This week, on Mindrolling, Nick J. Polizzi joins Raghu to discuss Nick’s inspiring documentary on Shamanic medicine and what it has to offer the West.
The documentary, Sacred Science, brings together eight patients whose illnesses Western medicine could not cure. Nick and Raghu talk about the movie, the medicine, and the future of this practice which has so much to offer the world.
“There is no end to this; there is no winning this game. The destination is the work. There is nothing more. The work is not what you need to do before you get somewhere, the work is where you are going.”
– Roman Hanis
Beginnings (Opening) – Nick describes his documentary which introduces eight people from around the world, who suffer from serious illness, to shamanic medicine ceremonies. The goal being to see if these medicinal practices can succeed where modern medicine has failed.
Nick did not set out to become an activist or even a director. A friend who was desperate for help on a film project asked Nick, who had a graphic design background, for help, which kickstarted Nick’s involvement in filmmaking.
Nick’s beginning on the spiritual path was something that was also kickstarted in a way. When he was in high school, Nick was struck by a bolt of lightning. Which he would later come to understand later to be a very auspicious moment.
Sacred Science (7:00) – The origins of the documentary’s name, “Sacred Science,” comes from a shamanic concept which roughly translates as the “science of the undefinable.” It is a lineage of direct transmission that is passed down from generation to generation. Beyond the knowledge of the medicine itself, the shamans teach a way of being. It is an experiential learning from a healer who is passing down a full body of knowledge, which isn’t possible through textbooks alone.
In the film, we first meet a Shaman from Moldova named Roman Hanis. In his teens, Roman began to suffer from Crohn’s disease. Roman felt a calling to the jungle and left at the age of twenty to seek relief. After many ceremonies and work with plant medicines, Roman’s pain began to recede. In less than two years, Roman no longer had symptoms of his disease. His experience was so impactful that Roman never left. Since then Roman as become a Shaman in his own right and shares the medicine with others who suffer like he did.
Nick sought out Roman after several auspicious referrals to Roman’s practice. Before Roman agreed to work with Nick, however, Roman spent time getting to know Nick and introducing him to his practice. Part of this vetting process involved taking part in a particularly intense ayahuasca ceremony, which enlightened Nick to the work that he was meant to do.
Roman and Nick built a compound especially for the film which featured longhouses, ceremonial maloca, and a personal dieta huts for each person being treated. The patients spent the majority of their time inside these huts in seclusion as part of the healing process.
The Work (22:00) – One thing said in the movie that stood out to Raghu is a statement by a shaman who states their one of their goals as being:
“To get people out of their patterns, to give them a real chance to die.”
In line with the shamanic path, Nick thinks the dying experience is not just about going through the passing of the physical body. It is also about letting go of things that do not serve you and let them die off.
Raghu reflects on the reality of both the benefits and potential abuse of ayahuasca. This misuse is something Nick has witnessed first hand. While a powerful tool to heal the mind and body, ayahuasca has the potential to be used in ways that are neither sacred or medicinal.
“It (LSD) is good in the beginning. It allows you to know Christ, but you have to leave eventually. Just love, serve, remember, that will get you where you need to go.”
-Neem Karoli Baba
Nick believes that those who might be misusing the medicine are not putting the wisdom they receive into practice. The ayahuasca experience is about the work that you perform afterward. No one else is going to do it for you. Taking the medicine habitually will not provide more healing, only putting in the work.
Guidance (34:00) – Nick discusses witnessing Shamans using ayahuasca ceremonies to locate specific plants used to heal their patients. Sacred Science, features a Shaman named Don Bechin who only knows what to prescribe and where to find them through these out of body experiences. Bechin is not unique in this regard, this method practiced by all Shamans no matter their experience.
Unsure Future (38:00) – This transmission of knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. However, the current generation of shamanism is facing a crisis, because many of their children are not interested in inheriting the practice.
A goal of making this documentary was to bring awareness to this shortage of individuals willing carry the torch of knowledge to the next generations. These practices are not written down, and require hands-on teaching. If the next generation does not learn them, the wisdom may be lost entirely.
The Western world has only had knowledge of this kind of medicine practice for a few decades. We are a precarious moment in time where we need this kind of medicine most, and it is at risk of disappearing before it can be shared with the world.
Methods (41:00) – Beyond the physical healing that these medicines provide, the treatment focuses just as much on the spirit. In Sacred Science, there is a diversity of spiritual methods practiced. There is chanting from different traditions, meditation, and the maloca ceremonies themselves which focus almost entirely on the soul.
The medicine is the lynchpin of the practice. While all other aspects of practice have unique benefits inside and outside of ceremony, ayahuasca unifies them and amplifies their healing.
Integration (45:30) In addition to his films, Nick also produces insightful blogs on the Sacred Science website which caught Raghu’s attention. Recently in a blog titled, “The Death of “Am I Good Enough?” Nick describes his experience meeting life coach Laurie Gerber. Laurie’s gave Nick great insight on how he can walk his path in the jungle, while also living up to his responsibilities to his family and business.
Nick struggled with how to strike this kind balance until he met Laurie. The most impactful lesson that Nick took from his time with Laurie was how he perceives and utilizes his time.
Click here to watch Sacred Science for FREE! To bring wisdom from the jungle into your home, be sure to check out the Sacred Cookbook and more here.
Photo via Third Monk