Founders Story: My Long Strange Trip from Rock Bottom to Entrepreneur
Hi, My name is Shane. I am the Co-Founder of Amazonian SkinFood and this is my story.
"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear. Many of us would enter a tiger's lair before we would enter a dark cave. While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us."
The Grateful Dead has been a significant influence and has become the soundtrack of my life. I can match a lyric with everything I have gone through, am going through, or will go through. Their lyrics speak to me with an ancient and timeless collection of literary allegories, folklore, and symbols of inspiration and inner truths that flow and connect through their improvisational mastery and storytelling, where I am completely lost in a timeless space, feeling the beauty, darkness, and everything in between that the human experience embodies.
"If you get confused, listen to the music play."
The music has taught me lessons about life, death, love, joy, and how to live to the fullest without fear or judgment. The seeds and lessons were planted deep in my subconscious, but fear of the unknown was still stopping me from fully living a life true to myself. A little over four years ago, I was at my lowest point and almost ended it all. Fast forward to the present moment, and “what a long strange, beautiful trip it's been.” (Quotations are Grateful Dead song lyrics or references)
"Once in a while, you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right."
When I look back on the last few years and start to connect the dots, it blows me away every time I think about it. The synchronicities of me being at certain places at certain times have led me to see and experience incredible things and meet wonderful people along the way. And sometimes, they were not great experiences at the moment, but something I had to face to learn and grow.
"Every silver lining's got a touch of grey."
Touch of Grey
I believe everything happens for a reason, and the Universe is always giving us lessons and opportunities. Sometimes you see it right in the moment, and sometimes it takes a while, but at some point, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together, and it all makes sense as to why things happened the way they did. However, some things in life are genuinely unfair, and sometimes people never figure out why something happened to them. Maybe it's because of the mindset. Why did this happen to me? What if you change one word to why did this happen for me? What's the lesson here?
Hitting Rock Bottom
"I told Althea I was feeling lost
Lacking in some direction."
I didn't realize it, but I had become a creature of habit & routine, like a record on repeat. I wasn't growing personally or professionally, and I became complacent and predictable in almost every aspect of my life. They say you should treat your body like a temple. Well, I was treating mine like a landfill. I ate horribly, didn't exercise, and drank excessively almost every weekend. As a result, I was overweight, out of shape, and depressed. My ego and fear of change and the unknown stopped me from doing what I truly wanted to do. I felt stuck, uninspired, and living in a prison of my creation. I had set my own rules and limitations in a world where anything is possible. I was wearing social masks to fit in to make others happy while neglecting my true self, my dreams, and ultimately my happiness. I settled and chose a safe life. Well, I thought I did. However, the Universe works in mysterious ways.
"When life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door."
Uncle John's Band
I was going through some of the most difficult emotional battles of my life. I had three major life events happen within a year that changed everything. I was in a 7-year relationship that ended; I had a close friend pass away suddenly, and then on top of that, I lost my stable job. I chose to feel like these things were happening to me, that I was a victim, and I felt sorry for myself. I isolated myself from the world, and as a result, my world became very dark. I wasn't sure I would be able to overcome this feeling. I felt so disconnected from myself and the world that I had completely forgotten who I was or wanted to be. I felt like a failure. I was almost 30 years old and had no wife, no kids, no house and no job. My mind was constantly going back and forth of changes I needed to make, but in the end I did nothing. I was like a deer in headlights, full of fear and unable to move or make a decision. I’d feel moments of inspiration and a calling to do something, but the flame lasted as long as a lit match on a windy day. It shined brightly for a second, but in the next moment was gone with the wind. My emotional state was getting worse by the day, but when I did see people, I was able to put on a smile, hide my true feelings, and act as if everything was normal.
"One way or another, this darkness got to give."
New Speedway Boogie
Not talking to my friends and family about how I felt was a big mistake. When I was alone, my thoughts got even darker, and I started to think about taking the easy way out by taking my own life. I even took it a step further and almost went through with it one night. It would have been selfish if I had gone through with it, and I would have only hurt the people that loved me. I would never have experienced the most beautiful and positive transformations of my life, nor discovered my true potential by living an authentic life.
Rising from the Ashes
"I know that the life I'm living's no good
I'll get a new start, live the life I should
I'll get up and fly away; I'll get up and fly away."
It's always darkest before dawn, and one day, as it always does, the sun rose again, but this time it shone through my window directly into my eyes. I don't even remember putting the blinds up! On that day, I decided to get out of bed, ride my bike to Mt. Tom in Easthampton, MA, and go for a hike. The physical act of climbing was powerful, even spiritual. While hiking up the side of the mountain, breathing in the fresh air, and looking out at the beautiful landscapes, I felt energy start to flow through my body. The numbing sensation I felt was slowly beginning to dissipate with each step. I could breathe again, and the foggy grey filter that was covering my eyes and causing me to see the world through a black and white lens was also starting to fade.
"Some rise, some fall, some climb to get to Terrpain."
