Along with the surge in Ayahuasca tourism that South America has seen over the past decade has come a lot of western glitter, pomp and circumstance, cultural hybridization, and both financial and sexual opportunism. To avoid as much of this influence as possible, I sought something simple and humble, rooted in indigenous ceremonial practice. Once I began to seriously search for centers, I found that not only did such a place exist, but that it was also lead by women and endorsed by Dennis McKenna. That place is Parign Hak, or “Grandma’s Home,” in the native Harakbut language. The combination of these factors gave me the confidence and courage to take a leap of faith I had been contemplating for the last ten years of my life.
Over the course of her 24 years in Peru, the organization’s co-founder, Jessica, has taken great care to cultivate mutually beneficial and culturally respectful relationships with a number of indigenous community members and their leaders. This opens up a rare and beautiful pathway to participate in an uncorrupted and increasingly rare form of Amazonian medicine. Those who come to Parign Hak bringing trust, commitment, discipline and respect are treated to an experience which consists of so much more than just imbibing. Participants are introduced to the art, dance, language, food, mythology and biodiversity of a people who have over millennia been the pulmonologists, so to speak, of the lungs of the planet. In this area of Peru, that includes the Harakbut and Matsiguenka peoples. Their own history and struggle, from the spiritual to the geopolitical, are also given a most important platform. In this way, the container and context in which Ayahuasca medicine is practiced is given as much emphasis and attention as the brew itself, and I found this to be of great personal value. Indeed, each proved to be an integral part of a larger whole.
Jessica’s skill as an ayahuasquera is not something I can speak to with great authority, because my experience with shamans and shamanism is slim to none. I *have* seen dozens of “regular” doctors of all different types. If we can consider them all, shamans and doctors, to live under the single banner of healthcare practitioners, then Jessica ranks near, if not at, the very top of the list of any human being in whose care I’ve ever been placed or placed myself. She helped usher in and guide me through the single most powerful and transformative psychedelic experience of my life. Her care and insight continued in the days and ceremonies following that night, and in the weeks and months following my return to my home country.
The mirror which Parign Hak helped to raise and hold in front of me in ceremony, and window it opened before me into the world this medicine occupies, has provided me with an increase in perspective which is beyond the scope of this review. Contrary to some of the rather fantastic accounts online and in the popular press, this is really only the beginning. Now comes what may actually be the hardest part of the process; the “homework” of integrating these newly gained insights into my daily life. I’m confident in my ability to move forward with what this extraordinary place has given me, has helped me to give myself, and I am eager to return someday soon.