Weaving Worlds: Indigenous Traditions & Western Psychotherapy
(Ismail) Hi everyone. I’m so happy to welcome
everyone who decides to join this conversation
with myself and my two incredible guests here today.
My name is Ismail Lourido Ali.
I work as policy and advocacy counsel
for the Multidisciplinary Association
for Psychedelic Studies, also known as MAPS,
where I primarily work in the intersection of
legal, healthcare, culture, access,
essentially trying to figure out ways
that psychedelic substances,
entheogenic practices and medicine can be
integrated into society in a way that’s
responsible, that’s mindful, that’s respectful,
that’s in alignment and in reciprocity and
in integrity with both the ancient traditions
that many of these practices have emerged from,
as well as the new momentum of
what's been happening in the last few years.
So I feel very honored to be joined here by
Eugenia Casimiro and also Francoise Bourzat,
who are going to be speaking with me today,
mostly in Spanish, about a number of different
topics that kind of fall at the intersection
of hybridizing and weaving worlds, weaving
different traditions, both ancient and new,
and creating new dynamics out of those.
So we're really happy to have you,
and we're going to jump right in.
To start, I gave a bit of an introduction,
why we are here, what we are doing.
I think to start it would be great
if you could both introduce yourselves,
share your stories, your origins,
whatever you want to share, so that we can
understand what kind of
conversation we will have here.
If you want to start, Eugenia, you can share your name,
where you're from, and those kinds of details.
(Eugenia) Well, good day everyone.
I am Eugenia Pineda Casimiro, and I come from
Huautla de Jiménez in the Mexican state of Oaxaca
I am an indigenous Mazatec woman with the
responsibility for the tradition of the
niños santos (sacred mushrooms),
which is our sacred medicine.
We are going to speak about — or rather,
I’d like to share about respect, and
a bit on the origins of how we manage things
in regards to sacred plants.
That’s a little bit on what I will speak
(Ismail) Thank you.
(Francoise) I am Francoise Bourzat.
I am a French-born somatic therapist.
I have been involved in expanding consciousness
through various technologies, especially the
use of sacred medicine, especially the sacred
mushrooms, for the last 30 years.
I’ve been teaching my way, my approach,
through classes and lectures and through my
recently published book “Consciousness Medicine,”
and I’m interested in training facilitators
and guides in this method, weaving a Western
approach of psychotherapy with
indigenous practices and the roots of this work.
(Ismail) And how do you know each other?
How did you two meet?
(Francoise) I was lucky enough to travel to
Mexico in 1998, I think, and I was introduced
to Eugenia’s mother at the time, Julieta
Casimiro Estrada, who was a wonderful master,
a healer, in the art of the
sacred mushroom ceremonies.
And I worked with her for over 20 years and
she passed away a year and a half ago, and
through the last, I would say, over 10 years,
I have been collaborating with Eugenia and
her mother, and now with Eugenia, continuing
my relationship, friendship, and sort of
family relationship with her family in Huautla.
(Ismail) I would like to start with a topic
you mentioned earlier: tradition and responsibility.
I think this is a very important topic because
we have a culture here where you can buy
whatever you want.
If you have the money, you can find it.
But we know that one of the aspects of this
tradition is that it’s something that gets
passed down from generation to generation, in a more
organic fashion, related to one's family and culture.
So I’d like to know if you could speak a
bit about how you think about this process
of passing down these traditions, how you
manage it, and how you understand your tradition,
and most importantly, what it means to you.
(Eugenia) Well, for me to be here in this place
sharing with you, responsibly and with
the necessary gravity, touching on the topic of
sacred plants is...complex, because
societies don’t understand how they are.
The intention has become very distorted.
And we have...separated from the elements, from
Mother Nature, the things that give us life.
We have put it to the side because we have
become materialists....and well, that’s another topic.
Anyway, I had the fortune — it wasn’t a
coincidence — of being a descendent of Mazatecs.
I am grateful to my mother, the healer
Julieta Casimiro, a person who is
no longer physically here, but spiritually
she is with us because I believe in it.
(Ismail) Of course.
(Eugenia) It was a long journey for me to be able to
relate to people outside of my tradition,
with visitors, tourists, people who were looking
for something they needed — whether it was
a need for physical health, emotional health,
spiritual health, and those kinds of things.
I was lucky to be able to share with Francoise
and groups that were taking this very seriously,
with a lot of responsibility, as I was saying.
My mother would invite me.
“Come with me to participate."
"You already have a lineage, because of your blood,
everything you have from both your father
and your mother, you have a line, you know?"
"You just have to wake it up.”
After all, perhaps it’s not for everyone.
For those of us who are at this point, we
have the joy of being able to say that it’s a gift.
Some of us are born with a gift,
and others have to find their gifts.
In this case, in my case, I had to
work and study to be able to
sit and talk about my medicine
with the necessary respect.
Going back a bit, my mother would invite me
to do the ceremonies, and at the beginning
I realized suddenly that I had to be accompanying
her, I have to do things, I have to move,
I have to do a lot of activities.
And later on, something woke up in me,
that it was necessary for me to heal myself.
Heal my family,
heal those who came after me.
This intention began like a spark.
I decided to gradually take ownership of it,
and I liked it, and that light stayed in me,
giving me the ability to begin to share with
others, who also had needs like myself.
In that time, I didn’t know if I would
one day really deserve to be in this space.
The years pass, and everything is a process.
And this was my process: my mother left us,
and in the time beforehand, it was all a preparation,
but without much intention, because I hadn’t
thought that there was such a clear separation
between life and death.
(Eugenia) So when she was saying goodbye,
she said “The best gift that I could give you
is this work. Sharing this work with you."
In that moment, I didn’t understand it because
my thoughts, which were human of me, were
saying that my mother was always going to
live and always going to be there, and I didn’t
think about it, because in this work I was
living for others because my work was saying
to me “you have to give, you have to give.”
And in that process when she said goodbye,
she said to me that her best gift was this legacy,
this work, what I had to learn from her,
to learn to respect and to learn to share.
When we say the word “share,” it’s a
powerful and complex word, because
not everyone has the same thinking and understanding.
