To Live and Die in Tulum

August 5, 2021

As many of my friends know in February this year, after having been based out of Asia for 22 years, I bought a one way ticket to Mexico. I was drawn by many factors but it felt like that the Western world´s destabilisation would continue and I felt inspired to finish my book about the future by the ancient pyramids of the Mayan Civilisation.

Whilst here I have further explored various indigenous or psychoactive medicines (partly to bring clients to these medicines) and have been mind blown by my experiences: these include ayahuasca, Bufo Alvarius and to a smaller extent psilocybin. Zen and various other practices have been the foundation of my spiritual path for decades, but I now thoroughly see the power of both the practices and medicine. No wonder there are researchers across the planet doing work on these medicines to address all sorts of mental health issues and to accelerate spiritual evolution. Many friends back in London are involved in research being done across all the top universities such as Imperial Colleges Centre for Psychedelic Research: The same is occurring across the top Universities in the USA.

The fun photo above is with Ninawa “Pai da Mata” (father of the forest), an experienced shaman of the Huni Kuin tribe, the Guardian Renata Sattil (standing to my right), her daughter Emily and other talented musicians. All friends of mine. I love the fact that after having some deaths and rebirth experiences through these medicines, we ended up having lunch at that restaurant! I believe that the Huni Kuin were the first Amazonian Tribe to bring ayahuasca out of Brazil to share it with the world.

Bigger Picture

What I have been trying to say in my role of futurist for the past few years is that humanity is at a key turning point in its history: a moment far more significant than the Industrial Revolution in 1712. A confluence of factors are coming together to drive change which is of a magnitude that most people cannot currently even imagine. They sense that the technological changes in the pipeline – from the Biotech Revolution to the AI revolution – are pretty significant. But it is far bigger than this. The Mayan Prophecies which point to a huge shift in the consciousness of humanity from the year 2013 (latest research suggest May 2013 not 2012) seem to confirm the predictions and prophecies across many cultures around the world, including my own visions; which are based on a combination of empirical-based analysis and approaches I learnt as an investor as well as the intuition and imagination.

Plant medicine, as well as the fast growing interest in various types of inner development like meditation and yoga, will likely impact the perspectives of humankind and especially the younger generations. This may well affect human development and evolution more than technology – although they are intrinsically linked.

Arguably this plant medicine has had an enormous impact before on the evolution of our species. Many researchers are still mystified how the human brain expanded from 650 cubic centimeters 2 million years ago to 1,500 cubic cm (apparently) at the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago. Controversially at the time, Dennis McKenna suggested it was actually a result of the human species taking psychedelic medicine such as mushrooms, which is increasingly being proved to increase creativity and even enhance our five senses. He called it the ¨Stoned Ape¨ theory ! More research has been emerging over the decades to make this hypothesis less crazy than it once was.

Ancient plant and power medicines are rapidly come back. In the 1970s many of them were banned despite good research transpiring showing the mental health benefits. Governments really did a huge disservice to millions of people including a generation of those suffering from addiction. In fact the founder of AA Bill Wilson was said to have experimented with these medicines. But they are making a return and I believe that the dam has now broken. So many leaders and CEOs I know are now experimenting especially now that the research is highly compelling.

In this video Tony Robbins does a great job promoting the intelligent use of medicines for all sorts of mental health issues or just for an experience of the Divine. Previously he did not promote it at all but he is now a convert. He explains how mental health and suicide has worsened in the USA as more and more people were prescribed anti depressants. Develop a depression, take anti depressants, then become suicidal he says. I love it when Tony Robbins says that “a belief is a poor alternative for an experience”. These medicines create experiences.

Ayahuasca Ceremonies

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew used amongst the indigenous people of the Amazon basin. It is is a psychedelic and entheogenic brew commonly made out of the  Banisteriopsis caapi vine, and the Psychotria viridis shrub or a substitute. It contains DMT which is also naturally found in human beings and is seen as the source of the visions and increased intelligence of those who take it.

I know many friends who have experienced ayahuasca now, especially those living in cities like San Francisco, LA and London. But many people still imagine that its just like popping an LCD pill with your friends and hallucinating like during the hippy movement of the 1960s. But this image is completely wrong. Some people mistakenly do use these medicines recreationally. If they are lucky it will help them but I always do it in the setting of a ceremony, and I chose to sit with indigenous wisdom-keepers with significant experience and a lineage and knowledge which extends back literally thousands of years. This was the same case as when I chose to go deeper with my Zen practice, the founder of our temple was the 78th Patriarch and his lineage can be traced all the way back to the Buddha! My experience has predominantly been with the Yawanawa, Huni Kuin and now Shibipo tribes of the Amazon.

Typically an ayahuasca ceremony starts in the late evening, such as 10pm. At the beginning you sit in a circle at the in a temple-like space and one by one you receive the medicine in silence. After returning to your mat, some people chose to sit up cross legged and meditate whilst others lay down and relax. The silence continues for about 40 minutes until the medicine kicks in. Often at that point the Shaman will begin to sing ancient icaros, songs which are designed to open you up to the medicine and which are healing in themselves. Typically the beginning phase is where you go deep. At some point additional musicians might join in with music or singing with the shaman. I have found that whenever I have faced very tricky revelations, some of the angelic-sounding singing of women really helps me connect to my highest self and bring me quickly through any darkness. Then after you have experienced what you need to see and feel, very often you shift into a more celebratory phase of the evening. This is where there might be dancing whilst other participants might contribute a song or some music. [The Shibipo have a rather unique approach and its done mainly in the dark and only the shaman sings icaros. It is very beautiful because he or she sings to the whole group but also channels unique icaros to individuals as well. I will write about this another day.] Spending on how much medicine people take, they are beginning to return to a semi state of consciousness around 3 or 4am. And the music might continue into dawn, which is the favourite part for many as you feel so alive and reinvigorated.