As I kept climbing, I was listening to The Grateful Dead- Terrapin Station part 1, "Lady With a Fan," one of the most beautiful compositions I've ever heard and also my favorite Grateful Dead song. As I continued to climb higher and higher, I started daydreaming about an adventure I had always wanted to live. I was in a VW Bus driving down Highway One with the windows down and the fresh California Pacific Coast air blowing through my entire body and invigorating love and light into my soul. I was smiling, I was happy, I was free, and I was ALIVE. The dream was so vivid that I wasn't paying attention to the music until this one lyric vibrated through my ears and directed me back to the present moment. "I will not forgive you if you will not take the chance." overcome with emotion; tears started rolling down my cheeks, and everything I was feeling dripped from my face, onto the dirt, and into the Earth. It was the first time I felt connected to Mother Earth and myself in months. It was the first time that I felt anything positive in a long time. It felt good to feel again.
The whole song is so beautiful, and suddenly I listened to the lyrics as if they were speaking directly to me. The first section of "Lady With A Fan" recounts the story of a Soldier and Sailor, both mesmerized by a beautiful Lady. Both men are fighting for her love, so to test the two men, she throws her fan into a lion's den.
"The soldier being much too wise" weighs the risk and doesn't take the chance, but the Sailor sides with passion and love and risks it all just for the chance at what could be. He set his fears aside and listened to his heart without questioning the risks because playing it safe was not an option. The regret that would come with it and follow him throughout his life, he could never bear. The second section starts with the lyrics, "Inspiration move me brightly." It's an ode to inspiration and trying to get to this mystical place Terrapin Station. This place can be found by those who are adventurous, fearless, and are full of love.
light the song with sense and color
Hold away despair"
The song spoke to me so profoundly that the very next night, I jumped into the lion's den and booked a one-way ticket to San Francisco (2017). I took the chance, chose the adventurous journey, and was on my way to my version of Terrapin Station, which wasn't a physical place or destination, but a feeling, and I had the power to go there whenever I chose because that feeling was inside me all along.
"California, preaching on the burning shore
California, I'll be knocking on the golden door
Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light
Rising to paradise, I know, I'm gonna shine."
The Adventure Begins
"There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone."
Selling my possessions, buying a one-way ticket to California, and traveling solo with no plan or expectations was one of the most exceptional experiences of my life. I had no idea what this trip would mean or where this trip would lead me, but the longer I was on the road, the more the Universe seemed to open up new doors of spontaneous adventure for my journey. I was free to go anywhere, experience anything, and only answer my conscience and soul. My daily world was full of synchronicity with people, places, and experiences. I could feel an energy shift as if my sub-conscience was being pulled in the right direction without knowing it. It's like I was on a breadcrumb trail to discovering my true self, picking up little pieces along the way. I went with the flow and followed my intuition because I knew things were happening as they were supposed to. It freed my mind to think about what mattered most in my life. It allowed me to be here now, wander, explore, gain new perspectives, get out of my comfort zone, live in the moment, trust my inner voice, and reignite life and a sense of wonder back into my soul.
I was experiencing pure unadulterated bliss! As the child inside me came out to play, my eyes shined bright as if I was experiencing the world with a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective on life. The experience of what it's like to come to know myself as I stood alone in the dead of night under the vast starlit sky in Death Valley, 3000 miles away from home, with no life distractions, was a genuinely memorable moment. This moment reinforced my view on life and what's truly important to me. New experiences, human connections, manifesting your dreams, getting out of your comfort zone, being kind, and finding your path to your authentic self are what I found to be important. I learned things about myself that I never knew were inside of me. I felt empowered. I had no fear, anxiety, or anger in me. I was full of love, gratitude and had a new appreciation for life. It was beautiful. Every day was a new adventure filled with simple pleasures and endless possibilities, making me feel ALIVE.
The memories of that first solo trip flash in and out of my head like a "dream I dreamed one afternoon long ago." I finally lived out my dream of driving down the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Big Sur. The only piece missing was the VW bus. I was blessed by a Shaman and took part in a mass meditation during the 2017 eclipse on top of Mount Shasta and walked among giants over a thousand years old in the Redwood forest of Northern California. I enjoyed the rhythmic beats of a drum circle in Venice Beach, went to the Grateful Dead house, and saw some incredible 1960's memorabilia at the Summer of love exhibit in San Francisco, including Jerry Garcia's Captain Trips hat. I witnessed one of the most magical sunsets on a beach in South Lake Tahoe and climbed Mt Tallac, my first 10,000 ft peak. I saw a double rainbow in a waterfall, hiked part of the John Muir Trail, and encountered my first black bear in Yosemite. I walked across the lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, shared stories with a Native American hitchhiker as we drove through the sandstone masterpieces of Monument Valley. In Utah, I hiked through frigid waters in the Narrows of Zion, saw bighorn sheep scaling vertical rock facings, and explored Psychedelic slot canyons in Arizona. I drove through the desert, picked up another Hitchhiker from France, where we spent the day hiking down into the Grand Canyon. I explored Sedona's energy vortexes and beautiful red rock sculptures. The list goes on and on…
5 Regrets of Dying
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for terminally ill patients in the last weeks of their lives. She recorded their thoughts about their mortality in a book called the top 5 regrets of dying.
