When I decided to leave Miami last summer, I was in an unhealthy reality. I was overworked, only earning enough to cover living and food while my health was falling by the wayside. Like many people in the western world, I wanted to take a break and give my SELF the chance to regain the balance I felt was lacking in my life.
A day before mayday, my birthday, I had the opportunity to participate in a plant-medicine ceremony in Miami . I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I wanted to truly take a look at myself. The ceremony allowed me to reconnect with myself and see all that was in front of me and how I could take a step forward and change my reality. Days after, all previously far-fetched possibilities became more tangible, and abruptly began falling into place.
I had hoped for that first ceremony to “truly see myself” and I ended up connected to a centre in Mexico named “Nierika”.
The importance of the concept of Nierika
Nierika is a Wixarika (huichol) word derived from the verb “to see” and is symbolized as a mirror that allows one to visualize the shadow/hidden worlds in order to recognize the ultimate reality. A Nierika, for the Wixarika (huichol) culture is a para-psychological ability to channel communication between the ancestors and the people. There are various types of physical Nierikas, including the Jicuri (Peyote cactus)
The retreat by the name of Nierika provides a space where the world is allowed to become what it is intended to be, a space to work on the reflection of the self in all things; from the weather to the people who you encounter in and out of ceremony.
Friends and teachers in my life’s journey, people from various walks of life and traditions have relayed to me the teaching that “everything is medicine”. So I was open to the healing that might occur in the retreat. When I arrived at Nierika, I approached them as a volunteer exchange, not as a patient. I helped cook for patients, picked coffee, made yogurt and cheese and assisted in various ceremonies like theLakota Sun Dance and the regular Inipi (sweat lodges) held on the land. However, the way that the place, the ceremony and the people worked in synergy, and had a profound healing effect on me.
I was drawn to this centre because of their unique approach to integration of traditional knowledge with western psychology, medical anthropology, pharmacology and ethno-psychiatry. As a mixed-race, mixed-culture woman, I witness the coloniser and the colonised within me and I see Nierika as a bridge of both, for the benefit of the whole.
Here again, Nierika allowed me to see myself, and in this way recognize that struggle that I carry within me from beingborn a product of the mixing of two cultures, two traditions that are contained within the same political boundaries but that are far from similar apart from sharing a single humanity.
Peyote the sacred plant
The Wixarika (huichol) people understand Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) as their sacrament, an ancestral medicine for consciousness and spirit. The Wixarika cosmology as well as many first peoples of the world, consider psychoactive plants as sacred for their spirit and for their ability to connect the human realm with the absolute reality.
Nierika’s approach is to create and maintain bridges that re-connect spirituality and religion with the current understanding of science and psychology through experience. For me, experiencing the sacredness of the plant-medicine ritual in a culturally appropriate context, that is also backed up by scientific research within the western paradigm, is a true and important example of progress into psychological healing. However, most importantly this connection validates the sacred in the contemporary world, spiritually and scientifically.
The power of the Nierika, the mirror, as defined at the beginning of this account and Peyote as a nierika, are a unifying force that transcends the Wixarika culture, and represents a tool and teaching available to those who make space for it to manifest in their lives.
Nierika, the NGO
The importance of the defence of the culture of the Wixarika people was made apparent in a vision. After a peyote ceremony, the spirit of the medicine asked one of the founders to defend the plant and its medicine. The activity of the NGO attached to Nierika materialized from the efforts of carrying out this medicine-granted vision. This has become manifest in efforts to preserve tradition, ensure environmental conservation, facilitate mental health research through partnering with scientists. Importantly,flowing from this is the preservation and comprehensive regulation of peyote policy.
During my two and a half months at the retreat I got to know more about the NGO and their involvement in preservation of Indigenous traditions of sacred plants, mainly peyote, psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca.
I arrived at Nierika in search of a break from my western lifestyle and a chance to recharge. However, through the mirror, the medicine, the place, and the mission, I have been able to regain an understanding of myself and all its parts and complexities. Seeker and finder, colonizer and colonized, spiritual and scientific, traditional and western I am able to see myself reflected in the totality.
The mirror reflected me in my surroundings at the retreat land, when I could lovingly stare at myself and forgive myself in ceremony, and understand how I continue to see myself reflected in the academic and socio-political mission that the NGO carries out.
Moreinformation at :