A day in the life at the Wolfslair MMA gym

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A day in the life at the Wolfslair - January 2006 to March 2007

Without going into chapter and verse about the circumstances surrounding me join the Wolfslair Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Team in 2006, I'd like to show a glimpse into the daily routine, perhaps grind, of how a nobody from nowhere, (to use the Henry Rollins term) would subject himself to, whilst challenging myself both physically and mentally at one of the UK's finest mixed martial arts gyms.

Mixed Martial Arts at the time was a fairly fledgling sport in the UK. It enjoyed a bit of a cult status in certain circles and circuits, rather than the mass commercial status that it enjoys now. It is often thought that the inclusion of British fighters, Ross Pointon and Michael Bisping in the 3rd series of American MMA reality tv show, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), started to increase the mainstream popularity of the sport. 

For fans of the show or indeed of British MMA, they will know that Bisping was successful in winning the Light Heavy crown on the show and has gone on to bigger and better things, including the most prestigeous prize of all, the UFC World Middle-Weight Championship Belt .
But what I'm going to describe in this short article, is a time when British MMA was only a small blip on the MMA map. 

When I joined the Wolfslair in 2006, I'd been training fairly regularly since around 2000 after a friend introduced me to a local Japanese Jui-Jitsu coach from our local town. I had my first competitive fight in 2002, at a show imaginatively titled, XFUK, which i guess was the acronym for Xtreme Fighting United Kingdom. But as anyone will attest to, getting the chance to sublimely use the work 'FUCK' in the public domain would offer up a certain edginess. It was 2002 after all and the internet was only in it's early development too. The show was staged at a club house in an out of season holiday camp in Cornwall, where the punters were still permitted to smoke inside. The result was a great one and I managed to 'submit' my opponent via arm bar in the first round. 

By the time I joined the Wolfy in 2006 I'd clocked up 10 fights with a 6-4 Win-Loss, ratio. Hardly anything to set the world or even the UK on fire. 
Although to be fair to myself, I had been (using the benefit of hindsight) severely over matched in some contests. 

For example, my first loss came after winning my first 3 fights and thinking I was unbeatable. I loved the competitiveness of the sport and wanted to compete on a regular basis, unfortunately this meant I organized some of my own fights where it could be described that I was used as cannon fodder. My first loss came during a show in one of the roughest nightclubs in Essex, called the Circus Night Club, at the fists of a far more experienced French gentleman who, from all I can remember, after allowing me to take the fight to the floor, subsequently reversed the dominant position and proceeded to bounce punches off my head, ricocheting it off the canvas. So much so, that my recollection of that particular fight has disappeared from my memory bank. It was a very long drive home, especially as the driver of the car we got a lift with had some form of crazy insomnia and didn't catch a wink of sleep for the whole weekend. For most of the journey home I was too scared to sleep in case that fucker nodded off and compounded the nauseating weekend by wrapping us round a tree or something equally as torrid.

I had always been a competitive soul and I would hazard a guess that the chip on my shoulder that was firmly planted there during my teenage years and early twenties helped me to maintain focus, drive and consistency in physical hobbies and past-times. 

At the time of joining the Wolfslair MMA Team, it could well be considered to have been the premier MMA gym in the UK. It was like joining a premier league football club which had at it's disposal all the means necessary to provide fighters with a solid foundation on which to pursue a successful MMA career. It was lavish, in gym terms, to say the least. It provided living quarters for visiting or semi-permanent guests, a huge matted area, a full size octagon cage, a full size raised boxing ring, weights, kettlebells, sauna as well as the very best coaches in Boxing, MMA and Brazilian Jui Jitsu. The fighters provided the rest. 

A good start to the training day would mean rising around 07.30 taking myself out for a jog, either along the banks for the Widnes canal or along the roads of the industrial estate depending on the weather. The industrial estate was adjacent to the main road so god knows how unhealthy that was jogging along there during rush hour traffic taking lungs full of car fumes. Although to be fair, the car fumes would pale in comparison from the stench of the abattoir during the hot summer months. The canal was always a preferred option for a relaxing run, but it took a little longer and you also had to dodge the dog shit and the puddles on occasions. 

Once back from the jog, it was straight into the gym for weights. It wasn't a weights sessions as perhaps a layman may think of it. It was purely a gradual strength builder. The exercises were minimal, usually only 2-3 exercises, commonly Deadlifts followed by Bench Press and/or Squats. Each set was anything between 2 or 3 sets of 5 reps or if the weight was getting towards the top end of my ability, it would be 5 or 3 x 1 reps. Very rarely during my time at the Wolfslair did I venture into the aesthetic weight lifting zone. 
After the weights, it would be breakfast, and shower time. By now it would be around 09.00. Time for an hours chill before the chaos of full training at 10.30.

