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More jungle medicine: three medicine plant diets

Intro | What is a jungle diet? | My experiences

Intro

Soon after my previous trip to Peru in Jan-Apr 2005, I returned to Peru in June 2005 to undertake my first jungle 'diet', and then in October 2005 I had the opportunity to do my second, and in January 2006 my third. My experiences were quite different in each, and not what I initially expected at all.

Sections below:

What is a jungle diet? | The food | The body's environment | Isolation | Preparation for the diet | Ayahuasca | Ending the diet | After the diet | The medicine plant | Understanding the diet | Don Marcial's perspective

My experiences | July 2005: a 10-day diet with Javier Zavala | October 2005: a 7-day diet with Fernando Oubiña | January 2006: a 15-day diet with don Marcial Nunta

[ See also: "My first 18 Ayahuasca ceremonies", "Don Marcial, maestro curandero" and "Further jungle diets: 2011-2012" ]


What is a jungle diet?

The food | The body's environment | Isolation | Preparation for the diet | Ayahuasca | Ending the diet | After the diet | The medicine plant | Understanding the diet | Don Marcial's perspective

For those who've never heard of a jungle diet ("dieta" in Spanish), I will give an overview based on my three experiences and talking with various people during my time here in Peru. There may be other approaches to the diet that I still don't know about, so please don't take this as the final word.

The basis of the diet is eating bland white food with NO salt or sugar for a certain period of time -- anything from 7 days up to maybe 6 months or even a year -- along with taking one or more doses of a medicine plant extract. During this time, your body is exposed to nothing with flavour, and nothing chemical, and you are isolated in the jungle in a hut, with contact with no-one but the curandero. At least, that is the ideal or most extreme form, but as you will see there are various compromises (good and bad) that may occur in practice. I will deal with each aspect in turn:

The food. Sometimes the diet is done by just eating cooked white rice or some other starchy food. Remember that no salt or sugar is permitted in the preparation. Sometimes cooked green bananas are added to the meal (not a plantain, just a normal yellow banana picked green and boiled or baked), or potatoes or yuca root or cooked oats. With my first diet, I was also given unsweetened plain drinking yogurt. For longer diets, a meal of meat or fish is included at intervals according to the judgement of the curandero. This might be a wild-fed chicken or a fish that is cooked very simply (e.g. baked or grilled). In my third diet I was given fish at every meal. To drink you will be given water, or perhaps a herb tea suitable to accompany the diet (a "mate" in Peruvian Spanish). It is interesting that what is eaten on the diet is pretty much the indigenous daily jungle diet anyway, with the exclusion of salt -- and salt was something that had to be specially looked for in the jungle in times past.

The body's environment. During the diet your body should be exposed to nothing with flavour, and nothing chemical. This means washing without soap, brushing teeth with only water, using no deodorant, using no insect repellant, using no chemical medicines, and so on. This is important. With the bland and saltless diet your body can soon become very sensitive to external things. Some smells become overwhelming, and you might find you can pick up all kinds of subtle things that you were probably never aware of before. There seem to be a few exceptions to this "nothing with flavour" rule, though. Of course, tobacco is used universally (it seems) by curanderos, for cleansing things, making prayers, aiding them in their medicine, and so on. Also, in my first diet I was given a very very strong infusion of mapacho (jungle tobacco) to rub into my skin as a natural insect-repellant and to help ease insect bites. Also, you may be given herbal tea to drink. But apart from this, no flavour is the general rule.

[ There is also the question of what to do about malaria, given that taking malaria tablets is incompatible with doing the diet. There is some risk of malaria in northern Peru, varying according to the region. However, I chose to take the risk and not take any of the tablets. ]

Isolation. One of the more traditional ways to do a diet is in a very basic hut in the middle of the jungle, just four poles and a roof, with perhaps a hammock and/or a bed with a mosquito net. You might have a local stream for bathing, and the bushes for your toilet. This could be called a "deep jungle diet". You could say that this is the extreme version -- this way you are totally immersed in the jungle during the experience, and you are accompanied by all of its inhabitants with whom you will most probably interact at times.

