Ayahuasca-My Plant Medicine Teacher
What is ayahuasca exactly? Ayahuasca is made out of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, an MAOI inhibitor, that when mixed with a DMT containing plant becomes an entheogenic brew used for a multitude of reason including spiritual exploration, awakenings, addiction, depression, and disease. Wikipedia states, “…People may experience profound positive life changes subsequent to consuming ayahuasca. Vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion; this purging is considered by many shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca to be an essential part of the experience, as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one's life.” Ayahuasca, like many things in our society has been labeled and marketed a certain way. In the Western world, aya has been highly publicized and made to seem like a quick cure for whatever ails you; a few journeys in the jungles gives promise to a permanent healing. You will go to a retreat center with a “trained Shaman”, take the brew, purge out your demons and come back to your normal everyday life healed and free of all traumas, right? In my experience, it is not quiet this cut and dry.
I share my accounts with aya, not to scare people away from the experience. I openly and with all sincerity give much respect to aya as a plant medicine teacher. I think that everyone should experience it when they are called to and can honestly say that it has changed my life more than all compounded experiences I have ever had. That being said I wish to share a different story of aya that most may not be familiar with. In this story I will tell you that with aya you should not purge, you will not be cured in 1, 2 or even 3 sessions, you should question whether a Shaman is necessary for your journey, you should not buy into what you read (not even this), and you should be prepared to let go of anything and everything you have ever known to be true.
First, a bit of background on myself. I am 30 years old now and have dealt with depression and other health issues for, I would say, most of my life. My life became consumed by these afflictions. I was constantly researching, trying new supplements, seeing different doctors, and seeking out new treatment. I was literally spending thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to fix what was “wrong” with me. I was 28 when I first read about aya and was convinced that this was it. I had finally found the magic cure that would rid me of all demons, blocks and setbacks. As I always did, I consumed everything I could on the Internet about aya. I booked a 7-day trip to Guatemala and felt prepared for that which, I understand now, can never be anticipated. On this journey I was convinced that I would get all of the answers to my questions, understand my gifts, purge out my demons and see the true beauty within. Instead I saw the darkest depths of myself. I saw a fear buried deeper than I had ever imagined. I was in a hell from which there was no escape. Upon my return I felt more depressed and defeated than when I had left. I had so much hope and expectation and, like everything in my life at the time, all it had done was left me disillusioned and disappointed.
Over a year later aya would again begin to present itself in my life. My belief now is that aya is much larger than just a plant. It inhabits a spirit that is able to guide and teach long before and long after the medicine is ingested. Aya came into my life this time, not through endless research and chases but through several chance encounters. I listened to the signs; left everything I had and flew thousands of miles to South America. I knew that this time my intention was to fully integrate with the medicine. I was not scheduled for a retreat. I did not have a return ticket. I would be with the medicine for as long as needed.
What supersedes is simply my account with the medicine. All I have to offer is integration advice, along with a different way of looking at this amazing plant teacher. But remember that everyone’s experience is different. I have even found that every journey I have is different. No two people will have the same experience and no one person will ever experience the same thing twice. Your journey will be as special and unique as you are. She shows you what you need to see, she teaches you what you need to learn, and she will take you only as far as you are ready to go. Shamans will tell you to have an intention, to go into it with a question or have an objective. My advice to anyone is to go into your journey with nothing but love. To let go of everything that you think you need and trust that when you let go, you will be divinely guided. And remember that like most things in life, there is NO quick fix or magic pill. It can be difficult and extremely frightening at times but beyond anything else, it provides incomparable and unimaginable results.
At this point I will divulge that I do not believe that aya wants to be a purge. Like many things in life, we try to find things to serve as a distraction from going within. When faced with the decision to watch T.V. or spend an hour mediating to go within, most people will chose the T.V. Similar to that, in my experience, I have seen that as soon as the medicine begins to kick in and this reality begins to fade away people will do whatever they can to hold on. I believe that vomiting is a way to hold on. Sure it is possibly that the medicine is making you feel nauseous but like in this reality, we do have the ability to control our bodies with our minds. Vomiting for hours can actually be less traumatic for people than trying to lay completely still, going face to face with the secrets of the universe and their true selves.
I will also admit, although this may come with some backlash and resistance, that an ordained Shaman should not be thought of as the only person that can offer this medicine. One need for a Shaman comes from the belief that this world is full of evil spirit and negative entities. A Shaman holds space to ward off energies that have entered into this dimension. They also assist with what you might consider to be exorcisms, ridding people of demons and entities that they carry within. This is all fine and dandy if that is what you buy into. If you have the belief that this world is full of evil then yes, by all means, go with the traditional Shaman experience. From what I have seen first hand in my journeys, I no longer hold this belief. I believe that whatever evil we perceive is what we have created in our minds. The idea of evil causes fear, blame and depression. If we let go of all beliefs that evil exists, we let go of all suffering. If we fully believe that there is nothing evil that can hurt us then we let go of the need to have someone present to ward off evil spirits. This is not to mean that I fully discount the role of a Shaman and I give gratitude to the gift that they bring to people through the medicine but remember that your truth is the only truth. Their beliefs are their own. Let the medicine dictate its true message to you without influence of anything else.
