Novelty Seeking Recording Machines of the Universe

Of the myriad of topics that pass through my mind quite regularly I keep coming back to this thought about waking and sleeping. Moreover this idea of “wakers” and “sleepers”. There seem to be two modes of being in which all of us exist, constantly vacillating between the two; at times more awake, at other points more asleep. We've all had those spine tingling awe inspiring moments of oneness. This can come in so very many different forms. Think for a moment and I'm sure you'll have some memory of feeling so very awake, aware, at one. On the flip side we've all had moments of slumber, engulfed in our pyramids of comfort, filling ourselves with non-food and numbing our minds in whatever fashion we see fit. I suppose the question is where does our existence fall in the balance of things? Are you more awake or more asleep most of the time?

I think about this and initially I leaned towards the idea of waking through the gathering of information. The more one is exposed to the more they wake up. This might be true, but the finer detail of it would be that there are certain types of information that can help to awaken and other types that can help to put us to sleep. An easy target would be mass media. If you're filling yourself with the fear mongering vitriol of most major news networks you might believe that you're becoming aware of the world and the events therein ... to a small degree this is true. But I feel the overarching effect would be that your mind is being numbed and bottlenecked towards shutting down from experience, fearing the outer realms, rallying for an “us against them” mentality. This is not awakening. The effect of removing this open invitation into your home and your mind is subtle at first but after a year or two suddenly most television, radio, or any other form of forced consumption media starts to take on a very eery feel. Commercials baffle me in their vapid emptiness. Pandering the lifestyle of consume, consume, car, house, beer, electronics, comfort, consume, consume, consume. Many of us are inviting this spell of slumber into our homes and minds day after day, hour after hour. For me, this is all pushing towards a population full of “sleepers”. I don't think there's an overarching conspiracy of a few individuals pulling the strings. Somehow I think we've just ended up here through small steps and time. We're programmed to take comfort and ease over effort and the difficult path. This seems to be the default setting for the human hive mind. On the other hand we have access to so much information, media, experience which would lean far more towards the “waking” side of things. Connecting with most anyone anywhere, hearing opinions, being inspired by thoughts and creations, it's never been easier ... the internet can be a wonderful tool. But there is an element lacking in all of that. Connection, true connection, I think most of us are missing this. Be it with nature, with others, even with ourselves, with our bodies, with our minds, with that other element which is so hard to pinpoint ... once we begin to connect with that then the waking begins, or ramps up, or accelerates.

A “waker” must be tested. A "waker" must be tested regularly. This seems so very true to me personally. Over the past couple of years I've had a few experiences in which I couldn't be more awake, in awe, at one ... this is my own personal subjective experience so there is no questioning of these events. But even so, after a few months these feelings and thoughts begin to fade somewhat. It feels as though we need the contrast. Slipping into slumber and catching ourselves, striving for wakefulness once again. Somehow these tests need to escalate in order to keep us from falling into the “sleeper” mind state. At the core of it the driving factor may be novelty. As we grow up almost every experience is novel and new, we are aware and engaged. There's nothing quite like that childhood feeling, how we viewed the world, how exciting most everything was. As events become routine our sleeper mind can take over. We autopilot through life, not testing ourselves. Comfort and routine take over. So shaking things up seems to be the answer. Novelty can exist in so many forms. Travel, psychedelics, falling in love, falling out of love, moving, meeting new people, finding new ideas, art, music, death, birth, illness ... the list can go on and on. It's those out of the norm experiences that wake us up. Life starts to feel like it's really happening. Think of the past number of years, which experiences stand out the most? I'm going to guess it's the ones which were somewhat novel, not the sitting on the couch doing the same, the same, the same. Once we begin to see this pattern we can begin to seek the novel, leave behind the pre-programmed comfort mechanism and delve into the muck, the tests, the difficult paths which give us so much more once we've experienced their twists and turns.

We're the novelty seeking recording machines of the universe. A means in which the infinite can experience the finite. I love the Hindu thought that we're all just a dream, God's dream, Source's dream. A dream so deep that we forget that we are in fact Source. We are infinite. We are the sum total of all being and all energy expressed in a singular form. Not even that. Correction. We are the sum total of all being and all energy fooled into thinking we are a singular detached form that we express as “I”. It's quite the trip. And the further we get from this trip the more far out and engulfed in the dream we get to be. For those wrapped up in the consume-consume-hoard mentality where all is about the physical, man, you're on a wild ride. So far into the dream of God that you've really detached from the Source and think these words and this writing are so very very full of shit. And hey, that's awesome in it's own way. I feel like all of the shitty acts and “sleeper” mind states will be congratulated at some point. We'll all wake up at the end of this dream and shake our ephemeral heads, thinking and knowing that it was such a wild ride. Thoughts like, “Man, can you believe I worked a job I hated to pay to live in a house that I didn't really want, all the while too tired and stressed out to do anything but stare at a rectangle and be fed more and more slumber propaganda telling me that I'm doing the right thing and I need to do more of it to consume-comsume-hoard until I finally hit a ripe old age where I get to sit back and drink Nabob coffee on the deck as the loons sing and death is all but tapping me on the shoulder??? Shit, that was such a wild dream. What did you do with your trip?” And that's just one example of an infinite number of ways to exist and to dream the dream of life and Source, they're all completely valid in their own fucked up manner.

