“Trust the process,” I repeated silently as the pounding in my temples grew louder and more noticeable. Breathe. In. Breathe. Out.
“Trust the medicine, you are safe.”
I woke early that day. The sun seemed a little brighter than usual streaming through the windows as the birds and monkeys began their morning song. Slightly anxious, I slid out of bed to brush my teeth and change into something comfortable for the day ahead. Thoughts raced through my mind. “What will it be like?” “Will I get sick?” “Will I find healing, spiritual awakening?”
I was preparing for a Kambo, also known as Sapo, ceremony, about to take place at Nosara Retreat. I had met the man named Simon Scott who would be administering the medicine a few days before. He is a kind, warm man, originally from somewhere in Europe with a seductive British accent now living in Los Angeles. A new age shaman, you could say. He emits an air of gentleness, acceptance, and lightness, and I was sure his presence would be reassuring during my first experience with one of nature’s medicines.
Kambo comes from a South American tree frog, in the northwest part of the Amazon rainforest. It has been used for centuries by shamans to prepare warriors for battle, to help them clear their minds and function both physically and mentally at the most optimum level. It is also intended to rid one of “panema” or bad luck. The medicine is extracted from the frog in a non-harmful way by the Shaman, who then administers it to those wishing to accept it into their system. It has been reported to help the DNA virtually clean and restore itself, including scientific studies that demonstrate how the frog contains a “fantastic chemical cocktail with potential medical applications, unequalled by any other amphibian.”
Pretty cool stuff. Earlier in the month, my partner Aaron and I had received word that Simon was to come with this extraordinary medicine. Since then we had been curiously researching Kambo on the internet (to the extent that we could, since information is few and far between). There were testimonials of people who had been cured of lifelong ailments, attained new spiritual heights, benefited from superb mental clarity, and for the most part, had generally positive experiences. Most of these stories detailed accounts of purging, diarrhea, and even passing out once the medicine was administered; all things that are nothing new to anyone who has ever had the flu (or Dengue fever around these parts). But, unlike an illness or dis-ease, the best part about experiencing these symptoms is that once they pass, you have the ability to feel better than you have possibly ever felt before.
When we arrived at the pavilion for the ceremony, there were already several people there, a comforting sign since it was the third day of ceremony; people were definitely coming back for more. There was a beautiful bouquet of jungle leaves and flowers set on the middle of the teak wood floor, surrounded by soft wooden bowls alight with small candles, very peaceful. Buckets were lined up along the far side of the pavilion, ready to collect the toxins soon to be expelled from each body. Simon had assembled his station, a small table with a lighter, some wooden sticks, sharp knives, essential oils, and a jar of what I assumed was the Kambo.
I overhead others talking about their experiences with Kambo in the two days prior, including the need to drink five 16 oz. bottles of water before receiving the medicine. I filled my bottle and began to drink, slowly. My heartbeat quickened with anxious anticipation and general curiosity. Once we had all assembled, Simon began the ceremony by explaining the process we were about to undergo. When he finished, he invited us to all sit in silent meditation for five minutes or so, setting our intentions for the ceremony.
During that time, I focused my mind away from fear and doubt, and directed it to my intentions: to cleanse and balance. My intention for the ceremony was to seek more from physical healing than mental clarity, since I had read reports that Kambo can help improve thyroid and liver function, an effect I could greatly benefit from.
We shared our names and desires with the group, and then the process began. Aaron and I were positioned in the relative middle of the group, so we watched several others go through their process before our own. Some were very peaceful, even through purging, while others looked as if they were in considerable anguish. Some peoples’ eyes puffed and swelled, other’s faces grew red. Most everyone seemed to be sweating a great deal, and I think all but one before us purged.
The amazing part of this process was the humbled and humbling nature of all those involved. Brothers and sisters coming together to witness and experience healing as a group, as one. To be there to encourage one another, to support each other through the intense physical and mental processes involved in such a ceremony. This setting would be rare to witness in most parts of America, yet for all of us, it seemed so natural. Most of us were there to heal in some way, but we were also there to prevent, by cleansing our bodies and minds of impurities to allow ourselves to release toxins that create dis-ease within. It was a demonstrated release of ego, a silent mutual agreement and recognition of a safe, sacred space, regardless of one’s race, religion, sexual orientation, wealth or other personal facets. It was an acceptance of each individual and each individual’s purpose and process, a chance for each person to offer encouragement and empathy by caring for another during the purging phase and after. This alone provided me with a renewed take on medicine and healing, as well as community relationships, and how American society has both of these so incredibly backwards.
Finally, it was my turn. I had already been to pee twice from all the water I had drunk, and the water in my tummy was making me a bit nauseous, especially since I had fasted for 12 hours the night before. Just before I rose to sit on the stool beside Simon, a sense of peace swept over me, as if the Universe was telling me everything would be fine, as long as I trusted the process.
Simon asked me a few questions about myself and my lifestyle, as well as what I hoped to gain from the experience. I talked openly with him and shared my intentions. In his eyes, there was a sense of natural acceptance, understanding and deep wisdom. Then he asked how much I weighed and if I planned to do the ceremony more than once this week. If I did, he would administer less medicine this time so that I could start small and “learn to trust the medicine.” I told him I would only be able to attend once, so he decided to give me a larger dose of six “points.” Each point is burned into the skin superficially with a small wooden dowel. It stings at first, but not even close to much of the other pain I have experienced in my life. He prepared a dowel by holding it in a candle, then blowing on it until the end glowed red hot.
