We're making it official! Though we're all in the midst of strange times, we would like to raise our torch in the dark, sing our song during the storm, and reconnect with the many souls we've connected with over the years.
With love, Zain and Zahra
Having recently moved to Webster, NY some 20 minutes outside of Rochester city, we are spending a lot more time outside (though it is still quite chilly here in May: we’ve had freezing temps and even flurries these days!)
Adjacent to our new home is the North Ponds park that is made up of large pools and rolling hills where geese, ducks, and Caspian terns share fish with little freshwater otters that zip by across the surface of the waters.
Further along is the Bird Sanctuary Trail where, so far, we have identified a pileated woodpecker, red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, European starlings, and a hawk: who still has remained too shy to identify with more detail.
One evening, during a warm spell, I was sitting outside my home reading and gazing around at some pear trees on our property, I suddenly had this feeling that started with a tickle in my stomach and a flicker of energy in my feet that made me curl my toes in my slippers. I realized that I hadn’t felt pure, wholesome joy in quite a while. Yes, I am generally happy-—trying to remember that happiness is not a state of mind, but a way of thinking—-as I run from school, to work, to home chores, to homework, to the next meal, to some time for decompressing, and on and on the list goes until bedtime.
Living in the downtown region of a city was wearing upon my mind and body more than I had thought; I didn’t realize how much until that peaceful evening where I was reading outdoors on a cozy chair by the orange light pouring through one of our windows behind me.
Above is a "video about forests," but "also a video about you." It made us smile here in our new home :)
this post on instagram @za_ispharazi
As Rochester experiences some humid summer days, I find myself missing the Rainforest more and more. (Tarantulas and all.)
After five years of consistent visits and long term live-ins in Peru, coming back to the States with the intent to spread my roots, is still remarkably challenging 2 years later. (Though I was born and raised in NY.)
You see, living in nature has its obvious threats like snakes, insects, and arachnids, but here in our modern cities the threats are more subtle. For example the way laws, economics, and infrastructure are currently designed for poor or working class people (experiencing an emergency room visit recently in D.C. with insurance that is bound to NY, shook me); the shiny packages at those glorious supermarkets that contain disease causing chemicals, and not to mention the pollution of the very air we breathe, among other things.
And yet, being back in the States reminds me that NY is one of the best places in the world to live, evolve, and that we, especially at the grassroots level, have the opportunity to continue shaping it to be even better.
I’ve been finding that the key to wellness here, is to be aware of the Disease of Affluence
( #diseaseofaffluence ), caused by the willpower draining abundance we enjoy daily. The pleasures and luxuries of modern lifestyle induce a kind of waking slumber on us.
But! There is an antidote to this, and that is, the presentness the natural places of the world unequivocally require from us.
The cure in nature acts upon us, quite naturally.
The image just above was my inspiration for the novel the Oaql Seed, the first installment in what is now becoming the Tree Boat Series. Yesterday at 5:19pm I finished the last line of my first book. This is the “big project” I have been mentioning in passing now and then. The image below is of the first journal I ever owned, given to me by my best friend around the time I had to move out of Staten Island. I was around ten years old.
The little Zain inside me had to wait some eighteen years for his dream to come true. The older Zain finally sorted out a few things in his life and rediscovered his inner voice. [See? Patience pays little one. ]
After all our travels and seeking I have come to believe that though many of my childhood fantasies have been disillusioned through experience, as an adult it is my duty to uphold the sense of magic that got me to write this book, that is compelling me even now to write this blog post. Through creative works we are able to share feelings of presence we have felt in peak experiences of our life. Sometimes these peak experiences come in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest in a traditional ceremony and sometimes they come in the middle/end of a good book. The point being, that people can be moved to presence in a huge spectrum of contexts, what is left then is to somehow recreate, and share that feeling in the hopes that the torch of inspiration is carried on.
The first time I set out to formally write a full length story was back in (hold on...must sift through old computer docs...ah! Here it is!) the year 2011. The next iteration seems to be sometime in 2014. Then 2015 another attempt, 2016, 2017, and by the middle of 2018 the rusty clogs were cleaned and greased. The story began taking on a life of its own and I began thinking about it more and more as I was sitting in my postbacc classes. Though there were large gaps in my story writing process, the real work was being done in my journals with seemingly unrelated content. Just the daily act of journaling experiences, thoughts, and jibberish at times helped me find my voice. I was able to look back at journals from my teenage years and be like...”Yeesh! Someone give that boy a hug!” And other times I looked back and thought to myself, “Wow, that boy was really onto something there. Huh.”
Well, one journey ends and another begins, or is it all one long journey? Now I’m writing drafts of query letters, finding readers, editing, researching, and putting the final touches on the book as I aim to publish it through a major publishing house.
