To all whom have ever found themselves at the bottom of a well.
Planet Earth, our cosmic spaceship filled with natural wonders and marvels, can often be viewed as a cruel place filled with terror, violence, anguish, sorrow and pain. In some parts of the world, humans live in warfare, watching their fellow man die with the fear that they won’t see another day. Some humans live famished, dying from starvation and not having access to what most westerners have at our leisure: food and clean drinking water. No matter where you are in the world, life can be a difficult and sometimes grueling process. Though some of us go through what can be perceived as more suffering than others, each and every one of us is connected. Whether or not you are consciously aware of it, the suffering endured halfway across the world inadvertently affects you in your daily life.
Through the use of psychedelic medicines, particularly ayahuasca (a powerful brew made from the ayahuasca vine, and the leaves of chacruna containing DMT, which is a naturally occurring compound released in the human brain during dreaming, and at the time of death), I have begun to view my own suffering, and the suffering of humanity as a whole, through the eyes of understanding. I have learned to let go of my past, viewing each of my life’s most painful memories as learning lessons provided to me by the universe.
As a child, I had very few friends and was often misunderstood by my peers. I would cry myself to sleep, feeling that I was unusual or different. I never felt that I was good enough. I was ridiculed and subjected to heavy criticism because I did not conform to societal norms, did not follow the latest trends and appeared socially awkward. Through my teens my acne was so severe that students around me would tease me and call me “Rudolph.” In high school I began abusing marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy to fill the emptiness that had so long been a part of me. I couldn’t feel love or compassion for others or myself and was emotionally detached from my surroundings, constantly feeling as if I was an observer of life instead of a participant.
Around the time I began abusing substances, I was given a Ouija board by a friend, which is believed to allow one to communicate and channel spirits. I became obsessed and started to play with it alone in my room after school. One day while playing with a group of friends, one of them asked the board to prove itself to be true. Within moments a mass of dark matter, energy that exuded like nothing I had ever seen, manifested in the room and swam across the wall entering each of our perceptions. In time, I began to suffer from sleep paralysis. I was constantly feeling a negative presence with me. I discontinued using the Ouija board, but I could not shake off the sensation that I had let something sinister into my life.
There was a wart on my right thumb that appeared from the friction of writing. I began to self-mutilate myself with a nail clipper, constantly digging into my skin instead of simply looking up a way to rid myself of the wart peacefully. Something gnawed at the back of my mind, possessing me to keep on doing this. I was a masochist, finding this pain enjoyable and relieving in some sense. This went on for months, and I knew within myself that there was something deeply wrong with this behavior. It would grow back again and again yet I would continue the self-mutilation, driven by my own self-hatred and misery. Later, a friend of mine warned me to be careful as this could evolve into a form of cancer. Cancer. Once the word was in my frame of consciousness, it became a thought that nagged at me every waking moment of the day. I told myself the damage was done and was too far gone, that if there was the slightest chance for cancer to form and develop, it was surely inevitable. That thought plagued me every second of my life.
I began to feel soreness in my right arm, the same side on which I had mutilated my thumb. I expressed a slight concern to family and friends, but never conveyed the real degree or cause of my pain with honesty out of fear of being brand marked with cancer.
I had been applying to art schools in New York City to pursue a career in photography. Taking photographs had been a passion of mine from a very young age and I had always fantasized about moving to New York. I was accepted into all of the schools I had applied to and had full support from my family and friends. Everyone believed that I would one day “make it big.” On the outside it would appear that I was getting everything I ever wanted, finally manifesting my aspirations and dreams into an infallible reality.
On the inside I lived in fear and anxiety of the illness that could potentially be festering inside of me and in paranoia of the entity I seemed to have let into my life.
I spent most of my week drinking alcohol and was barely putting forth any attention or focus on my studies. I was having fun on a superficial level, but this was all a facade that no one could look past. At social gatherings I would often withdraw within myself, paralyzed by anxiety. I decided after much apprehension to visit a dermatologist, but again I was not honest about the degree of pain that I felt. The doctor gave it a brief glance and wrote it off as nothing. He preyed on my weaknesses and I was prescribed a generic version of a heavy drug used to treat severe acne, as it had recently made a return in my life. The possible side-effects of the drug included suicide, psychosis and severe depression.
