The following is a recollection of my second 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.
In Part two, Discovering Ayahuasca, My First Encounter, I recount my first experience with Ayahuasca, while traveling in Peru in 2010.
without further a due, here is my account of my second experience with the jungle medicine, Ayahuasca.
Written a day or two after the ceremony
My second Ayahuasca journey was a few hours from Toronto on a remote property in the woods. The Shaman, was from Vancouver but studied under Shaman Geurmo in Peru for ten years.
I drove to the retreat on Sunday afternoon with my friend and her friend. We arrived around 5:30pm, which gave us a few hours to get settled in and chat amongst the other 15 or so participants for the Sunday night ceremony.
At around 9pm, once it was completely dark outside, we were summoned to the ceremony. Prior to going to the common room upstairs where the ceremony was being held, the option was given if we wanted to partake in snorting a tobacco water which apparently gives you a clearer mind.
Six or so of us went onto the porch and the water was poured into our cupped hands one by one. Snorting the tobacco water was rather uncomfortable but I do believe it cleared my mind.
After that, we went upstairs and The Shaman began to speak by acknowledging that everyone had heard the calling to be there and he went on to speak more about ayahuasca and the ceremony. After he was done, one by one in a clockwise order, he invited people up to consume the ayahuasca. When my turn was up I went and knelt in front of him. We hadn’t spoken to this point. He asked me if it was my first time and I said no, I had done it a year previous in Peru with Shaman Wyra. He then gave me a cup and I drank. It was extremely bitter. I went back to my mattress, lay down and pulled my blanket over me.
I didn’t feel an effect for at least a good 25 minutes. I closed my eyes a few times and the first signs I got of the effect were just the glimmering of a dark serpents scales gliding across my eyelids. Perhaps this was foreshadowing of what was to come. I opened my eyes again and began to see electrical pulses gliding though everything around me, somewhat like a circuit board. This was fairly brief and the effect intensified very rapidly.
I closed my eyes and was given extremely vivid visions. My visions consisted of things that are hard to describe. Basically I was shown things that were incredibly attractive, appealing, desirous, etc.
I opened my eyes briefly to experience my surroundings. My one friend was on the right of me purging (vomiting) violently and to my left was my other friend, moaning away as if she was about to reach a climax of an orgasm. The contrasting happenings in addition to my visions sent me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
I closed my eyes returning to the visions. I got deeper and deeper into them as they lured me in with their enticing visual aspects. However I was quickly confronted with their “other side”, the darker side. At this point The Shaman was blowing tobacco smoke as is done during the Ayahuasca ceremony.
The smoke was overwhelming and the mixture of this smoke and the realization that these enticing visions may in fact have been very deceitful, evil hiding behind an attractive cover. Some of these visions could even be described as cheap thrills like carnival rides, cotton candy, beautiful shapes that eventually turned into sharp dangerous objects.
I think the lesson I got from this first part of my journey was to be weary of appearances and so called cheap thrills. There are many things you may desire or want to give into, but these same things can be very dangerous, evil, and harmful at the same time.
At this point I started to feel a tad overwhelmed and the purging began. I began throwing up into my bucket beside my mattress. Again returned the visions of electronic pulses through everything. I got to a point where I felt if I didn’t leave to go downstairs to the washroom I might purge (shit) my pants. So I got up with my bucket and made it down to the washroom, which was situated under the stairs on the first floor.
Welcome to hell.
Welcome to hell.The washroom was lit with nothing more than one tea-light-candle. I closed the door and made it to the toilet only to realize I didn’t have to go to the washroom. But I was getting deeper and deeper into my journey by the second. I was throwing-up violently over and over. I was back and forth between the toilet and the sink trying to escape the intensity of the visions that were coming in and out.
I went to the sink at one point and turned on the taps only to look down and see that the faucet was no longer a faucet, but the head of a fox snarling up at me. The hole in the sink grew larger and bugs were crawling all over the sink. I was purging into the sink and all I could see was blood (I don’t believe there was actually blood).
This is when I really started to feel like I was losing my mind/sense of reality. I began to struggle desperately to “ground” myself, to find some sort of form of reality.
At this point I felt I needed to take off my clothes because they didn’t seem real or close enough to me to ground me. I needed to be naked to try and find my self. I stripped down naked, yet I felt completely disoriented. I went from being in the washroom, to being in a closet, to being in space to being in another room to being back in the ceremonial room to back in the bathroom (all in my mind).
