AWAVENA: a review of the VR award winning collaboration.

A personal response to AWAVENA

Written by Brendan Toole

AWAVENA by award-winning Australian Artist Lynette Walworth’s Virtual Reality collaboration with the Yawanawa of the Brazilian Amazon Lynette Wallworth, Hushahu Yawanawa and Tata Yawanawa.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to venture into the healing realms of Ayahuasca first hand, many times. I have returned listening to countless people try, like myself, to interpret their profound, life-changing plant-medicine experiences. Often, words merely touch upon the inexplicable sense of ego death and the deeper connection to true self, the empathy and the universal consciousness that these insights bring. The action we learn to take into our everyday lives from these experiences is to be the medicine for the world.

As a wholly and completely perfect immersive experience, AWAVENA goes way beyond trying to simply describe this journey. The work not only distills the message of the divine feminine to its absolute essence in a beautiful, exhilarating way but also encourages the participant to dare to imagine what it is like in the realms of the shamans. Participants are connected directly to a shaman as she knowingly employs VR technology to speak to them personally and share heartbreaking, real, intimate moments nursing her dying teacher and chief, before teaching them about her world and medicine.

I am humbled by the women who have co-created this experience and how they have simply yet exquisitely projected their intentions, from the fuzzy otherworldly onset of the journey into the book, to meeting the radical indigenous woman and being taken up river by canoe. Crossing bridges as metaphors for layers of perception and seeing the fabric of the forest glow with X-ray projection, participants are taken giddily up into ancestral realms in the tree canopy, before connections and associations are peeled away and insights presented. Meeting the butterfly spirit guide from beneath the surface of the water introduces the masterstroke of the piece. Sent through ceremony and memorial then back through a film screen with a digitally created, respectful representation of this idea, a delicate and powerful gift, it flutters reassuringly beside Hushahu in the returning afterglow.

The second phase of the immersive experience gives the participant a more visceral personal connection with the spirit guide. Using breath and movement to navigate through a sacred forest, they are taken to the very heart of the gift being shared in this cutting-edge digital encounter.

This is more than a 360-degree immersion into an artistic interpretation of the medicine experience. This is the fusion of two polarized technologies in a way that is profoundly unique and completely groundbreaking. It is digital communication transcending into the spiritual realm in ways that we can only begin to appreciate. We live in the digital age and must learn to ethically harness the very best of what technology offers us as a species, at our fingertips, if we are to survive, wherever we live on the planet.

AWAVENA is the planting of a seed, an idea, a feeling, a memorial, a prayer and a gentle but powerful call to arms. It is a collaboration of minds from two different cultures finding connection and meaning on the deepest of levels and it is quite simply startling. My memories of this VR experience resonate deeply with my memories of altered states achieved during and lessons learned from Ayahuasca journeys. In everything we do, we must strive to protect wild spaces, the forests and the indigenous people living there. We must honour their sacred lineage, their custodianship, their continued knowledge and their descendants, for the sake of the entire planet. This call is stronger now than ever and we must harness our technologies to connect and grow together. The gentle flap of the butterfly’s wings can reap a whirlwind of change.

From the outset of this creative work, the late chief Tata, Lynette Wallworth, Hushahu and the Yawanawa have tapped into each other’s spirit and knowingly reached into the very core of human existence in a totally new way. As a plant shaman and a digital shaman, two women have poetically woven layers of reality together sending a message through space, time and from across the boundary of life and death. Art can make the world a better place and I thank them both for doing this so intimately. With this epic collaborative creation, they will truly touch minds, hearts and souls across the globe for years to come.

Find more about AWAVENA here!

In Review: Dr Bruce Damer- A Visionary Approach for Hope and Action in the Era of Climate Shock

Author: Marc Devitt
A Visionary Approach for Hope and Action in the Era of Climate Shock.

A sweltering Saturday afternoon in fire ravaged New South Wales; a modest cloud of witnesses
gently precipitates around the cool inner sanctuary of Rigpa’s ‘Temple on the Park’ in Sydney’s inner
west. Cups of cold water refresh us inside as we take our seats in front of the dais, for the proposed
‘audacious two-part romp’ through the liminal borderlands between materialist reductionism and visionary mysticism.

True To His Word: The heart of the human experience. 

Bruce Damer guided us through his unique technique of endogenous-tripping; a type of non-substance induced visionary journey, replete with colours, creatures and
worlds, embracing cosmic, biological and psychological origin narratives, a theory of almost
everything, and an optimistic prescience for the future of humanity (and all species of Gaia-kind) as
we prepare to launch into the cosmos toward the stars from which we’ve emerged.
Bruce managed to weave all of this upon the frame of the psychedelic experience, sharing intimate
recollections gleaned from his close friendship with Terence McKenna, and most impressively kept it
all bolted down onto an empirical, ‘dialled in’ foundation free of any woo-woo. Yet, the edifice
constructed upon that sure scientific foundation on that Saturday afternoon was a complex of
magical and alchemical wonder which evoked and drew out the very heart’s blood of the human
experience. The act left us deeply touched by the dimensionality and sincerity of Damer’s tender
compassion, in active application, to the task of healing human wounded-ness and evoking the
fulfilment of human potential in the face of climate crisis. I’ll try and sum it up in a brief sketch.

