Chapel of Optimal Life

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OPINION: Medicines Of The Rainforest

Our bags were packed and everyone gathered one final time on the deck of the jungle lodge that served as our home deep in the Amazonian rainforest for ten days.

As I rocked back and forth silently in a hammock, I recorded one last memory of all the sounds of the rainforest, the unrivaled symphony of birds and insects singing, the distant howling of monkeys, the scent of the musky air foretelling a hint of rain nearby, low clouds in the sky, and a slight flutter of sadness tickled my sinking bitter sweet heart.

It was time to depart this sacred place within the heart and lungs of Mother Earth herself. As I swept my gaze around to take one final look at all the giant trees surrounding us, I thought of how we were nourished and cleansed by the medicine that runs through their veins that was now running through our veins.

There is so much to learn from other cultures. There is so much to learn from Mother Earth.

I could still feel the sacred teas circulating through my arms, my fingers, my legs, my toes and all the way back up to my head. I could feel the medicine working to cleanse every inch of my body, every muscle, bone, down to every cell. I could even feel the cleansing of the substance that holds whatever it is that defines this very life.

The medicines of the rainforest even cleansed my memories and my thoughts so that they could become pure and intoxicate me no more. Issues buried deep down had somehow come afloat. I never felt so much gratitude or such an overwhelming sense of peace in my soul.

I was and still am filled with a sense of heaven from knowing that I could for the first time in my life have faith in so much more than what I had grown to learn in textbooks and classrooms that teach little in regard of the soul.

Floating up the river back toward the civilized world, I thought of all the years I spent doing research at a biomedical institution. I thought of all the data collected in the laboratory by myself and all the data being collected in laboratories around the world.

While the biomedical sciences are advancing at speeds the average person can barely keep up with, it became clear to me that day that its advancement is being held back by the lack of greater consideration for those elements, both human and spiritual, whose importance remains overlooked.

Indeed, spirituality is one factor that was not considered in my experiments, my textbooks, or in any respectable lab meeting discussion. Floating up the Amazon river that morning, I knew in my core that to truly understand the mind and disease, one must enter a realm beyond the physical body and what can be determined within the confines of a laboratory.

Our greatest hope for curing ourselves requires us to cross boundaries between biomedical science and spirituality.

Some of the most significant lessons such as those described above can be learned from visiting places like Peru. In many third and second world countries, there stand cultures in which spirituality and healing run hand and hand. When I went to the Amazon, I had the opportunity to work with and learn from medicine men native to the area.

I was there with a group of about ten, many of whom were healers and also there for healing. Our time was spent cleansing our bodies and quieting our minds through a special diet, daily meditation, and several healing ceremonies. I learned about various medicinal plants and have a newfound appreciation for a rainforest that serves as the largest natural pharmacy in the world.

Equally impressive is how well these medicine men know their pharmacy. What struck me the most, however, is the sacred manner and the reverence in which they would gather, prepare, and administer the drugs. I couldn't help imagining what it would be like if pharmacists, physicians, and researchers in modern societies used some sacred form of intent with all the substances that went from their hands out to a patient or administered to a laboratory animal.

All the rituals and sincerity from their hearts and souls has had me wondering about the role of intent and the power of our thoughts in healing. There is so much to learn from other cultures. There is so much to learn from Mother Earth.

Riding on the boat back up the river, I could barely imagine what it would be like to transition from the serene natural beauty of the jungle to the loud, busy streets of Iquitos. I was intimidated by the very thought of the harsh blinding florescent lights and the hundreds of motored rickshaws that would soon abrasively be passing me by.

What would it be like to once again become numb to the elements with no way of knowing whether it was raining outside of some hotel's thick concrete walls?

I was already beginning to miss the little things like the sound of the bell ringing to let us know dinner was being served, the candle lanterns that were placed outside the front door of our jungle cabins every evening at dusk, the way all the doors would swing open and closed without making a sound, having only a net to separate us from the birds, insects, the rain, and the sound of thunder from a storm passing by in the distance.

My last few thoughts riding back on the boat went something like this, We take with us the sacred vine of the soul. Sacred medicines of the rainforest now grow deep within our bodies, our cells, intertwined with our genetic material, embedded now in the human genome.

We are fortunate to have had the chance to breathe as one within Her lungs, to beat as one within Her heart. We are forever connected with Mother Earth through the vine of the Holy Spirit.

Adapted from an Opinion by Jin Ju as submitted to



Last Words Spoken Before Being Executed . . .


I'm going home, babe.
Executed by injection, Delaware.
~~ James Allen Red Dog, d. March 3, 1993

Remember, the death penalty is murder.
Executed by injection, Texas.
~~ Robert Drew, d. August 2, 1994

Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life.
Last words on the gallows.
~~ George Engel
(He was one of four executed after the 1886 Haymarket bombing in Chicago)

I love you.
Spoken to the executioner.
Executed by injection, New York.
~~ Sean Flannagan, d. June 23, 1989

How about this for a headline for tomorrow's paper? French fries.
Executed in electric chair in Oklahoma.
~~ James French, d. 1966

I'd like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. And the rest of the world can kiss my ass.
Executed by injection, Texas.
~~ Johnny Frank Garrett, Sr., d. February 11, 1992

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