However, there are many other ways that diets are arranged as well, some better than others. For example you might be in a much bigger and better hut a few feet off the ground, with perhaps better protection from mosquitos (less suffering from bites), even maybe a bathroom (real luxury!), and maybe not so deep in the jungle. At the stage I'm at, this seems to me to be good, because although I'm getting used to dealing with mosquitos, they can be a real distraction at times. Bathing in a local stream, though, is really recommended even if you have a shower available, because you feel very good afterwards from the natural energy. And I can appreciate the idea of being at ground level with all the animals -- if you are really ready to meet them all ...

There are other ways the diet may be arranged which are not so good, depending on your point of view. For example, you might be staying in the curandero's house, or in a village, or close to the noise of a town. This really depends on how well you think you would be able to cope with the distractions. One friend did a diet at a curandero's house and complained that the kids turning the radio on full-blast at dawn were seriously interrupting his internal processes (dreaming, realizations, etc). My third diet was like this, on the edge of a village, with music at times during the day and sometimes at night as well. This is not ideal, but I got by: sometimes I had to listen to my own music to "protect myself" from external sounds which were bothering me. However, in my first diet, the noises from all-night parties in the nearby town were giving me immense problems -- I really would definitely not want to do a diet again under those conditions. So, it is good to understand the advantages of different arrangements before undertaking the diet.

Also, ideally you should only interact with the curandero during the diet. However, you might also be interacting with the guy who brings the food if that is someone else, or with curious kids, etc. If there are other people around in the area, they are supposed know to leave you alone and not try and talk to you or approach you. Visiting the local stream might mean waiting for others to leave. You are supposed to avoid women completely, due to the possibility that they are in their period. (Before anyone reading goes crazy about this recommendation, first try a diet and realise how unusually sensitive you can become during it before judging this 'rule'.)

Preparation for the diet. For the diets that I did, the preparation was the same as for Ayahuasca, i.e. no pork/bacon/ham, no sex, no alcohol, careful with the salt/sugar/chillies, and so on, for a short period running up to the diet. However, maybe for some plants you will need other additional preparation as well -- the curandero should tell you.

Ayahuasca. You will almost certainly have ceremonies of Ayahuasca, before, during, or after the diet. One form both starts and ends the diet with a ceremony. In another form, there are ceremonies at stages during the diet. Maybe some curanderos do both, I don't know. I know of one guy who had Ayahuasca ceremonies every night of his diet with the curandero. Really the whole thing depends a great deal on what you're working with, which plant, the judgement of the curandero and so on. In my first diet, there was no initial Ayahuasca ceremony, but instead a purge using Bobinsana and tobacco.

Ending the diet. The diet is often ended with a "corte de dieta" meal which consists of raw onion, salt, garlic and lime juice. After this came a "caldo de gallina" in two of my diets, i.e. a chicken broth made with free-roaming chicken and vegetables. This is to start building up your strength again, and as one friend pointed out, if it is at least half-decent, this will be the best caldo you have ever tasted in your life. In my third diet, however, the end was simply a salt mouth-wash, a sweet "mate" tea, and the re-introduction of salt and sugar into the diet.

After the diet. Now comes the interesting difference between the dieting medicine plants and Ayahuasca, because after taking Ayahuasca, you are free to do all the things that were prohibited before the ceremony, but with the dieting medicine plants, by default that couldn't be further from the truth. The plant stays in your body and has a significant influence over it for perhaps a month afterwards. What effect it has and for how long varies from one plant to the next. The curandero will give you a list of foods and activities to avoid and for how long, and the list is different for each plant. However, some curanderos do some 'magic' to protect you from these problems, such as don Marcial's "Arcana" in my third diet, so there may be fewer restrictions depending on the approach of your curandero.

