My time with Ayahuasca. I’m going to skip the full ‘What is Ayahuasca’ info and instead direct you to this link if you’re curious. Everything here will be posted from my perspective. It’ll also be the shorter version (though I still imagine this will be a pretty long post) of the full story. Some details I’m keeping for myself, others are for personal conversations with specific people, but I think this will still capture the main elements of my journey- if you have individual questions or are curious to hear a bit more, message me and I’ll be happy to share.
First off, I’ll say this is one of the most incredible weeks I’ve ever had in my life. I’m forever changed having done this and am so fortunate that this was the kickoff trip of my time away from work. I’ve had some time now to share the story with some of you, it’s a story I’ll love telling until the day I die. I’m glad you (the reader of this) have chosen to check this out. If you’ve followed along with the rest of the blog, I hope you’ve enjoyed. But this post specifically, I truly appreciate you taking the time to read and for letting me share this with you…
Ok, what do I know about Ayahuasca going into this trip? Honestly not much. As I mentioned in the San Pedro blog, I’ve never done any psychedelics before. As far as I know, I’m going to drink a cup of this stuff, it’s not gonna taste great, I’m going to puke violently, and then I’ll visit the spirit world. That really is the extent of my impression of things to come. I’ve had a few friends that have done it, have all said it was life-changing, but that it was very real, and didn’t hold back. If there were things inside you were putting off dealing with- you’d very likely come face to face with them so make sure you’re in the right mindset and have clear intentions when deciding to do this.
Ayahuasca is a very strong, very old medicine containing the chemical DMT- which is allegedly released in your body when you’re born, when you die (or have near death experiences) and is also said to be associated with dreaming. It’s the real deal. The center takes a ton of precautions with background/medical checks to see if one is fit to take part in the ceremonies. Those who have a history of severe depression or psychiatric illness (bipolar, schizophrenia, etc) are generally not great candidates. People choose to partake for a variety of reasons, could be childhood trauma, addiction, stress, general things in life to work on, inspiration etc. I am probably the least stressed I’ve ever been in my life and have a ton of positive energy inside me right now so figured if I was gonna give this a shot, now would be the best time… My intentions (why I was there): Be a better son, Be a better brother, Be a better friend, To love and be loved, and To inspire.
Before the first ceremony you meet with the facilitators and the shamans to discuss who you are and why you’re there. This then gives them some context about you and your energy and helps guide them when singing to you in ceremony, as well is in the feedback they give.
Fast forward to 630 pm on Sunday night. I’ve had my Nunu, so I’m alert. I’ve had my Kambo so I’m strong. I’ve had my floral bath so I’m pure. AND there’s no dinner on nights of ceremony so my body is empty awaiting the medicine. It’s now ‘quiet time’ before the ceremony where we gather in the maloka for an hour to center ourselves, meditate, journal, think… prepare. It’s dark in the jungle so all this is done by the light of a few candles or our flashlights (which we’ve put some red tape over to make the light a little softer). We all have our own mats, pillows, a blanket, and our very own ‘purge bucket’. I’m journaling about my experience thus far and what I was feeling going into this. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was a little scared. But I was also calm and feeling balanced. I knew that this was where I was supposed to be, and what I was supposed to be doing… I just knew it.
First Ceremony (I later named it ‘Preparation’)
When it’s your turn, you join the shamans and kneel on the mat in front of them. You clear your mind, receive your Ayahuasca, ‘put your intentions into the glass’ and drink. I should mention that there were 3 sizes of doses- a shot glass, a double shot, and a small glass. I started with the medium dose, others who had done it before could opt for a different amount. Wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, it didn’t taste that bad (though it definitely got harder to drink over the week). I sat for a moment, took a few deep breaths, thanked Angelita (the shaman), and returned to my mat.
We were now supposed to bless ourself with smoke from a Mapacha (jungle tobacco) and then sit upright for 30-40 minutes with our chakras aligned while we awaited the medicine to take effect. Those that know me well know this is not my strong suit. Sitting upright hurts, 30 minutes of silence isn’t easy either, but this was the way it had to be done so I’d try my best. When the shamans feel the energy shift in the maloka (indicating the medicine has now started to work) they begin to sing. And they’d sing for the next 3 hours while we all experienced our ceremonies of the evening.
