Huachuma: Air Mesada

Be sure to read part 1 and part 2, if you haven’t already.

After living in the Amazon jungle for two weeks, my spiritual journey with Spirit Quest Sanctuary was about to come to a close. It was time for our final Huachuma Mesada ceremony, The Air Mesada. We had been told that the medicine would become increasingly stronger with each mesada and that everything so far, had been building up to what we were soon about to experience.

Not only would the strength of the Huachuma be at it’s peak in this final mesada, but we would also have the opportunity to work with yet another sacred plant, called Vilca. The Spirit Quest website describes Vilca as, “the transformational bridge between life, death and rebirth of ancient South America. A visionary catalyst for healing and higher consciousness.”

By the time we arrived to the village which we would be visiting that day, the medicine had already taken hold of me, stronger than ever before. The strength of the Huachuma was exponentially more powerful than either of the previous ceremonies. I had so much energy flowing through me that it was becoming almost difficult to contain it all.

Unlike with the other tribes we had visited previously, the maloca here, was without a roof or walls. It was an open air maloca, consisting of a circle of wooden benches. It was quite nice. We were able to sit in the middle of a clearing, fully surrounded by nature. I took a seat on one of the benches and sat back to experienced what the medicine had to offer.

Huachuma Mesada (San Pedro Cactus) Retreat

Steve chilling with one of the kids

Huachuma Retreat - Kid

Such a cute kid

We all sat around in a circle, just hanging out and connecting.  Occasionally, I would make eye contact with someone nearby and we would non verbally communicate to each other, “wow. This is intense.”

I am finding it very difficult to explain what I experienced that day. It was almost as if my senses were so enhanced and operating at such a high frequency that my mind could not fully process all that my senses were taking in. It seemed to me like what I was seeing and hearing, wasn’t just of this world. Both my hearing and vision were slightly blurred, as if I was seeing and hearing waves of energy in the air around me.

As I sat and observed the people of the indigenous tribe, interacting with each other, I remember being able to feel how strongly connected they all were with each other. I could sense such a strong sense of family and brotherhood. It was beautiful. They came around and offered us fruit, along with kind smiles. I remember feeling so grateful. I was so humbled, watching them treat us as their guests, sharing their food with us, even though us “westerners,” obviously have more than they do.

Then that thought was challenged by another. Do we really have more than them? Can I really say that our material wealth equates to us having more? These people may not have as much money as us. They may not have the fancy toys or drive around in nice cars. However, in my opinion, they have the things that matter most. They have family. They have connection. They have love.

They have the things that are lacking in the lives of so many people in the western world. As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve noticed a common theme. The people who have never been introduced to our materialistic way of living and who live comfortable, yet very simple lives are generally some of the happiest people I have ever come in contact with. They haven’t forgotten what is truly important, as many people in this world have, chasing after material wealth and success.

We were invited to visit a specific tree, just outside the maloca, which is very special to them. Standing and walking the 50 metres from the bench to the tree, was more difficult than I expected it to be. I was still getting used to the immense amount of energy and power that I was feeling inside of me.


The tribe shared their special songs and dances with us and we were invited to join. I let my body flow with the energy of the Huachuma that I was feeling. This time, the idea of being self conscious about my dancing, didn’t even cross my mind. I felt like I was floating through a spirit world as I danced.

Huachuma (San Pedro Cactus) Retreat

Photo Credit to Luke Danton – Beautiful Dancing

When we finished dancing, I was approached by a little girl, who held out a necklace towards me. I thought it was a gift, so I accepted it, with a smile. A few seconds later, I was offered a second one, which I accepted as well. Then I saw that the entire tribe was around us, showing us their crafts. I was so heavily in the medicine, that it took me a while to comprehend what was going on and to realize that they were offering these crafts for sale.

I was more than happy to pay, once I understood. I pulled out some cash and gave it to one of the little boys. 10 minutes later I saw that the boy was still walking around with the cash in his hands. I remember hoping that the money would eventually make it to one of the adults of the tribe.

Again, it was really sad to leave our new friends behind, as we got back into the boats to leave. At one point, on the ride back to the lodge, I moved my backpack to the side, to give myself more leg room. Then, right in front of me, in between two of the wooden panels of the boat, I thought I saw a fairly large, black spider.

The affect that the medicine was having on my vision was so strong that I wasn’t completely sure if it was a spider or not. I looked at it closely and then became convinced that it was just a piece of black rope, used to hold the boat planks together. To be sure, I poked at it with the strap of my backpack and I almost jumped out of my seat when it moved. Now I new, without a doubt that there was a giant spider less than two feet away from me.

I asked Don Howard to take a look and he assured me that it was not a dangerous species. However, I still couldn’t get it off my mind. I would look out at the stunning scenery around me, but every 30 seconds or so I would look back down to the floor of the boat to make sure the spider was still there.

I saw this as a lesson. In all the ceremonies up until now I had been feeling extremely confident. Whenever I felt like doing something, I would do it immediately, without letting myself be controlled by fear. Huachuma was teaching me that it’s important to be confident and to follow my heart, but it’s just as important to avoid acting recklessly. There are dangerous things in this world to be cautious of. The message I got was, “Don’t take life too seriously, but don’t take it too lightly either.”

Night had arrived, by the time we made it back to the lodge. Instead of disembarking where we normally would, we were taken around to the other side of the sanctuary. We were going to be making a visit to the star deck.

Huachuma (San Pedro Cactus) Retreat - Spirit Quest Star Deck

Photo credit to Luke Danton – Star deck during the day

When we arrived to the star deck, we were instructed to find a spot and to lie down on our backs. It was at this point, when the medicine was at it’s strongest of anything I experienced, during the entire retreat. I could literally feel myself filling with life energy, with every breath I took. I felt like I was floating. I was overcome with a feeling of ecstasy. I felt confident, powerful and wise. It was humbling and empowering at the same time.

Don Howard walked around us with a chime in his hands. As he moved around the star deck, striking the chime and speaking, the clouds parted in front of my eyes. When we first arrived, the sky was covered in clouds. 20 minutes later, the sky above us was completely clear. Staring up at the stars and other worlds above, I could feel so much energy up there. I had no doubt in my mind that we are not alone in this universe. I had such a strong feeling that there was something else out there.

My time up on the star deck that night, was a surreal experience for me. I can’t fully put the experience into words. Even when I close my eyes and remember back, I don’t know how to describe it. However, I do know that it was like nothing I have ever experienced. After seeing what I saw that night and feeling all of that power and energy, my perception of how I see the world has changed forever.

When we returned to the maloca, I spent some time connecting with the mesa. I slowly walked around the mesa, blowing mapacho smoke at each of the items on it. I payed my respects and thanked each and every object in turn. I started to feel like I was being charged by the energy of the mesa.

Huachuma Mesada - Spirit Quest Mesa

Photo credit to Steve Lychak – The Mesa

The time finally came for the grand finale. I was about to work with the most sacred of all the plant medicines. I would soon experience Vilca, the bridge between life and death. When working with Vilca, there is the potential to die and be reborn. It is possible to look beyond the veil and see what is waiting for us on the other side. I remember Don Howard saying that after experiencing this, hopefully we can start living with a little less fear and a little more meaning.

Don Howard, prepared us for what was to come before sending us back to prepare our rooms for the ceremony. This would be a solo ceremony. After taking the medicine, we would return to our rooms alone. There, we would lie down in our beds, in complete darkness, as still as possible. Then we would wait.

Something that Don Howard said stuck with me, in my mind. He said that there are no guarantees. He said that in over 20 years at Spirit Quest, everyone has always woken up after taking Vilca, however, nothing is ever guaranteed. As I walked back to my room to prepare, I was literally in the mindset that I may not wake up tomorrow.

I was preparing for death. I had done processes in the past, where I put myself in the frame of mind that I may die soon, in order to discover what’s truly important. However, it had never felt this real before. I felt gratitude for everything. I fully appreciate each breath and each step that I took. I cherished every moment.

As I prepared for death, all of my normal fears and concerns fell away. All of the mistakes I had made in the past, no longer mattered. I no longer felt self conscious about anything. I could have cared less about if anyone what other people think about me. I wasn’t thinking about business or any of my material successes.

All that was on my mind at this time was thoughts of my close family and friends. Death taught me that at the end of the day, nothing is more important than the people we love. I spent my final moments, before returning to the maloca, looking at photos of my family. I felt content knowing that no matter what happened, they had each other.

My Family

My Family

It took courage for me to step up to the mesa, when it was my turn to take the Vilca. However, I found the courage within myself by thinking about my friends and family. I was willing to take this leap of faith, in order to become a better person for my family, friends and myself. At the front of the mesa, I was handed an instrument, made of bone, which is used to snort the Vilca. The time had come. I snorted the powder into both nostrils and made my way back to my bed.

I lay in complete darkness, waiting. I really can’t fully remember what I experienced next. I remember lying there, breathing in love. I felt that there was divine energy within me and everyone else in this world. I saw some visuals throughout, but I did not meet with my ancient ancestors, which is possible in a strong Vilca experience. I also did not have the death and rebirth experience that I had been preparing for.

However, I was OK with this. Perhaps the medicine felt that it was not the right time for me to see what’s beyond this life. The lead up to the ceremony was the most powerful part for me. It made me so grateful for my life and the people that are in it. That was more than enough for me.

We ended the night in the dinner hall together, celebrating what we had all just gone through together. This was an amazing experience. The growth and learning that I experienced during my time at Spirit Quest was priceless. I will be returning to Peru in September for the Huachuma Mesa Pilgramage. Until then, I will continue to integrate into my life, all that I learned from this retreat. This is the real work, but I’m sure it will be worth it.

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