My Ayahuasca Experience
The girl next to me begins purging in her bucket, but really close to my head down as I lay down on my mat. My euphoric daze in an instant changes to panic. ‘I hope she doesn’t vomit on me!’ Then a familiar feeling washes over me. It’s of pure love. I’m suddenly feeling so connected to this girl whose name I don’t even know. Her and I are one. It’s okay if she vomits on me. Her purging on me is no different to me purging on myself.
For several years I’ve had a fond curiosity of Ayahuasca. I once even asked a good friend who attended regular ceremonies it if he could take me with him, but he refused. He told me that the plant will need to find me. It is often said that it will seek you when you are ready. And it did find me at my lowest four years later in December 2016 through my Ashtanga yoga teacher in Mexico who I will forever be grateful to. The first time he asked me If was interested, I told him, “But I am depressed. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea because I don’t want to have a bad trip.” He replied, “This is when you most need it. But first you will need to prepare physically and mentally.” A month later I was on my way to my first Ayahuasca ceremony.
For those who are reading and have no idea what it is, Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) is a vine of the jungle. This plant medicine has been used for five thousand years by shamans of the amazon to reach a higher state of consciousness, healing and usually done in a spiritual ceremony setting at night until the early morning. It is found in the amazon in places such as Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana and Brazil. The Ayahuasca plant is usually boiled together with ‘Chacruna’ (Psychotria viridis), the leaves of a shrub. It has a psychoactive effect which is mostly caused by DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) a substance which is produced naturally by the human body and responsible for our nightly dreams.
I won’t talk about my first Ayahusaca ceremony experience because I was suffering from a debilitating migraine and my body rejected the tea within minutes. Although I did feel some unconscious effects such as feeling more connected to people and world around me. My second ceremony was more profound and this time I was fully prepared. That evening I took a taxi to the jungle of Tulum in Mexico where the ceremony was held. I was excited and not as nervous as the first time. There were about Twenty Five other people attending and at 7.30 pm we were taken to a huge circular outdoor tent which was lit by candles. We each placed our sleeping mats on the floor in a circle and sat in a dim setting lit by candles. In silence prepared in our own thoughts, from meditation, stretching or doing yoga.
At around 10 pm the ceremony begins and Claire and Polly the facilitators with the most beautiful nurturing presence welcome everyone. They give us instructions about how we can make the most out of our experience. They start by telling us that we should be open to receiving and that each journey is different. “It’s not all visual. Some experience sound and others insights.” Claire says and continues to tell us that some may go to a place of intense darkness and pain before they find the light. This is not a recreational drug, but a sacred plant medicine which has been brewed in Peru by the sacred valley tribe and used for thousands of years to expand consciousness. “This Amazonian medicine will help you with your self-development, healing and relationships with others. It will also guide you in finding answers and insights. Make sure that you have an intention before you drink it and ask this intention to mother Ayahuasca. Mother Ayahuasca is not harmful. She knows best and she knows what is best for you.” Polly then takes over and gives us some wise advice, “Remember in life embrace your darkness. If you feel anger accept this, feel it and then you will find the light. If your Ayahuasca journey gets hard, remember to accept and surrender. Always go to your heart.” Claire then tells us that surrendering is how we will find our way out of the pain and darkness. And to remember that everything always has a beginning, middle and end. She then talks about purging and how it is a common part of the process. It is a way to get rid of toxic energy from our body. Purging can either be done through the mouth where we may vomit, our bowel movement such a diarrhoea, or sometimes even through intense shaking. If there is one thing that we must remember from all the instructions that they are giving us, then it is to hold a noble silence throughout the whole night, not touch or talk to anyone else and to always find our breath as it will be our saviour.
I wait for my turn to drink the medicine. Unlike the first time where I was a nervous wreck, I’m ready to meet mother Ayahuasca. I’m ready for any lessons she wants to teach me both positive and negative. There are about ten people to drink the tea before me and I cannot wait. Finally it’s my turn. I stand up, walk slowly to the alter and kneel in front of Claire. She gently covers the cup with her right hand and says a silent prayer while I tell mother Ayahuasca my intention. ‘Please mother Ayahuasca help me see what I need to see, as well as help me heal my heart and give me strength in life.’ I drink it in one shot and try to ignore the vile taste. I go back and sit on my mat, wait and try to meditate to release my mild anxiety.
The candles go out and I sit in complete darkness. About thirty minutes later, I feel really nauseous and cannot hold it back any longer. So I go outside and vomit on some plants. I feel so much better now and the anxiety has left my body. I’m back inside sitting on my mat waiting for something intense to happen. At one point I remember thinking that I may be stronger than this and it won’t have an effect on me what so ever. But the inevitable happens and it begins. A warm and fuzzy feeling starts traveling throughout my body. Almost like a mini vibration. OMG this is happening! I wait in anticipation wondering. ‘What am I going to feel? What will I see? Am I going to suffer?’ At this point every sound is heightened. Each breath and twitch is multiplied by a hundred that I’m forced to bring both hands to my ears to shut out the sounds. But the sounds are getting worse. The woman on my left starts to breath really heavily, while the man to my right is vomiting his guts out and a lady somewhere outside is sobbing uncontrollably. The sounds are driving me insane that I can even hear my own heart racing. I realise that I’m trapped in a horror film and the only way out is to surrender. How does a control freak such as myself surrender? I go outside to vomit a second time and the warm vibrations intensify throughout my body . The anxiety fades and all I feel is a sense of peace. I’m now back inside and do finally surrender. I’m suddenly feeling more tolerant to those around me.
Vibrant colours and ceramic shapes start to appear in front of me. It’s a though they are doing their own special slow dance. There is no way to escape them. Even when I close my eyes, cartoons appear instead. I lay back as though I’m watching a show on television entertained by the random visions. Do they mean anything? I wonder. I lay in a state of lethargy, relinquish control and take in the calming Icaros song being played live by the musicians. A song which has apparently been taught to the Amazonian shamans by the plants and spirits themselves. Nothing makes sense. So once again I try and intellectualise what I’m seeing, feeling and thinking, and then remember Polly’s advice, “Don’t try and make sense of your thoughts and visions. Just go to your heart.”
Soon after, people from my past and present begin to appear. I feel a sense of deep love for those who have been there for me. Then something weird happens. I begin to feel gratitude, and it’s not for those who have stood by me, but for the ones who had caused me the most suffering, and for the suffering itself. For the first time in months I begin to realise that without this pain and heartbreak I would have not grown as a person, nor pushed myself to develop both mentally and physically. More insights come my way. I’m now certain that pain passes and that I have the strength to get through anything life puts my way. I begin to thank all those who hurt me. Thanks to them my resilience was planted and growing. At one point I remember sending those people blessings and wishing them love and light. At around 3 am the ceremony ends and the only feelings that wash over me are those of love, gratitude, and tranquillity. I feel I huge emotional shift and embrace all the darkness and light that life has given me in the past and will offer me in the future.
Why do people put themselves through it?
As mentioned before, Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug but a medicine. Those who attend these ceremonies in order to party and get high will be greatly disappointed. Some people who attend go to dark and terrifying places before beginning to feel good. Some face their own death and others visit haunting past events. It is not something you go into lightly and must prepare both mentally and physical through a healthy diet, meditation, eliminating alcohol, drugs, animal products and withholding from sex in order to raise your vibrations. The more centred you feel the more you will get out of your experience.
As well as Ayahuasca’s capabilities in helping open up consciousness and expand perception, medical researchers have been investigating it’s effects in treating depression, PTSD as well as various drug addictions. Neuroscientists conducted a recent study at the University of Sao Paulo Brazil about the effects of Ayahusaca for depression and administered it to volunteers who had been diagnosed with depression. What they observed was that their mood improved within two to three hours of ingesting it, and as well as a three week follow up. Besides current research and interest from scientists, there are thousands of personal stories about people who have turned their life around due to taking Ayahuasca.
As for myself, am I one hundred percent healed? Far from. Did I come out of it this experience a better person? I hope so. It’s important not to solely depend on the plant. The plant is there to help you create insights and find answers to know where you need to go. You have all the tools you need inside you. The medicine is there to guide you in order to realise where and what they are and how to use them.
But if Ayahuasca did teach me one thing, it was the realisation that the heart break I suffered from my recent ex was one of my biggest achievements yet. I have more compassion for those who have hurt me. My ego is diminishing, I am more forgiving and can let go of past pain. The depression and anxiety I have suffered in my life were also blessings. A rebirth where I disconnected from the carbon copy way of thinking and saw the world with new eyes.
I feel that I have more strength to walk away from toxic people and detach from things, place and individuals that no longer serve my mental wellbeing. Prior to Ayahusaca I would have felt tremendous anger at those who did me wrong. But now I’m able to place myself in the shoes of those who have hurt me and understand their model of the world a little bit more. I can empathise towards their past traumas and experiences which may have led them to become cruel or act out in aggression. Sometimes negative experiences are lessons which exist to help build our patience and resilience. We can either use those lessons to break, crumble and keep playing the same tragic film in our heads, or let go and keep growing. Although I do have a long way to go in order to reach the mental state of that I aspire for, I am thankful that this sacred plant found me and look forward to meeting her again.