To go back to the beginning, I do feel like most of us edge back and forth between waking and sleeping. It can be a daily or even momentary flip flop between the two or it can take years to swing from one mode of being back to the other. Having said that I also feel like there are benchmarks of wakefulness that once reached set a new default. Some experiences can't be unexperienced. Let's seek out these level up scenarios and keep trying to swing that pendulum farther towards the waking state of being. To all of you out there actively seeking to wake up, I commend you, I congratulate you, and I love the path you're choosing. It's the more difficult path, the one that takes effort and endurance. But in the end we all know that it's the more enriching path. It's living, engaging, actively guiding your meat body toward novelty and growth, if not that then what else are we here to do?

I see no better way to end this than with a quote from the always eloquent and amazing Tom Robbins. We can easily insert wake and sleep instead of hide and seek.  Thanks for reading, much gratitude for taking the trip and bearing with the tangential nature of my thoughts.

“How can one person be more real than any other? Well, some people do hide and others seek. Maybe those who are in hiding - escaping encounters, avoiding surprises, protecting their property, ignoring their fantasies, restricting their feelings, sitting out the pan pipe hootchy-kootch of experience - maybe those people, people who won't talk to rednecks, or if they're rednecks won't talk to intellectuals, people who're afraid to get their shoes muddy or their noses wet, afraid to eat what they crave, afraid to drink Mexican water, afraid to bet a long shot to win, afraid to hitchhike, jaywalk, honky-tonk, cogitate, osculate, levitate, rock it, bop it, sock it, or bark at the moon, maybe such people are simply inauthentic, and maybe the jacklet humanist who says differently is due to have his tongue fried on the hot slabs of Liar's Hell. Some folks hide, and some folk's seek, and seeking, when it's mindless, neurotic, desperate, or pusillanimous can be a form of hiding. But there are folks who want to know and aren't afraid to look and won't turn tail should they find it - and if they never do, they'll have a good time anyway because nothing, neither the terrible truth nor the absence of it, is going to cheat them out of one honest breath of Earth's sweet gas.”

The Magic of Love

  If you don't believe in magic this may not translate. If you interpret the world as fully explainable we may have a disconnect. If your way is the only way this will make no sense; for this is just one thought, one way which can coincide with an infinite number of other ways of perceiving existence. And in the end, isn't this all we ever really have to go on? The way in which you interpret reality is yours and yours alone, we don't really get to glimpse inside the views and perceptions of others. Of course they can try to tell us how they see the world, how it feels to them, how it smells, tastes, and interacts with them. But we never truly know. Theory and hypothesis are not true understanding or knowledge.

And this is the crux of the matter. We navigate through the world in our own little meat vehicles, seeking out connection and novelty and new experiences (or at least I hope that's what we're all doing out there). That feeling of isolation can be a strange one, surrounded as we are by others but never truly knowing what any of the others see, think, feel, and so on. How does my colour red translate through your eyes? How does love feel in your heart? How does that spine tingling awe of one moment translate to you? Did you miss it? Are we on the same page? These are the questions that we may not actually formulate into words but I think most of us will admit they're there somewhere below the surface from time to time.

So what of love? I think this is where the magic and awe and wonder comes in. This is where the questions can all be silenced. The mind chatter calms and the ease of being overwhelms. For love, when it is, when it truly “is”, is something far more formidable than I've ever fathomed. First off it must be equal, and this is far harder than one might think. A balance of give and take; of radiating love and accepting it at the same time ... it has taken me a very long time to get to the point of emotional maturity in which I can finally accept as much as I give. And suddenly all of the questions are silenced. I can look into the eyes of love and see a perfectly reflected mirror image of all that I'm thinking, feeling, radiating. There is no mind chatter, no distraction, no “what if”. It is pure and simple and the easiest thing I've ever done. Knowing what another is actually thinking, feeling, and experiencing ... this is a huge portion of what we have come to call love. The universe connecting in a small part with itself, recognizing that it is one, that these separate organic bodies are but a slight hindrance, a distraction from the fact that we are all one. The blinders are off and when you are fully engaged in love and existence that rush of connection is by far the best part of being human. Impenetrable, immoveable, and timeless. It is the strongest force, the one that cannot be fully told, not to be broken down to its constituents and explained in dry scientific jargon. This is not how it works. It is magic, it is the un-Englishable. It is the most psychedelic state, fully natural and there for the taking if we only accept and give equally. The secret is hidden in plain site.

