The Story of Luke Maguire Armstrong (Alekosh), Co-Founder of The Integral Heart Education Center

Luke is a native of Bismarck, North Dakota and the author of “The Nomad’s Nomad”, “How we are Human”. and “iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About.” He’s an award-winning travel writer who’s spent time in 36 countries and worked on development projects in Kenya, Uganda, Cambodia, Guatemala, and in the Bronx, NY. His work to combat infant malnutrition attracted the attention of Christiane Amanpour and he was featured on the ABC News 20/20 Global Health Special.

His current focus is on financially enabling The Integral Heart Family Education Center that he co-founded with Mick Quinn & Débora Prieto in Antigua, Guatemala back in 2016. Here he teaches yoga, meditation, and philosophy to kids breaking free from the cycles of poverty they were born into.

Searching for an exit from debilitating neck pain that altered his course in 2015, Luke spent time living in Thai monasteries and studying yoga and meditation in Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico, Guatemala, and the US.

For the last five years a companion on his journeying has been an imaginary hamster named Jerry. His novel “The Release of Jerry the Hamster,” is on the final lap of finishing and he will be shopping it to publishers soon.

He currently resides in San Marcos, Guatemala on the coast of Lake Atitlán. If you go here and ask for someone by the name of Luke Maguire Armstrong, you will not find him. While in Guatemala the local Mayan people know him simply as “Alekosh.”

My Week in Tulum: A Shamanic Peyote Ceremony & Exploring the Natural Wonders with New Friends

The week I spent in Tulum was one of the major highlights of my journey through this region of Mexico. Not even getting bit by a stray dog on my first full day could ruin all that lie ahead of me. Exploring the natural wonders and participating in an inspiring plant medicine ceremony in this gorgeous coastal city with a bunch of new friends from all over the world can help you get over just about anything.


I arrived in Tulum late at night and was welcomed to the hostel by a couple of friendly Argentinian guys. Quick travel note: When traveling in Mexico be prepared to meet a ton of people from the following countries:

  1. Argentina
  2. Germany
  3. Canada
  4. Australia (This also goes for the rest of the world. These people are everywhere. There is no escape.)
  5. USA
  6. Obviously Mexico

First thing after breakfast the next morning I hopped on my complimentary rental bike from the Lobo Inn Hostel and headed into town. About five minutes into my journey I heard a dog barking behind me. Then it got closer… and closer… until the poor hungry bastard bit my heel.


Thankfully he found the stench of my feet unbearable and walked away immediately after the attack. I didn’t incur any major injuries or get rabies… I hope.

After drowning the wound in antiseptic, I then headed to visit my friend Rodrigo’s gallery, TAI Gallery located in downtown Tulum on the corner of Chetumal-Cancún/ Mexico 307 & Acquario Sur.


He and I met at an Ayahuasca ceremony in Tepoztlán back in February of last year. After the ceremony, we began to chat and he told me that if I were ever in town when he had a peyote ceremony I should join. Obviously I agreed and here I am in Tulum for a ceremony. That story I’ll save for the end of this post as it served as the grand finale of my week long stay in the area.

In his gallery, all the jewelry is made by the shamans of the Wixarika or Huichol community.


When they are at the ceremonias, they see what they have to do in their lifes, so kauyumari (the blue deer) gives them all the tools to keep walking and leave offerings.


One of these tools is the ability to make beautiful jewelry, so they have an income to buy food and a roof to live under.


All the jewelry is inspired directly from visions they have during ceremonies. The colours to put in, the history and prayer that goes into each bead they use is a gift of patience, love, and talent.

My ceremony would be at the end of the week, so I had plenty of time to explore in the meantime!

Tulum is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in all of Mexico, so I made sure to explore them, along with the ruins, right after meeting up with Rodrigo.




After a couple days on the soft-sand beaches amongst the coconut palm trees I met up with my friend Finn from Germany. We met back at the Mezcal Hostel in Cancún and decided to go exploring the Ruins and cenotes of Coba just an hour north of the city.

 

COBA

After exploring and scaling the ruins of Coba, we rented some bikes and took off for the Cenotes just a few miles away.


Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.

Come join me on my descent into the Earth in the time-lapse video below.

Once deep inside the Earth, we were greeted by some of the freshest groundwater we’ve ever encountered. What better way to cool off after a day of scaling ruins and


I’m not gonna do what everyone thinks I’m gonna do and just…. flip out man!