We all continue to fight each other in this
space with questions like “Who are we?"
"What are we?” and “Why did we come here?”
In that time, when you recognize who you are
as a human being, and what your work is,
you realize...there is no such thing as coincidence.
(Ismail) Ah yes, finally, I know this!
(Eugenia) It’s causation.
Everything has a reason for being in this place.
So, I’m here, I’m sharing with you, thank you.
(Ismail) Of course.
(Eugenia) We have to show people who don’t
understand causation how to get to know what
their part to play is in this life.
On this earth.
Because we don’t know ourselves anymore.
What else is there out there beyond this body,
this container we have?
We have to learn to see the depths of our
hearts and learn to feel.
(Ismail) Question: You said that in this process
of expansion and going deeper to more complex levels,
that you had to heal yourself,
that you had a unique process inside yourself
and that from there, things emerged.
I’d like to understand for each of you
how that process was.
Some people feel a calling, and others have
to study, and later in that process
they start their process of self-healing.
So I’d like to hear your thoughts about
this self-healing process, and for you, individually
or in general, how do you translate your own
healing of your body and your spirit to
being able to share it with others?
(Francoise) I resonate a lot with what Eugenia
just shared, in a different way because
I was not inheriting this tradition from my
mother specifically, but the calling of wanting
to heal oneself, wanting to look inside, and
really face pain or challenges or sometimes
a genuine curiosity towards a larger spiritual
space also, led me certainly towards an exploration
that was turning out to be so meaningful and
so holistic and so multi-dimensional and
so profound that it felt
important for me to share it.
Like you said, once you receive so much, it’s
not about hoarding and owning and having.
It’s about transmuting and being a vehicle
for that healing and that knowledge to be
shared with other people and to be offered
and to help other people.
It’s really, for me it was, and I am sure
it was for her too, this longing or instinctual
human aspect of a sense of solidarity with
the human family and sharing the healing and
the beauty of the healing path that I was
able to receive and being able to have
other people benefit from it and find their own
healing, which I cannot say how it will go,
but knowing the potency and the depth of the
healing and the resourcing into a
spiritual dimension, that was really creating a holistic
context in which my human self could flourish
and could express, in this case, my potential
or my creation of my life, so I felt like
this is really something profound and ancient,
you know, that belongs to — certainly in this case,
a thread to a specific tradition — but
the longing for clarity, and then the longing
to share it with other fellow human beings,
I think was what was really important for me.
(Ismail) So things started with a curiosity about
something greater and more complex and
complicated than a focus on medicine
and your individual experience.
And you searched for something more expansive.
And when you found it, you decided that since
you already had these resources, you said,
(Ismail) “I have to share these things.”
(Ismail) It was like a calling, a process
where you heard something.
But for you, Eugenia, like you said, you
didn’t know when you started to learn.
(Eugenia) No, truly not.
(Ismail) You didn’t start to learn and say
“I’m going to be a healer, I’m going to do
all these things!” — right?
(Eugenia) To be sincere, for me,
when I was younger, I was afraid.
(Ismail) Of course.
Afraid… and conscious that there was this
(Eugenia) To have a real maturity to know
that this was not only a way of earning money.
It sounds really terrible, but for a lot of
people this is an economic option,
a way to make a living.
No, I was scared of what could happen,
what I would learn beyond
the things that I was familiar with.
What did I have to let go of,
what did I have to leave behind,
what sacrifice was I going to
have to make to be able to —
With the passing of time, through the process,
I was able to understand this.
When I was already a mother with a family,
and my needs were beyond living as a
common family, taking the kids to and from school,
it was beyond that, you know?
There was something that told me,
“You have to be in this.”
And I fought it.
“Yes I am, no I’m not...”
When I discovered I was able to say
"I can serve" like a causation,
I had time to think and define whether it was
a yes or a no.
But in that time, I was a bit lost,
but I didn’t see it as lost time, because
if I had decided yes or no, life would bring me
and it made me part of a causation,
like the water drops in the river that take you
along until you arrive at the shore and you say, aha!
After some time, I understood that my role
in this story, or at least this time of my life,
is meant for this.
And I started to really study myself to see
what I could do to serve.
And well, my preparation began.
But I didn’t think I had to prepare in the
style of university studies — no,
my life took me here and everything is causal.
That’s why I say that everything is causation.
And well, they told me: “You can serve.
You are here now for this."
"Share what you have.”
(Francoise) This is interesting because — I’m
going to speak in English — it’s interesting
because there are a lot of people here — maybe
that bridges a bit to a different topic but —
a lot of people here really want to help,
so they become psychologists and they study,
and they are curious about the different lines
of, you know, the theories and the techniques
and different approaches
of helping other people.
And then they find the medicine.
And then they find the medicine and they realize
within themselves the magnitude of the impact
of the medicine, and then they wonder:
“How can I bring this transformation
of myself into service?”
So for her, it was very much because she was
in the matrix of the Mazatec tradition.
It was kind of the air she breathed
and the land she walked on.
And for other people, for me for example,
well I kind of actually got into the medicine
before I went to study, so it was
a little similar in a way.
But a lot of people approached this healing
path from studying and then going to a more
mysterious and mythical dimension.
(Ismail) Would it be fair to say that people
kind of start sometimes in the head,
kind of in the mind, and then drop into a more
(Francoise) That’s right, that’s right.
It’s a different entry point.
It’s a different entry point that is not
more appropriate necessarily,
but it’s more common here.
In the Western industrialized world, you have
science and books and universities and
people enter there, and then they get into
something more complex.
(Ismail) She was saying that here in the West, many
people who are looking to help, support, or relate
to other people start by studying the techniques,
the different modalities,
and the different styles of healing.
And I would say that it seems that
here it is more normal to start by understanding
and diagnosing mental issues and we stay up
here [gestures around head],
in these much more intellectual
spaces and techniques.
And the medicine starts a process where we
move out of the mind, out of the head to enter the
heart and other parts.
Perhaps this is a good time to talk
a bit about the medicine and the process of healing.
I think here many people consider
this medicine to be spiritual,
beyond a purely physical and chemical process.
So I’d like to know for you, what do you
see happening here when the medicine is working?
