San Pedro, Gratitude and Getting Nailed

John Wood, Founder of Rageheart

by John Wood

Last week, I attended a San Pedro retreat here in Peru.

San Pedro is a psychedelic cactus native to the mountains of Peru.

It’s difficult to tell you exactly what it is or what it does, and I don’t want to colour your expectations of it in case you ever do it…

…but I will say this:

In many ways, it’s similar to what we do at Rageheart.

That is, it’s a chance to:

  • release and let go of emotions from the past that no longer serve us (guilt, shame, fear, anger and more)
  • cleanse and purify the body, mind and nervous system so that we have more energy, more clarity of mind and more fulfilment in life
  • connect with nature in new and profound ways that defy description

Here’s the catch though:

Just like with Rageheart, it’s not an overnight fix.

In fact, sometimes it’s painfully slow… and one story from serves to illustrate this fact.

My buddy Chase told me a story he’d heard from an Ayahuasca Maestro.

This Maestro said that this work is like pulling a nail out of a tree.

If you pull the nail out fast – in one big aggressive pull – it leaves a scar in the tree.

But if you pull it out a little bit a time, maybe a 1/4 inch today, a 1/4 inch next week and a 1/4 inch the week after that, it doesn’t leave a scar.

The tree has a chance to adjust to the changes as the nail leaves its “system”.

Interesting, right?

I thought this was a beautiful metaphor of how this work unfolds.

If we try to get rid of our anxiety or depression or insomnia or whatever it is we want to get rid of overnight…

…we often create other, unexpected problems.

Like one of my teachers says…

Go slow to go fast.

Or as the Navy SEALs like to say…

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

We can say the same thing in all kinds of different ways but the point remains:

Slow down.

Don’t force things.

Take your time.

So often, the things that frustrate us about ourselves have a valuable role to play in our lives.

For example, our tendency to overthink things serves a purpose.

How do I know?

Because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be there.

Maybe it maintains equilibrium in our system, keeping us distracted and disconnected from feelings that, right now, are too overwhelming for us to feel.

That means…

If we got rid of our tendency to overthink things, all those feelings might come flooding into our awareness before we’re actually ready to work with them.

That could overwhelm us and make life even harder than it is with the tendency to overthink everything.

Or take depression, often an expression of the freeze or “shut down” response.

Same thing.

By turning feeling off entirely, we don’t have to feel any of those uncomfortable feelings from the past.

We just feel… well, nothing.

It might suck and we certainly don’t want to spend the rest of lives in that state… but it also might be more functional than the alternative, at least until we get some tools on board to navigate feelings when they finally do start to arise.

Insomnia or trouble sleeping might be frustrating and it might make it hard to work or get things done during the day…

…but if we could fix it instantly, we might find ourselves, again, flooded with all those feelings that the insomnia keeps at bay.

Do you see what I mean?

Pulling the nail out in one big pull isn’t ideal… and often isn’t even possible. Our nervous system literally won’t let us move that quickly, and if we try to go that fast, we might find our system automatically shutting down to protect us.

One of the benefits of this perspective is the gratitude that it can invoke.

How lucky we are to have anxiety or depression or trouble sleeping or whatever health issue we have.

It might be frustrating and annoying and whatever else…

…but if it’s there, it’s there for a reason…

…and that reason is usually (or always) to protect us.

It’s literally just our nervous system trying to keep us safe.

It might be a little confused and out of whack but its intention is to help.

Recognising this fact goes a long way to help the system to relax… so give it a try sometime đź’Ş

In summary:

Don’t rush things.

Don’t try to “force” any nails out.

And don’t expect an overnight fix.

For more information about San Pedro, including retreats here in The Sacred Valley in Peru, check out The Spirit Cooperative here.​

For stories about San Pedro from my good friend James, check out his blog here.​

If you’d like to pull out your nail another 1/4 inch (whatever your nail happens to be), join me inside The Rageheart Academy here.

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