Around 09.30 - 10.00, the rest of the guys would start to arrive at the gym and everyone would start to get ready to start the MMA Class, usually taken by Head Coach, Mario Sukata. This class was always a lot of fun due to the variety of drills, techniques and positions you could learn. It was also very intense on a hard day. Take down drills were by far the most taxing exercise. Fighting one on one, either against a padded wall, fenced cage or in the middle of the mat to try and get your opponent down was real dog work. If you were lucky enough to be in camp for an upcoming fight, it was your duty for 'in the middle'. A drill that everyone in the gym hated, except Michael Bisping, who used to love it. 
The are no secrets about 'in the middle' (or shark tank as some gyms call it), it is basically a test of your physical and mental preparedness for your fight. It would usually consist of 3 x 5 minute rounds of MMA sparring (no elbows or knees to the head) with a fresh opponent at every 1 minute interval. It was a pretty daunting experience, especially with the line up available in the Wolfslair. It could make or break fighters mentally. Generally there was no place to catch a break as if you thought you could stall for one opponent, a new fresh set of lungs and muscles would be launched at you making you work passed the point of, in some cases, severe fatigue and self doubt. But that was the idea, for you to think and perform under serious pressure and to take you into deep waters that would reflect the worst possibility of the actual fight. Generally, if you were put through the torture of 'in the middle' during the MMA class, you were allowed to sit the rest of the class out, if so required. 

Of course standard sparring still took place, even if you weren't preparing for a competition. We were all expected to spar in order to condition the body and the mind. Whilst I believe we may have done too much sparring during these times - with the benefit of hindsight, it was just part of the routine back then and it made you resilient both physically and mentally. 

Usually to finish with the MMA session, there'd be a 'roll' or a grapple at the end. A little less intense than the MMA sparring, but still as competitive between the lads competing on the mat. The Brazilian lads who were lodging there, were extremely good practitioners of the ground game so you knew that you were in for a big lesson. But that is how you become better. You start at the bottom of the pile being whooped constantly, taking the small victories and keeping the faith and slowly but surely you see improvements in your own performance. I think this is reflected in anything that you endeavor to overcome or to achieve greatness in. Perseverance, consistency, drive and focus. 

3 days a week we would have the boxing class - instructed by Tony Quigley, whose sons competed at a professional level. The class followed on almost directly from the MMA class. So it would be around 11.30 by the time we finished up the MMA class, Tony would already be in the gym and shouting at us bythis point. Boxing plays a huge part in MMA, although it is not as directly transferable as that from a typical boxing match as the range, distances, timing and useful combinations are all different between the two styles. 
The boxing class was always a tough class. 60 to 90 minutes of graft on top of what we had already undertaken during the MMA class. It makes my bones ache just thinking back to it. There were times I have to admit I would dread what awaited us in the Boxing class. There was one thing though, Tony knew how to get the best out of somebody. A fearsome looking guy with a barrel chest - he was surely a viking in a previous life. 
The class would always start with a rigorous warm up as the majority of the lads had probably sat down for a few minutes after the MMA class and cooled down slightly. Depending on the day, or whoever had fights lined up, would determine the session. So it would differ between a technique session with some sparring to finish, some sparring followed by, what can only be described as torture, Tony's blitzkrieg of a fitness routine. This would usually consist of 5 x 5minute rounds of a specific fitness routine. There were times when the gym attendance was sparse to say the least. Quite regularly for a month, maybe two, there was only two of us training. There was one common denominator - and it was me. As a semi resident of the gym, I had no excuses for missing training other than injury or illness... But I was still the determined twenty something young man, who at the time still enjoyed the vigorous training regimes we were subjected to. 
A disgusting training session that I particularly remember with Tony, was when I was the only one on the mat. The MMA class was cancelled for the morning and nobody had turned up for the Boxing. Unfortunately for me - that meant torture. I can honestly say that the session that followed was the toughest 25 minutes I have ever endured. Don't get me wrong, without trying to blow my own trumpet, I have endured some pretty gnarly workouts both at the Wolfslair gym, at my time training  Nottingham, as well as back home. But the aftermath on this particular day left me seeing black spots for hours afterward. I couldn't focus my eyesight properly for hours, I had pins and needles in my fingers and toes after we'd finished, in fact, i thought he'd  taken me close to death... 

After the boxing sessions had finished, it was shower, feed and afternoon nap.

Come 6 o'clock in the gym was when the commercial side of the gym opened and most of the public classes started. Gym fighters were encouraged to attend the Brazilian Ju Jitsu classes or to set up their own training sessions in order to drill techniques or pad work etc. I used to run two grappling based fitness classes a week, but would also try to attend a BJJ class at least once or twice a week. Although this was particularly hard during the winter months as the gym area was like an ice box in the evening. It actually felt like your toes were going to drop off... 

