the ideas expressed by the words). The reality of most human activities and all institutions are molded by human perceptions. We can think of transformation as occurring when we cross a perception bridge from one reality into another.
For example, transforming a Death into a Life Economy simply requires changing our perception.
The indigenous people we visit and study with on our trips tell us that the only thing standing in the way of crossing that perception bridge into a new and better reality is a jaguar that terrifies us (for example, the fear of change, the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule). It is a mistake to run from the jaguar, to avoid or deny that which we fear. Instead we must go to it, confront it, touch it. When we do, the jaguar gives us its power.
A personal example: As a writer, one of my jaguars is that the ideas won’t come to me today; I tell myself that I have to do something else, I’ll postpone writing until tomorrow. I’ve learned that if I touch that jaguar, commit to sitting down at my computer and writing for at least an hour, magic often happens, ideas come, I enjoy myself, and feel much better prepared to write again tomorrow, the next day. . .
After briefly discussing these ideas at my talks (and in the book), I offer this take-away:
Daily Practices for a Happier Life and Better World
Define your dream, your greatest desire, a life that will bring you the most happiness;
Describe how your dream can support a Life Economy;
Put 1. and 2. in writing;
Identify the jaguar that blocks you from realizing your dream and what you must do to touch that jaguar and receive its power;
Read 3 and 4 to yourself every morning and take daily actions to make them happen. Realize that actions can be as simple as sending an email or as complicated as running for public office. The important thing: Do something every single day that advances your dream for a happier life and a better world.
I’ve written in previous newsletters that you and I are incredibly blessed because we are part of the greatest revolution in history: The Consciousness Revolution.
This revolution has come none too soon. Because humans are navigating our fragile space station, Earth, towards disaster, it is imperative that we reboot our navigational systems – our consciousness and perceptions about what it means to be human on this planet.
Many years ago, as I’ve written in several of my books, my life was saved and forever changed by plants served by a Shuar shaman deep in the Amazon rain forest. I’d never heard of ayahuasca at that time. All I knew was that it had a profound impact on my consciousness. For me, the most important thing I learned that first night and many afterwards, as I trained to be an ayahuasca shaman, is that plants have a consciousness and they are insisting on sharing it with us humans.
Plants teach us to alter objective reality by changing our perceptions of reality, making the impossible become possible – to shapeshift. Just as a tiny seed breaks through cement, we can break through the ‘cement’ that has imprisoned us in destructive patterns – individually and globally.
In recent years, ayahuasca has become popular in many parts of the world. While I have deep appreciation for the plants that are used to concoct the tea that is ayahuasca, I also am concerned that many who partake are missing the real point: Plants – all plants – are our teachers. They do not have to be ingested or transport us to hallucinogenic states in order to teach.
Some plants teach us about art (roses, tulips). Some teach about nutrition (avocados, almonds). Some about healing injuries and diseases (aloe, turmeric). Some teach us respect for nature (poison ivy, thorns). Some about consciousness (ayahuasca, San Pedro). Every plant is a teacher if we are just willing to listen.
Plants, like the seed that breaks through cement, empower us to do what the Shuar and other indigenous shamans refer to as “touching the jaguar.” We confront our obstacles, our blockages, and use the energy of those obstacles to make the “impossible” become possible.
When I was in school, everyone I knew – except my parents and grandmother who were plant lovers – scoffed at the idea that plants had consciousness. The plants themselves have since shown us otherwise. A few of many examples:
Plants illustrate that energy, nutrition and everything needed for life can be created directly from water, air, and sunshine in the sustainable processes known as photosynthesis.
Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) discovered that plants in the wild medicate against pain by emitting methyl salicylate – a form of aspirin. (1)
Research published in the journal Oecologia conclude that plants warn each other against predators and potential enemies. A plant network receives external signals of impending danger and transmits it to other members of the network. (1)
Studies indicate that some plants emit chemicals that deter herbivores from eating them. (1)
Experiments have shown that plants learn to use musical scales and are able to make music with the use of a synthesizer. (2)
It seems that, during this moment in history when our space station is starting to spin out of control, the plants have stepped forward to help us save ourselves – and them. Our scientists are legitimizing plant intelligence and confirming that they not only have consciousness but can also help us touch the jaguars that have kept us caged in unsustainable life-styles. Plants are becoming our allies in making the transition into global systems that are themselves renewable resources.
In January 2019, I will guide people to plant shamans on a trip, “Raising Consciousness – Magical Plants in the Costa Rican Jungle.” Although I’ve been taking people to Latin American shamans since the late 1980s, this is the first time to this amazing place of enchanted plants, in one of Costa Rica’s most impressive primary forests. Participants will have the opportunity to experience ayahuasca and delve deep in plant consciousness.
Also, in January I’ll be teaching at Rythmia in Costa Rica, a healing center/spa where ancient traditions are combined with modern healing techniques. Ayahuasca is not only used as a sacred teacher plant but is also studied; statistics are kept about its impacts on participants so that records can be used in scientific studies.