The strong influence of the plant in your body over this period is something that you won't necessarily notice if you keep to the curandero's guidelines, but if you don't, you will really know about it. Breaking some of the guidelines might mean having to go back to the curandero to resolve the problem. The fact that the plant stays around influencing your body so long, restricting your diet and lifestyle during this time, is best regarded as a necessary exchange for the positive influence that the plant is bringing to your life. However, it is worth noting that some plants are more restrictive than others in this respect.

Anyway, to give some examples: After my first diet, I was told to avoid sweet things for a month. Testing this rule as the weeks went on, I found that eating something sugary in the morning really knocked me out -- I had to go and lie down all morning. As an another example, with my first diet with Chiric Sanango, I was asked not to shake hands with anyone for a month. This may sound ludicrous, but one friend accepted the helping hand of a boatman and nearly fainted in that instant due to the movement of energy. A couple of weeks after my diet, I also shook hands with someone by mistake, and felt an unusual sensation in my palm for some time afterwards. However, after my second diet with Chiric Sanango, the curandero told me he had protected me from this problem, and indeed I shook hands with many people without difficulty. Another example: after my first diet I was asked not to visit any loud places such as bars. After a few weeks, I did cautiously visit a noisy dance venue and I felt how my body reacted to the noise: it was like a shock for my whole energy body -- this is the best way I can describe it. I was able to stay centred, but I could see how this could really knock someone completely off balance if they were less careful or less aware.

As a more extreme example of this, there is a story of some guy who ignored the guidelines completely and immediately after his diet headed off to Iquitos and hit the night clubs. He was found in a park a few days later completely incoherant and confused, in a state perhaps something like that of an infant, with no memory and no idea who he was or where he was. This state is called "cruzado" in Spanish, which means "crossed". Some concerned people searched his pockets, found a contact number and got in touch with the centre where he had dieted, who got them to put him on a plane back. The people from the centre picked him up, and took him to a curandero who specializes in people in this state, who after singing an icaro (medicine song), with one blow of tobacco smoke brought him back to his normal self. To the guy himself it was as if he had just woken up after a long sleep. This "cruzado" state, as I understand it from what I've heard, is something that happens when you are in a very open sensitive state (which you may very well be in after your diet, depending on the plant you're dieting) and you experience a strongly shocking outside influence.

So, the best option is to follow the rules -- or if you're not a rule-following type, at least break them cautiously with some knowledge of the possible consequences.

The medicine plant. The medicine plants used for diets are also sometimes called "master plants" or "teacher plants". Each plant helps you in a different way, i.e. they are all for different things. As with Ayahuacsa, each plant has spirits which perhaps some people will be able to work with during their diet.

Anyway, all the plants do hugely different things, and the only ones I can talk about are the ones I've experienced. But from my experience I would say: don't necessarily expect anything like the immense journeys that can occur during an Ayahuasca ceremony. This is often a bit more subtle. These plants infuse your body with their influence for some extended period of time. The changes might come as dreams or visions, or as thought-streams that lead to understandings or realizations. The plants I took made relatively subtle changes to me, changes that might be huge in their implications over time, but which are not so obvious when compared to having a huge emotional purge of toxic emotional material when vomitting with Ayahuasca, and then feeling instantly better the next day.

However, having said that, some plants I took did also have obvious immediate effects, such as a sense of apparent numbness in some parts of the body, apparent cold, plus vibration and/or shivering with Chiric Sanango, or maybe the kind of manic mind-state I had occasionally from Ucho Sanango, or maybe just feeling wiped out and sleeping really deeply for a few hours with the mix of five plants. However, still, most of the action is really happening at a much more subtle level.

Out of the traditional master plants, Toë (aka Floripondio, related to Datura) is reckoned to be one of the most potent, and also the most dangerous if badly handled. Don Marcial says that dieting this plant is one of the quickest ways to learn. If you are dieting Toë, they say you are completely in a world of your own, living in a dreaming world, effectively. You see consistent things in the world around you that are simply not there. They say you have to be monitored 24 hours a day. I think you'd have to be pretty confident in your curandero to do a diet with Toë.