That was a fairly high level view of a typical day in the Wolfslair Gym. The name by the way was taken from the name "Wulfschanze", which was the name of Adolf Hitler's headquarters in Poland during the war on the eastern frony in World War 2. 

Good times.

Northmen's Fury - author Philip Parker

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Delighted to announce that Philip Parker, historian, diplomat and publisher, has agreed to be a guest on a future episode of the Priory Podcast. Philip's first book The Empire Stops Here took him on an epic journey around the frontier provinces of the Roman empire, visiting sites from Hadrian’s Wall to the desert outpost at Lambaesis in Algeria. His critically acclaimed new book, The Northmen’s Fury, is a lively and penetrating reassessment of a people who terrorized Europe for three centuries, but brought with them a rich and misunderstood culture. The Northmen's Fury, will of course be fodder for our main topic of conversation. It is a greatly researched and detailed account, that provides evidence that Britain had succumbed to Viking raids years prior to that (in)famous raid in Lindisfarne in 793 and also paints a realistic picture of the fearless peoples that sometimes gets lost in the romantic TV programmes and silver screen films. I think it's fair to say I am personally really excited for this podcast due my interest in history, but more specifically with the mysticism that seems to surround those Scandanavian invaders from the medievil period that have had such a long lasting impact on the people of northern Europe.

Philips website link

Talking a lot but saying very little...

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I've certainly been ignorant during my 40 revolutions round the sun. Full of empty rebellion during my teenage years and early twenties - I was more focussed on making a physical impact on the world and my environment, rather than actually learning about it. I feel that this has been to my detriment and certainly made me a late bloomer.
The realisation that there is a bigger wider world 'out there' if you just care to listen and take notice will come as no shock to most people, especially those that have had the privilege of a calibrated internal compass from an early age.

As I've found out during my inquisitive 30's, a lot of people know a lot of things and have stories to tell if you're willing to listen. I guess where I'm going with this, is that you could say that my 30's and certainly leading into my 40's could be described as the 'enlightenment years'.
What I mean is that slowly (extremely slowly in some cases) I have begun to scratch the surface of those topics that have never appeared quite right to me or seemed to have been, certainly at the most fundamental level, too good to be true. Issues that for most of the time, would be blindly swallowed and absorbed as fact, without so much of a hint of suspicion.

I want to make the purpose of this blog entry, a potential starting point for all those that have a nagging doubt in their minds about the current state of affairs at home and abroad that impact us so strongly, whether we think it's right or not. The web of international affairs, foreign policy, relationships between right and left, the west and (middle) east and tales of historical fact that we’re fed on a daily basis by the multiple forms of media, is so intricate and fragile that it would be almost impossible to differentiate between the honest and the insincere, the good and the bad, the truth and lies. I believe that people should be wholly aware of both sides of the story. Rather than one side’s particular depiction of both sides of the coin, so to speak. An opportunity for the folks that are so blindly patriotic or even just willingly blind to their own nation’s cause, to become informed of the story from the other perspective is essential if we, as people are to maintain the rights we have and what our fore-fathers/mothers have fought so strongly for in the past.
Now this may take a little time and effort, as we know, that the largest news sources, social media, newspapers and news channels have their own agendas to meet. And along with that, most of them are owned by a small collection of conglomerate companies with a commercially vested interest in the news in which they are dealing.
If those of us concerned enough to research past the flashing lights and big production of mainstream news really want to discover an unfiltered alternative point of view, then we must take  responsibility to look for ourselves.
The internet is a great help. YouTube is a great start, although in my eyes it lacks authenticity (and ability to contribute financially) of say, that of a self-published book. 'A book' I hear you say!? Yes indeed. In a time when the instant accessibility to information and immediate satisfaction is required to all things 'news' is all too common, a book sticks out like a sore thumb. This may be a bold statement, but I would consider that my generation is possibly the last to appreciate the positive impact that reading a plain old paper book will have on an individual.
Books these days are about as welcome as a fart in a lift, as a NAZI at a Bahmitzvah, except of course to the occassional bibliophile. They don’t do anything except provide information and take up space. They sit dormant waiting for the reader to initiate, to do the work.
God help us, in a time where technology caters for most of our needs including education, reading a book requires a little more effort, in which we humans have to actually take the initiative and put our minds and imaginations into first gear.
Books take time to digest, they require an attention span significantly longer than a minute as well as an ability to absorb information. Most of all they require dedication. They require dedication to train your mind to focus and not to wander and to avoid picking up the biggest mind numbing agent since the lobotomy, the mobile phone.
There can be no doubt that the attention span of people is slowly waning. The pace of TV shows for both adults and children alike are spewing out scenes at a tremendous rate. Our attention spans are being slowly eroded away by these heavily sugar coated TV programmes and Social Media outlets with a disappearing photograph of a heavily staged glimpse into a celebrities lifestyle that comes and goes in a matter of seconds.
I feel that it is our responsibility to promote the benefits of reading books. Although the irony maybe strong in as much as I am communicating this via the internet, it is wholly inspired by the power of books and the amazing amount of alternative knowledge out there, which is all too easily ignored or filtered in the current most popular mainstream outlets for current affairs and history.

