The Medicine We Carry

As many people know, at age 12 I began ingesting many mind and/or body altering drugs: sniffing toxic substances, weed, pills (downers, uppers, mescaline, LSD), to heroin. After my political awakening and rebirth into a conscious and active revolutionary before I turned 20, I gave up the illicit drugs. Hard as this was, I also took an easy way out -- I just drank.

After 20 years of this, I began a recovery process around thirteen-and-half years ago; I´m still a revolutionary, only now I´m clean and sober. Now my energies are focused on family (I have a beautiful, healthy, and wonderful family), my writing, my political/community activism, my ongoing study, and Tia Chucha´s Cafe & Centro Cultural (the bookstore, cafe, cultural center I helped create in the San Fernando Valley section of LA).

One aspect of my sobriety has been my connection to indigenous spiritual practices, particularly from Native peoples in the US and Mexico. Presently, I am part of a sweat lodge circle in the San Fernando Valley and do regular ceremonies in the Navajo reservation in eastern Arizona.

I´ve also done ceremonies/events with other tribes in Arizona, California, Washington, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota -- as well as Yaqui, Raramuri, Zapoteco, Mixteco, and other indigenous groups in Mexico.

I´ve just finished two weeks of connecting with and doing ceremonies with the indigenous traditions of Peru.

The last three days in Qosqo involved intense ceremonies and flower baths. It involved much internal struggle and meditation. As I have used peyotl medicine on the rez for years, we were able to enjoy a carefully guided journey with the Amazon jungle medicine known as Ayawaska. I also found much healing in the coca leaf, used in teas and for drawing its juices in our mouths on long hikes and climbs. In the hands of proper guides and teachers, these are natural healing plants for mind and/or body altering experiences that can actually bring more clarity, liberation, and balance in one´s life.

I realize, as many have before me, that much of what youth do in using illegal substances in the US and in other highly-urbanized and modern cultures has much to do with seeking such quests and objectives. Of course, as a youth my guides were other lost youth -- and adults who exploit them.

Now, at 52 years, which among the Mexika indigenous is the life-changing cycle, I´ve reached a new stage of my own personal and spiritual development. We are also in the final months of the year Xikome Tochtli, which is my Mexika namesake, recognizing again the new 52 cycle of transformation I am entering.

I feel stronger, wiser, but also on the precipice of intense new changes.

What this trip to Peru has meant is hard to express in words. I only wish to say how thankful I am for my beautiful wife, Trini, who also underwent these ceremonies and experiences, and to my spiritual companions Enrique, Hector, and Tony, who came with us to Peru from our sweat lodge circle. I also want to thank Aeli, Dona, and Julian for guiding us through the sacred sites and medicine. And a special thanks to Frank Blazquez (Tekpaltzin) of the Chicago area, who opened this door for us, and his wonderful family, and all the youth of Youth Struggling for Survival, and the Danzantes (Mexika/Aztec dancers) of Chicago who were originally to accompany us, although in the end our journeys were meant to be separated.

I also thank my family at home (Andrea, Ruben, Luis, and Cati), and all the staff, volunteers, and board members of Tia Chucha´s Cafe & Centro Cultural, for allowing us the time and space to undergo this amazing journey.

Today we go from Lima to San Jose, Costa Rica. We will be in LA later this evening just before the turn of the Gregorian New Year. The real beauty of natural medicine and healing is that it taps into the medicine we already carry. It allows access to energies and capacities that are otherwise hidden or forgotten.

We have much to do in this world for balance, health, coherence of mind and body, and for complete and adequate social healing as well. When we need it, this medicine and access will allow us to do our vital work with the integrity, dignity, and spiritual strength required to achieve this. The innate gratefullness I now have has been the key aspect of my ongoing recovery.

Tlazhokamati (thank you in Nahuatl) to all.


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