Eventually, I would sleep in until four in the afternoon, and couldn’t muster up the energy or strength to make anything of my life. I began hearing voices and believed that a demon was following me. I endured continuous night terrors, waking up in the middle of the night paralyzed, unable to scream out for help and would feel the presence of an intruder. At a routine visit with the dermatologist, I explained that I was feeling lethargic and depressed, my concerns were shrugged off and without hesitation I was written another prescription. Eventually I was kicked out of my aunt and uncle’s house because of my absolute disrespect for their home, for being completely consumed by myself and oblivious of how my attitude and behavior affected them. I moved in with some friends from college, and submerged myself in an environment where ecstasy, cocaine, alcohol and other substances became the staples of my everyday life.
The lymph node under my right arm started to swell and the pain spread throughout my entire arm, down to my rib cage. In time, the pain became so unbearable that it would consume my thoughts from the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to bed. The pigmentation under my right palm was an ominous red and the lines through my palms began to change course, appearing ridged and jagged. I was living in a state of constant belligerence. My grades plummeted and before long I dropped out of art school altogether.
Promiscuity took hold of me because the only moments in which I could not feel the pain were when I was under the influence or having sex. One-night-stands became an ordinary and common experience for me. I was living paycheck to paycheck, spending all of my money on drugs and alcohol. I eventually became homeless because I could no longer pay my rent. Ketamine also clawed its way into my life, as I was yearning to detach and separate from my own body. I was a prisoner inside of myself, and all I wanted was to escape. Through a very close encounter in the infamous “k-hole” I lost total control of my body and felt that the breaches of death were closing in on me. This experience put me into a shock and I knew that I would have to leave New York City in order to heal. In order to heal, I decided to find myself a shaman.
I made an effort to get my life back in order and rekindle my relationships with my family members. I moved back in with my aunt and uncle, emancipated myself from substance abuse and eventually picked up three jobs.
One day a customer casually brought up how amazing Peru was and how it was a place filled with “magic.” I took this as a sign and that night I booked a one-way ticket five months in advance to Peru. In the strange way that these things happen, the topic of ‘shamanism’ began coming up left and right, filtering itself into my personal sphere. I remember one occasion particularly vividly. My uncle, unaware like all those close to me of my ongoing pains and paranoias, confided to me a story of his own uncle’s severe suffering from cancer. He was given three months to live but stubbornly refused to believe his time was coming to an end and in his defiant strength visited a witch doctor in South America, whose practices cured him completely of his fatal illness. That the story could be untrue was incomprehensible: I knew it was true, that the universe was talking to me at that moment, and that I was going to find the healing that I needed. A week before I left I was told a story from a friend of the experience she’d had with ayahuasca in Peru, in which she left her body and shot to the stars. I heard her call and intuitively knew that ayahuasca would be my saving grace.
In the days before I left, I took an eighth of psilocybin mushrooms in my backyard in order to mentally prepare myself for my trip to South America. I went on an intense and introspective journey that allowed me to reach the center of my emotional trauma. All I wanted was for someone to console me, to hold me, to love me –– someone to understand. A stream of tears began to fall shedding all of my sorrow. I laid on the grass in fetal position and was being assured by the medicine that my upcoming journey would bring me to the healing I was looking for. I glanced up at the sky, appreciated its beauty and felt the unconditional love and nurture that the Earth was providing me.
I decided that doing a volunteer program upon my arrival to Peru would ease my own transition, as well as the worries of family and friends. On September 7, 2013 I left for South America. For the first three months, I taught English for an NGO called Horizon Peru, located in the poor district of La Esperanza, Trujillo. My students lived in extreme poverty and many had seen their loved ones die at the hands of drugs and gang violence. It astounded me that although they had so little, they all still lived in joy. I realize now that life sent me there to gain a greater appreciation for everything that I have been given.
After three months in La Esperanza I travelled to Iquitos, the hub of the Peruvian Amazon and the most accessible portal for ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is an ancient medicine used throughout the Amazon and is said to be the cause of tremendous physical and spiritual healing.
I met the owners of a hostel who introduced me to a maestro, or teacher by the name of Don Roman Castillo Perez. Don Roman is a Mestizo, a modern man who learned the art of shamanism at the age of fourteen. The word ‘shaman’ is not native to South America. It is a general term which is said to have been coined in Siberia used for healers across the globe.
We went out to a jungle house deep in the Amazon to perform the ceremony. That night was undoubtedly the most pivotal, intense experience of my life. I was told by indigenous spirits that I would die young, that I was ready to die now. I fought these visions, clinging on to life and refusing to comply with fate’s dictations. Suddenly I saw my future pan out in front of me, and was told by Mother Ayahuasca that everything I was experiencing was a test to see how much I wanted to hold on to this life. That the secret to my healing was in envisioning myself healthy and radiant, travelling the world and giving all of my love back to humanity. That the key to healing was faith. Don Roman looked into my spirit and my path during my limpieza, which is a cleansing given during the ceremony. He saw that I was leaving behind a series of traumatic events but that a bright and beautiful future was ahead of me. That I would one day work in social and humanitarian causes. The same spirits came back to hold and comfort me, letting me know that everything would be all right.
