My experience with Tepezcohuite
Written starting: 2021-02-06 00:46
There was a popping sound as the glass pill cracked and a large curved shard fell. The viscous red, yellow, and orange blood flowed out over the broken pieces and began to fold and mix and spin within itself. At once, I was both worried the glass might hurt me while also knowing I was the glass. This could not be undone. I am destroyed. I am undone. That was my life. The glass was broken and could not be repaired.
Her voice, as imperfect as the same cracked glass, permeated as a warm iron taste. Did the music create the current and flow, or was it the flow that created the music? The break was the big bang. Not as a metaphor, but literally. Destruction is the beginning, and time-space is the music and the inter-flowing of existence. Reality is the mess, or at least is part of it. Everything was indistinguishable. “Todo es amor”, she sang. As she sang it again, again popped the glass in a way that could never be undone or redone. Annihilation is a consequence of existence. A beginning can only exist with an ending.
Flow is creation. It is chaos. It is life. As a word, love, amor, is too simple to capture it all, however when wielded as a tool to create, love can and does contain it all. The complete duration of the universe, from big bang, to the cessation of time all happens in the span of those words being sung by the most beautiful voice.
A month later, sitting in front of my keyboard, my rational mind gets easily stuck on trivialities. If I’ve seen it all, is the end a heat death from infinite expansion, or is it contraction. Because if the universe does not contract to start over, then how could it possibly loop? How could it happen again and again? I’m also still able to touch the response to that. Everything that always is, always is. The apparent flow of time is simply how I have chosen to experience this extraordinarily limited and exquisitely complete portion. This experience is exactly enough, and it can be so misleading to those of us with an overinflated sense of reason and logic. Only by hiding the rest from myself can I truly experience what I have chosen to experience.
Again, my ego pushes a question, “can I truly be entertained at the magic show if I know how the trick works?”. Of course I can, especially when the magic is that of existence in its most boiled down state. But knowledge is so far removed from experience, that these words are not likely to bring terror or joy to anyone reading them who has not shared the experience.
In seventh grade, on my first date with Sue Cole. We held hands for a few moments and my palm was soaked. My mind raced with insecurity and embarrassment. I had no idea if the sweat was from her hand or mine. I didn’t know if I should say anything or just ignore it. Even the most detailed or poetic words describing that situation couldn’t come close to the actual experience. I equally fail to describe the simplest experience of presence in meditation.
I have no word that fits to describe the repetition of everything. A circle is the simplest representation of the concept of a cycle, but it is not iteration. Maybe because it’s in Spanish, the word isn’t so fixed for me, but “todo” is now the closest to authentic. How do I describe a concept that is outside the bounds of time? How do I describe an “everything” that has been laid down like the grooves of a record, that will always exist in play at every moment? It carries a strong duality of being both free will and determinism.
When I read what I have written, half of it seems ridiculously obvious, but again, these words are the best I can do to share any value of my experience. In the repetition of “todo”, each time was completely different. Each time was exactly the same. Her words were a guide, a celebration, and a force.
Some of the How and Why?
It was Friday, February 5, 2021. I had traveled to Tulum, Mexico for a number of reasons, not all of which are clear to me yet. I felt a lack of motivation or direction with my work, with my love life, with how I was cultivating my relationship with Aurora and Joaquin, and probably with a lack of satisfaction with the direction of my life in general. What was I doing and why? I thought if I could find a partner, someone like Sam, but who would be a long-term lover, maybe that’s all I wanted. I thought maybe if I could try polyamory, that could work and I would find what I’m looking for. But I didn’t have to dig very deep to see that those were all simply distractions. I think. But distractions from what?
I was losing sleep again and it was intensifying my emotions. On one hand, emotions are amazing, and I am so grateful to have access to them, especially with the help of estrogen. On the other, they can really cloud my thinking and judgement. The tricky part is, judgement for what? I am well aware that this life is not a video game. There is no high score. There is no grade. Money, power, even friends and connections; I can see very clearly (most of the time) that none of these are really important. But I strongly feel the desire to be here for Aurora and Joaquin.
