On my second day of the Ayahuasca retreat, I was now one day wiser and one day more experienced. I think all this meant was I knew a little of what may happen in the second ceremony and because of it still carried anxiety and awe about it all. The day involved a voluntary workshop session as well as great informal discussions about the first night’s experiences over meals and afterwards. It was good to share and to hear others share about their experiences the night before. I found it interesting that a good number of us experienced the flashing lights and geometric shapes when the Ayahuasca had first started to take effect in our bodies. If it were simply stories like acid trips of the 60’s or 70’s, I would have thought we were influenced by the culture around us or memories and stories of psychedelic experiences. This, however, was an encounter with a plant medicine and I found it uncanny that its introduction to a good few of us was so similar. Of course, that is the plant mixture’s effects, but what I was caught up in was how those effects were introduced to different individuals in the same way, opening the door for the entire evening’s events. It was almost as if this was the normal doorway Ayahuasca presents to newcomers and upon entering they are thrust into its energies. The discussions provided good continued context for what was still a very new experience for me and one that I now knew would be a very intimate one with Spirit as well as my past spiritual experiences and beliefs. I learned from the “stories” I encountered and from those the others shared that the continued ceremonies were going to challenge us in psychological and emotional ways. I also shared that something physically was going on in my body from the ceremony the night before. I didn’t know how to explain it other than I was conscious of something going on in my physical body, as if I was able to sense activity in a specific cell or area of my body. Obviously I had been through an experience of drinking a plant medicine mixture that causes those who partake of it to purge in the ways I described in my last post, but this wasn’t about the “hangover” effect of that as much as a new level of awareness, and one that has continued with me in a very new and different way to this day – more about that in the last of this series of posts.
Evening came near as did anxiety. Slowly my fellow participants and myself gathered outside the ceremony house still learning more about one another and also learning of the shared anxiety many of us carried of what was going to happen. Yes, the purging we knew was going to happen and that wasn’t something to look forward to except that you knew now it came with the turf and had to be accepted. I think what many including myself were more concerned about was what was going to happen with us…our lives, the issues going on in our lives, the “stories” we carried from our lives, the challenges that lay before us, and even the things of which we were not aware that may come up in such an experience. I have learned we become anxious when we realize we do not have control. The first night’s experience showed us we were partaking in a ceremony governed by a plant medicine spirit that was going to involve letting go of control and letting the medicine guide the experience. It was all still under the oversight of a very experienced Shaman coupled with an experienced staff who had taken others through this many times. But it still meant you willingly gave up control with the intent of letting Spirit (or whatever you defined as your source, higher power, god…even if just the medicine itself) guide you and deal with you. And in the midst of my own anxiety, that was the concept that helped me to enter the ceremony house when the time came – I had come to this place specifically to encounter the medicine that is Ayahuasca and have it work with me. I chose to come here and participate in ceremony, and there was great power and intent in that choice.
Earlier in the day during those periods of discussion, I had shared about the strange experiences I had in the months following my choice to come here and preceding my arrival. I had instances when I would drink one beer and become physically sick. One time I had thrown up for about an hour during such an experience. In all instances, I felt the need to lay down on my bed and when I closed my eyes, almost instantaneously, I found myself wrapped within a large snake. Sounds scary but it wasn’t…it was somehow comforting and nurturing. Somehow, I knew that snake represented something more than its image and that it was tied to my journey to Peru. And somehow too, like my first experience with Ayahuasca, it seemed familiar. I was told that my experience was not uncommon, and that many times the medicine starts working with you once you make the decision to work with it, even before you actually partake of it. So as I entered into this next ceremony, I did come a little wiser even if still in awe.
On the second night of ceremony, the same process of drinking from the cup occurred as it would for the rest of the week. And this night, when the medicine started to take effect, there were no flashing colors and geometric shapes. I got the tingling sense through my body with some fluctuations of feeling cold and hot, but what did happen was, of course, purging. Not as much as the first night for me, much more than the first night for others, but for all…purging. Again, from the shamanic perspective it is the medicine working in the body to rid it of what is not needed. Yes, we could make an analogy that as you threw up it was as if you were letting go of things in your life you were relinquishing. And in part, that is what occurs. But it’s also work on levels unseen that sometimes you aren’t aware of yet still relinquishing. I learned from the discussions that as this experience happens we can be dealing with past memories, unresolved issues, current life challenges and illness, and a host of things. And we were guided into ceremony to see these as part of the stories of our lives. Nothing more. Important because they are part of our very lives, but significant only in relation to the larger world around us. I think more than anything for me, my experience with Ayahuasca showed me how big that world around me was. My experience on the second night was one of encountering the length and height and depth and breadth of the universe of which we are all a part. Take that on whatever level of the universe it means for you, because for me it was as if I encountered every level of it. I still cannot say it was entirely new for me, just deeper and wider and longer and more expansive than I have ever experienced. But this experience on my second night was what I would simply describe as a much deeper encounter with the fact that we are indeed part of something much larger than ourselves and connected to one another because of it. This night for me was one of embracing beliefs and perspectives I have always held, even as they have evolved over the years, in the broader context of our connection with one another and to a primary source. Whether that is God, Great Spirit, Love, Oneness or something else, I knew I was connected to it. I was overwhelmed, even in the midst of purging, by love, by oneness, by beauty, by suffering…basically by my connectedness to all humanity, to all sentient beings, to all spirits, to all consciousness. Yes, one can say I was in the middle of the jungle on a hallucinogenic trip induced by a plant mixture – and for all intents and purposes I was – but this was not a recreational “trip.” I was experiencing an encounter with the divine, what I embrace as the divine, as that which is beyond myself. I was on sacred ground where our normal earthly existence was touching the divine. I can’t fully answer what happens in the same situation for someone that does not have a belief in the divine, but I can tell you I talked with some participants who shared a perspective as such and yet encountered something beyond themselves. I believe, as I studied this experience for seven years before partaking in it, that there is indeed some connection to an alternate reality that Ayahuasca bridges and in that encounter we embrace something beyond ourselves. And when we embrace it, we have the capacity to awaken, to change, to heal, to move forward. Obviously drinking Ayahuasca is not the only way to encounter this connection and awakening. It is one way, but one that has been used for centuries from some accounts. What I do know for a fact though is that I personally chose to encounter the divine through this experience and I did.
The wonderful people I met during my week in the jungle, some of which I am still connected to, remember my second night of being filled with joy, with laughter, and singing. I think what some people remember the most is the moment I burst out in song, simply singing Love, Love, Love. For it was Love that best described what I encountered in my ceremony. The Love that connects us all. The Love that heals us all. The Love that connects us to our universe.
Love! Love! Love!