After my first ceremony I was offered DMT that had been extracted from the chacruna leaves used in the ayahuasca brew. I had always been curious to try it, but was afraid because it is commonly referred to as “experiencing death.” Taking that hit had to have been the most terrified I’ve ever felt. I was taken to another dimension, and there were these reptilian looking beings who were coming up to me and observing my body. One of them was a large lime green man with orbs dangling from his arms who gave me the vibration that he was some kind of doctor. Surrounding him were smaller reptilian beings that were a mix of yellow and red. They began to speak to me in a language that I could not understand and started to work on my body as if they were performing some kind of operation. Flowers were bursting open and spinning in circles and I was seeing colors that I had never imagined. The word cancer began to repeat itself over and over. Suddenly these beings turned into amoeba, and I was looking at the inner workings of my own body; the world within myself. Everything dissipated and I was experiencing what many refer to as “the void.” I thought I had died, had no memory of smoking DMT and began to think of how my death would affect my loved ones. I was not ready to leave this world behind, not now. The visions began to melt away, I was back in the room with no recollection of who I was or what I was. I looked down at my hands in utter confusion. What is this body that I live in? What does it mean to be alive?
I mustered up the courage to tell Don Roman the truth about why I had come to South America, that I had come to heal from a sickness that had both physically and mentally consumed me. The first thing he told me was that in order for me to heal I would have to love myself. He began to work personally with me, fixing my diet and using his icaros to cure me. These were songs taught to him under the influence of ayahuasca by the spirits. We are light, vibrational beings, therefore the vibrations emitted from icaros work to heal and cleanse us. He collected various plants and cooked them in a large pot, sitting me over it and covering me with a sheet. The vapor would penetrate my body and remove it of its impurities. With every passing ceremony I could feel my pain subsiding and it was no longer the only thing that I could think of.
An energetic healer by the name of Maestro Wong found his way into my life. He performed a series of therapies on me in which he could read the physical traumas stored in my body like a book. He could see that I lived a life in which negative presences were waiting for me to die, that I had abused substances such as ecstasy and that at one point I was on the verge of taking my own life. The moment that I allowed myself to let go of my trauma, a lot of the pain that was still inside of me began to fade away. He helped open up my chakras and my channels and from there I began to heal myself at an exponential rate.
Don Roman had been working on his very own center, by the name of Mamaycuna Traditional Amazonian Healing Center. There I began a series of dietas; months of dieting on various plant medicines from the Amazon while abstaining from red meat, pork, oil, salt, sugar, processed foods, spicy foods, sex and socialization. We would catch and cook fish from the river in the early mornings. Our food was locally sourced and prepared with love. Various plant medicines are used throughout the Amazon to cure specific physical ailments. They say that when one does these dietas, the spirits of the plants will work to teach, heal and protect you. In time I could feel all of the toxins in my body expelling and was feeling more fortified and stronger than ever. That is where I began to work with a personal trainer who was also dieting with Don Roman at the time.
During my first ceremony at Mamaycuna, I was taken into the rooms of doctors diagnosing people with cancer, observing the level of detachment and coldness within this lucrative business made from our illnesses. Chemo is an expensive therapy that causes more harm than it does good. They hope for it to kill the cancer before it kills you. Not only was ayahuasca working to heal me, but she was also showing me how to heal from within myself. Negative thought patterns, energetic blockages and spiritual unease all have the potential to manifest physically in the body. Spiritual wellness, positive thinking and, most importantly, love are all necessary in order to heal. It dawned on me that there was a grander purpose to my suffering. One day it would be a part of my life’s mission to lead people to ayahuasca and other powerful natural medicines. The cure is there. It’s real. After experiencing my own growth and witnessing the countless number of people that have come and healed from severe illnesses when western medicine told them that they were fated to die, my faith lies in the hands of Mother Nature.
Within deep meditation after the ceremony I had a vision of being in Africa. My tribe was being taken away, chained together and led onto large ships, presumably to be forced into slavery. Whether this was a vision from a previous life, or simply a human experience encoded in my DNA is unknown, but the pain felt just as real as any of the pain that I have felt in this life. This gave me a greater sense of humility, connection and compassion to the pain that humanity faces, instead of just focusing on my own.
