The following is a recollection of my first encounter with Ayahuasca. In part 1 of Discovering the Ancient and Sacred Amazonian Medicine, Ayahuasca I give a brief summary of how I came to know about Ayahuasca and what Ayahuasca is. If you haven’t read part one, I suggest doing so before proceeding with this post.
I wrote the following account of my first experience with Ayahuasca the morning after my ceremony in May of 2010 in Peru. Until now I have only shared this document with my parents and a few close friends. I try to explain and describe my experience as best I can, both as to the physical and mental nature of the journey. I have broken the write-up into two parts, the mental journey and the physical experience. Without further a due, here it is.
By asking around I found out about a man in Cusco who has a shop called The Shaman Shop, which sells various books, art and trinkets. The man that ran the shop was named Kush. I went in and talked with him about having the Ayahuasca ceremony. After talking we arranged that I would come the following day to his shop at 5pm and he would drive me to his house on top of the mountain where another Shaman would do my ceremony. I arrived the next day at 5pm and we got in his late 60’s VW bug and puttered are way up to the top of the mountain.
When we arrived (around 6pm/sunset) he showed me to the ceremonial roundhouse and after taking my shoes off at the door he lead me in and told me to make my self comfortable, the shaman would be there shortly.
Shortly after, the door opened and the shaman came in. He introduced himself as Wyra which means ‘The Wind’ in Quechua (the native language spoken in the region). As he prepared various things for the ceremony, he explained about the significance of the various items he was setting up, and a bit about how the ceremony worked. He explained that there are two paths for a journey. One paths shows the good and one path shows the bad. He explained that he is there to help make sure you stay on the good path. However he noted that if you do stray to the bad path, it can teach you a lot as well and not to worry.
He then began by lighting a candle. He did some chants in Quechua and lit some coca leaves on fire. He did some more chants and blessings. After numerous chants and blessings the Ayahuasca was ready for consumption. He poured two glasses, one for him and one for me. He brought me the glass and instructed me to drink it all in one go. So I did. He instructed me to lie down and he covered me in blankets (as it was extremely cold).
Beside me were a bucket and a bottle of water. One of the effects of Ayahuasca is known as “the purge”. Ayahuasca is not only a spiritual cleanse but is also suppose to cleanse your body. After drinking the Ayahuasca it was about 20 minutes before I felt any effect. Wyra kept asking every so often, “Como estas Aaron?” “Todos Bien?” “You feel effect?”. It is extremely hard to continue with a timeline or give estimates about time from this point on as a) I didn’t bring a watch and b) the concept of time seemed so irrelevant and unimportant at the time.
It was quite a while before I threw up. I had to get up to go to the washroom at one point, and standing in the washroom staring at the toilet bowl while peeing, I got sick for the first of about 6 times. Ayahuasca is definitely an experience you want to do lying down and in the dark or near darkness. The washroom was in a separate building so to go I had to get up, leave the round house, walk up some steps, and into the washroom, which was its own little hut. Outside there was a light on so you could see. The light was very hard to handle while under the effect of the Ayahuasca. At least half of the trips I made to the washroom I needed to do with my eyes closed guided by Wyra.
The shaman plays a very important role in the ceremony. He is there to make sure you are both physically and mentally protected and safe. A few times throughout the night he lit special hand rolled cigarettes made from Amazonian tobacco. He blew the smoke in certain ways to ward off evil spirits. Considering my entire experience was positive, I suppose it worked. Throughout the night he also did various chanting and singing as well as playing the a Peruvian flute. The collective were absolutely beautiful, at times putting me in a state of trance.
At some point in the night, the effects started to ware down. As I mentioned every so often Wyra would ask, “Como estas Aaron?” “Todos Bien?” “You feel effect?”. When I told him that there was no more effect he asked if I wanted to take some more Ayahuasca and I replied yes. He re-blessed the Ayahuasca chanting to the spirits. He then gave me another cup. My experience continued.