We all think this is what we want, through media of all sorts this is what you would believe the aspiration is. But it's also the scariest point one can bring oneself to. The open and raw nature of love takes a strength many will not find. It is a precipice where many are unwilling to tread. For it is the most vulnerable place one can be. To expose one's heart fully and openly takes a bravery and calm resilience that we are not taught about or prepared for. We protect and coddle and close off from the fears and possible hurt that an exposed heart is so very open to. That razors edge of bliss and despair, this is where we must walk the line of love. And when you find it, when you immediately know that you can trust another with your heart, with your life, with all that is you ... this is what it's all about. For you know that you will do the same, and with that perfect reflection and clarity of heart and thought there is such immense safety in that point of complete vulnerability. It's the perfect duality. The balance of all things. It's magic, plain and simple.

I hope we all get to experience this at some point in our lives. For me it's a sense of coming home. I haven't felt “home” since I was a teenager, the calm and ease and knowledge that your family and loved ones are eternal and unquestionable. This is what I've been seeking, this is what I've hoped for. And finally, the chatter has ceased, there are no questions. It's the easiest thing I've ever done. But it took every event, every misstep, and every confusing turn of life to lead to here, to “now”. I am thankful for the entire trip, the path looks very clear and direct when looking back upon it all now. It's not as though I've met someone new and am in a period of bliss in finding that connection and figuring out who they are. It's the overwhelming sense of remembering this person, for I've known her many times before and in this current dance of life I've recognized her once again. The sense of time falters and the linear nature of interpreting events all but falls away. Again, if you don't believe in magic and awe and wonder I've probably lost you somewhere along the way. And if I have, I'm sorry for that. But for me, “lost” is the direct opposite of what I now get the privilege of feeling. For the first time in very long time I know exactly where I am. I am home.

I love you Lauren Fortuna.

Forever grateful for this life.

Huachuma - The Resistance Had To End If I Was To Begin

How do I begin this?  How do I attempt to describe the ineffable?  I suppose I just start.  That seems appropriate, especially given the messages I’ve been ingrained with over this past month.  Begin, move forward, live life "now".

There is talk of a “calling” that one receives.  I firmly believe in this.  When I look back at each and every step from my past to present it seems like a perfectly choreographed dance of lessons, interactions, ups, downs, and everything in between.  I feel as though I’ve reached the apex of a peak and can now finally look back and see the entire path and its intricate meandering route.  This is a testament to “now” I suppose.  For to be able to look back at life in general and have no regrets, just awe and wonder at how it took each step to get here, this is something special.  And I’m fully in love with “here”, with “now”, with life, and ultimately with me.

Last June was my first major step into the world of shamanism and plant medicines.  It was a necessary step but somehow it wasn’t the huge plunge that I may have been hoping for.  Somewhere in me I was still resisting, still holding on, and still trying to outsmart the process.  Within a month or two of returning I felt the pull again.  Life wasn’t all that perfect at home and there was this feeling of, “I need to make a shift, something has to change”.  So this time it was Huachuma (aka San Pedro - although according to Don Howard this is definitely different from San Pedro) that called me.  When you know it’s time you just know.  I booked my journey for January.

Many things were coming to a head.  A lot of anxiety and heartache and an overall sense of constantly living in limbo … this had become a large part of my waking life.  Something had to shift.  My parting note to life in Canada was the great Heraclitus quote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man”.  I knew there was a change on the horizon, I just couldn’t have imagined how dramatic it was to be.  Through taxis, airplanes, and buses I rapidly ended up at the SpiritQuest Sanctuary outside of Iquitos, Peru.  It felt as natural as could be.  Of course there were still some nerves as to what might come but overall it couldn’t have gone smoother.

I could go on about the setting and the minutia of each interaction and so on but I think I’ll just get to the big messages and changes as quickly as I can.

We were to partake in three ceremonies over the seven day retreat.  Each ceremony having a feel or theme to it.  The first being water, incorporating a sense of levity and birthing.  The second would be earth, in which Don Howard alluded to the fact that there may be some heavy times and if need be we’d have to acknowledge and sit with those feelings.  The third and final would be air, in which we’d have a chance to connect beyond our earthly confines and go into the astral realm.  I wondered how three ceremonies with the exact same medicine could have three very different effects.  Huachuma was also described as hitting you with a feather rather than a hammer.  Let me tell you, it’s one very very heavy and slow feather … it’s tough to describe this in words and metaphor. This medicine is known as a heart opener and the mesada (initiation) is an introduction to the jaguar spirit (no fear) … from what I will write next, it couldn’t have hit either of these points more perfectly.

In the past I always tried to be the recorder.  I tried to take the experience, outsmart it, and create wordplay to describe it and bring it back to others.  This time, things became truly ineffable.  I’ll be writing about this and thinking about it for my entire life but there is a core to it that will never be described properly.  It must be experienced rather than relayed.

The first ceremony (water) began.  Each individual was called up to the Mesa (altar).  Two fingers on each hand plugged into the edges of the table.  Don Howard cleansing and protecting us with his mapacho smoke and rattles.  When the music stopped you drank.  A not too bitter brew, a large cup.  Once the medicine was down it was just a waiting game.  What would happen next?  For me that first session was quite light.  My intention going in was to be an open vessel to the universe, ready to accept love … I also aimed at connection to all and a sense of safety.  Before I drank Don Howard says to me, “You’re here for a reason aren’t you brother?  It’s all about love and connection here, you are safe.”  And with that he had read my mind and I knew I was in good hands.  The first of many mystical experiences and I hadn’t even drunk the brew yet.  

