#224  Finding a Cure for Civilisation: Delving Deep into the Roots of Being with visionary and shaman, Drea Burbank of Savimbo

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“Respect is earned. Honesty is appreciated. Trust is gained. Loyalty is returned.”

— Oscar Auliq Ice – quoted on Savimbo website


In this pivotal episode, we journey with Drea Burbank from the depths of a fundamentalist Mormon cult to the rainforests of the Colombian Amazon. Drea’s life story, chronicled in her book “Shaman Gurl” (linked in the show notes), is a testament to human resilience and the quest for truth. From her escape over the mountains, through the fiery trials of being a firefighter, to her awakening during medical school, Drea’s path has been anything but conventional.

Now, as a co-founder of Savimbo, Drea is part of an extraordinary mission: to introduce a human rights code for nature. With the support of 60 indigenous leaders from across the globe, she is leading the charge to bring legislation to the UN that enshrines the rights of nature into law. This episode is an urgent call to recognize the voice of nature and the indigenous custodians who have preserved 30% of the planet’s intact land and 80% of its biodiversity.

Drea’s conversation is a revelation of the indigenous perspective on ecotourism, cultural competency, and the necessity of a post-colonial lifestyle. She shares the transformative impact of ecotourism training programs and the importance of creating safe spaces for spiritual awakening in a world that often suppresses regrowth. As she and her colleagues prepare to share their vision with the world through a series of powerful videos, we invite you to become bridges for this crucial movement. Follow Savimbo across social media platforms, amplify the voices of these indigenous leaders, and help turn the tide towards a future where the rights of nature are not just recognized but revered.

For those who are ready to be part of this monumental shift, to stand with the guardians of our planet’s remaining wilderness, this episode is an essential listen. Join us as we explore the profound connections between human healing and planetary health, where the fight for nature’s rights is a fight for our collective future.

We were speaking on a starlink and we lost the connection several times so I apologise in advance for any glitches in the conversation, but this was solid gold and I wasn’t going to let minor issues of technology get in the way of your hearing it. Enjoy!

In Conversation

Manda: Hey people, welcome to Accidental Gods. To the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible and that if we all work together, there is time to create the future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. I’m Manda Scott, your guide and fellow traveller on this journey into possibility. Which for me means trying to walk the knife edge of the moment, balanced between the material constraints of our current reality, and yet stretching out into the worlds where the knowing of possibility goes much, much deeper. And this week’s guest is someone who walks this path far beyond anywhere I have ever gone. As you’ll hear, Drea Burbank has an extraordinary background, starting off in a fundamentalist Mormon cult. And then when she walked away over the mountain, she spent nine years as a firefighter; the only woman in what was otherwise an entirely masculine occupation. And then she trained to be a medical doctor. Her awakening to how the world was not limited to what she was being taught in medical school is detailed in her book Shaman Gurl, which I have linked in the show notes together with all of the other things that she talks about. I’ve only found her book on Amazon, i’m really sorry. That is the book site, not the Jungle. I’ve linked it anyway because Amazon book site might be an integral part of the death cult, but her book is well worth reading. Partly because her life is now spent in the Amazon jungle, where she works with a group of Colombian elders to bring about the changes that they envision as part of their shamanic realities. She really gets the extent to which genuine indigenous shamans, the fully trained people, have a deep, clear understanding of the shamanic realms in ways that untrained people really don’t.

Manda: And she works then with the shamanic elders to bring about the changes that they and we and the whole web of life so desperately need. She points out that indigenous peoples around the world own 30% of the land and oversee 80% of the remaining biodiversity. And we cannot afford to lose this now. So Drea works full time to bring about the changes that we need. She is one of the three co-founders of Savimbo, a company which published the first biodiversity crediting methodology based on indigenous ways of measuring forest health, and designed to directly benefit the indigenous peoples who were not seeing any of the payouts that they were being promised by governments and all of the other actors in the current consensus reality. So Drea and her cohort are also leading a coalition of indigenous leaders to bring legislation to the UN for ratification that would enshrine in law the rights of nature. When I asked her what she’d like to speak about, of all the many, many things that she does, she said, we have to start and end with the rights of nature movement; it’s what matters most just now. So we did. We are speaking on a Starlink connection and we lost the line several times. So I apologise in advance for all of the glitches in the conversation. But this was solid gold and I absolutely was not going to let minor issues of crappy technology get in the way of you hearing it. So people of the podcast, please do welcome drea Burbank of Sarimbo and of Delinquent Savants, and the author of Shaman Gurl and so many other ways of healing ourselves and the planet.

Manda: Drea. Good morning and welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast. How are you and where are you this bright February morning?

Drea: Thank you for having me. I am in the Colombian Amazon and it is dawn, so I am slightly groggy because I’ve never been a morning person.

Manda: I am so sorry. We must have got our wires so crossed because I’m not a morning person either. I would so not do this to you if I had understood that you were getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning. But we are here now, and you have so many interesting things that will be really of interest to everyone who listens to this podcast. So selecting from all of them, I would like to start with the fact that you are part of, possibly heading up a group, that is presenting legislation for ratification to the UN about the rights of nature, to give legal protection to the entire web of life, in the same way that humans technically have legal protection. Although, as we’re discovering with things that are going on around the world, some of that legal protection is pretty thin. But let’s see what we can do. Tell us about the Rights of Nature movement, how you came to be involved with it and what it’s trying to do.

Drea: Yeah, I guess I’ve become the unofficial secretary to about 60 indigenous leaders in 30 countries and four continents, most of whom were were shaman or spiritual leaders. We started with the spiritual leaders in a network on WhatsApp, and then kind of evolved into entering the UN and World Economic Forum. These are not political or politician indigenous leaders. I came out of the jungle, I had a vision: now’s the time, indigenous leaders. So I’ve become their ad hoc secretary and organiser, I guess.

Manda: So I would like to know more about the vision. Before we go any further, tell us a little bit about the vision and how you came to be a person who’s on a WhatsApp group with a bunch of not political, presumably not so active in our whole weird culture. These are people that you have known because of your own shamanic work, I’m guessing. Can you tell us more about that?