Eventually I fell asleep. When I woke the next morning I felt amazing. I was completely sober, yet there was no hangover or bad feelings as one might expect after using a substance. I had never felt better, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
The Mental Experience
The first effect was a flash/wave of euphoria over my entire body. Then nothing for what seemed like 5 to 10 minutes. Then some more waves followed.
Before I go further I would like to note that throughout the journey there were two very distinctive worlds that I experienced. The first world was the real world, which I saw with my eyes open as I laid in the Shamans ceremonial roundhouse. In this world I did most of my contemplation and deep thinking, however as I will get into, I also experienced visions (hallucinations) in this world. The second world was the world I experienced whenever I closed my eyes. This world was extremely effervescent, animated and magical. Almost like Disney’s Fantasia or the original Alice in Wonderland, but with extremely vibrant and illuminated colors.
So keeping this in mind, I will tend to mention if I close my eyes or if they are open, in order to help the reader understand what I was experiencing (although words really can’t do the experience any justice, an Ayahuasca ceremony is simply something you need to try if you hope to gain any idea of what it is like). Also keep in mind that the ceremony was 12 hours in total, and although I wasn’t keeping track of time, I felt the effects of the Ayahuasca for a good portion of the time. As you can imagine a lot can go through ones mind in 12 hours so it will be nearly impossible for me to write everything down, and some things I write may sound like they were but a flash, when in reality they may have lasted quite long. So try not to think that I was moving so quickly thought to thought. These are merely my attempts to get as much down on paper as possible. However detailed this account may seem, it is merely point form notes on the entire experience.
Back to the experience. As I lay under four or so heavy alpaca blankets (it is quite cold in Cusco, especially at the top of a mountain) I closed my eyes and beautiful light shows appeared before me, different designs and patterns swirling around. I opened my eyes and lying there I felt as if I had no physical body. I could see the entire ceremonial roundhouse room just as I had seen it prior to taking the medicine, however my body was no longer occupying the room, it/I was one with the ground, one with the earth. As I breathed, the entire ground breathed like a wave, almost as if I was laying on/inside a waterbed with my face level with the ground facing up. I was one with the earth, I was part of the earth, and I felt extremely at peace with this concept.
I dwelled on this concept for a while, enjoying the sensation of just being and being part of something so whole and complete as the earth. Isn’t it such a amazing thing to be part of something so whole, so beautiful, so magnificent; regardless of how small or big your role is? You are a part of the whole and without you the whole is incomplete.
At that moment I knew that no matter what was to come for me with my Ayahuasca experience, or in life, all I’d have to do is come back to this notion; that I am part of the earth, part of something so extraordinary, intricate and special, that any problem or bad thought I might have would almost instantly become irrelevant. I returned to this concept quite a few times throughout the night, not out of necessity but to expand on it.
I then closed my eyes again and was immersed in magical vibrant visuals, however this time there were more then just patterns swirling around. I saw myself, lying there on the ground, but in spectacular colors. I was part of the earth still however I was more extroverted now, as in – my body had a form yet I was physically connected with the earth. I watched and interacted with various animals and people. I remember thinking this is amazing, the earth is so astounding, I wish I could send my love to these various people, animals and things, and have them feel how much I respected and appreciated them. It was then that with every exhale of breath I took, it was as if a spirit copy of my body was expelled from the front of my body into the air. I wasn’t told, but I inherently knew that those copies of my spirit were messengers of love. And almost like bubbles floating away, I watch as they came in contact with other people, animals and objects and melted into those objects. I also innately knew that in receiving my love I was making those people, animals and objects happy. I then realized how truly right the saying is that, “to give is better than to receive”.
Further more the combination of the two previous experiences made me start to think about respect and kindness. How everyone, everything and everybody deserves respect and kindness. Regardless of it that thing is a blood sucking mosquito or the queen of England. Everyone and everything has its flaws, but we are all part of something whole and therefore, just as we give ourselves self-respect and kindness, we should show equal respect for everything else as well.
