There are many wonderful books out there about psychedelics and the promise they hold for mankind as tools for healing, addiction treatment, therapy, and self-realization, but Heart Medicine by first-time author Elizabeth Bast is something entirely unique. Written as a personal memoir about her and her husband (spray paint artist Chor Boogie) finding iboga in a moment of crisis brought on by heroin relapse, Heart Medicine glows with incredibly raw honesty about the struggles of love, addiction, and the salvation that iboga eventually brought. As a tell-all tale of modern love and a first-person account of the nature and power of the iboga plant, it is both riveting, illuminating, and incredibly liberating to read.
We were grateful to have a chance to speak with Elizabeth and Chor about Heart Medicine, their encounters with psychedelics other than iboga, and the spirit of the iboga plant.
Psychedelic Times: One of the things that stands out most about this book is how radically honest and transparent you were in the telling of this story, including all of the gory personal details of the struggles you and Chor faced. Most people would not have been so brave, but it added so much depth and authenticity to the book.
Elizabeth Bast: It was so inspiring to just lay it all out. It helps everyone, I think. It supports and gives permission to everyone to be so open and honest, and it is a vital part of our healing process, to be open and honest with the right motives and right community. Every bit of darkness is pregnant with light.
Chor Boogie: It goes right along with the saying, “The truth shall set you free”.
PT: What role did psychedelics play in both of your lives before the story of Heart Medicine and iboga?
EB: I grew up around Native American ceremonies such as sweat lodge and pipe ceremony, and that helped set the tone and prepare me. As a young adult, I had some experiences with psilocybin that were at first very outside of ceremony, and they spanked me. I learned it is so important to respect these medicines. Later on, I had experiences with ayahuasca, about once or twice a year for a decade. I used it sparingly and respectfully, and eventually had some very positive experiences with psilocybin and toad medicine (5-MeO-DMT) as well. I was really grateful for those because in a way they were helping to prepare me. Not everyone needs all of that before they come to iboga, but for me personally, I found it really helpful. I feel like they primed me to tune into the voice of Gaia; they helped me to be awake and listening so that I could hear iboga whispering to me.
CB: When I was young, I was deep into the party culture. LSD was a big part of my life and a whole lot of it. It might have had some influence on my artwork, but honestly, the experiences with LSD were not about trying to find myself, and it was kinda scary at times. I did feel a certain connection with the universe when I tried LSD and mushrooms at that time in my life—I felt like I could explain how everything was created in those peak moments. But once I got more involved with plant medicines, it brought me to a point where I was clean and off all substances for 13 years. That took me to a whole different level of my life. It was a big difference. Taking the plant medicines, you have to know what they are about because that’s the most important thing. If not, then you’re just stepping into a world that can really hurt you and damage you.
EB: I feel like the plants and psychedelics treat us very differently if we approach them as consumers or as students and devotees. It’s a very big difference. It’s like jet fuel; it can take us anywhere, but we really got to know where we’re going. And we should seek out the traditions that have studied them for so long and how we can create safe containers for real inner awakening.
PT: Ayahuasca is often referred to as a female entity that is playing a role in human evolution. Does iboga have a personality and an intention with how it interacts with humans?
EB: It definitely has a very distinct spirit, and I’ve felt subtle nuanced differences between different strains of iboga. But there is an overarching spirit among all the iboga, and it’s very different from ayahuasca. Sometimes people see medicines through the lens of gender, and ayahuasca is very feminine, while iboga is called the godfather, but the Bwiti say iboga is both mother and father, masculine and feminine. It’s [a] stern, compassionate, crystal clear mirror for us to look into, and its overarching agenda, if you will, is to help us awaken and to harmonize human culture with nature. That we not only can live in harmony, but we can live synergistically. I love the iboga spirit; it’s brilliant, and it is profoundly wise.
CB: I know that all plant medicines are in cahoots and have related traits and abilities. It’s not a competition, and it’s not really a comparison. They all work together and are on the same wavelength because they are from the earth, they are natural, and they have healing abilities. My experience with ayahuasca is limited; I’ve only done it one time, and it was not like the experience that I had with iboga. Iboga can help people who have a difficulty connecting with themselves. It can go in there like a brain surgeon, heart surgeon, soul surgeon, body surgeon, and take you there to show you what you really need to see, and tell you the truth about yourself. And once you do that, you’re awake, you’re conscious. You stop wanting to hurt yourself. I’m not saying ayahuasca or peyote or mushrooms wouldn’t wake you up, but I’ve experienced them all, and iboga was the one that took me there, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I love myself now, and I know that I love myself.