Some live music at Batey in downtown Tulum after our adventure.


The next day I headed off to the hostel where the German girls I met back in Cancún were staying before we headed to what we were told were the best cenotes in the area.

But first I had to get a photo with the biggest dream catcher I’ve ever seen.


The term “dream big” became the recurring joke of the day.

We headed off on our 20 mile bicycle journey north of Tulum to the Dos Ojos Cenote.

Biking that long will work up a hell of an appetite, so before diving into the caves we made sure to order a ton of fresh ceviche.


Now we’re ready for our descent into the caves!

The cenotes Finn and I swam in in Coba the other day were no way as fun as the cenotes of Dos Ojos.

Of course we had to get a group shot before heading back to Tulum.


And of course someone’s bike chain had to fall off every mile or so on theway back.


Later that night we said goodbye to Yannick and Florian who were headed to Merida. This would not be the last I saw of these crazy Austrians.

 

To finish off my time in Tulum I would participate in an incredible peyote ceremony administered by my friend Rodrigo and a few others.

No phone usage allowed during the ceremony to allow deep introspection. I did however snap a photo of our Shaman guide the morning after the all night ceremony.


After the ceremony we gathered our offerings of fruits, vegetables and flowers and headed to the beach to watch the sunrise and gift them to the ocean. I’ve had many plant medicine ceremonies over the past year, but this one was very special and I wanted something to remember it.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a plethora of this jewelery available at Rodrigo’s TAI Gallery located in downtown Tulum. After browsing through the shop and seeing the gorgeous bracelet below with a vision of a bird weaved into into it, I immediately knew it was made for me.


The person I’ve been evolving into over my past year and a half of travel values the lessons and the experiences we take with us when our bodies die and are returned to the earth and our spirit returns to source. In my new way of living, material objects serve little purpose unless they act as a reminder to the aforementioned.

As of very recently, I was glad to hear that thanks to a little networking, my friend Lee was able to arrange an Ayahuasca ceremony at the same location we had the peyote ceremony the previous month.


It is one of the greatest gifts in life to play even the smallest part in the divine timing that helps connect others through ceremony.

Next stop: Merida.

Puerto Rico: My Experience with The People, Nature, Art, Music, Fashion, Culture, History, Politics, Love & Letting Go

My visit to 🇵🇷Puerto Rico🇵🇷 was driven by my desire to explore a connection with an incredible woman that I fell for back in Puerto Escondido in the summer of 2016.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while traveling, it’s this: Nothing ever works out exactly how I plan, but more often than not, things usually find a way to turn out infinitely better that way in the long run.

During my 40 day visit to La Isla Del Encanto I was delighted to have experienced so much more than I had originally bargained for.

THE PEOPLE

What I have come to realize is that one of the greatest personal benefits I receive from traveling is the deepening of my knowledge regarding the history and anthropology of each region I visit from the people who have lived their most of their lives. That said, I was delighted to find the Puerto Rican people to be among some of the friendliest I’ve come across in my travels throughout Latin America thus far. At every stop in my tour of the island I was greeted with a smile, open arms and a plethora of food… usually in the form of pork and plantains.

However, when it came to conversing with the Puerto Rican people in their native tongue it didn’t take long for me to realize that Puerto Ricans speak their own unique brand of Spanish. When attempting to speak their language, I was told that I talk like a Mexican. Well… at least I’m doing that right.😊

NATURE

Besides the people, the gorgeous landscapes and natural resources of the island have proven to be one of its most exquisite assets.

El Yunque Rainforest:

El Yunque is a sub-tropical mountainous rain forest located on the eastern end of Puerto Rico, where the trade winds first meet the island and dump the rain.

The Puerto Rico rainforest is a unique part of the U.S. National Forest System.

La Parguera

Christmas this year was spent wading through the drowned forests of La Parguera in the southwest coast of the island.

la-parguera-puerto-rico

El Rincon

El Rincon, the surfer’s part of the island, hosts beautiful coastlines and many beach-side restaurants.

el-rincon-sunset-pr

ART & MUSIC
It is now incredibly apparent to me that art comes in many forms and I recently had to rethink the way I encapsulate it. If you asked me how I would define art, my answer would be this: Devine love transformed into a tangible gift for the senses of others. When a musician performs from their heart, those lucky enough to bare witness feel it stir something deep within themselves. This was a pleasant surprise for me on more than one occasion during my time in Puerto Rico.

Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar aka ILE (of Calle Trece)

After hearing recordings of her angelic voice fill the halls of the Sanctuary back in the summer of 2016, I moved my arrival date to Puerto Rico up a week so that I’d be able to catch this incredibly talented and beautiful artist perform live at Teatro Tapia in Old San Juan. Although she’s only 27 years old, she has an incredibly mature talent with a fan base that spans several generations.

Lucky for you, I recorded a portion of my favorite song from her performance that night back in December 2016.

Roberto Roena (The Puerto Rican Godfather of Salsa)


When it comes to salsa music, it’s not usually my go-to genre, but I will say this: Roberto and his band know how to absolutely rock a packed club!

Claudi of Pinc Louds

One Sunday morning we went to an event, Hangover Brunch, where her friend was performing and I was surprised to find the artist, Claudi of Pinc Louds, from New York City was also performing in the hipster region of Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Street Art of Avenida de las Artes in Santurce Arts District

The arts district starts at ‘Stop 12’ in Miramar and continues for approximately 4 miles with the largest concentration of arts, culture, nightlife and entertainment in the Caribbean! We made sure to spend some time in this area to behold some of its breathtaking street art.




street-art2

street-art1

FASHION
I just wanted to add this little tid-bit regarding men’s fashion in the Caribbean as I find it to be fascinating. Being considered a stylish man anywhere in the Caribbean is actually quite simple. All you need to do is wear a short sleeve button down shirt with four pockets on the front. Make sure there are FOUR pockets! I cannot stress this enough! That’s it. You are now a Carribbean fashion icon!

zoolander-so-hot-right-now-puerto-rican-fashion

CULTURE, HISTORY & POLITICS

Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian

As divine timing would have it, the final weekend of my visit just happened to be the biggest party weekend in Puerto Rico. That’s right, I was there to experience the San Sebastián Street Festival in Old San Juan. On this long weekend in mid-January from Thursday to Sunday all the roads in Old San Juan are closed off to motor vehicles. Over 200,000 people were shuttled in by the busload and the entire city becomes one giant festival filled with music, dancing, food and of course drinking.

For those who don’t know, San Sebastián was this bad-ass from the third century AD who was crucified by the the Roman emperor Diocletian’s reign during the persecution of Christians. He is commonly depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. Despite this being the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian, he was, according to legend, rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Shortly afterwards he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins, and as a result was clubbed to death. He is venerated in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and celebrated in the streets of Old San Juan for one weekend every year.



Promise Law:
From my understanding, Promise Law in Puerto Rico can be summed up like so: Seven people from the United States come to the capital of Puerto Rico to decide what is best for it’s people. The governor basically gets their coffee and/or any snacks they require and then proceeds to tell the Puerto Rican people that all is good.

I would like to point out two things regarding Puerto Rico’s economy. First of all, Puerto Rico is in serious debt. Secondly, one of the major catalysts for this are taxes that the United States imposes on them grossly outweigh the financial benefit they receive in return as a colony. The American Revolution was started because of taxation without representation, so it’s no surprise that many of the Puerto Rican people want to either be their own country or become the 51st state.

Whilst in a bookstore, I happened upon a book entitled “Free Puerto Rico”, so my curiosity got the best of me. I flipped to the first page and this is what I found:

The Pardon of Oscar Lopez: For those who don’t know, he was one of the leaders of FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional). His Presidential pardon occurred during my visit in the twilight of Obama’s presidency. Oscar Lopez is to Puerto Rico what Guy Fawkes is to England and the rest of the world.

I feel this is an important part of history to reflect on to better understand how imperialism, colonization and policing the world have proven time and time again to be major catalysts in the rise of radical terrorist activities worldwide.

One artist in a gallery I came across in Old San Juan had an interesting take on American foreign policy in a vivid portrayal shown in the painting below.

img_4910

It’s incredible how perceptions change when you look at something from the outside rather than from within. This holds true not just for nations, but for relations as well.

LOVE❤️ & LETTING GO😢

Distance is an interesting thing. The well-known and somewhat trite saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” has time and time again proven to be true throughout my life.

My favorite 19th century poet and writer, Kalil Gibran, paints a much better picture with his words when he speaks of togetherness in his masterpiece, The Prophet:

Let there be spaces in your togetherness.

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each others’ cup, but drink not from one cup.

