To become warriors, the cohiuanos must abandon all and go alone to the jungle, guided only by their dreams.
In this journey, he has to find out, in solitude and silence, who he really is. He must become a wanderer dream. Many are lost, and some never return.
But those who return, they are ready to face what is to come.
—Karamakate, Embrace of the Serpent
I lived many lifetimes that night, and parts of my identity peeled away, never to return. I was shocked out of the “dream trance” that had defined my existence until that moment. This seems to be a common occurrence under the influence of Yahé.
I was 19 years old, visiting tribes in the Putumayo, deep inside the Ecuadorian Amazon basin. It was balmy, teeming full of unfamiliar organisms, many of them venomous. Gigantic trees towered over a multi-layered tapestry of life. I knew the Amazon was shrinking by 7% a year and I wanted to experience its magic before it might disappear completely if humanity continues to accelerate towards the proverbial cliff.
My group visited an old medicine man who lived a humble existence in a hut on the side of the river. It was important to me to learn more about traditional healing practices in the region. Ancient practices that spanned through the millennia, carrying ancient knowledge that I now believe carries information crucial to the survival of our species. As our group was leaving, the man mentioned to our tour leader that he would be drinking ayahuasca that night.
This was just the opportunity I had been waiting for.
One wonders how people in primitive societies, with no knowledge of chemistry or physiology, ever hit upon a solution to the activation of an alkaloid by a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Pure experimentation? Perhaps not.
—Richard Evans Schultes
Being an avid reader of John Perkins, Terence McKenna, and Richard Evans Schultes, I had always felt inspired to drink this sacred medicine in its place of origin. These writers explored both the individual and collective unconsciousness, the spirit world that we come into contact with through the portal of plant medicine, and our everyday reality. I wasn’t necessarily looking for healing. It was more of an intuition, and a desire to experience authentic indigenous culture as well as follow in the footsteps of some of my then heroes.
These warrior writers brought up the collective imperative questions that we as a society must ask ourselves: What is the meaning of industrial development? Where are we going? What can we learn from indigenous tribes?
I started to wonder about these questions, too.
The tour guide left me for the evening with the old man, who must have been at least 80. He was joined by his brother. Neither of them spoke much Spanish—only their native Kichwa language. One candle burned in an otherwise dark room.
I had one cup, and then another, waiting for what seemed like an eternity. Still, I sensed no change in perception. So I insisted on a third cup, immediately after which I began to feel very ill. This was accompanied by a rising tide of anxiety. Within 15 minutes, I began to vomit. I didn’t stop until six rounds of purging had completely emptied me. It was then that I witnessed a myriad of physical and nonphysical things leave my body—things that had been buried deep inside of me for years.
Afterward, I lay down and closed my eyes in wonder as many of my past transgressions passed through my mindscape. I went into a retrospective on my relationships with each of my family members, and my girlfriend at the time. In different ways, I was not fully showing up for each of these relationships. A sense of compassion welled up inside me due to this realization, and I became overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness, almost a crying, and I soon felt that this was no different from the pain of the jungle itself, no longer separated from my own feelings, as the permeable walls of self dissolved.
The world is as you dream it,” he said at last. “Your people dreamed of huge factories, tall buildings, as many cars as there are raindrops in this river. Now you begin to see that your dream is a nightmare.” He bent to pick up a stone. “The problem is your country is like this pebble.” He threw it far out into the river. “Everything you do ripples across the Mother.
—Numi, Shuar Shaman
After that sleepless but intensely rejuvenating night, I became a missionary of Mother Ayahuasca, an embodiment of Gaia herself. I surrendered to her will and stopped worrying or trying to understand why I am here. One of the powerful messages that was delivered to me that night was that humans had always been integrated with the natural cycles of the biosphere, but in these times we have forgotten our relationship with nature, which is the source of all life. Almost all of our social and environmental problems today can be traced back to this disconnection.
Ayahuasca reawakened this connection in me.
Through the years, I have drunk ayahuasca more than 30 times. It never gets any easier. With each time, I continue to sink into the experience of surrender, and trust that the universe will give me all lessons at the moment I need them.
The seed of the new world sprouts within each one of us. The ayahuasca experience is a huge catalyst for this, as is meditation. We can also water the seed by spending time immersed in nature, in small communities, similar to how our ancestors lived.
Through my own transformation with ayahuasca, I have come to understand that social and economic transformation will only come after a critical mass of individuals have undergone a personal transformation.
NuMundo, the project I founded in 2013, was born out of this conviction.
NuMundo is not mine; it is a vision expressed through me with the intention of scaling the transformational experience, in its many diverse forms, to reach millions of people around the world.
Once personal transformation occurs, we need to be supported, as previous notions of our role and purpose are no longer relevant. NuMundo is a support network that serves to integrate people into this emerging culture—to connect them with follow-on experiences at “impact centers” around the world. Impact centers are physical locations where a new way of being is embodied – ecovillages, indigenous communities, retreat centers, organic farms, even rainforest conservation sanctuaries.
Today, a critical mass of people is waking up. It is of fundamental importance that we support each other and build bridges that make the transition easier.
NuMundo is an educational network, equipping people with the practical skill-sets necessary to build a regenerative economy. We focus heavily on permaculture, a design science based on ancestral ways of living in balance with nature. More than the future basis of economics, permaculture can be viewed as the programming language of nature. We can utilize it to restore degraded ecosystems, increase biodiversity, and generate abundance for human beings and all life.
According to NuMundo’s theory of change, the creation of physical spaces that embody a new culture can accelerate that critical mass of awakened humans. The contemporary urban landscape is programmed with a value system embodied by a vast underground network of cables; a legal and economic system governing human interaction and even consciousness itself; a culture of consumerism fueled by fear and desire; and widespread stress generated by the financial pressures of rent and other basic needs.
It is difficult to transform one’s consciousness in such a system.
A new culture needs a new program.
NuMundo’s impact centers are physical centers of impact, holding a vibration of a different reality. There are 380 impact centers in the network, and more join every week. Rancho Mastatal, the center I’ve been based at in Costa Rica for the past year, is an education center for sustainable living. High school and college groups from North America pass through the Ranch monthly, where they are immersed in an experiential learning program involving bioconstruction, permaculture, and nature awareness. The ranch is managed by a core group of six team members, and supported by a group of six apprentices. The ranch borders a national park with stunning waterfalls, and bird watchers from around the world come every year for the chance to spot rare species.
When we step into a different vibration, we can begin to unlearn. Ayahuasca and other ancient consciousness technologies like yoga, meditation, and diet, allow us to deprogram, to unlearn, and to decondition social patterns imposed by the dominant society. Our impact centers act as schools for unlearning, for transformation, and for discovery of passion and purpose in this lifetime.