Almost immediately after drinking we gathered our belongings and headed out for the day.  A boat ride down the river. Listening to headphones to drown out the motors it began to get quite beautiful.  Everything slightly enhanced.  The music became an impressive soundtrack to the beauty of life in the Amazon.  The entire time I was processing what was going on.  Trying to gauge it, trying to hold on.  Well, my ego was trying to hold on I suppose.  I felt a sense of buoyancy, but still I couldn’t let go.  We visited a tribe.  Smiling faces and joy were all around us.  Children with the best smiles I’ve ever seen.  We watched a ceremonial dance and song and then were free to wander as we would.  Again, this first session was not quite as deep as I might have imagined … I wouldn’t let it get too deep.  There were some very beautiful moments but overall I began to wonder if this was the right path for me.  The boat ride home was quite glorious, I chose the ideal music for the trip and as the sun set I started to catch a glimpse of what this medicine could be.  By the time we returned to the maloca (ceremonial hut) I was all but back to myself.  There were others who were directly plugged in that night but for me it had already faded to a mere whisper.  The first ceremony was complete and I still had many questions.

That night I couldn’t sleep at all.  I had the most excruciating headache.  It felt like things were being shifted and torn out in there.  Like long stands of pain were being dragged across my mind.  I know not what to make of this but it seemed like and important step.  Something had to be rewired if I was to continue.

The second ceremony (earth) was still filled with the unknown for me.  I hadn’t gone deep enough in the first so I knew not what to expect.  Through the same ceremony we drank our medicine and again headed out for the day.  This time I knew immediately it was going to hit me harder.  There was that sense of levity but there was something deep and heavy intertwined in there as well.  Another glorious boat ride.  Music has never sounded so perfect to me.  This time we went on a hike of about forty minutes.  It felt good to move, to be in the jungle, to feel very much connected to nature.  Still, my mind held on, I was resisting but beginning to lose that battle.  We ended up at a clearing with a small pond for swimming.  Through the circumstance and having recently had my back tattooed I couldn’t go for a swim.  So I stood and watched.  There was a moment when the rain began to fall and the sun was shining on the water … the staccato of light, reflection, and ripple … there was a moment there that still feels as though it’s reverberating through eternity.  I felt stuck.  Physically and mentally.  I was at an impasse and something had to give.  We went back to another small clearing and the tribe was about to do a ceremonial dance.  At this point everything got extremely heavy for me.  I felt the earth pulling me down, engulfing me.  It was eternal and immense and I knew not what to do.  Every negative thought began to fill my head,  “this is bullshit, look at us, just a bunch of drugged up foreigners in the jungle, this is scheisterism not shamanism, fuck it I’m never doing this again”.  On and on these thoughts went.  I felt heavier and heavier.  It was the closest to death I think I’ve ever felt.  I cannot describe it better than that.  And it was a death of sorts.  There was a part of me (or my ego) that had to die.  The resistance had to end if I was to begin.  And so I let go.  I let the medicine finally take hold in full effect. I surrendered and accepted what was given.  From there everything became glorious.  The tribe did a ceremonial song and dance and with each moment I began to feel my power return.  We hiked back to the boats and that boat ride, man, that was something else.  The most miraculous sunset set to music.  My heart was so wide open by this point.  I’ve never felt such an immense sense of calm, of peace, of love and belonging.  Returning to the maloca we partook in more ceremony.  This time I was plugged in, this time I was beginning to get it.  

There are moments which are beyond words.  As Terrence McKenna would say, they are “un-Englishable”.  From here on in that rings so very true.  But nonetheless I’ll give it a try.

The third ceremony (air) was filled with excitement for me. I had a sense of what was to come.  The fear had subsided and all that remained was wonder and awe.  This time we drank and then immediately went for a hike.  It was a matter of minutes before I was tuned in and vibrating with an energy of connection that I cannot describe.  The jungle was me and I was the jungle.  A shared experience by almost everyone in the group … the trees were whispering all around us and the earth was breathing.  Yes, breathing, I would sit and watch and it was undeniable.  Everything else would be perfectly still and I’d see a small pocket of earth calmly inhaling and exhaling.  It was beautiful.  And that’s what I was told of Huachuma, it’s a clarifier.  It doesn’t alter what is there it just allows us to truly see what is going on all around us all of the time.  This time it was so very different.  I had plugged in completely.  There was no resistance on my part.  My intention for this day was, “Accept what it given.  Respect all things”.  And this mantra rang so very true for the entirety of the process.  Again, there are moments which I cannot describe.  I was given the knowledge that the universe is infinite and eternal and at the core it is all just love.  To know this rather than think it or theorize it, this is something different.  The hangups and fears that we create, they are so very bizarre.  All that we are here to do is be the best person we can possibly be.  The universe wants me to fully experience it through the best possible version of me imaginable.  For that’s what we are, the universe playing hide and seek with itself and when this incarnation ends we get to go back to the whole and repeat and repeat and repeat.  I love the analogy of Alan Watts, the idea that we are all waves in the ocean.  When one wave crashes it is not sad, the ocean remains the ocean and is not individuated into single waves coming or going.  A sense of strength and calm continued to grow in me throughout the day.  