In my first vision, I saw myself as a baby lying in my crib looking up at my parents- complete with 70’s hair and clothes. I immediately wondered it this was an actual memory that was locked away in my brain, after all ayahuasca is supposed to activate the mind in new ways… I had a feeling that they’d be there as I had told the shamans a lot about both of them and our relationships, certain aspects of both which I loved and others that I felt were incomplete. Over the next hour or 2 I had amazing thoughts and visions about both and did find the completion I was seeking. I can’t wait to share with both of them the full details about the entire experience… I felt Courage from my father and Love from my mother as they sent me off on this quest. This is why I felt the night’s ceremony was preparation. The journey couldn’t start until I myself was complete. That’s the other thing about the medicine. Things just seem to make sense. You don’t analyze, you don’t search, thoughts just occur and you just know them to be true. It’s amazing the way my brain was working, I could feel new connections being made left and right, accessing areas that seemed to have been dormant for a while- not gonna lie, it was pretty fucking cool… I was roused from my thoughts to go receive my own personal song or icaro from the shaman. I was a little wobbly legged but made my way up there and sat in front of Angelita. I was sitting next to Madeleine who was at the same time receiving her song from Ernesto, as the mat was shared between 2 of us for the icaros (except the last to go since there was an odd number of us). Although the songs were beautiful, right about now I was thinking this has to be getting close to over, right? The icaros are the final part of the ceremony. I hadn’t talked to anyone in forever and I was ready to share stories.
Side note about purging: I had yet to even feel the slightest nausea. I had some stomach cramps which we were told would be normal as purging can come in many forms- Vomiting, Shitting (couldn’t think of a better word), Crying, Sweating, Yawning, etc. I had heard others purging throughout the night, as I mentioned we all had our own buckets as we were supposed to stay in the maloka so as not to miss any of the ceremony (and so the facilitators could keep an eye on us). People have asked if this was gross, a room full of people vomiting for a few hours but really quickly you learned to appreciate the sound. To celebrate it in fact, as it meant someone you cared about was doing work, was getting rid of something negative inside and creating space for something positive. It was actually quite beautiful…
Back to my song. Again I felt the courage and love and was ready to get on with my journey, I mean, I was now ready to go right? Angelita must have felt my impatience and at that exact moment, I felt my stomach knot. Whoa… Where did this come from? And then I just knew. She was purging me of the impatience which has plagued me for most of my life. I was shown the amount of micromoments I’ve spent worrying about little things, things that annoyed me, things that maybe got in my way from something I wanted to be doing… shit this was a decent chunk of my life that was super unproductive and pretty unhealthy! And so she sang, and I could literally feel this being dragged up and out of me kicking and screaming (like a Dementor’s kiss from Harry Potter). It did not want to leave! But she sang on and eventually I felt myself start to get a little sick, I purged a bit into the bucket and she smiled. My song ended and I was still feeling a bit sick so got rid of a little more impatience in my own bucket back at my mat. It was instantaneous. I felt so much lighter inside and just knew that impatience would no longer vex me and sap my energy, I had much better things to do with it. It’s true when they say, ‘Ayahuasca doesn’t always give you what you want, but what you need’. Even though it was something I wasn’t even thinking about, it was definitely something I needed to rid myself of.
As I laid there thinking about what just happened, I was suddenly right back in my ceremony. I could feel my actual journey start. I was in my crib again, no not a crib, a nest… Ernesto (the other shaman) was whistling a song now and I heard it as the song of a mother bird singing to me as I was in my egg. She wanted me to hatch, and I did. I was now a bald eagle and I took flight, ready to begin my quest… It was time.
The ceremony ended and we were served some fruit (I’ve never eaten a better apple- l named it ‘knowledge’). People eased back into ‘real life’ differently. Some went to sleep right away, some journaled, some chatted, most went to the bathroom. It was crazy to think almost 4 hours had passed! As there’s also no water during ceremony, I was pretty keen to fill up my bottle and hydrate- only my bottle was back in my room. So I fired up my red flashlight and walked along the walkway, hitting spider webs and hoping their owners didn’t join me for the night. As I approached my door I had this notion of ‘The Return’ from Finding Joe. The end of a Hero’s Journey. I had completed my first adventure and I was symbolically ‘returning home’. It was an amazing feeling, an empowering one, and as soon as I felt it my stomach sprang back to life. The moment I got to my door, I purged huge off the side of the railing. WOW. What a feeling, it was like I was returning the medicine to the earth so that it might help someone else in the future. The night’s mission was complete.
We chatted a few hours in the maloka, some of the funniest nonsensical conversations I’ve ever had as we were all still a bit under the influence, but the laughter was such a great release. It was truly an amazing night. I wondered what round 2 would be like, how my actual journey would start…
Second Ceremony- ‘Hell’
As you can guess from the title, this one was a bit different from my first. It started with a simple act of trying to connect to the universe, which then totally set things off in a different manor than my previous ceremony. During my floral bath I was standing in the setting sun as I had done the day before, feeling it’s warmth and energy and asking it for more strength for the evening’s ceremony. I then turned around and noticed the moon was rising as well so I invited it into my evening as well, thinking the sun would give strength and the moon perhaps some wisdom. Unintended yet important action #1.