“Are you ready?”
I felt a sharp, short pain as the dowel pressed into the skin of my upper left arm. Six burns later, Simon held up a reed with six dots of the waxy, mucus-like frog medicine on it. Gently and skillfully, he moved each point onto the tip of his knife and applied it directly to the burned dots on my skin. I expected it to sting at this point, but it didn’t.
I thanked him and moved to the next area, where buckets were lined up for purging. I selected one and knelt down on the yoga mat as I felt the medicine begin to enter my lymphatic system.
Almost immediately I felt my face getting hot. Sounds seemed distant. My head seemed to be spinning slightly, but my mind was quiet. I closed my eyes. “Breathe.” My heart was pounding so hard, not from fear, but from somewhere deeper. It rose from my chest to my throat and into my head, right between my eyes. I started to become very light headed.
“Don’t pass out,” I thought. “Trust the Process, trust the medicine.”
The world around me seemed to disappear. I felt slightly nauseous, but not to the extent that I felt like I needed to purge. The only other time I could remember feeling this way was when I was giving birth to my daughter, Luna. Like my body was about to undergo an immense transformation, that my central processes were being stressed, rebooted. I closed my eyes and laid on my back for awhile and seemed to feel better. I sat up again to see if I could purge, but no luck. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Aaron seated next to Simon, waiting for his points. I saw them both looking at me. Time had vanished, and I had no idea how much had passed since I had received the Kambo.
I saw Simon rise and come towards me. He knelt beside me, asked how I was doing and if I would like him to administer more medicine since I had not purged yet. I agreed, and he wiped away four of the previous points and applied four new ones. Later it would be shared with me that Simon told Aaron I was strong, since he had initially given me a good amount despite my small size. The re-application of the medicine was the catalyst I needed to induce purging. I knelt for a few minutes after, until I realized that I desperately had to pee. The movement of my body from my place on the floor to the bathroom was surreal, like moving in a different dimension. People were around, but more as just a presence, rather than beings. I found myself purging a few more times, mostly water and a bit of bile, before I returned to my mat and cushion on the floor and covered myself with a blanket.
As I lay there, I could feel the medicine working inside me. It was mostly in my intestinal tract, or somewhere deep within my lower belly. It’s hard to describe the feeling because I’ve never experienced anything like it before. It was more of a dull ache, a churning–not sharp pains. I was still hot and sweaty, but the throbbing in my temples had quieted, and I could hear another noise. A heartbeat. I couldn’t tell if it was my own or a sound from afar at first. After placing my hand on my heart, I realized the sound wasn’t in rhythm with my own pulse. I can only conjecture that it was the heartbeat of the frog inside me, or a greater power within the Universe, the heartbeat of Mother Earth, perhaps? I remained there, awake but not alert, absorbing the feelings and energy of those around me. I could hear footsteps loudly on the wooden floor, echoing through me. The birds chirping in the distance seemed so close. I felt small, like I had coiled inside myself and was only peering out, like a turtle inside its shell. Some time passed. My throat burned from the purging. There was still a sense, deep inside, of something working itself to the surface.
After a little while, Aaron and I gathered our things, rose and thanked Simon for the healing ceremony and returned home. We slept much of the rest of the day, in and out of deep sleep. I was ravenous but leery to eat too much, to avoid overwhelming my system. The following day I was in a daze, feeling almost hungover, slightly dehydrated, still tired.
But each day since then, I have felt my energy levels increase to beyond what they were before Kambo. Moreover, thoughts that I had once concealed, hidden away deep within a lifetime of memories, have begun to resurface. The medicine has created a powerful mental and emotional purge for me as well. Though this wasn’t my original intention, it speaks of the power that the mind and emotions have to create imbalances within our physical processes. Perhaps, and quite likely, my physical imbalances are due in part to suppressed anger, hurt, fear, and suffering.
I continue waiting patiently to witness the full effects of what Kambo has brought to my life, but I know already that I am on the path to healing– mind, body and spirit.
The Kambo ceremony was unlike any other I have yet experienced. The magic and power of the medicine have yet to be known and as of now are relatively undiscovered and unstudied. And yet, the experience is so truly unique to the individual (every person experiences different things, thoughts and feelings during and after the medicine) that perhaps it is a substance that must be experienced and shared, rather than studied.
For all you science aficionados:
According to the Kambo Facebook page: “Researchers found 9 bioactive peptides with a potent effect on gastrointestinal muscles, gastric and pancreatic secretions, stimulation of the adrenalin cortex and the pituitary gland. Phyllomedusin strongly affects intestines, bowels and contribute to violent purging. Phyllokinin causes dilatation of the blood vessels, which increases the permeability of the blood-brain barriers. Caerulein and sauvagine have an analgesic effect, enhance endurance, increase physical strength and more generally the capacity to face stress situations. Dermorphin and deltorphin are potent opioid peptides 4000 times stronger than morphine and 40 times stronger than b-endorphine”. Other interesting medicinal effects of Sapo, besides its anti-inflammatory properties, are “the capacity to destroy microbes”, heal infections, and regulate blood pressure. Sapo peptides properties cover a wide range of potential medical uses: treatment of brain diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson, depression, migraine, blood circulation problems, vascular insufficiency, organ diseases, cancer, fertility problems in women, AIDS, hepatitis and more. The effects of the Sapo are heightened sensory perception, increased stamina, enhanced resistance to hunger and thirst, a state of alertness, good mood, etc. which can last for several days or weeks.”
Peace, Love and Pura Vida,