Walking with the Serpent
Launching my first book on Substack…
I hope this message finds you calm and present.
It has been a while since I have shared, I’ve missed being connected to you all. These last years have been a transition from being in a position of leadership that carried many responsibilities, some of which I had knowingly chosen and some that felt more like a burden than a choice, into spending more time in silence and contemplation. It has felt really liberating to go from being constantly in the field of leading ceremonies to taking a year's sabbatical. This sacred pause has gifted me the opportunity to be in a space again where I can truly listen to when the next ceremony wants to unfold. It has felt really good to take a break.
My experience in the last year and a half has been one of relationships shifting, letting go of identity structures, reconnecting with the tribe, and returning to reciprocity in my relationship with the Medicine. I feel like a snake shedding her skin. It has been a humbling and emotional process of letting go of many aspects of a persona that was no longer serving me. Looking back, I was playing a role and wearing a mask I didn’t even know I had on, until one day I no longer recognized myself. Seeing this reflection has been painful, and chipping away at the mask has been deeply uncomfortable. It hasn’t been the most graceful process. It feels good to slowly arrive in a new space, with balance and equilibrium.
It is said that wisdom is the ability to use your experience and knowledge in order to make sensible decisions or judgments. I would like to share some of my experiences and see what sensible decisions or judgments can emerge. I wish to do this with openness and vulnerability. Knowing that English is not my primary language, and knowing this is my first book, I am giving myself permission to be imperfect with my writing. I feel nervous and apprehensive to share this story, but here it goes!
In Walking with the Serpent, I write about a calling. A call from this Medicine, Ayahuasca, in which I emerged myself, this last decade. Meeting an Indigenous tribe in the Amazon, the Yawanawá, who allowed me to spend time with them and enter their spiritual studies. And a story of walking through the jungle, and encountering my greatest teacher. A serpent… Nalini.
During the time I took from leading ceremonies and being in the center of a Medicine community, my perspectives have evolved and shifted. I started writing this book at the end of 2014 and some of the writings from then feel far from how I view working with Ayahuasca and other Sacred Medicines now. I seriously contemplated re-writing the whole book, so it could better reflect my current ideas.
In the end, I decided to put out the book as it is, knowing that I don't fully resonate with all that I wrote, while still honoring that it was my viewpoint some years ago. In addition to the chapters of the book I also intend to share some musings; voice notes with some of my reflections and learnings over the years. It is my hope that in sharing the book as is, and at the same time sharing some of my current perspectives, I can clearly voice and highlight the differences. A good story evolves over time, and the story slightly shifts as more understanding comes in. I would like to speak about this evolution of a story.
In these musings, I would also like to share a few parts of the Yawanawá creation story. These stories recall how, at the beginning of time, the Sacred plants and Medicines were born, how the Indigenous tribes came into being, and finish with the prophecy of a great leader of the Yawanawá, Mukavuine. He lived before any white man set foot on the Yawanawá territory, during a time when the tribe was not aware that there were other people living on this planet outside of the Amazon rainforest. In his vision, he saw an unknown tribe come into their territory and he later shared some precious instructions on how to navigate the time we are living in, right now. I believe that these stories hold some invaluable keys for humanity during these times. I share these stories from a place of utmost respect and gratitude to the Yawanawá. I am deeply grateful for their permission to share, and for the opportunity to study and learn with them over the last 10 years. The times with the tribe have been some of the most precious times of my life. I bow in gratitude to the tribe, and all my brothers and sisters in the jungle. I know that I have just a basic understanding of these creation stories, and I am aware that the spiritual leaders of the tribe carry a much deeper understanding. Nonetheless, I will endeavor to humbly share these stories with respect and gratitude.
It has been a great honor and a pleasure to have been a part of so many ceremonies, and I am very grateful for the growth and transformation that I have witnessed in my own life and the lives of so many other special human beings. I see the beauty of Ayahausca reaching so many people at this time and I am celebrating that beauty. At the same time, I have been contemplating how much wisdom we are truly gaining in the Western world with the ever-growing consumption of Sacred Medicines. Questioning, if at times, we are blindly consuming Medicine in pursuit of healing, enlightenment, and connection, while overlooking some of the detrimental consequences on Indigenous cultures and the Amazon forest. And exploring the ways the overconsumption of Ayahuasca can negatively impact personal relationships and communities. These musings have led me to learn about the themes of colonization, cultural appropriation, and the patriarchy, and their impact on Sacred Medicines and Indigenous tribes.