Eventually we made our way to the sky deck, a platform at the highest point for as far as the eye could see.  And this is where most of us got stuck in time, or stepped out of time perhaps.  It was just pure awe and bliss.  Staring at the sky, just above the canopy of the jungle.  Again, no words for this.  But I do know that most of us had a shared experience there.  It was difficult to move for I didn’t want to disturb the perfection of “now”.  At one point I laid back on the warm concrete.  Eyes closed and the rain began to hit me.  It was total synesthesia.  Each drop was a staccato burst of light on my body.  I could see each point where it hit me and touch, sound, sight … it all melded into one perfect harmony. I know not how long we were up at the star deck, it felt like eternity, it feels like I’m still there to some degree.  Eventually we began to make our way down to the maloca.  This time I was still so astoundingly plugged in.  I would sit with eyes closed and see very clearly the energetic pattern of what was going on around me.  It was so much brighter inside my head with eyes closed than it was outside with eyes open.  Vibratory patterns of purple and green on a matte black background.  Just pure bliss and connection.  It felt as though my head had opened at the top and the dome of the universe was one and the same … I was everything and everything was me.  The edges between everything had completely dissolved.  The separation of self had completely obliterated.  I was surfing the cosmic sea and it was so very very perfect.  Again, no words to describe this event.  At one point Don Howard approached from behind, my eyes closed I could still see him in perfect detail.  He crouched over me, his being arching over the view of the eternal and it was so very gentle and tender and loving.  There isn’t a doubt in my mind that he was viewing straight into my core, seeing all that I was seeing.  The ceremony eventually ended but my journey was still going strong.  Some of us remained in the maloca for quite some time.  Watching as the candles burnt out one by one.  There was a part of me that watched that last candle flicker and dance, a part of me that fully believed that when that candle went out so would all else.  I would be extinguished and return to the ocean, my wave cresting and falling.  And perhaps this happened to some degree.

Something amazing shifted over these three ceremonies.  Every little fear I’ve ever had, I left it there in the Amazon.  There is this sense of calm and warmth that pervades everything now.  There is an overwhelming love and awe for existence.  My head and my heart have both been opened so wide that there is no chance they will ever begin to close.  For those of you that know me, well, I’m sure you’ve seen this … the shift is so very real.  There’s a glow to life that I’ve never experienced before.  Each interaction becomes more exciting and important. Each connection a new opportunity and adventure.  For the first few days I’d wake up worried that this feeling might be fleeting, that it might fade. I’m glad to say this is not the case.  I truly have returned from the river a different man.  Suddenly everything in life is so very exciting.  And the perspective shift, man, it’s something else.  All of those hangups and forms of resistance, they’re all just gone.  Fear is such an anchor and I’ve become untethered.  Without a doubt this has been the most important month of my life.  The reverberations of which will be felt for the rest of my days.  

There is far more to this story but I feel as though this has been a small taste of what I’m thinking and feeling.  It’s tough to describe that which is beyond words but I’ve given it a try.  That feather of Huachuma, it hit so very slow and so very heavy, an impact which I didn’t even see coming.  And now my life is virtually unrecognizable.  I feel so very loved and cared for by everyone around me.  Connections which I may have ignored due to fear and the unknown, they are springing up at every turn … the community I’ve always dreamed of has been sitting there for me to grasp all along.  The life I’ve wanted to lead, I’m getting to lead it now.  I have said aloud many a time over the past few weeks, “This is the life I get to lead?”  I’m in utter awe of the universe and my place in it.  Yes, this is the life I get to lead, this is the life I will navigate with an open heart and a calm mind.  

Accept what is given.

Respect all things.

I have so much gratitude for life and connection and all of those who have played a role in this.  

Thank you.

SpiritQuest Sanctuary - Huachuma Mesada - Iquitos, Peru

Let Challenge Be My Compass

Give me struggle. Give me challenge. I will seek it out, I will create it if complacency creeps in. The mundane will attempt to engulf and pacify. The comfort of modern life will attempt to hypnotize us all into stasis. At times we all fall prey to this but in realizing it we can shake it off, find new goals and aspirations, new hurdles to overcome and new hardships to endure. This is where the growth can happen, this is where the learning transpires.

I've known the other side of it all, existing without living for years on end. Uninspired routine of getting by rather than moving forward. Hiding from life and watching it on tv rather than experiencing it firsthand. It's taken me this long to come to a conclusion, I will not settle for the mundane, the normal, the safe. This does not excite me and even though I've had periods of slumber through this lifetime there is a common thread of challenge, meeting said challenge, then creating a new one. This game will not end, there will always be a next, and another, and another ... this is my life. This is the life I will choose to lead.