Again, we settled in for quiet time during which I journaled about the night before, my experience as well as the shaman’s feedback during group share that morning (we did this every morning after our ceremonies). I was again a little nervous for the ceremony (as well as hungry, this no dinner thing would take some getting used to), but after how well the previous night’s went, I was looking forward to the night. So, I’m back up with the shamans and accidentally opted for the large dose. Oops. Unintended yet important action #2. It tastes a little worse than the night before and I also realize I think I’m drinking a little bit more that I did last night. What could go wrong? I make my way back to my mat to meditate and await the shaman’s music. Again I think about the moon, and hold my palms open to the sky, mentally inviting the night into my ceremony. Unintended yet important action #3. I’m off to a good start, my new found patience is making the waiting period much easier! I feel calm, I feel relaxed, I’m now a patient man! So that’s cool.
The songs begin, and almost immediately I’m slammed by the Ayahuasca. It came on so strong and so fast. Was like being hit by a truck! I’ve never experienced such fear, paranoia, etc. This was a bad trip and it was getting worse fast. Fuck. The only thing comparable was once eating too much of a brownie and having to wait out that situation- and this was a million times more intense. It was smothering. I was paralyzed. The sights and sounds were crazy, it was like being in every single 80’s Atari game all at the same time with the volume cranked up to the max. When I dared open my eyes I could see the Greek underworld, filled with dark figures, Egyptian Gods were also around. I’d close my eyes again and it felt like I was on an alien operating table while they probed my brain and blasted my mind with thoughts/sounds- maybe trying to communicate. But I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t move. I was gagging but nothing came up. Tamara came over to comfort me (but the way one is ‘comforted’ is to have Mapacho smoke blown on you- I pretty much hate smoke so this wasn’t helping the situation…). It was pure terror for what I think was about an hour.
How was I gonna pull myself out of this? I started thinking about last night, about my courage and love, the preparation… I asked myself, why did I invite the night into my ceremony? The darkness? That was a huge mistake. On top of that, I drank too much and am now stuck in the darkness that I brought with me! This was the real life ‘inviting a vampire into your house’… But wait, I also brought the moon in with me, perhaps it could help make this darkness a little bit lighter. At that moment, I was transported into a moonlit forest. Hell was behind me. My heart stopped racing. All the sounds which scared the shit out of me were still around, but now in the moonlight they were almost comforting, these were just the sounds of the universe…nothing to be afraid of.
The forest scene had a very tribal feel to it. I ran into my grandmother (she was an Owl) who then told me the story of my family tree, my ancestors, and where I was headed. She told me about an Eagle that descended into Hell, and then rose back up towards the sky in the form of a Phoenix. This would be my journey, I was being reborn. A new me. The instant realization of what was happening was amazing. I had been tested in hell and had won. When not even 30 minutes ago I was in the scariest, darkest place of my life, now I was filling with power, with confidence. Around now I started naming all the individual songs, A. because it was fun, and B. It helped me remember the details of the eventing. A set list of my ceremony… I felt Herculean, almost God-like as I awaited the end of this night’s journey.
I had already named my icaro, ‘The Return’. And when Dolan came to grab me I practically jumped off my mat and ran up to Ernesto, I was pumped for this one! As I listened, I saw myself on the River Styx on the ferry with Charon being escorted out of Hades (for those of you that know your Greek mythology). I sat tall and proud in front of Ernesto and enjoyed every word of that song.
The ceremony ended and once again I crushed an apple (this one was called ‘strength’).
Tonight I learned that one cant be afraid of fear as fear leads to strength, and strength to love. It was one of the hardest nights of my life, but one of the most important, and one I’ll never forget.
Third Ceremony- ‘Earth’
After a much needed day off (which included dinner!). We were back in the maloka for round 3. The shamans had advised me to remember how I had gotten past the fear and that fear was just a block that is preventing you from being able to do the work you need to. I actually had been listening to all the scary sounds in my head since that ceremony, keeping them with me. They were now both comforting and empowering at the same time- they were the sounds of the universe, the soundtrack of my rebirth.
Even though I had all this newfound strength and confidence, I still opted for the small dose for this one… They actually say that once you know how to connect, the dosage almost doesn’t matter. I drank the Ayahuasca and awaited the ceremony, where would I end up tonight? I figured that as the Phoenix was rising it would spend time on Earth before ultimately finishing among the stars. As the songs started I realized I was right. I saw yet another one of my births, this time from the ground.