I look forward to meeting some of you at one of these venues. We will employ shamanic journeys and other consciousness-raising approaches to help us communicate with and learn from the plants. For those of you who can’t do any of these or join one of my other trips, please take the time to get to know your teacher plants – inside your home, in nearby gardens, fields, or forests. Appreciate them. Learn from them. Let them help you touch your jaguars, rise to higher consciousness, and transform yourself and the world.
Recent marches, demonstrations, news reports, editorials, and blogs detailing the urgency of new gun laws have brought to light the extreme and insidious powers of the National Rifle Association (NRA). We have learned that it isn’t just about mass shootings in schools, churches, theaters, and other public areas. It isn’t just about Stephon Clark and the other victims of police guns.
The problem goes deep. Gun violence is rampant across the nation. On an average day, 96 people are killed by guns in the US (seven of these are children or teens). For every one person killed by a gun, two more are wounded. (1) Nearly two thirds of all firearm deaths are suicides. Although less than 10% of general suicide attempts result in death, 85% of gun suicide attempts are fatal. (2) People kill themselves with guns in moments of deep depression or anger and without thinking. When they don’t have a gun and do have time to “cool off,” they are much more likely to realize that they want to live.
The problem goes still deeper. Nearly everyone in the US wants to stiffen gun control laws – 95% of us favor background checks for all gun sales, and 68% support banning military-style assault weapons. (3) Yet nothing happens. Why?
We all know the answer. The NRA is extremely powerful. It cares nothing for democracy. It has a national budget of some quarter billion dollars and a record of outspending its opponents (fifteen times as much on campaign contributions as gun-control advocates between 2000 and 2010) (4). However, that’s just a fraction of its insidious power.
The NRA is a metaphor, a symbol, for the biggest problem facing the US, one that is quickly transforming us from a respected world democracy (or at least republic) to something that resembles a banana oligarchy ruled by narcissistic autocrats who don’t give a damn what the people think or want. It is representative of the extreme power exercised by a relatively few in the name of profits and greed. Although it portrays itself as a defender of the Second Amendment, the NRA is a marketing and lobbying tool for gun manufacturers.
The NRA is just one of many. It has become apparent to all of us that the US government, including our elected officials, has become the servant of Big Business and the few very wealthy people who own and run the global corporations.
On March 13, 2018 Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, spoke with NPR's Sarah McCammon about the gun industry and its ties to the NRA.
SUGARMANN: The industry's history is one of peaks and valleys. And now they're running into a very deep valley. The industry is constantly trying to find the next big thing to sell to this traditional cohort of gun owners who are aging white males who are dying off. And to borrow a phrase from the tobacco industry, they're not finding the replacement shooters to take their place. At the same time, they work to exploit any opportunity to sell guns, whether it's passage of a gun control law, whether it's the election of Barack Obama - his re-election, whether it's 9/11.
One of the most drastic miscalculations the industry made was they assumed that Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency. So when she didn't, the sales demand dropped precipitously. And that's why you're seeing the situation today with these leading gun manufacturers.
MCCAMMON: So what does that mean for the total market?
SUGARMANN: It means that the industry has to go find new markets. And once again, following a trail blazed by the tobacco industry, they're continuing to focus on women and also now very aggressively targeting children. (5)
President Eisenhower, in his last major speech as president, warned about the dangerous powers of a growing military-industrial-complex. He told us that we were faced with the very real possibility of becoming an oligarchy where a few wealthy individuals control government. The NRA is just one example of how that has happened.
Let us continue to march, demonstrate and blog for new and much stricter gun control laws. And let us also recognize that in doing so we are opening the door for a bigger movement – one to take business out of government. Let the NRA, Stephon Clark, all the other tragic gun-related deaths, as well as the courageous young people demonstrating in the streets, motivate us to truly become a country by, for and of the people.
Visiting ancient sites of the Aboriginal people here in Australia, I am struck by both their deep connection with nature and their fascination with the mysteries of the universe. The cave drawings and glyphs carved into stone cliffs that I have seen tell stories similar to those still told today by my indigenous friends, the Shuar and Achuar of the Amazon, the Kogi of Colombia, and the Maya of Central America.
Throughout the world, we see that ancient peoples had a deep fascination with Orion, Pleiades, and ideas around mysterious visitations from other planets. We also see that they enjoyed rich traditions centered on the spiritual and healing powers of animals and plants.
All of this is a confirmation of our inherent feelings of oneness with the natural world and the universe. The Hubble telescope has shown us that there are over 100 billion galaxies and an extremely high probability of intelligent life out there among the stars we see at night. In other words, modern science has confirmed what indigenous people have known for millennia.
Perhaps we should conclude from all this that we do not need to take care of our home, this beautiful place we call Earth. We can lay waste to it and then move to one of those other habitable planets. Some people take solace in the idea that Elon Musk and his SpaceX might transport us to another world that we can make more sustainable than our own planet. But, of course the response to that is: If we destroy our world why won’t we destroy any other we inhabit?