So to summarise this rather long winded message. Do yourself a favour and pick up a book. Pick up a book where the subject interests you and gets you to ask questions and that makes you want to look deeper for the answers you require.

The Bronx: whistle stop BronxV promo tour

This photo by the talented Liam Walsh, shows the absolute euphoric chaos of a gig by The Bronx... Nipping over for a few limited sold out UK shows, The Bronx played their new album BronxV in full, followed by a number of their usual crowd rousing repertoire.
At most gigs, orderly appreciation is encouraged throughout, but at The Bronx shows, chaos is almost expected from chord one.  The lead singer gets in on the act by jumping in the mosh pit, crowd surfing and interacting with the crowd all whilst managing to sing and keep hold of the microphone.
It's a testament to the entertainment and value for money that most of the people you speak to at their shows are coming back for their 5th, 6th or 7th time.
 - The Bronx Website
- Liam Walsh Photography Instagram
- Liam Walsh Photography Website

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Gong Bath Therapy

I was fortunate enough to have my first Gong Bath Therapy session towards the end of 2017. I wasn't holding much out for it to be honest, but I knew the guy who was to take the session, who had so kindly offered to to do it as a free session.
Rowan, the coordinator of the seesion is a pretty cool guy and very easy to talk to, instantly making me feel at ease.
Although I would never call myself a hippie or New Age, I'm certainly open to natural or 'alternative' therapies, having experienced an Ayahausca Ceremony, Flotation Tank therapy and an advocate of CBD oil usage as and when appropriate.
The session exceeded my expectations in terms of how I felt post-session. The feelings during the Gong Bath are very with gong vibrations passing through the body and stimulating different aspects of the body and mind. There is a scinece involved for people that think it is just about snake oil, in that the various types of instruments used, all vibrate at certain frequencies, which as people and science are learning, all material things vibrate at their own individual frequency.
The point of the Gong Bath is to help relax the mind and body by 'resetting' the body and mind frequencies and cleansing any unwanted vibrations and tensions that the mind or body maybe holding onto.
I wouod recommend anyone interested to try it at least once. Rowan can be contacted on Facebook at Rowan Meditation Teachings

Good luck to Mike Grundy

We wish Mike Grundy the best of luck in his fight on Aspera FC 58 on the 4th November. I have been lucky enough to have been taught wrestling by Mike, who is a tremendous MMA fighter, Freestyle Wrestling Bronze Medalist in the Common-Wealth games and an all round top bloke.

I managed to get a short Podcast conversation with Mike a couple of weeks ago, in between his busy schedule.

iTunes Link

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Ayahausca - Day 3

Still no real idea of time due to the fact we had our mobile phones and watches taken from us at the start of the retreat. My broken sleep was eventually compounded by the tweeting of the birds. Not the females in the camp, but the ornithological type.
It was another beautiful day in Peru. The sun was up early in the Sacred Valley, there wasn't any main street, traffic or industry in the area so it was a pretty serene environment.

We all still had to adhere to the 'sacred silence' so there wasn't any jumping up and down and celebration from the night before, but I was curios to how Jeremy would be feeling after his dying walrus impression the night before.
We all met in the kitchen in the main hall for breakfast, again the only meal we're allowed. It consisted of porridge-Quinoa (and plenty of it) which, as we're spoilt westerners is pretty bland and hard to eat, although super healthy for you. No dairy products either so the tea was either green or coca.
So we sat and discussed our experiences with each other. James, the lad from Suffolk was there with us on this morning, he had to carry out his cleansing when we were doing our first trip as he'd missed the Sunday session due to being on the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu.
James' room was next door to the ceremony room and he explained how he (sober) could hear the full thing as it happened from start to finish. James' said how he could hear everybody strain as they started to hurl and how the noises Jeremy was making were like that of a tortured animal.

