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Inspiration for healing, for life, and for the soul!

By Travis Bodick, May 23 2017 04:17PM

Hoop magazine which publishes some of my articles just released a free special addition of their magazine today. The topic of this special edition is "What is Shamanism?" This is a great resource for helping people understand what shamanism is and isn't and I hope many people share it to better educate our community about this topic.

There is a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about what shamanism is and I hope this collection of articles can help clear that up for some people:


By Travis Bodick, Feb 22 2017 01:19AM

As a friend scorched holes into my skin with a burning stick I prepared myself to receive the medicine. My friend is a kambo provider, and kambo is a venomous secretion from an Amazonian frog which is traditionally applied directly into the blood stream via open burns in the outer skin. These burns expose your capillaries directly so that the medicine can go straight into the blood – peptides in the venom then carry themselves directly across the blood brain barrier and cause a profound reaction. Sweating, increased heart rate, body heat, intense tingling through the body as well as throbbing in the skull, body aches or pain, cramps, shaking, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, swelling of the hands and face…. Reading the list of common reactions you may wonder why someone would ask another person to apply this venom directly into their bloodstream, or why someone would call it medicine… Isn’t medicine supposed to be some easy pill you take to make you feel all better?

In our culture we have been taught to look for quick fixes. We want things now and we don’t want to work for them or sacrifice to get them. If we are sick we often just want whatever makes us feel better the quickest. But the short cut is not always the best way. Take cold medicines for example – your body is trying to push toxins out through nasal mucous but since you don’t like having a runny nose you take a medication that keeps the mucous and toxins in your body. Or in the case of heartburn and indigestion – your stomach acid is not acidic enough to properly digest food so you take an antacid to stop the burning sensation even though this antacid further basifies your stomach acid and makes your future digestion even worse. These are just two examples of ways we use medicine to run from our problems instead of solve them. We want medicine to be easy and quick, so we sacrifice our future health for momentary comfort in the present.

This can create problems in all areas of our lives, and one of the most noticeable areas this affects us is in our mental health. When difficult emotions arise or we experience traumatic events our culture teaches us to bury these emotions and keep them to ourselves. Put on a happy face and buck up! This type of emotional repression does great harm to us as individuals and communities and the effects of these habits accumulate overtime which leads to the mental health crisis many modernized countries are experiencing these days. It is difficult and scary to face fears and emotions or to talk about them with others and ask for help, so we take the short cut and just ignore our problems… But in the long run this makes everything harder as the problems do not go away when ignored but only fester and accumulate. Eventually people can become overwhelmed and overburdened by stress and worry which can lead to nervous breakdowns, mental illness, and even physical illness as the body does not function optimally when under great stress.

More traditional medicines often looked very different then the quick fixes we have today. If your digestion was poor you wouldn’t take an antacid for quick relief – instead you would change your diet and put some work into your healing or maybe even try fasting to let your body’s digestion recover. If you had a cold you didn’t fight your body’s immune response by taking cold medication but you let it run its course while strengthening your immune system, or maybe took a sauna to help you sweat it out. People were taught to deal with their problems and face them head on rather than fear and repress them – and this created greater long-term health and inner strength.

In many cultures not only do people work through their problems directly, but they may even use ordeals as training to help them be strong and hard working. So we have ordeal medicine as a way of treating illness, and also as a way of training and preventative medicine. In indigenous cultures when young men go on a vision quest they are learning to face their fears as well as the discomforts and challenges of fasting alone in the wilderness. This teaches inner strength and courage which manifests itself in all areas of life and it helps people develop into strong members of society. When you get sick this strength helps you choose the healthiest way to work through your illness, and when confronted with emotional problems or traumatic events it helps you face and work through the discomfort rather than repress it. These habits teach you to strive for what is in your best interest rather than just what sounds easiest in the moment. Doing what is right is not always easy in the moment, but it almost always ends up being easier in the long run because of how many problems it helps you solve (rather than avoiding the issues which just makes problems accumulate over time).

In the case of my experience with kambo I had to confront my fears of physical discomfort. I knew I was about to be burned and that the venom applied to those burns would make me experience extreme discomfort and even pain – but that discomfort only lasted about 30 minutes, and afterwards I felt great. Kambo is known to strengthen the immune system, remove toxins from the body, increase energy, focus and awareness, and even align the spirit in a way where you feel more connected to your personal flow and life. It is hard to describe how beneficial this medicine is, but my experience was well worth the short time of discomfort that led to all these benefits.

