Image 1. Tambo (by the author).
Prelude: In Isolation circa 2013
The quiet evening song grows into a cacophony of noisy nocturnal dwellers as the inky darkness of the waning moon takes hold of the densely vegetated landscape of the Peruvian Rainforest. Hayy is alone in a tambo or a choza (Quechua terms for huts used for living in isolation during plant fasts) that has four thick wooden posts, a thatched hut made of leyarina (a type of palm leaf), and a foam mattress placed on top of a wooden platform with a mosquitero (mosquito net) around it. No walls and no floor, just the open air and sandy jungle soil.
A machete remains by Hayy’s side for the twenty days of his isolation as a kind of mental comfort for fear of some kind of unexpected animal attack, but it turns out that though it is useful as a weight to hold down the mosquitero and as a tool to clear dense vegetation on hikes during the day, it isn’t used for much else. Apart from water from a nearby stream and food (boiled green plantains and rice without any seasoning) delivered once a day by the curandero’s apprentice, the most important thing to Hayy unexpectedly turns out to be tobacco. To mark territory against animals (and spirits, as the natives would say), to drive away hornets that had made a nest close to his bed, to deter little gray scorpions seeking shelter on the platform Hayy’s bed was on during rainstorms, as mosquito repellent, as anti-itch salve, antiparasitic tea, mouthwash, and yet also, according to the almost all native Amazonian cultures, tobacco is used as a way to amplify prayers and intentions.
Now that spring is here and it is actually getting warmer in New York, I actually feel myself thawing and flowing with creative juices again.
Since Zahra and I returned to the United States from Peru in the summer of 2017 we have been settling into our new intentions, roles, and essentially our new lives.
I am back at SUNY New Paltz in New York and this May I will finally (and officially) be an anthropologist! Meanwhile Zahra is already a step past “student midwife” in El Paso, Texas. As an intern at the Maternidad La Luz birthing clinic she has been catching babies at a rate that is inconceivable to me. I had the pleasure of shadowing her at her clinic this past January 2018, and then I again visited her during Spring Break in March (though I haven’t attended a birth myself yet). It was a surreal experience meeting someone I know so intimately in a new role and at a whole new level of skill and knowledge. Of course, even with all the changes, looking into her eyes I knew I was home again.
Eight months ago Zahra catching babies and me being back in the flow of my undergraduate studies was all still conceptual, and now...
Here we are! As there now is quite the collection of photos, projects, and experiences we’ll gently be playing “catch up” on our lovely little nook on the web.
Protect yourself against cold when it begins
- unknown -
Hello everyone, happy new year!
Zain and Zahra here :)
We are writing from below the equator in Iquitos, Peru. We are at a beautiful center called Oni Shobo, working as employees for a few months.
We are making some changes in how we will be sending updates to people, as the internet will be especially slow where we are. Also we are clearing our old email-update list and starting a fresh cycle of communication where we will mainly focus on updating our website. You can find the same updates that we used to send by email on www.weavingthevine.com
Entries about our trips will be on the “JOURNAL” section of the website.
Also you are welcome to come visit Oni Shobo, here in Peru. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you soon. As we will be here for a few months, you have plenty of time to plan a trip while we will still be here. This center has turned out to be one of the most peaceful and most beautiful places we have visited.Vera and Coco have an excellent sense of how to maximize the healing process with the necessary comforts of running water, toilets, showers and sinks in each tambo. What a relief that was! Check out http://onishobo.com/english
They welcome “drop ins” so to speak, by not requiring you to commit to set retreat dates.
The jungle is a beautiful and mysterious place which is always undergoing change. Likewise this center, which is based deep in the jungle, is always going through changes. There may not always be the possibility for visits based on the number of people already here (which we try to keep very small) and or the current status of whether the curendero will be present here on the property or not. But usually it all works out and you find all you were looking for, and then some!
We will try to post some pictures on the website soon. Wishing you all the best this 2017!
With love always,
Zain and Zahra
Greeting from Iquitos, Peru!
We are doing well, adjusting to the heat. The retreat center is even more beautiful in person! They have done such great work here, it is nicer than any other center we’ve been to.
It is still rustic and very jungly, but also they have installed a water system with showers toilets and sinks in each tambo.
They have given us both a private space to sleep, study, and bathe. We will attach some pictures.
We have begun cleansing ourselves out and working with guests as well; we are facilitators, companions and organizers when Vera and Coco are away.
