Psychedelic Therapy 1
[Mescaline] The Powerful Peyote Way Spirit Walk Experience
1.1: The Peyote Way Church of God
1.2: Daylight Spirit Walk
1.3: Night Spirit Walk
1.5: Post-Spirit Walk Event
1.6: Driver Steve
Psychedelics are becoming another outlet for therapeutic and spiritual reasons. We all want to enhance our spirituality: personal transformation that starts from within. This involves introspection, being alone and isolated from time to time, and tapping into a deeper level of consciousness. Sometimes, conventional therapy of seeing a therapist or counselor and applying various practical ways to improve isn’t enough. It can feel like there’s a missing piece of the puzzle, at least for me. My introduction to peyote was 18 years ago when I was a sophomore in college. In a Botany class (the study of plants), I wrote a paper on the peyote cactus (known as mescaline). The research and context were how Native Americans have used the psychoactive plant sacrament for over 6,000 years, specifically for religious, spiritual, and healing purposes. Writing the paper intrigued me to one day participate in a peyote experience at a legitimate sanctuary in Arizona or New Mexico. Fast forward 18 years later to 2023 (I turned 40 in July), my intentions for experimenting with peyote in Arizona are in the right place (psychedelic therapy to improve mentally and emotionally)–not just curiosity.
1.1: The Peyote Way Church of God
The Peyote Way Church of God is a low-key spiritual house and sanctuary on 160 acres in the Aravaipa wilderness (desert and mountain region) of Willcox, Arizona. It’s about three hours away from Tucson. There was no cell phone reception, no data, and no Wi-Fi. The sanctuary has been operating since 1978, and the founders are Immanuel Pardeahtan Trujillo, Anne Zapf, and Matthew S. Kent. The Peyote Way Church of God isn’t an actual church with a temple, congregation, and other things that come with religions and bad cults. Even though the use of peyote for religious intentions is protected by federal law only for Native American members of the Native American Church, non-American Indians can use peyote in sanctuaries with the words “church” and “God” in their name. This prevents the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from flagging peyote sanctuaries as illegal in protected states, such as Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon. The sanctuary isn’t affiliated with religious organizations and is the only Peyote Way Church in the US. People from all walks of life are welcome to the sanctuary to embark on the Spirit Walk, which involves drinking the Peyote Sacramental Tea the second night. I arrive at the reserve on Friday, three days after my fortieth birthday. In 25 hours, I start my Spirit Walk. Anne Zapf, one of the founders at the Peyote Way Church since 1978 (she will make my Sacramental Tea), mentioned that the peyote experience is 12 to 18 hours. Now, we’re going to powerful Peyote Way Spirit Walk that takes place outside on a remote hilltop desert in Southeastern Arizona based on my scribbly notes.
1.2: Daylight Spirit Walk
It’s about 5:00 p.m., and I take my first one-ounce shot of the Sacramental Tea. Sucking on a lemon, like taking a shot of tequila, makes the taste and sandy texture of the peyote/mescaline doable to take every 20 to 30 minutes for the next six hours. After the second shot of peyote 20 minutes later, I feel like a curious boy, looking over at the Aravaipa mountain region with large black ‘90s-style binoculars. Shot three of the peyote cause deeper relaxation, while sitting on this chair as the sunset behind me slowly makes its way down the mountains. Another 20 minutes pass, and I take another shot of peyote. I walk around, circling the canopy. My feet stepping on the rocks sounds nice. Calmness surfaces as the breeze goes through the valley while the large army ants roam below me. Beside my canopy, there’s a peace sign on the desert ground made of rocks. I step into each piece and immerse myself with the sign and desert. I use my right index finger to draw a letter A inside each of the three pieces of the peace sign. The A’s mean Alfredo (dad), Aurora (mom), and Aldo (me). I raise my hands over my head in a prayer position and place them on my head (right thoughts), my mouth (right words), and my heart (right actions). The simultaneous sounds of the crickets, birds, and other insects intensify while the big red army ants scatter quickly around my feet inside the canopy. My eyes are getting heavy. The walks around the canopy are becoming slower and somewhat sluggish. I sit on the chair with my eyes closed and begin meditating. Nothing crosses to mind. I’m not looking for answers; whatever happens, happens. The black slate that I see with my eyes closed becomes dark green. I’ve mediated for over five years and have never seen a black slate transition to a dark green slate so effortlessly. I’m somewhat fascinated by the dark green color while my eyes remain shut. Every 20 minutes, my watch vibrates, indicating to take another one-ounce shot (half a button) of peyote. Time isn’t going fast, time isn’t going slow; it appears to be just right. Two hours have gone by; the peyote is moving slow and steady. It’s getting dark as I try multitasking by walking and writing for the first time. I can’t get enough of the cracking sound of my feet walking on the rocks. The sounds resemble me slowly chipping away at walls I created toward people, certain individuals, and relationships throughout my adult years.
1.3: Night Spirit Walk
The campfire is peaking. Light range spotlights are above the flames as the fire swirls in circles while the wind blows. I’m starting to hallucinate. The flames move wildly in every direction. Light orange beams from the fire are shooting toward the sky. Life is like a camp fire: it has a beginning, middle, and end. Light orange rays from my eyes beam to the fire, as if I’m Cyclops from X-Men. I’m telling the fire that it’s not in the end stage of life. The fire and I keep shooting lines of orange beams, symbolizing that we’re vibing with each other. The desert dirt draws a line around the fire as if it’s a protective barrier. The dirt has risen two feet high, circling in the fire and floating in the air. Even though the fire is calmer and smaller, our connection remains strong. We continue feeding off each other, shooting lines of light orange laser beams. The buzzing sounds from the crickets, bugs, and other insects vibrate intensely in my ears while the strings of light orange beams shoot from the top of the fire toward the sky form the letter V. Two campfires radiate light orange laser beams, both toward me and up to the universe. Standing for long periods and walking around the canopy aren’t options anymore. I’m feeling grounded to the desert floor and the beautiful fire in front of me a few feet away. My eyes zone in to one moving star in the sky. As it’s blinking, white, green, and red stars are twinkling and orbiting around the white moving star. I sit up straight on my chair, blinking my eyes twice, surprised. The eye-catching star drifts away. Was that a UFO or is the peyote medicine doing its work? I sit in front of the fire, hitting the small wooden drum with my right hand, radiating energy to the fire and cosmos. A tarantula comes out of the stacked rocks surrounding the fire as a protective barrier. It’s approximately two feet away from me. I freeze and stop hitting the drum; the spider freezes. I begin hitting the drum with my hand again and the tarantula calmy goes in between the gaps of the rocks that circle the firepit. The Sacramental Tea, a 12-ounce drink of 12 to 15 peyote buttons, is empty, six hours later. The last hour or two of drinking made me feel nauseous. Rather than letting the ego and personality dictate my actions by forcing myself to drink a shot every 20 minutes or chug the last two or three shots straight from the bottle, I say, “No.” Instead, I follow the suggestions of and wait 30 to 40 minutes to prevent puking. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms when consuming peyote. The strings of light orange beams from this fire show a letter V again, coming from the flames and shooting upward toward the sky. Is the V representing life (victory or vengeance), a country or city (Vietnam or Vienna), or something else? My ego and personality want answers, but my spirit says, “Stop looking for answers. No expectations; whatever happens, happens.” My ego and personality shut up, and my spirit goes with the flow. I don’t know what time it is, and it doesn’t matter. I feel childish and playful as I lay on the left side of my body on the mat staring at the fire. Tears run down my face for no reason as the wood cracks from the fire. I sit on the ground with my legs crossed a few feet from the fire. I grab the wooden rattle instrument from the spirit house and shake it, causing my body to move forward and backward as I shake the rattle (shhh, shhh, shhh-shhh-shhh; shhh, shhh, shhh-shhh-shhh; shhh, shhh, shhh-shhh-shhh). I look deeply into the fire as the wood cracks from the burning. My head moves side to side, my eyes roll to the top of my head, and I look up toward sky as the shakes from the rattle get louder. I’m in somewhat of a trance, doing a solo ritual, to either release something or to rekindle my soul (shhh, shhh, shhh-shhh-shhh; shhh, shhh, shhh-shhh-shhh; shhh, shhh, shhh-shhh-shhh). The coyotes howl throughout the mountains in different directions. I reciprocate by shaking the rattle a few times (shhh, shhh, shhh-shhh-shhh). They respond, and so do I with more shakes. Many coyotes howl from afar. I continue sitting on the ground with my legs crossed. The fire is hypnotizing, making time, thoughts, and the future feel irrelevant. I’m crying again for no reason; this time it’s stronger. The only word that comes to mind is compassion. We’re all battling something. We all want to be happy. We all want the same good things in life. We’re more similar than we think. Nobody is perfect. This is the first time in 40 years that I’m not crying for me. When I cry, it’s because of me, me, me. I’m in tears now for compassion. It’s 3:30 am. I urinate with the mini flashlight in my mouth. I feel bad for peeing on the bugs and ants. I apologize; my intentions aren’t to degrade them or make them drown in my green pee. I sit on the chair and stare at the fire, which is heading toward the end stage of its life, and there are no more wooden logs. The fire turns purple. Wow! Now it’s back to orange. The bottom of the fire logs resembles burning coal. The big and round wooden circles have mini red/orange rubbery scorpions popping out in 3D. Baby gummy worms surface above the scorpions and dance freely side by side. The fire, the three scorpions, and the worms are turning purple. It’s almost sunrise. The clouds sink above the mountains, flowing like water, quickly changing to light purple and light blue.
The sun is rising. My watch says 6:00 a.m. Sunday. My eyes have been open since 1:00 p.m. Saturday. I started drinking the Peyote Sacramental Tea at 5:15 p.m. The bright sunrise symbolizes fresh starts and new opportunities. The fire is out at 7:00 a.m., and I had it going non-stop since 8:00 p.m. The chapter of the Spirit Walk outside is over. It’s time to walk back to the spirit house. I’m so hungry; I haven’t eaten in 36 hours. Anyone participating in the Peyote Way Spirit Walk at the sanctuary must fast (water only) for 24 hours to reap the benefits. Although I’m not hallucinating anymore and I can walk and talk, to some extent, I’m still under the influence of Peyote 14 hours later.
1.5: Post-Spirit Walk Event
Steve, my personal driver, calls the landline phone of the Peyote Way Church of God around 8:00 a.m. The landline phone is our only way of communicating since I have no cell phone reception, no data, and no Wi-Fi. Steve enthusiastically states that rather than going directly to my hotel, roughly three hours away from the sanctuary and in Tucson, he wants to make my fortieth birthday weekend special and memorable. He will pick me up and drive us a few hours away to the Chiricahua Mountains free of charge. I’m speechless and with watery eyes on the telephone. Instead of thinking about my wants and needs since I haven’t slept all night, I have a Forest Gump moment and say, “Okay.” The drive off the beaten path is surrounded with gorgeous mountains, isolated from society and loud cities. Some of the mountains contain enormous rocks. I’m speechless. Steve and I make it to the Chiricahua Mountains. I’ve been awake without a nap for 28 hours. I’m having trouble walking, thinking, speaking, and reacting. The Southern Arizona heat and sun feels intense. I’m putting in the extra work to show that I’m somewhat coherent and not being a Debbie Downer to Steve, who’s having a blast taking many pictures with his bulky camera. The view above at the Chiricahua Mountains is breathtaking. I arrive at the hotel at 7:15 p.m., later than I thought. I quickly unwind, hoping I don’t feel like a zombie when I wake up 4:15 a.m. to catch my flight to California. I’m in bed at 8:00 p.m. after being awake and not napping for 31 hours.
1.6: Driver Steve
Steve is a 70-year-old man and small business owner of an independent driving service, covering routes for people in Tucson and Phoenix. His random act of kindness for me so I could have a taste of the Southern Arizona mountain region and an unforgettable fortieth birthday weekend was hard for me to grasp when it happened a few days ago. Hanging out with Steve during the drives and post-Spirit Walk event to the Chiricahua Mountains made we want to be less rigid and more of a people person as I once was in my twenties. Now, let’s rewind to 48 hours ago, when Steve picked me up from the Tucson airport on Friday at 11:30 a.m. As he’s driving on a sketchy road, where homelessness, prostitution, and narcotics are rampant and noticeable, Steve says, “I need to go back and do something.” He makes a U-turn and pulls over in front of a motel, where a woman with baby, two boys (a child and teenager), and a friendly pit bull sit and stand outside in 111-degree scorching heat. Steve immediately hands everyone a bottled water and opens the dog’s mouth to give it water. The four-year-old and 14-year-old boys and the mom indicate that they got kicked out of the motel this morning. The dad got up and left early in the morning while the family, including a nine-month-old baby, were sleeping. The story made sense. Plus, it’s hard for a four-year-old to lie. The teenage son shares that his family has been from motel to motel since their trailer home recently burned down. Meanwhile, Steve enters the hotel lobby and pays for the family to stay another night. He also gets three phone numbers to local shelters and one for the Salvation Army. As we’re back on the road, Steve makes phone calls, hoping a shelter will take the family in tomorrow morning. The likelihood is low; it’s Friday and almost end-of-day. He’s having trouble getting through to someone on the phone who is giving him the runaround and has left two or three voice messages. Steve calls the motel and decides to pay out-of-pocket for the family to stay another three nights, covering them until Tuesday morning. Five days have passed since I was riding with Steve. Regardless of his race (Caucasian), age (senior citizen), political affiliation (Republican and Trump supporter), and his disapproval of psychedelics for therapeutic and spiritual reasons, the warmth and compassion I saw toward everyone we crossed paths with was mind-blowing. This includes Walmart, Safeway, fast-food restaurant workers, drug addicts, prostitutes, and homeless people, mainly in Willcox. Steve has made me realize that people with a similar persona regarding race, age, politics, and beliefs aren’t all prejudiced, racist, or ignorant. Everyone’s different. He’s one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met in my life. I’ll never forget Steve.
Participating in the Peyote Way Spirit Walk as a mind-body-soul experiment and psychedelic therapy was worth the time and being awake for over 24 hours. The peyote encounter helped me break down the mental barriers that I’ve created in my brain throughout my life, enabling me to tap into a deeper level of consciousness without harsh judgements, biases, fear, and uncertainty. Everyone will have a different experience when consuming peyote/mescaline.
Do I suggest doing mescaline? It depends on your intentions. Is it to become a better version of yourself by using the psychedelic as medicine and therapeutic motives, or as a supplement to traditional therapy? If so, then yes, do some research and experiment to determine if that’s a missing piece to your mental and emotional health. On the other hand, if you want to do peyote to have a trippy experience and feel good, then your mind and soul are in the wrong place.
My encounter with drinking the Peyote Sacramental Tea was powerful. Would I do the Spirit Walk again at the Peyote Way Church of God in Southern Arizona? Definitely!