A big loss to our western culture is our relationship towards tobacco. We use it, abuse it, and big corporations profit off of it. It has become demonized and treated as a vice due to the addictive relationship we have formed with it, the misuse that causes heart disease and cancer, and the peddling of it by greedy corporations whose intent is to addict and profit off of you mindlessly inhaling their product. Nicotine is among the world’s most addictive substances (and poisons) however it all depends on your intent and I will testify towards and argue that to no end. Tobacco, in a proper relationship with it, is your ally and defender.
I never took up smoking when I was younger, largely in part because I never hung around with the crowd that took up smoking because it was cool and rebellious. I saw those teenagers become addicted to it and witnessed their health suffer. Watching people try to kick the habit was a testament to its power. When I first started going to the Amazon in 2013 I was introduced to ‘Mapacho’ which is jungle tobacco and 20x as strong as the cigarettes we smoke. The smoke was harsh, caustic, and pungent. I was not a fan and the smell tended to put me off of it. It wasn’t until the third time I visited the Amazon, and it was during a Huachuma ceremony that I fell in love with the spirit of tobacco. We were up on the star deck at SpiritQuest and the maestro don Howard was masterfully conducting the ritual. We were each given a Mapacho to smoke and send our prayers up to the heavens with the smoke. Something clicked that night, I felt its power, and I started controlling the smoke with my left hand as I sent it skywards. I can’t possibly rationalize or explain how I did this but it was magical. I smoked a bunch of Mapacho that eventful evening and potentiated the Huachuma to such a degree that when I laid down on the stone surface of the sky deck the energy coursed through me at such a rate I was pinned to the ground. I touched my lips to the stone surface and felt the intensity of the vibrations going through me. I barely made it down the hill back to my room and once there had to vomit as the intensity was so off the charts.
This night is forever etched within my being and when I got back home my intention was to explore my new found relationship with tobacco. Explore it I did and the spirit of tobacco became my ally and I treat him with reverence and respect. I smoked and snuffed enough of it over a period of time establishing this relationship that I should have became addicted. I observed its effects and was cognizant of any need or desire to smoke it. Nothing. It’s because I treat the act as sacred and I thank tobacco for its blessings. I have written a few blog post regarding Mapacho that I will note here:
The effects of the active alkaloid nicotine within tobacco on me I observed was an excitation of the central nervous system leading to awareness and arousal which the Hindus would call the awakening of the Kundalini. Furthermore after a few minutes this excitation became calm and I would develop an acute awareness and perception of my surroundings, which if I quieted the mind would lead me to become just the observer.
This weekend I was listening to an Alan Watts lecture which I had heard before and he was discussing meditation where you quiet the mind and eventually when you master this you become the observer. The Hindus would call this the Atman where actions, events, and thoughts all taking place are subject to a deeply hidden part of you that just observes everything dispassionately without getting caught up in the madness of the world. I’ve always noticed this ability within myself as I perform well under pressure and am able to block out distractions. A casualty of being able to do this is a discernible lack of empathy at times. I just observe the situation without getting caught up in it or feeling the need to “do something, anything.” I have noted before that Alan Watts lectures tend sometimes to go over my head but on the tenth time listening to it I finally grasp what he is saying and finally get it. So today I realized that the path of a sacred relationship with Mapacho is a doorway to the Atman; to the hidden observer within us all. So off to the forest I went, Mapacho puros and snuff in hand.
Mapacho tobacco and snuff with kuripe
It was exactly how I finally grokked it. I became the observer.