We will also be applying different medicines, we will tell you more when we actually begin doing this.
We feel like we are being blessed after some difficult lessons last year. All our prayers have been answered, even if it all ends tomorrow, we would still feel content and grateful for our time here!
So in terms of communication, we will not be able to connect too often. We do have a usb connection device that works when the weather is clear and when Coco actually brings it.
So yeah, our time here in the jungle has turned out to be all we've
asked for...really it is surreal. The curandero Mariano Arevalo
Sanchez or his Murui tribal name is Sofirama Medcine (medseen)
Nungmele, came with us to the center on the same day and has become
our mentor, as we are the team of 3 that take care of the guests.
Twice a week we sit with him in Ayahuasca ceremony and the rest of the
days we make medicines with him, sit in Cocayar story time/educational
oral tradition meetings where he tells us legends, life lessons, the
different animal and plant medicines, jokes and constantly reminding
us that life is good, to stay healthy and that we all are one and come
from one source.
We sit in a circle as he passes around pulverized Coca leaves mixed
with ashes of the Setico leaf and tobacco (a liquid solution as well
as mapacho). Sofirama is turning 77 this March, he is a tiny 4.5 ft
tall man with few teeth, but the largest smile, a sharp mind and a
strong body. He says he is only living now to share the knowledge of
the Murui people (also known as Witoto) and is so overjoyed that Zahra
and I are so keen about learning these ancient ways.
Definitely a return to magic this year.
Still the mosquitos can be overbearing and the heat draining, but it
is the rainy season now so we have gotten a couple of cool spells
lately. This monday we will be starting an 8 day intensive dieta with
Chiric Sanango, a powerful teacher plant that people also use for
treating rheumatoid arthritis. We've had two clients for the past
week, Nina and Bob, from Sweden and Britain, and we've taken up the
role as the Kambo applicators here. The Kambo mambo called, and we
stepped up. The first time I applied it to Zahra and myself, Coco
brought the new guests from Iquitos as I was in the middle of my purge
(awkward first meeting for those unexposed to purging...)...but within
the next ten minutes I began applying Kambo to 4 people (including
Coco)....man was it an initiation. I was sweating, trying to balance
everyone's perceptions, my shaky hand and harden up in the moment no
matter how much I didn't like inflicting pain to people. Since then I
have applied it many times and I find my hand has become steady and
that people found that I have a very gentle touch, literally only
removing the first layer of skin.
Apparently the giant tree frog is in our part of the jungle, so
Sofirama, Zahra and I will go on a night time expedition to find it
one of these days!
In another email I will try to send some pictures.
So while I have connection I'll just send this message out.
Hope it was all coherent, I'm not doing spell check.
Documented online: The final step for Zain's return to academics was made on November 14th, 2016
(on some super duper full moon no less..)
In this most recent post on our live, electronic resume of sorts, we are happy to inform you that we are off to Peru on January 6, 2017!
We have been offered an opportunity to work at the Amazon Green Ecolodge OniShobo retreat center in Iquitos, Peru (our first time in this “most popular destination” of the trinity of the famous jungle cities of Peru: Iquitos, Pucallpa and Tarapoto). There we will be serving as retreat facilitators, assistants during ceremony, post ceremony integration guides, and translators.
Besides our work, as always we will be students: observing, listening, and learning.
So now you know where to find us next year ;)
Z & Z
Dear friends and family,
Sitting amongst the pines, cedars, and madrone of Northern California on this cool September day, brought me an unmistakeable sense of a shift in the winds and the inspiration to write this letter.
Two full months have past since Zahra and I arrived in sunny, blue-skied California; we are enjoying the stark contrast of this parched environment from the humidity of Tarapoto, Peru. Once we arrived, we immediately got to work at our friend’s farming project, a kindred spirit whom we met at Takiwasi earlier this year. Though we had an overarching focus, many of the details of ‘how, when, and where’ were a mystery to us when we were packing up our items, letting go of our little home, and saying goodbye to friends and family at the outset of 2016. Now as this year is moving towards its end phase, I feel that a larger cycle that began in 2012 is also winding down. The mysterious currents of the cosmos can only be tasted, a flavor sensed and adapted to accordingly.
