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Avoid Gurus, Follow Plants

Eventually, every ‘plant medicine’ advocate must come to the realisation that our good friend Terence McKenna did: “Avoid gurus, follow plants”. I’ve been lurking around in the ‘medicine’ community for several years and I’ve slowly and painfully come to my senses... 

To make this blog very brief: people who are walking the ‘healing path’ are hurting. And hurt people hurt people.

Avoid psychedelic ayahuasca gurus

Not only are we all hurt, many of us mask our pain through acts of heroic virtue, in an oh-so-earnest and public fashion. Allow me to explain... 

Being Of Service 

In the medicine community, everyone wants to be a guru, and everyone jostles (and hustles) for a position at the top of the – apparently egalitarian – pyramid (figure that one out).  

Basically, no one wants a proper job (and I don’t blame them AT ALL). But instead of admitting that, they heartily claim that they are destined to be ‘of service’ (while somehow keeping a straight face). 

But we’re not talking about ‘service’ in a concrete, real-world manner. These self-appointed gurus are not interested in being teachers, nurses, or plumbers.  

They want maximum glory for minimum graft. And it usually involves steep pricing based on ‘angel numbers’. 

You’ve seen them...  

They drink ayahuasca once in a yurt in someone’s back garden and emerge as a fully-fledged life coach. 

Or they go to a ‘conscious’ festival and return home as a ‘fifth-dimensional-light-codes-healer’.  

Or they go to the jungle on a trustafarian “gap yah” and fly back to the Western hemisphere as yet another ‘white saviour’ for indigenous tribes.  

Clean Your Room Before You Change The World 

Avoid psychedelic retreat gurus

These lofty goals have their place. But the intention behind them matters. To quote Jordan Peterson: “If you can't even clean up your own room, who the hell are you to give advice to the world?”  

In other words, before you can even attempt to fix the world, you must fix yourself.

Otherwise, you could end up causing loads of collateral damage.  

And like the Greek myth of the Hydra, you cut the head of a snake and cause several more to pop into its place. 

After conversing with many of the aforementioned types, I’ve not met a single one who has their shit together. Yet, they think they do, and any criticism towards them is averted.

They’ll say things like: 

“You’re projecting” 

“You’re in judgment” 

“That sounds like a wound of yours” 

Basically, it’s never about them. It’s always about you.  

Let’s churn out some metaphors: Their identity is full of hot air; it’s built on foundations of sand. Therefore, they’ve set a gold-gilded Kafka trap to prevent their house of cards from falling down. 

Subconscious Agendas 

After an increasing number of these interactions, I’m letting it all hang out. I’m saying loud and clear: “The emperor ain’t wearing any clothes”.  

I don’t care about my membership in the medicine community. Many of these ‘gurus’ are trapped in delusion, and they are toying with people’s wellbeing: 

  • I’ve met psychedelic space-holders who have had psychotic outbursts mid-ceremony; 

  • I’ve met unemployed life coaches who live in their parent’s spare room; 

  • I’ve met facilitators of women's circles who are shockingly bitchy; 

  • I’ve met shamanic practitioners who are full-blown alcoholics; 

  • I’ve met musicians who literally think they’re prophets; 

  • I’ve met childless 20-year-olds who teach women about the ‘wisdom of their wombs’; 

  • I’ve met energy healers who blab on social media about their client’s personal details.  

Not to mention, the endless displays of narcissism, aggression, selfishness, and yes, judgment.  

On my adventures in ‘woo-woo land’, I’ve met so many hustlers. Listen carefully: MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING SCHEMES ARE NOT BEING OF SERVICE.  

If someone tries to charge you £3,333 (or £1,111 over three months for poor peasants like you and me) so that they can teach you about money manifesting, RUN!!!       

Messiah Complex 

These discoveries are upsetting. Not only are you asked/required to be vulnerable in the presence of these people, but you would hope that these people would indeed be more grounded and rounded. However, they’re not.  

You open yourself up, and then you get hurt. You give your trust to people who fuck you over. Left, right and centre. 

Not only are they as damaged as you, but they often have a raging Jesus complex. They focus so much on ‘love and light’ that they’ve forgotten that they have a shadow side.  

As far as they’re concerned, they live in the present moment, they’re led by their heart, and are entirely motivated by love and compassion.  