Drea: Yeah, I would describe myself as a Western shaman. In other words, I have the energetic signature and I have the involuntary spiritual pathways, but they were not at all related to traditional indigenous shamanism. When I left Western medicine, I became really interested in other forms of healing. So I talked to many different kinds of healers, and I ended up down in the Colombian Amazon doing ceremony with a traditional Colombian group. So four shaman that worked together for many years and trained in traditional pathways, both Cofan and Pijao indigenous groups, and they have an interesting mechanism down here when they want assistance in kind of bridging to the Western world. They just give every white person they meet a ton of Yahi. And the first person that’s lucid, they hire them as kind of like a cultural lawyer, like, okay, your job now is cultural lawyer. I was right in between work and we’d just finished a huge consulting gig and I had some time, so I was like, okay. And they were like, we’re going to ask you to solve a problem for us. And it was, why haven’t we gotten paid for conservation in 20 years? And I was like, I don’t know, I’ll figure it out. And then they were like, okay, and we want a business and we want no strings attached conservation funding from the business. And the business has to be able to compete with mining, logging and petroleum. These guys really knew what they wanted.

Manda: Had they found that out of their own visions? Or had they just sat down and worked out with their heads? Was this a shamanic expression of something, or was it logistical, or are these not distinguishable in the world that they inhabit?

Drea: I would say these are fully expressed Shaman in the sense that they were like licensed. When I look at shamanic training, I compare it a lot to Western surgical training. So it’s usually about 15 years. It has similar pathways in that you spend some time in the close pass, some in the open. So you spend part of your training cloistered and then part of your training in practicum and then you complete. So these guys were all fully expressed Shaman and in that way they had really two sides to their lives. One was doing ceremony, but the other one was very competent real world action of many kinds; community organising, running businesses, construction, you name it, they could do it. There’s a book that I really like called Shaman Healers and Medicine Men by Hauger Cowie, and he describes the same thing. Someone’s not a fully expressed shaman unless they are really, really good at being alive. Like, you want your car fixed, bill paid, kid watched, anything done, they’re going to be good at that too, right? So they came up with the business requirements because of several failed businesses in the area.

Manda: Okay. Failed businesses in the area of conservation, not failed businesses of mining and cattle ranching.

Drea: No, this is in the region we work in. So we’re in former Fork Territory, and it has a number of economic walls around it that have created a lot of illegal economies because there’s no viability for non illegal economies. So everything from roads not being created to whatever they had done, 4 or 5 businesses on their own and they’d been unable to make them successful and they didn’t really understand why. But as somebody who’d spent a lot of time in global business, I could see how they had been artificially walled in and restricted from accessing global marketplaces.

Manda: So I have two pathways I want to take. I’m going to ask you both questions and we’ll see which way we want to go. First of all, I would like to know about your medical past and how you made the shift from being within the regimented structure of Western medicine to where you are now. My second question is a bit more about the underlying thoughts behind indigenous leaders in Colombia. I live in a world where the predatory capital death cult is a really bad thing, and yet we still all inhabit it. And I’m really curious as to people who are actually heart connected to the web of life, which I would say is my definition of a shamanic practitioner or shaman, is you can ask the questions of the web and if the web is saying go out and make a business work, what is the value system propping up that business? Because it’s not going to be just extract as much profit as you humanly can and then run off and buy yourself a private jet, I guess. So let’s take both of those if we can. I’d like to know about your medical segue into what you’re doing now, and then let’s have a look at why a group of expressed shamans in the Amazon want to set up businesses. Does that work for you?

Drea: Yeah. For sure.

Manda: Excellent. Go.

Drea: So I would say that my pathway out of Western medicine was involuntary, painful and unexpected. So I was in my fourth year of medicine, and I asked the universe a true question. I wrote a book about this because it’s a long story, and it fit better into a book. But basically, I asked the universe is there something more? I thought I was at the peak of my life, I was going to be a plastic surgeon and I was super fit and, you know, really hot. And things were going well and I just felt something was missing. So it was a true question and I got a true answer. Which is that I got everything I thought I had taken away immediately. I had a spontaneous Kundalini awakening, and I had no idea what that was, I was happily atheist, agnostic and I was like a frat boy, basically. Because I spent nine years fighting forest fires, was a jock, and really smart ass. I had always been high IQ, and so I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. And I just really got…

Manda: Hang on just a moment. Nine years fighting forest fires and training to be a plastic surgeon at the same time? How do you do that?

Drea: Well, sort of. Yeah, I did both of them at once for a while. Okay so the brief version is I was raised in a fundamentalist Mormon cult off the grid, homeschooled, no power, no running water.

Manda: Blinking heck. Wow.

Drea: And then I hiked out of the woods, and I got my first job, which was the only place that would take me, because I could do seven pull ups. And it was a forest fire fighting with ex-convicts and former military and gang intervention. And I did that for nine years. 

Manda: And before we go there, fundamentalist Mormon cults make you very, very fit? I know nothing about fundamentalist Mormon cults.

Drea: Yeah, yeah, basically it’s hard labour, man.

Manda: Wow.

Drea: We do all of it. Yeah. I became very physically fit in this childhood.

Manda: Okay. That’s probably a whole other podcast. All right. So you get out and you get a job firefighting with a bunch of very, very fit, very strong, probably quite scary people.

Drea: Yeah. Men. All men. Like 300 men and one woman, which was me. Okay. And thank God for my Mormon cult training, because I didn’t sleep with any of the men and so I had a great career. They never understood what kind of woman I really was, but they knew that I was a woman you could put in a crew of 20 men and she wouldn’t create any chaos. So.

Manda: Okay, okay. And energetically taking away all of the strangeness of that, energetically you must have had very clean, very clear boundaries. Because you’re not sleeping with them was voluntary and they respected that, which I find quite interesting.

Drea: And sometimes violent. I don’t know. I think that I was just smarter than they were; it was a problem and everybody knew it and they just left me alone mostly. Most of the men that I worked with didn’t really understand women and I realised after many years, that much of what I did with them was teach them how to respect a woman.

Manda: And they let you do that. They didn’t feel they needed to prove to you otherwise, which, you know, that’s also a whole other podcast. And we still want to talk about the Rights of Nature movement, which we segwayed off very fast. So let’s head back to, okay, nine years doing that and then you go to medical school.

Drea: Yep. And then my large joints, because that kind of labour was really tough on a woman’s body, I was competing with six foot five men who were pro track athletes. It took a large a toll on my large joints. I realised I couldn’t do it forever, just like many athletes, they’re kind of like, okay, this career is over. And I went through the phone book and I picked the job of a doctor, didn’t know what that meant, and then went to med school, trained and got into med school. And then I was at the end of med school when I asked the question that I sometimes regret and will never, ever regret at the same time.