For Zahra and I, the calling is to consciously take on the task of integrating all that we have learned into the context of the society in which we were born. During the summer of 2013, when I was in the amazon, in the middle of a period of 20 days of isolation and 35 days of fasting, I had a vision of holding an Ayahuasca ceremony for my grandmother. In November 2015, after holding ceremonies for nearly a year, my grandmother joined us in a small family circle and my vision was fulfilled. After this event, there was a distinct shift in my gut feeling and though Zahra and I set out on the journey of holding ceremony without attachment as to how long we would continue to do so, in our hearts arose a tender sadness of parting, that soon became a beacon of courage to simply let go and allow in what needed to come into our lives next.
The trip to Takiwasi this year fortified our intuitions that now is the time to explore who we have become after four years of initiation in the ways of curanderismo and how to ceremonially live life.
The parallels between ceremony and life are infinite, and that is because ceremony can be a contained space of tutelage for life. For us there are now some exams to take. The mission is to find a way to weave the vine into the very fabric of society. As much as the hype will continue to increase into an era of open flirtation with mind expanding techniques- the refined, sacred, subtle, and professional approach to these techniques will also thrive. At it’s core our path is still the same but outwardly its appearance is transforming rapidly. And yet, without a doubt in my heart, I patiently look forward to the time when the path will take on a familiar manifestation as it did when I sat behind the alter of medicine work.
Each person whom we’ve had an exchange with during this auspicious cycle has been a light along the way. We’ve all shared something special within these sacred meetings thus far; so much so that we cannot fathom the reasons, or rather, the music behind it all. The ceremonies Zahra and I held, the other ceremonies we’ve sat in, the synchronistic meetings, the new relationships and the transformation of old relationships, all of it, has been a gift and there is much to receive yet ahead.
"Look beyond what is or could be said and thought with meaning. Look to aesthetics, discover genuineness, adequacy and wholeness; these offer life and growth. Will it be mostly clear sailing- probably not; but storms do not take soundness from pure intentions."
-Michael and Ann Garo
You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me...Remember...Remember
Remember the Prince's Journey
Born of Love
a vivacious and innocent child
to inherent the world
except that which is not to be claimed
come the realities, the pain the suffering
the misguidance of the Graceless
unduly taken by a soft heart
flee the present
past put behind, a "free" life, a private oasis
a heavy heart
Come the Signs and Reminders
the Journey into Self
Initiation, Vision, Decision
return to what was once rich and in balance
now a wasteland
the Circle of Life broken
the Laws that Govern ignored
the Mantle in shadow
to be reclaimed
to face the Graceless
in the fires of misunderstanding, judgment, danger
Justice, Truth, Wisdom
the hesitant Reclaiming
shaky steps forward
the clouds part, the Kings of the past above
and the Roar of Existence is birthed anew
Weaving the Vine has been finalized for digital distribution and is now in queue to be delivered to digital streaming and download sites such as iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and many more.
We're back in Tarapoto for a few days to celebrate our 8 year anniversary, which also falls upon the Spring Equinox.
We've been living alone and managing the land for about 12 days on a beautiful mountain in Sauce, Peru. There is an abundance of fresh mountain water that we filter through a "life straw," there are compost toilets, beautiful sustainable huts made of earth, bamboo and traditional Peruvian jungle hut materials. There is no electricity yet, and there are plans to create a garden and we’ve already begun work on a plant nursery; for fresh organic food and medicine, and so that a grueling trip down and up the mountain to restock supplies can be avoided more often. When we lay in our tent at the end of the day, bodies sore and mind quiet, we realize again and again that we've been handed a 3 dimensional preview of our dreams: One to be scrutinized, tested and then chosen with utmost intent and clarity.
As beautiful as isolated locations in nature are, they are equally powerful in wildness. While the individual tries to tame nature by cutting a path through the bushy grass, irrigating the water flow towards one's needs, building little shelters to feel at home, taming animals and plants for company and food, nature is subtly ‘wilding’ the individual.
It is a rare moment that one completely gets to “unwind” or “shut off” in nature, as there are always her emissaries (like hungry mosquitos) to bring the unwary back to the present moment. This is a training in itself. There is great benefit in sitting in a completely silent, air conditioned, and perfectly arranged (tamed) environment to meditate and pray. There is also great benefit in spending time in nature where meditation and prayer are the very steps one takes, the air one breathes, the acute presentness of tight goose-pimpled skin in the shady recesses of the jungle, or the open mouthed stare at the unpolluted, bejeweled night sky.