- I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
- I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Thoughts about Life and Death
(Journal entry 9/30/17)
Do you fear death? Do you ever think about the end? What scares you about it? These are questions that would plague my mind from time to time at 3 am when I was laying in bed, wide awake with racing thoughts and heart pounding anxiety about my life, usually negative or dark thoughts. I used to often think about my own death. It used to be something I really feared. Western culture has a way of instilling fear into our lives. Death is something we will all have to deal with eventually. It feels strange to fear something that is inevitable.
What I came to realize is that it’s not death I'm afraid of; it’s not living that I’m afraid of.
I pictured myself old and grey, sitting in a chair thinking about my life and all the things I wished I had done with my time. Living a life of regret and wasting my time is what truly scared me. Once I changed my mindset about how I thought about death, I started to embrace who I really was and lived more authentically, a life true to my own inner conscience and intuition. I stopped worrying about the future and started living in the present. I stopped putting things off, started saying yes to life, and that has made all the difference. When I’m old and grey, sitting in my chair and death comes a-knocking, I’ll look back on my life with a smile on my face because I’ll know It was a life well lived and time well spent.
"There’s a story that comes from the tradition of the Desert Fathers, an order of Christian monks who lived in the wastelands of Egypt about seventeen hundred years ago. In the tale, a couple of monks named Theodore and Lucius share the acute desire to go out and see the world. Since they made vows of contemplation, however, this was not something they were allowed to do. So in order to satiate their wanderlust, Theodore and Lucius learned to “mock their temptations” by relegating their travels to the future. When the summertime came they said to each other, “We will leave in the winter” When the winter time came, they said “ We will leave in the summer”.” They went on like this for 50 years, never once leaving the monastery or breaking their vows.
Most of us, of course have never taken such vows-- but we choose to live our lives like monks anyway, rooting ourselves to a home or a career and using the future as a kind of phony ritual that justifies the present. In this way, we end up spending “the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty and one, that may never come to fruition. We’d love to drop all and explore the world outside, we tell ourselves, but the time never seems right. Thus, given unlimited amount of choices, we make none. Settling into our lives, we get so obsessed with holding on to our domestic certainties that we forget why we desired them in the first place."
- Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
I put this trip off for years and years, always telling myself I'll do it next year. I always made up some excuse and tricked myself into thinking it was definitely happening next year. It was fear that was controlling my thoughts and making these excuses. Why do we do that to ourselves? We are so naive to think we're going to have more time to do the things that we really want to. Time is our greatest commodity, and once it's gone, you can't get it back. Don’t waste your time and health working a job you hate and trying to save up money for a time that might never come to fruition. As Thoreau once said, “Wealth is found not in what you own, but in how you spend your time.”Don’t put off your dreams until “someday” because someday is just a made-up lie to justify your current situation and stops you from making any real change or taking action in the present moment. Everything in life is temporary, and even though our time is never guaranteed, we live our lives like it is until we’re on our deathbed. The only thing we wish we had more of is that precious commodity we call time—more time to do the things we love and be with the people we love. The material world is suddenly obsolete, and the things we gave energy too, focused on, and stressed about we sadly realize are unimportant.
We spend our time living the same day over and over for decades, finding comfort in the repetition and predictability of our days, annoyed when things don't go as planned, and daydreaming or wishing we were living a different life but never reaching the boiling point where we might actually do something about it. So many of us look back on our lives, knowing we never truly lived. The dreams in our head that got us through the tough days remain just dreams in our heads. Broken promises and thoughts of regret plague our minds until we take our final breath. Don’t live to exist. Don’t be afraid of change and uncertainty. Don’t be fearful of your wants and desires.
Embrace the unknown because that’s where the magic happens. That’s where the endless possibilities and your dreams are sitting in limbo, waiting for you to take a chance, follow your heart, and create your reality where you’re awake, walking through your new dream that you manifested into existence. It doesn't matter what stage of life you're in; as long as you're still breathing, you can still make changes and reinvent yourself. Little changes can be the catalyst to get out of your comfort zone, try something new and grow. We have been given the gift of hearing all this from people that have come before us and overcome their trials and tribulations. We’ve seen their successes, and we’ve listened to their regrets, but many of us still choose not to live our lives in a meaningful way because of fear and telling ourselves it’s not possible. If someone tells us we should try something, we are already armed and ready with a hundred different reasons why we can’t. Deep down, we are aware of this but still choose to do nothing about it. We let ego and fear control our lives. Every time we decide to do nothing, we give them more power, making it even more challenging to listen to the whispers of our inner voices and our true selves. Why are we so scared to live? Why are we so frightened to take a chance? Why are we scared to let ourselves be who we are? Start living, start exploring, and start wandering. Choose your time wisely because we never know how much we have left. The time is NOW!!
