Pascal: Hi, and welcome to a Nectara conversation. I am your host Pascal Tremblay, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Nectara, it's a psychedelic wellness platform that helps support people along their journey, healing and exploring psychedelic medicines. And today, I’m joined by my really good friend Chris Rodman. Chris Rodman is the founder of Rise and Shine Adventures in Awakening. He's a Nectara guide, he's an integration and preparation coach. And amongst other things, he's also a beautiful father and husband to a wonderful partner, here in Kootenays. Me and Chris first met around, I feel like, two-three years ago, Chris, we met at a ceremony where I was sitting around a campfire and this guy came up with his son in his arm and said hi. And I was like, oh hi, and little did I know that he was vetting me to take care of his son for tonight while he was attending a ceremonial space and spend the night with taking care of his son. And ever since then, we've been developing a deep friendship and considering him a brother and love him dearly, and he's an awesome person, and someone I highly respect and I’m really thrilled to have him on the podcast. Hi Chris.
Chris: Beautiful. Thanks Pascal. Great to be here.
Pascal: Welcome, yeah.
Chris: Thank you.
Pascal: Nice to have you. One of the things that I’ve always loved about Chris, and also part of his background makes me respect him even more is that he's a forest wildfire person – what's the right word for that – I’m not sure, but he has a long history of fighting forest fires and I just highly respect that work, and I’m interested in weaving that in the conversation today as well, in terms of how it relates to medicine, work and walking a journey of healing.
Chris: Nice. Beautiful. Yeah, I’ve got some sweet analogies that I can riff on with the wildfire work.
Pascal: As the fire is burning within us, as they burn without. So Chris, one of the things that I always see in you is like a deep walking of the path you're really someone that's – your life is medicine, and you're dedicated to the path so much more so than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Medicine is weaved into your life, it's weaved into your relationships, it's weaved into your work, it's weaved into your life in a very deep and connected way. Your dedication to the space is unrivaled in a way in terms of not only to the space and your work, but also to yourself in terms of how you're walking life and how you're looking within to better serve people. And you've spent a number of years doing this type of work, and we can go more into kind of the experiences that have led you to this place today. But can you tell us more about Chris as a young boy and where he came from and how was your environment and how was your experience growing up?
Chris: Yeah, sure. That was a pretty gracious assessment of my orientation and thanks for that, appreciate that experience of me. I was born in Vancouver first of four, and brought up in North Van, pretty staunch Catholic upbringing. I went to the Catholic school for grades five, six, and seven, and then, after that, my folks, thank God, moved to the Kootenays, and spent the rest of my upbringing just outside Nelson. And yeah, by and large, I have had an extraordinary upbringing, a lot of gratitude for the way I was raised, I couldn't be here now in with my current orientation to life if everything hadn't unfolded precisely the way it did. However, at the end of, as I was getting towards the end of high school, I wasn't necessarily feeling like the direct communion that all of the prayer, and all of the dogma, let's say, of the religion was hinting at. And I felt there was something more, and I turned to the internet, and turned to science and started looking at the farthest reaches of science. I was looking at quantum mechanics and quantum physics, and the law of conservation of energy. Energy is neither created nor destroyed but changes from one form to another, and that gave me some element of like nature of the soul, and what happens after death. I was starting to have questions along those lines. I was reading Michael Creighton, who was a super influential author for me at that time, in particular, through his books Jurassic Park and The Lost World. And when I was a kid actually, dinosaurs were one of my favorite things, I thought I was going to be a paleontologist. I loved...
Pascal: I did too actually. I used to dig up fossils next to my school, I was in love with the – yeah, I loved it, so yeah, that's something I am learning from you today.
Chris: Ah, sweet, yeah, thunder lizard dinosaur's the best, it is so much fun. Yeah, it's a lot of imagination, and it's fantastical to imagine those creatures once having walked on the earth. Michael Creighton, as we all know, with the story, or, if you don't know, check out Jurassic Park, you could read the book. The movies missed a lot of the gold that was in the books. Anyways, the gold for me was the mathematician talked about chaos theory and sensitivity to initial conditions, and the idea that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Nelson could cause a thunderstorm in New York City; and also talked about order out of chaos, and the whole fractal geometry and all those different elements came forth from this idea of chaos theory, and also the principle of self-organization, how there's this inclination for life to self-organize. And then from there also there's the elements of Fibonacci and the golden ratio, and all of these just extraordinary facets that make up our existence, I was very much inspired and informed by, and really fed my understanding to my growing understanding, let's say, of the universe and what this is all about. And yeah, went into college and then university. I ended up studying kinesiology. It's an interesting story, I initially started with first year science, I was thinking I might get into engineering, and was on my way home from school one day and I picked up this guy hitchhiking, and he had just gotten back from Costa Rica and, man, did he look chill and pretty happy, and I thought that's what I'm going to do. So I dropped out, I was like, I'm going to Costa Rica.
Pascal: Wow, that's like the most poignant hitchhiker changing my life story I’ve heard so far someone that you've met along the highway or whatever, changed your life in a huge way. I love the stories about this first person that inspired someone to just make that one-degree shift, or, in your case, maybe a 10-degree shift towards something that was calling them so beautifully. It's amazing.
Chris: It was quite impactful, it definitely planted a seed. But as it turned out, I never made it to Costa Rica. After that, I was 17, just finished high school, it could have happened, but I didn't have a lot of the support that I needed to really get it to go, and I ended up taking a job at this place in town, and I was working next to this bodybuilder who went to the gym that I was going to. And we started jamming on supplements and exercises and how to optimize recovery and all these different things. And what I realized in hanging out with him was that if I was going to go to university and study anything, why not study the human body, we've all got one, it'll be with me till the end of time, may as well learn a few things about it. And I had a few other sort of influential pieces in relationship to that happening with me at the gym that I was going to, I was introduced to Paul Chek and the CHEK Institute, and I went on and studied kinesiology, and I also started to do some courses with Paul Chek, the first one was in golf biomechanics. And Paul Chek is this super – he popularized the Swiss ball, those big round exercise balls that you see everywhere in gyms now; and he also had a profoundly holistic approach to health, and it was really inspiring for me, and talked a lot about posture and muscle alignment and a lot of really practical elements that I didn't necessarily get while studying the kinesiology degree. And one of the courses he offered was a holistic lifestyle coaching course, and the instructor for that course was JP Sears.