EB: Going back to iboga’s “agenda,” the Bwiti people in central west Africa originally received the medicine from the Pygmy people who to this day are deep in the jungle. They were never conquered or colonized. They are completely in harmony with nature and don’t want anything to do with the civilized world. In the core of these Pygmy communities, they don’t even wear clothes. They deliberately gave the iboga medicine to the Bwiti, they allowed it to go out, in order to make peace. And here now we have the Bwiti allowing it to go out to us. It’s an exciting gift.
They say that the real work with any psychedelic happens after the experience, in the integration. Since the end of writing Heart Medicine, how have your paths been unfolding, and how has your long-term integration process been?
Elizabeth Bast: We’ve been really busy and our lives have totally changed. Our business, our work, our right livelihood, things have really shifted. The end of the ceremony is just the beginning of so much more. That’s part of the responsible and respectful approach to these medicines, that we are not constantly consuming them out of novelty, but we are serving. That is what integration is ultimately about—service. When we integrate, we are sharing what we learn, and we’re fulfilling the missions we’ve been given.
For the first 6 months after our first experience, I felt so full of iboga and felt the spirit of the plant fully with me. Iboga communicates very clearly, and it told me, “OK, I’m about to leave, you gotta feel the strength of your own legs, and hold on to all that I’ve taught you.” Iboga taught me the true power of my own thoughts, that every thought is not just a passing fly, it is a fertile seed. I’m more aware of the full activity of my mind, not just on conscious levels but also on habitual, semiconscious, and even unconscious levels. Every single day is Star Wars in your brain. There’s Darth Vader in there, and there’s Yoda. I still have negative thoughts, but they don’t have the hold over me that they used to. The iboga and the Bwiti tradition has been my Jedi training; it helps you train your mind and use it in a different way.
Chor Boogie: Integration is definitely key to receiving this heart medicine because it’s like you are a newborn baby coming back into a world of chaos. When you get back in, you think “Oh shit, what do I do now?” I can only speak for myself and what I did. Prior to the plant medicines, I was 13 years clean and went through a rehab center. The rehabilitation system taught me some things, but my experience with iboga and everything I’ve done since then— meditation, yoga, diet changes—it just needed to happen. Even if I feel resistance towards my new positive habits, I will do them because I know they are good for me; I cultivate them like a positive addiction. Once I focus on the positive addictions of integration, then it starts flowing like water. The integration process is very key.
EB: I had been practicing meditation before iboga, but afterwards Chor and I started meditating together almost every day. We also have been doing yoga, and it is very powerful to practice together. I watched Chor give up factory farmed meat products instantly after taking iboga. It’s been great seeing him shift and fall in love with superfoods and yoga.
PT: Do you have any advice for people approaching iboga for the first time?
EB: Please do not mail order sacred medicines such as iboga. A lot of times mail-ordered iboga has been found to have been adulterated, or it can be moldy and get people sick. And a lot of the times it comes from elephant poachers who do not harvest it sustainably but just rip it out of the ground without any sacred intention or care for sustainable harvesting. Don’t mail order it, and don’t do it alone. We want to give a shout-out to our shaman Moughenda. He says doing iboga is like driving a car blindfolded: if you’re doing it by yourself, it’s a bad idea. Big thanks to him for holding space for us; he was an impeccable provider and a great teacher. Please approach this medicine with a lot of care if you are called to it.
CB: Iboga has been put out there as a medicine for addicts, but it is bigger than that. If there are any addicts that are
reading this, it’s going to be boiled down to your intention and how you really want to help yourself. If you approach the medicine dirty, it will still work and have its effect, but if you come at the container with a cleaner perspective, weening down and detoxing and showing initiative to yourself and your soul, then iboga will be like, “Boom, he’s showing love for himself, I’m giving you 110%.”
EB: The more we give to it, the more it gives to us. Sometimes there’s a mentality with addicts that they want something easy, and they think it’s about taking a pill, and it’s not. It is about climbing a mountain inside of yourself. It is a deep, deep work, and it takes a lot of participation. It’s not passive at all; it won’t happen that way. Know that, and prepare yourself the best you can.
PT: Wonderful tips. You’ve mentioned that you are stepping into being facilitators with iboga. How can people be in touch with you about that?
EB: Yes, we are in a long-term apprenticeship to serve one day as iboga providers. Right now, we’re helping to organize retreats and provide pre-ceremony support and post-ceremony integration support, and creative and artistic activities, and help get people out to Africa to connect with the Bwiti on their home turf. You can email us or sign up for our newsletters on http://www.ebast.net/contact.html and http://chorboogie.com/contact/.