The ceremony had an overwhelmingly female tone to it (Mother Earth). I was an eagle the first night, a phoenix the next, what would I be tonight? I could feel myself in a cocoon under the ground, beginning to emerge. Then I realized that tonight I was just me. That my body while I was here on Earth was a vessel. I experienced all the love and care that was going into creating me. All the mothers in my life were there, my mom, stepmom, grandmother, friends’ parents, teachers, coaches… all there to fill my vessel with love for this quest. All the scary figures from the previous ceremony were present, but also there to offer love (and let me know that last night’s test itself was out of love), my sisters, my niece, my friends, the animals… all there to offer love. The maloca was filled with so much love. Every time I heard someone purge I was so happy as I knew they were just creating space for love. For some reason I had decided to draw a heart on my chest before the ceremony began, now I knew why. It would be where I’d keep all this love. I also knew there would be no purging of this Ayahuasca. This dose would stay with me in this 2nd heart as well, and would always be a part of me.
I came out of this Earth, and would return to it someday, and in between I’d garden. The rest of tonight’s songs would be about gardening, my destiny. I decided that when we were born we were all given a set of gardening instructions, which would end up being how we’d live our lives, the things we’d do, the way we’d act, things we’d learn. But we were too new to the world, there were too many things to be expected to remember them all… That’s where we can help each other. As we’re all part of Earth, we were all present for each other’s instructions, and if we listened closely we might be able to help inspire each other to realize aspects of our destinies. This is what I want to do, inspire.
I thought to myself, ‘I have the power to change the world’. The instant that thought formed it immediately changed to, ‘I have the ability to change the world’. It’s not power I’m seeking, most don’t respond well to power. Having the ability, the responsibility, is a different story.
My icaro was first that night and I had named ‘Arise’ as I felt like tonight was the night the Earth had shown me my own creation and set me on my journey for my time here. When mine ended I paid close attention to everyone else’s icaros so that I might one day help one of my new friends along their path. And that’s how things ended that night. A sense of responsibility to the Earth, to my family, friends, and everyone I meet- and especially to myself- to lead an inspirational life before this vessel of mine returns to where it came from.
No surprise that tonight’s apple was named ‘responsibility’, and I ate it with care.
Fourth and Final Ceremony- The Stars
I. Could. Not. Wait. For my final ceremony. I had been prepared, been tested, learned, and now it was time (if my guess was correct) to realize my destiny and fly as a phoenix amongst the stars. The stars… I had longed to see them again since my night at the mountain house at Cusco but it had been cloudy the first few nights in the jungle and then the moon (which was set to be full that night) had been so bright it had washed out the rest of the sky. If I had one wish in life, it would be to go to space. It’s all I’ve wanted since I was a kid laying on our rooftop during summer nights. I had seen glimpses of my Phoenix soaring through the cosmos, would tonight be the night I’d actually get to live it? I thought it finally would be…
I went medium dose for my final ceremony and sat tall awaiting the music. I even stayed upright for an extra two songs before finally getting comfortable. I was getting the hang of this. I was confident, almost cocky as I awaited my ceremony to start. Talk about getting knocked down a peg or two… Almost immediately after the medicine kicked in, I started having thoughts about humility, about vulnerability. I had been so focused on being Brian 1.0, enjoying the highs, laughing with everyone, being the strong presence, the funny one, that I had completely missed a very important message somewhere along the way.
By being humble, by being vulnerable, admitting I was tired and weak, sharing in others weakness, sadness, etc I’d share in much greater energy and my life experiences would be that much more powerful Sure it was great to laugh when things were going well, but the truest/realest connections are formed when times are tough.
So I started reliving the past 2 weeks in my head, but as this new Brian. A humble Brian. A vulnerable Brian. And my experience was so much better, so much deeper… From one interaction to the next I felt much more of a connection- To the earth, to the sun, to the moon, to my friends… to myself. As I laid there I imagined myself crying with everyone I was in ceremony with (tears streaming down my cheeks all the while) and felt such strong energy. I was on the right track.
After ceremony 2, I felt like a God? Haha, the Ayahuasca thought that was pretty funny. I’d be soaring across the stars tonight? Not likely. How egotistical of me to think I’d just ‘get’ to fly. This was something that was to be earned. Even the idea that I could just simply drink some medicine and purge away things I didn’t like seemed vastly arrogant. This night was my judgement. I was seated at the gates of Heaven. Purging tonight was confessing. IF the jury decided that which I purged up would go away, then I’d be free of it, but not before. IF the jury decided the gates should open and I’d earned my flight, then I’d spread my wings, but not before.
