This would be my second master plant dieta. Chiric Sanango, often referred to as Abuelito Sanango or Grandfather Sanango, is a shrub native to the Amazonian region which grows clusters of beautiful purple flowers. I would drink his medicine each morning for two weeks to cultivate a relationship with the spirit of this powerful and empowering Master Plant Teacher. Before drinking the medicine of a plant it’s important to place an intention into it. The intention acts as a bridge connecting the person to the spirit of the plant. When we drink the medicine, we are inviting it’s spirit into our bodies allowing the plant to teach us and heal us from within. The plant asks of us that we trust and surrender so they can begin to clean us, not just on a physical level but also on a much deeper level in our mind and our soul.
Chiric Sanago has no psychoactive properties. On a physical level, it is used to treat the common cold or flu, arthritis and rheumatism. Chiric literally translates to “Itchy'' for the itchy or tingly sensation felt in the body after consuming it. The dietero(a) might even feel a little disoriented and/or dizzy after consuming the medicine. Typically the root of the plant is used to make tea to be consumed by the dietero(a) once daily or depending on the protocol set by your Curandero. On a spiritual level, this Master Plant Teacher is said to help the dietero reconnect with and align with their soul, cultivating confidence, self-esteem, and decisiveness in his or her direction and desires. When working with Chiric Sanago, it should be approached with great respect and discipline. It is highly advised to work with an experienced Shaman or Curandero as an inappropriate dosage could be dangerous or even fatal.
I was told this would be a strong diet, much stronger than my first dieta with Chuchuhuasi (a tree) and Una De Gato (a vine). Now I look at that first experience as a warm welcome into this ancient traditional practice. Dipping my toe in the waters, if you will. I remember seeing Chiric Sanago for the first time then. His brilliant cluster of purple flowers would stop me in my tracks on a muddy path that led me from my casita to the center of camp where I would bathe in the creek or go to use the toilet. It wasn’t until after I had closed my first dieta I learned that the stunning purple flower I gazed at nearly each day for 3 weeks was the Master Plant Teacher, Chiric Sanango, whom I would work with 6 Months later. I have a feeling it was no coincidence he caught my eye the way he did. There is a very mystical element to this tradition and practice.
Upon opening la dieta, the Curandero led a short ceremony blessing and protecting me and the medicine. As I sat in silence, eyes closed connecting strongly with my intention, he whistled and sang his Icaros while blowing thick clouds of mapacho smoke across my chest, back, and crown. Icaros are healing songs the Curandero has received directly from the plant spirits while dieting himself. These are the songs used to guide people through a healing and spiritual journey during an Ayahuasca ceremony.
Although my Curandero would tell me “No Sientas Miedo”, of course I still felt fear. This would be something I would have to overcome on my own by going through my own experiences. During a traditional dieta, the dietero(a) spends his or her time in isolation in a small open air casita in the middle of the dense and very much alive jungle. After the sun goes to rest everything is consumed with darkness but the jungle only gets louder as much of it begins to awaken. There is no artificial lighting, no lights from the city or neighbors. Polarity doesn't seem to exist anywhere else the way it does in the Jungle. The fear I feel there, at night, is different than any fear I’ve experienced living in my Western World. I am completely alone. Learning to trust in something outside of myself, trust in spirit, the medicine, and this ancient tradition, would be one of the greatest lessons I’m continuing to learn through this simple yet profound practice.
A few days into the dieta, boredom sets in and time is officially moving in slow motion. It often feels like I'll be there forever. My to-do list starts to poke at me and I question why I do this at all? It's a long flight and boat ride; a lot of time, energy, and money to spend two weeks in solitude sitting in my own sweat and fighting off the bug bites. I definitely wouldn't consider this a vacation and it is by no means a luxurious experience.
I hear myself think “Is anything even happening? I'm not sure I feel anything at all… Am I doing this thing right or maybe I'm doing something wrong?” Quick fixes, instant gratification, and external affirmations have become such a part of our culture that when the effects or changes are so subtle, doubt and boredom easily creep their way into our headspace. I had been expecting a very different experience than the one I was receiving. In fact I had mentally prepared myself for, and felt I was ready to suffer. So when the intense suffering didn’t come the whole experience almost felt insufficient. I needed something, anything, to help me to shift my attitude so that I could follow through and complete my two week commitment to the plant.
Wow, the power of intention.... Instead of focusing on what wasn’t happening I tried to connect with and understand what WAS happening. What was I feeling? I began in inquire by practicing presence then gratitude. I felt warmth on my moist skin. I could hear the soft wind brushing through the leaves of the trees outside my casita. I could hear the buzz of the hummingbirds wings, the birds singing, and the loud chirping of the bugs. I could feel the beat of my steady heart inside my chest. My breath gently guiding it up and down, up and down. My lips were smiling. I was calm. I felt immense happiness.
I recalled a vision I had received in one of my very first Ayahuasca ceremonies. I was walking barefoot through the Jungle, flowers blooming out of my footsteps behind me where I walked. I know, without a doubt in my heart, life has guided me here to do this work with these medicines for a reason. I am here to heal, learn, and grow. I thanked Spirit, Ayahuasca, Chiric Sanango, and my other plant teachers and guides for calling me to do this work and protecting me while I learn to soften my edges and shed my old skin. I thanked them for guiding me towards wholeness so that I could one day help others find wholeness within themselves too. I felt my energy shift as I let go of my frustration around what wasn’t and redirected my attention to what was.
I realized then that I associate healing with suffering and therefore resisted doing the work it takes to get well. My plant teachers were teaching me that healing doesn't necessarily require you to suffer and it doesn’t have to be difficult or painful in order for it to be effective. Sometimes all that is required to heal is as simple as the desire for change, an open heart and mind, patience, and faith. True healing can’t be rushed. Just like you cannot force a rose to bloom. In time, when the rose is ready, she will soften her petals and open herself up. The simplicity of the dieting process has a way of doing just that. It provides a safe container for you to slowly, and in your own time, begin to surrender and open yourself up to receiving the wisdom from Mother Nature and her plant teachers.
After that, when I let go of my expectations, the jungle began to open herself up to me. Or maybe I began to open myself up to the jungle when I let go of the idea that suffering was necessary. Perhaps it was my imagination but it felt as if the jungle started to come alive in the way I’ve only heard of in mystical stories. My fear had disappeared and the borders I had built were falling away. It was as if I had unlocked a door to the next level of my own healing journey. More on that soon…
If you are reading this, I imagine you are on your own path of healing and self discovery too. Although oftentimes it's not easy, suffering itself isn’t always necessary. Remember, sometimes all that is required to heal is as simple as the desire for change, an open heart and mind, patience, and faith. Most good things take time. Surrender & Trust.