One thing he said that did stand out was the Shaman's singing, he said it was out of this world. I forget the actual description he used but it basically confirmed what I was hearing wasn't just psychedelically influenced.
We convened again a short while later to formally discuss our experiences from the night before. We go back to the ceremony room which in daylight doesn't look as intimidating with the sun light beaming through the large front windows. The Shaman from last night and Bety the coordinator sit in from of us and assess what we each relay to them. Jeremy's experience sounds absolutely wild and would fully back up the noises and emotions he went through. I think he got a lot out of his experience.
I told them both about how my conscious mind was telling me it was too strong, and to this they both said you must have the courage to trust the medicine. I think that this was a great symbol of my life in general. I find when I reflect on situations in my life, the rational side of my brain seems to win a lot of arguments, but this was a sign in itself telling me to let go more, trust more, whether it's my own ability or trust in other peoples abilities and loyalties.

Once the feedback session was done, Bety offers to take us on a small hike up the side of a small hill in the Sacred Valley. We get to walk around a pretty secluded village which I remember making me quite thankful for all I have in my life already, as most of these people only have the bare bones to live on or live with, yet everyone is so pleasant and sociable.

The weather is warm and the walk isn't a major hike, but with little food on board and at high altitude, it's still quite demanding.
The view from the top however is absolutely mesmerising. Unfortunately I didn't have my phone to take a photograph, as they'd been confiscated on day 2.

Back at the retreat, we head back to our rooms. We had time to kill, so I think about the questions that I needed to ask and what I wanted to get out of the experience... Prominent questions and probably ones that get asked by numerous people:

- Show me how to be a better person
- Show me how to be self -forgiving

I wanted to ask this question as I have always been my own biggest critic and find it hard to 'let go' or forgive myself when I fuck up. Which is quite often haha

- Show me how to love more, myself, others, parents, friends, girlfriends etc..

- Show me the universe, help me understand how I can be understanding of others and help with their struggles or if they're without direction.

We reconvene for a Yoga session later on. This is taken by a new face. A guy called Pako who turned up (as a coordinator) on start of day3. This is going to sound weird, but as soon as you met the guy, he radiated love. Bear with me... He was a slightly built lad with a big smile and a fucking truck load of positive energy which just seemed to hit you like a draft. It was really weird. I felt instantly at ease with him. He took us for a yoga session as yoga for those who don't know isn't just about the physical attributes, but also about realigning the mind and spirit as well as the physical parts.

Ceremony time comes round again. Fortunately this time there was no angering of the spirits by killing of spiders anyone... A big difference tonight was there was a bloody storm brewing outside. It was absolutely lashing down outside. The same pre ceremony rituals commence. The Earth and Water protection ceremony, followed by the Candilla, that beautifully scented perfume used to protect from evil spirits.

We were given our cup of Ayahausca and told to drink. Again, down in one, knowing what to expect made it a little more difficult this time. The taste of burnt wood made it's way down my gullet. I've got to say I felt queasy for the full 30 minutes this time. I did think that I would have hurled before the water drinking commenced but I managed to hold off. 'Not beating me' I thought haha... When Bety gave us the go ahead to drink the water, I hurled almost immediately. I remember as we sat there in the dark and silence that the onset was a lot stronger than it was the previous night. I knew I had to concentrate on my breathing (like in yoga) if I was to withstand the power of it.
There was no slight incline tonight, no introduction to the hum... It was nought to 100mph in no time... I was catapulted into orbit like a speeding bullet. It was as if it was saying, 'OK dude, you can do this so let's go' whoosh...

When I got my first real idea of what was happening, the Hum and colours were in and around me. The shapes were morphing in and out of each other like the night before. No discernible left right up or down. No control over direction. My rational mind was trying to talk to me 'it's too strong - bail out'. My breathing (so it seemed) became more controlled with deeper breaths as I tried to shut out the rational voice. One major difference was that the Shaman's voice didn't play as an integral part in my flight tonight. Not sure why that was. Maybe just my lack of recall.

So I asked my first question...
'Please show me the universe...'
Well here we go, not knowing what to expect, obviously. I was taken to what was interpreted as 'mother-ship'. Not in any extra terrestrial way like you see on films though. Just a huge canvas of colours, flashing lights. Very much like the Alex Grey painting 'Ayahausca'. I didn't feel any fear or trepidation.
As I was lying on my right side, it felt as though this mother ship was pulling me into a new dimension on an extremely slow tractor beam. My right arm was in, my right leg was in, my right ear was in... I was almost into another dimension.... Then BOOOOOM...
Rational brain kicked in... 'You're gonna be sick!!!'