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
"Little bit harder, just a little bit more, a little bit farther than you've gone before."
The following year in 2018, I hiked 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada via the Pacific Crest Trail. I had never done any serious backpacking before, but I figured this was an excellent way to learn. I went through a metamorphosis when I was out in the wilderness for 5 months. The stories of my past, the labels I created for myself, and who I thought I was, began to dissolve with every step north that I took. I developed confidence, and I began to form a special bond with a person I never knew existed. I pushed myself to physical and mental highs and lows that I'd never felt before. Every time I step into a new role, I shed my old skin, grow a little more, and fly a little higher. I live in the here and now instead of being attached to regrets of the past and anxieties about the future. I quickly adapted to this new way of life. I woke up with the rising sun and fell asleep under the vast starlit sky. There is no need for an alarm clock as you begin to live more harmoniously with Mother Nature.
"We can discover the wonders of nature."
During the trek, I spent my nights' cowboy camping in the open air under the stars; I enjoyed the beauty of 500-year-old Joshua Trees in the desert. I climbed Mt. Whitney in the middle of the night to catch a glorious sunrise, enjoyed numerous natural hot springs in the nude, swam in the most beautiful crystal clear alpine lakes, and felt like Frodo from Lord of the Rings as I hiked over 10,000 feet of elevation for days on end through the stunning Sierra Nevada mountain range. I ate dinners on top of mountains as I watched sunsets turn everything it touched into gold as it disappeared over the horizon. I felt so alive, peering out into the night sky, breathing in the fresh mountain air of the Sierras, and feeling a connection to everything that I was seeing, feeling, and experiencing in that moment. As I trekked further north, the landscapes change like the year's seasons, the jagged, granite peaks replaced by lush green rolling hills and multi-colored rocks. Wildflowers grow everywhere, making the entire area full of life, wonder and vibrant colors. I hiked through snow-covered mountains and walked through burn areas with smoke from the raging forest fires. A little further north, there were jagged fields of volcanic rock as far as the eyes could see. Another area filled with Obsidian, a natural smooth glass formed from the rapid cooling of viscous lava from volcanoes, which made the landscape sparkle like diamonds in the reflection of the sun. I enjoyed the sweet taste of wild huckleberries on the Trail in Oregon and Washington, walked above the clouds through winter wonderlands, and drank the freshest water from glacier mountain streams. I stood in amazement in the Goat Rocks wilderness, where I had a picturesque view of three volcanic mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mt. St. Helens. I witnessed shooting stars whiz by my vision as I stared into the Universe with amazement as I slowly drifted off into a slumber. I carried my home on my back and loved every minute of this simplistic lifestyle. When I reached the northern terminus, I felt a moment of outstanding achievement, followed by instant sadness. The adventure of a lifetime was over. What will I do next? Who am I now? I thought I'd have it all figured out by the end of 5 months. "Is this the end of the beginning?" Maybe I was just walking through a dream, and when I reached Canada, it was time to wake up. But luckily, when we wake from one dream, we get to dream another dream. And with the experience, you dream a little bigger, your imagination goes a little further, and you realize you never have to stop dreaming.
After reaching the northern Terminus in Canada, I took a bus to Seattle. I hitchhiked down to San Rafael, CA, to go to Terrapin Crossroads to see live music for the first time in over 5 months. Terrapin was calling! As soon as I walked in the back, I saw a replica of Terrapin Station, which put a massive smile on my face. I thought about hearing it a couple years ago and how it took me out of my depression and gave me the courage to take a chance and change the course of my life. Phil Lesh, the original bassist from the Grateful Dead, played an impromptu show that day to make things even more incredible. I even ended up getting to meet and chat with him. He was humble, kind and inroduced himself “hi, I'm Phil.” It was truly a dream come true to meet a member of the band that has had such a major influence on my life.
In 2019, I was interested in learning more about sustainable living and becoming more self reliant, so I joined this website called Workaway. Workaway is an international program that allows travelers to pay for their room and food by helping their host with household work needs, projects, or odd jobs. It's a great way to travel on the cheap, learn new skills and meet like minded people. I started searching the site to find places to live. During this time, I had just got done reading this book called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's an amazing book and truly life changing if you put the principles into practice. When I was scanning the profiles on workaway, one of them had a VW bus in their profile picture and then in the description I saw "We love the philosophy of Ruiz- The Four Agreements." I took this as a sign from the universe and reached out to them right away. It also just so happened to be a couple hours away from an Ayahuasca ceremony I would be attending a few months later. The owner of the farm instantly accepted me and a couple weeks later I was living on an off-grid community near Yosemite to learn about sustainable living and prepare myself for my Ayahuasca Ceremony. When I arrived, one of the first things I saw was an old VW bus from the 1970's with Grateful Dead stickers all over it. I thought about all the adventures that this bus must have had. I instantly knew I was in the right place.
