Learning about Parkinson’s disease was a tremendous shock. But I wasn’t going to let myself be thwarted in my healing by believing everything the doctors had to say. I took responsibility for healing into my own hands.

Under My Thumb

It starts in my thumb. I have a funny feeling, a twitching. Something isn’t quite right. For a year or two I notice how it sometimes affects my handwriting, making tiny, almost illegible letters.

I am sixty years old when I go to a local doctor, who refers me to a neurologist who does some tests. The doctor delivers the bad news: “You’ve got Parkinson’s disease.” Then onto his standard joke, “The bad news is that Parkinson’s disease is not a death sentence. The good news is that it is a life sentence!” Very (not) funny.

He says it’s early Parkinson’s disease which is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It’s caused by the death of dopamine-generating cells in the mid-brain. First signs are slowness of movement, shaking, and rigidity. Later, more serious problems occur.

Not wanting to believe in the standard, one-size-fits-all diagnosis and not wanting to take prescription medication with their unpleasant side effects, I stay in denial for a few years until I can no longer ignore the tremors in my right hand and leg. When I walk with my wife Geraldine, I find that I can’t keep up and my feet will freeze up and refuse to move forward. My voice is thin and my face takes on the typical frozen mask common to Parkinson’s people.

My mind is a muddle. I have vertigo. I cannot dress or bathe myself. Buttons become my nemesis. Everything I once had done with ease, like typing, playing the piano, or drawing, requires monumental effort. I worry how long I will be creative and productive in my business. Or whether I can continue working at all.

I resist going on medications, with their side effects, but finally succumb to Co-Carledopa.

I explore many traditional and alternative treatments to add to my healing regime such as meditation, Tai Chi, hypnosis, acupuncture, massage, exercise, stem cell replacement, many different diets, and much more. These things I believe help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease or maybe even rejuvenate dead brain cells.

I am going to be the exception. I will fight Parkinson’s disease. I still have things to do in this life.

 Stem Cell Adventure

I stumble across a link on Google Search to a private clinic in Düsseldorf, Germany. They are the only place in the world where for a fee of $11,000 you can receive stem cell replacement therapy using your own cells. Only 30 to 40 people with Parkinson’s disease have had this treatment. First are tests: an MRI and brain scans. Then 42 vials of blood are drawn and processed. Next, they will put them back in.

I am in an operating theatre on a metal bed. Via an IV, they put Mannitol into me, which opens the blood-brain barrier for about an hour. Half of the collected stem cells (2 million) are being fed into me through the IV. The whole procedure takes a couple of hours as the stem cells go into the brain and hopefully replace any damaged dopamine-producing cells.

Next up is angioplasty. From either anxiety about the upcoming procedure or because I didn’t take my dopamine medicine (because I thought it might interfere with the other medications), I am shaking like crazy. They give me an injection (of what, I don’t know). In two minutes the shaking stops completely. They perform the angioplasty procedure and then inject the second batch (another million-plus stem cells) that are carried by my blood to the brain.

They wheel me on a gurney out into the hallway and I’m left alone with Geraldine. I try telling Geraldine something, but halfway through my sentence I forget what I want to say.  It’s as if a giant eraser wipes out my memory, leaving me dumbfounded at mid sentence. I think this short-term memory loss is funny.  They don’t.

They roll me to a recovery room where I am to wait for two hours before being released to return to the hotel. When the doctors come to release me, I try to talk to them, but the more I talk, the more confused the doctors become. I am completely incoherent. I am quickly losing all credibility and must sound like a babbling idiot to them.

Geraldine tells me that it was worse than that. I ask such things as,

“What’s the population in that bottle of water?” or “How many countries do you have in your purse?” She is horrified! My brain is completely fried!

The doctors have never seen this before. Geraldine refuses to let me leave and demands that I spend the night in the hospital under observation. By the next morning, I return to clear thinking. The sedative had a very strong and very rare side effect.

I am told that it will take four to eight weeks to start seeing results from the stem cell treatment but I have seen no results. The X-Cell Center is now closed. Still, I am determined to find a cure.

Mother Ayahuasca

A friend introduces me to Don José Campos, a Peruvian curandero, who conducts healing ceremonies using a powerful plant medicine. I research it and find this little known but powerful plant medicine called Banisteriopsis caapi has been used successfully to treat Parkinson’s disease in the 1920s, but has been abandoned because the drug companies couldn’t figure out how to patent the plant profitably. I learn that the plant, when mixed with a psychoactive leaf called Psychotria viridis, creates a powerful jungle medicine called Ayahuasca which has been used by the indigenous people of South America for thousands of years. Individually the vine and leaf do nothing, but when combined they produce an extremely powerful brew providing healing and visions into the nature of reality. It is a national treasure in Peru and widely used for healing by men, women, and families.

Ayahuasca is gaining a lot of attention in the West, generating plane loads of Ayahuasca tourists bound for Peru and costing around $1000 or more for a week of ceremonies.

I soon find myself in the Amazon jungle. Don José and I cram into one motocarro, a kind of motorbike with a metal chair attached. We ride through Pucallpa to an isolated maloca (ceremonial house) in the jungle. There are a dozen people already sitting in the ceremonial circle. One by one we go up to a little altar and Don José pours each of us a shot glass of the dark molasses. When it is my turn I go up, kneel, accept the cup, and force it down. It’s the most vile thing I’ve ever had to swallow. I am getting nauseated and can taste bile in the back of my throat. It’s all I can do to keep it down before I start to feel its effects.

Before I say more, this is not some psychedelic joyride that you try alone at home or at a disco. It’s only for the courageous, serious-minded, high-intentioned explorer who has a damn good reason to be drinking this industrial-strength Amazonian medicine. My reason was to cure my Parkinson’s disease. I started to question my action, perhaps this time I have gone too far.