What is happening here when someone starts
to relate to sacred mushrooms in a ceremony?
Do you have thoughts on what you believe is happening,
or do you even believe that it is something
that one can understand?
Or that one can even describe it?
(Eugenia) I think it depends on the intention.
For me, if you arrive at a place to heal yourself,
it depends on how much credibility you have,
or your disposition or predisposition that
you may have to go to a person
and for that person to provide you
with what you truly want.
For instance, we often go to places,
like a doctor's office or a store, right?
And we like this doctor but not the other,
we like one store but not the other —
with spirituality it’s similar, but it’s not
the same because you have to be connected.
It’s not like something you are going to
touch, see, or smell.
It’s goes way beyond that, and that’s
when your emotions start to flow.
Your sensitivity comes into play.
Also, how you show up with the plant medicine,
how the plant medicine accepts you,
what intention you carry with you.
You can describe it but sometimes
there aren’t words that really express it,
what you're feeling, and how the plant is going
to heal something that you have to heal.
You had said something quite important, or
something that I’m seeing as
very important to say: practical experiences.
(Eugenia) Let’s go back to the earthly part
or the physical part, which stays with you
only when you examine how you can help someone
work through their intense thoughts.
Or like Francoise said, for pathological conditions,
how you help or how you stay there in the moment
— like a sedative, like a pill that just — voila!
— your headache is gone — no.
With plant medicine it goes far beyond that.
You have to go deep, you have to feel,
you have to connect.
But I’m just me, and I can tell it to you, but
you are the one that’s going to verify this for yourself.
Because you’re the one that’s going to
have to go and check things out.
I can tell you a lot of things, I can paint
you a world that I know, or a world that I
can tell you exists or doesn’t exist, but
the person who has to do the checking is you,
for you to know if it’s real, if there’s
something there for you to follow,
whether it’s truly something that you’re living
in that moment,
or what connection you have with these plants.
(Ismail) And for you, what do you think is
happening with this plant connection?
(Francoise) Well, I very much agree with her
in terms of, what’s happening?
Wow, what’s happening here?
It’s very — it’s an infinite list.
It depends on many things.
I agree that it depends very much on the intention
and the come from of the person.
What is the presenting disturbance,
what is the presenting intention.
What is going on in my life that I may want
to explore, investigate, get clarity about,
get healing, release, transform.
So the intention is really important and that
goes into the self observation and self reflection
that happens before a journey, before an experience.
What is the state of consciousness and the
state of personal honesty that one has with
their process that presents — formulates
the intention that is placed on the altar
of the ceremony.
And then of course then what happens in a
ceremony is — you know, the list doesn’t end.
It can be a physical release, it can be a
pain that is being felt, it can be a great
sense of vitality, it can be some emotional
turmoil that is being evoked and faced.
It can be a great sense of grace and ease.
It can be a spiritual opening.
It can be belonging into one's community
and family, forgiving, remembering.
I mean all these different layers of the journey.
It can be very personal, and it can also be very
impersonal and transpersonal, it can be just
becoming energy and being one with the cosmic flow
of things, and it can be going back into the...
I don’t know, matrix of the mushroom knowledge
and intelligence and message and the planet.
It can be very, very different experiences,
but whatever the experience is
is always an answer to the intention.
It always fits the intention, directly or
indirectly, and I think that's an important
part of what a guide or a master can really
offer to the people undertaking these journeys.
(Ismail) That’s a great segue to our next question.
Let’s talk a bit about intentions.
So what happens when a person arrives at a
ceremony or a healer or a doctor, or whoever?
Obviously there is a process that the person
has to start before seeking their healing,
in order to start this process.
But there’s a guide, and if it’s so important
that each person has their individual process,
why have a guide?
What does a guide do?
Where does the guide come in during the ceremony?
And on top of that, what kind of qualities
do you think a guide should have?
What kinds of things do you think are important
— because as you said, it involves sacrifice,
time investment, studies, all those things
that — many people don’t want to do all of that.
But for you, how do you see it?
How do you see this process of preparing
people to do this personal work?
(Eugenia) Well, culturally we have
an agreement with our society,
or with our own culture,
those of us who have a set of traditions.
We have commandments, rules, and sometimes
speaking about our sacred plants is complicated,
because...because you have a voice saying
to you “you can speak” and “you can’t speak,"
“you have permission” and
“you don’t have permission.”
For you to take drugs, someone has to write
you a prescription, even if you know it’s
specifically for a headache, and
you can get the drugs at a pharmacy,
you don't know what reaction you’re going to have to it.
It’s a crude example.
But in the case of sacred plant medicines,
it’s a lot more than that.
When I talk about the responsibility of sacrifice, it’s
“What reaction is this person going to have?”
They don’t know everything that could happen.
They can read books about it or listen to people talk
about it, and they could believe what others report.
“What happened? What took place?”
But like I said, you have to have
your own experience to know, and
the guide is there to talk to you.
Or at some point you need to know something,
or if there’s something confusing,
someone must be there to lift you, to push you,
to give what is needed in that moment of transition.
Guides, like myself, are very important, because
from that moment you start to understand
the respect that you have for
yourself and for society.
For me, a guide is like a father.
You always have to adapt to something else
that is in front of you.
A guide has many facets, many surnames, many
occupations, and a guide is not just a guide.
(Ismail) Of course.
(Eugenia) They are not just — no.
(Eugenia) For me, a guide plays a very crucial role.
(Ismail) Do you have thoughts on the role of the guide or
what you think we should be considering?
(Francoise) Yeah, I have a lot of thoughts about it.
(Francoise) That’s been my passion, my —
(Ismail) You wrote a whole book about it in fact!
(Francoise) A whole book about it!
(Francoise) It’s been my whole job — training or
trying to train, trying to inspire or support the
people who are inspired to share this.
The role of a guide is to create safety, a
physical safety, emotional understanding,
listening to the intention, creating the context.
It's like creating a nest in which the transformation
— it’s like creating a cocoon in which
the transformation happens.
I cannot be the transformation but I can create
the environment in which it takes place and
support it and hopefully facilitate it
in times of confusion or fear.
