Sabbatical Chronicles II – Before and After, Who Am I and Who I want to be…

Angel de Armendi, Music Director

There are eight of us leaving the Amazon jungle at the end of the program, six decide to stay.  There are some that are still there two months later.  One of the things we learnt as a group and reviewed with each other weekly is this relationship to what “self” and “identity” is.  We arrive at the Shipibo community and are led to our Tambo, a word that means house. We are told that next day we will be starting a Dieta with the enlightened tree Noya Rao (it means roughly “Flying Medicinal Tree”).  That first evening we visited the tree and experienced the bioluminescence in its leaves, it looked like a constellation of stars.  The sky is not visible because the jungle canopy is so thick.  Next day we need to make space in our bodies to welcome the consciousness of Noya Rao, so we are given a vomitivo around six in the morning and we are asked to fast for a week or so while we are drinking the Noya Rao extract.  There are several ways to prepare a vomitivo, with garlic (they grow their local varieties), with dragon’s blood (the collagen producing resin of Croton lechleri) and others.  The dragon’s blood benefit is that it promotes healing in the stomach linings and any skin surface.  Garlic is great for the immune system.  The vomitive agent is drunk with plenty of water to allow for purging.  On a spiritual level we are showing up with our selves and identities and allowing for another self with its own identity or lack thereof to inhabit our body, mind, and soul.  We are opening ourselves and inviting another to inhabit us.  Or as facilitators jokingly explained, we were allowing ourselves to become plant mutants.  

The initial days were full of merriment as we literally realized we were at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Magic, and one of the facilitators, an incredibly tall Danish man said we could call him Hagrid.  During ayahuasca ceremonies, three days a week, we felt the presence of Noya Rao growing within us and changing us, or were we allowing it to change us, or were we just letting our identities go away.  In a sense, we were learning to become nobody, learning to be with what it is without defining it or the need to do so.  People went from “I am a gay man with Crohn’s disease” to “I am a healed being”.  It was profound.

As I return back to Tallahassee I am reminded vividly how every single person I encounter sees me and defines me. This is a very taxing thing to do to each other as human beings. Mentally it is exhausting. A Jeff Foster quote resonates with me personally, “The word “depressed” is spoken phonetically as “deep rest”. We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound, and very misunderstood, state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity.” I am also reminded that many are starting to let go of this need to define each other, and learning how to be, just like the wildflowers in the field, the birds in the sky. Being with what is. I find it that it is easier to be around such people. Know that I am grateful for you out there who can be around anyone and not bring the weight of your own identity around for me to carry. Bless you.

About the author

Angel de Armendi, Music Director
Angel de Armendi, Music Director
Music Director | + posts

Angel (he/she/they/any) received his Bachelor of Music degree from New World School of the Arts and continued his study of piano performance at Florida International University. He made his way to Tallahassee through the Music Theory graduate program at FSU. While in school he diversified his piano skills accompanying FSU and Tallahassee City Ballet dance classes. His interest in vocal coaching took him to the Asolo Song Festival in Italy during two summers, as Assistant Director/Pianist and Composer In Residence. In Tallahassee, he also directs the High Holy Days Choir at Temple Israel, and has been their regular pianist since 2008. His love for sacred music and practice has motivated him to go through and graduate in 2015 from the Music Leadership Credentialing Program, offered by the Unitarian Universalist Musicians’ Network. During their 2015 conference in Boston he was unanimously elected as Board Member at Large for the Board of Trustees, a three-year voluntary commitment. He is deeply committed to building a thriving music program at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee.