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After much research, I decided to work with a group called SpiritQuest, based in Iquitos, Peru. As one of the oldest organized providers of authentic Ayahuasca experience, but not as publicized as others, I found this venue to be everything I was looking for and none of what I was fearful of. Howard Lawler is an American/Peruvian shaman who has built an excellent retreat just north of the city of Iquitos along the Rio Momón. His circle includes a master mestizo shaman, don Rober Jurama, who, along with Howard, led the ceremonies I will describe below. Howard is himself an accomplished shaman, working to revitalize other ancient plant-based shamanic traditions of South America, notably that of the Chavin culture.


Don Rober is a banco Ayahuascero – a lifetime accomplished master of the brew from the Lamista tradition. He has been working with Ayahuasca since he was a boy of eight and he brought authentic care and knowledge to the ceremonies I took part in. My hosts for this immense journey were to prove impeccable in their set and setting, their knowledge, their love and compassion, and their guidance for this adventure of the soul.

Part of the wonder and power of working with Ayahuasca here is the environment itself. This is the Upper Amazon – “La Selva” or the Forest, the locals name it. The lungs of the world. I had seen photos and read stories all my life about the Amazon, but nothing short of seeing it in person could have given me the immense scale of this place. Flying some 400 miles beyond the Andes over endless seascapes of green canopy to get to Iquitos (only reachable by air or boat), I marveled as I realized this was only a small portion of the great jungle that stretches yet another 1,700 miles eastward to the Atlantic. It is simply the largest concentration of life on the planet.

This has a bearing in the shamanic work with Ayahuasca, as there seems to be an empowering of the work one does when you are literally surrounded by thousands of miles of living matter, a potent part of which you just took into your own body. This is the home of the Ayahuasca vine, and her spirit is strong in this place.


My thanks to Howard Lawler for permission to use portions of this photo.


from my trip journal:

“After arriving in Iquitos, I was picked up for the journey to the SpiritQuest lodge to begin my work with Ayahuasca. After a noisy ride in a motorcycle “rickshaw” taxi through the busy streets of the jungle city here in the heart of the Amazon, we arrived at the dock and boarded a small motor launch for the rest of the trip up the river. We went up the Rio Nanay a bit, then turned up the Rio Momón and passed other boats and some barges made of tied logs, docking at the retreat a few miles upriver.

Howard Lawler is our guide, teacher, translator, and facilitator for the “SpiritQuest – Listening to the Plants” spiritual retreat. Originally from the U.S. and now Peruvian, he conducts shamanic retreats with the support of his wife, Reyna, his two children, and a great staff who cook, serve, act as boat captains, and are aides during the Ayahuasca ceremonies. He turned to me as I came in and said, "Hi, I'm Howard, and I have a monkey on my back." Indeed, he did! This was Rufus, the lodge's pet monkey, who's always mooching or grabbing food and plopping from one lap to another, or crawling on our backs or shoulders. Howard introduced me to the rest of the group of about 15 participants as we were all eating a breakfast snack of fresh jungle fruits and juices – a very good start to our Ayahuasca diet.”


Note: The lodge in these photos is no longer in use. SpiritQuest has built a new, dedicated ceremonial center lodge upriver that offers improved amenities for participants, including a dedicated ceremonial molluca and a spirit plant garden designed to propogate and protect the sacred plants. See my blog for photos once I return in July, 2013. - DC



Once mysterious and unknown to Westerners in general, today there are many descriptions of the Ayahuasca brew available. A brief orientation to this powerful medicine is appropriate here, as it is important to understand the nature of this brew as it exists here in this world before we invoke its powers to take us into other worlds.

We have called Ayahuasca a psychoactive plant medicine and asserted that it is not a drug of abuse. In fact, like all other entheogens, it is not addictive. It is not physically dangerous when used properly, basing that use on the vast and ancient experience of the shamanic societies that use it every day and heeding some basic information about diet and possible reactions to other medications (just as we do with all our Western allopathic medicines).

Ayahuasca is decidedly not a recreational substance. It is notoriously difficult and unpleasant to work with. It is very demanding and is not predictable in its effects from one person to another, or from one session to another for the same person, a characteristic that sets it apart from "recreational drugs" that are desired for their nominally predictable effects.

Ayahuasca is a very potent Spiritual Teacher Plant. Its effects are profound and mysterious, but are becoming more known and better documented in our times. It is used primarily in a healing modality for both physical and psychological and spiritual illnesses or disorders. It is very effective at treating and preventing addictions to drugs and alcohol and is being used in a therapeutic manner in many places for just this purpose. The results have been excellent, far surpassing traditional treatment methods.

Along with its many medicinal qualities, however, Ayahuasca is the quintessential vision-producing plant. There are many terms used to describe "vision-producing," including "psychedelic" and "hallucination." These terms are almost all problematic due to their incorrectness, incompleteness, and the bias caused by the unfortunate cultural attachments we have to them based on the way such things were presented and abused in the 1960's. "Hallucination," in particular, implies that the visions one sees are fictions created by the brain and are therefore decidedly not real. Whether the visions are real or not is a crucial ontological question, but for most people, this term prejudges in the negative. In my writings, I will simply say "visions" and leave the judging out of the terminology.


continued . . .



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NOTE: You are viewing my older dedicated website that contains static information. I have updated the content in 2012 to conform with my 5-part essay presentation on my blog (see below). This site remains active because it is linked to SpiritQuest's website and other links have been established that I wish to maintain.

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I journeyed again to the Amazon in June of 2013, and have journaled and presented new information about my experiences. Please join me at the blog for much more on this important and fascinating subject.

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