I opened my eyes and once again was lying as part of the earth inside the shamans roundhouse. I returned to the notion of how being part of the earth is so special. I then started to expand on this notion, how come we all can’t be content with this fact? Why do we have war, crime, and other acts of hate and negativity? I dwelled on this and came to the conclusion that it all comes down to people wanting more than what they need, people wanting to one-up everything and everybody else. People confuse their wants and their needs, and the ever-increasing consumer-culture combined with greed could be the root of all problems.
I then thought about fame and peoples need to be noticed. I thought to my self, I am part of the whole, part of the earth, I’ve had my time here on the surface with my face level to the ground, why not give someone or something else a chance to see the surface of the earth and all the beauty on the surface. With that I pulled the alpaca blankets over my head burring myself under the ground, making sure not to take up any more space than I absolutely needed, as I had the utmost respect for everything around me.
I then began to think about how the human race got to the point it’s at. Maybe the earth and everything inhabiting it initially started out literally as a piece of the earth just as I was literally a piece of the earth with no body of my own. Maybe that’s how it all started, and at some point the disease of greed infected one or more of the beings that were part of the earth. And that disease made the beings become discontent with solely being a part of something beautiful, they wanted to become individuals and prosper above the rest of the beings which compromised earth. And with that, they tore themselves from the earth and began to build empires, forgetting about self-respect, mutual respect, love, beauty, etc. The disease took control of these beings and quickly spread to others leading to many of the problems we see today. While compiling this theory, I never became saddened, angry, or had any negative feelings about it. It was simply a theory helping me explain and come to grips with the world we live in.
From this point I started to ponder how things could be changed to revert to how they were, where everyone was happy with solely being part of something so whole and special and beautiful, instead of killing, cheating, stealing, and stepping on the heads of others to get ahead and take more then they need. I thought, Ayahuasca is the answer. If everyone could take this medicine, and see what I am seeing, and realize that the need to be superior is so trivial, we could get back to a state where everyone respected everyone and everything and that.. that would be a much greater satisfaction than any amount of self superiority. (This last sentence being said, i would never push my beliefs on anyone, it was merely a thought that came to my mind during the experience).
I had many intermittent experiences with visuals and characters throughout the journey. One that especially stuck out in my mind was this. I recalled that Ayahuasca could give one an outer body experience, per say putting the individual in the body of another being. With this thought a fox appeared in front of me in my closed-eyes-world. Somehow I new if I focused really hard and sent one copy of my spirit aka my messenger of love, towards the fox, I could travel with the copy of my spirit into the fox and experience being the fox. With all the focus and feeling I could muster, I sent a spirit copy towards the fox. As I did so I entered the fox and dashed about for what seemed like only a brief few seconds, but the experience was so powerful, knowing what it was like to be another being was really mind blowing. I could tell the fox felt very awkward, not mentally but physically, as in it couldn’t move as it usually did, and not wanting to upset him, and having the utmost respect for him I dropped my concentration, leaving his body, and let him be.
I can’t exactly remember where my journey went from this point but at some point I started to ask questions, which I was hoping the Ayahuasca could help me answer or at least give me insight into. One question I had was how could I make my parents happier. Not because I thought they aren’t happy, but because they are two people I care about immensely. I was given numerous notions as well as visions including spending more time with them, being more patient with them, and even something as specific as cooking dinner for them. I then lived out the various scenarios and notions and I was filled with immense happiness.