I remember saying in my mind 'Fuck off... I'm nearly there...' and tried to capture concentration again. I settled down and began being pulled in again... Then again "You're not listening, you're gonna be sick!!" And inevitably, I jumped up. I must have startled the coordinators as all else was quiet in the room. I knew what to do instinctively. Up onto all fours, head over my bucket.
This was quite a violent purge. I couldn't understand why it had started again in what seemed like half way through the ceremony. It was like I was shouting... Screaming... the spew felt like it was something off the exorcist.
The ladies were straight over comforting and rubbing my back.
I remember looking at my hands when I was being sick, or in between purges. And it was that violent my hands were gripping the floor and as I was straining my hands looked like the change sequence in the American Werewolf in London. This was a vivid vision. I remember shaking my head and actually checking my hands to see that they weren't disfigured or growing hair... It wasn't a scary vision at all. It felt quite powerful. Between the shouting (spewing) and the werewolf hands I felt quite strong and fearless. I'm not sure where this came from.

As I settled back down on my sleeping bag, I knew that I had peaked. I was gutted. It seemed like I hadn't gotten half the time as the night before. But of course we have no real appreciation of time during the experience. So I was now on the decline, but I wanted the Ayahausca to show me love. In the darkness of a starless sky (in my vision) shot a shooting start (?) which hit me right in the heart. And for a millisecond, everything lit up like a spot light had hit it. An instant feeling of euphoria came and went in less than a second. I was both over the moon and disappointed that it couldn't have lasted longer.

By now I realised I was well and truly 'down' or so I thought. I heard the Shaman shuffle about as he began his personal one to one songs. I was so looking forward to mine. I could hear him singing to the person next to me.

When it was my turn I turned on my back. Again, this guys voice was just like pure silk. There's no way I could understand the verbal side of what he was singing, but the feeling was immense. I don't mind admitting that a tear was shed during this moment as I felt so at peace with things. Messages flashed through my mind, but not knowing if it was just my own internal thoughts or advice being beamed in from a higher plain.

Part of the self forgiveness comes from living in the past. How badly I may have treated people, family, friends or an ex-girlfriends.

The message came in loud and clear though: "It's OK to move on my son"

Not really sure where that came from... But it was very reassuring and I was thankful for it.

As the ceremony was drawn to a close. The lights were on and noticed that Miquel had moved to the other side of the room. Apparently he had a real tough night with traumatic visions. So much so he needed some very loving reassurance from the coordinators. Heavy stuff.

Back in the room, Jeremy and I discussed our experiences again. Excited about what we've just experienced. I remember feeling like I could have run through a brick wall. I was full of energy and good feeling.

"Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know"

Ayahausca - Day 2

"I went to Ayahausca and all I got was this lousy t-shirt..."

As the sun went down in the Sacred Valley, there was a lot of movement happening in the grounds of the retreat centre. Which meant that it wasn't far off ceremony time.
Bang on queue, there was a knock of the bedroom door. The nurses came in to do the pre-ceremony checks. The nurses were two of the loveliest people you could imagine. In fact, I can't say enough about all the people involved in the running of this retreat. Everyone shone with love and care. The whole vibe of the place was very loving and caring.
Once the checks were done it was time to go down to the ceremony room. We were told to take at least two litres of water with us and toilet roll. It had been known that some people lose complete control during the trip, bowel movements and everything! What was certain though for 99% of people - is that you would throw up. They call it 'purging' as it is a way of your body ridding itself of it's impurities, both spiritual, mental and physical.

We enter the room where we had our introductory chats earlier in the day - that seemed days ago now. There were 5 places laid out with mattresses, pillows, sleeping bags and most important of all, a sick bucket each haha... We sat down in no particular order, Jeremy went to the far left, I sat the one next to him and Sondrine (I think) sat next to me with Miquel sitting next to her further to the right.

The night couldn't have got off to a better start as Sondrine noticed a spider run by her sleeping bag. Not sure what type it was or whether it was poisonous as no sooner as she yelped slightly, than Miquel twatted it with his flip flop! Now if that wasn't a way to anger the spirits, I'm not sure what would be! Bloody hell - great start!

I was surprised at how many people were present in the ceremony. We had the two nurses who were always on hand, Bexy and 1 or 2 other coordinators and the Shaman himself. This was a different Shaman from the opening up ceremony. This lad was only 23, but had been conducting ceremonies for 7 years. That's 7 years of taking Ayahausca. Wow.
So once everyone who was involved in the ceremony had settled down, the ceremony began. They dimmed the lights and carried out the pre-ceremonial rituals which involved positive thinking, the Shaman blowing cigar smoke over each individual and the dowsing of earth and perfume on your head and body. Both of which were to protect you from evil spirits. I've never been able to source the perfume which was called Callinhia, but it was beautiful. In fact they used a number of them, another was the Aqua de Florida, which was also very beautiful and very relaxing.
Once the pre-rituals were finished, we were then told to close our eyes while the cups of Ayahausca were given out. So I'd read in Graham Hancock's book Supernatural about the make up of Ayahausca and the taste a texture. And to be honest, I was fucking dreading it!