Yeah, right. 🙄 Basically, their shit doesn’t stink, but yours does, and they’re here to reveal the secrets of the universe with you (for a price, of course). 

Fact check: No one has quite reached enlightenment yet. And no amount of premium-priced ethnic clothing, dreadlocks, hand-poked tattoos, or oracle cards are going to fast-track your application to the fifth dimension. Nope, not even sage.  

There’s nothing they can do that you can’t. 

Buddhist monks have warned against ‘spiritual materialism’ for eons. However, the message never quite landed. I could bang on about that topic for thousands of words. But I’ll bookmark that. 

The realistic power of plants 

Ayahuasca Retreat 'Gurus' Are Not Gods

The bigger point is this: Psychedelics are the most powerful tool for self-development that I’ve ever known. They can reveal hidden dimensions of reality, release suppressed memories, and help you look at life in a whole new way.  

However, they are not the magic bullet that they are marketed as.  

No amount of psychedelics will change who you fundamentally are. Moreover, as I have experienced, they will often emphasise what is already there.  

‘Psychedelic narcissism’ is a real thing – Google it... 

I used to say (like many) that ayahausca was “like ten years of therapy in one night”. But after 20 ceremonies, I no longer say that.  

Plants will give you the keys to unlock the “doors of perception” (to quote Aldous Huxley), but you must walk through the door.  

However, our minds are complicated creatures, and while we’re focused on walking through the front door, something sneaks in the back door (usually some form of denial).  

There’s a reason why Socrates was killed for banging on about the importance of “knowing thyself” – because it’s freakin’ terrifying and almost impossible. 

Back To Life, Back To Reality 

No matter how profound the trip, it’s hard to keep focus when life is ‘life-ing’ all around us. The psychedelic honeymoon phase fades quickly, y’all.  

Ram Dass himself said that his spiritual quest was a way of permanently downloading the feeling of LSD because it was so easily forgotten. 

All of us who are walking the healing path will ALWAYS have plenty of work to do. Getting one’s shit together and keeping oneself in check is a full-time job, which requires radical honesty and realistic parameters. 

Just because we think have been ‘gifted by God’ via psychedelic experiences, does not mean we’re God’s gift to humanity. 

The hero gets all the glory 

Whether we like to admit it or not, our egos are always hungry – we love to feast on glory and fame and take credit for other people’s achievements. 

Instead of turning inwards and cleaning up our own bullshit, it’s oh so luring (and rewarding) to try to fix other people.  

We’re not so attached to their baggage, so it’s easier to deal with. Plus, we get all the public praise of being a hero.  

But if unchecked, our subconscious, needy, insecure, egotistical agendas will pollute other people’s healing process. 

And are we so sure that we are entirely driven by compassion and kindness? Perhaps we want to meddle with someone else’s process because we are subconsciously insecure, jealous, or angry. 

Just a thought...  

The Role Of Space-Holders, Trip-Sitters and Shamans 

Space-holding is a big deal. Whether you’re a legit shaman or a casual trip-sitter.  

When people arrive at plant medicine retreats, they are often a bag of nerves and will want to put all their trust in the space-holder. So, the space-holder must be able to reflect that.  

They must put their grandeur and their opinions to one side. They are there to ‘hold’ the space, not ‘fill’ the space. Gurus (and their egos) need to take a backseat. Their monkey mind mustn't meddle with the mystical.    

Their half-baked, second-hand, drunk-on-power, new-age, performative ‘wisdom’ is no match for the plant teachers. 

It’s important to say that this scene is a complete Wild West – there are no guidelines or job interviews Most space-holders are friends and partners. It’s a clique.  

I have been endlessly surprised at the number of wreck-heads and maniacs that have held space. Not to mention the endless servings of ear-shite from so-called ‘medicine musicians’.  

Entering the Medicine World 

If this is all news to you, yet you’re curious about attending a plant medicine retreat, here’s my advice: 

  • Trust your intuition.  

  • Take it all with a pinch of salt.  

  • Remember that the space-holders can be as neurotic as you are.  

  • Don’t get hypnotised by new-age gobbledygook.  

  • Don’t necessarily let their advice make you doubt yourself. You know yourself better than they do. 

  • Don’t let plant medicines fuel your ego. 

  • Don’t turn into one of them.

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