Too Much Of A Good Thing

Tuesday, 8/7/18

“Too much of a good thing” is how Aldous Huxley described Lake Atitlan in his 1934 travel work called Beyond the Mexique Bay.

Yesterday was another full day in Pana. Carolina joined us at breakfast in the Regis (included in our stay), and we soaked for awhile in the hot tub before heading over to Joe’s place via tuctuc (little red golf-cart-like vehicles that seat three people cozily and serve as taxis everywhere we’ve been around the Lake). Right in back of his house, an enormous boulder the size of a step-van had rolled down the mountain like a titanic bowling ball and smashed through the neighboring house. It was still there, being impossible to move, and the house was pretty wrecked. Déjà vu! Do we detect a theme here?

The boulder and the house it wrecked.

Joe’s studio/lab is a complex of electronics, computers, cables, monitors—and virtual reality equipment. It looks, in fact, like the setup in the van in the movie, Ready Player One. He hooked us up with helmets, goggles and control wands, one for each hand, and activated his holodeck, where we were able to choose from a couple dozen portals to enter incredibly detailed 3-D virtual worlds—such as outer space, the ocean depths, the Jurassic era (with dinosaurs!), the African Savannah, a Japanese fantasy landscape, and many others—complete with animated creatures. But that was only the background. Our hands and the controls we were holding them in were also visible in the virtual worlds, and with them we could grab, toss, and otherwise manipulate objects from a wide selection of options to engage ourselves in the various realms. This equipment is still in the early developmental stage, but it was easy to envision how it will evolve in the immediate future—as well as the further implications and possibilities over decades, centuries, and millennia…

Joe’s virtual reality lab and studio.

Joe’s lady Marybel joined us shortly before Carolina had to leave for a 2:00 workshop. Marybel owns a restaurant in San Marcos called Samsara. She’s getting ready to introduce a new dessert involving shaved ice made of frozen fruits, yogurt, etc., so she whipped up a batch for us to try. It was delicious, and should be a big hit. Joe Goerbert is one of the world’s top business planners; see The blog holds information about the Guatemala project and volunteer program.

We had to catch the last boat back to Cerro de Oro at 5:30. Carolina had arranged for a tuctuc to meet us and take us back to the Lodge, and here we are. Today is a relaxing downtime. We took a little dip in the Lake, and I’m catching up on this journal.

Paragliding over Panajachel

Sunday, 8/5/18

Yesterday morning (Sat) we hiked back down the mountain to Paxanax (pronounced posh-a-nosh), called the “Beverly Hills” of Lake Atitlan, and met up with Deva Nirguna, who led Dona and me on another long hike up to his place, Atitlan Arte Vista, a gorgeous retreat center he built himself ( Nirguna is a prolific artist as well as architect, and his erotic paintings were on display throughout the labyrinth of rooms. He especially wanted to go over my horoscope with me, as Jupiter is now coming into its 6th full return (at 75 years), and it portends the beginning of a significant new phase of my life, focusing on writing and teaching. Shades of my aya trip the night before!

Nirguna also told us a miraculous tale, and showed us the evidence. Around 8:00PM on Sunday, April 23, 2017, a Volkswagon-sized boulder had rolled down the mountain and smashed right through the house, taking out a bedroom where a guest named Chris Campbell was lying on the bed writing on his laptop. Chris must have been teleported to safety, as he awoke on the ground 20 feet below, virtually unharmed, while the boulder lodged in the wall and floor with the bed crushed under it. Chris is Managing Editor of Laissez Faire Today, and he wrote up his account—with photos: “How to Surf a Boulder.” Google it.

This morning, we took a boat with Nirguna to Panajachel (called the “New York” of the Lake), where we checked into the Hotel Regis, with its hot springs. We spent a couple of hours in the hot tub, then went out for lunch. While we were eating in a little café, a man walking by overheard us speaking in English and came in to buttonhole us about the Bible. I told him, “Sorry, not interested. We’re Pagans.”

But he persisted: “What do you know about the Bible?” I told him I’d read it cover-to-cover in several translations, which was why I was Pagan. He really didn’t get the hint, and I regrettably had to get rude and tell him to just go away. Later, walking down the street, we passed him with a gaggle of other missionaries, all dressed in cheap suits and ties so as to blend in, no doubt.