In the last few years, I hear more people speak about being “in service to the Medicine.” I find it really special that so many people are feeling called to be in service. But I start to wonder if what we are doing with Medicine is really in service to Her, or if we are actually contributing to the destruction of a plant, a culture, a pearl of ancient wisdom, that might hold some keys for sustainable life on this Earth. A simplicity of life that doesn't require the plundering of the resources of our precious planet to keep up a certain way of living. If we are really so grateful to these Medicines and practices, wouldn't it be wonderful if we at least keep the home of these plants and their custodians alive, and ideally thriving? How would it be if we directed some more of the energy and enthusiasm that is there around Medicine work, and guided it in the direction of reforestation and keeping Indigenous cultures alive and thriving? To me, that would look like wisdom. But what do I know?
Within all of these inquiries, I would also like to explore some solutions and hold the vision that this Substack serves as an open, mutually respectful place for conversations about these themes. I would love to cultivate a platform where we can connect outside of Medicine space.
And as it is the tradition in the Yawanawá, I would like to open this story with gratitude.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude, first of all, for our Creator, called Shēni in the language of the Yawanawá. Gratitude for giving us the opportunity to learn, explore, and realize who we are and where we come from—so that we all are able to remember the Creator and this magnificent creation.
Secondly, I want to thank the Yawanawá—this beautiful tribe that called me in my dreams. My spiritual family, my brothers, and sisters, dear friends sharing the path of truth—for allowing me to learn with them, for opening up their study to me, and for all the fun and laughter these years. I want to thank the tribe for giving me permission to share this story. I am grateful to Matsini, my dear brother, teacher, and friend for all the times shared. Grateful to Tatá, one of the elders of the tribe that passed away in 2016 having lived more than a hundred years, for his grace and presence. Until this day, he is still one of the few true shamans I have encountered in this lifetime. Grateful to all the people of Mutum. Grateful to Luis, Louisa, Edi, Muká, Qwatsi, and all the people of Sete Estrellas for being part of this story. Gracias Yawanawá, eu so aqui com respeito, com gratidão, com amor. Eu sei, eu so so un estudante pequeno, caminando juntos este caminho do Yuvē. Gratidao.
I am grateful to my parents for their love and support, and for giving me the gift of discipline. Thank you Kristen, for everything. Some of our years together have been among the most beautiful times of my life. I will always be grateful for all that we lived through. Grateful to all my friends who, over the last 8 years, honored me with their time and energy and supported the creation of this book. Specifically, I want to mention Ellie for the first round of edits that brought so much clarity. Chris, for your friendship, all your support, and for helping to make this book that much better. Gratitude to Crosby for being such an incredible friend, and for sending me an 11-minute voice message, once I had put the book out on Amazon in 2018, gently inviting me to reconsider. Thank you for showing up like a champ after I unpublished the book and bringing the book to the next level. Gratitude to Miss J that doesn't want to be named. Without you this book would have been half as good, I would like you to know that.
Thanks to my dear friend and tech wizard Doug, who has been such a support to this book from day one. Thanks to Julie for making such a beautiful cover animation. Thanks to Jim for being the best jungle buddy ever, and for making such an epic sizzler together with Julian. Thanks to Charala for designing the book cover, and to Diogo from infinity book design, for designing the interior of the book. Thanks to Miss Chloe, for all the beauty and support you have brought to the Substack account. It has been such a pleasure and honor to collaborate with all of you!
I am so grateful to all of you for being part of this journey, for all the special times and ceremonies of this past decade, and for reading this book.
And finally, Gracias Madre Ayahuasca. Thank you for taking me on this wild ride. It has been a great honor to meet you again, and again, and again… It is my prayer that I can transform my gratitude into reciprocity. It is my prayer that I can transform my experiences into wisdom. It is my prayer that by sharing some of our stories, we can inspire people to make choices that matter. I have no words to fully express my gratitude to you. But I hope I can show it with my words, my thoughts, and my actions in the time to come. It is my prayer to see your home flourish at the end of my lifetime. It is my prayer that your custodians are alive and thriving by the end of my lifetime. It is my prayer that we encounter again, and again, and again. It is my prayer to go from personal healing to collective healing. I have received so much from you that I feel I don't need anything from you anymore. It is my prayer to be working together for the greater good, and I am opening myself to receive messages on how I can prepare myself for that. Thank you for the teachings. Thank you for the visions. Thank you for the clarity. Gracias, gracias, gracias Madre Ayahuasca.
I hope that Walking with the Serpent inspires you to follow your dreams and visions—in times of uncertainty, the world could use more of that.
Next week, I’ll send you the beginning. I hope you’ll enjoy the story. Much love
PS. You may have received this email because you had previously signed up for the Sacred Journey mailing list. If you’d prefer not to be on the Walking with the Serpent Substack mailing list, you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email.