My Ayahuasca Diaries – Part III: Wide Awake

My third night of Ayahuasca ceremony, during the ceremony itself and ever since, has been what I refer to as my night of being wide awake. There’s no other way for me to describe it except by this phrase, and from what I’ve shared about my first two nights being wide awake may cause you to think of my experience differently than I encountered it. It wasn’t simply a spiritual experience of being totally connected to the universe in a state of altered consciousness. It was an actual physical experience of being wide awake, all my senses heightened, while at the same time connected to Spirit and all around me. Maybe I could say I was wide awake while continuing in my journey of awakening.

The day was similar to the previous one with discussions over meals and after and another workshop, all of which continued to be very helpful in the total experience. Some things continued that had started on the very first day, and I found this also helpful in the total experience. And so I would like to share for a moment about what these things were first before sharing about my wide awake journey during ceremony, because they all made for the context of what was happening for me. Upon arrival to this facility in the jungle north of Iquitos, Peru, after all of us were given a good amount of basic information prior to that point, we were shown the bungalows where we would stay and sleep. These were fairly simple structures that provided for basic needs. What was interesting to me was in the midst of the simplicity there was a large and heavy metal trunk with a lock and a small safe that allowed each of us to lock away our personal belongings for the week. They were well built so that they adequately protected your belongings in the heat and moisture of the jungle. I found their presence interesting because they didn’t fit in with the simplicity of it all. You normally find a small safe in a hotel room, not in the midst of a primitive bungalow in the Amazon jungle. I took advantage of them and locked away my phone, my iPad, my wallet and other personal items – I wasn’t going to need them for this week; I had just brought them for the following weeks I would be living in Cusco. And yes, that was a nice way to make people feel their belongings were safe while they were out and about the area. Probably like most people, I want to secure valuables especially when among a group of strangers, and doing so gives one that sense of security. On a practical level, I wasn’t going to be calling anyone that week and there wasn’t really phone or internet service available to us. At the same time, I was there on my own personal journey of the previous few years looking to simplify my life and let go of my attachment to material things to delve deeper into my own spiritual call.

After a couple of days, I brought up during our casual discussions what the experience was doing for me, and that was part of the process for me that week. It wasn’t really a matter of securing valuables for me as much as locking away things that could really have been a distraction for me. I had just come from a professional role of years in higher education where connection by phone and internet were not only normal but necessary at times. I had left my children whom I talk to regularly back in the states. I had left my pets, part of my everyday common life, with my son. I had just given away some of my belongings and packed up the rest and put it in storage for when I would return to the states and set up a new home in Chicago. In effect, I was there in the middle of the Amazon jungle and had no place to call home, with only few of my belongings and far away from my loved ones, friends, and associates. And with all that, I made a simple decision to lock the few necessary things I had, some of which represented my connection to people back home, away for the week. I locked it all away for the week. I put those things in a trunk and a safe, some of them like the phone and iPad being turned off, set the lock, and left them there. What I shared in discussing this was how it provided me an opportunity to put aside those things that could distract me to enable myself to be fully present to my experience…the real reason I was there. I know at other times in my life I could have turned my phone off for a couple of hours or not accessed the internet for an evening, but I never really did that. I had recently decided to forego television and that started freeing me to do other things in my home and life that lessened my contact with media. But this experience, I think because of the opportunity present and the choice I made to use it, allowed me to fully engage in my journey for the week. It allowed for me to experience what I called being wide awake later that evening.

In the hour before ceremony, we slowly gathered around the ceremony house as did our continued awe and anxieties. You would think after a couple of days you easily get more comfortable with the experience, but from what happened twice already, you knew you had no clue what that experience was really going to be. Oh, yes, the purging was going to be there. That was clear, and although some people admitted they feared the physical experience of that, I think on a deeper level we all feared the reality behind the purging – what was going to come up now that we had to purge and let go of in our lives. And you were more aware by the third day that once you drank your medicine, you were going to relinquish control again…so it wasn’t always your choice of what would come up to purge. But part of the beauty of this experience for me were the men and women I was with who were making a conscious decision to do all of it anyway…to let the medicine do its work and bring us all to greater freedom and healing. And as the invitation to enter the ceremony house came, we entered yet again.