In different cultures around the world there exist many different medicines that could be considered ordeal medicines. In some cultures tribal members will fill gloves with bullet ants which have the strongest sting of any ant – they then wear these gloves for an extended time while the ants bite their hands causing them pain so extreme that many people will feint. The people do this to teach themselves to embrace discomfort and be strong – this teaches you then to not avoid hard work, not avoid unpleasant medicines and not avoid unpleasant emotions. It teaches you to be strong and courageous. In other cultures people might practice vision quest or difficult pilgrimages. People may expose themselves to sleep deprivation, fasting or extreme weather conditions to help themselves build strength. Many people use cold water immersion as a way to strengthen the immune system, or try sweat lodges for healing, or eat unpleasant herbs and foods for health reasons. All of these practices involve facing discomfort because you know it is good for you. This is doing what is best for you and others whether or not it is pleasant and it leads to benefits in every aspect of life.

Ordeal medicine is a test of your equanimity. With the kambo there is a natural inclination to resist the discomfort and react to it, but that is not how you actually want to respond. If you try to hold down the nausea or fight through the discomfort or repress it you will get overwhelmed and the experience will be much more difficult. If you instead face the discomfort and embrace it while trying to relax as much as possible you will get the best results – the experience won’t be as painful, you will have a deeper and more effective purge, and you will be more aware of the experience and how it relates to you personally. By embracing discomfort that is good for you your experience changes into one of alignment with your highest good. When you run from discomfort that is really in your best interest you end up fighting yourself and resisting your own benefits and success.

How you show up in ceremony is often how you show up in life. When you show up to ceremony determined and strong it becomes easier to show up to life the same way. Ceremony in many ways is training for life, and in this way life can become one great ceremony. If you practice facing the discomforts of ritual and medicine with equanimity you can teach yourself to act the same way on a day to day basis which will benefit your physical, mental and emotional health. And not only will this help you show up better for yourself – but everyone in your community will benefit as you become more present and powerful in your own life. By healing and empowering ourselves we heal and empower the world together.

By Travis Bodick, Feb 21 2017 07:03PM

When you are new to the medicine and looking for the right person to drink with... Take your time and choose wisely. This is a very important decision that will greatly impact the outcome of your ceremony.

Traditional apprenticeship usually lasts 1-3 solid years (the whole time spent in apprenticeship, not just how many years ago they started drinking - that whole 1-3 years is often spent in dieta for the whole time or at least most of it). In some cases people spread the apprenticeship out longer over many years and do it in little bits. 1-3 years of not working or making money and living in the jungle hardly eating food is hard - healers need this hard training to make them strong and so they have enough time to develop the right relationship with their spirit allies. A lot of people take short cuts and either skip the training all together or try to substitute shorter training like just 2-3 months of work instead of 2-3 years.... There is no substitute for the work, and the lack of work will show itself in the ceremony.

So far we are lucky in the USA that the government is not prosecuting Ayahuasca medicine even though it is illegal. This could change at any time though. Right now only 2 churches (UDV and SD) have gone to court and have set a precedent to protect religious freedom within those churches. These rights have not been extended to other churches or individuals yet, and this precedent could be turned around quickly if the wrong person went to jail. By having high standards for the providers we support we give ourselves a better chance of protected religious and medical freedom.

It is really up to the seeker to make the most informed decisions about who to drink with. I know many people do not have easy access to medicine providers and it is tempting to settle for the first person you find... But if you really care about the quality and safety of your own ceremony and the future legality of this medicine please take the time to look into your medicine providers. Take the time to make sure they are fully qualified and also ethical and thoughtful about how they provide the medicine.

For those new to the medicine who want to know good questions to ask potential ceremony leaders, here are some good questions to help you learn more:

How long was your apprenticeship and how long have you been working with the medicine? (Usually apprenticeship is 1-3 years of formal apprenticeship and most providers will work with the medicine for a few years before apprenticing - often there is at least 1 full year of dieting if not more. Most qualified providers have sat in a few hundred traditional ceremonies before offering medicine on their own.)

What is your ceremony format? (Do they sing icaros? If they do not that should be a red flag in most cases - at the least they should have learned how, even if they found another method that they now prefer. Do they play recorded music - this is a big red flag. Do they allow socializing - this is a red flag. Ceremonies are usually very focused especially in a group setting.)

What is the group size? (This may be more about personal comfort.... If there is more then 8 people the facilitator should at least have an assistant. If there is more then 15 people there should be multiple shamans facilitating together. Some people dont like group sizes over 6-8, and some dont like it over 20.... Some people sit in groups of 40+. This might be a question of personal preference and comfort, but make sure they have more healers and assistants present if it is a larger group.)

What is the cost? (In USA $100-200 is a common price. If it is much more then that and especially if they have a large group and a high price - you might ask why, as this could be a red flag.... Larger groups should be more affordable, and if it is much over a $200 or so price tag you should probably be either in a super nice and comfortable setting that you want to pay extra for, or you should be getting a small group private ceremony, or at the very least they should be a super experienced healer who can provide a deeper ceremony then a newbie. A fake church in WA was trying to charge $2000 for a single ceremony, and this is a good example of someone taking advantage of the medicine.)