Another surprising option is to diet Ayahuasca. This means taking Ayahuasca once or twice a day. This could also be a pretty interesting experience; I'm not sure exactly what the benefits would be of doing something like that.

Understanding the diet. There are various ways of understanding what happens during a diet. One approach might be to regard it as a chemical journey with the plant, enhanced by the increased sensitivity provided by the salt and sugar-free diet, i.e. to look at it as a trip, similar to the way that Ayahuasca can give you a clear conscious journey, with visions and so on. This is how I was initially regarding my diets, but this is also what lead to a lot of my disappointment and confusion, because I really wasn't getting the strong conscious journeys I was hoping for. Certainly it is possible to provide a strong diet in this form, but now I realise that for many curanderos this would be regarded as completely missing the point.

Maybe for an insensitive Westerner, however, a diet of many strong doses would give a more measurable effect. I was basing my ideas initially on the diet experience of Diego of Ayahuasca-Wasi, who dieted Chiric Sanango, fasting completely for 7 days with daily strong doses of the plant. He was constantly in the "mareación" of the plant, with numbness and shivering and so on, and he had immense visions during this time.

However, I didn't find any curandero (including the curandero Diego dieted with!) who would give me a diet like this. With Fernando I came a little closer, but finally with don Marcial I understood that this is a rather unsubtle approach. Maybe if someone would give me a diet like that, I could benefit from it, but failing that, let's see what the other approach is about ...

Don Marcial's perspective. For don Marcial, a diet is about getting acquainted with some new plant spirits. He has dieted 105 plants in his life, his first diet at the age of 12. His longest diet was for a whole year: 4 months on each of three plants. To him, it is pointless to diet a plant twice (as I have done), because he says it would be like going through University twice to study the same subject. Well, maybe I was at "Medicine Plant University" effectively wearing a blindfold and earplugs, which is how I managed to completely miss the point the first time around!

To don Marcial, each plant has good and bad spirits. The good spirits are invited to take up residence within the body, and they do the work of healing or helping you. The bad spirits are invited to stay around the body as protection. Don Marcial compares the bad spirits to a dog. He says: "You don't eat with your dog, or sleep with your dog; instead the dog sleeps on the patio and keeps the house safe." You don't want the bad spirits involved in your healing process because they just get in the way and make a mess of things -- again, very much like a dog would do. So, the dog is kept outside where he can do his job well and not get in the way.

The good spirits help in various ways with healing. For curanderos, they come to help when he/she is working to cure someone. Each plant also has songs, which start to come in Ayahuasca ceremonies to those learning to sing. Each plant also has a whole world of beings and spirits associated with it, which can be visited during Ayahuasca ceremonies, or they may come in visions during the ceremony to help you. So, the diet is simply to establish a connection with some new "healing powers" (if you like) which the plant provides, and to allow the plant to do whatever work it can on you during that time. Maybe this means physical changes, emotional healing, visions, or whatever the particular plant has to offer.

It is also interesting that don Marcial regards all medicine plants as having these good and bad spirits. This means that, for instance, in theory it would be possible to diet the Bach Flower Remedies. Indeed, the work of Bach really is identical to the approach and work of many Amazonian curanderos -- for instance the way he became ill and then went looking for the plant to cure himself, building up his knowledge in that way. This was a very interesting revelation to me, finding such a strong connection between these two systems of medicine.

This does mean, however, that most of the action in a diet is taking place at a level too subtle for most Westerners to recognise at first. This means either accepting it like that and trusting that the plants and the curandero are doing their work, or alternatively trying as much as possible to connect with these subtleties. Maybe being in a very isolated place might help to connect, or maybe trying to work consciously with dreaming or visualisation or Reiki or some other technique to build a connection. This seems the only way forward to understand and benefit from the diets in the way that the curanderos intend.