I can support, I can accompany someone, I
can say, "I'm here with you."
It doesn't mean I'm doing the work for you,
it doesn’t mean I'm going to bypass your pain,
but I'm going to be by your side as a human being,
making people feel accompanied.
That’s the word I like in this work.
I feel the guide has to be experienced in
this in this modality, whatever they offer,
just like in psychotherapy, people to have
had to have psychotherapy for years to be
able to understand what it’s like to be
in that seat, to be in that place of exploration
and investigation, so a guide in this work
has to have a very thorough experience,
to be guided, to feel what it's like to be supported
and to have that intelligence next to them,
and that experience, that wall to lean on
in case of distress.
And the guide ought to be honest, of service,
humble, not overdoing the work of the person journeying
not so much like hands off necessarily,
but really delicate and intuitive in the way
the guide is going to help or not help.
I mean I've been so many times in journeys
in Huautla (de Jiménez) where I was at times
very distressed, and I got a lot of physical
support and actually talk and presence
that was really helpful, and at other times
I was there by myself having to figure it out
and nobody would come to me because
Julieta felt I had to figure it out.
So it's the intuition of the guide and the
read of the energy of the space.
It’s very ethereal.
I mean, sometimes we see something and sometimes
we don't, so it’s a lot of intuitive feeling
and knowing the space intricately.
(Ismail) Right. There’s a point in which you begin to
understand that as part of your own process, there is
a way in which this process articulates itself,
like you said, in the material world,
so to go back to the topic of material things,
I wanted to ask you both about this topic of consumerism,
and specifically how in the tradition
— well, in looking at the search for tradition
in the United States especially —
there is this focus on consuming and
having things. Ownership.
And it’s interesting because sometimes you
meet people who for the first time start their
journey with medicine work, and they have
a lot of emotions and a great deal of enthusiasm,
but sometimes it’s difficult to understand
what one carries from their cultural programming,
like I’m understanding what parts are societal
and what comes from something else,
like something from outside oneself,
something spiritual, or something more authentic.
I think it’s hard sometimes.
I was born here in California in the United
States, and I have ancestors from
different parts of the world, but I was born here.
I constantly feel...pressure from all sides,
and there’s always this recurring theme
of having to consume more and have more, and
this idea that if I don’t have something, it's not real.
It’s kind of challenging to apply these
ideas of ownership to medicine healing and
these traditions, and I wanted to hear your thoughts about this concept of ownership.
How can we learn about a tradition and
share it with others openly and responsibly?
I think it’s something that many people
don’t understand how to do, and they have
a lot of fear because it’s easy to just appropriate.
And we have this issue of colonialism
— and of taking things.
As a society, we’re starting to change
these narratives, but we don’t always know how.
And I don’t expect you to have a comprehensive
answer, but what do you think of all this?
(Francoise) I think — I’m going to say something because
I’m here in the US and I’m also a bit over there —
I think that here in the West, people have
a lot of hunger for the spiritual world,
and now that these medicines have
more presence here, people want it.
They want to understand, they want to commune
with the plant medicines, they want to
more deeply understand themselves with one plant
or another, so they are looking.
They are really looking.
But they act as if they don’t have the time
to understand what happened after an experience,
so after one experience, they are looking for the next,
looking for the next, and the next and so on.
And they don’t give themselves the time to listen
to what it was that happened in an experience.
On the other hand, I saw that
with the Mazatecs in Mexico,
the people there don’t eat sacred mushrooms
every week, or every two weeks.
(Francoise) No! There, they eat mushrooms,
they calm down, they listen, they pray,
they listen to their own process, they give thanks
to the land, they make offerings.
They are doing all the things that
allow the process to move forward.
Here, people don’t have the time!
Here you have people who eat mushrooms, and
two weeks afterwards they do ayahuasca,
and two weeks later they do something else.
(Ismail) They work and they work.
(Francoise) It’s madness. Such a hurry, such a rush.
That’s what I’ve observed here.
You, the Mazatecs, operate in a much
more tranquil, sacred way.
One does a ceremony, which is very sacred, and one
searches for calm and listens deeply, and that’s it.
Here — [makes a noise of commotion]
Isn’t that right?
(Eugenia) Yes, it’s very true what Francoise
is saying here. We as Mazatecs,
well, there are a lot of us who
take the medicine very seriously.
And there are others who want more
and more knowledge, and in that
process of seeking knowledge, they lose themselves.
I think this is much more of a thing in American
culture because there isn’t something that
dictates — that you have to follow,
like rules and regulations.
In our lineage, we have very powerful commandments,
rules that you have to obey and follow,
so as part of those rules, you are asked to study
yourself, go inside, and accept the process
with a lot of patience, as
we have been saying here.
Ismail, you had said something just now
about how you were born here and that
you have this culture and the other.
How do you define yourself? What defines you?
When it defines you,
you say, “I’m going to look further into my past."
"What are my roots? Where do I come from?” So you’re
in your moment and you say, “when, how, and why?”
These are your questions. Now is your time.
You studied, you went to university,
perhaps you’re thinking
that you’re living in a consumerist society
and although you’re part of that process,
you want to change that now.
(Eugenia) And that’s where the secret is. For you,
this moment arrived where you had a need for
this understanding, because you
felt an inner call towards it.
You’re going to speak of something real
with that small seed that appeared,
like when that light showed up for me and said “study.”
And without even wanting it, you arrive at
this point and by some causality
you’re going to continue down
this path that you find yourself on.
And I think that this is your question, people want
understanding but they don’t know about what exactly.
(Ismail) Mmhm. Well that did happen to me.
I started to search for answers when I was 16 or 17.
It was interesting because I was programmed to
be looking for those kinds of experiences,
and after about five or six years, I went to
the desert to take some time outside
— not at a festival, or a party, but with my family
— in fact, I went with my cousin to the desert to enter
into that process of searching, and I discovered that
what I was looking for was inside of me all along.
And that the process of looking is
just to open, to open this —
(Eugenia) To begin.
(Ismail) To begin.
(Eugenia) To begin your learning.
(Ismail) So to begin.