Manda: Okay. And that knocked you off off the path of Western medicine. Had you bought into the mindset of reductive, all of that? 

Drea: Totally. Yeah. What happened was a spontaneous Kundalini awakening. I do believe that it is in my family genetics, most real Kundalini awakenings are partially genetic. So I was at the age of 30 and my grandmother had had a strangely similar episode when I looked in the family history and my sister had one at the same age. But what happened was within a period of about two months, I had an experience of divine love, similar to Rumi’s experience when he met Tabriz. And then I also developed the ability to see auras, see energy, started having precognitive dreams. I could feel qi in the body. It evolved into Kundalini, which is a little bit different of an energy. I started having experiences of non embodied contact with other astral beings of all kinds, good and bad. You name it, it happened. It was like very much 0 to 60. And that was when I was completing my final year exams at med school.

Manda: When you have to be very, very focussed. I did a veterinary degree so it’s not quite the same but it’s same enough; that’s the point where you need to get your head into gear and do nothing else. And your whole sense of reality is fragmenting at this point! What happened? Did you get through your final exams or did you just walk away?

Drea: Yeah, I think what was really crazy for me was I just passed all my exams and I was very functional. I maintained my Western function, which was pretty high at the time and had all this happening. And I think I would have probably committed myself to a mental institution because I was that split in my mind about what was happening. I had nobody in my life, nothing had prepared me for this. If it wasn’t that I was still functional and I was a Western doctor, so I knew what the qualifications for insanity were, and I was like, well, I don’t meet them. I’m still functioning. So I just kept going.

Manda: Okay, I have a little branch back to your sister and your grandmother. Are they still in the Mormon cult? Because you had nobody to talk to but technically you could have talked to your elders, but I’m guessing they were inaccessible at this point.

Drea: So my grandmother and my sister both had the typical Western experience. I look at it and I explore it on my book. In Western culture, we executed witches for 5000 years. It’s not that we don’t have Shaman, it’s that we literally tried to scourge them from our genetic lines. And so the penalty for being a normal Shaman in a Western culture is you get declared insane, you’re put into a hospital, your kids are taken away. And that happened to both my grandmother and my sister.

Manda: Oh, wow. Okay. And your book is Shaman Gurl and I will put a link to that in the show notes. It’s totally worth reading, people. It’s an absolutely fascinating book. Okay, so you got through your finals. You’d asked your question. Give us the edited highlight of how you end up in the Colombian Amazon because you were sitting your medical degree in Canada, am I right?

Drea: Yeah, so I graduated med school. The Kundalini was really strong. The first three years are really tough. I found a really good coach, and I cannot recommend her enough. Her name is Mary Mueller Shorten, and she’s a female teacher who had shamanic lineage. She also had fully expressed kundalini. And three years into the Kundalini awakening, I knew something spiritual was happening. I didn’t know what it was. And I finally found her book three years in. And that’s when I finally understood what Kundalini was and what was going on. Because it’s pretty rare and it’s hard to find good education on it. I was doing postdoc at San Francisco at the time. I ended up trying to go back into Western medicine after taking a few years in research where it was less of a stress, and I just was never able to get back into residency in the traditional training track. I ended up doing about seven years of plastic surgery observations, working with surgeons, surgical research, preventative medicine. And at the end of it, I was in a really bad residency in Texas, and I met a patient who they were mistreating. And it came down to this very clear choice. Like, are you going to mistreat a patient or are you going to leave Western medicine? And for me, that’s what happened. I was like, well, I’m going to leave.

Manda: All right. And then you headed to Colombia, where you were shadowing a priest and a Western woman. Is that the time span? Is that the time scale?

Drea: That was about ten years ago. Then I created a consulting company for high IQ people to work between hard science and emerging tech. We ended up being a network of 300 people in 15 countries that just did emerging tech science and research integration.

Manda: Okay, so this is Delinquent Savants. 

Drea: Yep, Delinquent Savants.

Manda: Okay. Tell us a little bit about that because I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. It’s fascinating. We are going to get to the rights of nature, definitely. But take us down the kind of side track of delinquent savants and then bring us back to the shamans in Colombia.

Drea: Well, because I grew up below the poverty line, I was intimately familiar with the classism involved in medical training or at Stanford and other places that I’d been. I was a smart kid, so I managed to kind of switch classes. But one of the things that I realised was that while talent is equally distributed, opportunity isn’t. So we formed this kind of like the anti McKinsey. People who had the IQ to be doing the work that McKinsey does, but would never have the opportunities because of social restrictions. So we had a street kid from Uganda who could play any instrument known to man, a bunch of other people with high IQ who were just very pro-social and egalitarian. And then we had ex-convicts, people who just were restricted from birth or grew up in the wrong class, but were just totally, creatively blocked by having to do, you know, like waiters or postal office workers who were really, really bright.

Manda: Right. And on the website it says, ‘You know who you are. If you’re here, then we’ve already met in the real world and this is just the start of an even more enjoyable journey’. And you say to people that if they pitch to you, one of your savants will give a completely honest feedback, which is presumably very rare in in business. And from that you’ll be able to shortcut a lot of your design process. How does that pan out in the real world? Is there an example that you can give us of someone who’s come to you and you’ve done your savant pitch and it’s changed what they do?

Drea: Yeah, a lot of what we do has like a moon and a sun side. So the sun side of Delinquent Savants is to dream a life. And that’s where everybody has their professional bios up. And, you know, delinquent savants was kind of like our tongue in cheek joke for how it really worked. So it’s very common if you have a high IQ person that most people, when they hire a consultant, they’ll do an initial free call for like 30 minutes and then they’ll hire you for a gig. And all of our consultants have the same problem, which is that in the first 30 minute call, they solve their problem and they don’t ever get paid. 

Manda: Right.

Drea: So, we were like, let’s just do like a 30 minute call, but for people to pay up front, they have to believe that you can solve their problem. So it’s been variably successful. But what’s been really funny is the talent that we’ve attracted because of the website. Like, an autistic machine learning engineer called me from Google and he’s like, this is just what I want to say about myself. Why don’t people understand? I’m like, I don’t know.