My experiences

I attended three diets in Peru during 2005 and early 2006:

Rather than writing up every small detail, I have decided to give an overview of the structure of the diet, and a summary of all the positive (+ve) and negative (-ve) points for each diet. If anyone needs more information, you can contact me here.

July 2005: a 10-day diet with Javier Zavala

Curandero: Javier Zavala
Duration:  10 days, plus several days for recovery afterwards
Location:  Hampichicuy centre, Tarapoto
Plants:    Bobinsana, Bachufa, Came, Bolaquiro, Kiyuwiki, Uchu Sanango
Contact:   Javier Zavala <hampichicuy@terra.com.pe>
	   Tel: Peru 042 528 014
	   Tel: Peru 042 962 0877 (cell phone)
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su Mo Tu
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 01 02

-- 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 -- -- -- -- -- --
BT 5P 5P 5P 5P 5P US US US US US ct
   5P as Ay as as US Ay    as Ay as as as       Ay
  
BT == Bobinsana and Tobacco purge
5P == 5-plant mix: Bobinsana, Bachufa, Came, Bolaquiro, Kiyuwiki
US == Uchu Sanango
as == Ayahuasca solo, taking a small dose at night before bed
Ay == Ayahuasca ceremony with Javier
ct == "Corte de Dieta" meal to end diet

Bungalow at Hampichicuy, and nearby river+ve: Dieted a large number of plants, although I only recognised the benefits of this in my third diet, when I managed to reconnect with them all again.

+ve: Well looked after physically: bedding, mosquito netting, hammock, tobacco infusion as insect repellent, etc; excellent food after the diet; caretaker came by and checked on me regularly.

+ve: Physically isolated site; no unwanted interruptions from other people; no noise during the day from local sources; nice river close by for bathing during the diet.

+ve: Excellent Ayahuasca (no bitterness); the other plant medicines also seemed well prepared; most of the medicinal plants were grown on-site.

+ve: One really good Ayahuasca ceremony with Javier: good work done on some big issues. Many small and interesting gains, realizations and understandings during the diet; working with some spirits, having "bird eyesight" for one whole afternoon, clear memories from my childhood; odds and ends like that.

+ve/-ve: I learnt to deal with taking Ayahuasca on my own, and to protect myself properly entering that state -- but I learnt it the hard way, by surviving a couple of very bad Ayahuasca experiences which I think really shouldn't have happened on a supervised diet like this.

-ve: Local "Fiesta de San Juan" celebration took place during my diet, meaning the sound of all-night parties coming from over the hill most nights until 3am, which gave me huge problems holding onto my centre during the diet.

-ve: Hampichicuy site slightly run-down, in a state of moderate disrepair (leaking roofs, etc), needing some attention.

-ve: Lack of care at times from the curandero: giving me Ayahuasca to take alone at night without adequate protection at times (serious attack from some black entity one night); huge problems being in Ayahuasca alone at night with all the party noise from the town; problem immediately after the diet of me going to the town to eat, due to lack of communication between the curandero and the caretaker who normally brought my food; giving me a lot of food after the diet, with Ayahuasca on top, to the point where I spent 3 hours one night in great discomfort and pain; and so on. Also "games" at times from the curandero, as if trying to scare me, even during one of the Ayahuasca ceremonies.

-ve: Disconnection between words and actions of the curandero; sometimes he would advise me to do things which were impossible, for instance to avoid the kitchen area because of the smells, when I had to pass the kitchen area to go to the bathroom, or advising me not to eat red meat after the diet, and then actually giving me a beef steak to eat; many other small instances.

-ve: Lack of understanding from the curandero, or perhaps a collision of approaches or expectations; it was only in my 3rd diet that I really understood why I was getting so frustrated with my diet experience in this first one.

-ve: My impression of the diet afterwards was of a lot of confusion and muddle during the diet, some good and useful parts but also some bad parts, a kind of patchy experience. There was no overall sense of having achieved anything, although I had gained many small things. There were actually many subtle benefits from the plants, but I didn't recognise and recover these benefits until very much later, in my third diet.

