I went to Ecuador in Feb 2016 and wrote the following account of my experience 10 months later. I don't know why today, 4 years later, it occurs to me to post this. Maybe it will be helpful to someone.
Infinity can’t be described but it can be experienced. This is because language is a construct of duality. Infinity is a concept that is difficult to wrap your mind around, but once you experience it, either through meditation or other means, you then understand that it can’t be contained, that it just is and that we are part of it. In this experiencing, we become less identified with our ego and these physical bodies that we currently occupy.
There is a stigma around psychedelics because of cultural conditioning, but they have been used for thousands of years. Writings of the Veda in Hinduism, evidently the oldest religious text, refers to the fundamental nature of reality in connection with “soma” - a psychedelic plant. It also talks about Enlightenment - about uncovering the true nature of the self.
I have been a “seeker” for most of my life. I had such a desire to know the truth of reality that I believe it is one of the reasons I was shown so much by this plant medicine. I truly was willing to die if it meant I could know the truth, and so I completely surrendered. In hindsight I am aware that it is possible to resist this medicine and because the experience is so ungrounding, I’m sure some people resist it without really meaning to.
Ayahuasca is endogenous - we already have the chemical (DMT) in our brain. It is made into a drink by combining the vine of one South American plant with the bark of another plant that is found on the other side of the country. According to the locals, many years ago, the plants told the Shamans that this was how to make the drink. There are many other plant medicines used in South America that go back thousands of years. Ayahuasca just happens to be the one that came into my awareness and called to me.
I attended a retreat at Gaia Sagrada in Cuenca, Ecuador for 10 days in February of 2016. My companions and I prepared for the trip by following a recommended diet regimen, including very clean eating (basically a plant-based diet). When we arrived, we met with the other 25 participants from around the world who would be in our group. The facilitator, Jerry, told us that in a few short days we would all think of each other as family. I didn’t believe it at the time, but how right he was. Jerry told us what the 10 days would entail and what we could expect from the different ceremonies. Each of us introduced ourselves and told the group what had inspired us to come. Most of the people were younger than I and were there for personal development; some to deal with specific issues that were plaguing their lives.
The first ceremony was an Ayahuasca ceremony. We all met in the Maloka at 6PM. We were instructed not to have eaten anything past noon and we were only given a very light breakfast. Christine, (the owner of the retreat), Jerry (her assistant), and the Shaman (Salvador) and his wife (Paulina) began the ceremony by building a fire and setting up their altars and such. We had previously been instructed on the rules: walking around the fire in a clockwise manner if we needed to leave the Maloka to use the bathroom; staying in the Maloka as much as possible because it was being protected by the Shaman; walking very slowly; allowing everyone to have their own experience by not talking to each other too much; not walking in between the Shaman and another participant.
We began the ceremony by smoking some ceremonial tobacco. It was passed around the circle and if you wanted to you could say something like an intention or giving thanks to the plant. We then passed around some liquid tobacco that you spooned into your cupped hand and snorted through your nose. It was very harsh and really opened up your sinuses. It is believed to make one more open to the plant medicine.
Then the Shaman came around to each person with the Ayahuasca and a shot glass. The liquid is some of the worst tasting stuff I have ever put in my mouth, but I swallowed it and then sat and watched the fire and watched the others take their shot. Then the Shaman started singing. The Icaros (songs) are meant to guide the medicine within you and it is some of the most beautiful music I have ever experienced. He also played some various instruments like rattles and drums and this weird string instrument that I’d never seen before. His wife Paulina also sang and had the voice of an angel. Salvador's father, grandfather, and so on were all Shamans. Paulina was about 7 months pregnant with their second child. As Paulina drank the medicine along with everyone else, I respected that this is truly a way of life for their culture.
After about 45 minutes the Shaman came around again with another shot and you could either accept it or not. Of course, I accepted it. Within about 30 more minutes I started to feel my stomach churning and felt quite nauseous. I felt that I could throw up but fought that feeling for a while until I just had this realization that in order to completely surrender to the medicine, I needed to throw up. I allowed it to come and grabbed my bucket. The interesting thing is that although it felt like I was purging (it was very forceful and loud and overtook my whole body), no fluid came out of my mouth. What did come out was a very cold air that I could feel bouncing from the bucket back to my face. It appeared black to me. It literally felt as though dark, cold energy was leaving my body. Once I finished purging about 4 times the nauseous feeling left me and I lay back on my pallet and closed my eyes. I immediately experienced what I now know is how each of my ayahuasca experiences begin. I feel my identity disappearing and melting into this experience that is very difficult to describe. It is like my body and my senses, and everything I know in this universe is melting into a sea of colors. The colors are flowing and combining and changing and it is incredibly beautiful. There is nothing to hold onto and it is very ungrounding and a little scary, like going on a ride that you are unsure you will ever come back from.