I do not want the generic holiday of beach and drink. I want the busload of locals and chickens jammed so full that the roof is an optimal seat for sixteen hours with no bathroom and far too much vomit. I want the path less travelled not for the story to regale others with but for the experience of now, embracing a perspective shift which would be impossible through the comfort and normalcy of home. The blinders of routine are far too limiting, they can be shattered by so many different ventures.

I seek out the shaman's brew, exposing the self bare and seeing what truly remains. I will leave behind all that I know as safe and see how I can thrive. At times I will even leave “I” and see what else is contained within. Facing fear, experiencing the pain as the fear leaves the body, this is a choice. What remains is stronger and more concise, unburdened by the patterns and vibrations of negativity and worry. This is my aim, this is my present and future.

Rather than bask in comfort I will choose to sit beneath the tattoo needle for hours on end. I will choose the trial and I will learn about myself. I will learn how to cope and how I will react. I will run most every day, not for love of running but for the test of will when I am the only one who has a say in continuing or quitting. I will sit in silence, allowing thoughts to invade and pass, waiting for the mind to quiet and the eternal to arise. I will find new tests and venues for challenge for I know that there is much life to be lived.

There are those who will read and scoff, but why do we belittle, complain, negate ... we turn away for we do not want to face the uncomfortable. Most do not even begin to question themselves, their actions, their autopilot lives in which each day passes into the next with no growth in between. In the end we will either have a life well lived or a huge burden of regret. This is the beginning of my taking a stand against mediocrity. There is far too much to be done, seen, experienced ... I constantly feel the push for more. Time, my greatest resource is the one attribute I cannot earn or hoard or save; my only option is to be mindful of it and waste as little as possible. There's something growing and changing here, it's been years in the making and will take a lifetime more ... but I will take notice, catch myself when I slip, aim forward and inward, find that which is difficult and head towards another small victory knowing full well that another valley lies just beyond each peak. This is the life I choose.


Ayahuasca and the Vibratory Nature of Existence

Perhaps my tattoo page is not the proper place for this entry but perhaps it is.  I'm quite open about all that consists of the idea of "me" and this is most definitely a part of it all.  So here you have my first attempt at bringing to light something which is quite difficult to describe.

I've been attempting to write a sequential story about my experience in the Amazon. It will eventually be completed but somehow the linear timeline doesn't seem all that important. It's not the sequence but the experience itself which I continue to try to make sense of. Perhaps the best way for me to tackle this is to just write about certain aspects one at a time and then perhaps the ordered storyline can come out later.

For me the seven ceremonies all make complete sense when viewed as a whole. My first ceremony was perhaps my most intense in the knowledge and information department. I feel as though I was given the entire class syllabus and everything which came after was an attempt to clarify and make sense of a copious amount of information.

I had read as much as I could, watched as many documentaries as I could find, listened to podcasts, and thought very long and very hard about finally making the journey to Peru to partake in ayahuasca. Even after many years of thinking about it there was no way to know what would actually happen. With all of that my anticipation of that first ceremony the moment was very personal and very immense. I knew nothing when all was said and done.

The entire ceremony seemed so very new but also so very natural right from the start. Sitting in the maloca in a large circle each passejero came up individually to drink their introductory cup. The first night was quite dark. As the days passed the moon ramped up towards it's full cycle but I recall that first night to be the darkest, the most full of mystery. I took my cup, drank, and returned to my mat. What would happen? How long would this take? Am I feeling it yet? Am I supposed to feel it? Why am I sweating? Will I ever be the same? On and on the questions rambled through my head.

It was hot, I was hot, the sweat ran freely as much due to nerves and wonder as to the actual physical circumstances. After some time the whispers of the first icaro began. By this point I was definitely beginning to feel a different state of being. My fears would creep in. I'd start to see beautifully intricate geometric patterning and almost as if set on a stage a character would enter from the periphery. Faces, smiles, gentle figures then transforming to very macabre and disturbing clown/circus imagery. I know not where this was coming from. I'd try to laugh it off (internally) and smile at these disturbing figures. Without fail, as soon as I did this they revealed their true faces, pulling off the disturbing masks and showing me their gentle playful faery nature. It was a game. A game in which I was letting go of the negative thoughts and fears and seeing them in a different manner. My anchor through this introductory light show as the thoughts of home and my beloved Nikki. The hug we shared just before I entered the airport, that transaction of love and energy was enough to get me through most anything.

Once this first phase began to come to a close the icaros were in full effect. I believe we had four maestros and maestras that first night. Their voices alternating and coalescing into a perfect symphony of sound and vibration. And now the information download began. Very flat geometric patterning rolled and spun its way through my visions. Like the clockwork tick-tock gearbox of the universe I felt like I was being shown how all things worked. Indescribable patterns which were fractal when I looked close enough. The deeper I went the more intricate the interrelation between the patterns. Predominately black, white, brown and yellow ochre along with some other muted earth tones. I was definitely communicating with some other form of intelligence. The patterns, the light show, the variations, this all seemed to be different attempts to find a language of symbol which I might understand.