Chris: Redheaded guy who does the spiritual satire, yeah. He's become quite a figure. And JP and I really clicked, and he was mentioning one of his mentors, this man John McMullin whose webpages, Journeys of Wisdom, and that felt appealing to me. So while at university they were going to do this semester abroad in China, which it didn't ended up going in that particular year, and I was disappointed oh I wanted to go do this semester abroad in China, but it didn't fly, so instead, I'm going to go do this workshop with John McMullin, so I go down to San Diego and I meet up with JP, and I ended up staying at his place during this workshop. And at one point in the workshop, John says to me, he goes, you're not 25. I think I was 23 at the time. 38 now, for the record. And he goes, I think when you're 25, you're going to find love. I was like, oh, all right, cool. That could mean anything. I’m not going to get excited about my ideas of what that might mean. But as it turns out, when I was 25, that's when I first met ayahuasca, and it was a particularly unique context. But I’ll rewind a little bit, and also say that my studies in the sciences and the quantum mechanics and all that started to weave back into the nature of mind being one of the most influential factors on our health and our experience of life, and I started touching into meditation, and a number of various other sort of esoteric ideas were starting to percolate into my system. I was working this job and my employer mentioned the word Vipassana, and that he had gone, and I look it up, and immediately it was like a hit. I was like, oh my gosh, I must go do this, it was 10-day meditation courses by donation, you just sit in silence for 10 days. And I went, and it was such a game changer for me, it was one of those extraordinarily pivotal moments of my life, absolutely, in terms of teaching me what it means to develop awareness and strength of mind, and the recognition of how absolutely monkey-mind and weak minded I was, and how people – and, that's our general orientation, why are they not teaching this in schools, meditation, my goodness is such an extraordinary gift, truly a profound practice for just, yeah, being equanimous and centered and understanding the origins of suffering not through some intellectual, this is what the causes of suffering are, but through your own direct experience witnessing within the framework of the mind-body, how suffering is generated; and then, the way out of it is just witnessing and having awareness and being present with was what came out of that. And I sat a dozen or so of those courses over the next, from the period of 2008 to, I don't know, 2015 or something like that, somewhere in there.
Pascal: So you went from a deep kind of religious background upbringing to science and quantum physics, and then, you discovered this new channel for you to explore, like, how was it for you to discover that shift in you and what changed in you at that time when you were meeting plant medicines or doing your first Vipassanas what was the kind of largest shift you experienced within your worldview and yourself?
Chris: Yeah, to be fair, in that sort of high school period, as many of us do in that period, without the classic rites of passage that used to exist, who knows, how long ago, I was in a bit of a rebellious mode, and probably fair to say, I was a dickhead in a lot of different ways. And I ended up exploring and encountering marijuana, which I used pretty recreationally and probably had a fairly abusive relationship with it in those years. And at the same time, there was some medicine in it, and I had some also initial encounters with mushrooms, and that was broadening the horizons for sure, but it was all – it was like a recreational context. There wasn't – what I ended up discovering the ceremonial aspect of how those experiences can be held. And can you reframe that question just one more time so I'd be clear that I’m speaking to what you just asked?
Pascal: There's a transition between kind of your lived experience from religion to science to the healing space, and as you were interfacing with these new modalities and new medicines what was, if any, a shift that occurred to you at that time around your worldview what was different before and after those experiences that kind helped shift the future of Chris?
Chris: Got you. Yeah I ended up coming full circle in terms of really respecting my roots and the tradition that I was brought up in, and having the capacity to witness, the rays of truth and wisdom that exists in Christianity and in the Catholic faith, and not only there, but across a lot of the great traditions of our time, there are nuggets of gold in there, just little pointers, those fingers pointing at the moons. It's not – the truth isn't contained in the words or in the message, but in the embodiment of what's being pointed to. And I came full circle into that and really learned how to respect and honor my upbringing, yeah.
Pascal: And what happened after your first ceremony experience with [inaudible] can you walk us through that a little bit?
Chris: For sure. So I had been in a Vipassana course a month prior to that first encounter, I was in university my last year of university, managed to get into some upper level psychology classes and was studying psychopharmacology and had been reading about ayahuasca, and, as it turned out, I was doing a paper on the therapeutic benefits of it as a public relations piece. And I was going to university in the Fraser Valley, a fairly conservative zone of the lower mainland, let's say, and there was one other alternative kind of [inaudible] let's call him the hippie that was kicking around campus, and I ended up finding my way to him. And he was talking about DMT, and I’m not sure what variety of DMT he was inviting me to consider partaking of, but I went over to his house and was like, this sounds like something to explore, I've read some of this, and let's take a crack at it. And as it turned out, it just didn't work. It was like a dead experience, let's say. And thankfully cause his partner had a connection to the Santo Daime, and I ended up sitting with the Santo Daime two days; and for those of that you don't know, the Santo Daime is a religious organization that's sprung up around the use of ayahuasca out of Brazil, and has these elements of Christianity and Santa Ria and some of the tribal, I think, [inaudible] influence, and it was a pretty unique experience. I haven't sat with them again since, although I'm open and curious to, but they drink during the day, which is somewhat atypical of the general understanding of how ayahuasca works. And we're sitting there, men and women are on opposite sides. They call in that tradition Ayahuasca the Daime, and you come up and you receive it as a sacrament, which I very much hold it as a sacrament. All of the members of the entheogenic pantheon certainly can be held as sacraments for sure. So we all drink, there's some hymns, we're sitting there meditating. Okay, what's going to happen here – all of a sudden I hear this...
Pascal: And you're all on chairs, right?
Pascal: You're all sitting on probably slightly uncomfortable chairs during the whole process.
Chris: For sure, those fold-up chairs that – yeah, exactly. And all of a sudden I hear this, boom, I open my eyes and look over, and the fellow just the row up for me is fallen out of his chair and on the floor, the people are coming and helping him get back into his seat. I'm like, oh, that's interesting – sitting there, okay, what's going to happen da, meditating. All of a sudden, boom, I look up, the guy right in front of me do falls out of his chair. I was like, oh what's going on here.
Pascal: And what were you feeling at the time it was your first experience, like you didn't know what you were going to get into as always with plant medicine, the first time you try something, there's like a lot of nervousness and anxiety and what were you feeling and how did you interface with that feeling of drinking for the first time?
