Ayahuasca Shaman and Peruvian Mystic, Alonso Del Rio Interviewed
By Howard G Charing
Alonso del Rio is a powerful maestro who interweaves Shipibo and
other icaros with sacred music of his own to lead you on your journey;
he is both a talented musician and an inspiring communicator of the
Amazonian shamanic world. He first came into contact with ayahuasca in
1979 after spending three years working with huachuma (San Pedro). This
was when he met Don Benito Arevalo, a grand Shipibo shaman with whom he
developed a long relationship, and who gave him his first teachings in
ayahuasca and other medicinal plants.
Later, taking ayahuasca alone as part of his traditional teaching,
he says: “I didn’t feel comfortable reproducing the chants that I’d
learned with my maestro, so one night I picked up my guitar and began
to play what came to me and the result was surprising. From then on I
was never without my guitar at ceremonies and over the years many songs
came to me, set to different rhythms for ceremonies and incorporating
teachings and revelations from the medicine itself.” He has published
three CDs to date. Alonso lives in the sacred valley of Cusco where he
runs a healing centre and a primary school for local children.
The potential and purpose of Ayahuasca
For most traditional shamans, ayahuasca is a tool for diagnosing
illness, and as curanderos, (healers) they will mediate with plant
spirits to heal their clients both physically and spiritually. More
‘popular’ urban shamans can also use their magical powers to change
your luck, for example attracting money or a lover.
On this retreat we would like to develop another aspect, perhaps even
more serious, and use the plants as powerful tools for self knowledge.
Amongst all the spiritual paths that the world offers, Alonso believes
that, at this time, teacher plants are the best way for people to gain
a deep knowledge of themselves and at the same time this can solve some
problems that other paths cannot.
During his 30 years experience with ayahuasca and San Pedro, Alonso
never wanted to be a shaman or attain magical powers but rather gain
self development through self knowledge. He will share his discoveries
to help us ‘undo’ the mental programming and the cultural conditioning
(family and ancestral) which models our minds. Ayahuasca is a powerful
tool for being happy and free, says Alonso,
The retreat we are holding with Alonso, could equally suit a person who has some background in Buddhism, yoga or mysticism.
It is a space for having contact with divinity without
intermediaries or interpretations. Ayahuasca allows you to be gently
introspective, to see your fears, worries and everything that makes you
suffer! It can take you back through your life to show you at what
moment the suffering took hold in your body and in your memory, how it
has made you live on a superficial level because underneath there is
too much pain, and as we don’t want to feel pain, how we condemn
ourselves to living on the surface. With ayahuasca we can enter the
pain at the time when we were children, when we experienced the first
traumas and agonies of life, and cleanse it by forgiving the whole
chain of events and the people who made us suffer. Traumatic
experiences are inevitable in life, but what we cannot afford to do is
live with resentment and blame people, as this ruins our relationships.
Some people may not be satisfied with the life they lead. Ayahuasca
enables them to see their priorities. Is it following a spiritual path
that you want most, or making money? Do you want to start a family or
do you want to pursue your career? Constantly doing what is expected of
us we cause suffering. The answers are all inside us. We must live by
what we profoundly want. Ayahuasca clarifies your priorities and
feelings, which are neither good nor bad in and of them selves.
Conversation with Alonso
There are many myths about the origin of Ayahuasca and there is even
one which has been growing fast in the West, that Ayahuasca is what we
need to get us out of the mess we’re in! But can it work for Westerners
the same way if they are outside the cultural context and all the
associated beliefs that go with it?
I think it works but its different. The mind of a person brought up
in the selva without much contact with the Western world, probably born
about 50 or 70 years ago, as are the majority of traditional maestros,
have lived without watching TV and other Western influences. His mind
is very different from your or my mind. So to have access to the same
visions, the same codes is difficult. But what I have found is that the
expansion of the consciousness and the power that the plant gives you
to understand many things is perfectly valid.
The magical space to which we are taken - call it the ‘unconscious’
or any term you want to use depending on your psychological model - is
one where all the kingdoms of nature can communicate. That is people
can talk to plants, and plants with minerals, minerals to animals and
animals with humans… all in the same language. It is a very real
communication and one of the greatest mysteries which exists. This is
something which an English person, or a Peruvian born in Lima can
experience just as an Amazonian person. Because you can do it without
speaking in a native dialect, it doesn’t go through the mind but
between one spirit and another.
Some Westerners have done themselves harm by not respecting the diet
properly, and some have tried to make special exceptions for foreigners.
Yes its true, and the main point they have missed is respect,
respect for a tradition. Its not that there is one diet for a native
and another for a Westerner. There is one diet not two! Its more than
what you eat, its sex and other things too. Otherwise anyone could come
along and pretend that it was a bridge to a wonderful sexual
experience! There is no limit to the imagination of some New Age gurus.
If you follow these traditions which have been tried and tested for
thousands of years and then you want to make modifications, then
probably you can do it. But first you need the nobility to undergo the
full rigors of the tradition, then you can have the authority to alter
things for your people. But if you can’t hack doing a proper diet, then
you are not in a position to underrate it.
There was a group of Germans who after sessions with Guillermo,
would go to the disco, assuming they had come down from the effects of
the ayahuasca. They would dance to the very loud music. It gives you an
idea of how mistaken you can get from not respecting the tradition. You
need to prepare your mind and body to receive all the information which
comes to you, otherwise it might destroy you like lightening burns up a
As you continue to work with plant diets, you have more intense
experiences, and at the same time you develop a greater capacity to
resist them, until you can take the strongest plants and live more in
the other reality and to be able to return to your self, to your body.
Alonso relates an Ashuar Myth
In the time of the ancestors there was a ladder, like a rope which
connected the world of the Ashuar with the upper world. Here lived
other beings just like the Ashuar but they were spirits. These beings
were very powerful and could transform themselves into anything they
wanted. One day Moon-man cut this ladder so that the people could no
longer communicate with their spirits above, and thus they lost their
power. Moon man refers to the way of relating to all things in everyday
reality through the mind. This is what gives ‘everyday reality’ its
often disempowering quality, ‘its out there and we cannot change it’.
In other words the mind came between man and the spirit world. The
Ayahuasca is the broken rope, but it is always there.
In all cultures there is a recollection of an era when people could
talk with the spirits directly. Then civilization arrives, and holds
reason as the highest human achievement. What is not rational, does not
exist, and that is what has reigned until today. For 2000 years we have
suffered this kind of tyranny of reason. If its not logical its not
worthy of us. The next step in our evolution is the reconciliation of
these two things, and will be the union of reason with intuition. It
will generate a new development in humanity leading to other states of
consciousness and knowledge.
So what are we to make of taboos, supposedly irrational, but they
must have served some purpose because our ancestors were not stupid?
In some cases they may have become distorted in some way but
generally they come from something real, so its best to respect them
without rationalizing them. If we try to do that we are already on the
Alonso del Rio is holding a workshop, Ayahuasca and San Pedro
Ceremonies at the Eagle’s Wing Plant Spirit Shamanism Retreat at
Mishana, October 2007. For more information, visit the author’s website.
Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop
leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and
extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon
Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to
the Amazon Rainforest at the dedicated centre located in the Mishana
nature reserve. He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit
Shamanism (Destiny Books USA), and has published numerous articles
about plant medicines. He was baptised into the Shipibo tribe of the
Upper Amazon, and initiated into the lineage of the shamans of the Rio
Napo. Howard is also an artist who’s paintings have featured in major
exhibitions in London and elsewhere. His artwork has also been featured
on book covers.
His website: www.shamanism.co.uk
email contact: email@example.com
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by Nicola Mina