I knew I just had to be patient (coming full circle with the importance of the first ceremony) and humble. I’d have to be ok waiting maybe forever, and even then there was no guarantee. I’d been shown a glimpse of the stars, I’d been shown what hell was like too, and until the jury ruled on my case, I’d be on Earth gardening, learning, and trying to live a good, humble, inspirational life.
My icaro that night I named ‘Judgement’ and as I was last to go, I was on the mat alone with both shamans singing to me. I took my shirt off and lay bare chested, staring at the heavens- symbolically sharing all my experiences, the good and the bad, ‘confessing’ all to the universe as its humble servant. An overwhelming sense of appreciation came over me and I think I finally understood what this experience was really about. I thanked the universe for bringing me here and showing me all of this, for taking me on this journey and asked that it continue to inspire me so that I may do the same for others.
To say I was spent is the understatement of the year. The week had gone from high to low and back. I had experienced every feeling there was to be felt- gratitude, courage, fear, strength, wisdom, love, responsibility, vulnerability, humility, and finally the appreciation. As the ceremony ended I literally had to drag myself to the bathroom and purged (confessed) quite a bit more. So tired. GRAPHIC ALERT- As I sat there exhausted with toilet paper in my hand, I realized I didn’t even have the strength to wipe my own ass. Let me tell you, life doesn’t get more humble than that. I did finally manage and tried to make my way back to my bedroom for the symbolic ‘return’ I had been doing since the first night. I was hoping to purge again, but left it up to the universe once more. No expectations. After I nearly collapsed at my door, I steadied myself against the railing where I once triumphantly stood only a few days earlier, and prayed. Eventually the universe came through and I was finally purging the rest- again my feelings were of gratitude and appreciation for the medicine and I felt like I was returning it back to Mother Earth once more so that it may help another on a future journey. Mine was complete… almost.
I returned to the maloka hoping to find a green apple among the fruits on the plate- I was treated to an entire plate of green apples. It felt like a pat on the back from above, a little reward for my journey. If I wasn’t meant to see the stars, at least I had my apple, aptly named ‘understanding’ tonight. I laid there spent and enjoyed every single bite. I chewed so slowly, seemingly feeling each cell erupt with sweet juice, it was blissful. I didn’t have the energy to be funny, and that was ok. I went around thanking everyone for being a part of my journey, letting them know how much I appreciated them. Elaborated a bit on my experience once I gained back a bit of my strength (I ate 3 apples though I didn’t name the others…). What a night. What a week.
One by one, people started going to bed. Everyone was pretty tired. The vibe in the maloka wasn’t as ‘fun’ as it had been the previous nights, it was much more honest and serious, with everyone sharing bits and pieces of their ceremonies, but without all the jokes… It was nice once again being vulnerable and sharing in other’s vulnerability as well- the energy was good… the energy was pure.
Mat and I decided that even though it didn’t seem like we were destined to see the stars, we’d go check out the full moon. It had after all helped me out in ceremony 2 so I did want to say thank you. We took different routes to get out to the front of the center, I got there first and when I looked up… every star in the sky was out. I started crying. All I wanted to do all week was see these stars and I felt like again the universe was giving me a small reward for what I had learned that night. Another glimpse of what was possible if I continued to learn, be humble, and was patient. As I stared up, tears in my eyes, I thanked the universe once again.
Mat finally showed up. He was my homey, my dragon brother, we had been together for 2 straight weeks and we’d be parting ways in the morning. We hugged and then just silently looked up at the sky. Anton then also made his way out, we had also some pretty solid conversations over the week so I was glad he was there to share in this moment with us as well. As the 3 of us stood there mesmerized by the night sky, the universe decided to give one more treat. A brilliant shooting star screamed across the entire sky. It was visible for at least 5 seconds, a brilliant streak of orange against a sea of stars and planets… It was the phoenix. My heart stopped. Tears once again ran down my face as I again thanked the universe from the bottom of my heart. I felt my strength start to return. It was such an absolutely perfect ending to my experience…
So that’s the story, the journey. If you took the time to read all this, I sincerely hope you enjoyed. For me it was an absolutely unforgettable experience that really has changed me forever. I know what’s up there for me if I continue to live a good life here, I know what’s down there if I don’t. While I wait my turn, I’ll be gardening… happily and humbly, appreciating every day I’m here on this Earth.
With Love and Appreciation,
The only pic that I’ll share is the roof of the maloka. I spent so much time staring up at it over the course of the week. I found it beautiful and inspirational…
Just a guy on a hero's journey...