Monday, August 1, 2011

Women Visionaries Meet in Petaluma

The 5th Annual Women's Visionary Congress was by all measures a milestone.

It opened with a strong presentation from author Dorka Keehn, whose new book, EcoAmazons: Twenty Women Who are Transforming the World chronicles the undertold story of womens' contribution to the environmental movement. Starting with Susan Fenimore Cooper (daughter of the novelist James) who wrote of her time in the woods "where the mind lays aside its daily littleness", Keehn moved to inspiring moderns like Hazel Johnson, Rev. Sally Bingham, Winina Laduke and scientist Janine Benyus who coined the term "biomimicry." "If we're going to have a sustainable future, we need to be emulating them."

Jessica Lukas followed with a charming presentation chronicling her journey from Argentina to Bringham Young University, to studies (elsewhere) in Anthropology and Linguistics, to leading Outward Bound excursions and finally back to the South American jungle, where she has participated in ayahuasca ceremonies and worked with natives on something she calls the Amazon Resistance Project. Lukas was critical of some ecotourism and NGOs, and appreciative of native wisdom, while still feeling the need to point out to them where they are not acting in harmony with the earth. "Soul and soil are absolutely connected in these realms" she said.

Clare Wilkins opened the Saturday program with stories from her clinic in Mexico that uses Ibogaine as therapy to treat addiction. "Addiction involves an unhealthy relationship to drama to thrive," Wilkins observed, "They realize they don't have to live in the shadows after Ibogaine." She stressed the need for aftercare, involving modalities like acupuncture and chiropractic, and the addicts' families as well. "How do you practice the epiphany?" she posed, adding, "Everyone has a portion of health in them. Our task is to find and develop that."

Valerie Corral from the Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana and the Raha-Kudo Design for Dying Project reminded us that, "Nobody does anything extraordinary by thinking in ordinary ways. The divination of the ordinary makes things extraordinary." She played a video of Laura Huxley just before she died, speaking of a dream where she experienced "The sensuality of the spirit and the spirituality of the senses."

Amy Emerson and Linnae Ponte co-presented an update on MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), a nonprofit pharmacology organization that is working on studies of the use of MDMA and cannabis in PTSD; MDMA and autism; Ibogaine and drug dependency; pain; and LSD and end-of-life anxiety. For MDMA studies, they employ male/female co-therapist teams in South Carolina, Switzerland, Israel, and soon in Canada. MAPS is enjoying much national press, in Oprah's magazine, the New York Times, and soon CBS. On December 8-11 in Oakland, CA, MAPS will celebrate its 25th anniversary with Cartographia Psychedelia.

Jane Straight took the group outside for a talk about plant allies, to wrap up the morning.

In the afternoon, Earth and Fire Erowid gave a strong presentation about their work gathering information about the many unknown drugs that are constantly flooding in the market in packages of "Spice" or "Bath Salts," etc. Chemists slightly alter compounds and add them to "herbal" packets before they can be banned, leading to unhealthy consequences. They implored the group to share their experiences on their site, As well as collecting stories and information, Erowid has begun a testing program for street drugs, finding widely varying results.

Author and New Dimensions radio host Justine Willis Toms spoke about the importance of forming women's circles and gave guidelines based on her own experience. It should be made of "Friends who support us in our fullness, who are not afraid of our downside." More at:

Dorothy Fadiman brought the group a retrospective of her lifelong filmmaking career, starting with an LSD-inspired film. Her narration of a film about abortion rights, including her own shocking experience with a back-alley abortion, was a turning point in her journey. She went on to tell compelling stories of courage that called to her with empathy and humor.

Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, one of the organizers of the Congress, hosted a preview of "Magic Trip", a new film about Ken Kesey and the journey of the Magic Bus, using original footage from the first cross-country trip in 1964. Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood (Enron: The Smartest Guy in the World) are the filmmakers. The film is available on Video on Demand and opens in theaters August 5.

Copperwoman lead a singing circle and brought the group together in song.

Time was left for questions, to enjoy conversation with fellow participants, to walk in the garden and the Labyrinth, and to check out the goat herd at the Institute for Noetic Sciences retreat center in Petaluma where the event was held.

On Sunday, Miss S. discussed her work with psychoactives and bodywork, wherein she carefully has begun to gather input from clients who have experienced the two together with much benefit, physically and emotionally. Practitioners should be trained in CPR and psychedelic journey sitting, she recommended, as well as their treatment modality. Legal issues were also discussed.

Eleanora Molnar posed many questions to the group about the biosustainability of entheogenic practice, advocating for a bioregional approach. Keeper Trout broadened our perspective on the study of San Pedro cactus. Stephanie Schmitz, archivist for the Purdue University Psychoactve Substances Research Collection, gave an overview of the project including new acquisitions, and invited all to visit the archives or their website,

WVC expects to have some Salons in Portland, Oregon and New York City in the coming year. They were inundated with requests for scholarships to attend this year, and some of their grants are now going to older women to "encourage transformation."

A Gaia Festival with some of the speakers will be held in Laytonville, CA next weekend (August 5-7).

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