Citation: Daniel. "Meetings With the Plant Teacher: An Experience with Ayahuasca (exp105368)". Erowid.org. Aug 12, 2017. erowid.org/exp/105368
Getting to the Ayahuasca retreat centre in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon was an ordeal enough. Car, boat and a sweaty hike through the rainforest to get to our home for the next week, a small collection of thatched huts and treehouses in the forest north of Puetro Maldonado in southeast Peru. The ceremonies are conducted, like most Ayahuaca ceremonies across the amazon basin, in a medium sized, round hut called a Maloka. The Maloka is comprised of a altar at the back, and a series of mats layed out around the interior, with a bucket to purge into and a pillow for some relative comfort. There ceremonies are conducted at night, under the veil of darkness, led by a Curendera or plant healer.
The first ceremony was conducted by the Curendera and two, English speaking assistants. The ceremony begins by the Curendera blowing tobacco smoke into the bottle of Ayahuasca, which is brought into the room in a non-descript empty water bottle. Prayers are said, and the group, each in turn, gives their intention for the ceremony. Then it’s time to drink. Everybody drinks, one by one, from the same, well worn, china cup. The dose is always served in relation to each individual participant (on body weight? Aura?). When called up for my turn, I kneel before the Curendera and are handed the cup of dark brown liquid. Its more think than I was expecting. It has the viscosity of a thick chocolate milkshake, and is about the same volume as a double shot of spirits. I drink it in one go. It’s awful! I thank the Curendera, and go back to my mat and wait.
Once everybody has drank, the candles go out and we sit in total darkness, in silence, and wait for the spirit of Ayahuasca to arrive. There is a tense feeling in the air. After about half an hour, the Curendera begins to sign the icaros, which are the sacred songs sung by the Curendera during the duration of the ceremony. As if on cue, as soon as the Icaros start, I start to see the first visions.
As if on cue, as soon as the Icaros start, I start to see the first visions.
Dark coloured lights fill my field of vision, swirling and morphing into the shapes of jungle animals, such as snakes and birds. They swirl all around me, sometimes dividing themselves in two and going off in separate directions. I often see the double helix, associated with the DNA strand. So far, the imagery is pretty luxuriant and impressive. Then comes the nausea. Ayahuasca is sometimes referred to as “La Purga”, or “the purge” due to it often making the drinking vomit profusely. I sit in a meditative posture and focus on my breathing, which helps bring the nausea under control. Soon, the songs stop, and the assistant asks if anybody would like another cup. Feeling sufficiently stoned, I decline. After this interlude, the Curendera begins to drum, and my vision automatically turn more vivid and dark. I am suddenly surrounded by giant figures, dressed in Inca costumes who tower over me. I can only see as high as their waists as the rest of them disappear into the darkness. They feel threatening, and I am only brought some respite when the icaros change pace.
I begin yawning quite strongly. Each yawn feels like the release of something. At first, when I yawn, I see images of small greenish blue snakes, wiggling away from my mouth in all directions, but then, after one yawn, a huge orange hand comes from the edge of my field of vision and snatches the yawn from my mouth, as if it was a physical object, and disappears again into the darkness. After another gigantic yawn, the Ayahuasca produced its most astonishing image of all, as a huge octopus wrapped up my yawn in its tentacles and disappeared into a black hole! What on earth did that mean? Yawning is seen as one way of purging dark energy. In my head I ask the Ayahuasca what it was, to which it replied “does it matter”? Guess not! I found the Ayahuasca to be quite skillful at evading my questions, by either responding to each question with a spectacular show of outlandish visions, or giving me an obscure answer, sometimes wrapped up in metaphor.
The journey reaches its peak. At this point I am sat bolt upright, pinned to the back of the Maloka, ravaged by nausea and relentlessly changing imagery. I see people going outside to the bathroom, and I bulk at the thought of having to leave the Maloka at all, for any reason. It feels safe in here. Like being back in a womb. I stroke the wooden wall of the Maloka, feeling all the tiny details and imperfections of the wood. Soon I get called up to the Curendera. I stagger, punch drunk, across the room and sit cross legged in front of her. She puts her hand on my head, which is so very comforting. It feels amazing! As if she is sharing this terrible load with me. She sings me a personal Icaro, lights a mapucho (a jungle tobacco) cigarette and blows smoke on my head, hands and throat. After this I meander back to my mat, where she comes over and repeats the process again. She is such a comforting figure amongst all this chaos! Once she has finished with each individual participant, she says goodnight and leaves the Maloka.” It's finished? “ I thought. “But I'm still stoned!”
It's finished? “ I thought. “But I'm still stoned!”
After the ceremony, I don’t sleep at all. Still nauseous and with my brain going 100mph, I stay awake until 8 in the morning, when the group reconvenes to share the night's experiences. The general feeling from everybody is that the medicine was intense, and everybody struggled to cope.
The next ceremony was very different. The night begins with the same rituals. This time I drink an even bigger dose of the foul liquid. Within minutes of drinking, I have an intense burning in my stomach. This doesn’t bode well, I thought, and I brace myself for a rough night. However, once the Curendera begins with the Icaros, the sensation goes away, and I immediately relax. I soon feel the warm, thick air of the jungle. It wraps me up in itself. I have a strong sense of the forest outside. I hear the calls and cries of the rainforest. I feel connected to the primal, archaic and overtly sexual energy of the forest and have visions of all the animals outside, hunting, mating and fulfilling all their primal urges. The Icaros are more subdued, more mournful and haunting tonight. I see the Curendera in the darkness, her silhouette surrounded by a neon green glow, with plants and vines swirling away from her and around the room. Her Icaros spiral up through the top of the Maloka, into the forest, for all the creatures to hear. This is a far more relaxed experience. It feels warm and comfortable, and I recline back on my mat, with visions of the jungle flashing before me. I see the Jaguar, stalking through the forest, its eyes focused, its senses finely tuned. It moves with such grace, yet with a strong power that only a top predator can have. It is the living embodiment of the rainforest. It’s a beautiful image.
The night follows with more forest imagery. I begin to get a very strong message from the Ayahuasca of the need to protect the forest, and I get a very acute sense of the damage we are doing to the Earth. I had always been very environmentally conscious, but this time I could feel the damage. I could feel the deforestation. I could feel the devastation of the landscape from resource extraction. I could feel the change in the chemistry of the atmosphere. I felt the acidification of the oceans. I felt plugged into the Earth. I looked at the ways in which I affect the planet through my use of transportation and through meat consumption. I had a very strong message that unless we change as a species, then we are going to pay a very heavy price. It was a strong wake up call, and I knew that it must be acted apon. I must change the way I live. I must pay more attention to the pain that the planet is feeling because of my actions. And also to help others to change, when they are ready to wake up to the messages themselves.
After the ceremony finished, I lay awake for quite some time, digesting the messages that the medicine had given me. Where the first ceremony had been intense and overwhelming, this ceremony had been very profound, and had given me very deep messages about the way in which I live my life.
Ayahuasca is a very stern and strict teacher, but also a very loving one. Like one member of our group said: “not everybody needs Ayahuasca, but everybody deserves it”. It is a beautiful, ancient, sacred medicine. I am very, very grateful for having the opportunity to work with it, and to bring back some of its eternal wisdom.
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