I was talking to my therapist Penelope about the ayahausca ceremony I’d sat in a few nights prior. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of ayahausca in a second. For now know that my heart had been blown open in the best possible way but was beginning to close back up. I needed help holding on to the heretofore unknown capacity I’d discovered during the ceremony. She told me a story about a friend of hers, this evolved being who’d done made considerable progress during her time as a “household contemplative.”
The story goes this Household Contemplative was complaining to her guru that she didn’t have any time to meditate, let alone attend the retreats her peers were returning from aglow. “You’re so lucky!” said her guru.
“Lucky? What are you, nuts? I need time to practice and what I got is three kids and no help!”
“What you’ve got is something that all those ascetics will never have daydreaming on their cushions. You have a kitchen.”
“They have kitchens too, I’m sure.”
“Yes, but you go to yours often in the day, I imagine.”
“All the time,” said the Household Contemplative.
“Then your practice, your meditation, is the walk to your kitchen. If you can be mindful, if you can be present and breathe on your walk to the kitchen, then you will log more hours of mindfulness than all these jokers on retreat.”
And so this brilliant Household Contemplative began her practice, and day after day her mindfulness increased and soon she could hover three inches off the floor and never lose her sanity, not even when faced with a toddler’s callous UltraViolence or a three hour cross-examination regarding the injustice of a sibling new underwear. Or so I choose to believe.
Meditation is hard. It takes a long time and a lot of discipline. My practice continues in fits and starts. Attending an ayahausca ceremony jumps you down the road a bit. As Penelope said, “It’s like walking through a mist and very slowly getter wetter and wetter. Ayahausca ceremony is having a fire hose turned on you.”
Ayahausca is Amazonian plant medicine taken under the guidance of a shaman with the intent of healing physical and psychological ailments. In addition to purging, the medicine induces gigantic psychedelic visions. Ayahausca ceremonies have been used in South American countries for centuries and have been recently gaining acceptance in western cultures. Ayahausca and other psychedelics are currently being used with success to treat myriad diseases from substance abuse to anxiety, depression and PTSD. It was my intention to use ayahausca to get in better touch with my higher self so that I would make better decisions, do better work and be a better husband and father.
I wrote this intention on a piece of paper that remained in my pocket all night. “Higher self, better decisions, better work, better husband and father.”
The ceremony began at 9pm and ended at 7am. I’ll spare you the details of my journey. The visions I had were exquisite and expansive, the night was long and full of bursting joy, dark confusion and physical discomfort.
Recovery from the ceremony was difficult and painful, but when it was done, the afore mentioned unfathomably deep capacity for love and empathy began to take shape. I walked Luke through a temper tantrum with true patience and understanding. I don’t think he appreciated it as much as I did. I was dumbstruck at the good fortune of being able to drive a car to a grocery store. The world around was just as I’d left it, but my ability to find love in its every corner had multiplied exponentially.
These feelings fade, the doors close, but I can remember. And so it is that I have bells hanging from the kitchen door frame. This is my walk, the place I travel through day in and day out. Otis and Luke each picked out a bell from the little store at their school. I touch them every time I move in and out of the kitchen, and though those feelings of unfathomable capacity have receded deeper into my being, I remember them, and I remember to remember them every time I hear those bells.
What I mean to tell you is that if you have a shaman who works with this medicine and if you have the guts to go through with it, sitting in ceremony will almost certainly make you a better parent and a better person. If none of this is your bag, find peace however you can and practice calling it up. Do yoga, run, meditate, hike, paint, play piano, and then take some time to find the peace you find in your practice outside of your practice. Feel it in your body and sit with it. Hang a bell somewhere on the path of your grind and use the sound to take you to that place for a moment.
I’m asking a lot, I realize that. I’m asking things no blogger for BabyNames.com should ever ask his readers. But if we all do our best to put our feet on the path of the Household Contemplative, these kids we decided to bring into the world might have a pretty good shot after all.