I thought about Covid and the pandemic. I don’t want to fuck up and be the statistic. That one person who everyone knows who was young and fit and who got it and died. On the other hand, my mental state was deteriorating and I could feel it. Sam had talked about her experience with tepezcohuite and sounded promising. I also knew I needed her to be there with me. She had been my muse, my guide, my companion and best friend sharing the period of my life with exponential growth. I feel so strong when I’m with her. Maybe it’s superstition. Maybe it’s unrequited love. It seemed unlikely I would have or take this opportunity again. I had struggled to feel alive for so long before I met her. Then with our breakup and the pandemic, my body was so willing to go back into the same pattern. I had always been able to generate amazing excuses for not living. There was a confusing irony to this one though, in that I could literally die from the virus.
I had been pretty nervous the night of Thursday the 4th, thinking about the rapé ceremony. It was part of the experience and it would happen before the tepezcohuite for cleansing. I thought, if there’s a best way to transmit an airborne virus to someone, it would be to blow tobacco into their nostrils. Then I thought about the ways I could talk my way out of it, and in the end, I decided that I would simply say “no”, that I am not doing that. I am in control. I don’t need to be the nice guy. This is my experience and my life. It really is that easy. Saying no is something I’ve been working a lot on and this would be my chance to exercise that. My plan had become very clear and simple and I fell asleep.
The cab ride out took a while from the hotel. We had negotiated the price up front. Taxis in Tulum felt like extortion and I didn’t want to bring that kind of energy into the experience. The way to recognize the place to turn off of the main road was literally a hand-painted white sign, about 2 feet high and 2 feet wide in the center meridian.
Sam and I had shared a number of psychedelic experiences over the past few years. While some were recreational, she and I almost always entered with an exploratory intent. The goal was always to learn more about ourselves and grow. Over time, I had started to notice a progression. It almost didn’t matter how I got there, the destination or message was always the same. Almost everything I think of as real and important in my default state is completely baseless to the point of being completely absurd. Everything, including the notions of money, fame, power, religion, and even clothing were just ideas that caught on and became popular. None of these has intrinsic value and we are all literally filling our lives and minds with these ideas that someone else had come up with and thought was important. Constantly. And so many of them seem to aid us in discomfort and unhappiness. We fill our minds with these ridiculous ideas and then give them such weight and power. There is a wonderful Alan Watts quote, in which he says that our culture fetishizes time. The importance of time is only one of the countless number of religions to which we all subscribe.
Up until this point, the most powerful experience I had was a mushroom trip at Burning Man, at the end of which, I burst into tears of happiness. I had zoomed out to the scale of the universe and then I zoomed back in to my life, and specifically to this point in time. When I got closer, I saw that there were so many things that I still love available to me, from the planet, to life on the planet, to this day and age. Then I saw that I was still alive and that my parents and children were still alive, and that I was at a celebration of life and of play at Burning Man. I saw that I was in love and that I had expressed my love in the best way possible. Even though Sam and I had broken up by then, I knew that I would maintain my love for her and continue to have her as a best friend. I immediately told Sam that I love her and I sent a text to my parents as well. They were still here and I could communicate with them. I love them so much! I made a point to call them immediately, when I got cell service, and tell them. By now, I also had enough experience to know to not harp on it or make it seem strange or uncomfortable for them. I kept it simple. I know they were happy to hear it.
Rex and the rapé (the end of the beginning)
The taxi pulled off the road onto a little dirt road and Sam said to stop at an overgrown gate to a little compound. We unloaded our luggage and wheeled it in over the dirt and rocks. A small and toughened looking dark-skinned woman met us and led us in. Sam asked about Rex, and then out came Rex. He was about my height and had long hair and a fairly thinned and receding hairline. He was very tan and wearing a simple cloth tied around his waist. He had a large tattoo over his left pec and shoulder. When he started talking, it was immediately apparent that Rex was not neurotypical. He called that out himself almost immediately, stating that his IQ was 168 and that he was autistic. Rex was a fast talker and repeated himself a fair amount. Like some of my mentors and teachers, he seemed to repeat the parts he thought were the most important. He talked about details that I would experience. He mentioned how to sit and that I should try to take as much medicine as possible. He said that the other shaman doesn’t speak much English, so he wanted to make sure to tell us everything we would need to know.
