Well, I managed to find an orthopedic surgeon to look at my arm last Friday. He said that yeah, I tore some of the muscle, but since much of it is still intact, it should heal. He told me to keep it iced and elevated and he gave me a prescription for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for some reason. Then he told me to come back in two weeks at which point if the arm didn't look at least somewhat better he'd start me on a course of physical therapy. So, that's something. And though it still looks a bit gnarly and indented, it doesn't really hurt anymore (unless I really poke at it or try to lift a car). I just picked up the prescription for the anti-inflammatory pills from the Duane Reade near work, popped one, and it's making me feel floaty and good. Unexpected bonus. But now a little googling has revealed that possible side effects include stomach bleeding. Woo hoo. Modern medicine is dumb.
In other news, I was feeling a bit bummed out about the whole arm-injury thing and just sort of blah about life in general so I decided on a spur-of-the-moment basis to join a small group of friends and go on an Ayahuasca journey upstate over the weekend.
For those who don't know, Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian shamanic plant-medicine used to heal illnesses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and its reputation as the strongest psychedelic/entheogen in the world is well deserved. The active compound it contains, Dimethyl Tryptamine (DMT), is actually produced in trace amounts in the human body by the pineal gland in the brain, and is supposedly released at certain key moments of your life: the point when your soul "enters" your body as a new human (which, by the way, does not occur at conception), during sex, whenever you get abducted by aliens, when you die, and the first time you eat a bacon cheeseburger.
By itself, DMT cannot be administered orally, as digestion breaks it down into much less interesting molecules. So the ayahuasca preparation also includes a plant that contains harmine/harmaline, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which prevents the breakdown of the DMT which can then pass into your bloodstream intact. When modern scientific "experts" asked native Amazonians how they were able to determine which two specific plants, out of the tens of thousands in their local biota would combine to produce the remarkable end result, they apparently said something like: "the mushrooms told us."
Drinking ayahuasca is unpleasant for most people. But most people are wimps. I am not a wimp. I don't mind bitter sour horrible gook. Until I'm puking up buckets of it.
And that's one of the main things you have to know about ayahuasca: it is a strong purgative. It reaches into every fiber of your being, down to the level of your very soul, grabs onto the impurities and forces you to expel them through either the beginning of your digestive tract or the end of it. On top of that, it renders you shakey and dizzy and barely able to speak or stand, much less walk.
It is not a party drug.
All your senses are sharpened, but you spend most of the typically 6 to 8 hour trip just lying motionless until struggling to crawl a few feet in the grass to hurl. I gotta say, the ayahuasca may be nasty to drink, but it's even less pleasant coming back up violently while your sense of taste is elevated. As for the occasional need to shit, well... the closer the toilet the better. Some people even do these "rituals" wearing Depends undergarments.
Of course, most of the time you're lying motionless, you're having a pretty intense mental/spiritual experience, and supposedly, the more you let go and just let the brew clean you out, the more amazing the visionary experience can be, as the plant intelligence gets to work with you on higher and higher levels of being.
The whole thing seems pretty geared toward crushing your ego. It automatically reduces you to the level of a newborn baby, puking and pooping and unable (or barely able) to walk or talk, which is obviously humbling and comically frustrating for the typical thinking adult, but the rewards can be as intense as the ordeal is difficult. And I can say that this was completely true for me personally. Modern medicine: feel good now, feel crappy later. Shamanic medicine: feel crappy now, feel good later.
The most interesting part of my experience was the impression of being "scanned" -- having some kind of energetic intelligence systematically examine and evaluate every part of my personal, um, energy matrix. Maybe that's how it knew what I should puke up later. Hah.
I was also involved in a friendly dialogue which gave me little bits of advice here and there. Nothing too earth-shattering, but definitely helpful. I was hoping to really zone out at some point and go into a completely other dimension (a fairly common ayahuasca experience) maybe meet the bio-mechanical elves who would dance their little dance and then take me to meet the all-knowing Turnip King, but there were external factors that prevented this.
You see, given the fairly harsh nature of the experience, it is traditional to do it in a very controlled, very serene nurturing setting. You do it after nightfall, under the stars in the jungle surrounded by nature and warmth and quiet, with supportive expert guides to help you in a pinch.
We, however, went to... Camp D.
[Explanation of the Camp D. experience coming soon.]