My parents have asked me whether ayahuasca is addictive like alcohol or cocaine, and I laughed. No one EVER does ayahuasca to escape from their problems or block their feelings which is essentially what addiction is. It´s the complete opposite: the medicine forces you to see everything with clarity. For some this might mean that some of their early ceremonies are difficult if not terrifying. But you can literally do years of ´therapy´ in one evening. And you pop out the other end feeling transformed, inspired and more trusting of yourself.

Many experience visions, often these images are very deep and symbolic. If I ask the Divine a question in the ceremony I will get very specific answers in response along with images. More recently when I enter a ceremony and Im in a state of peace I get images of flying owls, and sometimes with images of all of the world’s expressions of the divine: an owl flying with an eagle, a condor, a dragon and more. Sometimes these images disappear into the horizon.

Image by Simon Haiduk

I have had incredible experiences on ayahuasca, including much ancestral healing. I have seen demons, angels, gods, and goddesses. I have had open heart surgery by mystical beings to heal the pains and sorrows of certain experiences. I have even experienced rebirth and becoming a baby again in the presence of the Indian God Ganesh. It might sound quite surreal to someone who hasn’t touched it. I feel so indebted to the shaman and guardians of this sacred medicine which has only just really been shared in the last 2 decades more widely across the West. Whether or not you think it is hallucinogenic, real or what, it is the results which are compelling.

If you have interest in doing ceremonies the internet is abundant in information : here is a deep account of one person’s experience on the medicine who I have never met but it might be interesting.

In Tulum I feel indebted to a dear friend and sister Renata Sattil, with whom I am staying at Casa Amazonia currently, and who is a Guardian of the Yawanawa and Huni Kuin tribes. I have brought clients to ceremonies that she and Pedro Paulo Lins e Silva have organised and supported, and received so much insight and healing myself. She is one of the best young healers I know. I first met her in a ceremony in 2018 when she was with the Yawanawa tribe. When she works in a ceremony, she is like a beacon of light and only focuses on drawing out peoples´ highest selves and not becoming too caught up on the torments of the past. A true angel when working in ceremonies, she is very much a down to Earth, fun and charismatic young woman outside. Its been a lot of fun hanging out with her and her gifted daughter Emily, a Lion in waiting.

I must also give thanks to the pioneer Pedro Paulo Lins e Silva who has dedicated his life to socially responsible entrepreneurship and bringing many shaman out of the Amazon to share with the world. It was through Pedro I was reconnected to Renata. He is now taking a much needed rest and period of introspection in the Amazon.

Jose Luis, the gifted Yogi and Shaman from San Cristobal is another figure who has personally helped my clients and I through some of the trickier moments. He was the Fire Keeper during many of my ceremonies and is now facilitating many powerful experiences himself. There are so many others who I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart. I cannot articulate my love for these brothers and sisters: a soul connection which transcends time.

Jose Luis

Finally I am indebted to all the Amazonian shaman who have passed through Mexico and held space for me, including the Huni Kuin tribe and most recently Maestro Pãshin-Nimá from the Shibipo tribe, one of the greatest wisdom keepers alive today. I am honoured to be staying with him now.

It is influenced by these experiences, a lifetime of personal pilgrimages into the wilderness and also studying deep ecology at Schumacher College, that I am endeavouring to initiate a fireside summit between some top indigenous leaders and futurist visionaries at the coming United Nations COP event in Glasgow in October.

My friend Renata and I chilling out and dancing

The Sonoran Toad: Bufo Alvarius

Additionally a forgotten medicine has recently blown my mind: this is the Bufo Alvarius or Sonoran Toad. I will soon write more about it. It has a gland which produces a so-called poison but which if dried and smoked is very safe for human beings. A single dose of this substance contains 5-meo-DMT and produces powerful spiritual experiences. Most people report profound mystical experiences, either meeting God or a deep sense of sacredness or oneness with the world. Many say the experience was irrevocable. When I took it I felt like I was letting go of all the stress in my life, every bad idea that had been inserted into the mind and that I mistakenly believed. After breathing in this medicine when I had an exhalation I felt a sense of complete joy, elation and fearlessness.

This medicine took me closest to the ultimate experience that the Zen Masters of antiquity have pointed. Bufo is like taking a space shuttle to the divine and your True Self. The experience only lasts 20-30 minutes. So whilst I continue my journeys with ayahuasca, as they represent a regular conversation with the Divine, I have been training to facilitate bufo myself.

Looking Ahead – Trusting My Own Voice

All of this ceremonial work – along with a continuation of Zen and other esoteric practices – has been helping me evolve and awaken to my highest potential. The last ceremony with the Shipibo shaman Pashin Nima, made it clearer than ever to trust my True Self and reject any external authority. The truth is already encoded in my heart: not my mind. For the mind is fickle and clings to the traumas of the past or the fear of the future. It´s not me. This is why in Zen we practice entering a state of what’s called before thinking: or no mind.

I think that I was waiting for this very moment to finish off my book and continue my work as an international futurist and guide. I never wanted to write someone else’s book, that is a miss mash of others´opinions. It must be the 100% expression of my inner voice. Now I feel I can fearlessly do that without risk of it being adulterated by outside influence.

It reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite childhood movies, the Dead Poets´Society.

It certainly feels like I have lived and died in Tulum: or better said died and lived!