Plant Medicines

A Journey to Stillness, Forgiveness and Love with Mother Ayahuasca – Part I

This is the first of a series of posts inspired by my 10-night stay at the SpiritQuest Sanctuary.

If you’re new to my blog I recently traveled to Iquitos, Peru to work with Shamans and four plant medicines: Ayahuasca, Huachuma (San Pedro), Bobinzana and Vilca. I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I took the time to research these and other medicinals for their potential to heal emotional trauma and physical pain, as well as their potential risks. I urge you to do the same should you seek healing of mind, body or spirit through plant medicines.

October 14, 2015
I have this reassuring feeling that my life is going to shift toward bigger and better things once I discover how to get out of my own way. And once I put what I’ve learned into practice, my future will unfold before me without force.

December 10, 2015
So the phrase “what the fuck was I thinking” has entered my mind a few times during this morning’s flight. I obviously didn’t pay enough attention to the amount of travel time this trip would entail. Or perhaps I chose to ignore the obvious to keep from talking myself out of making this trip all together. Either way, I have an ice-pick migraine building on the left side of my head and I want to crawl in a dark hole and die. Every attempt to relax my face and jaw is short-lived, and the tension returns full force. This is going to be a long, painful trip. Still I fantasize that this migraine just may be my last.

Christine, who prefers to go by Chris, was so great when we met up at the Lima airport hotel. She could tell I wasn’t feeling well. And when I uttered the word migraine she insisted I relax while she head back to the airport to exchange US dollars to soles. When she returned she put a cold bottle of purified water in my hand. If she was just a sample of the thoughtful people I was about to meet, I was in the right place, and this whole trip and the ridiculous amount of pain I was in was worth it. Chris and I were exhausted at this point and decided to nap at the hotel spa until the next morning’s flight to Iquitos.

After getting maybe an hour of sleep I mustered up enough energy to meet and greet a few retreat attendees. I felt so anti-social but my body gave me little choice. Minutes before our flight to Iquitos I was feeling nauseous so I maneuvered quickly to the restroom and vomited some water. I felt much better afterward, and looked forward to any possible sleep I could get on our flights to Pucallpa then on to our final destination of Iquitos.

Once we exited the plane and gathered in the Iquitos airport we were greeted by don Howard. His associates collected our luggage and placed them on board the bus that would take us to the river boats. Before we entered the bus don Howard gave each of us a warm hug. Once we were seated, and attendance was taken, don Howard said through a huge grin, “Welcome home.” Yes…I was exactly where I needed to be. Once we reached the docks, we traveled the last leg of our trip to the Río Momón and the Sanctuary. We were home.

Our meal was prepared and ready to eat by the time we arrived. Because we’re following dieta there would be no coffee, spices or condiments. Instead we were offered purified water, freshly blended fruit drinks and an assortment of herbal teas. For lunch we were served a delicious, local, steamed fish with vegetables, hard boiled eggs, salad and the darkest watermelon I’ve seen in decades – all organic and local, and nothing genetically modified.

I’m relaxing on my new jungle bed. My roommate Misty is on her third visit to this sacred place, and decided to walk the grounds. I’m pleased to hear that a few others are also making a return trip. For now I’ll rest in the room until we meet don Howard to learn about Ayahuasca and how this sacred brew is prepared. I think we’re assisting in preparing today’s batch for our first Ayahuasca ceremony tomorrow night. (We gently crushed down a few companion plant leaves, and a few participated in hammering down portions of Ayahuasca vine. Funny story: we were told the very buckets we were using to break down these plants would soon be our purge bowls. We’re also told we’re going to build friendships for life, which warms my heart greatly).

December 11, 2015
There are so many creatures heard throughout the night.
It smells like earth and peace and life here.

In the middle of the night I woke up and had a vision I’ve experienced twice in the days leading up to this trip. Someone with a masked or painted face is staring at me through thick, bright green foliage. The image is gone in seconds, but very vivid. As daylight broke I fell back asleep into a dream-turned-sleep-paralysis episode. We don’t have telephones in our rooms, but there is a corded telephone hanging on the wall in my dream. I get out of bed to make a call, speak briefly with a man on the other end, then hang up and return to bed. I won’t go into details but I was made to feel shame about my past.

Still dreaming I lay down and start to hear a slowed down, humming voice or sound. I feel a heaviness on my body and become immobile. My left leg begins to move in a circular motion slightly above the bed. It was still attached to my body, but I wasn’t in control. The harder I stared at my leg the less visible it was. Within seconds my left arm followed. I tried to get my roommate’s attention, but I could barely muster a whisper. I called out “Ali” (instead of Misty), but again very little sound escaped my lips. When I turned my head toward my roommate and mouthed the word “help” I could see she that was sound asleep. I whisper-yelled toward the ceiling in frustration, “I’m dying, I’m dying” soon followed by “this isn’t fair!” I hated that I wasn’t in control.

Perhaps the dream was punishment for a bad choice, or sparked by the anticipation of facing traumatic events from my past in our upcoming ceremony (I often had recurring nightmares and episodes of sleep paralysis as a child). Or maybe it’s a lesson in giving up control – something Misty and I discussed at dinner. Whatever the reason behind it I was resisting the whole time, which only prolonged the dream, fear and panic. I need to trust the process and not let fear block my healing.

This afternoon we visited “The Kitchen” where a future batch of Ayahuasca was boiling down to which we would add our broken down companion plants and bless the brew with positive intentions. But first a Mapacho (large, rolled tobacco cigarette) ceremony to thank Mother Earth, Father Sky and the Universe within us all. It was difficult for me to keep my mapacho lit without taking smoke into my lungs. Soon enough my sinuses clog and my headache worsens. I felt awful and slightly embarrassed but I stayed the course in order to fully enmesh myself in tradition and preparation for tonight’s first Ayahuasca ceremony.

Don Howard wasn’t kidding either when he said mapacho would enhance our senses. I had to close the window shades in our room to minimize the piercing light of day. Animals crawling through leaves and calling out in the trees above sound as if they’re inside my head. Friends walking outside our door now stampede like elephants. If tobacco can have this kind of effect, what was I in for with Mother Ayahuasca?

I’m better after getting some rest and eating lunch, but I feel drawn to withdrawing. I fluctuate between needing to be alone and wanting to connect with others. Pain makes it so easy to choose distance.

We’re now about 30 minutes away from our first Ayahuasca ceremony. I’ve been extremely fidgety, picking at my scalp, biting my lower lip and ripping skin off of my thumb. To focus away from growing anxiety and toward healing I decide to write out my intention for tonight’s first drink: I ask Mother Ayahuasca to help me discover and heal from past trauma so that I am free from what is holding me back in life. I wish to use the knowledge and glimpses of ancient wisdom I gain to help put others on a track of self-discovery and healing. I continue with a little pep talk:

I am ready.
I accept this challenge and will trust the process.
I will make note of any visions but not look to decode any messages until I’ve processed this full experience in the weeks and months to come.
My dark has a purpose.
My light will get me through.
Good Night and I wish all health and healing.
I love you to my family.

On to Part II

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