It probably wasn’t until my 8th journey that I really began to integrate with the medicine. In the beginning I became abundantly aware of my control issues and my ability to let go was harder than I had ever imagined. I was asking questions and trying to dictate the direction of my journeys. I was paying attention to others in the circle; trying to emulate their experience. I was having an outward experience when I should have been going inward. I was trying to control when I should have been letting go. My first few journeys were incredibly difficult. Every time the brew began to kick in I would ask myself what the hell was I doing!? I wanted to quit and go home several times. I have quit many things in my life. This time I told myself that no matter what, this would not be one of them.
I remember being in circle with 18 people, which I believe now is way too many people when you are trying to have an inward journey. The Shaman conducting the ceremony was one, like many, that highly encouraged vomiting. I had never been able to vomit in previous journeys. We had a conversation before the ceremony and he indicated that my previous failures at vomiting were due to something very deep within that I was afraid to let go of. I told myself that no matter what it took, I would get these demons out, once and for all. As the medicine began to take effect that night I watched as one person after another left the teepee with the sounds of loud dramatic vomiting to follow. I went outside with the attempt to emulate their actions, finally ridding myself of this entity. As I was knelt down in the dirt the medicine started to get stronger and stronger; one of the strongest brews I had had thus far. I would close my eyes and feel as though I was drifting away from my body, only to be jolted back to my present reality with the reminder of my mission to purge. The confusion between states began to terrify me. Soon I had no idea where I was or what I was doing. I looked around at these animalistic-looking beings purging violently, heaving, crying, and screaming. At that moment I was convinced that I was in hell. I didn’t know how I got there or how to get out but it was honestly one of the most terrifying moments in my life. Suddenly I began to get a ‘download’. To me, if felt like the voice was that of the spirit of aya. She told me to stop. To stop trying to purge, to stop trying to be like everyone else, to stop believing that something was wrong with me, and to stop trying to get rid of what was within. I looked around and thought, “What the fuck am I doing? Go lay down and shut up.” As soon as my head hit the pillow all hellish images just drifted away. I felt the aya spirit with me. I felt safe and protected. I was still; ready to release and ready to receive. The message that I got from aya during this ceremony was that I didn’t need to purge out my darkness; I needed to accept it. There is so much about ourselves that we try to get rid of, change and loathe. What if we accepted it all? What if we accepted all of us in all aspects of our lives? What if we stopped believing that there is evil all around us? There is no light or darkness. There is only fluctuation. Without labels we simply exist. Nothing is wrong, nothing is right. It simply is. I got this message loud and clear. I felt energy coursing through my body as if I was being re-wired, re-programmed. I was in a bliss state seeing light and love surrounding me.
This may have been the first time I fully felt like I could see my true self…and she was beautiful. My mind replayed the constant belittlement that I put myself through on a daily basis. I began to weep. I saw that voice as something completely separate and I was angry at it. “How could you be so mean to her?” I thought. “Look how beautiful and sweet she is. She doesn’t deserve any of that!” In that moment I was completely in love with myself and vowed to never again listen to that voice. I remember looking outside the teepee, seeing the Shaman trying to “exercise” these purging animals and feeling a great sense of confusion and sadness. “Why are they doing this?” I thought. “Why do they feel the need to suffer to find themselves?”
I walked away from that ceremony with a completely new understanding of suffering. I was resisting my true self and therefore I was suffering. I did not need to purge but I insisted on trying because I thought that was what I was suppose to do. Once I was fully checked in to my own needs I knew that I did not need to purge and I did not want to purge. Once I accepted everything about myself I was one; I was happy. I vowed never again to let others influence my needs or wants. I vowed never again to try to change what I perceived as flaws, but instead to love myself in every shape and every form.
You may ask yourself is ayahuasca for me? Maybe, maybe not. I believe that aya has a message for every single being out there but I also believe that she will call on you when you are ready. Never do it because your friend or partner wants to; do it because you know in the depth of your being that it is right for you. If you feel that it is your time and the grandmother spirit of ayahuasca is calling you then my advice to you is this: Remember that aya is your life on a much smaller scale. You can struggle through life, you can try to control every aspect of it, you can try to be like everyone else by ignoring your own needs, and you can buy into what you read or what others have told you. By doing this you can struggle, you can suffer and you can create your own hell; or you can completely let go. You can stop trying to control, you can trust that you are safe, you can listen to your higher self to determine your own needs, you can trust that everything will work out and you can completely let go of all fear. By doing this you will see light and love in your journey and in your life. Only then will you understand the beauty of happiness and the illusion of suffering that need not exist.