Ayahuasca Research



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Study 8.

‘Cadiera Azulao Saeedi’, a sculpture in cement, iron and wireframe by Camille Archer at the Wasiwaska Ethnobotanical Garden, as part of her master in holistic science at the Schumacher College, Devonshire, England

Artist Statement:

At the beginning of this project my main feeling was that I wanted to make something people would use. I wanted it to be outside in a beautiful place and I wanted it to have special meaning to me and to reflect nature itself. Previously I spent years painting images of animals and people entwined as single beings. Then I began to search for the deeper reasons for my making images of this kind. I found the reasons were that I felt that people thought they were completely removed from nature especially what we consider animalistic nature. I also thought that in fact people embodied animals more than they realized especially in the cultural emphasis on competition, survival of the fittest and territorial and aggressive behaviours. At the same time there also seemed to be a type of blind spot in not recognizing the probability that animals embody feelings such as caring, use of ornamentation, organization, language and ritual.

Fig. 1 Site of the chair sculpture in the permaculture garden at Wasiwaska Florianopolis Brazil

I felt this was a false separation of behaviour, feeling and life stages between people and animals. This has always disturbed me because I feel it is more than a moral and social denial. It comes from our dogmatic belief in science and the supremacy of analytical thinking. The concept of biological evolution exemplifies this absolute belief system. In actuality it is just another analogy another story about our incomplete understandings about life on earth and the members of it’s ecosystem. This system is so complex that we cannot hope to understand it completely. Yet the ‘survival of the fittest’ concept has become hardened fact and does not allow for our feelings to have a place for consideration. It does not allow bodily sensing to enter into the observation of the environment.

In my efforts to understand life in the most basic sense I returned to university in to study environmental science. I knew that I would not agree with the totally empirical and analytical style of thinking but I recognized the importance of observing in the manner of the conventional scientist. In this way I would recognize this state of awareness again when I encountered it in any situation both within myself and within others. However I would be able to do more than simply recognize it but having personified it myself I would then be aware of what pathways might be used to discuss alternative methods of observation and rendering of knowledge. There should not be an academic shame placed on people who observe out of love, curiosity, interest, the desire to help, to heal, to acknowledge relationships or to commune with life.

Fig. 2 Detail of the head of the chair

The meditation chair ‘Azulao Saeedi’ is more than just a decorative garden object. To me it embodies deep meaningful experiences with nature, people, places and plants. The placement of the chair in the permaculture garden of Wasiwaska and the experiences that brought about my presence in that place are of exceptional importance to me. Essentially I have been searching for connectivity with nature with life. I had been an observant landscape painter, I had been an attentive ecology student, an enthusiastic outdoor educator but it took the experiences with a traditional Amazonia drink Ayahuasca, to really show me what connectivity really means. I really want to share this feeling in some useful way with people who will find themselves at Wasiwaska looking for meaning and purpose by daring to reach for indescribable experiences and answers. The making of the chair was also a type of gift of appreciation for the care that I received during my experiences with ayahuasca. We all receive that care if we are lucky to find ourselves connected with Wasiwaska and her people, plants and surrounding landscape. More than that is my need to acknowledge that the Ayahuasca experience deepens the meaning of relationship. I felt that not just the plant but nature assists us in finding honesty and we can assist in return if we allow for the full expression of a beneficent human life. Our purposes are interconnected for the cooperation of life on earth.

Fig. 3 Detail of the seat of the chair

The image of the bird on the chair is also very significant. My connection with birds has also played a formative role in my relationship with the environment. The birds of all the countries I have lived in have given me hope, love and appreciation just by their very presence. Often through harsh Canadian winters I look at the birds and the foot prints they leave and I marvel at them and I wish them luck and I share some food and I believe in the wisdom of patience and endurance. My own bird, Saeedi was a companion animal for many years and also taught me many things about caring for those within my life. I understood unconditional love through this small being and was able to transfer this to others in my life. It is one of my firm beliefs that the gifts of nature just come to us at all moments and they can stay with us if we are open to the multitude of communicative modes from every corner of the very world. In this way you keep learning directly from the life itself.

The birds that one commonly sees flying overheard at Wasiwaska the dove, the Azulao and the vulture are very important to the ecology of the area and that means that they are important to the people who live there. They also symbolize our relationships with the air, the trees and the sea and show us the beauty of being alive. Recognizing the beauty of being alive is not a sentimental luxury but a fundamental need for all people, especially so for those caught in the western capitalist paradigm. This paradigm is one born out of the analytical and mechanistic world models of the industrial revolution and the scientific dismissal of religious belief. This is not simply an intellectual definition of the world. This is an observation of the manner of our relating to each other and our planet. Essentially living within this paradigm dismisses the value of the heart by segregating where and when it is appropriate to have heart felt knowledge and reactions. We are expected to have heart felt understanding only within our families and social communities. This does not acknowledge our wider relationships with people around the world, the planets living systems and the other life forms who assist us in our very existence.

Fig. 4 Completed chair with surrounding landscaping

The project of the chair embodies many of my heart felt wishes. In order to begin understanding our wider relationships within the planet we need to sit and pay attention. Learn the skills of simply observing, listening, smelling and feeling what it means to be outside. The chair is like a poem that one can sit in. The arms are open and constantly offering to the world and to the birds whatever it is that people choose to place in its hands. I placed flowers from the morning glory plant on the first day the chair had begun to dry. Later I filled these hands with food. My hope is that the chair will be filled with the presence of the person sitting within its embrace. The idea is for that person to really sit meditatively and openly observing the life around them while feeling the importance of their own life in the story of nature at that moment. I saw the images that I carved and painted onto the chair in my sessions with Ayahuasca and they hold special significance to me. In my visions I asked for a ‘beautiful healing design’ and the chair is a culmination of all my wishes.