I then moved on to ask how I could make others around me happier, not specifically friends or family but anyone that came in contact with my life in some way (this desire, I believe arose from the realization that even if the earth and its entities have split up into many individuals, it doesn’t mean I can’t treat everyone as part of a whole.) Again this question also arose around the concept that I earlier dwelled on which was that it is better to give than to receive. I truly enjoy making people happy, and in return it gives me happiness. If we all thought like this I think everyone would be happier, and although we would all remain individuals, we could get back to the idea of being part of a whole, living as one, regardless of the number of physical bodies. I was again given multiple notions and visions on how I could make those around me happier. Sharing was one of the main focuses of these notions, whether it be sharing stories, a seat, food, clothes, money, experiences. I think I easily have more than enough, and rather than hording what I have, why not bring joy to those around me by sharing? Which in turn would bring me more fulfillment then I could ever get by keeping things to myself. It’s not that I never shared prior to this experience, but I think this experience definitely gave me motivation and desire to share more and with more people.
*Much of what I learned and got from the experience are concepts that are not new or particularly hard to figure out. But the experience has engrained them in my mind, and I believe has made these concepts more a part of me.
Another notion that came up at some point in the journey was money, and how money seems so trivial. It’s more of a nuisance than anything. I imagined a world with no money, where everyone just worked together. It was incredible. I suppose many of the concepts I conjured during this journey dealt with utopia like situations. But who is to say they aren’t achievable? At this point I started to become a little critical. I thought to myself about how closed minded many people are. How concerned some people are with solely making money to buy the next hot consumer item, how concerned people are with formalities such as language. I thought, ‘when did language evolve from where people understood each other with mere grunts and body gestures’. I thought maybe it’s ok that language evolved, it’s great that we can be so much more expressive now, in terms of vocabulary. But have we lost something in the transition? It’s gotten to a point where society is so stuck up on proper grammar and spelling that the rules of language are more important than merely communicating an idea (in academia for instance). Shouldn’t the communication of an idea or message be the primary goal? I dwelled on various other formalities of society both in present and the past that seem ridiculous.
The ideas of over-consumption and consumerism returned to me. It was inherent that NOT buying into consumerism was a straightforward improvement I could make to my life, and the world around me. I thought about how consumerism made the rich richer and the poor poorer. The multiple levels of exploitation that are formed out of consumerism. I thought about how so much of society judges you on what products you own rather than who you are. It became evident that consumerism is a vicious cycle, and the only way to break it is to not buy into it, to buy less and put less worth in material goods. This paragraph is a far simplification from the entire thought I experienced, as is most of the description of the experience. Again I want to emphasize that the thoughts and visions I had, were in so much detail and went so deep, that to fully write them out in their entirety would be nearly impossible.
But back to this concept of over-consumption. Something made me feel like the consumerism issue was just the tip of the iceberg. I felt like there was something deeper I could get out of the idea. And then I thought maybe there are other things in my life besides consumer products which I potentially over consume, leading to a negative outcome. Alcohol for instance. Alcohol has had a hand in many fun nights for me but it has also had the hand in me making poor decisions, decisions and actions I would feel regret and sorrow for once the effects of the substance wore off. I think the problem with alcohol, is that I sometimes make the error of equating MORE with better. Just about every time I’ve gone too far, I have had the thought that consuming more will in turn make me feel that much better. This is not rocket science but for some reason I never seem to learn from my past mistakes in regards to this. Somehow I feel now that after having this experience I have truly internalized this idea, that more doesn’t equal better. The idea which I experienced earlier of being part of the earth, and only taking up enough space that I needed seemed to relate to this. If I choose to partake in drinking, which by no means is necessary for a good time, there is no need to keep pushing and pushing, consuming and consuming just to see the maximum amount I can saturate in hopes of reaching a plateau much higher than I need to be at.
The experience on a whole made me feel more at peace with myself than I have ever felt in my life. I have been a very happy person almost all of my life but I think prior to this experience there was some underlying discontent/apprehension I had. I feel this experience has helped diminish that. I truly felt like a weight had been lifted off my back. And this feeling has stayed with me to this day. I have never felt so at peace with myself, with life, with the world, and even with the notion of death. I was a tad skeptical about the claims people made about Ayahuasca before having a ceremony. But after having the experience I can concur that, despite being one of the most powerful hallucinogens in the world, Ayahuasca is truly a medicine, and by no means a recreational drug.