Manda: Especially now, where neurodiversity is, if not understood, at least acknowledged to exist. And there’s a web, you can connect with other neurodiverse people and see what they’re doing. So you’re offering, it seems to me a kind of a haven for people who are super bright and just want to be able to say what they think without all of the social clutter around it. Are you growing? Is this a field where you’re getting a lot of people from Google going, I want to join you, i want to be part of this?

Drea: Yeah. We’ve been a word of mouth for ten years now. Like I said, we’re about 300 people. Everything from the nice, clean guys, you know, rocket scientists, Nobel Peace Prize winner to the delinquents who just got out of prison. And we’re like, okay, we’re gonna have to keep an eye on you. So hackers, Estonian hackers, you name it, we’ve got it. We have very clear roles within the agency, and I keep a tight rein on ethics. Some people who are high IQ have become predatory, mostly through social exclusion. So you need another high IQ person to keep a really close eye on them. We’re very protective of our clients.

Manda: But also very protective of your people, I would think, and protective on both sides because they become predatory, some, because they feel threatened and don’t know how to function otherwise. And if you can give them clear boundaries, clear borders, I imagine then they can let go of the predatory behaviours. Is that me projecting or is that a thing?

Drea: No, that’s totally true. Most of it is just they haven’t been parented. There’s a book called The Drama of the Gifted Child, and it’s about growing up when you’re high IQ, you’re smarter than your parents. If your parents aren’t good parents. And a lot of our consultants had bad parenting or even abusive parenting. Then it can just create pathologies that are easy to fix when you’re working with an adult, if you know what you’re looking at. So I used to have a nanny business for high IQ kids with behavioural problems in San Francisco. 

Manda: God, you’ve done so many things. But then, you know, that’s maybe what the world needs. Alrighty. Let’s drag this back to the group of shamans who come to you in Colombia and say, we need to make a business that works.

Drea: Yeah, my favourite consult ever.

Manda: I’m still really interested in the value system behind that. And how you go from being a person of huge integrity to wanting to have a business, in a world where for me, commerce and business are the giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity. Let’s just open that up and take it anywhere that you want to go.

Drea: Yeah. I think the best place to go, I worked in Uganda a long time with the NGO machine. There’s a movie called Poverty Inc that explores how the charitable industry keeps people in a dependent state. So energetically we’re really big on taking the victim, perpetrator and rescuer and merging that into a wholly functioning human being. And so a lot of times, the charitable industry creates victims where they weren’t there before. And the Shaman here had the same assessment of the situation. They’re like: we are not a charity case. We perform a global service and we deserve to get paid for it. And 20 years of non-profit activism in the Amazon had completely failed to stop the deforestation. They also didn’t like the fact that the payments were at will. So what was happening was the Western world was still extracting from the Amazon in terms of mining and petroleum and giving the money back when they felt like it. And they wanted to put a stop to that cycle. So we’ve been doing Conscious business for a long time, I would say that our consulting agency was really just Conscious business.

Manda: And this is the same consulting agency we’ve just been talking about, the Delinquent Savants, or another?

Drea: Yeah

Manda: Okay. So how did you and they first make contact? What are you doing in the world so that a group of shamans in Colombia and Amazon know that you are the person that they can contact and connect with? I’m guessing this is to do with cultural competency, which I read on one of your blogs. Talk us into that.

Drea: Okay, so I grew up on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. That’s what it’s called legally in the US. That was where I started in the mountains of Idaho. So a lot of Nez Perce people. And then when I started fighting fire, wildfires in the US are frequently stopped by Native Americans. So I was working with 20 different tribes for three years in Canada and spent a lot of time in their homes and families, just as like a friend. I was the only white girl on the 20 man crew for two years. So I already had cultural competency with indigenous peoples. Then I also trained in indigenous health in medical school, so I got some of the more formal anthropological training, especially when it came to Stolen Generations, residential schools, those kind of issues. Coming down here was another one of those random questions to God, that I asked him to plan my trip across the US. I was going to go to Thailand to do some yoga, which is when I wrote my book and I said, plan my trip. And half an hour later, one of my top consultants called me and she’s like, be in Santa Barbara at this time in place for a medicine ceremony. And at that point, I had never done anything but water and yoga. I was very strict about substances. And I was like, you can’t be serious, God. And then like, 2 or 3 times later, the message came in. I was like, okay, fine, I will be there. But that was my first contact with ayahuasca ceremony.

Manda: Okay. And you were one of the people who was lucid after they’d filled you full of ayahuasca and they went, okay, we need to talk to you.

Drea: Well, they invited us down to Columbia to meet the elders. They had, like, an annual trip down, and I was like, I want to I want to see what this is supposed to look like. The ceremony that we had in California was a little bit structured for Hollywood, and I wanted to know what the elders actually did, because once I encountered it, I was like, huh, this isn’t that much different than Kundalini or yoga. I had the same experiences on both.

Manda: Okay, right. Which is presumably why you were lucid when a lot of people just… Anyway, let’s not go down that route. We could do an entire podcast on that. So can you synthesise for us in a way that people listening will understand, what you found when you went down and saw the elders? I’m really interested in the shamanic experience, really, in insofar as you are able to talk about it without breaching cultural or spiritual boundaries. What did you find that was different? And I am guessing that for you, there seems to me a kind of heart alignment with where you are. It feels like a place of balance. How did that feel when you found it? Can you talk us into the roots of this a bit?

Drea: I mean, the first thing I noticed was that the Shaman were very professional. And by that I mean like they had full control of the energy of a ceremony. Their training was much more rigorous. Like a real licensed shaman in Colombia has the same degree of professionalism and professional training that a Western plastic surgeon did. So I saw immediate corollaries between surgical licensing and shamanic licensing in a traditional culture. They keep a very tight rein on who’s authorised. So that was one thing.

Manda: And they understand the energetics in the way that a surgeon understands how tissue works.

Drea: Totally

Manda: Which is what’s so different, I would suggest, with a lot of people in the West who are dabbling on the edges of this and have actually got no clue about the energetics, but have a few experiences and think it’s okay to share it. And these are these are people who who you would trust to perform major abdominal surgery or cardiac surgery, whereas the rest are people who might be okay picking up the swabs from the floor, but they don’t understand the distinction. So you were able to see that distinction in action.

