What if you felt completely lost in your life?
What steps would you take to put meaning and passion back into your existence?
People say life is short.
But is it?
What could you accomplish in ten years? Would it be enough to satisfy you if you died immediately afterwards?
Van Gogh, the iconoclast, transformed the art world forever. He started painting when he was 27. Not a lot of people know that. He painted over 800 works in the ten years remaining before his death. He penned almost as many letters, (most of them to his brother Theo), some of them approaching the shocking impact of his paintings. The first time I saw one of his very last paintings, “Wheatfield with Crows,” it hit me like a sledgehammer in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I was motionless for five minutes. It was the creation of a man at the full height of his powers. Like Zeus with a paintbrush fashioned from lightning bolts. It was the creation of a man who’s madness was so profound that his imminent death was foretold by the violent strokes of paint, thickened with emotion, on that canvas.
Is life short?
Back in Los Angeles, it didn’t matter to me if life was short or long, but what mattered was the quality. And my quality of life was terrible. So I set out to find the best psychic in Los Angeles. Someone who could help me find passion in life – a life that seemed enviable from the outside. Fancy loft apartment. The most sumptuous restaurant food every week. Stimulating female company. Luxurious and dependable cars. Trustworthy and reliable friends who threw fabulous dinner parties on well-appointed boats with champagne.
What was missing?
Work was missing.
Not work for the purpose of creating an easy life, but, rather, work you are supposed to be doing: a calling.
I discovered, (after achieving a high salary), that respect stemming from a traditional career and money were of little importance compared to having a calling. This information surprised me. I envied people who woke up in the morning with a purpose. Something they would be doing even if they weren’t paid a dime for it. What would it feel like to be driven? To have a calling so invigorating that you had no choice in the matter?
My psychic in Beverly Hills pointed me toward Peru, and at that moment I realized I was going to do ayahuasca in Peru to find my path as a 45 year-old man. In 45 years, I had never felt a strong sense of purpose. But I was intimately and painfully aware of how it felt to be lost and trapped. Maybe that knowledge would come into play somehow.
Fast forward to day twenty of my thirty day trip in Peru at a bar called Paddy’s Irish Pub in the center of Cusco. I met an older man named Tony with a Panama hat pulled down low, a grizzled beard, and well-worn clothes that looked like they were permanently painted on his body. The kind of person who looked borderline homeless, but Tony had plenty of money. He had been studying ayahuasca and its long-term psychological effects for years in Peru. We discussed ayahuasca for about an hour before he asked me, “Are you here to do ayahuasca?”
“Yes, definitely.” I replied.
“How much more time do you have in Peru?”
“I’m going to make a call. Hold on a second.” He pulled out his phone.
He informed me that he had been seeing a shaman for years that lived in Puerto Maldonado, capital of the southern jungle, and this man was steeped in the Shipibo tribe tradition. Tony believed in the shaman implicitly. After all his extensive search in Peru for someone who really possessed the gift, he had landed on this man.
"This is my guy," I thought to myself. I knew instinctively the moment Tony said he was going to contact him.
Tony set up the appointment for 3 days later. The shaman, Juanma, was going to travel to Cusco and perform the ceremony in his (secondary) apartment with me and my new painter friend Aaron. It was an unorthodox way to do an ayahuasca ceremony, (mostly, travelers come to Peru to participate in ceremonies in the Amazon jungle), but Juanma was not completely unorthodox according to Tony – he was authentic and powerful. The air rippled when he walked into a room, a faintly visible halo of light emitting from the crown of his long, jet-black hair.
Three days later, the night of the ceremony, there was a knock on my hotel room door. It was Aarron arriving on time for us to get a cab to Juanma’s apartment. Outside, in the night, it poured rain from the magical, indigo sky which was funny because it had not rained the entire time I’d been in Peru.
As I opened the door for Aarron, his face fell with dismay and fear.
He studied me closely.
“What is wrong with your eye, mate?”
“I’ve been sick,” I admitted.
The past two days I’d had a vicious flu and what I guessed was bacterial conjunctivitis in my right eye. Green pus was oozing and dripping from the corner of my eye while Aarron contemplated the situation. It didn’t just look bad. It looked dangerous.
“We’ve got to get you to a hospital!” he concluded.
“No. We are going to Juanma’s. After all, he’s the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of ancient times.”
“Look, mate! This is no time for jokes. You’d better think this through. Don’t rely on some shaman you don’t even know when it comes to your eyesight. That’s just plain silly!” he admonished.
“Let’s go. We are going to be late.” I said firmly.
I went to the bathroom to quickly wipe the green pus away from eye with a tissue, grabbed my backpack with some extra clothes in it, and we were off into the rainy night of Cusco which was unusually cold.
(TO BE CONTINUED...)