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May-10-2012 02:55printcomments

FEATURE:The Cactus at the Crossroads

Huichol Indians in Mexico help our writer take a spiritual journey to the land of new perspectives...

 Lophophora willimsii
Lophophora williamsii

(NAYARIT, Mexico) - From Wikipedia: Lophophora williamsii better known by its common name Peyote is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.

It is native to southwestern Texas and Mexico. It is found primarily in the Chihuahuan desert and in the states of Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi among scrub, especially where there is limestone.
Known for its psychoactive properties when ingested, it is used world wide as an entheogen and supplement to various transcendence practices, including meditation, psychonautics, and psychedelic psychotherapy. Peyote has a long history of ritualistic and medicinal use by indigenous Americans. It flowers from March through May, and sometimes as late as September.

Today is a beautiful day for me, the best day I have had for some time.

It was not that I have had any reason to be unhappy, but I was. That in itself was frustrating and enraging for me. I have a wonderful wife who loves me, great children who are all doing well and are in good health, we live in a beautiful place with great neighbors, and lately have been getting plenty of work.

Yet, underneath it all, I have been angry... angry at the unfairness of the world and angry at my inability to do anything about it. I have tried to keep it contained and not let it spill over into other parts of my life, but have begun to fail even at that.

So I hated myself and became mad at myself even more, especially when I would snipe at my wife over insignificant things, or blow up at a customer. I had begun to feel that I was imploding, and was no good to anyone. I have tried to push my wife away, because as I told her, “I seem to be determined to ruin my life and I don´t want to drag you down with me.”

She is so awesome, and she must really really love me, because she stayed. She always felt that I would get over it and be the nice, easy-going person that I was when we met. Now I have always thought that the world, and the US especially, would be a better place if people would allow themselves to be angry.

We are conditioned to believe that anger is a bad thing, which I feel makes us sitting ducks for the predators among us. I have cherished and nurtured my anger, and every time I read the news it adds fuel to the fire.

I have realized lately however, that I was paying a real price for my anger. I found that I no longer had control of it, and it was consuming me. I felt like someone who gets a guard dog that turns on them. Yet my anger seemed justified and not to be angry seemed impossible and even sociopathic.

How could I just “get over it” when the reasons for my anger were still there and thriving? How could I just choose not to care? I have been drinking much more than ever in my life, finding peace only when I had a good buzz on. I would wake up, start my coffee and smoke pot while it was brewing, just to calm down... first thing in the morning.

Sometimes by 10 AM, I would be making my first beer run of the day... one of many. But the synthetic numbness and self acceptance that alcohol and pot provided was fleeting and I seemed to require more and more to get the same effect. In short, I have felt like I was at the end of my rope, that I would eventually drive everyone away from me, and most likely end up a bitter, lonely, self-destructive drunk. I hated the idea but was feeling that I could do nothing about it.

Beaded peyote pattern, Huichol Indian Prayer Bowl (detail)

Here in Nayarit, Mexico there is a large population of Huichol Indians. Their religion centers around peyote, and the enlightenment that it offers. A Huichol told me that they use peyote when they find themselves at a crossroads in their life and need direction. I mentioned that I felt that I was at that place, and wished that I could get direction (other than down).

The day before yesterday, two Huichols knocked on my door. They said that they had heard that I was looking for peyote, and they had some to sell. I bought four “buttons” for about $15 US. Yesterday my wife and I cleaned them and put them in the blender with orange juice and drank the mixture. I knew to expect a bit of nausea and we both threw up before the effects started to kick in.

The physical effect was a potporri mixture of restlessness, euphoria, amplified senses and lethargy. But the most incredible and the most intense effect for me was the ability to see myself without the biased lens of ego. It was NOT pleasant. I could see how self-absorbed I have been, how petty and judgmental and self righteous I have been. I was able to see my life as if for the first time, and while it was not flattering, I saw solutions.

Things that I had refused to see suddenly presented themselves to me in Technicolor... like my drinking, and the cycle of denial and self medication that I had embraced, never considering that maybe my “cure” was the illness. I felt utterly humbled and grateful for the patience and love that Glenda has had for me... even when I know at times I have been an unpleasant person to be around.

Breaking free of cult programming by Svali - CovenantWarriors Website

I saw the self destructive part of me, and realized that I was not powerless to change direction. Even now as I write this, I have tears streaming down my face (I am at an internet cafe, and probably am drawing a bit of attention, but I dont care). I feel free. Free from my anger, free from my self-hate, free from my hopelessness. I feel a peace that I forgot I could have.

I am not drinking today, and maybe I will never drink again. I do not feel like I need to. I do not feel the need to get more peyote, but wouldn't mind having some on hand.

Those who are thinking that I simply traded one substance abuse for another do not understand the transformation that I feel. I do not want to take any more peyote, and wont unless once again I feel that it is necessary. To me, like the Huichols, it is sacred. I am grateful. I have been to the crossroads and spent too much time there.

Now I am on my way forward, without the weight of indecision, guilt, anger, self destructiveness and despair.

I still am frustrated by the injustice in the world, but know that with a clear mind, I stand a chance of making a difference. I am thankful for so much, and thankful for the cactus in the crossroads.

Vic Pittman is a freelance writer from Scotts Mills, Oregon who resides in Mexico today. He is the holder of no literary awards, journalistic awards or college degrees. He has at one time or another been a honor student, inmate, biker, Christian, pothead, father, radical, pacifist, anarchist, artist, heavy metal guitarist, model citizen, lawbreaker, business owner, illegal marijuana grower, and volunteer for various causes. He is proud to be a "common man" and be among those striving to make this world a better place if at all possible. He was fortunate enough to have been raised by awesome parents who instilled what he feels to be essential values and encouraged him to feel a kinship with not just family or Oregonians or Americans or whites, but every person on Earth, and to act accordingly. He and his wife Glenda currently live in Nayarit Mexico.

You can write to Vic at this address:

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