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

The following post is inspired by my work with Shamans and plant medicines in Peru. To catch up with my journey, check out Part IPart II and Part III. And if you have any questions, or a story of your own to share, please comment below.

December 14, 2015
Last night we participated in our second Ayahuasca Ceremony – far more intense than my first. The brew, made from Ayahuasca, Chacruna and other companion plants, had longer time to cure after it was boiled down. (We were told later that this increases its potency.) I made sure to finish the whole cup this time. As others took their turn receiving the plant medicine I sat comfortably at my station and closed my eyes.

Within 30 minutes, a heaviness blanketed me toward the earth while an invisible force gently hugged my body from all directions. It felt as if my back were fusing with the walls of the maloca. I was now putty in Mother Ayahuasca’s healing hands.

A vision of bright white, human teeth floated in dark space. They quickly morphed into the sharp teeth of some predator – a jaguar perhaps – with impressive canines. Maybe this creature was smiling, playfully welcoming me in to her world. Or maybe this was a test – to see if I was afraid. I was not. Instead I felt excitement for the lessons to come and an eagerness to begin.

I was seeing intensely colored fractals dance in the darkness of my quieted mind. The ambient calls of nocturnal mammals and insects seemed to slow to half speed. My own breath became otherworldly: slothful and deep, elongating and making distinct each peak and valley of sound waves.

Whenever the amount of imagery became overwhelming, I knew I could simply open my eyes. After the reassurance of seeing my new family of travelers around me, covered in softly illuminated geometric patterns, I felt safe enough to close my eyes again. My eyelids went from light switch to remote control, allowing me to bounce between different realms.

I was curious how things appear outside the maloca, so I decided to have a look. It took some effort, but I was able to prop myself up and away from the wall. As I turned my head I could only make out some small bars of fuzzy, white light. No where near as exciting as the kaleidoscope viewer in my head, so I closed my eyes again.

As I now focused internally I could hear and feel the living cells of my body humming and buzzing (purring?). I was in sync with the energy and vibration of life all around. Soon the sound of clicking, popping and fizzing were added to the mix. Was this the little doctors or machine elves that I had read so much about while researching psychedelics – the very same “doctorcitos” our Shamans mentioned in song?

The first Icaro seemed to go on for quite a while, maybe an hour if that’s possible. You lose sense of time when there’s so much for the senses to take in (like Vegas except the only thing dropping into your bucket is puke). Having learned from my first ceremony, I made it a point to quiet my mind in order to best prepare for what Mother Ayahuasca had in store for me.

By the second Icaro I could feel a dense mass forming in my gut, followed by the intense need to purge. After doing so I felt relief/release and thought about the guides or spirits that had been present throughout my life, watching over me when I was alone or frightened. Only this time I was able to sense them on a whole new level. Although I didn’t see their faces, my guides were seated just to my left and right. I could make out their lower limbs, knees pointing toward the sky. I thanked each and every one for being there for me even when I chose to forget.

I didn’t fear death in that moment, and I remember speaking softly to connect with my husband back home, to assure him that we don’t truly die after all. And that this place is filled with only love, peace and overpowering beauty.

Thoughts of past indiscretions popped up and I found myself repeating “I’m sorry” to those for whom I’ve caused pain – both emotionally and physically. This brought on an intense purge of tears. I thought again of my husband and tried to send him all of the love I felt for him in that very moment, and to let him know how much I appreciate his love – something I was unable to accept due to old feelings of abandonment, rejection and emotional neglect. I sobbed tears of joy as I felt my heart opening to accept love for the first time.

Along with forgiving myself and anyone else who’s hurt me in the past – whether intentional or not – I wanted to take this newly discovered love and expand it outward, to heal others and remove their suffering. But just as the thought passed through my mind it was as if Mother Ayahuasca swiped it clean, showing me that it was no longer my responsibility to do so. And so I let that go and felt lighter.

Once I forgave myself, and much of the purging had passed, a strong sensual energy surged inside of me. I somehow tapped into and connected to the Earth below, Nature all around and the Cosmos above – all on a level that cannot be explained. I realized in that moment the sexual energy I had been chasing most of my life was false pleasure, which only led to further insecurity and insatiable fulfillment of an emotional void. Mother Ayahuasca showed me that I no longer need sex to feel whole or secure in my relationship. And I got the sense that whenever I needed a reminder I can return to this place, and that anything I seek outside of myself is already within.

One of the biggest gifts from this second experience was the temporary shutdown of the ego. Because of this I was able to observe and feel without judgement or labels. What a blessing to be granted a few hours free from negative chatter (you have no idea…or maybe you do)!

I hear the flower bath ceremony has started, so I’m going to put on my bathing suit and prepare for the shock of cold. Let it help close this second Ayahuasca experience as it invigorates, refreshes and restores me. I can only imagine what Mother Ayahuasca will teach me in the third round.

To be continued

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

This is the second installment inspired by my 10-night stay at the SpiritQuest Sanctuary in Peru, where I worked with Shamans and plant medicines. Part I can be found here.

December 12, 2015
At the Sanctuary it is customary to have a day of rest and reflection after each Ayahuasca Ceremony. Last night was our first journey with Mother Aya, and I can already see the genius in how things flow here. Even though I slept well last night, my mind and body feel drained and in need of energy replenishment through great food, rest and relaxation.

