During the week, after three Ayahuasca ceremonies, we had a one day break and in its place we gathered in the ceremony house for an evening Fire Ceremony…a beautifully led ritual giving ourselves over to Spirit and the continued work of the medicine. For me, it was also my fourth day on a special diet I chose to engage in for the week along with four other participants. The diet consisted of limited and very bland meals at breakfast and lunch and gathering late each afternoon to drink a tea-like mixture made of specific plants of the jungle that the Shaman had prepared. The plant mixture was also working within us during the week along with the Ayahuasca. By mid-week, I found myself weak and yet much more open to my senses and the environment around me. It’s good to know that I did choose this diet and that most of the participants were not following it. I share this because I wouldn’t want one to get an impression the normal format for this facility was to keep people in the weakened and maybe disoriented state this type of diet may cause while having them engage in the hallucinogenic effects of the plant medicine itself. Yet choosing the diet did leave me in a weak and sometimes disoriented state, similar to going through a prolonged fast. But it was under the direction of the Shaman and others at the facility who were experienced with the role of the diet in the whole context. By mid-week I was dealing with thoughts of scrapping the diet altogether and eating normal food. Yet I persisted in what I had planned and began with a focus on ridding myself of the things that were not important so that I could focus on my primary reason for being here – the spirit of Ayahuasca working within me and leading me to my next step. In the Fire Ceremony, I surrendered again to the work going on in me and somehow in that I found new strength and energy.
On the fourth night of ceremony, my experiences started taking a different direction. And that direction has persisted even until now. I’m not waiting for it to stop. I’m just recognizing that the medicine does not stop working when you are given over to it. Or maybe it’s that the medicine opens one to Spirit working in a deeper way, and it is that work which continues. My fourth night of drinking Ayahuasca in ceremony was one that began a transformation within me, and now I would say after the fact it has also transformed the world outside of me and continues to do so.
The context was the same…slowly gathering at the ceremony house in excitement and anxiety (really, I think the anxiety had the upper hand as each day passed). Around the room we went in similar fashion drinking from the small tin cup. For me again, a quarter of a cup of the nasty brew. And I chose to sit in my seat after I drank and surrendered to its effects. I think for the rest of this entry, the best way for me to describe my experience is to simply write about it as I experienced it.
Having drank the Ayahuasca and returning to my seat, I focused on relaxing and waiting for the medicine to lead my journey for the evening. The room was now dark and the Shaman’s icaros began to fill the room. I found myself drifting on and off mentally as thoughts entered my head and I let them flow through and out again. The air was warm and yet my body experienced shifts of chills and mild sweating. My body was tingling. I was conscious of what was going on within me and less on what was going on around me…except for the icaros. As I focused on the singing, my body seemed to be adapting to its rhythm, as if the words were invoking movement and energy from within me. The air became warmer and physically all I kept thinking about was the Capirona wood of the floor. It was as if the wood of the tree was affecting me, interacting with me, speaking to me. I kept resisting an urge to just lie down on the bare floor and touch it, put my face against it, and relate to it, until finally the resistance was futile and I left my seat. I moved right to the bare floor, sprawled out, touching it with my hands, my bare feet, my cheeks and my lips. I was overwhelmed with a sense of my connection to the Capirona spirit. Its wood was cool and somehow soft to the touch. It was comforting. Solid yet soft to the touch. I felt like I was becoming one with it. As this continued, I felt unusual movement in my body, as if I was spontaneously writhing in some type of rhythmic motion. The icaros seemed to be resonating within me and stirring something within me. Although the icaros were being sung in the Quechua language, somehow it was as if I understood every word. I began to hear a song to the Anaconda, as if calling it forth into the room. Somehow I understood, and with that I was beginning to experience this huge snake moving through the room around everyone…around me. Fear isn’t the right word to describe what was going on in me. More like a motionless awe where I knew not to move and let the Anaconda move around me and near me. I wasn’t aware of the time span in which this was happening, I was just aware of what was happening. Then my body began to go through some change. I felt as if I was unable to speak, yet I was conscious of my tongue moving in my mouth and losing control over swallowing my saliva so that it was running out of my mouth. My body seemed stiff and almost paralyzed. I felt myself writhing on the wood of the floor seemingly to me as if I was losing control over my arms and legs, but somehow moving my body across the wood of the floor. In the haze of the medicine’s effects, I realized I was becoming a snake. I was actually transforming into the Anaconda. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t mentally try to figure it out, I just succumbed to the change going on. My skin seemed to be peeling away, my flesh felt like I was lying in the afterbirth of a physical change. I was transforming into the Anaconda. I didn’t feel I could resist. It was happening without my ability to stop the process. And so I lay there as it continued, and I surrendered to the realization I was changing. I wasn’t even thinking of what would happen after such a change. I was just there in that moment undergoing this transformation into an Anaconda.
You and I both realize I am still in my same physical body, yet in that ceremony, I actually thought I was changing. Probably the most comical moment of my week was the point during this experience when one of the shamans came over to me and said, “Tony, are you okay?” I replied, “Are we turning into snakes?” “No,” he replied with a notable chuckle in his voice, “We’re not turning you into snakes.” My response was, “Oh, I’m not complaining, I just wanted someone to know I thought it was beautiful.” And then he kindly responded, “Why don’t you come on over and lie down on a mat for a little while.” Yes, I hadn’t changed physically into a snake, but I was caught up in what is called the ‘mareacion’ – the visionary effects of Ayahuasca. He recognized that, and also that a transforming work was going on within me, and that moment of checking in to make sure all was well and that I rested on the mat helped me check in with the reality of where I was and what was happening.
As I rested, the transforming process continued, not in the profound way it had been occurring earlier, but I was going through some type of rebirth and change. I continued to have a physical sense of emerging from an afterbirth type substance. As time passed, I began to start singing quietly this little song I had been singing from my first ceremony. Very simple and childlike, unintelligible, yet somehow familiar to me. And then, I experienced a memory of being in the womb before my actual birth and hearing the same tune. I know of people who claimed to have memories from the womb, but I never have…until this evening. And all I can say is I knew it was my memory in my mother’s womb, hearing this simple song over and over. All in the context of this experience of being reborn and transformed. And more than anything else that occurred at the moment was the comfort of love, the comfort that when I was born I felt love, and while being reborn even now I felt love. My evening continued with a gentle winding down of the effects of the medicine in that same comfort of love. I was entertained by other visions and experiences as this happened along with the comforting sounds of the others around me as their own journeys wound down for the evening. And as I gradually fell asleep in that calm and awoke the next morning in the ceremony house, I felt the comfort of love. Somehow in my dance with the Anaconda, I found the comfort of love.
As I was writing about my experience that evening, I thought about the last tattoo I had gotten just before I left for Peru – an image of an Anaconda in a spiral of energy. I got that tattoo, as with all my tattoos, for a specific reason. This one was tied to my decision to leave the routine and security of my life and to journey into the unknown to find myself more deeply in a call of Spirit to begin a new part of that journey. To go to the jungle and meet the Anaconda that I began to encounter even before I departed. I recently read that the Anaconda is one of the few snakes if not the only one that gives birth to its young live rather than laying eggs that hatch outside the womb. I understand, somehow, what that means a little more clearly now…that in the realm of love and in the work of true medicine for the spirit we can be born alive and anew to our world again if we choose to let ourselves do so. That night in the midst of the jungle, I chose to let this happen to me, and that dance now continues…