During my two months here I met people from 12 different countries. I learned so much during my time there. It was such a beautiful experience to connect with people genuinely, while doing simple, meaningful work. The first half of the day was filled with communal group life activities. we garden, water plants, gather firewood, do tree trimming, solar oven positioning, care for chickens, level dirt, clean-up, prepare two nice group meals, make compost, plant seeds, share ideas, create.
Principles of the Co-Op
- The Golden Rule: do to/for others what you would want for yourself
- NO FEAR, just love.
- We are all equals
- We watch and enjoy nature: sun, moon, stars, dirt, water, fire, life!
- We take care of our bodies, with good food, air, well water, positivism and earth WORK.
- We believe in sharing all of our time, talents, and resources in the world.
- We go to the outdoor farmers market every Saturday and get hundreds of kilos of FREE fruits and veggies that would otherwise be thrown away because they were not sold that day. We feed ourselves with this, the chickens, and make compost with any of the food we can’t consume. Everything gets used.
- We live life very connected to nature, in peace, harmony, and in love with Pachamama!
- We believe in living with NO debt.
- We love the philosophy of Ruiz- The Four Agreements and the co-op's favorite book is "Peace Pilgrim" (Her story is inspirational)
- This place is the escape FROM the popular world stuff. Enjoy this rare gift of quietude!
- We cook with a solar oven outside all Summer. The Sun is a great source of energy!
- Bear in mind three little questions at all times: Is it good for me? Is it good for everybody? Is it good for the Earth? ...if you follow these three simple ideas, you will experience deep satisfaction
Ayahuasca: The Vine of the Soul
Eyes of the World
"Turn on Your Lovelight"
Turn on Your Lovelight
"Love will see you Through."
Box of Rain
Ayahuasca is a blend of two plants - the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and a shrub called chacruna (Psychotria Viridis), which contains the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The plants are prepared and boiled over a fire for many hours to prepare the Ayahuasca tea, consumed in a ceremonial setting. It has been used by indigenous cultures in the Amazon for centuries. The Ayahuasca ceremony is used for healing on every level – physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. It provides profound revelations into the nature of reality, who we really are, and our place in the Universe. I believe psychedelics have the power to heal, transform, and awaken you, if you respect these plant medicines and molecules, set an intention for the experience , and are in the right setting (physical, mental, social and environmental context) They shouldn’t be taken lightly and you should do your research before experimenting with them. If you want to get started, check out How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan.
I didn't have a car at this time, so I had to get to San Francisco to hitch a ride to the ceremony. I got set up with a couch surfer that had a really cool social project where he converted an old school bus into a kitchen on wheels. Even cooler, the bus ran on veggie oil. (this seems random, but it's an essential part of the story) I stayed for a night and then the next morning I was on my way to my first Ayahuasca ceremony.
My intention for the experience: Help open my heart and feel divine love. Show me my true essence and my purpose for this life. Show me the oneness of all things. Show me what I need to see. Heal me.
The ceremony started with a prayer, and two by two, we came up to the altar to receive the medicine. The medicine was blessed by the shaman before being handed to me. The mix was made with ingredients from Hawaii and Peru. As I sipped the brew, I could feel a warmness begin to coarse through my body as the medicine spread from my throat, through my veins, and finally into my head. I was greeted by an intense psychedelic kaleidoscope of moving geometric patterns, fractals, and mechanical moving parts of a more giant machine-like entity. I felt like I was in the inner workings of the matrix and illusion of the world. I was trying to judge the experience and felt a bit stuck. I took a deep breath and began to repeat my intention. This helped to calm the default mode network of my brain, and my ego started to quiet. The ego needed to give up its power and become a spectator while the medicine worked through me. As I kept trying to control the experience, my ego was scrambling and latching onto its only weapon, fear. I had to let go and surrender to the medicine with no attachment to anything I knew to overcome this. The real magic began when I closed my eyes and shut them off from the world. The geometric patterns started to turn into a working living machine. I could see all sorts of gears and moving parts moving synchronically.
I started to lose sense of my physical self as the room began to take a different shape before my eyes. Everything was moving too fast to articulate the visions I was seeing into writing. I remember seeing everything on a cellular level, and I could see myself as billions of tiny atoms. Everything seemed to have a life of its own. It's like I was a planet with life forms all around me. All my senses were bewildered. I could see the music and feel the deep chanting get more intense. I felt the music working through my body like tiny worker ants picking up little negative energies in my body. I felt like I was on a doctors' table being examined by an entity of higher intelligence. Rays of light scanning and exploring my body to pinpoint all the pains I've held inside my physical self. Stored negative energy blocking my chakras from flowing fluently through my being. Forgotten pains of my past pain held deep in my subconscious, that's held me back from being a fully present, loving, radiant being. Pain based on my deepest fears. My body has been holding onto shame, guilt, fear, my failures and storing them in the cells of my body, holding me back from fully experiencing life in the here and now. Holding me back from what I am and we all are, pure loving awareness. As the music started getting more intense, I could see the ceiling open up and a shaft of light come through. I could see rainbow prisms, and the light went into me. I started to get nauseous and could feel all these energies begin to move around inside me like a sandstorm in the desert. The dark energy, stuck in my body for so long, was being awakened by pure love and was in fight or flight. My head was spinning as the chanting and drumming got more intense. I started feeling scared as this inner battle was going on inside. The chanting was coming to a climax. I sat up to get my bucket, and I began to throw up violently. It looked and felt like pure black was coming out of me. I kept throwing up. I was purging the pain, the guilt, and the shame away.