Location? (Location should be private and secure and comfortable. Does not need to be fancy, but more then anything should be somewhere private, safe and not distracting. There should be somewhere to sleep after the ceremony.)

What is in the brew and why? (Usually this is Ayahuasca and chacruna and sometimes other plants.... Sometimes it may just be Ayahuasca but most people add either chacruna or chaliponga. If they add a different MAOI or DMT containing plant besides Ayahuasca, chacruna or chaliponga then they are not using traditional plants and you should ask them why. Sometimes people add other plants to the brew - you may want to know what these plants are, why they are added, and if they are safe. Many of the admixture plants are safe, but some like tobacco or toe' can be dangerous if not used correctly or for the wrong person.... If the brew doesnt have the Ayahuasca vine itself it is not Ayahuasca, but something else.)

Other questions might include: What are your philosophies on healing with plant medicines? How do you support integration of the ceremonies? Do you recommend any diet or preparation? What types of successes have you had with healing? How has the medicine changed your life? How did you decide to pursue this medicine work? How do you protect the ceremony space? ect....

At all times the healer should be open and honest about their answers to these questions. If they do not answer openly and honestly that can be another red flag. If they put in the time and work necessary these questions should be easy for them to answer.

After seeing some people I know dont have enough experience to host ceremonies marketing their ceremonies all over I thought this information could be helpful to some people... BTW - after 5 years with Ayahuasca, and 10 years with plant medicines and hundreds of traditional Ayahuasca ceremonies (plus thousands of other plant ceremonies) - I still do not offer Ayahuasca ceremonies even though people ask me to. I know good people to sit with, and I also know that it takes a lot of specific training to do this work right, and if you dont take the time to do it right, you shouldnt be pouring for others yet. Simple as that.

If you are new to the medicine and trying to research who to work with, I hope this information is helpful for you.

By Travis Bodick, Dec 19 2016 07:20PM

Tobacco is a very misunderstood plant in our culture. Many people associate it with addiction and death, and considering it is one of the top killers in some countries this is understandable. But for thousands of years tribal societies worked with tobacco as medicine and considered it to be one of the earths greatest healing plants – while there was some danger associated with the plant, in most cases the plant was revered as powerful medicine. There were tobacco shamans who would ingest huge amounts of the plant on a regular basis without getting sick, and using the tobacco these healers could cure illnesses of many different kinds.

There could be many different reasons for these different perspectives of tobacco, but my understanding is that the main difference is intention and respect. Tobacco is considered an amplifier of intention, prayers and thoughts. So when you ask the plant for medicine and protection that gets amplified. If you are smoking angrily and habitually to relieve frustration and desire – that amplifies something else. So this being said – I want to suggest that anyone who feels called to work with this plant be mindful of how they use it. It is a very powerful plant capable of great wonder and miracles as well as great destruction.

There are many ways to work with tobacco but I want to focus on one tobacco tradition that is very close to my heart. Rapé is the name of a dried and powdered tobacco snuff that comes from the Amazon – where it is used as a powerful and beautiful healing medicine. It is pronounced “ra-pe” in Spanish or more commonly “ha-pe” in Portuguese (the snuff is found in both Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries but is most popular in Brazil which speaks Portuguese). It also has many other names in other indigenous tongues from the Amazon region. I prefer the spelling rappé with an extra “p” because some people misread the word rapé and confuse it for something else (traditionally it is spelled with only one “p”).

Rappé is a dried and powdered snuff which is usually blown into the nose through a blow pipe. You can use a special blowpipe for serving yourself called a kuripe, but most often a larger blowpipe called a tepi is used to serve a partner. The main ingredients of the snuff are usually tobacco and tree ash, but often times other seeds, leaves and plants may be added for additional properties or even just for aroma. Sometimes a rappé can be made without the tobacco and tree ash, but this is uncommon – generally the first ingredient is always the cured jungle tobacco mapacho. This species of tobacco (Nicotiana Rustica) is different than common tobacco found in cigarettes – it is often 8-20 times stronger and it is processed with zero additives and with lots of prayer and intention. Ashes from sacred trees are also added to the snuff as an alkalizer which balances the tobacco, and then in personal recipes people may add whatever plants they want to get specific desired effects. Seeds like yopo or wilka may be added to increase the visionary properties of the snuff, or flowers might be added to instill a more feminine and nurturing energy – many different plants can be added for personal recipes. The snuff is made during a lengthy and intensive ritual process to invoke the maker’s medicine and the spirits of the plants used.