I was curious to know exactly what ayahuasca was, so before one of my ceremonies I made it my intention to have a deeper understanding of the medicine. I was shown that she is an intelligent energy birthed by the consciousness of nature and a conduit for the Earth to communicate with human beings. She was showing me that the reason humans have endured so much suffering is because through time we have lost our connection to the Source. Ayahuasca is here to push the evolution of the human race forward by opening up our hearts to giving and receiving love. By reminding us that we are a part of nature, not separate from it, she helps us become closer to our universal sense of divinity. I was taken back to a recurring dream of mine in which I was walking within a beautiful abandoned home with the sacred vines creeping up the stone. The walls had fallen down on one end and opened up to the ocean. In the midst of it was a magnificent tree of life surrounded by clear reflective water. Standing beside this tree was an indigenous woman with long braided hair looking out into the distance. Like the wise mother she was, I knew then that the spirit of ayahuasca was with me and guiding me.
During a huachuma experience with the San Pedro cactus with the active ingredient mescaline, I was aligning with my own higher vibrations. I put my head on the trunk of a tree and received the message that in order for my own suffering to cease, nothing that I consume shall suffer. To the food I eat, to the clothes that I wear, it is my responsibility as a human being to know that all that I consume was sourced with good and pure intention. From there I realized that in order for me to achieve complete liberation, it would be crucial for me to discontinue eating meat, especially if I did not know where it was sourced from. Doing so would amplify my pain and perpetuate an endless cycle.
A group of friends and I, who had all been working with the medicine for some time, decided to hold an ayahuasca ceremony without the presence of a maestro. It was my first time returning to the house in which I partook in my first ceremony, and I had this sensation that a chapter of my life was coming to an end. After working with the medicine for the past year, I felt confident in my abilities of holding my own space. During the ceremony, each of us sang and played our drums in complete harmony and synchronization. We became the masters of our darkness, and I was shown that it does not always coincide with malice, without it we wouldn’t have the understanding or appreciation to live and work with the light. It was my intention to connect with my past, my future, my present –– who I am and who I will become. I was shown my path and specific events that would transpire in my life: my marriage, my travels and ultimately my death. I no longer feared transcending this world, seeing death as the most beautiful and liberating moment of all.
At the end of the night, we all partook in a Yopo ceremony which is a snuff created from the seed of the vilca tree. It contains bufotenine and 5-Meo-DMT. It is inhaled through a blow pipe and is said to be the father of ayahuasca. Upon first doing it I felt the medicine hit the pit of my stomach and knew that I was in for a massive purge. I sat by the fire pit wondering why I had subjected myself to this and was incredibly nauseated. I kneeled over for what felt like an eternity and a flood of toxins began to pour out of me. I went inside of the jungle house to lay down and within moments of my head touching the mat I was transported to an otherworldly realm. I became one with the universal omnipresence. That unseen force that runs through life. The reason that the trees bloom, that the world turns as it orbits the grand ball of fire in the sky. What many would call “God.” Yes I use that word, a word so mistreated and misunderstood, but I choose to take that word back for what it was originally referring to. Back when mankind was connected to it all, and not living in a world filled with delusions. When I came back to my senses, the words “thank you” were melodically echoing in my mind. I could feel the heartbeat of God, the pulse of this infinite universe and had immense gratitude for being alive. There was a sense of knowing; knowing that there’s a plan for us humans, but not really understanding the motivation behind any of it. It just is, we just are, so just be.
The most interesting thing of all is that I now realize that before I came into this life, before becoming Daniel Miceli, I was well aware of the pain that I would endure in this lifetime. I came to Earth to learn and grow, and was given a story by the universe to share with others to provide them hope.
The Earth is in a state of rebirth. We as humans were given free will and are now being guided by forces beyond ourselves to help create a new world for us all. A world liberated from suffering. Human beings will be the epitome of universal consciousness, of God-consciousness. This means that we will be beings of pure light, pure love, pure joy and pure bliss. It seems hard to believe, but if you take a look at how fast we are evolving, how united we are becoming, you will begin to see that we are living in a very special, important and exciting time for humanity. To all of you that are searching for the Light, know that it is in your grasp. These medicines provide the key to opening the mind, allowing us to see the awe, wonder, synchronicity and serendipity of this all. Whether or not you open the floodgates to the unknown, to boundless knowledge and wisdom, is entirely up to you. This life, how beautiful, full of perfection and harmony.
One day we will realize, that we are whole.