To begin what? Because you go to the ceremony,
you have your experience and you get to know
all these things, and you listen and you are in
that process, but afterwards you leave.
And you had spoken a bit about this, the act of —
beforehand we have to prepare for a ceremony
with an intention, and we know that
during the ceremony we have some resources
like the guide and the medicine and the altar
and so on, but then you get to the point where
you want to understand what happens afterwards,
and not specifically for a ceremony,
but we’re speaking today about weaving the different
aspects of Western traditions and indigenous traditions.
We could start by saying that we have these similarities
and these differences — but we know that
this process of creating a hybrid is more
complex, and there are more levels
to this cultural conversation.
It’s a whole process.
You two met years and years ago. Francoise, you met
Julieta and worked with her for years and years.
Are you finished with your work?
No? We are not finished.
(Francoise) Never. Never!
(Ismail) Exactly! Some people think that there’s —
(Eugenia) The work is infinite, right?
(Ismail) — a point at which you’ve arrived, and finally you
have the capacity to heal everybody. But that’s not true.
(Francoise) Well, I could feel worse about some things
from my youth, or things that happened to me,
traumatic events, yes, but my process —
which is human — always changes.
With age, with life, with children, with friends,
with the situation of the planet.
Basically, everything changes. It’s an evolution, no?
(Ismail) So, what have you learned?
If you could share something that
you’ve learned in this process —
because you have done so many different things.
As you said, guides are not only guides.
They live their lives, with their family, with everything
else. So I wanted to know if you could share
something that you’ve learned.
It could be something personal.
We know that these days there are a lot of people
with a lot of enthusiastic interest in this work.
What is something that you didn’t know when you started?
What do you feel comfortable sharing from your lives?
(Eugenia) What have I learned…
In this job the first thing is — well, it’s work,
not a job, for me it’s my work...
I have learned to manage my emotions.
(Eugenia) And through my emotional work,
I can help others who approach me,
because I have done it for myself.
And we’ve said here how important it is to manage your
emotions, and access forgiveness and humility,
and that you have to know how
to heal through love.
But that begs the question, what love?
Not just love through physical touch.
It’s a love that’s so unconditional that
the word itself is extremely powerful.
How do you learn to understand another’s process?
How do you listen to them? How do you
become more sensitive and aware?
And when you live through that process,
for me, the most important thing for all this work is to
heal through love — the feeling of love.
But not that form of love that we have come to know
that comes with strings attached.
(Ismail) Yes, yes, yes.
(Eugenia) It’s a love with complete surrender,
that you see someone without prejudice,
without labeling them, without destructive criticism.
You have to learn to listen, to hear,
through the heart
to be able to feel it and to be able to become sensitive
to someone else who has a need to heal,
because through their need,
you also experience healing.
This is what I have learned in this work.
For me, love is the most important thing.
(Ismail) Yes, yes. Mm.
(Francoise) Well what did I learn with this?
Or what did I access, I guess?
I feel like I accessed or I learned the human
courage and the human resilience to overcome
great ordeals, suffering, personal suffering,
cultural suffering, transgenerational suffering.
So I really got in touch with human courage,
the capacity to reclaim vitality,
to soothe my pain through
understanding my passion for life.
And I agree a lot with what Eugenia says,
which is what her mother used to say, that
the power of love as a force, as a creative
force of the universe, is really the basis
and the container for my evolution.
And whatever comes in my life might be great
— it can be very challenging — is held
within a larger context of what I consider
my eternal soul, so my human ordeals are tests
or challenges that I have to overcome,
that I work through,
that make me very humbled, very human.
I'm not below or above emotions, you know?
I'm really going through the emotional process
knowing that I'm held in a larger picture.
That this form is just a passage and that
I have a connection with something much larger
that holds me and that what is larger
is the force of love.
That is the power of creation, the transcendence,
the divine, the eternal being, and I feel very —
for me, this is my context of evolution,
so that really appeared for me through this work
and through my realization of both
my humanity and my spiritual self.
(Ismail) So we return to love.
(Ismail) Like always, no? Hm.
Well, both of you have talked about emotions,
feelings, and the emotional process.
I want to hear some more about that.
because earlier we touched on this duality,
and you spoke a bit about emotions,
but before we had been speaking of...
the technicalities and elements of the environment.
I wanted to know what you thought about
how to manage the duality
between the emotional world and...
the matrix, or our physical world,
and what you think we should do with this duality.
In my personal experience,
I also experienced my mother's death
several years ago,
and I loved her very much,
but our relationship was a little difficult
because there was a lot of conflict.
Our...personalities were very similar, but with —
— obviously different life experiences.
Much of my own self healing process in
these recent years since she passed,
along with understanding my family and all that,
was a process of recognizing my emotions and...
giving them space, but not just putting
my emotions away in a box to the side.
I don’t want to separate my mind from my
emotions, because I see it as a process of
bringing things together. Like we’ve been
saying here, making a hybrid of something,
something that incorporates many parts,
when we talk about this process of self healing and
sacred mushrooms and these related traditions,
we aren’t talking about just healing the body, or just
healing the mind. It’s a little bit of everything and
it depends on what you need.
So what do you think of this idea of duality?
How do we engage with this?
I ask for those of us who feel that we’re really
different but also know that there’s some
middle way amid all of this.
(Francoise) I think that — in my understanding
from my work with sacred mushrooms — that
there is no duality.
That your feelings are not just in your mind.
They are in your body and your spirit.
It’s your life, and everything is connected.
It’s not that — well,
there is a spiritual world that is greater than
your emotions that supports you,
but your emotions also — you can’t just put an emotion
in a box in a corner of your mind.
It’s a process that when you face your emotions,
sometimes it’s a process that
debilitates you, that brings you to your knees,
with humility, with suffering.
It can be a heart-centered process, one of suffering,
and I don’t know how to say this exactly, but
It’s a sort of paradox, which is typical of
working with these sacred mushrooms —
(Ismail) My next question is about paradoxes,
so that’s perfect. [laughter]
(Francoise) It’s all connected and separated
at the same time, no?
(Ismail) Yes, of course, exactly.
(Francoise) It’s spiritual, being human.
(Francoise) It's a process of duality, but it’s also
all connected inside of your being.
