Tweak. Ouch. I just turned to open a drawer, but there it is again. A sharp stabbing feeling at the very end of my spine, something I have become comfortably unaccustomed to after a series of ayahuasca sessions in Pucallpa, Peru.

Ayahuasca. Love the stuff. This hallucinogenic potion is probably the closest thing to magic we have left in the world. In fact, I believe it is magic. And so does the exorcised hernia that on my lower spine, which was so big a couple of years ago that it felt like I was walking around with a baseball at my waistline.

That is until most of the damned demon was ripped from the part of my body it had become so comfortable sleeping with since the first time my back blew out several years earlier in Alaska.




I was offloading crab from a fishing boat with a team of "pitchers." A pitcher’s job is to enter the boat's hold which is full of the crab, grab them by the legs and toss them into a net. Once full, the net goes up by crane, emptied, and then dropped into the hold again. Since the hold is usually full to the brim with crab, the pitcher starts out by jumping in, right on top of the little critters. I use the word "little" relatively speaking of course. Some of these crawling creatures that look like giant spiders reach a couple of feet long when outstretched. And they can really pack a pinch. This especially hurts when your throat, or worse, the family jewels, are attacked. The giant spiders have ample opportunity to pinch away as the pitcher must dig a hole out of the crab. This way he can stand up right in the hole with a wall of crab surrounding him. It makes it easier to pitch. No need to bend over so much.

I wasn't the fastest pitcher on the team, yet I was one of the few people on the entire barge that could actually pitch. I didn’t have the motivation to be the "best pitcher this barge has ever seen." I mean, what kind of a title is that anyway? However, on this particularly clear Alaskan day I felt spunky and was determined to prove that I could kick crab shell whenever I desired. So i did. I pitched those giant spiders with a speed that would put Speedy Gonzalez to shame. I hit floor first, much to the surprise and dismay of my fellow gung-ho pitchers. Almost finished with my corner of the hold, I bent down and grabbed several legs in each hand. With a swinging motion I quickly stood up and tossed the creatures to the net. Big mistake. POP! That's what I remember hearing. It hurt like hell. During the next four days I was forced to walk bent over like the hunchback of Notre Dame. My lower back blew out on me. Those giant spiders, in their twisted way, had won.

A year later I was working for another company in Alaska. I had no back pain at all, so the first incident was duly forgotten. This time I was pitching cod fish. The best way to toss a cod, especially the big ones, is to stick your fingers under its gill slits to get a good grip, then flip it into the net like a baseball pitcher throwing underhanded.

Friendly competition would sometimes get fierce amongst us pitchers. We challenged each other to see who would pitch the most fish in the least amount of time. Pitching cod was not easy. When first entering the hold we would stand on plastic boards, which were placed on top of the mounds of cod like a life raft. Indeed, that's what they were. Without them we would sink into the cod and get lost among them.

Feeling particularly cocky that day I grabbed the biggest cod I could find. I don't know how much it weighed, but it was a big boy. As I lifted the flipping fish into the air I felt the bones of my lower spine slip from each other in a grinding left-to-right motion. Damn that hurt. And it hurt for several days afterwards. At least the cod hit the bull's eye.

Years after the cod incident I had two more painful back incidences. Each time it got worse. The first of these resulted from a strong cough in the morning. Immediately my back blew out and I fell to the floor. I could not walk for several days. The pain was immense. I refused to go to the hospital. When I needed to take a leak I would pull myself along the floor from my bed to the bathroom. I could do it. Pain or no pain I WILL do it.

The last major back blow out I experienced did not begin with a dramatic pop, cough or slip. It worked on me slowly over a couple of days until I was a paraplegic again. This time I was laid out for a week, using my arms to get around. After I could walk again the pain would come back from time to time, but nothing so intense.

I did visit a doctor. He was not much help, simply recommending I get a potentially life threatening (and expensive) surgery to pull the hernia out of me.

Fast-forward a couple of years later. In the jungles of Pucallpa, Peru I sat in a ceremonial hut in the dead of night. I was under the influence of ayahuasca during one of a string of ayahuasca sessions. The physical and psychological purging was intense. I had no idea that such vile juice lived inside me. I coughed up agents of poison in green, brown and yellow colors. When those evil tricksters of negativity entered my brain ayahuasca would transform them into phlegm and expel them through my mouth. Eventually my hacking and coughing were reduced and I had a moment of blessed silence.

Sitting cross legged, letting my mind explore the inner depths of consciousness I had not know to exist, I realized I had been sitting in this position almost all night long. Since my first back incident I was not able to do this without feeling pain in my lower spine and being forced to abandon the position.

As soon as my focus had been directed to my hernia the ayahuasca that was in my blood immediately jumped on it. It literally attacked that damned hernia with the guidance of the master ayahuasquero who was helping to heal me. I was not in Pucallpa to heal the hernia. Yet ayahuasca seems to know what is best for you even better than yourself.

It was like thousands of rebel ships attacking the death star. Ayahuasca sent countless missiles into that baseball of a hernia whom relentlessly attacked until the ball broke from my spine. My heart beat increased. My palms sweat. I could FEEL this. It was not hallucinatory. I grabbed my lower back with both hands, searching for the round hernia. It was there, but loose. No longer was it attached to my spine like a blood-sucking leach. Being pushed in the mouth of a serpent, the demon slithered and weaved up my spine until it reached my throat. The serpent chewed it into countless tiny pieces and left. The pieces were lodged in my throat and I began to cough again. I coughed, and coughed, and coughed. Each time pieces of that dreadful thing flew out of me and into the bucket where my previous demons were collecting. It took great effort to expel each piece, but with every cough I felt lighter, cleaner.

That morning I could move. I mean really move! I could bend, twist and stretch without the slightest twinge of pain. The ball on my lower spine could no longer be felt. In this sense I had been set free. Since then i have not had a problem with that damn hernia, that is, not until just before I started writing this piece while lying in bed.

Yet, I know the hernia is gone. It was with me for so long that although it has detached from my spine it has attached itself to my brain, or more accurately, to my beliefs. When I think about that belief, I feed it.

I no longer wish to feed that demonic belief. So I will now starve it.

"You are expelled. You don't exist. I will not think of you again. I will now stand. I will now move. Demon be gone!"


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