Something unplanned did occur during that moment of waiting for me that evening. I mentioned I had been smoking up till the time I came and at the start of the week. And usually those who did would have a cigarette or two prior to the start of ceremony. But this night, when I went to light up, I stopped and something came over me that I didn’t need this anymore. So I gave a new friend my pack to keep with her in the ceremony house to still relieve (or disguise, maybe distract) that horrible taste. I just let go of the cigarettes. It was a simple action, but it was a result of something going on inside of me that had shifted. To this day, I no longer smoke.

Same process, different night. And the familiarity with that helped to provide a similar sense of security for the moment just like locking your distractions away for the moment. And I drank yet again. And as usual the shaman asked how much and I drank about a quarter of a cup. I went back to my chair for a while and then moved over to a mat on the floor just to get more comfortable and lie down as Ayahuasca’s energies took effect. My having just let go of the cigarettes wasn’t a problem. I just surrendered to the medicine. Sometimes medicine tastes bad, but it still helps you. And the medicine took effect. My body went through sensations of tingling, hot and cold sensations, but tonight there was no purging for me. Well, let me say no vomiting, no diarrhea, no typical effects from the two previous nights. I can’t say that was the case for many others as the sounds started as its own chorus of effect. For a moment, I was distracted by whether I drank enough, whether the medicine was working, whether I was holding back, whether I wasn’t letting myself face issues, etc. And I again surrendered and just let it all go. And the medicine continued its work.

For the rest of the evening, in the dark after everyone drank, in the dim light of candles as they were lit, during the shaman’s singing of icaros and rattling of shacapas…I was awake. I was physically conscious of everything going on around me. I watched while others purged. I watched while a couple people dealt with fear and tremendous anxiety and the shaman came over to them and prayed and did spirit work to relieve them. I watched one person “freak” out a bit and the shaman simply telling them to focus on where he was and set aside the stories going on in his head. I watched him be hosed down with cold water (as sometimes happens I learned) to refresh his physical body and snap him out of fear or whatever was going on with him. I watched the shaman and the staff go around the ceremony house tending to the needs of all there as they came up. And I just lay there and watched…and watched. I felt as if I was in a classroom or viewing a live documentary learning about what the medicine did. I felt as if I was directly and deeply connected to the various individuals I viewed as they went through their experiences. I felt as if I was understanding on a deeper level how Spirit interacts with us and works with us and brings healing about in us. And I watched. It was the only night this happened, but it was a night that stays with me. I had no sense of fear, no sense of judgment as to what was occurring. I just watched, wide awake.

I realized over the next couple of days during our discussions that I was also purging during my experience. I kept yawning throughout the entire evening, big yawns like when you’re ready to fall asleep, but I did not fall asleep. I was conscious of my physical body in heightened ways. My tongue in my mouth and against my teeth. At some points I almost felt that if I had tried to speak I wouldn’t have been able to form words, and yet I was very conscious of all around me and my mind felt sharp and attentive…wide awake. I had continued ethereal experiences of snakes around me most of the evening. Large snakes, anacondas I believe, moving about the room. As the shaman sang icaros (which he sang in the native Incan language of Quechua, not similar to Spanish), I thought at many times I clearly understood what he was singing, what he was saying. And when I didn’t understand the words, somehow, somewhere in my spirit, I understood the message, the song. I learned over the next few days that was a common experience others had even to the point that we understood the same words of the songs. It was as if every possible sense my body, my mind, my spirit could experience was heightened, aware, and awake. And as the evening wound down in its typical way, I laid back down on my mat and stayed the night in the ceremony house.

When I awoke the next morning, I was more awake then I had ever been. I understood somewhere within me, I had not only touched the divine, I witnessed the divine with all my senses. I witnessed others touching the divine. I witnessed the divine touching all of us. As I’ve shared before in this series of posts, there was a thread of familiarity as well as a new experience going on in me at the same time. I’m used to touching the divine and witnessing it. On my third night I had just done so in a completely new and different way. I witnessed the work of Ayahuasca and this night it had me wide awake.

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