Drea: Medicine is just like surgery. Good ayahuasca is surgery on the consciousness and you need a competent person. I strongly recommend that people have respect for a 5000 year old lineage that licenses its own doctors. There’s a reason this stuff isn’t out there. It’s the same reason you don’t have the average person a scalpel and tell them, go ahead and operate on the guy in front of you.

Manda: Yeah, quite. Thank you.

Drea: You can cut somebody open, but can you put them back together?

Manda: Yeah. Do you know what you’re going to find when you’re in there? Do you understand how everything fits together and how can you, exactly that, knit them back together again in a way that they will be able to get up and walk and not be permanently damaged. Thank you. All righty, so these are the real deal.

Drea: Also, I would just say in surgery it’s the edge cases that cause trouble. So you might know what you’re doing for 80% of the people, but the 20% that you get somebody under anaesthesia, you cut them open and you find something unexpected. And that’s why you need a competent person. They know about the edge cases. And down here they know about the edge cases. If they find something unexpected in ceremony, they can handle it.

Manda: Right. Thank you. It’s very good to hear that. One of my old veterinary teachers said nine out of ten get better in spite of you and your job is to spot the 1 in 10. And it’s that, you know, mostly it’s plain sailing, but when it’s not, it really isn’t. And then you really need to be able to understand what’s going on. 

Drea: And not just that, ceremony is group surgery. Like you have 5 or 7 people so you’re not just dealing with one person’s energetics. You’re dealing with the seven people’s collective energetics. So who you select to be in the ceremony, who you let into the space is as important for the success of the group. All this stuff is super well controlled down here, right?

Manda: Right. Because you are juggling flaming chainsaws, riding a unicycle over the Grand Canyon. And it’s that multi-dimensional aspect to it again, that I think people in the West who’ve done a little bit of shamanic work and they can linearise it in a way that doesn’t understand the multidimensional aspects of what they’re doing. All righty, we could critique Western shamanic practice for the rest of the day also. But let’s not. You’ve found a group of people who actually have their shit together and know what they’re doing. And you sound to me as if you were an integral part of that. So we really are going to come back to the rights of nature, because that obviously is a step on the way to healing. There are a number of things that feel real to me. One is that we’re reaching a crescendo where the potential for chaos and extinction is rising exponentially, and yet the capacity of whatever is also emerging is rising exponentially. That 20 years ago we would not have been having this conversation. And now I’m having this kind of conversation every week, not exactly like this, but people understanding that things are real now, in ways even two years ago they weren’t. Given that my understanding and my expectation and my belief is that genuine shamanic people connect with the web of life and the web of life has a much better idea of what’s going on than than we do. Where do you and your peers feel we could get to, if we understand and work with the shamanic realities. Does that make sense as a question?

Drea: Yeah. As you were saying, we’re at a tipping, we’re at a turning point. And what’s the happy path? Yeah.

Manda: Yeah.

Drea: I see a lot of the West fascinated with this idea of zombie apocalypse. Like all of my friends are constantly watching TV shows like The Rising Dead. And, you know, it’s just like zombie apocalypse. And so much of my work has been to create an alternative story in people’s minds, like, what would it look like if we didn’t have a zombie apocalypse? What would your life be like?

Manda: Yes, if we got it right. 

Drea: And the reason is, I don’t think we get that. We don’t get that. That’s not what we get.

Manda: We don’t get it because it’s not what we’re fed. If everyone writing were to write film scripts and books and narratives that were here, look, guys, this is a possible pathway through to getting it right, we would have an idea that that was even possible. But there seems to be part of the death cult that is really wedded to presenting us with all the possible dystopias. Partly because it’s really easy. It’s not hard. It’s lazy. But also they like it. Yeah, it feels good. Because, look, we show you how bad it is and you’re going to change. And that’s manifestly not working. They’ve been showing us how bad it’s going to be for a very long time, and we’re not any better. So anyway, that’s also one of my hobby horses. Let me get off my hobby horse and back to you. So in presenting the potentiality of how things could be right, where does that take you? How are you doing it? How do you see it playing out? How do you feel it? How do your visions tell you it’s playing out?

Drea: Yeah. First, I want to clarify. I am allowed to go to the operating room when I’m down here, but I don’t do Yahi, I never adopted their discipline. I’m not in training, I do a different thing and the thing that I do is complementary. So what I do is a day time practice. I’m a Western Shaman; my skills are Conscious business, mental correction. I handle the daytime world. I would describe them as a Night-Time shaman and I’m a daytime shaman. I don’t even know if they consider me a shaman, but that’s what I do for them. My practice has always been yoga and then I really am strongly interested in A Course in Miracles. I do it every day. It’s one of the things that I do. And the Course In Miracles talks a lot about how the mentality of death and dying and apocalypse is pure ego. This whole idea of an endless crawl towards death or disaster is just the ego, because the ego knows it’s going to die and so the ego just sees death. And divine inspiration doesn’t show you that, it shows you life. So most of my work is on life. What does life look like? What does post-colonialism look like? Because we’re clearly at the end of the colonialism cycle.

Drea: I would describe it as we were in a state of extraction for a long time.  The industrialised world reached the limits of growth in their area, then they began extracting from developing nations, so that was colonialism. And now we’ve reached the end of that, we’re at the final limits of growth when it comes to what we can take from the planet and keep it alive. So now all of these extractive forces are really butting up against the final frontier, which is indigenous land. Indigenous people own 30% of the intact planet and 80% of the biodiversity. And right now we’re in a crazy face off between indigenous autonomy and preserving indigenous borders and extractive forces. So every group that we work with, which right now is 60 leaders in 30 countries and four continents, has constant multinational incursions on their territory, legal and illegal, sometimes at the point of guns. Everything from nation state threats, to illegal people in the rivers mining. And we we have to stop it here. If we don’t stop it here. The planet needs 30% of its biodome scientifically in order to stay up. And this is the end. This is when it stops.

Manda: Okay we’ve hit the biophysical limits. We cannot keep going. Alrighty. And so where does that take you?

Drea: Yeah. So we do two things. One is we help people see that that’s okay. It’s okay to have a post-colonialist lifestyle. So we have ecotourism here and we train people, this is what it looks like when you don’t take more than you need from the planet. As a white person, you still get to do cool things. You don’t need as many things as you think you need. If they come and do a ceremony, it’s a little easier to teach them. But basically people are like, wow, I’m on the other side and it’s not so bad. So that’s part of what we do. And the other part of what we do is just set really, really hard limits. Like, you know, you shall not pass! Whether it’s legal or emotional; you shall not pass. Like that is a lot of what we do. This is where it stops.