(Eugenia) I believe that —
(Francoise) What do you believe?
(Eugenia) There is a duality that exists. Why?
Because the energy from your mother
and the energy from your father
have two different root origins; however, they
came together so that you could be here.
How you strive for things, how you work,
how you can understand things
until you’re able to forgive something that may be there,
some feeling is what I can assure you exists.
That you have to work with the part that you’ve lived
with your mother and the part that you’ve lived —
that is, when you get to questioning and examining
yourself internally, you accept those two energies.
When you accept the duality, it becomes one thing,
and that one thing is you.
And when you work through your emotions,
you work with forgiveness, you liberate yourself,
and you understand the process to arrive at
this precise point, to build your credibility,
and who you are, and the authenticity of who you are.
(Ismail) Earlier we were speaking about duality,
the idea of masculine and feminine, and
that different traditions approach
these concepts differently.
Here in the United States, for instance, things are getting
a bit more complex because we are asking questions
like, what is masculine? What is patriarchal?
What is machismo? What is —
We are learning how to be in integrity
with these different aspects
and it’s quite difficult because we have — well, you see it
in Mexico, and you see machismo in my family
in Colombia, which are extremes of the duality.
I understand that they have their own unique
histories, but it’s still difficult to manage.
So what have you each found in — ?
I mean, I also understand that
here in this system, in this society,
the doctors are almost all men.
The idea of healing is that you have a man
that’s a doctor that gives you a pill
and that’s how it is, but I am perceiving
that you two are not men —
— and many of the traditional healers
and the people who are starting to rediscover this
medicine are seeking this more feminine energy.
So how do you see this relationship? What is your view
on this process of expansion and change
while we continue this process of
unfolding and opening and discovery?
(Francoise) I think that the feminine process that is
coming out and showing up more here
is a process of getting to know the Earth and
recognizing the Earth as the ultimate being
that cares for us, that supports us, that provides us with
sacred food, that it’s the ultimate mother, no?
The substance of motherly support is these sacred
plants that the mother grows for us, and it’s
a powerful theme right now for these current times of
American society, which is opening its eyes
to the feminine presence.
(Ismail) And remembering, right?
(Ismail) Remembering for the first time. [laughter]
And I would say that each of us
comes from a place. An indigenous place.
Each of us comes from a land, a village, no?
The older folks, those grandfathers and grandmothers,
come from a place that wasn’t
materialistic like places are now, and so we can
remember where we come from.
And this feminine presence that is appearing
nowadays — I think it’s about remembering,
to not forget that we are of the Earth.
Everyone. Whether they live in New York
or Huautla, it is the same Earth.
That it has been forgotten is one thing, but
these places are of the same Earth.
It is important that people don’t forget this
and that they reconnect.
The appearance of feminine presence is this,
I think, the presence of Mother Earth.
What do you think, Eugenia?
(Eugenia) That's it.
I believe that the feminine presence is
exactly that. That in this time it is
emerging precisely to — in a practical sense
— open up consciousness.
To go back and return to see who one is and
what one’s work is in this space.
And even today we continue to discover things.
I believe that the woman’s presence is important,
and it’s related to everything. The plants,
Mother Rain, Mother Earth, Mother Water.
So we are here in this moment exactly for this
purpose. To try to open up consciousness and to
know what’s important and what isn’t important.
To see what we have given all our time to,
what we have made important, and what is truly
important, what we will have to go back and start over.
These times are like new phases
for opening up consciousness.
(Ismail) Why is it so important now? I think that because
I see — well, as I said before, my mom left Colombia
in 1986 due to the violence there,
and there were drugs and plants,
and when these items encounter the industrial
complex, it’s easy for them to enter as a
category of consumption, and this is difficult.
It’s resulted in a ton of violence
and so much conflict in many parts of the world, but
especially in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and many others,
and I think that for me as a Muslim, and like I said, I’m
from Fresno (California), and after the events of 9/11,
people were viewing Muslims somewhat suspiciously,
and as a child I perceived this dynamic.
How is there so much distance between this
peace and tranquility — what I understand of
my tradition and also what I have found with plant medicine —
How is there so much distance between this
and what we see outside of it?
Years and years of experience,
years and years of oppression.
I know that there are many people here
who discover plant medicine, and along with it
they discover this tranquility inside
themselves and they say,
“Ah! We have a solution. We know what we can do.
If everyone takes the medicine, we will end violence.”
It’s quite a heavy topic, but I think reality is a bit more
complicated than that. I understand that the process of
working with medicine — the process of healing — does
have an impact, and that the impact can be beyond just
the individual who takes it and their family.
I’m not saying that the medicine can end all wars.
I mean, in a way I believe it can,
but it won’t be so easy.
We were also talking about the role of medicine in
working with trauma, addiction, and things that cause
violence, difficulty, and complex
situations between people.
What is the role of medicine in healing and
strengthening communities, then?
What can we examine in addition to conflict? It’s a huge
topic and I don’t think we can cover everything now, but
it’s something I think about a lot, because I see my
friends, people, and doctors all wanting to start to heal
because they see that something real
happens with people that take medicine.
(Eugenia) I can answer you with something
that’s quite short that is also a question.
How much do you believe in the power of words?
(Ismail) Well, my family name is Ali. Ali was the cousin
of the prophet Muhammad. He was a warrior
who had a sword with two…points.
(Ismail) With two points.
Everyone knew him as a fighter.
Surely you’ve heard the saying that
the pen is mightier than the sword.
I decided to become a lawyer and to work with
words because I do believe that they have power.
I believe that words are a bit magical.
(Eugenia) Words are magic.
(Ismail) Words are magic.
I like that phrase, it’s easier and more
direct. So for that reason I always remind myself
that I have to be careful with what I’m saying,
because yes, I believe that there is power
in words and how we speak, yes.
(Eugenia) So I ask you that small question
and want to provide some context,
because you were asking some questions with an
intention, like how do we heal traumas?
How does one know how to go inside oneself? I am not
personally living through the pain another person has,
but I want to understand it.