As I laid back down, I felt lighter. Something was missing. The pain from my depression was gone. I started to cry, the most joyous, loving cry I'd ever felt. My body became a wave of energy. Every cell in my body came alive, and I felt goosebumps from my head to my toe. I started to feel separated from my body, my ego melting away. I was beginning to feel separate from my identity, from my story. I dissolved into nothingness. The only thing left was awareness. Something of me was still there, but not in the physical form. My body became the soil of the Earth. Tears from my eyes streamed down my dissolving body and began to water the soil I had become.
Seeds of life grew out of what used to be my body, which evolved into flowers, where bees fed on nectar, trees grew tall where birds lived and flew from. The world began to create fruit and food which fed people and animals, nourishing them with life. I felt all the unconditional love from my parents that brought my consciousness to the life experience. I could feel the earth breathing, and I saw everything in the world breathing as one vibrational frequency. I saw the galaxy and everything in the Universe through my heart. I was a tiny atom and also everything in the Universe. It was the most beautiful feeling. I thought to myself, "This is what it's like to die." There is no beginning or end as we understand it. This experience was lovely and natural. I surrendered and accepted my own death, and in that acceptance, I felt total freedom and bliss. I felt a oneness that I've never felt. I now know that I am from something and connected to something bigger than myself. I felt what the essence of the world is, pure love energy. I felt the source from which I came from and was welcomed home with indescribable love and gratitude. After this body/vessel dissolves back into the Earth, it's what we all are. When our body is gone, we become everything. We are the eternal now. We are divine beings of love. Coming back to my body was like coming back to reality from a meaningful dream. I felt like I understood everything, and as I came back, I tried to remember everything I had learned in this journey. Still, every second, the details started to fade away.
I had faced mother Ayahuasca head-on without fear, and she gave me the greatest gift of all. She gave me freedom from my pain and a loving glow of light that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my time on Earth. I surrendered to her my pain and suffering, my fears, and she took them out of me, literally. The purging was something I feared going into this. I didn't realize how cleansing this process was. I didn't expect to feel all my pain go away. I felt the pain of the depressed person I used to be. I felt the pain of the person that wanted to end their life. I felt love and compassion for that person. I was no longer being held back from the habits, energies, and pains of my past. I know I can overcome so much. Over the past couple of years, the transformation I have made has been influential. I am much braver than I ever thought, and this was just another step as I kept wandering in the journey. I am so full of love and gratitude. Everything in life is a lesson or opportunity to grow. A chance to contract or expand. The choice is ours. Life is happening to you or for you. You have the option to love or hate, do the right thing or wrong thing, be happy or sad. When you start having the right mindset and make the right choices that you already know you should, you begin to work with the world, and your path starts to light its own way. Your intuition and heart are there to guide you. You just need to quiet your mind enough so you can listen.
Some final thoughts from my Ayahuasca experience. Our physical lives as we know it will someday end, but our essence will go on forever. Our body's physical death is liberation, back to formless consciousness and loving awareness. Back to pure love energy, which is the vibration of the Universe. We are in our loved ones, we are in the trees, the flowers, the sound of music, we are in the wind, and we are in every breathing cell of everything on this Earth, the stardust, the galaxies, and in every single part of this vast Universe. We are connected at the deepest level. I am you, and you are me, and we are all one.
We are just living the human experience, and we should be grateful that we have these beautiful bodies to walk this Earth in. I have extreme gratitude for every breath I take. How beautiful is it to fill your lungs with air and release your troubles back into the world? Going into this, I wanted a complicated answer for the meaning of life and my purpose, but I think life is much simpler. When you look at all the old ancient teachings, they are simple. Life should be enjoyed; life should be about creating, dancing, playing, giving , and most of all, loving. Help people, help yourself, spread love, and be grateful to be alive. We are all connected and need to live as one human race. Spread love and joy, be kind, show compassion, and practice non-judgment. When you live your truth, walk your path, and do everything out of loving-kindness, your life will keep getting better, and you will live in bliss. We need to let go of who we think we're supposed or what somebody else thinks you should be, and start embracing who we truly are.
A week of Solitude in Big Sur
After the ceremony, my only plan was to hitchhike to Big Sur and camp in solitude for a week to decompress. Still, as luck would have it, it was going to rain the entire week. So I ended up asking the couch surfing guy if I could stay with him in San Francisco for the week and I could help with the bus project for a few days until the weather cleared up.