IMG_4911I haven’t mentioned the climate, but it’s been very hot and humid. So you can almost imagine how shockingly cold this morning’s Flower Bath turned out to be (baños de flores or Flower Bath is a Shamanic ceremony of healing that closes the previous night’s work with Ayahuasca). It woke me up on many levels. I panicked a bit at the start as full bowls of water were being dumped atop my head. I felt as if I was underwater and didn’t know when it was safe to gasp for air, so I held my breath until doña Eliana moved on to soak the rest of my body. As I sat there shivering and trying to slow my breath don Rober offered blessings through prayer, tobacco and song.

Everyone looks so invigorated and even more beautiful stepping away from the Flower Bath house. Huge smiles can be seen on each barely-clothed human, bodies adorned with sweet smelling, brightly colored flower petals. You start to feel an even deeper, primal connection to The Amazon and her people, plants and animals being part of these rituals.

IMG_4907Yesterday afternoon we gathered outside the ceremonial maloca for a light snack of fruit and tea (we would be skipping dinner to prevent interference with the purging process in ceremony) to discuss how the evening’s Ayahuasca Ceremony would go. We then we entered the maloca to choose where we would like to sit. We were offered a choice between a stationary chair, a rocking chair or a floor mat. I decided I would be most comfortable on the ground so I placed two mats against an outer wall for back support. I chose a spot near an exit close to my room in case I needed to call “baño” for bathroom – the only word we’re allowed to speak during ceremony.

At 9:30 that evening we quietly gathered in the maloca and took our seats, purge buckets placed at each spot. The room was beautifully illuminated by candles. As we settled down, don Carlos handed each of us a few napkins in case we purge during ceremony. I place them next to my water bottle, and scrunch my blanket up behind me for added comfort and and support. Soon our Shaman don Rober offers blessings to the group and then exchanges blessings with each of the other Shamans. When the brew has been blessed (which entails whistling an Icaro and blowing tobacco into each bottle) and measured we start taking turns kneeling at the alter, accepting our cup from don Carlos, pausing for a moment to silently state our intentions, drinking the sacred brew, handing our cup back to don Carlos before standing and returning to our seats. We had the option of lighting and smoking mapacho to heighten the experience, but after the sinus and head trouble earlier I decided to abstain.

IMG_4902I didn’t mind the bitter taste of the boiled down brew of Ayahuasca (with companion plants chacruna, oco yage and huambisa), but I have to admit I stopped before finishing the whole cup. It was too much for me to get down without stopping to breathe, so instead of taking a beat and continuing I got embarrassed and handed the cup back to don Carlos. I should have been more in the moment and focusing on my intentions instead of caring about how I looked – I won’t make that mistake again.

I believe this newness, the anxiety and anticipation around it all is why multiple sessions of Ayahuasca makes sense. You get that initial rehearsal out of the way, allowing you to more confidently dive deeper in the next session. Without striving to explain what any of the visions with Ayahuasca mean, here’s what I experienced:

Perhaps within 30 minutes of drinking Ayahuasca could see a kaleidoscope of white on black – only there was no movement like a typical kaleidoscope. It just had that symmetry of fractals. A few blinks later a more colorful kaleidoscope appeared, but again no movement. I couldn’t help but smile because of all the visions I’ve had in the past (while sober, upon waking from a dream, or during neurofeedback) this one was new.

IMG_4897By the second Icaro I was seeing visions of an eye in the palm of an open hand, which then morphed into a female face mostly hidden behind foliage. Was this Mother Ayahuasca playing peek-a-boo with me? I could now make out half a woman’s face with the exposed eye watching me. This brought on feelings of euphoria as I felt ever closer to finding the answers I seek.

By the end of possibly the third Icaro I was getting impatient and I found myself pleading with Ayahuasca to show herself to me and to heal me – that I was accepting of her guidance and that I trusted her, but the vision faded away all together. Was I not worthy of Mother Aya’s help? Did I not drink enough? I began sobbing, but did my best to remain quiet so I wouldn’t disturb anyone around me. And since I never vomited I tried to accept that these tears were my way of purging.

Others around me vomited somewhat violently, and believe it or not that filled me with jealousy. My logical mind warned me not to compare myself to others, but the ego seemed to be running the show. I was judgmental of the whole process, and soon my jealousy was followed by anger. I couldn’t sit still and became irritable when the personal Icaros started. I just wanted the evening over with.

I hated myself for behaving so selfishly. After all, everyone here has their own story, their own demons, their own needs for healing. With that realization my anger lightened up and shifted more toward compassion for my fellow Seekers. The next time I heard someone purging I smiled warmly, and I meant it. I chose to be happy for others and take the focus off of my victim-hood to make the most of this experience. And I realized what don Howard meant when he said it’s not all in the cup. This experience, more outside the realm of Ayahuasca than within it, was still filled with very valuable lessons. I was revealed to myself in beautiful and ugly ways – lightness and darkness.

IMG_4890Long after the visions ended, and the ceremony was over, I left the maloca to sleep in my jungle bed. I had been through a flurry of emotions, which left me exhausted and in need of darkness and quiet.

On to Part III