I remember staying in the fetal position on my pallet for what seemed like hours (one loses all sense of time and space). I was completely covered up by a thick blanket, head and all, and should have seen nothing but pitch black. However, what I was seeing was the brightest light I have ever experienced. It is actually a brightness that I didn’t know existed. I experienced an entity who had a female form but who took many forms for me over the whole experience. At first, when I was fearful, she took the form of the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She had dark skin and black hair and she said to me “follow me - I want to show you”. She motioned to me with her arms to follow her and I had a sense that I could completely trust her and that she knew everything there was to possibly know in the entire universe (like God or Source or The Ultimate). Evidently, many people that drink Ayahuasca experience this entity and she is referred to as Mother Ayahuasca.
As I followed her I started experiencing all kinds of visual hallucinations - lots of beautiful geometric shapes and colors and even some blue, carved statues that looked like they were from Indonesia. The entity communicated with me at first using words and then I realized that we could communicate without using words. She told me that it was easy to get caught up in all the pretty colors and shapes and that many people spend a lot of time here and that is ok but she wanted me to go past this distraction and it felt like I moved through it but under it in a way. After that I felt like I was moving down a river of gold as I went to different aspects of my life. I felt like I was learning so much and I remember worrying that there was no way I could possibly remember all that I was being taught and that distressed me. The lessons that were important, though, she spent a lot of time on and some of them were addressed again and again. It was like she was saying to me, “these things are important - don’t forget these.”
One of the lessons we spent the most time on was a feeling I have had throughout my life that there is never “enough” (enough time; enough money, enough love…). I have always had this feeling come up for me in various ways. She showed me how ludicrous that is and that I don’t ever have to worry about that. There is and always has been more than enough. These lessons were so moving for me and the feeling of gratitude was so immense that I sobbed continuously the whole time. I was later told by Stewart that I sobbed so hard and uncontrollably that he was quite worried because he knew he wasn’t supposed to disturb me but he felt helpless b/c he thought I was in such agony. He said that Christine came over and sang to me and sat with me but I was unaware of this at the time. I was so deep into my experience that I was completely unaware of my body or that I was even in this world. However, somehow I still felt that I was me, this student learning from a teacher, but we were not in this realm and I was not in my body.
I also experienced being in my mother’s womb and it literally felt and looked like I was in her womb. I experienced the love she felt for me from both my perspective as a baby and from her perspective. It was very moving for me because I have never felt the close bond with my mother that is the typical parent-child connection.
Throughout the whole experience I felt like the medicine was moving through my body in such a way that it felt as though it was healing certain things and that it wasn’t important for me to know specifically what they were. It was like I was witnessing it and just waiting.
Throughout the experience I held onto this little square napkin and I felt like I had cried a river of tears. Fluid was actually coming out of more than just my eyes. I can’t explain it but it felt as though fluid was pouring out of my face and body in ways that were not just tears but I can’t imagine what it was - it wasn’t really important at the time. I do remember using this little napkin to wipe my nose and face over and over and eventually had the realization that I had been using this little napkin for hours and it was still sopping up my tears. It was like a symbol for the lesson I had been learning about there always being not only enough, but way more than enough. After what seemed like hours, just when I felt like I couldn’t take in any more, she gave me a little break. I came up for air, so to speak, and uncovered my head and sat up. As I did, Jerry came around with a roll of tissue and gave me this huge wad of tissue that made me start sobbing again because it also symbolized how I am given so much more than is needed in my life. It has now been 10 months since this experience and thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes and I feel so grateful all over again to have had this blessed experience.
I watched the fire for a while and Christine started playing this golden colored drum. I then proceeded to learn from the fire all these things about humanity. It appeared that she was controlling the fire with her drum. The fire would get huge and then shrink down and move according to how she played the drum. I remember being completely awe struck by this. I had all these realizations about how powerful we are and how we have forgotten this over the centuries. We have suppressed our power and diminished it to the point that we don’t even know it is there. I started traveling to what appeared to be past lives and at one point I was in a cave with Sara and we were drawing pictures of animals with clay on the walls and we were so pleased with what we had drawn and were laughing.
Then I went to what seemed like a time in between then and present day, when I lived in a tiny shack with a loft. Nora, one of the other facilitators, started singing as she played this rattle and it was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I was completely blown away and the tears of gratitude just started flowing once again. This too still brings tears to my eyes even now. A side note about Nora - she was there as an apprentice of sorts and I had talked to her a bit before the ceremony. I asked her how she was learning the songs (Icaros) and she said, "the medicine teaches me". At the time she said that, (before I had experienced the medicine) it sounded a little crazy to me. But as I saw her in the ceremony, she appeared to be in a trance almost and I can't even begin to describe the power and magic of how she sang and worked the rattle. It was then that I understood what she had meant.
The Shaman came around asking if anyone wanted another shot of medicine and I remember laughing out loud because the medicine was so powerful and strong for me that I couldn’t imagine needing more of it. I saw Salvador (the Shaman) in a different way while I was on the medicine. I saw him as just a simple human being who had been given this great responsibility of guiding people using this medicine. He was on one hand just a man with all of the foibles and troubles of any of us, but on the other hand he was a powerful being who could hold space and protect us in this amazing and spiritual way. At one point I looked out at all the others lying on their pallets in a circle around the fire and it appeared like the Maloka was this little pod and we were all these babies in cocoons just learning. I saw that our knowledge base was that of a newborn infant. We really know nothing but we are eager to learn and open to being taught as much as possible by this medicine. I also felt that we were so protected inside the Maloka. I didn’t have any desire to get up and leave the protection and remember thinking people that were going out were so brave. Like new little cubs that venture out of the cave.
