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‘We Believe Ourselves to Be Owners, That’s the Problem’

A conversation with Colombian shaman Taita Juan Guillermo

Ten years ago, if you wanted to meet a shaman from the Amazon rainforest you pretty much had to schlep down to the Amazon. But these days it’s becoming common for medicine men (and women) to venture outside their native lands and travel to the industrialized countries in North and Central America. Why? To share their ancient indigenous teachings and raise awareness about our imperiled Earth. Taita Juan Guillermo Chindoy, one of the youngest spiritual leaders of one of the oldest tribes in Colombia, is among one of these travelling shamans. I recently met with the 28 year-old Inga spiritual healer and spoke with him about the health and wellness of our planet.
photo of a man standing outdoors, looking into the distancePhoto by Genna Marie

Genna Marie: Please tell me a bit about yourself. What does ‘taita’ mean?

Taita Juan Guillermo Chindoy: Taita means guide, healer, shaman. One who – through studying the world in a strong state of consciousness – is able to direct the town and advise the people in it. I am from an Inga town in Putamayo, Columbia. My people are botanists, specializing in nature. My grandfather, who is 102 years old, taught me how to heal and how to live in harmony with the earth.

What inspired you to travel outside of Colombia?

I had a dream long ago where my ancestors told me to bring a message to different parts of the world. That message is one of consciousness, and of reconciliation. We have to make peace inside first, then outside with nature. We must stop the destruction of the environment and live in harmony so there is no war and no hate.

What are some of your most important cultural traditions?

Taking the ceremonial medicine yagé, is the most important. This visionary plant lets us study all of the other plants, people in society, paths of life and even other worlds. This is also our form of diagnosing illnesses.

Also, music! In the beginning of time they thanked god for food, harvests, water, air, everything. So it’s very important to thank the earth so it keeps giving us this wonderful energy for us to keep moving forward. I learned music along with medicine. It’s very important for the spirit. The music comes from the heart of the earth, and the sky brings the message clearly to the core of our beings.

What environmental problems are you most concerned about?

Petroleum. We come along, dig and take petroleum. And now there’s a lot of pollution. This is a sign that we…should stop the destruction of the earth, trees, and nature. To extract oil is the biggest mistake that you can imagine. Instead of planting trees or saving animals, focus on this most essential error. Because of this we are all going to fall. The earth is becoming as fragile as a sheet of paper. We’re just chopping it up and cutting it up and now there’s no blood left. If we don’t have any blood, how will we breathe or speak? How will we run?

The oil’s running out. Then what? What resource to exploit next? Water – because we can’t drink salt water. Sweet water is running out, we’re taking it and nature is drying up. Soon we’re going to plant corn and have nothing to water it with.

What do you think of human society today?

We’re a very strange species. We don’t know what we are…We believe ourselves to be owners, that’s the problem. “We’re owners of this land, of this country, of these people.” This is a grave error. We’re not owners of anyone – we’re [all] free. If we all started to live like this there wouldn’t be as much war, as much conflict.

If you go out in the sun, it burns you – cancer. If you swim in the water it stings you. The earth is very tired. It’s saying, “No more, enough! I don’t want to live like this. Don’t treat me like this.” The earth is crying.

We create organizations to help take care of nature, but why don’t we just share a state of consciousness and truth, where the whole world reaches inside their hearts and asks themselves just what they are doing? We’d get much farther doing this than creating more technology, or starting more organizations. If there’s no universal acceptance of what we are doing it’s very difficult to push consciousness. A person with no consciousness does whatever they want, and may have power over a large number of people.

So you don’t think technology is a good thing?

Technology is tricking us. The Internet makes us oblivious to the reality of the situation. We just watch TV, play with our phones…people are trained by big companies or powerful people that what it is to be human has to do with technology and with your cell phone. But they hide reality.

The only thing we can do to fix things is to stop all the destruction at once.

It’s difficult, but not impossible. It’s never impossible. In this instant there’s a new world. We’re seeing it but we don’t really get it. We’re blind to reality. It’s a vicious cycle. Eat, sleep, work, the end. In reality, if each person started to feel their essence, their origin of life, it would be different. There would be no war.

What can we do to save the planet right now?

The best therapy or exercise I’ve seen is starting with yourself. Get into a state of consciousness. How can I save the world if I don’t save myself first? Every molecule, every organism is a prayer to the earth and the earth listens. If we could have just one minute of global consciousness, the results would be spectacular. If you live in consciousness you really help the trees, the plants, the animals because you are now a part of it. Every molecule, every organism has its own prayer to the earth – and the earth listens.

The orginal version on this article misspelled Colombia in the text body.The error has since been corrected.


Genna Marie
Genna Marie is a bilingual travel writer, blogger and photographer based in Costa Rica. She specializes in covering Latin American and conservation issues. You can see more of her writing and photography at

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It’s Colombia, Genna, not Columbia.

By Andrew Miller on Sat, August 03, 2013 at 12:41 pm

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