So what exactly is Ayahausca? The brew itself is a boiled mixture of the Ayahuasca plant and the Chacruna plant. The Chacruna plant provides the psychoactive ingredients (Dimethyltriptomene, DMT) and the Ayahausca provides the means of temporarily turning off the enzymes in the human body which nullify the psychoactive process of the Chacruna. DMT is apparently created within the human body naturally but the enzymes within your gut turn off the effects. It is unknown where exactly DMT is created within the body, but many people believe it is within the Pineal Gland.

So, once we have the brew in hand, we're told that Bexy will give us the green light to swallow it together and to try and down it in a one'r. The Shaman also takes part as he is the conductor of the spiritual orchestra that we're about it witness... We will all try and hold the Ayahausca within our stomachs for 30 minutes before we're allowed to drink any water, which allows the psychoactive properties and controlling enzymes to be absorbed by the body...

We're given the green light to drink... Oh my god, the scent hit me first... Like a charred burnt wood. Then without too much thought I just downed it in one gulp. The taste was pretty horrendous, but I remember thinking that the viscosity wasn't as bad as I'd been led to believe. It was in fact quite fluid. Which made it go down a lot easier.

After everyone had finished, Bexy turned the lights off... Oh shit, reality had just kicked in.

The 30 minute period of channelling thoughts, controlling breathing seemed like an eternity. I could hear people around me purging even before they'd drank any water. It felt like a scene from family guy where one person threw up, which provoked someone else to throw up. But to be fair, I held strong. In fact, I felt confident at this stage and thought to myself "I went to Ayahausca and all I got was this lousy t-shirt"... I quickly followed up this thought with a "just kidding", as though I'd provoke a response from a disgruntled spirit...

Bexy, told is all that the 30 minutes were up. We now had to drink as much water as possible. I gulped down about 750ml quite easily and nothing was happening yet. One of the nurses encourage me to drink more. So I did. Then before I knew it I was purging like Lardass in Stand By Me... I purged about 4 times - each one seemed violent or aggressive. Like I was shouting more than hurling. What was very comforting was that the coordinators or the nurses were right over to you rubbing your back and saying everything was ok, all the while encouraging you to drink more water in their Spanish/English.

After the purge - the fun began...The Shaman, almost waiting like a race car at the start line burst into his shamanic chant. Everyone seemed to have completed their purge for now and all seemed to be quiet. Then I was catapulted into the ether.

Initial thoughts came to mind of my mum and dad and how I need to open up with them more and show them more love. Then I just took off into orbit. Like I was catapulted at a thousand miles an hour into hyper space.

The Shamans singing was like silk... But getting faster as the feeling got more intense. I felt the slow build up of a humming noise. I wondered if this was earths vibration? The feeling got more and more intense as did the vibrational hum which seemed to be the vehicle which was driving the experience. The Shamans singing was powerful. I remember saying to myself during the peak that I couldn't do anymore, but another voice inside me was saying to breathe, relax and go with the flow. Like a conflict between the rational and subconscious. With my eyes closed I saw wonderful never seen before collages of colours and shapes morphing into one another without a theme or reason. There was no recollection of time or space. No place for north south east or west as everything was just as one. The beauty of it all is so hard to describe in words. The nearest I've seen is an Alex Grey painting.

The coordinators came round to us all individually and asked if we were having visions or if we'd like another cup! I instantly said no thank you... No way could I handle anymore... Whenever I felt lost or uncertain in these visions, I held out for the shamans voice, it was almost like an anchor for safety. Like a mothers apron strings in many ways. And there was no doubt, the feeling I felt from his voice was very much like unconditional love or peace.
I remember I had to open my eyes once or twice due to my uncomfortable-ness with the intensity. I had never let myself open like this before and the lack of control was scary at times.

Jeremy lying next to me was having an intense time and I could hear him roaring like a beached walrus.

I've no idea of how long these visions lasted for. But during the 'coming down' phase, the Shaman approached each person individually to sing them a specific chant in the native tongue. I remember being excited that he was about to give me a song. No idea what the words were or what they meant, all I know is that the feelings they evoked were special. The feeling in my body was that of peace and love.

The end of the ceremony came on the judgement of the Shaman. Bexy announced the finish and everyone sat up, the lights were now on and all the participants looked like hell haha...
We were given the once over by the nurses again and we went back to our rooms. I wrote down my feelings as best as I could remember and Jeremy and I chatted about our own experiences. He cannot remember a thing about the walrus impressions haha...

My first Ayahausca ceremony was complete. I didn't know whether I'd enjoyed it or not. I quickly scribbled notes in my journal that I'd been given for Christmas, I had experienced something very powerful and it seemed at the time more powerful than I totally felt comfortable with, but I guess that was the idea, in order to progress and grow, you have to take steps into the uncomfortable.