There are many reasons one might wish to work with rappé and there are many ways of working with it as well. Because so many different cultures in the Amazon region use rappé a number of different traditions and practices have revolved around its use. The benefits of rappé use range from physical and psychological to energetic and spiritual. Rappé clears and focuses the mind and thoughts, centers and grounds your energy, opens up your physical and spiritual senses and awareness, cleanses and purifies your body and energy, connects you to your spirit allies and medicine and much more. It can be used in almost any situation a ceremony might call for and can function or pair well with many other rituals or medicines. Traditionally it is used as its own ceremony or also within other ceremonies (such as Ayahuasca or kambo ceremony). It is also used for hunting, before warfare and even for recreation. Sometimes you mostly feel energetic and physical sensations from the rappé, but other times it can even create visionary experiences despite not being a classically visionary medicine. It is possible to do different styles of journey work using the rappé as an aid to help you communicate with your spirit guides and allies for healing or guidance.

To work with rappé you will want to get some quality product. These days there are a number of online shops which sell tribal rappés gathered in the Amazon, so luckily those of us not living in South America can still have access to this medicine. It is also possible to make your own rappé by drying, powdering and mixing the plants you want to use. You will probably also want a blowpipe for serving the rappé. While the medicine can be snuffed directly off of your hand or a small scooping device, the pipes really add a nice dimension to the ceremony and also get the snuff further into your nose where it absorbs better.

You can get a more profound effect from the rappé by using it in an intentional and ceremonial manner. There are many ways to do this as each culture using the medicine developed its own rituals. I will share my method of working with rappé and the symbolism behind it. You may wish to open sacred space or begin with your usual style of beginning ceremony. It is also nice to take a little time to pray, think about your intentions, and if you feel called to sing a medicine song or two or play a little ceremonial music. When you are ready you can put a single serving of rappé into your hand – for beginners this might be a pea sized amount (that amount will serve both nostrils). You can use less or more depending on your experience level and your intention – someone with more experience or who needs deep cleansing or healing might do a much larger amount.

Scoop half of the rappé in your hand – this amount will serve your first nostril. I like to then take 3 breaths to focus and ask for blessings – if sharing rappé with a partner I like to do these 3 breaths together as a way of connecting with each other’s energy before serving the medicine. The first breath I hold the rappé and the blowpipe towards the earth and breath in the blessings of Pachamama (Mother Earth). The second breath I hold the pipe towards the sky and breath in the blessings of Creator. The third breath I hold the pipe at my heart asking my personal allies to bless my medicine and for these blessing to all come from my heart (these 3 breaths represent the 3 worlds to me: lower, upper, and middle). I blow the rapé into my left nostril first. If blowing for someone else I will tell them to hold their breath before blowing it in, and then to breath from the mouth afterwards. As soon as possible I scoop the remaining rappé into the pipe and serve the right nostril. In this way the left nostril is a symbolic death while the right is a symbolic rebirth. This balances the yin/yang energies of your body and mind.

After the rappé is in the nose try to mostly breathe through the mouth and keep all the medicine in your nose. Try to sit with it and observe any sensations that arise without reacting to them. You may wipe your nose if some snot drips out, but try to wait at least 20-40 minutes before blowing your nose. If you feel anything drip into your throat from the rappé you can spit it out – some tribes view this as a type of purge while others actually swallow it so as to not waste any medicine (you can make your own judgement call here).

Mostly I sit and meditate while under the effects of the rappé but sometimes I will sing medicine songs to deepen or guide the effects of the medicine. This is also a great time to pray or ask for guidance and healing. Most times the rappé puts you into a deep meditative state, but sometimes it causes more profound cleansing and purging – while not always common with the smaller amounts of rappé it is possible to experience purging, bowel movements, energetic or emotional releases and so on. This is a powerful medicine and usually these are signs of deeper healing and releasing – I once saw someone purge out physical parasites during a bowel movement initiated by the rappé.

Besides different recipes of rappé and different medicine songs you can use to empower and guide the medicine, there are also different breaths you can use to focus your intention. There are many types of animals and other spirits you can call on to empower your breath and generally each one of these breaths takes time to get to know and learn correctly. Generally you learn these breaths either from spirit allies directly or from other rappé shamans. The most common and basic breath is the deer breath. You start by taking a deep breath into your stomach, connect with your power and medicine, and then blow long, then at the end blow hard while closing your throat at the same time.

This is just the beginning of what you can learn about rappé and the real benefits come from experiencing it yourself. This medicine can be a very powerful way to cleanse your body and energy as well as connect with your spirit allies through prayer and ceremony. The real beauty of this medicine is that it can be used expertly in the hands of a master but is still effective when used by a beginner learning on their own. Just remember to be mindful and respectful of the medicine and pray from the heart.

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