Manda: But how do you enforce that when they have the guns and the drones and the bombs and they can rain glyphosate from the sky? How do you enforce you shall not pass?

Drea: Indigenous people are great. My partner Fernando was explaining, he’s like, you know, we never just stand in front of the gun, you just go around behind them and cut their hamstrings. We’re not directly in conflict. They had this hilarious episode here where a Canadian company came down and paid the government off and they put a $15 million piece of equipment to strip mine their river. And they had lost the upfront battles of the legal stuff and then the machine came down. And of course, Canada would never admit that they’re doing that. But then all the farmers went out that night and they just threw the machine in the river: $15 million, like gone. So there’s a lot of sabotage and subtle things that they do here.

Manda: Okay. And yet, every few months we get lists of the indigenous people who’ve been trying to protect things who have died. So they’re still being wiped out at quite a scary rate. Let’s leave that for a moment. I want to take a step back into the helping white Western, educated, industrial, rich, democratic, notionally weird people to understand that it’s okay. I had a very interesting minor flame war on Twitter yesterday with someone who said something to the effect of we need industrial agriculture because otherwise we’ll all end up, you know, in the past and the past was horrendous, and everybody lived really, really badly. And a number of us were going, yeah, actually at the point when we were genuinely forager hunters it was okay. But no, definitely obviously it was terrible, we all lived in caves and it was horrible and we cannot possibly go back to that. How do you find the the people who come and experience the world in a non-industrial life, and then go back; are they able to take with them the reality they’ve experienced, or do they just cross the boundary, cross through the veil and go back into industrial life? And it’s like they’ve been on a camping holiday and we had a good time for a couple of weeks, and now we’re back and everything goes on as usual.

Drea: Yeah, I’ve been thinking for a long time. I was like, why did Fernando and Johnny and I meet each other? Because that’s my two co-founders. Why did this happen? And what came to me was that we were working on a cure for civilisation. So it’s not just my work or Fernando’s work that’s the kicker. It’s the two of us together. So with Yahi he can do the psychic surgery that gets people into a state where they really have a state change, like a quantum change in their consciousness. And then I can help explain it afterwards. I’m like somebody who can talk to the conscious mind a month later and they come back and they’re like, oh, that’s what happened. That’s what’s changing. So like I said, night time and day time kind of interventions.

Manda: And you can anchor it for them in a reality that they’re conscious waking mind can wrap around, so that it doesn’t just become a set of dreams that they had. Interesting.

Drea: And the way that I woke up is how I developed that ability, because when I woke up, there was nobody around me that knew what was happening, nobody who lived in spiritual reality. So I had to battle it out in my own head for about three years. Like, am I crazy? Am I not crazy? What is crazy? What is sane? And developing that logical kind of path through awakening was something that I’m able to now give people.

Manda: Brilliant. Because what we’re getting reports of in some of the wider fringes of things that I read is Silicon Valley libertarian tech boys. And Yahi is now the big new thing. And they come down and they do the ayahuasca, they have some amazing visions and they go home and it helps them to build apps to make absolutely certain that there are no homeless people able to sleep anywhere in the streets of San Francisco because it just made their libertarianism more extreme and cleaner, more polished and more heightened. And it hasn’t actually touched them at a heart level. So I’m guessing the people who come to you, are you have the capacity then to ground them in something that that doesn’t just make them better at being Ayn Rand lookalikes.

Drea: I’m really good at spiritual materialism, I would say. And I’m really good at spanking people who’ve had a little bit of spiritual experience, but it hasn’t really penetrated. That’s my thing. If you read Trungpa Chogyam’s book, he had the same experience in the West. Okay. I would describe Trungpa Chogyam as a surgeon from the Tibetan Buddhist lineage. So in my world and my experience, there are many ways to climb the mountain. There’s a few licensed lineages, and Tibetan Buddhism is one of them. So he had achieved a certain level of licensing, and he came to the US, learned English and taught Tibetan Buddhism in English. And so that helped with a lot of the mistranslation, because there was a lot of Americans going over to Tibet, do 1 or 2 years and came back, as you know, I’m a full fledged: they weren’t. And so he really started nipping stuff in the bud. He founded Boulder, a lot of his influence was the reason Boulder is the way it is. And he wrote a book called Spiritual Materialism. So basically what happens is when somebody has a spiritual experience, they don’t lose the ego identity, and they move their ego identity to a new spiritual person who’s better than the other one, or better than somebody else. And it’s so simple when you explain it and it’s so painful when you do it. As somebody who’s been through that phase, I would say it’s definitely a phase. And I see a lot of people who’ve had 1 or 2 Yahi experiences making that shift to spiritual materialism without actually tackling the ego or the tougher stuff you got to face.

Manda: Okay. And how do your Colombian shamanic practitioners, the real surgeons, they must see this happening. I’m going to go back a little bit to the 80s when some of the Native American Indigenous teachers, we would call them Shaman, started coming to the West over to the UK to teach us because their guides, their gods, had said to them that they needed to start teaching white people because otherwise we were going to destroy the world. Which back in the 80s was was quite visionary. And there was a very narrow window of 4 or 5 years where they were doing this and then, exactly as you said, we had people who’d met them once and then set up, we’ll charge you $1,000 and teach you to be a shaman in a weekend. And they realised this probably wasn’t going to work out exactly as they’d thought it would, because they didn’t realise the extent to which people were not going to respect the traditions, and give it the 15 to 20 years of training. And yet it’s given a lot of us the tools to reconnect with the gods of the land. I’m not pretending that any of us are are fully fledged psycho surgeons, but we’re at least able to use the tools to connect and to build something.

Manda: In the visions of the elders that you work with. Is there a strategy, working with you is obviously part of it, to bring a genuine connection to a wider number of people? Because it feels to me that there is a tipping point possible. And I don’t know how many people that tipping point is, but it’s more than we have at the moment. And yet I think it has to be within reach or else why are we doing what we’re doing? Do you have conversations along this line at all, or is that just too far out?