Give one another your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the Cyprus grow not in each other’s shadow.

The time I spent in Puerto Rico was without a doubt one of the fastest 40 days I’ve lived so far on this earth. I now have a much deeper understanding of relativity after my visit.

It’s a beautiful thing to be lucky enough to have someone in your life that you can miss when they are not in your presence. It’s even more beautiful feeling as if they are right beside you even when you are thousands of miles apart.


My appreciation and understanding of art has grown exponentially in recent years. If I had to choose my favorite medium, it would be the ephemeral human being as it flows graciously through life.

I see art in watching someone lovingly dance through the kitchen as they prepare a delicious meal. There is art in transforming the tears of screaming toddlers into smiles and laughs through song. Art can be stepping into a house full of strangers from all corners of the world and immediately inquire if those preparing dinner would like any help. And of course, it truly is an art to breathe new life into the heart of another that lost its way not too long ago.

I’ve experienced so much from so many different relationships in this life to perceive love the way I used to. The most profound lesson I’ve integrated is understanding the difference between love and co-dependence. The easiest way I could exemplify the difference between the two is thus:

  • Co-dependence says “I need you and can’t live without you.”
  • Love says “I want you in my life but I wish you the the greatest happiness possible in yours, even if it isn’t with me.”

It wasn’t that long ago when I mistook co-dependence for love. I was however lucky enough to discover the remedy for this common misconception; that being self love. It is only when I learned to truly love myself that I was able to fully embody the love of another.

Now I have no intention of bestowing upon you all the juicy details of my love life, but there some less intimate parts that I am more than happy to share.

There was one thing she said to me last summer that still rings true in my heart today and I’m sure it always will. Six little words that completely changed the way I look at love and relationships in general.

I don’t want to own you

😳 ¿Como?😳

After hearing that, I took some time to reflect on all of my previous relationships and had a major revelation as to where they had all gone wrong. Each and every one, in its own way, felt like a mutual ownership of the other person’s free will. It was almost as if I signed up for some form of consensual slavery. Whenever the relationship ended, after the grieving portion at least, I always felt a deep sense of freedom wash over me. This major realization changed everything. I have the utmost of gratitude for the opportunity to break free from these mental chains I’ve carried with me throughout most of my life.

Though our time together was short-lived, having it come to an end hurts in a new and beautiful way. It was the first time I shared a mutual love with someone where we could appreciate each other for exactly who the other person is at their core. The major reason for this being that I only recently figured out who I really am.

It was only when I started to understand, appreciate and love myself that I was truly able to welcome the same from another. Reaching this milestone in my ever-expanding emotional maturity has forever changed me and I am eternally grateful for the experience.

So what’s next for us?

Facing the fact that we would once again be separated for another extended period of time, we both decided not to continue the same long-distance relationship path that we had for the 5 months before my visit.

Living this new reality hurt us both deeply, but we welcome the pain with all its intensity. What better way to grow and evolve than to allow all the feels to wash over us.

A dear friend and one of my life’s greatest teachers once said:

Sometimes it really sucks being a human

I couldn’t agree more. The bright side of the less desirable moments of life is that the pain we feel in the wabi sabi of life helps us grow, evolve and make the pleasurable moments that much more enjoyable.

Though we are no longer together, I have absolutely no regrets regarding the time we invested in each other. In being with her, I gained a much deeper understanding of what love truly is.

In this particular case of love and letting go, I plan on taking the alchemist’s approach to coping with the pain.

So, what will I create? I have a good idea thus far, though I’m not yet ready to share it, and am always open to new avenues of inspiration. Lucky for me, my third backpacking trip through Mexico has begun. What better way to heal a bruised heart and find the missing pieces of our soul than to travel?

And what better next stop after a break-up than Cancún?

I’ll leave you now with a few select lyrics and a link to the video of a very special song that I’ve had on repeat for some time now. No other lyrics at the moment more accurately capture my feelings and state of mind after leaving La Isla Del Encanto.

❤️🙏🏼❤️

The road will teach you how to love and let go

It can be lonely but it’s the only thing that we’ve ever known

I’ve traveled half way across the country and back

Only to find love undefined and I’m okay with that

‘Cause I’m gonna be a guardian

Be a man among men

Be a guardian

Be a man among men

Or be a woman among women

Be a guardian

Be my friend

~Nahko & Medicine for the People – Wash it Away~