DISCLAIMER: Ayahuasca contains DMT which is an illegal substance in many countries. So consider carefully before breaking the law, because it’s naughty and the law is something you should always respect. After all, it’s illegal to break the law! That said, it is legal in many countries, like Italy, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica and in certain religious settings the United States. I had my experience in Spain, where it’s controlled and not unequivocally illegal.
There is a good reason Ayahuasca may be illegal in your country, even though it is an ancient old vine from the Amazon that is used world-wide as a means to connect with the deceased and seek help for various problems like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, addictions and numerous stress-related diseases. It’s nothing to take lightly and certainly not a recreational drug. It is plant medicine.
Whatever you do, I am not responsible if you decide to seek help from illegal substances.
Some or all names in this blog are changed for privacy.
Second Night: Let There Be Beasts
I came well-prepared for the second ceremony, knowing that I had a good warm-up the night before, and I am ready to break out of my shell. Easier said than done.
After drinking a double-shot of the brew, I again found myself ruminating about my miserable life, my reluctance to surrender to any outcome my life or indeed the Ayahuasca has in store for me.
What is this music about? Some new-age hippie shit? Get outta here with your vibes and shit.
And these buddhist settings? With South-American heritage? Fuck this. I am so above this cultural mega-mix of tree-hugger kitsch.
After a while I raised my hand to order yet another drink, but like the responsible manager she is, Klaudia (one of the owners of the retreat) gently told me to relax, close my eyes and trust the medicine. So I did, kind of, and disappointedly decided to sleep it off. Fuckers.
Ah, the critical mind, welcome again. I was not fond of it but it seemed inevitable to take it with me, yet again. I needed to find a way to ditch it off. I tried my best, and it didn’t work out.
In the first ceremony I ended up drinking four cups of Ayahuasca before anything worth mentioning started to happen in either the senses or the body, which I realised later was a wake up call for something of importance.
One portion should be enough for most, two would definitely do the trick even for the most stubborn ones. That being said, it takes time for your mental and physical receptors to get used to a new kind of stimulants, and most likely you can decrease the amount needed time after time — that makes Ayahuasca a one-of-a-kind medicine — to get deeper and better results.
I knew that the Medicine always tells you something, but in the moment I didn’t feel it. I knew her message was “you have trust issues” which totally answers to my intention for the second ceremony. I am afraid of trusting anyone or anything (including myself), and this is exactly what I was in need for, yet I didn’t realise it until much later.
I slowly started to realise it. I am one of the stubborn ones.
For me, letting my public persona go and being in the flow are the hardest things in the world. It’s not just a bad habit, it’s my definitive personality trait formed in my first few years, prohibiting me from enjoying the moment, or life itself.
My harnessed ego was blocking myself from laughing, smiling, crying, hugging and dancing, i.e., showing feelings and revealing my true self, which would undoubtedly make me vulnerable to critique. It’s the super-ego telling me to hold it in, whether I’m in a party to get drunk or with friends having a dinner.
I won’t relax, because I always have to be on guard to control my appearance no matter which poison I am on. My face and body is made of impenetrable stone, covering the fact that I am deeply ashamed of who I am. I’m the champion of staring contests – the dead don’t laugh.
Alas, I knew something was about to happen when I again started my compulsory face-making show I was introduced in the first ceremony. It had to be something important, since this was now a recurring theme. Again my jaw went the other way, lips aimed for the sky, cheeks stretched from side to side and for a moment I felt like Ace Ventura, or The Mask, albeit a sad one.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” I said to myself. But The Medicine kept on working on my neck, pulling it in extreme stretches and suddenly releasing the tension, letting me breathe freely again. This went on and on, challenging me to a wrestling match with myself, slowly wearing me down.
Time for the second serving was called. As I sat up I saw Adi, one of the guides walking by and I raised my arm for notion. But as soon as I tried to talk, my jaw was locked wide open again. No words came out, only some muted quacking, like I was Daffy Duck wearing a gag.
Even when I was spastic I felt I never lost my sense of time and felt completely sober. As I soon would find out, that certainly wasn’t the case.
Adi crouched at me, massaging my jaw to its normal form. That was the defining moment of my retreat, my year — maybe my whole life.
The sudden act of kindness made emotionally so moved that I almost showed my weakness. I was in need for help. Something I wasn’t fond of admitting. For attention and care is something I’ve so dearly missed in my life for 30 years. I didn’t realise it then, but in hindsight I can see how Ayahuasca was carefully repairing the connection my neurons to awaken my emotional activity. Next thing I know I gave Adi my hand to hold on. I had a burning desire to confess my big secret.