-ve: I was completely energetically exhausted after this diet; I had lost all my power and normal energetic abilities: I was completely wiped out. I made a very slow recovery afterwards, getting back to a more normal energy level again after 2-3 months.

I really don't think I was the ideal client for Javier -- possibly I was too challenging a case for him. Also, maybe he was trying to fulfill my (perhaps unrealistic) expectations of the diet by giving me doses of Ayahuasca most nights, but this approach seemed miscalculated and brought with it many problems. I really think he didn't know how to deal with me, and quite possibly didn't care enough to put in the effort to find a way to make it work and get a good result for us both. It is possible, however, that other people have a much better experience with him. I sincerely hope they do, anyway.

October 2005: a 7-day diet with Fernando Oubiña

Curandero: Fernando Oubiña of NixiPae, supported by Maestro Vichin in Iquitos
Duration:  7 days
Location:  Centro Sowewankeri, near Puerto Maldonado
Plants:    Chiric Sanango
Contact:   See http://www.nixipae.com/
Fr Sa Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 31 01 02 03 04 05
            nM
-- 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 --
Ay CS    CS    CS    Ay ct   

Ay == Ayahuasca ceremony to open and close the diet
CS == Chiric Sanango dose (first one really strong, other two milder)
ct == "Corte de Dieta" meal to end diet
nM == New moon

Bungalow at Amaru-Amazonia, and view from
 it over the jungle.+ve: Truly beautiful location, huge views out across the jungle, complete isolation, no noise, no interruptions, only jungle sounds; spring water to bathe in; large separate 'bungalows', with bathrooms.

+ve: Excellent care from Fernando, taking me to/from the bathing site at dusk, and so on; plenty of time and space for me to work on my own processes.

+ve: Well-prepared food during diet: rice, oats, plus fish for the last couple of days of the diet (it's surprising how much you can appreciate well-prepared boiled rice when that's all you're eating all day.)

+ve: Three doses of Chiric Sanango, with strong enough mareación that I could understand and work with the plant to some extent at my own present level of sensitivity.

+ve: Many realisations and very real progress came during this diet; real benefits that I can recognise in my own familiar terms of reference. The most concrete result was a set of Intents that came to me during that period which I later wrote onto a set of cards, and that I still now use daily to refocus and help me move forwards productively.

-ve: Bathroom plumbing was still incomplete at time of diet. I knew this in advance, and this shouldn't be a problem for others, but this affected my experience because I had to go out in the night to the bushes, getting bitten by the mosquitos.

Fernando is a Spanish guy from Galicia who has been studying the jungle medicine for about 5 years (at time of writing). Because of his background, he understands his fellow Westerners well, in the sense that he knows where they are coming from. I think this subtly creates an experience that is less strange and perhaps more directly suited to Westerners, even if this doesn't have the immense, unusual and strange depths that might be available when dieting with someone who has been living and breathing Amazonian medicine since birth. The diet was a positive and clear experience for me, with very good, significant and beneficial results.

January 2006: a 15-day diet with don Marcial Nunta

Curandero: Don Marcial Nunta
Duration:  15 days, plus some additional time for ceremonies afterwards
Location:  San José, km26 Pucallpa
Plants:    Chiric Sanango
Contact:   See http://uazu.net/sc/marcial/
Fr Sa Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su Mo
 6  7  8  9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
                        fM                                           nM
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
CS    CS    CS                   Ay    Ay Ay sa    Ay       Ay          Ay

CS == Dose of Chiric Sanango (second was the strongest, others milder)
Ay == Ayahuasca ceremony with don Marcial
sa == Salt mouth-wash + sweet tea to break the diet
fM == Full Moon
nM == New Moon

Don Marcial's dieting hut, with nearby
 houses.+ve: Native Shipibo maestro curandero with truly deep and subtle knowledge; he has dieted 105 plants during his life, the first at age 12.

