Citation: Oswald Rabbit. "A Rookie's Bumbling Notes: An Experience with Ayahuasca (exp101226)". Erowid.org. Jan 9, 2017. erowid.org/exp/101226
Ayahuasca: a rookie's bumbling notes
Among the myriad of vines that make the Amazon jungle their home, there is one with particularly unique properties. The name of that vine is Ayahuasca. When mixed with other Amazonian plants and shrubs into a tea and ingested, it is said to produce powerful hallucinogenic effects. Moreover, it is consistently reported to facilitate healing, epiphanies, deep introspection, and an endless list of spiritual experiences. It was with this in mind, that after a year of research, reading, and talking with Ayahuasca veterans about their own experiences did I summon the courage to embark on the journey myself.
The past 15 years have seen me become increasingly conscious of what I put in my body. And thus, it was not without a little angst that I committed to my first Ayahuasca retreat a few short weeks ago.
That retreat came with a recommended shaman, and a recommended property. This eased my mind, and I relaxed a little into its potential.
Why go on such a journey? Why would a practical prairie-gopher greeneck such as myself want to partake in this? It sounds like all kinds of crazy. Isn't this what junkies do? Sit around in a circle and get high? Fuckin A man. Why would I want to ingest a substance that often causes hallucinations, has a high probability of making one vomit, and as I've heard via the grapevine, caused one participant to continually experience ghosts?
Because it's fascinating. Because it's a bucket-list kinda thing. Because the plant is a reportedly amazing healer. Because I believe humans have largely abandoned their former multimillenial connection with plants that traditionally, have had much to teach us. That lack of connection (I believe) is intimately linked to many of the problems we see in the world today. Because some very grounded, compassionate people I trust call it the most spiritual experience they've ever had. Because I've heard it called (more than once) a real medicine. Good medicine.
Because I know I'll regret it if I don't.
So, late in the afternoon, I arrive on the property in my little truck. I set up my tent, meet a few others, and wander through the garden trying to focus on breathing and allowing my mind to be still. More than one of my trusted Ayahuasca friends have suggested focusing on my breath (especially during the ceremony). I keep this in mind as I watch the other participants (all 14 of them) trickle in. From varying backgrounds, most of them have drunk before, only a few are rookies such as myself.
The ceremony space is in the living room of the main house, and soon everyone has staked a claim for their own little mattress. A collection of foam islands for this internal pilgrimage we are about to collectively embark on. In addition, everyone has with them a small bucket in case of vomiting (termed 'purging'). To the untrained eye, it has all the hallmarks of a massive adult sleepover.
It grows dark. People saunter into the house. Soon the living room is full of eager (and for my bit, slightly apprehensive) participants. The shaman begins to talk about the plant. He talks about how it is a medicine. A mirror. Ayahuasca is a mirror that allows you to look at yourself. Deeply. In ways you may not have done before. In ways that you may not find particularly comfortable. It is an experience, and its effects are somewhat impossible to truly document (a point which I can now vouch for). Ayahuasca is an energy that works at the spiritual, mental and physical levels. To this end, it facilitates healing and experiences where people need it. Not where they want it.
The Shaman calls for lights out, and the room is suddenly black. He sets a candle alight. He discusses how, during the ceremony, he will be moving about the room. He may be singing, he may be smoking sweet tobacco, he may be blowing that smoke onto us. Everything is designed for our benefit. One by one, he signals for us to come forward. Each person sits in front of him. As I do so, I am given a full glass (they're quite small) of the brown brew. Here we go, I think. I chuck it back like a shot of whiskey. Gahhhh. I'd heard it was nasty, but this is something else. Even still, I choke it down, and wander back to my mattress.
I sit up as more experienced drinkers say this seems to facilitate better experiences. Most other folks (from what I can see) do the same. 20 minutes pass. Nothing. I've managed to largely clean the nasty taste from my palate. 40 minutes. Many people are beginning to occasionally moan. A few vomit (into their buckets). Most are beginning to drift downwards towards their blankets.
60 minutes pass. By this time, almost everyone (from what I can tell), is under the full influence of the brew. Random vomiting happens, and the occasional cacophony bubbles up from beneath some covers across the room. I'm sitting there, slightly dumbfounded, as I feel a whole truckload of nothing. What gives?? Am I Ayahuasca immune?
I feel a whole truckload of nothing. What gives?? Am I Ayahuasca immune?
The Shaman is standing near me, singing and blowing thick, sweet tobacco smoke all over the room (this is apparently important). I stand up, and quietly share with him my lack. He tells me to come up to the front.
I sit on the floor in front of him. He asks me to lean forward. As I do so, he draws deeply on his pipe, and blows smoke onto the top of my head. Folding my palms together, he repeats the process. He then begins to sing. It's a language I've never heard before, and it's beautiful. Slowly, rhythmic sounds pour out of him, and INTO me. I can feel the music enter my chest. It's as if he's singing into the air, and I'm the wind. He then pours me another 1/2 glass, and wanting to get it over with, I quickly force it down.
He sends me away. I go. A quick trip outside to take in some amazing stars, and then back to lay on my mat. And then IT. HITS. ME.
My first experience is that I'm very busy inside. All sorts of things are happening, none of them bad, but all of them are new. My limbs are contorting. I'm slowly twisting. Nobody told me this would turn me into a human pretzel. I'm a lazy drunk lizard unable to accomplish much except writhing.
I feel as if I've been covered by a gentle electric spiderweb. I can flex against it. Stretch it. It feels strangely good to do so. My fingers feel as if they each weigh 10 pounds.
Breathe. It's all about breathing. I come back to my breath. It calms me and I carry on.