Day 3 coming up...

The Priory Podcast - Upcoming Episode

with Tony Gosling

Sorry ladies, it's not Ryan Gosling's older brother, but in fact, Tony is an investigative journalist who used to work for the BBC. Tony has a ridiculous amount of knowledge about the gritty details of the impact and fall out from the end of World War 2 and the subsequent undercover operations of the German Nazi party as it allegedly continued (and continues) it's empire and influence in the world today, even after the death of Adolf Hitler in 1945.

Tony insisted on having an interview style discussion which means I will have to do my research in order to be able to challenge his opinions and whether they are substantiated by reliable and solid sources or if they are simple embellishments or half truths.

I spoke to Tony on the phone recently and his enthusiasm for the topic was readily obvious. It's going to be a pleasure to have a guest of such stature on the podcast and I'm looking forward to doing the research prior to the interview.

Stay tuned. AC

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Ayahausca - The Vine of Death

The preparations for the Ayahausca Ceremony started 2 weeks before I flew out to Peru. It was a pre-requisite that you followed a certain diet in order to prepare your body internally for the ceremony itself.

Whatever happened, I couldn't have prepared my mind in anyway for what was about to happen.

The pre-requisites were a simple enough detox variation, no coffee, no chocolate (both killers) cut out sugars, lower my red meat intake, no alcohol. To be honest, apart from the coffee, it was pretty manageable.

Of course, the intention of my Ayahausca ceremony was to help me become a better person. I had read books on Ayahausca and listened to podcasts and clips on You-tube. But wasn't sure what exactly to expect...

 

I first heard about Ayahausca on the Joe Rogan Podcast when he interviewed the Fingerprints of the Gods author Graham Hancock. He spoke about the details of his experience whilst under the influence of Ayahausca and the reasons behind taking it. It was a fascinating story. I was determined to try it for myself.

 

Ayahausca is a psychedelic potion (please note - I deliberately avoid the word 'drug') that is used and has been used for millennia by indigenous peoples of South America. Most notably in Amazonian Peru. This is the deep bit... It is used to purify the soul and gain guidance from the spirit world (bear with me)... It can be used to cure addictions, mental issues, dysfunctions etc... There are plenty of online commendations.

Much like the scene from Young Guns II where Chavez enters the spirit world via a Peyote Ceremony to ask for guidance out of a sticky situation...

 

So sitting on a bench in the Cuzco main square waiting to be picked up by the Etnikas crew, to take me for the detox volcanic water part of the retreat.

I'd picked up my previously lost back pack from Cuzco airport earlier in the morning. KLM had managed to lose it on the Amsterdam to Lima leg of the journey. I had to wear my kegs for almost 3 days!

I was sat there chilling, although a little apprehensive about the activities that that were about to follow.

A western looking guy parked himself down next to me on the bench and introduced himself as Jeremy. He was from California. We chewed the fat over our expectations from the next 3 days as we waited for the Etnikas crew to pick us up.

 

A couple of minutes, close to nine thirty, two Peruvian ladies turned up at the meeting place. They introduced themselves as nurses who were going to take us through the process.

We did the formalities and then jumped into a taxi to take us to the downtown office. I say taxi, but what they really are is beat up, barely road legal go-carts.

We travelled about 15 minutes through the chaotic road traffic to the Etnikas office downtown.

We sat down and all introduced ourselves, we were joined by a girl named Sandrine at this point.

We went through fairly standard medical questionnaire and did the Blood Pressure, Oxygen Saturation, Pulse and Temperature tests.

Then the fun started. To fully cleanse our systems, we were forbidden to eat any breakfast - at all, then we had to down at least 10 500ml glasses of Quisachata Volcanic Water (from a real if redundant, volcano!)

We were instructed to knock back the first four in one go...

The first one was served up. Down it went in a one'r... Jesus it was foul. I remember thinking it was like sea water. Because of it's high mineral content it tasted really salty and bloated your stomach. We were encourage to do some exercising to help move the water through our system. Which was odd. 3 random strangers, drinking a strange concoction, all doing some form of burpees in a odd, scruffy little office in downtown Cuzco in Peru. How odd...

 

So about 5 drinks in - things started to happen. This wasn't the psychoactive medicine, this was just the preparation. Before I knew it, I was on and off the toilet like a madman. Essentially I was pissing out of my arse... Cleansing my system...

What made it interesting is that like some poor European countries, Peru's plumbing can't handle toilet paper... You get the picture... 10 full glasses later, my ordeal was complete.

We were allowed to eat that night which was great, but we still had to follow the diet as much as we could. We were to spend the night in our hostels and told to get a good nights rest. Etnikas were due to pick us up from the same rendezvous point the next day to travel to the Retreat.

Day 2 to follow...