When the rain finally stopped four days later, I walked down to Ocean Beach, put my thumb out, and hitchhiked 150 miles down the coast to spend a week camping in solitude. No power lines, no cell service, no life distractions. Just me, being fully present in the here and now, exploring nature, exploring myself, and enjoying some breathtakingly beautiful ocean views. It only took about 15 minutes before I got my first ride. My first ride was with Michael, who was driving a 1970 VW bug. Cruising down Highway 1 in a classic car with the windows down, feeling the ocean breeze against my skin certainly set the tone for the week ahead. Big Sur is not one specific location; it's a 90 mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful California coastline that runs along Highway 1. I knew I wanted to get to Big Sur, but other than that, I had no idea where I was going or where I would camp, but I'd figure it out when I got there. Once there, my mission was simple: find a camping spot with an ocean view.
After arriving, I knew that wouldn't be very hard. During the week, I hiked up green, rocky ridges full of vegetation that led to panoramic ocean views, the perfect place to pitch my tent for a couple days. I explored the smooth pebble shores of Sand Dollar Beach, searched for and collected unique rocks in Jade Cove, wandered along the jagged rock coves along the endless coast, where I playfully hopped from rock to rock like I used to do when I was a kid, exploring an area for the first time. I watched whales blow the water out of their blowholes while coming up for air during their annual migration north. I enjoyed the colors and smells of vibrant purple, yellow, orange, and red wildflowers that grew spontaneously all over the coast. I saw a whole rainbow appear over the ocean when the sun first came out after morning rain. I hiked through a Eucalyptus forest grove and found a camp spot on the edge of an Oceanside cliff with a Manzanita tree bungalow, which provided afternoon shade and protection from the rain. It was stunning!! I had a front-row seat to the sun setting over the ocean every night. I sat out at night, gazed up at the infinite sky, and was in awe of the number of stars visible when the only light pollution is the reflection of the moon glistening over the open ocean. I went to sleep to the soothing sound of waves crashing against the rock cliffs below. I listened to the sweet sounds of birds greeting each morning with a song. I watched birds effortlessly glide through the sky above the ocean, looking for a perfect place to perch for a midday siesta.
On the last day, while enjoying my breakfast with the sun warming my back, I watched two dolphins swimming in sync with each other, as if they were enjoying a morning stroll in the ocean below. I practiced yoga, meditated, read books, and wrote in my journal. I walked through the forest barefoot, grounded and rooted to the Earth, connecting myself to the oneness of all things, lost in a timeless space, surrendering all that I am to the beauty that was all around me. This place makes every cell in my body dance and come alive. Infinitely expanding divine moments of truth and inspiration shooting through my being, as my 7 chakras opened up like a free-flowing river of energy. I am inspired beyond words, full of love and gratitude, wandering around in the journey of my life. Now it's time to head back to back to San Francisco to work on the bus project.
All you Need is Love
“Did you say your name was ramblin' rose?
Ramble on baby, settle down easy
Ramble on rose.”
- Ramble on Rose
When I came back to San Francisco, the stars aligned; a new girl named Rose from Brazil had just arrived to help with the bus project. We shared our first kiss on a back porch in July (it was June, but July sounds better in a story with Grateful Dead references) in the Castro heights of San Francisco that overlooked the Bay. The kiss was unexpected. It just happened. It felt like there was a magnetic pull bringing us closer together. One moment I was watching the sun going down, and the next moment our lips were locked in a soft, gentle caress that instantly intoxicated my heart and made me feel those swoony sensations of beautiful butterflies flying around intensely in my stomach. What a feeling!! I barely knew this woman, but something happened at the moment that was bigger than the both of us. I knew right then, my entire world was changing, and this woman would be part of my life.
"I knew right away she was not like other girls."
- Scarlet Begonias
It boggles my mind when I look back and think about how small the chances were that we crossed paths. If I had gone left and she went right, would we have ever met? If I made one different choice, would we have missed each other entirely, or would the Universe adjust our courses, and we'd meet a little further down the road? Or maybe it was all meant to happen just as it happened. Or no matter how many wrong turns we made, somehow we would find each other. So I started to think that every tiny decision made over the last four years led me to her, leading me to love. I wasn't consciously looking for her, but maybe my heart was guiding me during my journey. This journey was about going on an epic adventure to find myself, heal myself, and love myself. Joseph Campbell refers to this as the Hero's Journey. Once those things happened, I was ready to give my love to someone else. It got me thinking that maybe Lady with a Fan and Terrapin Station had much more meaning during that first hike than I initially thought. I only ever thought about the significance of "I will not forgive if you will not take the chance." I never once thought about or connected the love part of the story to my journey. How beautiful to have this love story happen in San Francisco, a place that I always felt a strong connection to because of the Grateful Dead. To have this happen there was truly magical. As Steve Jobs once said, You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.