We were checking out the Museo Lacustre Atitlan (located inside the Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo), the local museum of underwater Mayan archaeology, with its collection of artifacts recovered from Samabaj, an ancient Mayan ceremonial center discovered at the bottom of the lake near Cerro de Oro, when I got a phone call from the parapente para-gliding people with whom I had a flying appointment tomorrow (Monday) morning. The weather now was perfect, but looked bad for tomorrow, so they wanted to go right away. We rushed back to the hotel where they picked us up, dropped Dona at the beach where we’d be landing, and drove up to the top of a nearby mountain, above Santa Catarina Palopo, where they spread the parawing out on the ground, and geared me up with harness, helmet and emergency parachute (in case of a water landing?). However, there was insufficient wind to lift the parachute wing, so after waiting a while, they decided we’d have to run to get it in the air—like Charlie Brown trying to fly a kite. So—after one false start where I stumbled and scraped my knee—we ran off the cliff like the Roadrunner and caught the air for an exhilarating 20-minute flight across the mountain face and over the lake, landing at the beach in Pana where Dona was waiting. This was way high on my bucket list—something for which I’ve waited over 500 years! That leaves sky-diving and hot air ballooning…

Paragliding over Panajachel.

Coming in for a landing (photo by Dona)

Now we’re back at the Regis, where we’ll meet Carolina and Joe in the morning, and take a boat back to Cerro de Oro. 

Ayahuasca Ceremony

Saturday, 8/4/18

After another night at Felix’s place, we had only coffee in the morning at the Moonfish café, as Friday evening we were scheduled for an ayahuasca ceremony with Jam. We took a boat with Felix to Santa Cruz (the “Santa Cruz” of the Lake…), where Jam met us at the famous dock restaurant and scuba dive shop, La Iguana Perdida (the lost iguana). The map painting included the famous Atitlan lake monster, Xocomil.

Map of Santa Cruz area. Note lake monster, Xocomil.

We took a long hike up the mountain through the jungle to a remote ceremonial temple/site where Jam led us in an awesome ayahuasca ceremony, in which Jam and Felix kept up a joyous and haunting musical background of voices, singing bowls and didgeridoo. Jam’s knowledge and skill as a medicine wizard was most impressive, establishing an atmosphere of perfect love and perfect trust. Dona tripped on Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms, and had beautiful happy visions of lights, colors and forms she could only describe as “psychedelic.” Felix said she was like “a fluffy koala.” My own experience was perhaps a bit odd, as I spent the entire trip immersed in a vision of composing and writing epic love stories from myth and history, trying to get the wording just right to convey the deep continuity of Love through the ages, and how it shapes our lives, cultures, and Destiny…to this very moment—and beyond.

A flower in the forest. Dona in the jungle.

From Wikipedia: “Ayahuasca”

Ayahuasca is an entheogenic brew made out of Banisteriopsis caapi vine and other ingredients. The brew is used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin.

  1. caapi contains several alkaloids that act as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Another common ingredient in ayahausca is the shrub Psycotria viridis which contains the primary psychoactive compound, dimethyltryptamine (DMT). MAOIs are required for DMT to be orally active.

In the 16th century, Christian missionaries from Spain and Portugal first encountered indigenous South Americans using ayahuasca; their earliest reports described it as “the work of the devil.” In the 20th century, the active chemical constituent of B. caapi was named telepathine, but it was found to be identical to a chemical already isolated from Peganum harmala and was given the name harmine.

Some Westerners have teamed up with shamans in the Amazon rainforest regions, forming ayahuasca healing retreats that claim to be able to cure mental and physical illness and allow communication with the spirit world.


From Wikipedia: “Psilocybin mushroom”

Hallucinogenic species of the Psilocybe genus have a history of use among the native peoples of Mesoamerica for religious communion, divination, and healing, from pre-Columbian times to the present day. Mushroom stones and motifs have been found in Guatemala. A statuette dating from ca. 200 CE. and depicting a mushroom strongly resembling Psilocybe mexicana was found in a chamber tomb in the state of Colima. A Psilocybe species was known to the Aztecs as teōnanācatl (“divine mushroom”). Aztecs and Mazatecs referred to psilocybin mushrooms as genius mushrooms, divinatory mushrooms, and wondrous mushrooms.

