The Pilgrimage is a metaphorical and symbolic journey for the patient – negative energy transferred to a stone is cast away, an addict’s heavily burdened past dissolves into ashes, a final surge to the summit of a sacred mountain to offer prayers at an ancient mazar (holy site).
During the final moments of the rejection ritual, the patient approaches the peak of Tashtar Ata carrying the stone of burden. It can be left or thrown onto a pile; not until then, will the transformation to the new SELF occur. The stone is thrown at the heart of a stone pile as the patient chants, “from stone to stone, from heart to heart, I pray that my hands are to become drug free forever!” After the patient throws the stone, he/she approaches the wild Hawthorns to perform a tying ritual. The gesture of “tying the knot” on the wild bush signifies a rebirth of “self” free of addiction. Historically, Central Asians believe the wild hawthorn bush is sacred.
Offering prayers, represented by tying a piece of cloth to one of its branches, has been performed by a multitude of passing nationalities for centuries as a gesture of respect for Mother Nature. Hawthorns live a long time. By tying a piece of fabric, people were symbolically adjusting themselves to the harsh conditions which surrounded the hawthorn - the scorching sun, high winds, downpours, hail and storms. This tradition is still followed by many different nations.
Although the ritual is symbolic; the importance of it can not be understated. During the psycho-therapeutic program, the meaning of the gestures is deeply important for the patients. When tying the knot on the branch, the patient makes a promise to never use drugs again, thus anchoring his/her his troubled past forever.
After the tying ritual, patients descend to the pile of stones and burn their old clothing, yet another materialistic good which connects them to a tormented past they have now far left behind forever. The fire consumes the filth turning cloth into ash.
The ritual of purification is complete. Each and every momentous step will forever be remembered by the patient. Captured in his/her memory are the powerful episodes experienced on Salvation Mountain, which will continue to serve as a strong psychotherapeutic reminder of the promises made to stay free of drugs.
The Pilgrimage, combined with the other treatments patients undergo while in our facility, is specifically targeted at reconstructing the patients’ cognitive processes; life-style behaviors are contemplated and restructured, commitments are made and are demonstrated that patients are ready for a new beginning.
A harsh reality experienced by patients during the period of pseudo-abstinence is that they must find ways to eliminate addictive manifestations. The psychotherapy is directed toward strengthening the hope in one’s self-belief in order to avoid drug intake under any circumstances after the treatment process is completed.
After undergoing our treatment program, patients are sworn to keep the promises they made to themselves, to their co-dependents and to us to stay drug free. Tashtar-Ata motivates and assists patients to realize what they are capable of – “I am, I can, I am strong, I am clean and drug free forever!”