As I laid back and was overwhelmed by the symbols and their meanings the maestras and maestros began to make their counterclockwise rotation around the maloca. Each maestro and maestra would sing to each passejero individually. Twenty four songs each. Four individual songs for each of us newly initiated into the ceremony. At this point I began to look around the room. And now the information download began to make a bit of sense. I could see the vibrations of all things. The maestros and maestras were conjuring amazing patterns with their icaros. The vibrations of their songs would strengthen into these very concrete very real patterns and these would be passed into the individual being sung to. The unnecessary or bad vibrations were being released and the positive patterns/vibrations were filling the hole left by the absence of what had just been jolted outward. This is the crux of all that I learned that first night. All things are energy. All things are vibration.

That which follows is taken directly from my notebook the day after that first experience:


Every “thing”, at its core, is a vibration. From my skin hitting this page, to words, to emotions. We “feel” when these vibrations bump into each other. Some vibrations can be integrated, others contradict each other and bounce off. If a vibration begins to find allies it gains gravity and can grow. Those vibrations become symbols. From the simplest object all the way to the planet and all else, they are vibrations. Much like any other vibration they hold resonance for a while, eventually dissipating and dispersing. We know this as aging and dying. We, as individuals, are attempting to strengthen our own vibrations. So when they eventually begin to disperse we can maintain enough of “us” to again gain gravity, pull more vibrations in, and begin the “life” process again. If one wanted to put a word on that it might be reincarnation.

Eventually, in the case of the Earth, that vibration/collection of symbols becomes so strong it turns inward on itself, the friction of this inward turn creating more and more vibrations, creating LIFE. The other planets in our system are grand beings to say the least. But our Earth, she is something else, a fractal creation machine for newly assembled vibratory beings. We gain knowledge (through vibrations), we pick up speed, improve. Think of how powerful a learning tool the human voice is. We have mastered the use of small mouth movements in order to convey one idea from one mind into another. These voices are vibrations as is the written word (in a different form) and so on. As long as we are receptive and choose to only take in the positively aligned vibrations we continue to strengthen that which is at our core.

Humanity has figured out how to align patterns to some extent. We can make “things” which at their essence are certain sequences of ordered vibration. The problem, we create these “things” only to serve us rather than the whole. These are dead ends, their vibrations take a long time to disperse and therefore they are difficult to reintegrate into the whole. We create separation rather than cohesion. Mother nature ... she's all about cohesion and interconnectedness.

This is why I'm here right now. To strengthen my own pattern and resonance. To discard the conflicting patterns which I've taken in and restructure the proper flow of my pathways. We allow room in our bodies/being for those vibrations which we do not need. We hold on to them. They do not want to leave. Pain, of all sorts, is that vibration holding on for dear life, trying to create a niche on which to grow. Sleep helps to reorganize our patterns ... ayahuasca does it even better. Ha. So if we start with the a small vibration (let's say a sperm or an egg), eventually, if it is to grow, it finds an ally. That ally fits in perfectly and you have a slightly stronger vibration, and thus slightly more gravity or attractive force. The compounding or multiplication begins to speed up. We grow physically, turning into strings and interconnected nets of vibratory resonance. Eventually these resonances are better described as patterns. They have a more concrete flow and presence, a certain frequency. When our frequency meets and ally we can take some of it in with us, in exchange we give out a bit of our own vibration. These are interactions of all sorts, emotional/physical/hypothetical, they are all exchanges of energy. The same can be said for conflicting patterns, we can allow them into our flow. The key is to let them go from that flow, not to hold on. Allow them in but just as readily allow them to pass through. We do not need conflict. Clear the negative and allow the positive to hold strong and true. That's what all of this is, an inward focus of my own energy. Keeping it to myself for a while and cultivating a better flow and a better pattern.


Please excuse the excessive use of commas, run on sentences, and or poorly executed sentence structure. As I said, that which preceded was directly from my journal. Trying to grapple with a huge information download and trying to form coherent words and thoughts out of it all. That was all from my first experience with mother ayahuasca and I'm still integrating it and making sense of it all many weeks later. I had six more ceremonies, all of which had their own flavor and path but all of which also looped back to this idea of vibration and energy. I made many more notes about the subject. Many analogies and so on. It all seems to work very well in my mind but I know not if I'm conveying it properly. I'm sure I will write far more, think far deeper, and perhaps bump up to an answer or two somewhere along the way. Ultimately there are those things which are far beyond words. This is my meagre attempt to convey just a bit of it to a few people out there who might have taken the time to read through.

Final notes, which were mantras in my mind throughout the twelve day experience:

Every thing is sacred. Every action matters.

Respect all things.

It's all a game. There are no rules. Just play.


We all benefit ...