“I… I… I…” I stuttered. These are the moments in life, where you can either say what’s on your heart or shift your focus to mundane things, like sardonic comments and embarrassing dad jokes. If I had been sober, I definitely would have steered away, holding this moment in for eternities to come, but there was no turning back now. Aya was taking care of things for me.
“I have to tell you that I am nothing… I am nothing but a pretender.”
If there wasn’t for Adi I wouldn’t have had the courage to say it out loud. I needed someone I knew would understand and not judge me for who I am. So I went on confessing and there it was. I am a pretender. Big, fat pretender and nothing more. Yes! That was the hard truth growing inside me, dragging me down.
To let out the truth I had been hiding from myself as well as from others felt so relieving, shoving me again deeper to my personal guilt-trip.
“I pretend everything” I sobbed. “I have no feelings inside, my emotions are completely dead. I just act out all the feelings accordingly. I fake all my feelings, I show them without really, truly feeling anything. Am I hopeless?”
There was a lot of baggage I had been building up for the last 30 years or so, making me the fucked-up over-achiever I was.
At this point I had selfishly made Adi my personal confessor and guide, firmly holding his hand and every time he tried to leave me to my own, I told him not to.
I only needed him to sit there for me, to listen to me and pay attention to my pain. Drops of tears were crawling on my squirming, spastic cheeks and jaw. I was held prisoner by my own feelings. I wasn’t crying, it was merely a minute leakage. I was used to letting out the bare minimum to ease the pain a little, but not nearly enough to lose the composure I had been building for 30 years.
I am not that self-sufficient I pretend to be, so this was something new. I was asking for help, and I got it. That was a lesson worthy of this ceremony. But I was in for much, much more.
“No one is listening to me. No one has ever listened to what I have to say.” I spat out the truth with all sincerity. My gut feeling at the moment threw me back to my childhood where I was constantly not heard, not cared about, to the times when I learned not to speak out loud but to smother my voice.
In the ceremony it wasn’t me speaking, it was the helpless child, asking for compassion and care.
“It’s okay” Adi said, “just let it go. Don’t think about it, don’t think about anyone else. Not your parents, not your father or mother, just focus on yourself and breathing.”
Adi told me to relax so many times it almost formed a mantra. I slowly started to believe him.
“Breath it out,” his sedating voice me told me time and time again. “You’re perfect the way you are.”
“I know, I know. I really do know.”
But even then I wasn’t letting loose.
“I don’t want to be on the driver’s seat anymore,” I begged. “I want to let go. I want to let go. I want to.” Another mantra.
I managed to pause the repeating commentary track to ask for the second shot, the one I had missed 30 minutes earlier due to my locked jaw. “I don’t want to drive anymore.”
Normally Ayahuasca makes you purge one way or another, from the front or the rear. It’s almost a sacramental action that represents both mental and physical clean up, letting out old grudges and sorrow so that you have room for new sensations. It’s like cleaning the closet of your mind. If you never do that, there is simply no way to find the right garments to wear.
It made perfect sense now, because of the fact that so far I hadn’t purged at all. I was holding on to my sorrow and grudges making it impossible for happiness to take hold of me.
I told my guide Adi that in my 500 or so meetings with my therapist I had never fully cried. It’s because I am a good boy, I had learned to hold everything inside just a few pats on the back and a reward for not disturbing anyone’s day with my problems, needs and misery. I had wallowed in this thought for countless of years, even decades.
I gulped the second shot, and so came the moment I had been hoping for. I knew that I would step on a new territory if I just let myself vomit, to purge. And I wanted to purge. I wanted it alot. I washed the brew down with at least half a litre of water and psyched myself into believing I was dizzy, on a boat and very, very drunk.
That did the trick.
I sat up and reached for the bucket and puked out the sour broth, feeling an enormous relief that was more mental than corporal.
“That felt really good,” I told Adi, wiping my genuinely smiling face on a Kleenex-tissue.
“I know” he said laughing.
I looked to my side. Everybody seemed so peaceful, lying there in a golden glow of log-fire, listening to the soundtrack of their personal journey. I thought this evening is beautiful get together of like-minded people, keeping to their own and meditating in peace. How wrong can one be?
What happened next I will remember for the rest of my life.
Go to part 5.