At one point someone got up to go out to the restroom and moved very quickly trying to leave but then just purged right by the fire. I was in this daze but remember feeling like there was this big commotion and as I wondered what was happening I saw the Shaman lift his drum and start playing it and suddenly the energy that was so disturbed just calmed down instantly and I saw the power that he has and I was so proud of him and in total awe. He was holding us in this wonderful way and I felt his strength and power in this realm we were all in. I then understood why one of the rules is to move very slowly in the Maloka. You are very sensitive to disturbed energy on the medicine.
At one point I remember going through a difficult experience where the medicine felt so strong and I didn’t think I could take it anymore. It can be quite overwhelming at times. Paulina came to me and started chanting and taking deep breaths which reminded me to take some deep breaths and then I was fine. I felt so grateful to her and realized the deep power of presence. She hadn’t spoken or touched me but her singing and deep breathing touched my soul and so she didn’t need to do anything else. It was almost like I was seeing her from behind a veil.
I went through many cycles of being with Mother Ayahuasca and then she’d give me a small break and then pull me back into her realm. Each time I would go back under the blanket, wanting nothing but to be in the light of her incredible presence. The experience of being with her was like being in a different reality, a different realm than what I am used to. I remember realizing that I could literally ask her anything I wanted and she would be able to tell me the answer. I asked her how I could be a better mother to my children and she showed me patience. She actually went into the lesson of patience in a very harsh and significant way in a subsequent ceremony, but during this ceremony she showed me how I get frustrated with Sara about her hair and about the way she obsesses on her appearance. In the vision I was trying to get one of Sara’s huge knots out of her hair. Mother Aya showed me that I needed to be more understanding and gentle with her regarding this.
She showed me how in this life we get so caught up in distractions like going to the mall and looking for stuff to buy that we don’t really need. There was no judgment regarding these things. She even said to me that it is okay to do those things but that it is not meaningful and I felt it in a way that has stayed with me ever since. I have no desire to go shopping for things I don’t need anymore. I actually have a bit of a revulsion about going to the mall. I much prefer to stay home and read or go to the park and watch the birds. I saw that our whole purpose on this planet is to just learn and grow. It is as simple as that. There is no profound purpose that is difficult to understand - it is very simple - just learn and grow. For no reason other than just to do it.
I also saw the abundance of gifts I have been given in this life. How the universe just presents these gifts to me for no reason. I am no more deserving than anyone else. I saw the parks, the trees, the lakes, the beauty of the world, the people in my life, so many things. All gifts. Just held out for me as if on a silver platter. I felt such immense gratitude for this I cried and cried tears of joy and appreciation.
At the end of the ceremony (the whole ceremony lasted about 12 hours) the Shaman said a blessing on a pitcher of water and went around the circle and gave everyone a drink. We then ate some delicious fruit and other natural food. We all had a new perspective on how blessed we are just to have access to fresh water and food. So many people in this world don’t, and we often take it for granted. The experience taught me that this body I inhabit is a special blessing and without it I could not experience the beauty of the night sky; the beauty of this planet. I need to take good care of it and be kind to it. It gives me the ability to experience things that I am indeed lucky to have the opportunity to experience. It made me want to be a better person to both myself and to others.
I called my mother the next day to tell her that I love her and how much she means to me. I described my experience (which to her sounded “like a spiritual experience” - probably because it was!), and then she said, “it sounds like maybe you’ll come back to the church” (I was raised in the mormon church). It made me smile because although she doesn't get where I'm coming from, I know she just wants what she thinks is best for me. The church clouds what people may see if they would just come out from under the blanket of the dogma. It is okay though. Mother Ayahuasca taught me that, too. Meet my family where they are. They are exactly where they are meant to be and there is nothing I can do or should do about that. Trying to persuade them to let go of their beliefs is a futile endeavor that historically has only left us feeling frustrated and upset. It is a little easier now for me to just let them be. I still have the old patterns of feelings arise but it is a little easier now to just let them pass through and keep my mouth shut. All I can do is just talk about my experience and they can take what resonates and leave what doesn’t. Fortunately for me, I have a kind and loving family, and although we have different beliefs, we all love each other very much.
Ayahuasca is a teacher that brings each person what they personally need to grow and learn. The experience had such deep meaning for me. Our group in Ecuador consisted mostly of people in their 20’s and 30’s. I was so impressed that they had the courage and opportunity to do this at such a young age and it gives me hope for the future of humanity. If everyone could experience plant medicines in a ceremonial setting with the intention for personal growth, this world would be such a different place.
This is similar to what I experience falling into as everything merges into a sea of colors.
I write about human behavior, meditation, body awareness, and a variety of other things that pique my interest.