The Peruvian Dieta: Quietude and the Curandero

The following is a guest post by Wendell Lewis. As a very brief introduction to the topic, a dieta is a “diet” traditionally used and overseen by curanderos (shamans) in Peru and elsewhere, and is often a requirement before ingesting ayahuasca.

Curandero del Alto Cumbaza

“Curandero del Alto Cumbaza” by Rafael Infante

I recently took part in my first traditional dieta in Peru. The dieta is not merely a “diet”. It is an immersion.

The dieta may go on for 7 days or longer. It requires a place of solitude, where one may never need to say a word nor look into another’s eyes. It requires quietude, such that one receives no information from outside themselves. It requires security, so that one need no thought of preparation, maintenance or disposition of one’s physical needs.

And it requires oversight by the curandero. The curandero is one’s only contact. The curandero administers the medicine and coordinates all the arrangements.

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Plant Medicine and Mental Unpacking

The dieta is structured around taking two daily doses of the plant medicine chosen for one’s particular case. Mine was a plant called ajo sacha.  There are various other medicine plants which may be chosen, depending on the individual.

During the dieta, food and beverages are delivered with the least of fuss, and are restricted to the most basic items solely for minimum nutrition. This is to minimize sensual stimulation and slow down metabolism. Additionally, the dieta may include ceremonies with ayahuasca. Mine included one very powerful ceremony.

The work of a dieta involves the conscious labor of mental unpacking. One does as little as possible. Breaking one’s physical habits provides the opportunity to perceive the pathos of one’s mental habits, thereby allowing one to discharge involuntary ideations and to correct the distortions of one’s perceptions and projections.

The dieta may also incite the intentional suffering of removing oneself from our psychic comfort zone. The mind is allowed to wander and unravel, thus loosening mental tethers, bringing one to redirect patterns of thinking, leading to the discovery of a larger and more vivifying sense of self.

The Post-Dieta

As important — perhaps more important — is the time period afterwards: In my case, 30 days, of the post-dieta. This is when one may authenticate the insights gained in the dieta and may actualize them in how we live. There are some behaviors that one must let go and others that one must adopt.

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The dieta increases “mindfulness” — the oneness of intention and thought. The post-dieta, meanwhile, increases “heedfulness” — the oneness of awareness and action.

With the recognition that all thought and action are chosen, one may awaken to the freedom of choice which then leads to spontaneity and creativity. The whole trick to creativity then is to lead oneself to this precipice! From there on, anything is possible! With time, one discovers that generosity is at the base of life and one becomes grateful. After all, I feel that the dieta is for coming to grips with the totality of the cosmic phenomena which we call our life. I plan to have many more in the future.


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