Chris: Yeah. I brought the meditation practice into it, and I’ll probably speak a little bit more on that later around how much, I think that's a valuable thing to, at least, get anchored into, to some extent, a meditation practice, if you can sync that in while I’m speaking to it now. If you can sync that in before you come to your explorations of antigens, psychedelics, that would be useful, it'll serve you immensely. So I think I didn't have, as I recall, the medicine took a while to come on, and I do remember a few distinct pieces over those two days, one was I was sitting there, there was some visionary elements starting to unfold. But what I realized was that I couldn't recall when I had last taken a breath, and it was like I had stopped breathing and there was nothing wrong with that. I was very centered, it was just a unique flavor of the experience, not necessarily what this is all about, but that's what I recall of that. And then, on the second day, the padrino stacked yopo into the ayahuasca portion of the work, and I didn't – I don't think I really knew what yopo was, but for those that don't, it's a snuff and it's blown up threw a pipe into the nostrils, and it also has DMT in it, and the spirit of its own. And when that happened, I ended up going for this opportunity. And it was in that moment where I had this, just this beautiful presence of the spirit show up and say hi. And it was very invitational and very clear, and it was at that point that I knew I was going to be going to South America. And I finished university, and while I was going to university, you mentioned the wildfire work. I became a wildfire crew leader, really sank my teeth into the industry at the level of a contractor. I worked with a contract company for the majority of my career, and we had a good wildfire season, in those days lightning bolts were like dollar signs in my eyes.
Pascal: Why did you first start working as a wildfire person what was the kind of intention behind that, was it like protecting the environment, was it like the physicality of it, what drove you to that?
Chris: Yeah, I’ve got an affinity to adventure, and I've always been drawn to the natural forces of the earth: earthquakes, volcanoes, avalanches, tsunamis, wild weather, tornadoes, all those immensely powerful elements I’ve been fascinated by. And signing up for wildfire suppression is what they call it, and suppression is what it is. And as I journeyed down the path of the wildfire industry, I learned a lot of things about that. And in a sense in the beginning it was about the proximity to that wildfire.
Pascal: Yeah, and what was the fire that was burning within you to guide you to South America, what was the burning desire underneath all that?
Chris: Yeah, I think just the fires of truth, I think a real sincere desire to understand who I am to pursue healing, to come out of suffering, yeah, to grow and learn and get into the depths of both what the nature of reality is, yeah, I have real curiosity about that. There's more to all of this than meets the eye. And these medicines, these plant teachers are pretty adept at helping to guide our awareness into the more subtle nuances of what it means to be alive in this miraculous existence.
Pascal: And was there, a zeal or dissatisfaction in your life that you were looking to illuminate or deepen your understanding of how you can best support yourself, was there something around that as well, or were you purely driven by the sense of the elements and the adventures?
Chris: I think there was some recognition of my own wounding of my own sort of limited beliefs and a desire to move beyond that, seek a greater harmony with life. There was, I think, a novelty in it, a real sort of pioneering fringe-ish element that was, this is unique and totally out of the ordinary. And also, it was something that was facilitating that continued sense of wanting to connect and commune with this higher purpose with divinity, and to come into relationship with that. I think, ultimately, really, there's a spirit of guidance, all of the different threads and pieces that have availed themselves to me in my life, starting with Jurassic Park almost, and maybe earlier with other – my whole upbringing, let's say, the parents that I chose for this incarnation helped to shape my orientation as well, including all of the wounding that we all experience in our upbringing. So just curious to get to the core, yeah.
Pascal: Live an extraordinary life.
Chris: Pretty much.
Pascal: And so you've got this Vipassana experience, you've got a little bit of medicine experience, you feel the call to go South America, what happens next?
Chris: So the wicked wildfire season that I was alluding to funded my first trip to South America. And so grateful for some of my friends here, as I, unbeknownst to me, there was already a community, a thread of the medicine present in Nelson cat's out of the bag. And yeah, this friend said, you should check out Diego Palma, he's in the Sacred Valley da. And I looked up the Sacred Valley tribe, and got onto the website and Diego has posted videos on different things and he posted this video on how he had just had a Vipassana course, and his experience with the medicine and how extraordinary that was. And I thought, wow, this guy is weaving these two things together. Amazing, I've already done that, and this is somebody I want to check out. And after those experiences, I was that first experience, let's say, and with the intention of going to South America, my intention to go to South America and pursue all of this was pretty zealous, and I was recklessly keen. I knew very little about what it was that I was getting into.
Pascal: And that's very common of a lot of people that entered a psychedelic space, that zeal of, I need this right now, I need to do this. And how that recklessness can lead to beautiful things also can lead to some darker places. And we can talk about that a little bit later around vetting retreats and guides and all that stuff, and did you learn something from that zealousness at first what, going to South America to, did you meet Diego Palma and you sat with him or?
Chris: Yeah, for sure, yeah. There's some danger in the zeal, but with the right guidance and – I think, ultimately, for me, and this isn't the case for everybody, but I was pretty well resourced in myself in trusting my capacity to travel to a foreign place. I ended up, I started the trip in Ecuador – yeah, maybe I’ll leave the educational piece around what not to do for a little bit later, but started the trip in Ecuador, yeah, I went immediately to the jungle, actually. I went straight to the jungle, and let's just dive into it, since it's alive right now. I went straight to the jungle with these friends who were exploring the cacao plantation with some of the indigenous folks in that area, and I ended up asking the guy that we were going down there with, cause he was talking about all the different plants in the jungle and showing us these different things. And I was like, hey, do you know how to make ayahuasca. He's oh ayahuasca, like Star Wars. So I was like, yeah...
Pascal: Star Wars?
Chris: Yeah, [inaudible] and his grandfather I think was maybe a medicine man or had some more association with it. He knew about the plant, but didn't really know what it entailed working with it in a ceremonious way. So he went ahead and prepared this for me, cause, here I am, this tourist, or, who knows what, just asking for this thing, this experience, and pretty ignorant, and he prepares this stuff, and then, serves it to us just as night's coming on, unceremoniously, and with a shot of hard liquor to chase it down.
Pascal: Oh my goodness.
