Ayahuasca Forum: Ethical and Safety Reflections by the Global Community

April 18th, 2013. 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM

Moderated by Rak Razam, Sitaramaya, and Steve Beyer

This session is a group discussion aimed to unite the people that drink ayahuasca, and address some urgent issues that are surfacing in the global community.

A generation ago the first wave of Western seekers traveled to South America to encounter the sacred medicine ayahuasca. What we are living through now is a generational shift, a 'second wave' of ayahuasca coming out of the jungle and into the public domain, where the meme is spreading, often without safe context. As the West consumes ayahuasca in a myriad of ways, there is also a danger that the vine itself will be commodified and made profane. Ayahuasca tourism encourages a business of shamanism that can change the nature of the experience, both for the shamans and their clientele. And as the global ayahuasca community reaches critical mass, there is also the potential for unregulated fallout. How can we understand the rise in number of reports related to deaths in the context of ayahuasca sessions and lodges in South America – as with the recent tragedy at Shimbre – and elsewhere? How can we deal with inappropriate sexual behavior by shamans or padrinhos? What are effective means of informal and cultural forms of control in the context of contemporary ayahuasca drinking communities/circles? Is it possible to create a universal code of ethics for the use of ayahuasca? Can gringos (foreigners) actually become shamans? How can we balance the idea of “tradition,” “authenticity” and expansion? What are the advantages and disadvantages of staying underground or trying to battle for religious accommodation? How can we, as members of the global ayahuasca community, facilitate an understanding about how to best manage ayahuasca use by the West? Join us in this special forum to have your voice heard, and contribute to this vital discussion.

Rak Razam is an author, prolific media maker and networker. He wrote the book Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey and the companion volume of interviews, The Ayahuasca Sessions. He is a frequent lecturer on ayahuasca and the shamanic revival sweeping the West, and is the co-director with Tim Parish for the forthcoming Aya: Awakenings documentary. He was also interviewed and appears in the CBS (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s) 2007 audio documentary In Search of the Divine Vegetal talking about his ayahuaca experiences. His video interviews for website Reality Sandwich, New MAPS of Hyperspace, feature Sasha Shulgin, Alex Grey, Stan Grof, Rick Doblin, Ralph Metzner, Mountain Girl, and more luminaries. His popular podcast show In a Perfect World has featured Dennis McKenna, Mitch Schultz (DMT: The Spirit Molecule), Stephan Beyer (Singing to the Plants), Darpan, James Oroc (Tryptamine Palace) and dozens more. For more information, see: http://rakrazam.com

Sitaramaya is a mitigation expert based in Los Angeles working in the legal system on behalf of defendants facing capital charges and inmates on death row across the United States. She created the Capital Case Project, an organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional liberties of people facing the death penalty. Sita has been involved in Peruvian Amazonian traditions for over fifteen years, and has founded several organizations. PlantTeachers stewards groups to the Amazon; Light of the Vine, conserves land in Varillal, Peru. Sita is also the founder of Conscious Path Creation and Quantum Path Creation, where she uses her western life coaching skills in conjunction with training with indigenous teachers to help people develop spiritual practices and integrate them into everyday life. In 2009, Sita organized the first major show of Pablo Amaringo’s visionary art in Venice, California. She has presented in the last years in numerous venues such Ayahuasca Monologues, Evolver Intensives series, Plant Spirit Shamanism, among others.

Stephan V. Beyer, Ph.D., J.D., has doctoral degrees in both religious studies and psychology, and has taught as an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, the University of California - Berkeley, and Graduate Theological Union. Expert in both jungle survival and plant hallucinogens, he lived for a year and a half in a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, and has undertaken and helped to lead numerous four-day and four-night solo vision fasts in the desert wildernesses of New Mexico. He has studied the use of sacred and medicinal plants with traditional North America herbalists, in ceremonies of the Native American Church, in Peruvian mesa rituals, and with mestizo shamans in the Upper Amazon, where he received coronación by banco ayahuasquero don Roberto Acho Jurama. Steve’s current interests center on the indigenous ceremonial use of the sacred plants. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Shamanic Practice, and currently serves on the advisory board of the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service. He is the author, among other books, of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon. The Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions at the Smithsonian Institution has praised his “unparalleled knowledge of sacred plants.”

A recent death at an ayahuasca retreat center, and reports of sexual misconduct by shamans at others, have raised increasingly urgent questions about the commodification of ayahuasca, spiritual tourism, and ways to balance risk and safety for people drinking ayahuasca in ceremonial and other contexts. Please join us in this special open community-wide forum to discuss both the intercultural dynamics of ayahuasca use and practical approaches to personal and organizational safety and the management of the physical and psychological risks of drinking ayahuasca, especially in relatively remote settings.