Drea: All the time. All the time. One of the solutions that we came up with collaboratively was a lot of the indigenous groups want to do ecotourism. And we know that it’s beneficial because it brings resources for the right reasons, people coming to Bird Watch or whatever. But the question is, what kind of person can you put into an indigenous group and it’s safe? So we’ve been doing a postcolonial ecotourism training program, and you could call that postcolonial ecotourism, or you could call it deal with your fucking problems with abstractionism, for real, or else you’re not allowed to go. You shall not pass. So in order for somebody to go visit our our indigenous leaders as an eco tourist, they have to get past me first.

Drea: And we do some hardcore training. Like if they cannot figure out their inequality, living here, you know, how they eat, how they talk, how they handle themselves, they’re not allowed to go to our other sites. They don’t get the Savimbo pass. And the Savimbo pass has become a really important thing. Because when somebody gets the Savimbo pass, the other groups know that person’s not going to create havoc in my village.

Manda: They actually get it and they’re a decent human being. And then when they go back into the Western world, how do these people adjust? Because the culture shock of ending up back in anywhere that’s in the kind of dead dream of consensus reality is horrible. I mean, it’s bad enough when we do a weekend and we send people away and it’s like, you know, drive back slowly, take yourself back into consensus reality very gently, because it’s going to be a lot harder than you think. You’ve gone further than you understand. And you’ve gone a lot further than we understand. How is that panning out in the real world?

Drea: So that’s what my book is for. Most people who have a real change go back, they lose their job, their relationships end. It is a non-trivial effect of actually waking up. You will experience a Job like crisis is the best way to describe it. And I don’t sugarcoat that. Things that need to end will end. And the best thing, the reason that I exist and my friends exist and like these solutions exist is to have a soft place to land. Because you need somebody to say it’s okay. It’ll be all right. You’re going through a transition. This is not the end of the world. You’re not crazy. You know, all the stuff that people need to hear in order to make the transition successfully. I say it’s like moving from a child to an adult. It’s a harder reality. Adulthood is tougher than childhood. There are bigger issues at stake, and you need more responsibility. And there’s a teenage period where you’re just trying it out and you’re not good at it, and that’s okay too.

Manda: Yeah. And Francis Weller talks about the trauma culture, Western culture, and the initiation culture. And the difference between them is that the initiation culture has a contained encounter with death, which enables the initiate who is often a teenager, adolescent, to come to the edges of themselves and find, first of all the humility of asking for help. And second, that that help is there if you ask in the right way. And it seems to me that you’re offering this contained encounter with death. In an initiation culture, the individual then goes out into a world where they are supported and recognised for who they are. They have the peer respect of being whatever it is that they have found themselves to be. How are your Western people? How do you give them the soft landing and maintain that sense of you have community when they/if they head back up north into North America or into wherever part of the Western world they live and endeavour to find a new reality for themselves there. How does that actually work out in practice? How does it work out logistically? How does it actually work out when you’ve done your soft landing? I was linking it to Francis Weller and his idea of initiation cultures and contained encounter with death and that in a proper initiation culture, when you’ve been through the contained encounter with death, you’re held by your entire culture. And you can do the holding in the immediate aftermath, but what actually happens when people go home? And you said their jobs end, their relationships end, but then what? Then are they building a network of awake people? I hate to use the word woke because it’s obviously not cool, but do we get a network of people emerging who are being beacons of hope for the rest of us? I’m projecting a lot onto these people now.

Drea: So here’s what I’m going to say about that. I think of the world as the human body. So as a doctor, I started thinking of fractals during my awakening. So I think of individual cells as individual humans and then the diseases that the human body has, as like the diseases I see in society or the world. So it’s a fractal. Countries like the United States are inflamed. There’s no other way to describe it. And so in an inflamed situation in the human body, let’s say you’ve got an infection or something, but more importantly, a really inflamed wound. What happens is the wound tries to heal itself, like cells try to grow and start over, but the environment is so toxic that it kills the regrowth. So it’s like a cycle that’s continuing. So I would say that anybody who wakes up in the US has to be very tough. Because many people in the US, there’s a constant cycle of regrowth and intrinsic healing, people waking up wanting to do better, things like that. But the society is so inflamed that oftentimes they’re too fragile when they first start to heal. So they need to go somewhere else at minimum. It’s not a good place to wake up. It’s a very inflamed location right now.

Manda: And does that apply to everyone? Not just the US. But I’m thinking we can’t in the end, expect everyone who wakes up to come to Colombia, or Colombia is going to be quite full of people that maybe are not going to be doing much use in there. How would you recommend the people who wake up, if they can stay where they are, to stay sane, stay awake, stay engaged, stay whole?

Drea: Well, I think most people will have to go to someplace that’s safe. So a lot of my people, I wouldn’t call them students, but people who talk to me, I’m like, okay, you need to relocate.  You’re in the wrong place. What happened to you was good, and you’re not in a safe place. You need to find a neighbourhood nearby or a different place to live or a different job. So it’s not uncommon that people are going to have to relocate to a little bubble, where they can kind of come to terms with what’s going on. You do have to leave the bubble. Like you can’t stay in this enlightened, you know, all my friends are super high and I’m super high and everybody else is super crappy. There is a time for the bubble and then there’s a time for not.

Drea: And Trungpa Chogyam describes it as the closed path, then the open. So there’s a time to get your story straight, and that’s like the monk time when you’ve got discipline. You’re doing the same thing every day, you’re penetrating through. And then there’s a time for the open path where you go back and you teach and you start accepting that the world is as it is. And there’s not like some perfect star child universe where everybody’s amazingly awake, like everybody is a beautiful person in and of themselves.

Manda: Okay. All righty. Open paths and closed paths. We can run with that. So we started at the beginning talking about the rights of nature movement. And as we’re wrapping up, just tell us what it is and if there’s any way that we can help from the outside to bring this to fruition and let it do what it needs to do.

Drea: Yeah, I’m loving my job right now because on one hand I’m this like very opinionated, outspoken, female leader, CEO, you know, who calls it like it is. And on the other side, I’m the glorified secretary to all these indigenous leaders who just collectively make up their own decisions and then all this weird stuff emerges from their conversation. Last week, they came into the meeting; we have a weekly meeting, like fireside. So they drop in when they feel like it. They say what they want. We just kind of see where the conversation goes. It’s super unstructured.

Manda: This is in person?

