The final night of my Ayahuasca ceremony had arrived. Earlier in the day our session prepared us for our evening and some of the aspects that may likely occur during the ceremony. The main one that stood out to me was that at some point during ceremony, the Shaman would come around to each of us and as part of the ceremonial ritual blow tobacco smoke into the top of our heads and the bottom of our feet. A way to honor the plant spirits and invoke their work. The purpose of this was to seal the work of Spirit that had begun during the week that it may continue in our lives, as well as protect us from any negative influences that would try to interfere with that work continuing. What would interfere with the work of Spirit? We discussed a few things…our own stories telling us the things we had hoped would change or had begun to change really would not change…old ways of thinking that hold us back from new ways of living and believing…negative energies that can come from a number of places that hold us back from going forward. The main point to be taken was how the role of the Shaman was to seal the work of Spirit within us so that it would continue, acting on our behalf as a bridge between us and the spirit world. It sounded beautiful to me…until the comment that the act itself often brought more purging! I had to face that even to the end, the purging would continue. I think that was part of the anxiety that seemed to grow in me each day before ceremony. Part of it was the physical experience, but part of it was what is also entailed…letting go of something that shouldn’t be in you. And you think that would be a good thing – and it is, but sometimes we get attached to things in our lives in a way that brings comfort (real or perceived, and I think in this regard more perceived). My own anxiety involved tinges of whether there would be more within me I hadn’t yet seen that Spirit would bring up (yes, in more ways than one!), coupled with an understanding and belief in the power of ceremony and ritual where intent can really bring about powerful manifestations. So I did what I had been learning to do all week…accept the choice I made that brought me here and let it take its course even to the end. My choice was in fact what brought me here in the first place, and it had led me to my own experience with Ayahuasca.
That approach worked well for me throughout the day’s activities, until that last hour before ceremony, when the anxiety and anticipation always rose, and this time a little higher. As we walked in and I shared a moment with one of my fellow participants who had been here many times before, I said that I was a little more anxious tonight, more than any other night previously. She looked at me in a way that looked directly into my heart and said when she found herself in such a state, she reminded herself what she had learned from her encounters with the spirit of Ayahuasca…it was an experience of love, surrendering to love, to the love we had been encountering as we came to Spirit. And so I chose in that moment to surrender to love as I walked into the ceremony house. And just before I sat down, one of the shamans came over to me, embraced me, and rubbed a sweet-smelling fragrance over my head. It was lotus water, fragrant with the scent of the lotus flower. He told me it was a gift he wanted me to have as I entered into ceremony. I didn’t see him do it to anyone else. And when he did it, it immediately evoked a freedom within me to surrender and enter into the evening in deep and calm peace. And I sat down and I surrendered to love and let go of any anxiety I had been holding onto before entering the ceremony house.
Ceremony began as with each previous evening, and as the Ayahuasca began to move within me, I continued to surrender. I had no expectations. I carried what I had experienced during the week, but only as it was a part of me and the work that had already been going on. All I could think about for a while was surrendering like a lotus in the water, opening up and letting all within me enter the experience. And there was purging, not a lot, but purging. And as I threw up and released what no longer needed to remain with me, all I could think of was how the lotus opens up in water. I took a few sips of water from my cup next to me. And as the night went on, my interaction with that small cup of water became the substance of my evening. Cleansing. Refreshment. Lightness. Calm. Awakening. Love. As a lotus, floating on the calm water of life, opening in beauty. And I will swear to this day that as much as I drank from that cup, and placed my fingers in it and sprinkled the water on myself and a few around me, the cup never emptied. Someone may have been refilling it, or in the state I was in I may have thought I was drinking and sprinkling more than I was. It doesn’t matter to me if there was actually someone who may have come around and poured more water in my cup, what remains important to me was the experience that even the smallest cup with the smallest amount of water gave me refreshment and awakening as I opened to Spirit as the lotus opens in water. That was what was happening to seal the work of Ayahuasca within me. I was awakening. I had been awakening. I continue to awaken to the realization I have what I need to open as a lotus in the waters of life and accept my beauty and the beauty of the world, the universe around me. The love. Love. Love. Love. And when the Shaman sealed the work of Spirit within me, I can say one year later that the work continues.
Maybe some would say it didn’t need to take the experience of Ayahuasca to bring about such a simple realization. I would say myself that the simple truth was always known to my rational mind for longer than I can remember. But what happened during this week to me was the intent surrender of my spirit to Spirit, under the influence of a plant medicine I had longed to experience for many years, and in doing so something happened within and around me that continues. I ended up on this journey because years ago I chose to follow a shamanic path, an awareness I was – had always been – connected to the spirit world. I had come to understand that somehow the experiences of my life had opened me to the realization that, if I chose to accept it, I was a bridge between this world and the next. I was intimately aware of the connection to Spirit. I was intimately aware of the fact I wandered this world not simply for myself, but for others and to share this connection in whatever ways it took form. Yet…I had struggled with this and some other aspects in my life that held me back from moving forward in the way I came to believe I was to move.
Now, one year later, there’s something different going on in me. Some things that happened within me and around me during my time in Peru continue. And some things that went on within me for years have stopped. I had struggled with depression the last few years, not something that may have shown on the outside, but in some ways held me as if prisoner on the inside. I had made a physical move four years ago as part of a step to deal with this, and the change was good, but there was always something more that pined within me. I kept hearing a voice within myself to simplify, to detach from what was unimportant and focus on what was important. I kept dealing with my desire to deepen my connection with Spirit. A thread from as far back as childhood continued to connect the elements of my life and lead me to break with the distractions around me so I could focus on what was always within me. I have always seen the connection. There have been times when I struggled with keeping it in focus, but it has always been there. And so, one night in December 2010, under the lunar eclipse on the winter solstice, I surrendered myself in a journey before my altar. I had several experiences that occurred that night, and in the end I heard a small voice within me under a reddened moon in eclipse say, “Sometimes we grasp at things out of fear, when what we need to do is just let go.” And that night I chose to let go. I saw the things I was grasping at out of fear that brought seeming security and safety, real or perceived, but I knew I was not where I needed to be, where I wanted to be, in my heart. And that night I chose to let go. I chose to step into uncharted territory where all I was used to grasping at would be gone and I would be only with myself and my connection with Spirit. And Ayahuasca taught me in this time and led me forward on this journey.
The nature of the lotus is that it rests on stagnant, murky waters with deep roots that go down to the mud below. And yet, it opens in beauty to the sun each day. Today, I find myself more deeply rooted in the mud of these murky waters we call life. In fact, I find myself at peace rooted in that mud, and yet opening to each day’s light in beauty, in the beauty of this life, the love of this life. I find myself more secure in my heart because I let go of what I thought I needed to grasp to be secure, and found in doing so I was still there, connected to Spirit. And through this experience I have come to rest simply in being. Just being in the now. It doesn’t always come easy, but it has become more and more. I am learning to simply be at rest in the murky waters of our life, with it’s joys and its sorrows, and simply open to each day’s light in beauty.