I was entirely lost and simply opening the washroom door and returning to the ceremony was not an option as it was not a concept I could make. My mind was in a state of panic. So my next thought was to ground my self by lying on the floor. This gave me temporary relief however I quickly lost the comfort that I had gained by literally “grounding” myself.
The visions kept sending me deeper and deeper into what I can only describe as literal insanity or a feeling of losing ones mind or grip on reality. It didn’t matter if I opened or closed my eyes the visions did not waver. I could hear every tiny sound the house made, every rain drop that hit the roof, every creak in the wood, every tick of the clock, and very faintly The Shamans chants from upstairs. The sounds would come and go out of focus, again to a point where I felt like I was losing my sanity.
A set image in time would come to my mind and I would try to grasp onto the image and I would say, ok this is what reality is, but then the image would turn to chemical like compounds or electrical pulses and a voice would say in an almost mocking way, oh you thought that was reality.
Then another image from my life would come into my mind and I would say, ok this is for sure an example of reality (and what I will eventually get back to after this trip), and the voice returned saying, oh really you think so (again in a mocking way) as the image would again simply turn into electrical pulses and chemicals (which is essentially all we are when it comes down to it).
This vicious cycle repeated over and over and over as I lay naked on the bathroom floor in the dark constantly trying to adjust my physical position to find some sort of comfort. Every time I was let down by the failed sense of reality in these intense visions I would turn to physically trying to grab on to something that could help ground me, being my self, a towel on the ground, the wooden floor, etc.
But these physical things only provided brief moments of escape before they or I melted away and I was thrown back into the vicious cycle of visions I previously described. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, sounds were also coming in and out of focus which also played the same effect, where I said ok the sound is real and then it would dissolve making me even more uncertain of reality.
This is when I began to start strategizing a way to escape the hell, which I was experiencing. My first achievement was giving in to what was.
To this point I had been fighting as hard as I could to try and escape, when all I had to do was give in.
To this point I had been fighting as hard as I could to try and escape, when all I had to do was give in.I gave in and accepted my situation.
This is when I had the revelation; Find comfort in the discomfort. Circumstances don’t have to be perfect, and they never will, in order for you to be stable and find happiness. I accepted that I was in an extremely uncomfortable situation, but I knew there must be a way to find comfort in even the uncomfortable. So as I said, I stopped fighting and just tried to concentrate on being still and finding the comfort.
At least four or five times I tried to get up and get dressed so I could make it back up into the ceremony, so The Shaman could help me through (as that is what the shaman is there for). However every time I tried I couldn’t figure out how to clothe myself. Be it me not understanding how clothes worked to them simply dissolving every time I tried stepping through. I realized I was not ready to leave and I needed to give back in and work from the ground up before I could leave the physical space I was in (the washroom) and return to the ceremony. So I again lay down and was still.
Once I slowly began to find some sort of comfort in it all, this is when I began to regain more control of my thoughts (as they were previously in a state of panic). I was still nowhere near ready to leave the washroom as it was still far beyond my comprehension. As I lay still on the bathroom ground and my mind had begun to clear up a little I stared at the door frame, which to me appeared to be a huge constellation in the night sky.
This is when I gave into the idea of what if reality is just electrical pulse and chemical reactions (which it very well could be/is). Then is the illusion we live in really all that bad? No, in fact no matter how good or bad your life may seem depending on any number of factors, circumstances or events, it could be a hell of a lot more mundane (chemical reactions and electrical impulses going on and on and on and on with no sense of continuity, story, etc.).
Then I began to ponder what makes our sense of reality so amazing? I came to the conclusion that the combination of chronological story combined with beautiful and intricate detail. What do I mean when I say intricate detail? Well lets travel back to when I was talking about the vicious cycle of visions where a real life image was put in front of my eyes and would then dissolve into nothing more than chemicals and electrical impulses. It wasn’t in fact dissolving, but actually zooming in to such a micro scale that all you could see was the chemicals and electrical impulses, which in turn make up the big picture of the reality we see.
When you take the concept, that on the most micro scale that’s all anything and everything is, is chemicals and electrical pulses, how amazing is it that we experience these phenomena in the way we do via our senses and cognition. I think one of the biggest teachings I gained from this part of my journey is a truly new-found respect and appreciation for life, as I know it.
The complexity of life is mind blowing and the fact that we experience it in the way that we do is maybe even more so.