Drea: It’s virtual. So sometimes they come here and they’ll be like six of us on the screen from here. Sometimes they’re calling in from  Southeast Asia or Africa, you name it, they come. So anyway, one of the leaders just came in and he’s like, ‘you know what? I’ve decided the human rights code came out of World War Two’ the genocide and atrocities in World War two was the impetus that allowed people to put it into multinational UN legislation. That was the end result of stopping slavery. Like we started with slavery, and then eventually we worked our way to this multinational accord, which is human rights. Long journey. But he was saying that the impetus to put the rights, now it is time to have a human rights code for nature, which every indigenous group already has in their laws and is a direct cause of the biodiversity that they keep. He’s like, we need to have that rights code internationally. And this is the week that we’re going to do it. And I was like, wow, you’re totally right.

Drea: Because the the climate change has gotten so extreme, the genocide of other species has finally triggered people to wake up to the point where we might be able to get the rights code for nature. So I’m so excited. We’re about to have 60 videos by 60 indigenous leaders. Take it how you like, but I always say they’re like baby turtles going to the ocean. When it comes to making a video or doing anything like Google Docs or, you know, they take their time and some of them get there, some of them don’t. But we’ve got 60 leaders making a video in their own context and saying, nature has rights. I’m the boss. I’m the voice of nature, and I’ve earned the right to be the voice for nature and nature is saying it has rights. And then we’re going to put them all together. And we’ve got some press lined up and celebrities to echo this voice. And then we’re going to introduce the rights code at the UN, hopefully in time for Cop16. I’m so excited about this.

Manda: And you’ve got big lawyers structuring this legislation?

Drea: Well, the cool thing is they’re going to write it first. And some of the indigenous leaders are some of the best writers. I don’t know if it’s the training in oral history or what, but they can be amazing writers. And so the guy who’s going to draft it is already like world class. And then I’ve got a few lawyers that’ll look at it afterwards. I think the hard part is getting them to articulate what the rights are, because it’s so coded into their culture and their paradigm, they don’t speak about it. So having to dig down into their heads like, what are these rights that we’re going to write down?

Manda: And that seems to me it is encoded in everything that a genuine initiation culture believes. It is the way the world is. And our trauma culture we’ve had in the UK 2000 years I would say overall, it’s probably 10,000 years since the first rupture, which is a lot of time to lose that sense. And we’re up against the death cult, where I’ve listened to podcasts with ardent young men from Silicon Valley who think, and I’m quoting directly, that the web of life, they don’t call it the web of life, they call it nature or the big outdoors is an optional aesthetic extra that they can decide to live without. They are that dissociated. And it strikes me watching what’s happening around the world at the moment, particularly in the Middle East, where, you know, notionally people have rights. And at the moment those rights are being ignored totally. How are we going to get people to live as if this legislation was real? How are we going to get it to sink into them? So it’s not just words on a page, but is the way that they organise everything that they do, their commerce, their human relationships, their ways of being, their relationship with the web of life. Have you got a vision for what happens then?

Drea: Yeah, these are cycles. I mean, part of what you get in a spiritual awakening is acceptance of the way the world is. Not the way you want it to be, but how it actually is. Like Atman and Brahman, the endless drama, the dark and the light, people being able to make choices that are not great, like people can make very bad choices and that’s part of their journey. And accepting the perpetrator and the rescuer and the victim, accepting that bad things happen and they heal. So I’m not expecting a Paradise to show up on this planet tomorrow, i just think that this would be a really cool thing to do. And I look at history. How do women get their rights to vote? How did we abolish slavery in the US? And they were not fast. Like, I mean, we had 200 years of Jim Crow laws. We didn’t abolish slavery overnight, and we’re still working through this, but it is better than it was. So I think we can do better than we have been doing.

Manda: And it starts with people showing up and going, here’s a law. And I think there are people at the heights of the UN who get it, who really do, who might be inclined to push this through. And then it’s just a question of pushing against the the slightly more predatory version of predatory capitalism. All right, Drea, I think we’ve used up enough of your time. Is there anything in closing that you want to say to people, or is there any way people can support this? Ordinary people listening to the podcast can support the rights of nature movement?

Drea: Yes. Please follow our channel Savimbo; follow it, like and share posts. The leaders are going to be coming out with these videos and they really, really need you to forward their videos; like follow and share, because they are 6% of the population and they are not going to be able to do it on their own. They absolutely need bridges.

Manda: Okay, so be a bridge. Get out there. We will put links in the show notes, and anyone who follows me on any of the various social media, I will tweet the hell out of this. I will push it anywhere that I can. So just pick it up, retweet it, push it out on Facebook, linkedin. Faith will do it on Instagram. We’ll get it out there as much as we can. Drea, this has been amazing. Thank you so much and thank you for coping with the tech. I hope it goes well. I hope it all goes through.

Drea: You’re the best.

Manda: Thank you so much and I hope to hear wonderful things. We’ll keep in touch. Thank you. Take care.

Manda: And that’s it for this week. Extraordinary thanks to Drea for everything that she is and does, for the connections that she makes, for the way she looks at the world so differently and so deeply. And the ideas that she has and the ways she has of bringing people together. This felt like such an important podcast for now. If you’re awake and aware at all, which you must be if you’re listening to this podcast, you know how fast we are heading for tipping points. And yet there are people who are intimately connected to the web of life who are doing things. So, as Drea said, if you can connect with Savimbo in any way, and I will put all of the links in the show notes, then when the 60 videos come out, please, please share them as widely and as enthusiastically as you can. Do anything that you can to help make the rights of Nature Movement get their legislation enshrined into law, and then do whatever we can, all of us, to make those laws have impact, to make them be real, to make them be a part of what our culture does.

Manda: And then take the time to have the inner space and the outer space to do the connecting in whatever way you do it, and then go out into the world and be what the web of life needs you to be in this moment. Because everything is changing faster than we ever thought it would. And yet the web of life is still here. We can still connect. There are still things we can do. So please, whatever you can do, be there and do it.

Manda: And that’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with another conversation. In the meantime, enormous thanks to Caro C for the music at the Head and Foot and for the sound production. Thanks to Anne Thomas for the transcripts, to Faith Tilleray for the website and all of the conversations that keep us going. And as ever, enormous thanks to you for listening week in, week out, for sending the emails that you send, for offering the enthusiasm and the engagement that you do. And if you know of anybody else who wants to be part of the change that this world needs, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.

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