As I stood staring at the ancient drawings and glyphs, I could almost hear these people from the past warning us to change our ways. I had the feeling that when they spent all those hours chiseling into the rock, they were aware that their progeny – thousands of years in the future – would need to respect the natural world and the mysteries of the universe as much as they did.
Today, nature herself is speaking to us in a powerful voice. Cities, like Miami, and islands around the globe are being flooded. Glaciers are melting. One-hundred-year storms are striking every year. Animal and plant species are going extinct at astronomical rates. We humans are steering our fragile space station toward disaster.
The messages we hear from ancient voices, contemporary indigenous cultures, and modern science, along with the signs from nature herself, are screams for change. There can be no question that this is the time to convert failed economic and political systems into ones that will work, to transform a Death Economy into one that is a renewable resource, a Life Economy.
John will take participants deeper into the sacred world of plants in a special facility devoted to plant healing at the Omega Institute, August 22-24, 2018. Very limited space for a few special people. Sign up now.
The Harvard Business Review recently reported that, since the October allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, nearly 100 other powerful people – “names you probably recognize” – have been accused of sexual harassment, rape, and other misconduct. (1) These revelations follow the avalanche of accusations against Catholic priests and their superiors that have been sweeping the press for years.
The stories of crimes involving sex accompany revelations about police brutality across the United States, a slew of leaked documents concerning covert and illegal CIA and NSA activities from WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, exposures of illegal financial dealings of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people in the Panama Papers, and numerous other exposes by whistleblowers who have revealed criminal activities in politics, healthcare, technology, media, education, banking, pharmaceuticals, hospitality, and entertainment.
All of this is extremely important. It also highlights the significance of transparency throughout our institutions. It shouts at us all, a loud and clear call that it is high time for the United States and the rest of the world to hold responsible those who use their positions of power and prestige to exploit others or to perpetuate illegal activities.
Let this be the time then when we also demand that those in Congress and the White House come clean. While applauding the revelations mentioned above, at the same time we in the US seem to be tolerating a darker side of politics.
Why, we must ask ourselves, do bankers and Wall Street executives not just escape punishment when their companies are found guilty of crimes that impact millions of people, but in fact get rewarded with huge bonuses? Why is a US President allowed to refuse to share his tax statements? Why is our media unable to report body counts or show the corpses returning from the Middle East – when such images had a powerful impact during the Vietnam War. Why do we know so little about what our sons and daughters – men and women in the US military – are doing in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America?
One recent example of a significant step backward in transparency was reported by CBS News on January 30, 2018:
The Pentagon has ordered an independent federal auditor to stop providing the public with key information about U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan. . .
The auditing agency, established by Congress and known as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, revealed the new gag order in its latest three-month assessment of conditions in Afghanistan. The restrictions fly in the face of Pentagon assertions over the past year that it was striving to be more transparent about the U.S. war campaigns across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. (2)
As I’ve written often, we are at the beginning of a Consciousness Revolution – and part of this is an awakening to a new sense of conscience – both personal and collective. We are understanding that transparency is required of individuals and institutions if we are to succeed on a planet that is a fragile space station dominated by a species that has shown itself capable of tolerating leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Pinochet, and of turning a blind eye for so many years on the Harvey Weinsteins and Larry Nassars of the world.
Let us learn from those who tolerated the mass-murdering dictators, the sex criminals, and the corporate robber barons that we cannot tolerate our own inclinations to remain silent. It is up to each and every one of us to speak out and to take action. In the words of a woman – an executive at a Fortune 100 corporation – who attended a workshop where I recently taught:
What I struggle with is the “how.” How do we demand transparency from our elected officials? It seems to many of us that our politicians don’t really have to do anything – except win the next election.
The real power is for each of us is to begin to step up, like one person starting the #MeToo movement. The power of individuals is to speak out, whether in corporate America, your hometown, or family. It seems that politicians seeing the fall of others, or the risk of hiding, is the only way to make change.
The challenge for each one of us who has turned away from disclosing something, out of fear of retribution or the belief we cannot make a difference, is to step forward and speak out. Maybe it’s about our city government when we suspect corruption, or national policies in the Middle East – or a local school board issue. . . The important thing is to speak out.
I know people fear losing their jobs, but what happened with Weinstein shows that speaking out can work. It requires us to be brave. Courage is not the lack of fear; it is facing and overcoming fear, because we know that it is the right thing to do.
It’s interesting because I see some of it at my work. The equal pay and opportunity for women is an issue. I hide behind the fact that I have done well, I get paid a decent salary, it’s a good company. . . so don’t complain. Besides, it would be really uncomfortable and there would probably be retribution. But I’m observing and wrestling with the excuses I make. I look in the mirror and I see that it is up to that facing staring back at me to make change happen. I owe it to my daughters. I owe it to myself.
At this historical moment of revelations, let us each look in the mirror. Let us each identify an issue that bothers us. Let us speak out.