This was the pivotal point in my journey, where I went from experiencing absolute insanity, hell and despair to coming to an understanding and making sense of the roller coaster I just went through. At this point I began to expand my thinking on what aspects of the reality we perceive and experience make it so rich and fulfilling.
I began to think about people in my life that added such genuine value. I had epiphany after epiphany after epiphany, light bulb after light bulb after light bulb turning on, of all the things that make our perceived reality so incredible despite perceived negative experiences, and again this gave me a much more profound and deep appreciation for this perceived reality and the instances in it that make it so rich (such as friends, family, experiences, feelings, emotions, etc.).
I finally got to a point where I felt I could get dressed and make it back up stairs. I was still seeing visions at this point and having lapses in perceived reality however I had enough strength and understanding by this time to move forward. This whole bathroom experience lasted for maybe two physical hours, although in my mind I was down there for what could have been hundreds of years.
Oddly as I was coming out of the washroom and heading back towards the stairs, The Shaman was just coming from the stairs to the washroom as he had to use it. He didn’t say much of anything but gave me this look. The look followed by a slight nod, which to me I understood as, “I can see you went through what you needed to experience, it was hard but you made it, and aren’t you glad”. I can honestly say I have never been so grateful and appreciative of such an extremely hard and terrifying experience. I made it back up to the ceremonial room.
Once I lay down most of my visions were finished and I was in a state of enlightened/deep thought. I began to ponder on many different things. How do we know what is real? Senses? They can be deceived. Logic? Logic is to heavily dependent on knowledge, and how do we know if we are missing a key piece of knowledge, that without it, all our logic is nothing more than misconceived assumptions? If we can’t rely on logic or senses, what can we rely on? At this point I began to see the irony in it all. We really don’t know. And maybe the need to know is the problem. Maybe we/I need to just let go and BE. Maybe that’s the greater message. Focus on Being rather than understanding. Maybe understanding will come once you reach a point of just Being.
The more and more I thought about various predicaments, the more and more irony I found. It was literally laughable and I was chuckling.
Another thought that came to mind in this part of my journey (the deep enlightened thought section) was the idea of rebirth. Initially this thought came to me when I was experiencing the vicious cycle in the washroom and I could hear The Shamans chanting. I thought, what if Ayahuasca experience is really a rebirth? What if the experience of death is similar to the experience of Ayahuasca? Except in death you don’t have the privilege of returning to your previous body and instead are re-birthed in another body or form? Does Ayahuasca bring you to a state of simply “being” which in turn allows for you to gain knowledge and enlightenment that we normally ignore or can’t see as we are so enveloped in our perceived reality? IT makes one wonder.
I again began to think more about finding comfort in the discomfort and the importance of adaptability. I think this concept is so instrumental and crucial in finding peace and happiness, not only in this lifetime, but in the chance that there is a rebirth, afterlife, or nothingness. The alternate reality I experienced where reality was nothing more than chemicals and electric pulses was horrifying and caused me a great deal of panic, because I was completely out of my normal perceived element.
It wasn’t until I began to try and find comfort in the discomfort and adapt to the situation that I regained positivity and happiness. You can apply this thought pattern to life, to an alternate rebirth (as a blade of grass. As a bug. As a grain of sand, etc.) or to an afterlife (heaven, hell, purgatory, etc.). It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the circumstances you once had or want. What matters is finding peace or comfort in your new circumstances because they are what they are. You have the ability in some cases to change your circumstances to what you want, and by all means you should work towards that, but some things are beyond your control and that’s when the power of adaptability comes into play.
The day after the ceremony we spent the day at the Scandinavian spa in Collingwood. It was such a great atmosphere to reflect more and pick apart the whole experience. I thought more and more about the significance of the washroom for me. The whole reason Ayahuasca is done in ceremony is because the shaman is there to help guide you. I think if I had not gone to the washroom, The Shaman would have been able to help put my journey onto a more positive path, but that’s not what I needed. I needed to go to hell and back to learn what I learned.
I also think it speaks both to the power of both independence as well as the power of others to help you through hard times. Sure you can try to go through life depending on no one but that’s not what life is about. There are some journeys we need to do on our own and there is an immense power and fulfillment that comes from accomplishing things in this way, but there is an equally immense fulfillment and power from unifying with others to make accomplishments, and it is important to get a good balance between the two.
This experience was truly humbling yet incredibly enlightening. This is the power of Mother Ayahuasca and I am truly grateful for her teachings and enlightenment.