We believe that humanity is and always has been called to experience both ends of this sacred spectrum. Like Tuwe of the Huni Kuin Kaxinawa tribe (click for BBC article and video) who travels from Acre, Brazil to the USA and his partner Juliana Yasa who travels from the USA to his home in the jungle. The Pocahontas archetype is alive and well today. This is the exchange at the cutting edge of history, and in fact transcends the historic tales of humanity.
This IS the evolutionary process of our species.
photo gallery below:
Meet Cholo, the 3rd of the horse family on the mountain and known as the stud.
Click "read more" for a story.
Below is a little digital album of our trip so far. We have added captions to the pictures, so enjoy!
We completed our stay and isolation fast at Takiwasi, and have now eaten up with some healthy food.
The next stage of our journey will be at the retreat center: Medicine of Light a retreat center founded by our friends Jimmy and Miska. This center is still in its infancy stages and we are very grateful to be of help in its development! We have a lot to learn and look forward to the discipline of farm life.
We will not have access to internet or electricity for extended periods, starting from later this week, so Adios Amigos!
link to the album:
We have returned to the city of Tarapoto, Peru from the 8 day period of isolation at Takiwasi. Though it was a reset and a good way to cleanse for the new year, after going through the dieta we were thoroughly reminded of how unromantic it can be. We were quite far apart from each other and as this was a focused isolation it was much more strict, so we did not write letters to each other, no mapacho (jungle tobacco for insects), no toothpaste, no nada- just bare essentials and a soap they concocted from plant matter that has an oatmealish aroma. There were others around the property as well, all instructed to keep distance from each other and remain in the process of self reflection.
All the local inhabitants like the blue morpho butterflies, hummingbirds, spiders, snakes and of course those ever so hungry mosquitos.. greeted us as the mobile representatives of nature. The tambos are each the dwelling place of different medicinal plants, so for example Zahra’s tambo was named Oje (Oh-Hey), you can see the trunk and roots in the forefront of the picture. It’s pretty massive.
Also, the psychologists have all been through diets themselves, and are not so different from any of us. There was no "brain washing" or superiority complex, they were very professional and share in Takiwasi's vision of "de-New Age-ifying” Ayahuasca and plant medicine work. So the process and “spiritual retreat" here is extremely rigorous, effort based and thoroughly documented. It is one of the seeds of a societally integrated traditional medicine hospital.
What we felt strongly while we were here, is that the key is not the plant medicine work or having to go to the jungle- this is our manifestation of passion in life- but the undercurrent is the importance of discipline, clear thinking, prayer, facing the dark night of the soul with courage, integrating that into daily life, and staying vigilant towards creating one’s vision and dreams in physical form here on earth.
Thank you all for your prayers, we send you our love always.
Zain & Zahra
"revalue the human and natural resources of Amazonian traditional medicine."After a long interview process through letters and official documents, we are confirmed to partake in DIETA (click to read more). After this we are free to explore the Amazon and its mysteries, with our intuition and prior 3 years of experience guiding us, we feel confident that we will be safe and that we will find the perfect circumstances to support our learning process.
In related news:
We are still working on our album and are aiming to release it within this blessed month of December.
This sharing of our hearts through music has taken on a new significance as we find ourselves growing nostalgic of even the most routine aspects of our day, with the knowledge that life will soon be looking very different. The spirit of a farewell embeds itself in the music as we record, motivating us to give our best efforts to the process.
The song "We are One" will not be on our upcoming album, but can be listened to and downloaded for free on soundcloud. Lastly we have compiled videos of memories from our experiences from the past few years and though it is mainly a farewell to our family here in New York, we'd like to share it with everyone who has had an exchange with us in one way or the other.
Zain and Zahra
The picture above was taken on a wintery autumn morning. I greeted a tree that I sit across from at work with sacred tobacco smoke. As I did so, the rays of the sun and rainbow colors were revealed in the smoke: A reminder of the ever present unseen layers of beauty that are revealed simply with a shift in perspective.
In this moment of grace a fresh thought came with a high degree of clarity and cohesion.
To these moments, I pay extra attention and board the train of thought willingly.
It went something like this:
Being "Indian," or rather, Native or Indigenous is a state of consciousness.
For example Inca, Maya, Apache, Lakota, and even current isolated tribes around the world are literally occupying a stream, a current of awareness in the ocean of consciousness. Beyond birth, each individual is raised with certain norms and values which direct their lives with a particular outlook.