So fam and friends, keep those prayers and good vibes coming. It’s really helping :)
Many happy returns of the slightly warmer day here in NY!
The picture above is of our office/creative workspace/living room/library/and sometimes dining room all in one! So I (Zain) just made it to Rochester day before yesterday in a u-haul filled with many of the things you are seeing in this photo.
To catch you up: on the first day of classes of my spring semester at American University in Washington DC I find out that I will not receive any further Fed Aid as a post bacc student. So my options were: take out more personal loans or move back to New York and take the same courses for a quarter of the price I was looking at in DC. I freaked out for a total of five solid minutes, literally five minutes. And then?
And then I got excited! Actually my new worry is that I enjoy being a vagabond too much. I mean I got to packing my things as if I were packing for a trip to Hawaii. All jokes aside, there are great reasons to be thrilled about the move.
1. Cheaper classes and financial aid, as I am a NY resident
2. Experiencing another city
3. Adding another place to my list of "I've lived there" stories
4. Affordable rent and more affordability in general
And...the most important reason of all!
5. I get to be with my One-and-Only again!!
When Zahra finished up the midwifery program in El Paso, TX she came to live with me in DC for about 3 months last year. She got accepted into the U of R for the accelerated bachelor's of science in nursing program, which she began on January 14th. We lived apart for 13 months while she was in El Paso, and because of this nursing program we were looking at being apart for another year! It was really good for us to have some time apart the first time, but this second round wasn't feeling right. I mean, we're the kind of people who do what we have to do and would've moved forward...
But I think something deep within us wasn't havin'it! We manifested a change, that flipped my life upside down, and yet felt so good.
Now here I am writing this in gray and snowy Rochester happier than ever, making nest and having a great time with the lovely Zahra.
So I've applied to schools nearby our apartment here so I can begin my premed studies again in the summer, or at the latest, by the fall. Amidst all these changes, work, and studies we're not much for blogging but we still keep up with our creative endeavors.
In my case I'm getting close to releasing a major project, one I've been working on directly and indirectly for years; one that I'm going to take a professional route with...hopefully before medical school starts. SO! *hint* *hint* pray for me- send the good vibes of inspiration- and love, as you all probably do anyway.
Hope all is going well (because January came in like a wrecking ball for many) and let's make this a love filled, evolutionary year to remember!
ps- thank you for the blog request Miss Erica, that's the kind of inspiration I need!
A city is such a condensed ecosystem. Here I am adapting to a pace and temperament that is SO different from suburban life in NY (let alone the Peruvian rainforest). Because things are more expensive I can’t just simply work a little and then “take it easy.” The city keeps you on your toes.
Also, conversations. Let’s converse about those, starting with a story about one of my first conversations in D.C.
I was in the elevator in my apartment building (back in late May) and a lady gets onboard with her medium size, black and white patched dog. He was a sweety and so was she! The conversation pace was soo fast though! We quickly jump through topics: what I do (the typical D.C. question I’ve learned), the weather, how I’m new in the city, and general elevator talk. So we’re freed from our little moving cell on the first floor and I’m in the middle of a sentence and suddenly this lady reaches her hand out and says: “I’m married by the way.”
I pause for just an instant. I take her hand and say, “Oh and I have a fiancé!” I said this super normal (which in this situation might have been abnormal), and in a kindly manner but her face drops...and I’m like...what have I done?
She says, “Oh, no I’m Mary. My name is MARY.” She waits for an instant to see how I react and I start laughing like crazy, she’s relieved and is like “I get that sometimes” (totally trying to console me) and she also adds “I do have a partner though.” I say that it feels like we’re in a sitcom and that it was something about her pacing that threw me off. Also I’m thinking in my mind that in this climate of the #metoomovement and all sorts of horrendous reports about sexual abuse coming out of doctor’s offices, churches, and the work place that I would have totally respected her “I’m married” boundary drawing.
Yeeeeahhh, that story pretty much summarizes my first month in Washington D.C., that, and the time I called the lady at Subway “Wakanda” instead of Tawanda. But I’ve gotten better! I know pretty much every cashier by first name at the Giant Supermarket (shout out: Mr. Robert, Mr. Terence, Destiny, Brittany, Brittany (#2), Mark, Marcus, and...damn some are on the tip of my toungue...). And I make it a point to people’s names wherever I go, completely disproving the cliche that customer service in D.C. is terrible. You get what you give kids.
Also I’m learning to talk faster again, but also bring people into a chill pace if I’m not ready to give up my vibe.
Cheers to another attempt at getting our little blog going again. I will write a bit more about the PREMED journey I’m on, classes for the Fall just began this past Monday on the 27th.
-Zain signing out
ps- I ran into “Married” again once this August, we laughed again and I told her she’s my #1 story about my fresh start in DC.
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 email@example.com 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.
“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"