After the Spanish conquest, Catholic missionaries campaigned against the cultural traditions of the [natives], dismissing them as idolaters, and the use of hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms, like other pre-Christian traditions, were quickly suppressed. The Spanish believed the mushroom allowed the Aztecs and others to communicate with devils. In converting people to Catholicism, the Spanish pushed for a switch from teonanácatl to the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist. Despite this history, in some remote areas the use of teonanácatl has remained.


Thursday, 8/2/18

We’re visiting wonderful people in each town along the north shore of Lake Atitlan, which can only be reached by water taxis. Starting in the west, we went from Santiago to San Pedro on Wednesday, where we received fabulous deep-tissue acupressure healing massages from Angela. I love massages, and try and get them as often as possible, but this may have been the best ever. While Dona and I were respectively waiting our turns, we spent a few hours hanging out in the garden with Angela’s husband Eric, and a few of their friends who dropped by. From Deadheads to former business executives, each of these folks had a remarkable back story of what they used to do, and how they came to Lake Atitlan.

Angela’s Tree Ladies…

Felix met us at Angela’s and accompanied us on the boat to San Marcos, a lovely little town where we met other ex-pat friends and had great conversations in charming little open-air restaurants. It reminded me of the ex-pat community of artists, poets and literati in Paris in the 1920s. Felix had told us on the boat that San Marcos was the “Amsterdam” of Lake Atitlan, and that the synchronicity factor here was off the chart. Sure enough, as we walked by the Restaurante Fe we ran into Deva Nirguna just coming out. So we decided to eat there. The food was fabulous! Shortly John and Esther showed up and joined us. None of this had been previously arranged. Felix said this happens all the time here. Truly the place could be called Synchroni-City!

Dona’s Lonely Planet Guide to Guatemala says:

San Marcos has become a magnet for global seekers, who believe the place has a spiritual energy that’s conducive to learning and practicing meditation, holistic therapies, massages, reiki, and other spiritually-oriented activities. … It’s an outlandish mélange of cultures—evangelical Christians, self-styled shamans, Kaqchiquel farmers and visionary artists—against a background of incredible natural beauty. Someone ought to make a movie about it.

Felix put us up in a cottage he’s house-sitting. Apparently this sort of arrangement is common, as many people have built charming little summer homes around here which they only visit occasionally. Today we had a lovely luncheon visit with Esther at her house, all beautifully landscaped with gardens and rock walls, as is so much here. Baba John came by to show off his brand-new tattoo on his forearm of my Astra, Star Goddess jewelry design that he fell in love with at the workshop! #whereisastra

Esther at her home in San Marcos.


Baba John’s tattoo of my Astra Star Goddess design.


Happy Lughnasadh

Wednesday, 8/1/18

Happy Lughnasadh from Guatemala! Today we’re taking a boat across the lake for a week of adventures on the north side with some of the wonderful people who came to my seminar. Carolina is going with us for the first day as our colorful native guide and coordinator of our itinerary. First, we’ll be seeing Angela in San Pedro for some body work, and lunch. Then we’ll take a boat to San Marcos to stay with Felix until Friday, when we meet up with Jam in Santa Cruz for an evening of shamanic journeying. On Saturday we’ll be visiting Deva at his beautiful retreat center in Paxanax, Atitlan Arte Vista, for a Saturday afternoon healing ceremony for the lake and his analysis of my horoscope. Sunday through Monday we’ll be staying at the Regis Spa in Panajachel, where I’ll be taking a parapente (paraglider) flight above the lake—something I’ve waited over 500 years to do! There’s a little museum at the Hotel Posada De Don Rodrigo a few blocks from the Regis where they have Mayan artifacts retrieved from an ancient settlement now deep beneath the rising waters of the lake. Next Monday we’ll be visiting with Joe, and then back to Cerro de Oro and La KzonA…

Hanging out with the workshop folks…