This past July, I was supposed to be in Peru studying and working with an incredible group of shamans and shaman practitioners. As we all know, the global pandemic and the US being told to stay home by the rest of the world changed plans for a lot of people.
But our group leader, Mary Newstrom, PhD, didn’t want us to completely miss out on the spiritual growth and the incredible transformative experience, so she put together a 10-day shamanic jungle dieta.
I thought this was going to be a cake walk because I had just spent 7 days at an ashram in Southern India in February with no phone, internet, tv, or access to the outside world. So, I figured if that went smoothly, this would be easy because I’m still somewhat connected. But I was so very wrong.
What is a Jungle Dieta?
The shamanic dieta is a spiritual exercise that restores the natural balance between body, mind, and spirit through the guidance and intelligence of one or multiple master plants. It is one of the most important rituals and elements within Amazonian shamanism.
We used cacao. We used it everyday in meals, teas, during shamanic journeys and ceremonies.
The dieta also requires us to limit what we are consuming in mind, body, and soul. It consisted of limited whole foods, required the reduction (or elimination if possible) of most foods, alcohol, caffeine, tv, reading, computers, social media, phones, radio, and other stimuli that add toxins and allows us to numb ourselves. We do this to remove toxics and reconnect with our mind, body, soul, and Spirit. We spend most of our time in reflection through journaling, journeying, meditation, and silence.
Each person’s journey is unique and personal to them. But based on our group circles and ceremonies, it was transformative for all.
Adjusting to the Dieta
Adjusting to the dieta was not bad for me. Eliminating electronics for entertainment was easy for me. I don’t drink alcohol and rarely caffeine. But reading is daily nourishment for me, and giving that up for 10 days was rough. I still attended my Human Design and other shamanic studies class, and I continued but reduced the number of readings, energy sessions, and coaching during the 10 days.
This experience was much more connected to day-to-day life than my disconnected spiritual experience in India. But that’s what made it the perfect storm for Spirit to crack me open a little more.
My Existential Crisis on Steroids
I was face-to-face with my emotions about the state of the world given the pandemic, the state of the country given the mass awakening to the civil injustices, the life-threatening health issues facing members of my family, not being able to move forward with our new home, and the delay of my second book. I had no vices or self-medicating options to dull the pain or drown out the frustration, the anxiety, the worry, the fear, or the heartbreak. I could only sit with in and in it.
Raw and undone, I broke open. Again.
By Tuesday morning of week 2 I was questioning the point of it all. Not just this life, but of our eternal existence.
Why do we choose to come to the Earth school, or any school for that matter, to learn these hard lessons and put ourselves through this suffering? What is the end game of it all? If we get to the other side and still have roles to play and things to do, what’s the point? Just to not suffer once we are back on the other side? What kind of sick, twisted game is this that keeps us on an eternal hamster wheel?
I see the world in pain. The planet. Nature. People. My people. Me.
As I connect with people on the other side, and I connect with Spirit, I witness and hold space for some of our loved ones that have transitioned. They ask for forgiveness. Yes, many are happy, healthy, and free on the other side. But others are still tormented by their regrets and lessons not learned from their human life.
As I sat there angry, sad, frustrated. Swimming in my shadow. Spiraling to say the least. I asked out loud, “What’s the point of it all?!”
I heard a gentle, warm response.
“This is the point. To feel the depths of what being human is all about is the point. To experience every moment of the journey as it happen. Not just the end. Not just the beginning. Not just the highs or the lows. But this and every moment as it happens.”
Flashes of all the teachings I’ve learned over the years flooded my head. Experiencing the journey is the point of our existence. To be in it. Not to be stuck in the past or the future. But to be in now and feel the array of emotions that only the human experience can offer.
“Oh. Right. Got it. I hear you loud and clear, Spirit.”
I spent the rest of that day in a state of gratitude and appreciation for all that I have in my life, for all that I’ve learned, for these raw experiences that are helping me become more me.
The remaining days of the dieta left me with an incredible, deep sense of peace and ease in the present moment.
I’ve felt these things before, but not at this depth. It’s like I felt them in my flesh previously, but now I’m feeling them in my bones. Perhaps the next experience will allow me to feel it at the cellular level.
That’s the thing with spiritual awakening. It’s not a one and done like may people believe because that is how it is often talked about. But it’s not. It continues to happen at new levels, dissolving new layers and uncovering different wounds to be healed or healing old wounds from a new perspective.
I think this experience was more transformative and spurred deeper growth because I wasn’t taken out of life as I was at the ashram. Rather, I was thrown into life and stripped of my crutches.
But it was what I needed.
Something about Mary
I found Mary when I had my Minnesota detour this past winter. I wanted to continue my Shamanic studies that I’ve been so passionate about the past 2 years and started researching different programs and practitioners in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. That’s how I found Mary. It is because of the experiences that have been facilitated by Many that I will continue to work with and learn from her.
Mary, who holds a PhD in Psychology, is a dynamic healer that started down her path in 1982 after her Spirit Guide, Zenith, first visited her. Under the guidance of Loui Pieper in 1999, she started studying shamanism. She has been trained as a Shamanic healer, from local teachers, in addition to spending time in Peru, connecting with indigenous shamans. She has experience with plant medicine and dietas in the jungles of Peru. Complementing the Shamanic training, she has received Reiki Master Level 3 attunement along with Laying on Hands training.
Through her own struggles with life-crippling illnesses, including lower back surgery, a neck fusion, and stage 2 breast cancer, she leaned in closer to her faith and the spirit guides around her. Out of those challenges, she gained strength, perseverance, and an understanding of how to accept oneself where they are now.
Interested in Shamanic Studies with Mary?
If you are interested in participating in a Jungle Dieta, May is offering another one in winter 2021. She also offers a year-long Shamanic study program for women called Spirit Flow. It’s available in person or from anywhere in the world with Zoom. Check out Mary’s website and contact her for more information about her transformative Shamanic programs
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