Rex also told me about rapé and how uncomfortable it was and how he had hated it when he first tried it. He said he never would have dreamt that he would become a rapé shaman. Rex wanted me to know that whatever I did, he would do 5 or 6 times that and so would his wife, and that they would be doing so and enduring that discomfort for me and my experience. Their goal was to clear me as much as possible for the tepezcohuite. In his words, he wanted to take at least one layer off.
Sam and I sat at a picnic bench under a tree with an extraordinarily low branch in front of a new looking above ground pool that the kids were playing around. There were 4 or 5 kids under the age of 12 that seemed almost completely oblivious to us. Rex was a chaingun of information about himself, about his experiences, and about his opinions. Rex was originally from Austin and had lived in Mexico for 23 years. Rex’s intent to share and connect was frenetic. Somehow, this helped me to reflect, slow my inner pace, and find peace. I was confident that I could absorb everything of value Rex had to share without actively listening to him. Looking back on it, I think that was the only way I would have been able to get any of it.
He said that he would blow the rapé once into each nostril. He said the first nostril would suck and be painful and awkward, which would make me reluctant to do the second, but he stressed the importance of completing both as a purge to cleanse me before the tepezcohuite. He repeated that he would do the rapé at least 4 or 5 times, maybe even more, so I should keep that in mind.
Rex said that if I felt the urge to cry or throw up, I should and that would be good. He said that he probably would both cry and throw up. Again, all to help me.
Rex prepared a circle and his wife cleansed the perimeter with copal smoke pouring out of a small pot swinging on the end of a rope. Then he stood with arms out and his wife methodically moved the smoke around his arms and hands, his chest, his legs, his neck and face. Then he turned and she did his back. Then it was my turn. I tried not to inhale too much of the smoke when she did my face, but there was so much smoke and it was so thick. I didn’t want to start coughing now. I didn’t. I was able to relax again.
Next, we sat across from each other. Rex said that I should be in one of two positions for this ceremony as well as for the following ceremony. I should be on my knees sitting up, or that I can put my arms down into a purge position. If I were to purge, I should pull from the earth and bring it up and through and back down and out through my mouth. He said, after I smoked once or twice in the tepezcohuite ceremony, that I would no longer need to remain in this position, that I could sit to my side comfortably. Since tearing my meniscus a year before, bending my knees deeply, much less kneeling was something I had barely done. I had been working to stretch and breath through the discomfort and have made a lot of progress since, but the position still caused me to break out into a sweat.
Rex said to be sure not to suck in or allow him to blow the rapé into my lungs. He also said not to blow out with my nose either so that I wouldn’t blow it into his lungs. Basically, provide a strong holding pressure.
He did my right nostril first, and it was uncomfortable, but not significantly. Then he said I did a good job and did my left nostril. I didn’t feel the urge to throw up, but it was uncomfortable. I could feel the ash in my nasal passages and in the back of my throat. I made the purging motions like I heard him doing. I could see black stuff coming from his mouth as he made strong retching sounds. I didn’t feel a buzz, but I did feel something like relief. I had been more concerned with this ceremony than I was with the tepezcohuite, and having it behind me was a huge relief. Sam had mentioned repeatedly how horrible it was, and up until I was there, I had been concerned about getting Covid from Rex.
His wife brought me a glass of water. I asked if it was ok for me to inhale the water through my nose to cleanse my nasal passages. When I did that, a black blob of phlegm came out through my mouth and I almost threw up, but I didn’t. I wondered for a moment after if I should have thrown up instead. I tried cleansing again this way, but no longer had the urge to throw up.
Rex stood up and told me I did a good job and that we had definitely taken a layer off. Sam said that she had gotten a picture of me retching some blood while I was purging. I wondered if it was maybe just the color of the rapé mixed with my phlegm, but I wasn’t curious enough to ask. I also no longer had the desire to talk. I felt light and like I was on my way to something important.
The tepezcohuite shamans were a husband and wife team. They, along with their kids, seemed to be the other inhabitants of this small complex. They needed a bit more time to prepare, so Sam and I sat back down on the bench for a bit to wait.