Chris: It's like, all right, and went for it, and everyone else had hit the sack somehow, and I’m out there in the jungle meditating okay, yeah, this is it, I’m in the jungle, this is happening right on... And nothing was really happening, I was like, okay, all right interesting. So I hadn't set myself up a place to sleep outside of these huts, there was a hammock, and I was just like, all right, I’ll just crash in here. And I woke up partway through the night feeling horrific, I was getting worked, just destroyed. And it was a rough experience. And, in some sense, it felt part of it was just the misguided element and the misguided approach, and sometimes experiences just like that in the best of ceremonial context. But anyhow, I think there was a lesson learned there, which I still didn't put together until later, because I still wasn't quite grasping the significance of what the ceremonial context provides. So I made it out of Ecuador, I climbed Chimborazo, I did some surfing, realized I wanted to get a motorcycle, found one in Buenos Aires, bought a KLR650, glorious bike, got it from this awesome guy, Alex Chakon was his name, and we rode together on this bike to Iguazú Falls. We had some adventures, we were following in the trails of Che Guevara, more or less, two guys, this motorcycle. We had to ride together for five days for a few reasons, part of it was the paperwork, part of it was like, I didn't want to leave Buenos Aires on a bike cause I’d only really ridden a motorcycle like a couple times prior to that, and so we had a good time, and I often joke, my revolution was the inner revolution, the revolution I was pursuing. But anyhow, made my way out of Argentina and across the continent, my goodness, it was absolutely glorious, motorcycle travel will be a part of future retreat offerings, just planting that seed, it's coming. But I ended up in the Sacred Valley, and I met a – sought out Diego Palma, and we met, and I sat with him and things started to really crystallize as far as what ceremony is about and how it's held, and how the medicine works, and my inspiration just continued to grow. And I think I sat about a dozen or so times over the course of the month that I spent in the Sacred Valley, and worked with Diego and a few different facilitators that were under his wing and encountered some Shipibo maestros as well, and had some varied experiences in terms of the medicine work and how it's offered, and yeah, went through a lot of transformation. It was a pretty catalyzed time of growth, and was also I think the Saturn returned. I was 27, so there was some significance there, in terms of the timing of all of this. And the last circle that I sat before I left was with a facilitator by the name of Herman Virgez, he lives in Mexico now, and we'll be organizing a retreat with him in December – November. And it was a daytime experience, and I went into a pretty significantly cathartic process. And while he was like working it, attempting to get me grounded and in my center and facilitating the getting through that process, he sang this song, and as he was singing, all of a sudden, my voice just went... And we started singing together, and it was – I was in such a surrendered state, it was such a beautiful gift, it was another one of those pivotal moments in my relationship to this work where I realized...
Pascal: Did that open your voice, yeah, did that open your voice from that moment?
Chris: It basically said this is a gift for you to cultivate and grow, and I never realized it was there. It may have preexisted that experience, but in this state, it was very much it was a pretty clear calling to the work from the get-go, and that's not the case for everybody, but I knew it was going to be a significant part of my life. In fact, after the first couple of ceremonies, I went to Diego, and I was like, “Do you take on apprentices?” And he goes can you sing, do you play any instruments?” And I remember feeling a little bit dejected and was like, “No not really. What does that have to do with anything?” And it became clear – and then in that final ceremony before I left, it became really clear, and not long after that I picked up a guitar and was delighted to discover there was a bridge between the Sacred Valley and Nelson, and I was able to continue growing the relationship and doing the work and...
Pascal: And what did you learn about ceremony in that time, because the path, highlighted this aspect of it, that sometimes you're in the hospital, sometimes you're in university, and sometimes, you're in church, and sometimes it's a mix of all three at the same time. But the ultimate essence of it is that partaking of these sacraments, these medicines, these teachers, the demarcating a beginning to this is what we are entering into, and then, going through that experience, and then, similarly demarcating the close that work has been completed for this point in time, now, go forth and integrate, or, weave the gems of insight and healing and learning into your life and grow that. Yeah, so the ceremonial element of having a clear beginning, a clear ending, and then, the orchestration of the process in a group field, what I learned also is that there is very much a group field, and that everyone sitting in the circle holding space for each other, going through the experience together, the connections to witness each other in that way, to hold space in that way, and you're not really necessarily witnessing someone directly because you're all in the dark typically. It's, yeah, deep teachings about the interconnectivity of everything, and beyond even the teaching, but just the direct experience of that interconnectivity comes from the ceremonial experience. Yeah, learning aspects of one's, what has influenced my behavior over the years, and the beliefs that have given shape to my behavior, and how those deep beliefs were adopted and how that can be let go, surrender is a big theme of ceremonial experience, yeah.
Yeah, beautiful. And what did you learn about the cultural context while you were there, that those are probably new practices, new ways of seeing the world, new practices, and new languages all around medicine work and ceremony what are some of the key things that you experienced at first that enriched your path, and maybe have stayed with you since then?
Chris: Yeah, great question. I am profoundly grateful that I came into the medicine work through Diego Palma and the Sacred Valley tribe, the flavor of how those ceremonies were shaped and are shaped is beginning very much in an indigenous thread and acknowledging the tribes and the cultures of the Amazon, and the people of the Andes, was very much like the foundational beginning place, and the medicine would be called in through the [inaudible] songs of the plants. But then what would happen is mantras and sacred phrases from different traditions across the globe would end up getting woven into the ceremonial space, and the power of mantra that I experienced was extraordinary, it was really beautiful. So there's that, yeah, that – there was a cross cultural element in there, this globalized, universal connection that got created in those particular ceremonies. And then, yeah, sitting with the Shipibos was also really, very tribal, very unique way of connecting with the medicine. And, there's, I think, 70 different indigenous cultures across the whole Amazon basin that work with these plants; and yeah, there's a unique way in which it's held through each of them, and then even within a particular culture, let's say, ultimately, the way that it's being facilitated is shaped through the uniqueness of every person. And then, even with that one singular person, every ceremony that you may sit with that person also is like a unique experience. It's never really, it's always what's the spirit going to call forth in this one, and does it, what does it relate to. So many influential elements, the position of the stars and the planets, and it's just always – it's always a new experience.
Pascal: That's very true. And from that experience with the Sacred Valley people, your motorcycle journey continued or was that kind of the end of it, and you stayed there for a month or so that was a pretty long trip from Argentina to there, and what happened after that?
Chris: After that, I carried my way back to Ecuador. I got fairly connected into this little town of Vilcabamba, and I was interwoven into a few, a couple of romances, and that kind of was driving me back to Ecuador. And yeah, so I made my way back to Ecuador, and danced into a few varying experiences there. And then, yeah, it was five months in total that I was down there. I think I was 8000 miles across the whole continent, and it was a good time.
Pascal: It's quite the adventure. And what changed in you after that journey to South America was that a pivotal moment where you can – I’m sure it was because of the number of deep experiences you had, but what changed in you, did you come back to Nelson, a different man completely? What would you determine as the kind of key points that changed?
Chris: I had a beard – I had a beard this big, and my hair was like grown out all along, and I was a little wild, I was footloose, fancy-free, keen – it was like university had just started, I'd just finished university, but it was like, whoa, my studies are just getting kicked off here, and yeah, continued wildfire work, and that was ongoing tuition for facilitating my growing connection with the medicine. Shortly after I got back, I met Lindsay in the ceremonial context, my life partner, and that premonition of John McMullin's around finding love was pretty accurate in the way that it manifested, yeah, for sure.
Pascal: Amazing. So which one came first, his prediction or that happening – maybe he'd seen the future a little bit.
Chris: He's a profoundly intuitive individual, highly recommend checking him out for coaching. That came first, that was around the time where I met JP Sears. It was in my sort of middle university years, it was before the medicine. So when he said at the age of 25, you're going to find love, I was 25 when I encountered ayahuasca with the Santo Daime, and I can only attribute what he was referring to that. Is it true? I don't know. Sounds good.
Pascal: Is it piece of the power of words too the power of words to create change in the world – And John was a teacher to you very early on, and Diego Palma was another one, and other people from the Sacred Valley tribe, has there been other teachers along the way that either said something that unknown to you at a time would change your path, or maybe there's teachers that you've been ongoingly working with or connecting with, or what are some other key teachers and what did it teach you along the way?
Chris: My mother Jara gave me some pretty strong counsel around taking one's time, and just in terms of readiness and embracing the huge responsibility of medicine work as a facilitator.
Pascal: That's a really important one too especially, as the emergence of psychedelics is coming to higher energies, there's a lot of people that serve medicine with very little experience, and that's, with yourself and some others. I’ve seen in the space, that dedication to time and patience to me is like what leads to the sweetest fruits and the highest integrity in the way that you interface with the spaces. Can you speak a little bit about that?
Chris: Yeah, I was profoundly grateful for that – I almost call it tough love, and that encouragement to really slow it down, and I’ve since developed actually a wildfire analogy where, when I first got into the wildfire industry, I was like, had this whole romanticized ideal of what it was to go fight a forest fire. It's yeah, it's going to be like this, and the Pulaski, and fire, and helicopter, and da. And to some extent it was all those things, and there's a lot more to it. And as I grew on that path and progressed, went from firefighter to crew leader to – I held a lot of different positions, became a tree faller, was put in the role of incident command on various fires, managed at one point in Alberta 15,000 hectare fire, multiple crews, helicopters, bucket ships, all the jazz, it was an extraordinary amount of responsibility that at first was really daunting. In the end, I enjoyed it quite a bit, it was a great opportunity. And coming into that leadership and going down the road and developing the experience, then seeing these young guys come onto my cruise, all with the romanticized ideal of what a wildfire is and okay, guys, just hold on, just slow down whoa, it's going to be like this when it's like this; but when it's not like this, it's actually a lot like this. And not wanting to completely flatten the enthusiasm, but just painting a little more of a reality around what the situation is. And to just weave that back into the plant medicine work, I think there was a point in time where I had a very romanticized ideal of what it meant to facilitate these experiences. And some of the wisdom that I received was I almost wouldn't wish this work on anybody it's a tremendous amount of work and responsibility. And over the years after receiving that guidance, it started to really click for me, and it was like, at the end of the day, always, no matter what, focusing on my own work, and as that takes me into the different places, then things unfold like facilitation, which is happening. But with the recognition now of, a growing recognition now, let's say, an ever deepening recognition of what it is that's really being entered into here. And that's been useful. Another piece from my current teacher who I go on dieta with in the mestizo lineage of [inaudible] Christina, Don José Campos, we're going down to Campo Jose's place. He was talking about being in the medicine at one point, and he was working with Lupuna – Lupuna is this giant tree, beautiful plant teacher, and he was getting some insights and some teachings. And he goes, “Is this the voice of Lupuna?” And the answer he got back was, “We all speak from the same voice.” And that resonated really deeply with me, and I think is something to bring into consideration when we are talking about all the different plant teachers and the qualities of their spirit to recognize the underlying source intelligence that is the unified essence of all speaking through these various emissaries of that source, let's say; and they show up quite beautifully in the plant world; and then the plant world teaches us that voice is, speaking to us continuously in every moment, and then, allows us to sink in and develop the capacity to be able to hear and channel and express divine will.
Pascal: Yeah, and that's beautiful segment into talking about a different type of teacher, the plant teachers. I know your experience with obviously, ayahuasca and plant medicines. You've also done multiple dietas with different plants, and you've gone to the jungle many times to do these – I love hearing about your quests when you come back home, and I’m like, can't wait to say, hey Chris, how was your journey into the jungle, because the way you've interfaced with these teachers it should deep dedication to going back to the basics and really connecting with the elements, connecting with the teachers, connecting with yourself, connecting with your senses, connecting with the elements of the earth, and you talk about, as a growing man, really being excited by the adventures and the elements, and you still are, but that kind of motivation to interface with those things is still very present in you, and you've experienced a lot of those things in the last years through these jungle dietas that you go – I would love if you could walk us through how those adventures unfold for you, and how was it for you to go through them? And which plant teachers were present along your journey as well when you went there, and even in Nelson, you still interface with the plant teachers, I’d love to learn more about part of your journey.
Chris: It was seven years ago, I decided to embark upon my first dieta, and yeah, through the Sacred Valley tribe, there was often reference made to Don José Campos, I kept hearing this name, and I looked him up and saw that he was hosting dietas, I found my way into one. And we started off our trip in Bali, Lindsay and I, she was taking a course to become a doula, and also did her first panchakarmas, it's like an intensive ayurvedic cleanse. And yeah, we had a beautiful time in Bali, and then I left a little bit early to start this dieta and landed in Pucalpa to go on this six-hour journey to get to the camp, and it's really a camp, it's totally off grid, no electricity. You're given a little tambo, this little screened-in hut with a hammock and a bed and a desk, and then, it's strung out on this trail that runs along this beautiful little river called Ren Kia, and then there's the maloka, the ceremonial space in the middle of it all, and all the different plants are growing all around. And the washroom is like a little commode in the middle of the jungle, just behind your tambo, it's just like a pit in the ground basically. And you're getting your food brought to you daily, and the food and dieta is pretty simple, it's like beans and rice. [inaudible] you get this river fish that only eats plants, bocachico, delicious, but very bony. So it's like you're giving up a lot of your typical comforts to really sink in and have this experience of immersion and increasing the – taking away all the distractions and the flavors of food, and the salt – it helps to increase your sensitivity and your ability to connect with the plants. My first diet was with bobinsana and a plant called Pukubunga, and it was a very profound experience. In one of the ceremonies, I had this extraordinary vision of a child gestating in the womb, and it felt like I was able to witness the way our genetics interweave as we incarnate from our mother and our father. And then, the breath of life, the quality of spirit and soul that infuses that, and there is this really unique quality of timelessness, it was like, when we are gestating in the womb, time passes by way more slowly, which makes sense cause I think we all have the experience as we age, that time appears to be accelerating. And I think there's some – my theories on that – there's some element of that's just the biological aging process, but maybe there's something on a more grand universal scale around time accelerating, and two of those things happening anyways. But there's some – time ultimately is an illusion, – and the way we experience it I think is reflective of our various stages of life. So this was beautiful and I felt like I was being just shown how we incarnate, and I ended up becoming really good friends with this woman that I met in that dieta, and she's been on every single dieta that I’ve sat since. And at that time we were talking about our lives, and I was talking about Lindsay, and our lives together and something about children, and she goes – and she's a bit of a sage, she goes, “I think you're going to be a father sooner than you think.” And I was like I’m sure it's coming down the line.” Little did I know after I left that dieta, Lindsay joined me in the Sacred Valley, I went back to the Sacred Valley, and after two weeks of time together down there exploring various adventures like Ausangate, and lining ourselves up for a retreat in the northern part of the country, we discovered that she was pregnant. And as it turned out, that vision, and I feel relatively certain about this, was actually an experience of what was happening for her in real time and for our son. So the visionary insights that can come through this work are extraordinary, and we don't always put it together, what it is at the time. And sometimes also, it's often to be taken with a grain of salt, what it is that comes to us, and it takes time to really integrate what that means, and what the timeline is around how and when it's going to unfold, or even if it will, it's often best to hold these things lightly in terms of how you think they may pan out or what it means.
Pascal: Discernment is the new word I learned along my path is to discern the things that you receive and use your best judgment and intuition, and like you said earlier, patience, I think time tells everything usually, and time is a great teacher. And you did your first bobinsana dieta and what year was that?
Chris: That must have been like 2015, yeah.
Pascal: Okay, and you've since gone back to the jungle multiple times, and at some point you ended up in China as well, you talked about that yesterday. I’d love to hear the China story.
Chris: Oh yeah, so I just sat my sixth dieta this last June, I'll be going back in October. I’m sinking into a rhythm of twice a year, and I love it down there, holy smokes, I shed tears the first time I left the jungle actually. It is such a...
Pascal: Yeah, let's talk about that a bit before going to China. What do you love about the experience? What do you love about the place and the culture and the practices? Because it's not easy, it's not like physically or emotionally, I would imagine, you're against the elements, there's like bugs everywhere the food is like not what you're used to. You're living in a very closed, isolated place, full of life around you. But at the same time, you're like living this raw, visceral, wild, exciting primal experience in a jungle. Is it adventure, that, for you one of the things you love about it is like that what you talked about, which was understanding the essence of things, and being in that space probably allows you to open up to that essence a lot easier, or in a more direct way that kind of [inaudible] .
Chris: Yeah, it's very much back to basics. In Vipassana, what you're doing is observing yourself, self-observation, and observing purely the mind-body phenomenon as it is, not as you would like it to be, let's say. And what ends up happening is you are witnessing the laws of nature as they are unfolding and playing out within yourself, the mechanisms that beat my heart and digest my food are unfolding by the same impulse that is growing the trees and creating the rain and birthing suns. And when you immerse yourself into the purity of nature, and into the depths of that, not only in a meditative way are you – if that's a practice that you're bringing to it, having that inner place very available to you, it's being reflected to you directly wherever you look through the butterflies, and the plants, and the insects and all the animals, and the wildness and just the intense vitality, and cycles of birth and death happening left and center, in a whole myriad of different ways. When I first went, I was like, I’m going to the jungle, it's going to be wild, and the fears of all the different little things that are going to maybe get you or who knows what, and I remember the first night walking into my tambo, there's this massive insect on the wall. I was like, man, I’m not going to sleep with this bug in here. And I like, took over my little plastic garbage can and knocked it into the thing and put it out the door, came back in, turned on the light, and by which I mean candle, cause there were no lights. And there was another one on the wall again. And it was in that moment, I was like, okay, surrender, just, okay. And yeah, for sure...
Chris: And there was this moment of, it just felt like an acceptance, where this is – there's that surrender, but it feels like the jungle accepted me to some extent, and there's a real living relationship there now with the spirit of nature in all places. But really yeah, there's a living relationship there that is so welcoming, and I view the place now, I feel so at home there. It went from this foreign, wild, dangerous place to being somewhere where I feel very much at home, and yeah, I could – there's more to be said about that, I think ultimately it's coming home to one's true nature, getting into the core essence of who you really are entails also being able to be curious around how you can discover yourself in everything that appears around you in the people, in the environment. This is like there's an aspect of my true nature in all of that, and it's an interesting thing to open up to you. And, like, when I say these things, it's so important to not just take my word for it, and be with yourself in your own journey of unfolding this truth of unity.
Pascal: Exactly, yes, said. Going back to your first experience and what you've learned since then, walking the journey and these medicine adventures have been on and the multiple dietas you've been to, and the jungle trips and all that stuff, there's a big emergence of the psychedelic space these days things are accelerating, expanding, there's multiple different, types of players coming in, and lots of money is being poured into this space, and you've had your own personal experiences in a very direct way with different facilitators and practitioners and coaches and different containers, could you share around your experience regarding vetting facilitators? It's a question we get a lot at Nectara is like how should I vet my guide or practitioner, and we've all heard the stories of physical abuse and unexperienced guides, there are people that, flip out on their own ceremony I've heard stories of facilitators actually flipping out in their own ceremonies. How do you see – what makes a good facilitator and what makes a poor one, and how can someone navigate that space when they're starting out, or, they don't quite have the referral network that some people that have more experience have, what would just advise to people to look for and ways to navigate the space, which could be very daunting at first?
Chris: Yeah. I would say, definitely take your time, and also to not just take anybody's word for it, you'll have your trusted sources. So for me, when I landed in Ecuador, and ended up in this small town of the Vilcabamba, and was connecting with lots of alternatively minded folks, and this one fellow who had beard and a man bun, and some cool looking clothing was raving about his shaman and that he was in Cusco, and da. And I was like, oh I’ll be going through there at some point, so I made a note of this. I was like, this guy sounds awesome. And I got the bike, whole trip, ended up landing in Cusco. This was before I got into the Sacred Valley, I was so keen, it was just like, boom, first thing, all right, this guy. And I go to his place, and he's got all these different artifacts and stuff, and I was like, hey, I'm looking for this experience and, okay, great, so I follow him in this car on my bike to his house in the hills of Cusco, and he served me Wachuma, thankfully, it was Wachuma. And he did this weird little opening and had me dance this funny little thing, and then, sat me down outside in his yard with a tent and a chair, and he basically went inside and was watching television. That's what was going on, and I was like, all right whatever, again, I'm outside sitting and meditating and blah, blah, blah. And it must not have been very good Wachuma, I don't remember experiencing anything that whole night other than his little white puppy that kept coming and grabbing my pant leg and like pulling on it. It’s just cute little like puppy, and I was like, this feels a little off, this feels like – I feel like I just got scammed actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve been scammed. This is – what the hell did I just get myself into? And I survived that experience, and later came to learn, tragically, that participant died in the hands of this character in an ayahuasca ceremony in the jungle. And the guy took this dude and buried him and tried to hide it, and then, he got uncovered and found, and it was just horrific, not a good example of. So if I had vetted him a little more diligently, we might have had a conversation, which would've been difficult, because my Spanish wasn't very good, so that's one thing is, sometimes, language barrier is a piece, depending on the country that you're going to. So make sure you are able to get some clear questions asked, which would include, how's this going to work, what's the dosage, what's your level of experience, where are you going to be, are you partaking. I got a friend, particularly, in the ayahuasca world, don't trick with anybody, who's not also partaking of the medicine, and that's that whole context of how that medicine is held. Yeah, I'm grateful, I made it through that, and I made it through my zealous period, so just recognize that you might have some zeal and it can lead you down some, you can be misguided through that, grateful for all the wisdom I have today and those experiences that I can share with others, so that they don't make the same mistakes I did, for sure.
Pascal: And not settling for the first facilitator as well. Yeah, it's good to work with different ones and experience different perspectives and expand your awareness of what makes a good container, and what makes a poor one as well. I think through personal experience we can [inaudible] of course, you can't avoid every poor experience, but they do show you the way forward as well in terms of finding the good ones in the future. Yeah, what has been your experience of that have you mostly been privileged enough to work with good facilitators, except for this guy who brings parties somewhere in the river...
Pascal: That's a pretty dark – that's the darkest one I’ve heard yet, and is a lot of dark ones out there too as well. But what has been your experience with different facilitators and then, relatively speaking, what has that taught you around holding a good container, what does it mean [inaudible] ?
Chris: And you can look up that particular story. His name is Mann Kuloto, and there's lots of stories out there on the internet and not to – I don't want to get on a high horse, that fellow is a human being like the rest of us, and compassion for him and that experience and his way of orienting, and hopefully, he's learned some big lessons from that. And, yeah, on the note of – yeah, for me, I feel really grateful that I've explored the field, and called in a variety of different experiences. I think that is an important thing to do. An analogy I like to bring in with the plant medicine world is that it's like massage therapy, there's shiatsu and lomilomi, and craniosacral, and acupuncture, and all these different forms of body work; and then even within, let's say, acupuncture, there's all these different therapists who all practice in their own way, and sometimes it's good to have a variety of those things woven together as they work in a complementary and holistic way to generate the greatest healing, and sometimes too you'll find something that works better for you than something else, and it's unique entirely to you. So for some people, it's the [inaudible] is their thing; and for others, it's strict Shipibo or Yawanawa or blah, blah, blah, or da – there's a huge world, and it can be valuable to just explore a little bit in the beginning and find the thing that works for you. And by the same token, when you find the thing that works for you, it's good to sink into that. Another one of the teachings from Goenka is, and he says the same thing explore various modalities of meditation, different retreats of this nature, of that nature, but at some point, settle into one, because what you're doing is like going around trying to dig a well to get to the water, and you dig a little bit here and you're like, ah, I’m going to not dig here, I’m going to go dig over a little bit here, and you go dig over there a little bit, and you never really get down to the depth and sink into the source of the water through that, through whatever particular modality. So it's valuable to explore the field, and it's also, through that you will get funneled into the thing that is your medicine, that works for you uniquely. That's my opinion.
Pascal: Yeah, that's beautiful, and that's been my own experience as well, is as I’ve explored my own path and different modalities and spaces and containers just true to harmonic resonance I feel in each one, and I can better gauge what aligns with my system, because when it's working well for me it just feels fluid, it just feels like there's smooth, there's no sandpaper anywhere in my body or in my field I feel like it's just a line, and I feel like I can become like almost one with the environment, that's harmonic resonance to me. It's like even with friends and people and different medicines, like, when I feel that, I know that is true for me, and you're right, there's multiple different perspectives on those things. And I'm curious around like your – as you've navigated many plant medicine experiences and deep journeys, what could you say about setting up a foundation for navigating the experience before you enter those experiences? We often talk about the experience itself, and, increasingly and I think part of our focus is integration, but preparation is also integration. What is your personal guidelines, and how you approach the journey, how you prepare for these jungle trips and these dietas?
Chris: I’ve often said that entheogens are like catalysts for the meditative process. And if one had no experience of meditation before encountering entheogens, the experience often brings you into the space of presence, maybe you demand that you come into the present, and they teach you meditation in a sense. However, if you can equip yourself with a solid meditation practice and whatever that might be for you, then you're doing yourself a big favor in being able to navigate the experience with equanimity, let's say, balance of mind, being able to stay in your center in the midst of all the intensity that can and does unfold in these experiences. Yeah, so meditation absolutely, which involves aspects of presence with the breath and intimacy with the breath and body mind. Nutrition is a huge component, the more clear and clean and wholesome you can make your diet as you approach these experiences, that'll set you up well. I think there's an element of physical fitness that is absolutely useful in terms of the endurance and having the energetic reserves to meet the fullness of the experience. I wouldn't say it's a prerequisite, but if we're talking about how to absolutely maximize things, sink into your yoga practice or whatever flavor of fitness or exercise or being out in nature, just steeping in the elements is a useful way of prepping yourself, for which you will ultimately be immersed in. Yeah, being well rested, removing distractions, getting clear on your intention, why approach this experience, it's not for everybody, that's definitely – I’m beyond that degree of evangelism and zeal about it, this is not – it's not for everybody. But if it is calling you, then wonderful.
Pascal: And it's not a silver bullet either. It takes a whole array of different support systems and different perspectives and teachings and modalities and practices and lived experience to really fully integrate the flashes of illumination into everyday life. And speaking of not for everybody, you worked with, and have, on a personal level, worked with 5-MeO-DMT, which is called the God molecule, and is often known as the most powerful psychedelic in the world, what's your – when first took 5-MeO, I was probably the most scared I’ve ever been in my life before the experience, I was, someone told me you need to be ready to die before you take 5-MeO, and I was in that mindset of it was a powerful inquiry for me to explore that am I ready to let go of myself and my construct. And that was a really deep exploration for me to just even prepare for that experience, and really sink in that question of am I ready to let go and detach myself from my ego. And that was a powerful, even before the experience, that was a powerful time for me, and it turned out to be a blissful experience of just complete surrender and bliss. But it was also extremely powerful. I’m curious, like, how did you start to work with this powerful medicine, and what can you say around integrating 5-MeO-DMT and preparing for it?
Chris: Yeah, I'm so grateful that particular sacrament has come into my life, it was on my radar in the early years, and I knew at some point there would be a reencounter there. For me, it's like jumping into a cold lake, it's going to be shocking, and yet, you pretty much always come out feeling refreshed. And yeah, it's given me that opportunity to experience the ultimate surrender, yeah, there's that death piece. There's a real, there's an element of initiation in it. I like to offer it as a rites of passage tool. In a sense, the experience is ineffable, there are not words to describe what unfolds. But the pointers of words that I will use, goes along these lines. It's like taking a bath in yourself and dissolving into pure being. It's that's Samadhi that awakened to this is who I am, and I am in the essence of all things, and that existence just simply is infinite, forever, paradise ocean of just pure being, in the essence of all things [inaudible] yeah. And one, just one just the coming into the one's, just the oneness, that is undeniable. And then, the irony is that as it wears off and you start to coalesce back into the form of mind-body phenomena with all of its conditioning and patterns and genetics, it's like you can witness the forgetting. Something remains for sure, you are indelibly marked with the experience of the eternal, but it's there's an element of the cosmic joke in it, where we forget, so we can go onto this hero's journey of remembering, and it's also perfect. Yeah.
Pascal: Looks beautiful. How do you integrate that into your everyday life – when I came out of my first experience with 5-MeO I had the same experience of coming back into the story and coming back into the conditioning and all that stuff, and I remember very visibly feeling like I could feel it coming in. I could feel the gap kind of closing in between the two worlds. And what remained is very core essence in myself that remains as a core essence of myself, that brings me joy every day. I can trace my life before and after the 5-MeO experience, which actually you were present for, which I’m really grateful you witnessed that transition for me is that bliss, that center of unity, that center of oneness has remained with me at the core of everything that I do; and I could feel joy for the very first time in a very felt deep, authentic way, and that's remained with me for two, three years now. And I’m curious how you've integrated those insights, because it can feel quite cosmic, it can feel quite abstract or subtle sometimes or very powerful in some other ways, but how has that changed your everyday life, like, how does that change your relationships or your relationship to your family, your work, your friends, how you see the world do you get less caught up in the drama, or, you still get caught in the ego and is it less than before? I'm curious what your experience of integrating those experiences is.
Chris: Yeah, I’d love to touch on that. You might have to edit this part out, I’m going to just say, you probably need to wrap up in five minutes. Can we do that? Okay, sweet.
Pascal: Yeah, I’m on the way to there, yeah.
Chris: Integrating 5-MeO, yeah, great question. It's probably one of the more difficult experiences to integrate, and the trick is to maintain that sense of reverence and awe for the sacred truth of the miracle of existence, and your inseparable part in that, and the perfection in everything... And again this experience is not a magic bullet, it's unlocking a process of further work of I see this paradise, how do I live my life in a way that moves towards and accentuates and contributes and operates from a place of knowing that we are in the grand orchestra here, and how can I play my song in a way that is going to contribute to the harmony of the whole, as the whole, something like that.
Pascal: That's beautiful. That's beautifully put. Beautiful. Where can people find you these days, what's coming up for you any plans for this year, any podcasts you're working on, that you would like to share with people?
Chris: I did a microdosing mastermind with Laura Dawn last summer, and it was a wonderful experience. And she recently launched something called Grow Medicine, and I felt inspired to contribute to that. When I was last in the jungle, I brought back this phenomenal piece of visionary artwork by a man named Alfredo, who's a student of Pablo Amaringo. And I’m going to do a fundraiser of that painting be first prize, second prize would be a seat on a retreat with Adventures in Awakening, which is a part of an offering that I’m curating my practice, my business, I'm calling it Rise and Shine – Rise and shine it's time to wake up, it's wake up time. And second prize, some elements of coaching, so I'm working as a soul coach, prep and integration coach for those seeking to get connected to the purpose, find fulfillment, move beyond limiting beliefs that maybe creating anxiety, depression, lack of connection to life, that kind of a thing. So through a lot of inquiry, we will unfold those elements and line you up with the harmony of your truth. Yeah, so riseandshine-now, it's my website, feel free to check it out. I’m grateful to be a guide on Nectara, it could be found in the community there. Please reach out, happy to have a connection and curious to hear what folks are up to.
Pascal: And I'll also say that Chris hosts monthly integration circles with his beloved wife Lindsay, and that, as I've developed my friendship and understanding of who Chris is and how he operates in the world, I can say it's a privilege and an honor to be able to support his work and to share also that the work with him as a guide, I think is a beautiful experience of working with someone of really high integrity and dedication and just heartfelt kindness and dedication to the sacredness of this work, and just really bow to your process and your journey to arrive here and to share these gifts with the world now.