I am proud of how far I have come since my darkest days, just a few short years ago. Maybe my entire adventure was trying to get the fan from Lion's den. And my reward was the lady with a fan who was also taking a chance at love. I was the sailor from the start, and I heard the call for the Hero's Journey to discover myself, come back a new man, and find the love I always wanted and dreamed of when I was ready for it. In 2019, we had a spiritual wedding ceremony at Burning Man. And just last year, we were officially married. We had a small outdoor service overlooking the Connecticut River in Deep River, the town I grew up in. I now have a beautiful wife and daughter.
Burning Man is an annual week-long counterculture gathering in the Nevada Desert to celebrate artistic self-expression. A temporary self-sufficient community of 70,000 people is built where no money is exchanged and everyone brings something to contribute to the collective. By the end of the week, nothing is left but the desert sand. It is definitely something everyone should go to at least once in their life. Honestly mind-blowing, beautiful, and inspiring on many levels.
"Inspiration, move us brightly!"
- Terrapin Station
Since my wife and I first met, we have been motivated to live life our way, so we decided to create a business with purpose and big dreams that give back to the people and planet. Over the last year, we have been developing our skincare brand Amazonian SkinFood. We set out to create a sustainable and natural skincare line to help declutter your routine and achieve optimal skin health with fewer steps. We want to show you how to achieve your best skin using our multifunctional, gentle, and effective formulas that embrace the skin's natural texture and complexion.
There have been so many moments where we wanted to give up, but we kept pushing through. I am really proud of how far we've come. Rose being from Brazil, we decided we wanted to contribute in some way to counteract the exploitation of the Amazon Rainforest and its inhabitants, so it occurred to us that we could co-create natural skincare products and follow a regenerative business model that would bring abundance back to the forest and its people. We strongly believe that creating a sustainable rainforest economy based on renewable resources will protect the biodiversity of the forest, reduce poverty and promote the generation of wealth for the people living there.
Manifesting a New World
Over the past couple of years, we've been learning about new ways of living, focusing on off-grid communities, eco-villages, gardening, permaculture, plant medicine, creative/resource-based economies, and other thoughtful and sustainable ways of living in harmony with nature and with ourselves.
Our big dream is to use the profits generated from Amazonian SkinFood to build a sustainable, eco-friendly, and self-reliant living community in Brazil or Costa Rica.
This community we dream of will thrive on forms of energy that do not harm the planet, methods of farming that keep food local and healthy, a place for travelers, families, and the local community to share, gain knowledge, and live in harmony with the land.
It will be based on regenerative architecture and agriculture like Geoship's Bioceramic dome homes or Earthships Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico, a sustainable home constructed with recycled or natural building materials designed to be self-sustainable for those who live in them. They are powered by renewable sources like wind and solar power, collect their own drinking water, treat their own sewage, and often grow their own food. We want to use syntropic farming and permaculture design principles that work with nature instead of against it.
"Without love in the dream, it will never come true."
Help on the Way
We believe that we have a rare opportunity to reshape society and create a new world. One that ends the cycle of human suffering for good and allows a space where everyone's voices are given weight and consideration. Together, through cooperation, connection, community, and creativity, we can transform the world as we know it.
We want to create a world that shifts from a scarcity environment to a world of abundance, to create an environment where all the basic needs are met, and people have access to a safe environment to learn, create, gather and grow.
This space will not only be cost-effective but sustainably built and aim to reconnect families & communities with nature, so we can all live in the same harmonious frequency from which the world is all connected.
We are all cosmic travelers, and this brief passage on Earth is a call to channel technology and experience into the regeneration of our People and Planet.
Thank you for being with us on this journey, and may our way of living begin to align with the way of nature again, with one intentional step at a time.
After my travels I came up with the phrase Wandering in the Journey. It's a metaphor for living and experiencing life. It's a state of consciousness where you are present in the moment, living mindfully, and opening yourself up to new experiences in order to gain a new perspective of the world and yourself in it. It's about letting go of your fears, listening to the whispers of your inner voice, and venturing out into the unknown to explore the world with a sense of childlike wonder. It’s about having an optimistic outlook and spreading positive vibes to the people you meet and the places you go, while discovering the paths in life that energize your spirit, fuel your passions, bring happiness to your heart, and purpose to your life. It’s about connecting with your higher self, living an authentic life, and accessing your true potential of living a truly fulfilling life.
Wandering time is positive, and getting lost in the journey will help you find your purpose and guide you in the right direction. Go with the flow, trust your intuition, and free your mind to think about what matters most in life. And remember, it's not about finding an answer or reaching a destination. It’s about Wandering in the Journey, enjoying the moments, and enjoying the ride.
Much love and many blessings to all of you on your life's journey, and may this next year be the most beautiful yet. Cheers to 2022 and beyond!
"Fare thee well now
Let your life proceed by its own design
Nothing to tell now
Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."
Love Shane, Rose & Alanis (~);}