Working with plants has become a big part of my life and shamanic practice over the past six years.
When working with Ayahuasca, a combination of vine and leaf from the Amazon, there’s a specific diet you are advised to follow, seven to ten days prior to the ceremony. The Ayahuasca diet as it’s known or dieta.
In the tradition of vegetalismo (apprenticing plant medicines) dieta serves a much broader purpose in connecting us with a larger spectrum of plants. The master plant dieta involves complete isolation for 10 days or more, whilst working with your chosen plant.
For a westerner it’s a big commitment. You must either recreate the strict isolation at home or fly to the Amazon, where you’ll be set up in a private ‘tambo’ only having contact with the Curandero who’s supervising you. It’s advisable to work with a variety of the smaller plants before jumping into dieta with Mapacho or Ayahuasca. Master plant dietas with these plants, being a completely different thing to receiving them in ceremony. The smaller plants are said to strengthen and prepare the way for you.
A plant dieta had been calling me for some time, but flying to the jungle from Europe with a young family to take care of was not an option. I was fortunate enough then to stumble on the concept of the dieta suave or smooth diet with the Afterlife Coach.
This is done at home and the principles are very similar in terms of the restrictions, yet because it’s not done in complete isolation the period is extended to a month or more. Dieta suave is usually done with the lighter plants such as Ajo Sacha and Bobinsana.
My plant of choice was easy and instinctual. I remember apprenticing in ceremony and smudging the room with sage before we began, as I tried to put it out, the sage simply refused to go out. No matter how many times I tried to diffuse it in the dirt, it just kept smoking. I looked at it filling the room and asked ‘What are you trying to say to me? I don’t understand.’
The time for those conversations had come. I set aside the time in my life to go into communion with the sage. To find her wisdom and work with her energy with a master plant dieta or dieta suave.
What does the dieta suave involve?
Here’s my list of restrictions:
No sexual activity of any kind, including self-love
Dark media, movies, and low vibration people (unless it’s your job)
All spices (everything you eat should be quite bland)
Papaya, mango, and passionfruit
All dairy (if possible, this is not a must do but it helps. If you do eat dairy, stick to fresh sources like milk and cottage cheese, and never aged options.)
Foods fried in traditional oils (Canola, Vegetable, etc.)
Citrus (lemon, lime, orange)
Garlic, onions, leeks
All other mind-altering substances, including Marijuana
Gluten (can be eaten in moderation but works best if you avoid it completely)
No to wearing any cologne, perfume, soaps or other essential oils
The two biggest restrictions on there for me were salt and sex. Salt was particularly challenging to begin with, my body was craving it and even when dieting for Ayahuasca I’d allowed for small pinches of himalayan rock salt. I’d never gone full shut down on salt. I also realised so many food products have salt added. So many. Near enough everything to pass my mouth needed to be fresh and home cooked with the exception of some rice cakes and sweet potato wraps I had found to be without salt.
Mastering my sexual urges was a huge battle to begin with and something I’d never challenged myself with over such an extended period. Even saying no in my dreams became a thing for me. I'd been moving away from the Christian conditioning of sex being a dirty thing full of shame so to cut out sex seemed counter intuitive.
That was not the point here though. The point was self mastery. And once the mastery over my primal urges came, so too did more mastery over my thoughts. Being able to clear myself and differentiate between what was me and what wasn’t.
Clearing the garlic, onions and spices was also a big step. I use them a lot in my cooking and find they have many benefits. Garlic and onions are alliaceous plants and in some Yogic and Ayurvedic traditions considered rajasic and tamasic. This means they increase passion and ignorance.
I can certainly see a truth in this now that they have been eliminated from my diet. My emotions have become like a calm lake as opposed to a volatile raging sea. In this space has come clarity and an ability to see the bigger picture on many things. The peace it has brought me will certainly change the way I use garlic and onions in the future. I still believe they serve a role but I was using them far too much in my cooking. Unfortunately for me I can also now keenly smell garlic and onions on everyone else :)
My understanding of why some yogis and other spiritual practitioners are so resistant to working with the plants has changed. Previously I’d put it down to fear but I now see it can appear to them like the plants are an easy option. A reckless fast forward button that eliminates the necessary self work. It’s a misunderstanding, but one that I now understand. From an external perspective it can appear like a quick fix, particularly in the way westerners use and talk of the plants. It’s not, the plants when worked with in a traditional manner require just as much discipline and dedication as the eastern traditions.
After an opening ceremony to bring the Sage in, each night before bed I drink Sage tea and meditate with her. On waking, before I start my day I do the same.
The temptation to make little allowances was strong in the first week but as I went into the second week the Sage had already started giving. I was also enjoying what the discipline was giving me. A serene and beautiful calm had entered my life and in the balance I felt pure bliss and presence. I was directly in the moment once again with myself and with my family. I was savouring every second of life. I was in love with life again. Not pretending, for real, and it didn’t matter what anyone else thought because I knew, I was there with it, just being.
I’m well into week three now and my feeling on the importance of strict dieta when working with any plant has shifted. The lessons with the Sage have been coming and coming and in many ways it's similar to working with an entheogenic plant like Ayahuasca.
"Nature is alive and talking to us. This is not a metaphor." Terrence McKenna
When working with Ayahuasca the whole point is to clear your body and intentions prior to ceremony, ensuring you’re in a good place for what could well be one of the most challenging nights of your life. Learning with traditional and not so traditional shamans, working as an apprentice and then finally conducting my own ceremonies in Portugal, I’d always been a little on the fence with dieta. The traditional approach and the western rationales both in my consciousness.
I’d been strict with it, I’d been lax with it and on a few occasions not bothered at all. It didn’t ‘seem’ to impact the intensity of the experience or my relationship with the plants. There were also many westerners saying much to the same effect. Still, I always advised people to work with the dieta to the best of their abilities. And, eventually I settled on some kind of half way house dieta for myself that changed according to my situation, because it suited ‘my’ purposes. My opinion has certainly shifted, I'm no longer a fence sitter.
Everything about the dieta serves a purpose. It is for us, not against us. It is a gift to us and importantly it is a gift to the plants. It is a sign of our willingness to give and receive in line with the laws of reciprocity. The plants will always give, it is their nature. When we give too the relationship deepens and intensifies to new levels. They give in ways we can’t begin to imagine for ourselves.
The Sage is weaving its lessons and teachings deep into my life, some of which I’ll go into next time.