Building on this insight, all the various forms of the prophecy of a Global Tribe is true because slowly the masses of a once misdirected and lost culture of "modern-Western-civilization" are slowly learning to direct their consciousness towards an all inclusive global awareness. Generation after generation we are fully realizing our Global Citizenry:
Humans are learning the dance of contradictions, or seeming opposites.
Soon it may be the case that our current group of generations will have a fitting title, or name that will evoke a sense of deep time and awe in the hearts of our children's children's children. For what is a name other than a label on a specific tuning of the unseen strings that vibrate our reality into being?
Much like the string on a guitar we label with an arbitrary letter for organization's sake, throughout the ages language and labeling has been used to identify and establish identification with feelings, thoughts, states of awareness...
Labels are reference points to consciousness- a piece of art, music, a language, or even a stone can be assigned as a reminder to a particular vibration.
Notice the color in the pictures below, as well as the style and symbolic reference point to a certain vibration of experience in Ayahuasca states.
The idea of "Native American" for most people around the world has become a romantic "Cowboys and Indians" notion that is restricting their scope of thinking, of feeling and knowing. We are not facing galactic matters just yet, we're still figuring out basics like how to educate our children and take care of our health and this is why we are all in dire need of the wisdom of the Earth which is still very real and fresh in many tribes like the Kaxinawa Huni Kun, Yawanawa, Kampa, Sentinelese, Kokiri, and many others around the world. It is arrogant and ignorant to think of our civilization, lifestyles and culture as the only one worth noting. It is not true that Native Wisdom is a thing of the past.
There is medicine out there.
There is wisdom out there.
And vibrations that await to be heard and felt.
Don't doubt all tribal dances, face paint and seemingly "primitive festivities" that we all too often judge as "for show" and "attention." There is significance in what we, at face value, can easily judge as nonsense. There are states of being that take experience to know.
They do not fit into intellectual schemata and wordy explanations.
There is fear in modern people that "others" not part of the societal structures of western civilization are dangerous because we think they don't have the same conscience, the same values, and the same folkways, mores and taboos. We do not want to be misled, made fools of and sent on a wild goose chase. These fears all come from an attitude of lack. Know yourself, take pride in your global heritage, in your far-reaching awareness, in your multi-ethnic background, your versatility and yes even your possible misfortunes of growing up in dysfunctional family structures, which encoded you with the experiential knowledge of what needs to be healed in humanity's collective psyche...
There is much we are to learn, as well as teach. No one has all the answers; we are all co-creating a new existence for humanity. There are even decedents of mutilated tribes who are rediscovering their roots and reconnecting to old customs with a new twist. We are blessed with traditions that have been passed down for generations, and most importantly we are also staying true to the guidance in the NOW.
Rituals are meant to serve us, to make us present and aligned. When we begin serving them instead we literally shut the gates on Grace coming to kiss our hearts. We dance upon the surface of rituals and they provide us with a platform to take-off of into freeform creativity with integrity and with an aim towards higher and higher vibration.
It is about heart, not about blood.
We are all natives to this Earth.
Natives are taught by nature, the stars, the universe, the mystery...
We have been, we are and will be, living and learning into infinity.
Zahra's 29th birthday:
a reminder that "All energy is only borrowed and one day you have to give it back." - Avatar
Early October 6th we were taking a walk and came upon a dead turtle. We felt really good about having a burial on the day of the birthday as it was symbolic of a new phase of life, a shedding of a old shell, and also a reminder that life is short.
One of the biggest lessons I learn again and again from working with Ayahuasca is not to run from my problems, to walk into what I fear and earn conviction by transforming my fear into strength.
When I saw this video by Stromae, a French artist, I saw my past enacted in this drama. As a teenager it was overwhelming to realize that my family, my loved ones, my friends besides being my support, also had the capability to be my destruction.
In fact, the whole world is this way- the Earth itself -"she gives us milk and she hunts us."
In my teens I thought that I should put my family...no, my whole life behind me. A new start, a fresh perspective...it sounded so enticing and many people in my age group were in the same thought process, as they were rebelling against the status quo, so I thought I was on the right track. All the ties I was born into, all the love...it started to feel like suffocation. Maybe there were nice people out there, a new family, an enlightened bunch who truly knew how to live and love.
Soon however the "fresh new world" started to look and feel a lot like the maze I thought I left behind.
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”
-Alan W. Watts
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
"You can't direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails"