06 Feb Meeting God (or something) with Mother Ayahuasca in the Amazon jungle
Here comes a drug report. But first some background.
Throughout history man has used different plants for healing and teaching purposes. Ayahuasca is a “sacred plant medicine” and it is generally consumed as a liquid made out of at least two plants. No one knows for how long it has been used by shamans (medicine men) in the Amazon jungle, but probably for at least 8 000 years. I have been told that when human settlers came to the area they observed how the local animals behaved to learn from them. Ayahuasca was found in this way, when Indians saw Leopards chewing the plant in the jungle. Since then the tradition of this plant medicine has been passed on from shaman to shaman for thousands of years.
Last winter I was in the Peruvian Amazon together with two friends for a 15-day shamanistic retreat using medicinal plants, one of them was Ayahuasca. My reason for doing this was to heal physical and psychological wounds and to discover and understand deeper layers of myself and the world around me. The retreat centre where we lived was peacefully located in the jungle by one of the hundreds of branches of the Amazon River. The only way to get there was by boat.
We were instructed by the experienced shaman to set an intention before the ceremony and we were also encouraged to spell out specific questions to “Mother Ayahuasca” before and also during the ceremony. The ceremony was to start at 9 in the evening and just before it I prayed and set the intention to be as honest and sincere as possible. My questions were about who I am beyond the person (the story about my life), what my purpose is in this life and what my main obstacle is. No small questions and of course I was counting on getting information about me being the savior of the world, like the next Jesus or something. 😉
The Ayahuasca brew is being prepared and we all get to drop some of the plant into it, bringing our intention.
The ceremonial room was circular, built in wood and surrounded by the vibrant jungle with mysterious sounds in all directions. The room was lit up by candle lights, beautifully decorated with paintings of wild animals and psychedelic patterns and there was a scent of incense. All participants, we were about 40 people from all over the world and of all ages, were sitting in a ¾ of a circle with our backs against the wall. Completing the circle were the two shamans and the son of one of them. They were sitting in wooden rocket chairs looking peaceful and a bit smart at the same time. I sat down on my mattress and arranged the pillows behind me so I could sit comfortable. From now on we were in silence since the Ayahuasca journey is something you do without interacting with others. I was excited and my main worry was that nothing would happen. What a disappointment that would be!
In order from the right to the left we went up one by one to the shaman to drink the medicine. I got a glass of perhaps 10 cl of green muddy liquid and drank it all. It tasted like shit! It was one of the most disgusting tastes ever. For perhaps five minutes I was mainly occupied in slow breathing and swallowing water to get the taste of my mouth without throwing up. When everybody had had their drink the party started… Or rather, the shamans blew out all the candles. It got pitch black and silent apart from the jungle-sounds. I waited and looked for any signs of changes in my consciousness.
I knew most people throw up at some point during the ceremony. It is considered an important part of the purification – to purge out toxins and other garbage built up over the years. After about 45 minutes I felt something was happening. It was a bit like being tipsy on alcohol when I was a teenager, but I also felt more awake and my senses seemed sharper than ordinary. At the same time the shamans started singing. It was some old song in their native language about Mother Ayahuasca and Nature that had been passed on from shaman to shaman for many generations. I loved it. Then they lit one single candlelight in front of them. I could see the contours of the room again.
“Perhaps I need to throw up to really get it going?”, I thought to myself. I was starting to see subtle patterns before my eyes, but apart from that nothing much happened. Suddenly I felt a bit sick. Finally! (Strange to be glad for such a thing). I grabbed the bucket and put it in my lap. I purged. It was not much to through up since I had been fasting for most of the day, but the feeling was very intense and it felt like I was purging straight into a black whole in the universe. I saw visions at the same time of what I was getting rid of. I was disgusted to see my “Spiritual Ego”, the new identity I had built up of someone who thinks he knows better in this particular area. I also felt like I was getting rid of shame and desires. After the purge I felt lighter and then the ride really took of.
I was flying in space, through tunnels decorated in amazing patterns with all the colours of heaven. It was incredibly scenic and I got a feeling I was travelling through dimensions always present, but obscured by our normal way of filtering and interpreting reality. I saw strange entities dancing and celebrating; it was like the Universe was enjoying itself through these countless forms and manifestations. However I had been recommended to not get too fascinated with the patterns, so I went back to my question “who am I”.
After a while I was starting to feel incredible light hearted. I was like a child again, for some reason everything felt clear and I did not have a problem in the world. Then I started to see a white light in front of my inner eye. It was brighter than the sun, but not hurting the eyes and it was somehow communicating with me. I had never in my life up to that point felt so clear, so safe and so much at home. The light communicated love, but in a deeper and more profound way then the love I had previously experienced in my life. It felt like the source of love, the source of everything. It was obvious to me I was a part of it and I perceived it as equally obvious this was what all humans were looking for. Then I got visions of “the light”, seeing it as the sparkle in the eyes of my friends when they were happily and lovingly smiling. I could see that this light was what we all had in common and that the joy and love we experience now and then are small glimpses of this ever-present light. It was like the light communicated to me that we were all taken care of, there was nothing to worry about. There were no questions, no-where to go, nothing missing. It was full, meaningful and complete in itself. I was laughing the most heartfelt laugh ever, I felt like an innocent kid – overwhelmed by pure joy and lust for life. It was the most amazing ecstasy and also total peace at the same time. I was at home.
I felt a desire to get closer to the light, to totally join with it and disappear in it. This seeking immediately made the light distant itself from me. The more I tried to get hold of it, the further away it seemed. Then I let go of it and instead saw people from my childhood appearing in front of my inner vision – almost like they were there and in some way I could communicate to them telepathically. It all made sense in some weird way.
Step by step I returned to the ordinary world and after about five ours I felt sober again, but I also felt different. The memory of seeing “The source”, or whatever it was had made a deep impact on me. Somehow I felt changed. All those things I thought were so important before seemed less important. I went to bed and slept a deep, dreamless sleep.
Of course Babyface had to steal a hug from the Shaman’s wife and daughter 🙂
What was all this? I guess for some I sound like a religious fanatic and to you I just want to make clear I do not know at all how this works, all I can do is to tell you about my experience as honestly as I can. So… Is it just a drug ride temporarily changing the brain chemistry, with no meaning to our ordinary lives? Not if you ask the shamans and besides, a professor in molecular biology that I know says that Ayahuasca physically expands the empathy centre of the brain. Sam Harris (author of Waking Up) also states that any experience you have on a substance is possible to have when you are sober too. Perhaps most interesting is that almost everyone experiences positive life changes after trying Ayahuasca, but it is very important to do it with a proper shaman. There are many scams out there.
You can read more about this online, for instance on Wikipedia, and there are also documentaries such as “DMT – The spiritual molecule”, “Stepping into the fire” and “Vine of the Soul”. Feel free to share below if you have any experience of this yourself!