+ve: In the ceremonies, and in general: neutral, trustworthy, supportive and very willing to help: trying to teach me to sing so that I can continue to work with the medicine away from Peru. Personally, I always have problems with trust and fears about receiving bad help, so I often held the Intent "accepting only good medicine" to keep my fears at bay, and to help me be open enough to accept as much of the healing from him as I possibly could. ("Medicine" in this context meaning all the subtle work being done by the maestro.)

+ve: Strong enough as a healer to deal with my problems directly, to work strongly through Ayahuasca at times, sometimes singing me through great discomfort to heal things, letting me work through my own internal processes at other times, singing to help the plants, and so on and so on. I feel a lot of gratitude for the help he has given me.

+ve: Subtle enough knowledge and "vision" to recognise and solve subtle problems directly: for instance, he found that I had given the Came Renaco plant a "shock" after my first diet by eating something wrong, and that this was causing me to vomit in every Ayahuasca ceremony, more than was necessary; he massaged this problem out, and indeed I haven't needed to vomit in Ayahuasca since.

+ve: Actively and subtly works on the person remotely during the diet to support their process. He never mentioned this until I asked him about a few things that I had been noticing, such as changes in the amount of "mental noise" I was experiencing at different times during the night. At the start of the diet, he was monitoring me for several hours each night, actively working during this time to help things progress well for me with the plants; also, at odd times I would also hear him quietly whistling or singing Icaros nearby and I experienced changes as a result. Quite possibly he was doing other things as well that I didn't notice.

+ve: Food is well-prepared; he likes his clients to eat well, giving a large piece of a local white fish every meal along with the rice, etc. I don't think so much fish is normal in a diet, but all the same, it made the food aspect of the diet a lot easier to handle.

+ve: The Chiric Sanango was very fresh -- I watched him prepare it from the root before taking the dose.

+ve: Pleasant location, nicely decorated dieting hut, electric power! (to use laptop, charge batteries, etc)

+ve/-ve: Large difference in world views, which is really a great opportunity to learn, but which requires work from both sides. I learnt a great deal, but don Marcial has been in the world of plant medicine since he was 12, and things that are difficult for me are things that perhaps he hasn't thought about for 46 years, or perhaps never thought about, hence the need to work on bridging that gap.

-ve: Talking a lot does not really seem natural for him; he doesn't seem to have many answers easily to hand or other easily-accessible conscious knowledge, although sometimes extremely lucid explanations would emerge which helped me a great deal. Really his world is the world of Ayahuasca and healing, and very little verbal communication is required to operate in these realms; his knowledge seems to be practical and deeply buried, and mostly it comes to him only in the moment when he needs it. However, eventually he became accustomed to sitting down with me and talking through a list of questions that I had accumulated, which helped me a lot to bridge this gap.

-ve: The dieting hut is on the edge of a village, with music from nearby houses, other distractions and occasional interruptions. This is considered normal for the people from here, however: this is how they often do their diets, close to the village, although slightly apart. Don Marcial has only done one really well-isolated diet, 1km away from his village. With a portable CD player it was possible to mask out some of the more troublesome distractions; this was workable for me, although still not ideal.

-ve: The mareación from the Chiric Sanango was moderately strong one night, but the other two doses were mild. However, this is a negative point only if you are hoping for a really strong sustained "chemical" experience with the plant, as discussed in "Understanding the diet" above -- and I eventually realised that this is regarded as missing the point as far as don Marcial is concerned. The Ayahuasca mareación was plenty strong enough, though.

My diet with don Marcial has been the most productive of the three in the sense that I have learned the most about the medicine, even if there was also some confusion along the way. I have also experienced several very positive changes, although I don't know exactly how those changes came about: the work was done on a subtle level that I'm still not really aware of. He says that each ceremony with him I was getting stronger, advancing further, and my experiences really do support that claim. He really comes alive in an Ayahuasca ceremony; arrange one early in the diet if you go.


[ Further reading: "My first 18 Ayahuasca ceremonies", "Don Marcial, maestro curandero" and "Further jungle diets: 2011-2012" ]



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