The kaleidoscope of my childhood has suddenly re-appeared before my eyes. But this time, it's on some serious steroids. And it's much, much faster. Colors, shapes, and animals, all of which move at an autobahn-like pace, whizz by me in a flurry I've seen not even in my wildest dreams.
She likes it. To share such pretty things. That's right. I said SHE. I definitely felt the plant as a strong FEMALE presence. Call it mother earth, the great divine, Shakti, call it whatever you want. Others consistently report the same. It's a she. With a BIG personality.
What I notice (in this moment) is that she likes to play. She takes particular pleasure in illuminating these visions in my mind, and taking me on this ride. And then she encourages me to manipulate the kaleidoscope. I engage it. It's easy. I flex the colors. I twist them like a string of hot taffy. I cleave them asunder, they come rushing back in shapes more complex than before. It doesn't take long for me to find this playtime experience exhausting. She is more than happy to take over. They become even brighter and doubly intriguing. Chinese New Years fireworks, you got nothin' on this.
Without asking to be, I'm launched into the people in my world. I see my family, I see my friends. I see that the actions we take in life stem from either fear or love. Those two emotions form the core of where we operate and make decisions from. Many actions we take are because we are seeking love, but are often looking for it in the wrong place(s). I've understood this intellectually for most of my life, but now I feel it. A feeling which centers itself in my core. It's a presence I cannot ignore. There are ways in which this makes me elated. In others, it makes me sad.
I see the death of people I know. I'm not scared, just intrigued. It's a passage of sorts. I ask to see mine. With no hesitation, she answers 'you're not ready.' Fair enough. I can't argue with that. Side note: I have what many in the west would consider a weird fascination with death, ever since I started studying Buddhism 7years ago. Personally, I consider it not an end, but a door to another experience.
In the next moment, I'm thrust into space, looking back at the earth. Little beams of light, billions of them, are streaming about. Busy hurrying, busy doing. Doing everything all the time. 'What are they doing?' I ask her. 'Seeking love, seeking connection' she says. Sometimes they find it. Sometimes they don't. But wow, they're an interesting bunch.'
I'm twisting like a stage 5 tornado. Sweat pours off me in tiny torrents, my hair is a wet mop. Breathe...
I'm twisting like a stage 5 tornado. Sweat pours off me in tiny torrents, my hair is a wet mop. Breathe...
I remember. Breathing slows me down. This helps some. I feel the Shaman at my feet. He says something to me. I can't hear him, the colors are much too noisy. I sit up. He says lay back down. I do so. He says something again, but all I hear is the word 'stomach'. I sit up again, thinking he is asking me how my stomach is feeling. Why can't I hear him? He says lay back down. Again, I do so. He repeats himself (and this time I catch it), 'roll onto your stomach'. Somehow, I manage to accomplish this herculean task. I feel him blow tobacco smoke over my back. Instantly I calm down. Downgraded to a stage 2 tornado, I just gently hum along for the next little while.
Now my body has a gentle ache to it. I can feel it starting at my appendages, and the it's being drawn in towards my core. It's happening with a tide-at-the-seashore sorta consistency, and it's gradually getting stronger. Soon solidly landing into my gut region, I sense a churning beginning, but not the variety where a person is making butter. There's a volcano brewing. I fight it (why I don't know), for what seems to be an eternity. Eventually I concede defeat and somehow blaze a steady path on my way to the facilities. Door closed. Locked. I made it.
The next half hour involves some serious sweating and toilet time. Use your imagination (or don't).
After this, I feel (not surprisingly), much better. I feel clear, strangely body awake yet mind weary. Most other folks are up and wandering about, munching on fresh fruit and chatting about their experiences. Everyone's journey has been different, but there are themes. Many people report seeing incredible visions, doing 'heavy work,' and having insights into their past. And their future. Most feel as if they've made progress on some level, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. I recall the shaman saying 'it gives you what you need, not what you want'. After sharing a little of my own journey (and having some incredible-tasting watermelon), I navigate to my tent, melt into it, and quickly become unconscious.
The next morning I'm starving. And I feel cleaner, lighter than I have in years. I could hypothesize till the cows come home as to what departed my body that night. All the way from pent up chemicals from in industrialized societal-living, a dark spirit, candida nastiness, a parasite, or those many pieces of gum I chewed and swallowed between grades 3 and 8. Gross. Go figure. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter.
What does matter is the resulting health benefits. I have clearer skin, happier digestion, deeper sleep, my chronic (inexplicable) wrist problems have all but disappeared, and my gums and teeth are healthier. I feel more grounded and calm, and my desire for sugar in the afternoons is all but gone. More importantly, I feel I've become a more compassionate, more understanding, more loving person. Everything that has come out of this experience is good. It's good. It's good medicine.
This plant, vine, energy, spirit, whatever you want to call... is many things. She is a teacher. She is a healer. She is an opener of doors. She has a powerful way of reminding us that we are indeed connected to the earth and each other. After having worked in the health care system for the past dozen years, I would heartily agree with my friends who dub Ayahuasca a 'medicine'. She is indeed, in the truest sense of the word.
Of the myriad of feelings I believe she has for us, one in particular stands out for me. She loves us dearly, and wants us to thrive. She wants us to be healthy, happy and connected with the planet that sustains our life force. She perceives our species as if we're somewhat stumbling along, moving along a path that we can't quite seem to make our peace with. We're continually trying to get our feet under us. At this point in our evolution, it's somewhat of a struggle. If more of us would listen to what she has to say, maybe with time, we could begin to collectively walk with a little more grace. Hell, with time, we might even begin to run.
For my part (the physio in me aside), that sounds like something I could be a part of.
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