The longer I tattoo the more my gratitude increases.  I get to cross paths with so many individuals whom I might never come into contact with under any other circumstance.  There are a lot of talented and interesting individuals out there, a lot of inspiring people, a lot of stories, smiles, and thoughts.  Most every day I get to have a conversation with someone I barely knew before, I get to learn, I get to share.  In the end we're there to tattoo but more often than not we both get to walk away with something new; be it artwork or ideas, we all benefit.  Vancouver, you've got a lot to offer and I'm glad to gain insights into lives I may never have encountered otherwise.

While working on a piece for Laura her partner Matt took some time to wander around the shop snapping a few photos.  As it turns out he's a talented fellow.  Here are a few images he sent my way.


Glacial Progression Towards the Unattainable

First and foremost I want to acknowledge that this is opinion based.  From the limited number of years I've spent in the tattoo world I don't profess to know much of anything.  I simply have ideas and opinions and more than likely such opinions will morph and change as the years pass.

Tattooing is an interesting craft.  Somewhere in the realm of art and creativity, teetering on the brink of very orchestrated design work, it's a tough medium to describe properly.  We as tattooers are never creating "our art".  We're taking instruction from a client and we're also taking instruction from the past.  In academia you have individuals referencing books and articles and knowledge of the past, it's books about books about books.  There may be a new idea in there somewhere but it's all built on the foundation of past knowledge.  The same could be said about "fine" art; movements of art reacting to past movements and so on.  I suppose the idea of commissioned artwork has always been around as well but somehow I view tattooing as slightly separate from all of this.  We can take small chances, slight attempts at working outside of the box or expanding the proverbial box if you will.  But ultimately there are formulas which work in the world of tattoo.  Although I am seeing more of a dabbling of "abstract" tattooing going on out there I have a tough time believing that a smudge or drip is going to take on a timeless aspect in our craft.  Concrete lines, identifiable shapes, easily read imagery, these are a few of the aspects which I personally am coming to realize as being at the forefront of our medium.  The confines are relatively small to begin with and once given direction by our clientele those confines become even smaller.  In a way this can be refreshing.  If I had to sit down at my table each day and come up with the idea of what to draw as well as the drawing itself I would quickly be overwhelmed.  The idea is always there to begin with so it just becomes a matter of executing rather than pondering.  So we sit upon the edge of art or design, perhaps it's all semantics and truly doesn't matter much one way or the other.  In the end there is something beautiful about taking the small steps, refining things over the years, slight glacial progression rather than immediate and abrupt change.  

If anyone out there has watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi you might have a better idea of what I'm writing about.  Dedicating years (or a lifetime) to the slightest detail, the subtle change, the aspiration toward the unattainable perfection.  This mentality can be aimed at most any endeavour and I especially see it closely related to the world of tattooing.  This is a stark contrast to the instant gratification which out culture seems to be breeding on an increasingly faster rate.  The years of trying to get the proper curve to peony petal are unfathomable to the selfie riddled fast food brain of the "I want it now" population.  This is one of the most important aspects which I noticed in master tattoo artist Diau-An.  He embodied the work ethic and dedication on a daily basis which few others out there might dare to even dabble in.  For this, he became a huge inspiration and a major reason as to why I pursued tattooing.  This one mindedness can be seen in many forms of tattooing but for me it has always been the Japanese tattoo (and the Japanese inspired tattoo) which embodied the mentality most evidently.  I recall trying to track down a very few books from the Saskatoon public library in an attempt to see a few bodysuits in an age where the internet didn't offer the immediate gratification which it does today.  These were powerful images and for me a love of large scale Japanese work was born.

Beyond this there are a number of artist who have inspired me on a regular basis.  Just like Jiro aiming for the ceiling of perfection these individuals seem to constantly push the edge of what is possible.  In the end we all realize there is no ceiling and perfection will always be just out of reach.  Again, this is all opinion based and for me these are my personal tattoo heroes.  In the coming months I'll get the privilege of beginning a back-piece by one of them and the roles get to be reversed, me in the chair quietly accepting the pain as the artwork grows.  I'll keep my list short as it could go on for quite some time.  For now, here are a few of the most inspiring artist which I've come across.

Filip Leu for consistently blowing my mind and pushing the boundaries of tattooing.

Mike Rubendall for his powerful imagery, dedication, and attention to detail.

Aaron Bell for the balance and easy on the eyes imagery and such a great understanding of the body.

Shige for going beyond and making the average artist feel inept at best.

Stewart Robson clean and smooth and always impressive.

One might notice that there is only one Japanese artist on my little list.  Perhaps this is due to my lack of being Japanese.  In the end I'm working in the realm of the "Japanese inspired tattoo" rather than the firm traditions of the craft.  Thus, these are the artists I tend to be drawn towards the most.  Of course we owe so much to the past and the building blocks that have been set down especially in the not so distant past by Ed Hardy and Horiyoshi III.  Without the foundation the growth and exploration wouldn't be possible.  There are those who stay even closer to the tradition, much respect to them as well (Chris Trevino, Horitomo, Horikitsune, and so on).  The past informs the present and the future is unwritten.  Again, the slow progression, the harkening upon past imagery and rules, the aim to perfect something (anything), this is something at the forefront of my mind most every day.