If I show up with a hug and say
“I love you and I forgive you,”
an intention comes from my heart and goes outwards,
and I am helping. And if with a hug I can share
so that the other person can take that energy,
everything is circular and it’s a — I call it a spiderweb.
(Ismail) Ah, yes, exactly.
(Eugenia) I learned this during a
profound experience in a ritual that I did with my mother
and some others. I learned that we are like a
small spiderweb — sorry, I mean like a small
spider — and we do the work of weaving,
and with each knot that is done,
the web gets larger and larger,
and we take the energy of that first spider,
and you are weaving with your intention, and
when you go — I’m getting back to what I was saying
before — when you choose to forgive emotionally
and you love another person and you pardon them, you
free yourself, but you also help to free the other person,
and it’s not exactly that we have — we would like
everyone to get to know these plants,
that everyone experiences this kind of healing, right?
But not everyone has the opportunity, nor
does everyone have the awareness and
consciousness to be able to arrive at this point.
But for those of us that are here, we can start, sowing
the seed like a small grain of sand with our intentions.
So that’s why I’ve been saying to you,
the power of words is immense,
whether you use that power for good or for the opposite,
but I think that for those of us who are joined together
in this circle, or in this phase — I’m
not sure what to call it right now —
(Eugenia) In order to make change,
I believe that is what we should do to
help others, and that is the intention.
To open consciousnesses for good, to create calm, to
say that we are going to live in peace, enough with war,
and to do that work with oneself.
(Ismail) That we deserve peace.
(Eugenia) Exactly, and everyone, everyone in the world,
because we all have our own wars, some more,
some less, and I think that is today’s intention.
(Eugenia) To open up consciousness.
(Ismail) Wow, I’m about to cry here. Mmhm, truly.
(Eugenia) First we have to find peace inside ourselves.
What creates war within us, and what
causes our emotions to get contaminated. When we
heal ourselves, we have to enter a process of
self-interrogation and questioning, and
when you feel ready, you say “I will share.”
Share by saying “I love you,” acknowledging that love,
and one has to go out to serve others and make a path
and journey, because that intention
that you have must have a lot of power.
And it’s your power to change, and may your evolution
be positive, and let’s erase all of those things from
the past, and let’s look for that intention, which is
the bottom line, and how are we going to heal,
through our intentions and emotions,
through love and forgiveness.
(Francoise) I feel like there's a great level
of suffering in the human family. I mean,
we are survivors of many many wars, you know, and
many conflicts, and much cruelty and slaughter, and
I don't know if it's part of the spiritual conflicts among
the different religions, or not understanding what the
Divine is, or wanting to preach and oppress
one another for the sake of who has the
upper hand on what God is or the Divine is.
There’s been a lot of misunderstanding I think and a lot
of wrong paths taken by people. A lot of men, right?
I mean, this was led by men.
I always say that men had their chance
and it was not a good test.
(Ismail) [laughter] Nice.
(Francoise) They failed the test so let’s take it over,
women! Time for the next phase.
(Ismail) She’s saying that men have already
had their opportunity and now it’s time for women
and let’s see what happens.
(Francoise) "— I'll kill you for that!" So it’s time to change
this mentality, and I think that people —
I think the people on this planet have had a lot of fear,
and have had a lot of pain and fear and trauma
and the accumulation of many generations of horrible
stories, really, and to find peace inside is really what
people are seeking, and it is true that with sacred plants
— I mean we’re talking about mushrooms, but it's true
for a lot of sacred plants — ultimately when we go down
at the eye of the storm, there is a place of stillness.
There's a place that is really calm and really
still and really potentially divine, but
we have to go through all these layers, and that's
the work we're doing when we take medicine.
We kind of go through the many layers of our self,
and then our parents, and then our culture, and then
generations before, and then an entire country or
entire human family, and then eventually, hopefully,
when that happens, and we get
fortunate enough to touch the center,
that’s the peace, that’s the love I’m talking about,
that’s the well being, like a flower, you know.
We are made to grow and be beautiful and be
living together. So the medicine touches that place,
helps us access that place that is so hard to touch,
considering the layers that we have to go through,
and I feel that this is the hopefulness for humanity.
I mean, I’m not saying everybody should take medicine,
but in a way, everybody should take medicine?
I mean, in a good way.
(Ismail) Yeah, I understand.
(Francoise) Of course, not in a disrespectful way,
but I think that — yes.
Yes, I think that everybody could have access.
And you know, it’s interesting because I was
talking to Eugenia yesterday in the car,
and she was telling me how this person who was
schizophrenic and was self-inflicting pain and cutting
just came to Huautla and did some
work with her, and it went well!
And here, you know with a schizophrenic, self-mutilating
— ooh, psychiatrist and meds and everything —
nobody would even touch the person,
nobody would even think of doing anything.
And there, you come for your peace.
"We’ll help you." It’s very interesting.
(Ismail) Come for your peace, hm.
(Francoise) This faith in that capacity of every
human being to touch that, and here, we are so —
having the screening and this and that. I mean,
the methodology is so very interestingly different.
(Ismail) Well that’s a good place to get to our last
question. So one more question and afterwards
we can get on with our day.
The theme of this conversation was
“weaving worlds” — weaving, as you said —
(Francoise) Weaving worlds.
(Ismail) Weaving worlds.
And when I think of weaving worlds — or a spiderweb,
I like this imagery as well — I think about the fact that...
I think that when something falls, you
need something to — to catch it —
(Francoise) To — receive it.
(Ismail) To receive it.
So we’re talking about this process of changing
and expanding these Mazatec traditions
and the traditions of Western psychotherapy and
weaving something together that can receive
trauma, addiction, and suffering,
everything each person carries.
To close: In this time of weaving,
of creating new traditions, and sharing, expanding,
if there is something....
if there is something that...
if there is something that we can bring to our
families, to the people we’re closest to,
what do you think we need to, what do you
think to say, or what do you think...
I’m thinking about my family and
my grandmother, and my aunts,
and I can have my experiences and my peace, whatever
it is, but it’s difficult to communicate it to others
even if we’re very close, given our different
interpretations of the world.
So, what do you see us doing here?
If you’re looking five or ten years into the future,
what would you like to see? What do you want to
see in this process of weaving worlds?
