“I traded in my pom-poms and glitter for feathers and labradorite,” Alanna Collins, a former high school cheerleader tells me through her dreamy, otherworldly smile. “Now, I feel like a ‘life cheerleader’ for other people.”
Fresh from a trip to India, she wears a traditional, peacock-colored South Asian dress. Turkey feathers dangle from her hair, drifting in the exhaled breath of the door behind her.
Through it, women of all ages begin to wander in, as though stumbling through the porthole of their busy lives and into the quiet, semi-seclusion of this temple-like suburban home in Northern Virginia.
They carry heavy plates of couscous and honey bread for the vegan potluck planned after the ritual.
Outside, the burnt-orange light of the sunset filters through the barren winter trees.
Circling around an eclectic altar, about 20 women sit on floor mats and meditation pillows. Barefoot and in candle light, they all emit strange, imperceptible, collective beauty.
In the wavering darkness, I hear them whisper to each other like monks breaking an unspoken vow of silence.
“I am a code. I am a program of how my atoms come together.”
Alanna holds in her hand a tiny bottle of murky liquid made from South American jungle plants.
She stands in front of me with her Alice-in-Wonderland potion, nodding slightly.
On her cue, I tilt my head back like the others.
Her mirror ball eyes flash, then fade into oblivion as she administers two drops of the elixir, one in each of my eyes.
Instantly, it brings on a searing, bright, beautiful pain that triggers a reflex to squeeze my eyelids tightly against it.
When they open again, my eyelashes flicker like a pair of synchronized butterflies.
Within minutes, I am crying. Ugly crying; the kind of crying that one usually reserves for private meltdowns. Like a rain cloud suddenly passing over my soul and breaking open to wash out old wounds.
Sobbing with abandon in the arms of the woman next to me, who feels like something between a total stranger and someone I knew very, very well in a past life.
What is Sananga?
Discovered deep within the lush Amazon rainforest, the indigenous tribes of South America traditionally use sananga as a ritual medicine.
The milkwood-derived herbal concoction sharpens vision—–both literally and spiritually. The people of the Amazon use it for a variety of purposes, including keener vision for hunting and deep insight.
Recently, sananga began appearing in medicine circles around the United States to aid in spiritual cleansing and renewal.
Milder and less jolting than the more potent ayahuasca, sananga is a gentler introduction to the world of holistic ritual medicine.
For several hours and even into the next day after my sananga experience, I felt a calm sense of peace. It reminded me distinctly of the feeling I get after an acupuncture session or a deep massage.
I seemed less inclined to indulge in unhealthy behavior and craved clean, healthy foods for several days.
My sleep improved considerably, and though the effects were temporary, this is a big deal for a chronic insomniac!
So . . . is it legal?
Yes. As of right now, sananga is not considered a controlled substance in the United States.
However, legal doesn’t mean do it in your basement with no experience.
Any psychoactive substance carries some risk. And because the data and research on sananga is currently limited, it’s hard to know how people with medical vulnerabilities may react to it.
But it seems to be relatively safe, with few verifiable reports of serious, adverse side effects.
Still, finding an experienced practitioner to try it with is definitely your best option.
“This sounds so interesting! How do I find a medicine circle?
If you’re lucky enough to live in the DC area, contact Alanna Collins for more information on experiencing sanaga.
Otherwise, search Google for medicine circles in your area, or contact an experienced shaman.
With more and more people seeking alternative paths to wellness, the holistic approach of self-care in a supportive environment appeals to the intrepid spirit.
I found the experience a nice, gentle way to connect with those around me and cleanse some of the emotional baggage I wasn’t even aware I was carrying around.
Pain is funny that way.
If you want to deepen your meditative practice or are struggling to overcome negative attachments, sananga offers an alternative approach to releasing repetitive cycles and finding a new way forward.