“I was Expecting to See a Disaster”
I toyed with three titles for this post. The one above, but also: “This plant medicine really works” and “Seeing through a glass darkly”. Hopefully the meaning of all three will become clearer as you read the post.
The story begins a couple of months ago when I was swimming and wearing goggles. I noticed there was a distinct smear in my field of vision. Thinking that the goggles were dirty, I cleaned them, and continued swimming. But the smear persisted and I realized that the smear was in my eyes not on the goggles. I then started to observe more closely the little black points that moved around in my field of vision, which were particularly noticeable on bright, sunny days. When I searched and read about these later, I saw they were called ‘floaters’ and are caused by what one site described as ‘age-related changes’.
The next episode of the story occurred on Monday 28th September when I went with a friend and her daughter to get our eyes tested for new glasses. By chance, or good fortune, we did not go to an ordinary optician but to a specialist eye doctor that the doctor of my friend had recommended. At the beginning of the eye test he measured my ocular pressure. After doing this, he turned to me and said: “I have bad news for you. Your ocular pressure is very high, 26mmHg in the right eye and 23mmHg in the left eye. You have a strong possibility of developing glaucoma. You must come and have a tomografía as soon as possible.”
(When I read about a tomografía later I learned that: “Optical coherence tomography, OCT, is a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of your retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye.”)
I asked the doctor what was the cause of high ocular pressure and he said that it was hereditary. I thought, but did not say, that I did not remember either of my parents having problems with their vision when they were older but also wondered whether it was a condition that might skip generations.
After answering this question, he flourished some highly detailed, color-coded images of eyes in front of me, like a conjurer showing off his magic, telling me that this shows the extensive diagnosis a tomografía can provide. I told him that I was just about to go away for eleven days (to do a dieta with my Shipibo Maestro, but I did not tell him that). He finished measuring my eyes for new glasses and I made another appointment for two weeks ahead to have the tomografía at a cost of around $100 USD, which I imagine is very cheap by Western standards but a considerable amount of money here.
After the opening ceremony of my dieta, in which I was dieting the legendary Amazonian tree Noyarao – for more information about this tree see an earlier post – I mentioned to my Maestro that I had been told by an eye doctor in Pucallpa that I had a serious problem with high ocular pressure. He told me he would look at it in the next ceremony.
Towards the end of the following ceremony, which had already been profoundly revelatory, my Maestro approached me and started singing to me. Towards the end of his icaro, I heard him mention the word ‘shitania’.
Apart from this being the name of a sports stadium in Stoke-on-Trent, England, which I just discovered by trying to check the spelling on the internet – and which is hilarious or maybe even sinister – the best translation in English is sorcery.
When he finished singing to me, I asked him if he thought my eye problem had been caused by ‘daño’, a word here used to mean someone using sorcery or black magic to cause harm. He, being a man of few explanatory words, said: “Yes”.
In the following ceremony, he sang to me again. I found myself feeling that I trusted this man with my life. I also thought what an extraordinary difference in perspectives between the cosmovision and the gaze of the Western white man, with his faith in science and high technology based on control and measurement, and the shamanic cosmovision and gaze.
He sang to me once again in the fourth ceremony. By now, I was noticing that my vision was improving. The smear was fainter and there were not so many black dots like insects buzzing around in my field of vision. My Maestro also asked his daughter to give me a plant bath, made up of four different plants, each morning. This was applied to my head.
After a very powerful dieta, and not just for what I am describing here, I returned to Pucallpa and went to see the eye doctor. I first asked him to measure my ocular pressure. I was hoping it would have dramatically and miraculously reduced, making the tomografía unnecessary. It had in fact decreased but by not as much as I was hoping. My right eye was still measured at 26mmHg and the left eye was now 21mmHg.
The doctor put some liquid into both eyes and told me to come back in an hour to have the tomografía. I went for a coffee, with my vision considerably blurred by whatever he had put into my eyes – fortunately the receptionist had warned me that this would happen – and returned for the tomografía. This involved putting my head and chin into a metal harness and staring into a machine whilst following the image of a red cross that moved across the field of vision of each eye in turn.
After completing the procedure, the doctor printed off the three photographs, which gave a detailed picture and analysis of the state of each of my eyes, including the vitality of the optic nerve, which can be damaged by high ocular pressure. The doctor looked with me in silence at each photograph and then turned to me and said with some astonishment: “Esperaba ver un catástrofe.” (“I was expecting to see a disaster.”)
He then gave me a detailed explanation of the results. Basically my left eye was, as he wrote in a report he later gave me, ‘absolutemente normal’ (completely normal), and the right eye was ‘mostrando normalidad’ (showing normality). There was evidence of damage to the center of the right eye but in what the report said was in quantities that were clinically insignificant.
I left the appointment feeling relieved and with enormous gratitude for the skill, dedication and integrity of my Shipibo Maestro. I also remembered the words of my friend here, PapaM., who has said to me on more than one occasion: ” This plant medicine really works!” My rational, skeptical, Western highly-trained mind still has some trouble in accepting this.
Of course, there are still unanswered questions:
Was this really witchcraft and, if so, who did this to me and why? But, as a good friend here said to me, the Shipibo are not so interested in this question, thinking it is better not to feed that dark energy by pursuing it. Instead, they prefer to focus more on healing what has happened.
Why was I not sufficiently protected when generally I feel well protected? I think this is a complicated question. One answer I have is that we can never be completely protected and perhaps the learning from this experience is to be more aware of my vulnerability and more attuned to what is happening around me. As my Maestro said in answer to another question I put to him: “Sólo Diocito sabe cuando vamos a morir. Nosotros no podemos saberlo.” (“Only God knows when we are going to die. We cannot know that.”)
And a final question I am left pondering is: How much of the illness that Western medicine thinks has rational, materialist causes has its origins in the spirit world?