Part One: The Geeky Stuff

Part one involved the ‘geeky’ stuff as Bruce unassumingly displayed the rigour of his commitment to
the scientific method and moreover his drive, along with several other esteemed colleagues, to
combine laboratory experiments with experiments in the ‘raw field’ of nature. As such he explained
his work in recent years with UNSW (here in Australia) in the Pilbara and in Port Hedland where the
discovery of geyserite containing fossilised microbial substance and gas bubbles provided evidence
of hot springs on land, 3.48 billion years ago, now being theorised as providing the ‘warm little
ponds’ intuited by Darwin as the possible engines originating all life on Earth. Damer and his
colleague Deamer constructed series of artificial rock pools in the lab that replicated the wet-dry
cycles underpinning their theory and successfully produced the formation of DNA, RNA and other
proteins, without any mechanical interference beyond this natural wet-dry cycling. To the
astonishment of sceptics, they were able to produce the very same on location in the hot springs of
Yellowstone national park (the sceptics had not considered the function of ionic components in the
hot springs which allowed for stable protein formation).
Following our APS event in Sydney, Bruce flew to New Zealand to continue working with scientists there, at the renowned hot springs of Rotorua, where he continues to firm up the evidence backing this remarkable biogenesis theory. Bruce drew a delightful analogy between the dynamics of these hot spring rock pools and feeding
punch card programmes (polymers) into an Altair 8800 microcomputer (warm little cycling pools) to
convey how protocells (programs) would either pop their cell walls (crash) or else remain stable
(run) in order to be selected to be run again through the next cycle of growth. Bruce showed how
this understanding of the role of hot springs in biogenesis can be used to direct the search for
evidence of life on Mars and how he is currently working with the Japanese space agency to do just
We then considered the origin story of the human species in particular: Bruce’s description of an
endo-trip in which he gained greater insight into the development of the visual cortex in prosimians.
This, he proposed, was a result of altered states of consciousness, gained by the more daring of the
species, who went out on a (tree) limb to get ‘lifted’ on tree sap, thus gaining visual acuity enabling
them to see through the mesmerising patterns of tree snakes which would have otherwise left them
transfixed and helpless prey. We’ve now evolved the ability to both recognise and create complex
hypnotising patterns; thus we can use this ability to create technological ‘snakes’ that can in turn be
used to wound or to heal, to either manipulate human weaknesses, transfix and exploit, or to
enhance human vision, break beguilement and help us to heal. Bruce contrasted the role of
manipulative media transfixing us to disempowering states of consciousness, that leave us open to
exploitation, with the very different liberating and empowering work of ‘trans-tech’ at Esalen
Institute, using techno-bio-logical interfacing to help us return to a state of communal synchronicity.
From the latter state of consciousness we can recognise dis-functional patterning and clear it out in
a group setting, to free up enormous amounts of energy for new creative and healthy endeavours.
Bruce called this ‘healing the inner kindergarden’ and pointed out that what so much of these
findings highlight is that the origin of life is in common community and not in separative
competition. He linked in Ram Dass’ philosophical point of contention with what he’d called the
myth of separateness and suggested that this scientific investigation could be for biologists in the
2020s what relativity was for physicists in the 1920s.

Part Two: Cosmological Exploration

Part two launched us into ontological and cosmological exploration, all the while grounded within
the appreciation of the rock pool dynamics as comparable computers processing randomly
generated polymer programmes and testing them to see if they boom or bust. Bruce proposed a
new Copernican cosmic centre – once again inspired by an endo-trip in which he was spurred to
consider the dynamics of these rock pools. It’s a triangular cycle which he calls ‘the progenote’
(pictured below):
In brief it shows how there is a kind of ‘Engine of Emergence’ at the heart of cosmos, which is conscious, recollective, interactive and actively shaping probability. Bruce proposes that it is this ‘field’ of consciousness which our limited primate brain samples and that this explains many of the other-worldly ecstatic and epiphanic perceptions of the psychedelic experience. ‘Life opens pathways to impossible events’ he asserted, relating several instances in which he had successfully interacted with this kind of triune engine of responsiveness and suggesting ways in which we might learn to do so with greater dexterity – including but not limited to the use of psychedelic substances.

In the end: “The trip is always made within” – Bruce Damer

Bruce concluded the talk by applying all of these findings to the current climate crisis and noted the urgency for climate change mitigation strategies, noting that whilst emissions reduction is surely a must, we are already inevitably going to experience some possibly cataclysmic shifts, even if the harm reduction is effective and we spare ourselves the worst case scenario. If we are able to preserve biological diversity here on Earth first, we can look toward navigating the stars and preserving Gaia’s greatest experiment beyond the inevitable ‘Venus terminator’ event 100 millennia from now, in which Earth will follow a similar fate to her sister planet on the inner orbital ring. Designs for spacecraft capable of harvesting asteroids were floated as a possible way for us to obtain the resources needed to launch into space and explore life on other planets. Such confidence was refreshing in what is so often a prevalent climate of almost apocalyptic gloom and frustration, nevertheless stressed along with the optimistic confidence was the urgency of a call to action.

Bruce encouraged optimistic and holistic effort (to which the efficient use of psychedelic tools of various sorts are undoubtedly a helpful supplement, if not an essential contingent!) in the war on stupefied inertia and stunned apathy which inevitably results from a vision too dull to recognise the predator behind the patented patterns of profit driven predators in the digital marketplace. Damer has certainly evoked from within us a confidence that, in such a struggle, the marriage of endo and exo tripping, of psychedelics and science, offers a greater probability of victory and an earnest reminder that, whatever cosmic journeys we may yet embark upon: ‘the trip is always made within’. 

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