What do you believe is possible?
I think that understanding a bit of that will help
the people who are watching this, or others
who are listening, to understand how to look inside
themselves for what they have to do.
We can’t give personalized advice to each
person individually about where to go or what to do.
So do you have something you’d like to share
to close our conversation today?
(Eugenia) Well, yes. I think the first thing is respect, no?
You had spoken about family. From the familial bosom
— we say here something vulgar, that we “suck”
our education from the familial bosom. While
the term is intense, "to suck," it’s actually true,
because I see it as the motherly nature of giving us life,
nourishing us — what you take from your familial bosom
is what you’re going to show out there in the world, and
what you’re going to want to give to the world.
You decide and that’s where
you manage your balance of things.
How are you going to use your free will?
For good or for bad?
Because you can’t be on the line in the middle.
Positive or negative? What is it that fills you up?
What do you want to transform? In my case and in my
time, my mother said to me before leaving this world,
“You have to improve what you already know, because
you are bringing new generations with you,
and what do you want for yourself? What do you want
the new generations to offer to the world?
Good or bad things?
And we arrive again at the emotional part of things.
And our familial lineages — for instance, your
grandmother, your great-grandmother, everyone that
comes before you. What do you bring with you
and what are you going to change about your lineage?
Above all, when we carry on a lineage,
which in your case is a double lineage.
You are fighting with two pieces
to be able to define it all.
(Ismail) Trying to fight it less, yes.
(Francoise) Don’t fight, dance! Dance!
(Ismail) Dance! Yes, better to dance with it.
(Eugenia) In my case I don’t have that problem,
you know? My paternal grandmother was the one who
trained my mother and left her with this work, so
the two energies combined, and as a result
I can’t personally speak of suffering because I
received so much love from both of my parents.
The truth is I can’t speak on behalf of other people who
carry intense traumas, which I feel sorry about.
I was really the most beloved daughter, or I —
No, seriously. I felt that way with my parents,
as much with my father as with my mother, always
praising and supporting me about many things.
I didn’t notice myself doing the wrong things,
and I don’t know if it was because I was obedient
or if I had a lot of respect for things.
My father always spoke to me with love, and my mother
— yes, she was quite firm, but always with love.
(Eugenia) So I don’t have that inner battle with myself.
And when I see that sort of thing, I consider,
what can we put forth here? But also,
what can we forgive of past generations?
By letting go and being free to absolve others and shed
ourselves of those things, we can walk and show
a new path to the new generations that are joining us.
Who do you want to be?
What do you want to study for yourself?
When you have your identity, you’re going to say,
“This is what I want to leave here.
Respect. Love. Peace.”
All of those things.
(Ismail) Good to go! [laughter]
(Eugenia) I don’t have much to say beyond that.
(Ismail) They are the most important things
to share, so thank you for that.
(Eugenia) Thank you.
(Francoise) Well, my last words. I feel like this today,
this dialogue here, is a really wonderful way to
weave those worlds and bring extremely profound and
pertinent words from her tradition and her experience —
personal experience and personal message — with what
I'm understanding from a more Western, Occident,
old Europe way, and that ultimately,
we are saying the same thing.
I mean, we're saying different things, of course,
very different diverse things that are very specific
due to our backgrounds and our evolution and the way
we came to this work, this path, but ultimately,
you know, we are talking about love and we are
talking about forgiveness and we are talking about
growth and patience and courage and respect and
Mother Earth, and we have a lot of common language,
really, that we can be the carpet
that we are weaving together.
There's a lot of commonality and distinctive
threads which I don't think are conflicting necessarily.
I think that the conflict comes when there is greed,
when there is possessiveness, when there is
speed, you know, like a lot of fast pace
(Ismail) Urgency is like the —
(Francoise) Urgency and consumerism.
When that comes into the picture, then that becomes
really a very different voice and a very different world,
and the world kind of diverges like this
[hand motions outwards]
but as long as we are listening to one another,
and I think today is a good experience of that, when we
can listen to one another and complement one another,
we realize that there's a lot in common
that we are speaking of, really.
So I believe in my humble participation in
this field that the ancient traditions and
what I understand of my own connection with
Earth and with the plants, and with my world of
psychology and various theories and various
approaches, that this really comes together
in a really complementing way.
I’m saying that since I’m a psychologist and
also do work with sacred mushrooms,
I saw that it’s possible to weave the two worlds,
that psychology and therapy can support
the work that comes out of sacred mushrooms.
People are healing, and I think it’s great that they can
speak with me about their healing, and that I can help
with therapy, so this work goes together.
There is no conflict.
(Francoise) There isn’t any conflict from
one side or the other; that is to say,
they can provide mutual support to each other.
(Ismail) And sometimes for visitors to the
pueblo, they need some extra support.
(Ismail) So that space serves also to make it possible
so that people don’t show up, leave, and
miss the understanding of what's happening
because it’s kind of —
(Eugenia) There is no conflict, I believe,
between this and science.
(Francoise) No, no.
(Eugenia) The two go together.
(Francoise) Yes, yes.
(Eugenia) We respect others with their ideology
and diversity of thought, but it is always the case
that we need each other —
the two sides need each other.
(Francoise) But in healing we connect with peace
and love, and that’s the union that we have here.
(Francoise) That’s the foundation of this work with
humans, no? Connecting with the peace and love that
we have in our hearts.
(Eugenia) Respect for and empathy for others.
(Ismail) Respect, exactly, yes.
(Francoise) Yes, yes, yes.
(Eugenia) Of course.
(Ismail) Well, there’s so much
more that we could say here.
I want to express gratitude to you,
and to you, for participating in this.
We started a conversation that surely
will continue with much more [indistinct].
(Ismail) Thank you so much.
It’s been an honor to be part of this dialogue. I learned
a lot and I hope more opportunities like this arise.
(Francoise) Thank you.
(Eugenia) Thank you.
(Ismail) Thanks for joining y'all. This was such good
timing, such a great conversation. I really appreciate it.
May the webs that we weave capture the suffering
and transform that into peace.
(Francoise) Thank you.
(Eugenia) Thank you.
More pics from the production: