Before delving into that, we need to understand that all things are energy and have their own energetic nature. Just as we all have our own energy, or spirit, so do plants. A plant diet, or dieta, is about connecting to that spirit.
This may sound a bit out there in the modern western paradigm as we have no reference to comprehend this, but actually we do. In days gone by, many traditions have worked with plants, and even today we still make use of many herbs for their healing properties. Druids were closely linked to nature, and worked with many different plants, but especially the oak tree and mistletoe. Witches (and no, they aren’t evil or worship the devil) also work with many plants and herbs. The Aborigines had extensive knowledge of plant lore, but much of this has been lost when the elders were killed off. In fact, pretty much every ancient culture had some plant based sacrament or mushrooms that were used for religious or spiritual purposes. And of course there are many shamanic traditions still alive today around the world that work with various plants.
Mapacho, or sacred tobacco, is a, if not the, master teacher plant. Yes, the tobacco we have in the west has been corrupted and chemicals added to cigarettes that makes it terrible for health (as does inhaling the smoke by the way), but used in it’s traditional context, it has many beneficial properties. Generally it's prepared into a thick brew (via a closely guarded process) and then drunk, or insufflated through the nose and sinuses, or of course it can be smoked. Mapacho is also much, much stronger than the tobacco used in the west.
As we are both physical and energetic beings, so too do the plants work on both of these levels. On the physical side, it removes toxins from the body and organs and kills parasites. On the energetic side, it removes blockages, allowing energy to flow freely. As it does this, patterns, beliefs or emotions come into consciousness to be released and healed. These are often from childhood, but they might be from recent relationships or events, or even passed down through our ancestry as disease – physical representations of emotional/energetic issues encoded and passed on in our DNA. They could also be from past/connected lives. It also offers protection to the initiate, as well as giving guidance via intuition or incredibly vivid dreams. One of those dreams is why I’m here in Peru to work deeper with these plants.
There are many shamanic traditions and different ways to work with plants, but in the tradition I’ve been working in, Mapacho is also mixed with various trees, again in an infusion. This seems to speed up the process of connecting with the tree, while also continuing the work with Mapacho itself. Different trees or plants have their own properties. Some help with certain diseases or illnesses, some help strengthen and connect the mind and body, while others give guidance or visions. After dieting with a plant, this connection is maintained, assuming you are sensible with your diet and energetic practises – basically nurturing the plant spirit/connection that is now part of your energetic field.
The length and protocol of the diet again depends on the tradition. Here each is seven days, and the food allowed is quite simple fare, without any seasoning or salt (salt is very grounding and we want to be as energetically open as possible during the diet). Fruit, vegetables, and maybe some fish if you’re lucky, is all you’re allowed. And there isn’t much of it either – a breakfast of fruit and a lunch of some kind is all you eat, then you drink the brew at night. You’re often hungry, craving various foods or thinking about you’ll cook up when you’re finished the diet. You don’t sleep much, if at all, during the night due to the stimulating properties of the tobacco. You’re also dealing with all sorts of strong emotions that arise during the process, along with the aches and pains from the detoxification process. And let’s not forget the nausea and purging induced by the foul tasting thick, black liquid. Then there’s the heat and humidity here while you’re sequestered from the outside world, and those damn mosquitos. You’re left feeling weak and tired – counting down the days until you’re finished and questioning what the hell you’re doing here.
But then there’s the breakthroughs. Feeling lighter and clearer in your body, as well as more connected. Clearing past traumas, beliefs or programming you might have held onto your entire life. There’s guidance and insights into your self, your path, and reality. You might have psychic abilities open up or strengthen. And after the diet, life seems to unfold with amazing synchronicities.
Overall, it’s the toughest work I’ve ever done. But you only get out what you put in right?