My first “journey” is filled with so much energy I cannot stay balanced. It has the force of a tsunami washing over me and goes on for hours. It starts with a beautiful landscape of jewels and a woven electronic blanket of undulating snakes with extremely garish orange and green colors. The detail is incredible and there is too much to take in.

When the first landscape appears, I think “how beautiful.” Suddenly the relationship of separateness between me and my vision shifts. Subject and object merge. Duality is gone. There is no “other.” I am the vision. I am the mesh of energy and jewels and snakes that I am seeing. The sacred verse “I am that I am” best describes it. I am part of … no … I am the Divine Matrix.

Then the scanning begins. It‘s as if the plant medicine has a high-tech medical team of entities working for it, and although I can’t see them, their presence is all-around me as my body is scanned and sliced and diced in every direction as if I am being pushed through a giant electronic cheese grater. It’s not frightening, but it’s overwhelming. I certainly hope they know what they are doing!

My DNA, my entire operating system has been reprogrammed — and fast. I feel it. Billions of terabytes of information are being flushed through me and are energizing every cell.

Suddenly, Mother Ayahuasca, the spirit of Ayahuasca is present. I feel my inner mind opening and realize this plant has consciousness. As instructed, I form a question. I ask her to show me the spirit world. As I make the request, infinite dimensions and lands appear … Amazing animals and beings come to me. I can’t believe it!

I remember Don José’s instructions to breathe consciously, in and out, to stay centered. Miraculously, I can ask the plant questions and get immediate answers either verbally, or visually, or telepathically.

But there is so much energy that for much of the time it is all I can do to surf the energy, let alone try to further a master-student relationship. I am not sure — but I may have lost consciousness, as there is a vast amount I do not remember.

Sometime later I see other images of organic green and flesh-colored entities. I guess they are life forms, but more alien than anything we might see even on the deep floor of the ocean. At first the light is beautiful, but when I look deeper into the shadows there is real evil and it’s terrifying. I try not to look. Wrong move. The lesson being taught is that good and evil are part of the same thing and, like it or not, they come into the world of duality as a packaged deal.

All around me and throughout the night are the unmistakable sounds of the other participants struggling with their own healing. I try to give them love and compassion and just hold the space, as we were instructed to do, and not get caught up in their dramas. I have my own healing to attend to and that is my responsibility. There are helpers watching the group to assist if anyone gets into trouble, and several do. Without staying focused on your breathing and intent, it’s very easy to get disoriented.

Energy pours into and through me with a fire hose intensity, pummeling me. So much so that I feel that my life force will be completely drained very soon and I will be annihilated. I try to sit up in half-lotus and breathe in and out.

I feel something coming. I prop my head over a bucket as bright-colored pearls — like pop beads — come tumbling out of my mouth. The torrent of energy continues to hammer me.

At 7 a.m. the visions stop. The journey has lasted 12 brutal hours in Earth time — an eternity in experiential time. Throughout the day I am weak and I swear to everyone over and over, “I will never, ever, ever do this again.”

I am indeed changed. I have had countless insights, which decimated and smashed old beliefs, habits, negative, and limited ways of thinking. These treasures are indeed worth the horrific struggles.

I realize that my ordinary consciousness has been limited by me. I’ve been mostly asleep, unaware, caught up in addictive and habitual patterns, that give “me” the illusion of separateness where really there is no “me.” Ayahuasca blew the top off that and with cosmic tough love took me on an express train into the nature of reality.

Working with Ayahuasca is not easy and requires enormous strength, stamina, and courage. We discover that we are not separate beings. We are all connected. We are multi-dimensional, able to travel into subatomic as well as cosmic realms, through the past, the future, and through multiple universes.

Our human nature and our ability to heal ourselves is far more magnificent than I ever imagined.

Beyond My Comprehension

I know that for many people what you just read is beyond your comprehension. Sitting here in my ordinary consciousness and reading what I just wrote seems like some made up fiction … but it’s not. My experience with Ayahuasca five years ago has totally transformed my worldview.

I began to experience everything as interconnected: the plants, animals, natural forces, as well as other human beings. Everything being in balance is crucial for our survival on the earth. It’s obvious to me now that when we are not living in harmony with Nature, illness is quick to follow. Taking responsibility for my own healing and experiencing my connection with everything has allowed me to eliminate 40 percent to 60 percent of my Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

At last I feel reconnected to this mysterious and magical world. There is beauty all-around us. At every moment we have the opportunity to expand and touch the Divine.

 Next Stop, The Holy Land

Through a serendipitous encounter I shuffle into Alex Kerten’s studio in a Israeli suburb north of Tel Aviv. I am here because I have many physical symptoms I want to work on. Alex’s life experience includes being a jazz musician, a martial artist (nine black belts), and many years in the Israeli Army. He has synthesized his knowledge into a treatment for Parkinson’s disease that includes music, dance, and behavior modification. I may have shuffled into his studio but two hours later I came out dancing! He taught me a new way to frame my thinking and eliminate many Parkinson’s disease symptoms. I was so impressed with the results I encouraged him to write a book with his exercises called Goodbye Parkinson’s, Hello Life. (It immediately became a best-seller on Amazon and has been selected for the 10 book collection along with Don José’s The Shaman & Ayahuasca and my memoirs, Onward & Upward.)

The search for a Parkinson’s disease cure has taken me to many people and places. Feeling grateful for the healings and all we have learned, my wife and I – through Divine Arts – have published many magnificent books that provide access to the minds of extraordinary masters, teachers, and healers from around the world. We are thrilled to share these books with you to contribute to your healing, your wellness, for a happy and prosperous life.

Simply Transformative

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