A few weeks ago, while on my South American backpacking adventure, we ventured into the Amazon to partake in several Ayahuasca ceremonies. This is something that I have been very interested in over the last few years after listening to many podcasts and reading up a lot about it. For those of you who don't know what Ayahuasca is, it is a traditional plant medicine that has been used by the indigenous Amazonian cultures for thousands of years. Known as the 'Vine of the Soul', it allows you too explore your subconsciousness, and for people suffering personal trauma, addiction, anxiety and depression, it allows them to confront it and work through it, unlike any modern pharmaceutical drug can. The following is a recount of my third and final ceremony, arguably the most powerful and incredible experience of my life.
To explain an ayahuasca experience is like asking a blind man to describe a sunset. He might be able to throw around a few adjectives but it won't come anywhere near to what it was actually like. It's something people need to experience for themselves. But here goes...
We entered the maloca around 6:30pm. A sense of grandeur and immensity washes over you as you enter. You feel like you are in the presence of something powerful. The maloca is a large circular hall with a giant thatched cone roof. 12 beds lay around the circumference of the room; at it's center is a clay pot with a fire billowing out of it and 8 candles placed around it in a circle.
Sarah, the lady shaman, extinguished the flame in the clay pot, and scented smoke began billowing out. We were invited to come up and cleanse ourselves in the smoke. Once back at our mattress, nicko, who would be running the ceremony, came around to each of us and gave us a teaspoon of pure ayahuasca to prepare the stomach (The ayahuasca vine doesn't contain the psychoactive DMT but rather the inhibitor that allows your body to react with the DMT that is in the leaves that are brewed with the vine.) Nicko then came around with a natural jungle tobacco cigarette and blew smoke on the top of our head, on our back and then our hands. Sarah then came around with rose water, gently smearing it on our face and hands, believing that it would attract good spirits.
Finally, nicko invited us each to come up and sit down in front of him. He took my wrists and felt my pulse to get a readying of where I was at. He said he could sense that tonight I was focused and ready. And I was. I felt that the last few ceremonies had been preparing me for this one. He poured half a cup of the ayahuasca brew and handed it to me. The taste and the muddy, sludgy consistency has become almost unbearable. Then it was back to my mattress and wait for what was to come. Elyas, the male shaman, blew out the remaining candles and darkness engulfed the room.
. . .
It took a little while for it to kick in, maybe 45min, and once it did i was getting the same visuals as the night before. Throughout the vast darkness of the maloca, spots of light like little stars were scattered everywhere. The spots of light began to connect in a web of tiny coloured squares. And then her face began to appear. This beautiful delicate female face, her eyes and mouth closed. The more I focused the clearer it became. Her face was seamlessly repeated around a cylindrical column that was connected at the top and bottom to this coloured web of bright spots and small interlinking squares, like a net that went on for eternity and was connected to everything. Looking through a book of Alex Grey's paintings at the main house the next day, I came across an image that was basically exactly what I saw. It's called 'The Net of Being'.
The only way to describe it is it's as though I could see the fabric of the cosmos. The fabric that held everything together. What is most interesting is that all of this is happening not with my eyes closed but before my eyes in the 'real' world; and wherever I looked the vision would remain the same.
Before the ceremony I was quite focused, but about an hour and a half into it I just couldn't remain concentrated. I wanted to go deeper but my mind kept wandering. Taking from the lessons I had learnt the nights before, I focused on the singing from the shamans which can act as a life raft to lead you through the experience. Their voices sounding like the most beautiful, angelic sound you have ever heard. I controlled my breathing and tried to relax. And for moments I could, but it never lasted long. It began to really frustrate me. So when nicko said the bar was open if we wanted to come up for another cup, I did.
As I walked over to him I got really disoriented and lost all sense of direction. I had no idea where I was. I felt very lost and alone and my mind began to imagine figures trying to grab me. It got quite scary for a moment. I quietly called out for nicko, realizing he was only a few feet away. He sat me down and gave me another cup and led me back to my mattress.
I relaxed and after about half an hour I felt I needed to purge before I could move on. As I was throwing up, visions of reptiles such as snakes and lizards began squirming around me. They worked their way up through me and into the bucket. Surprisingly, I wasn't frightened by it. It just felt like all that frustration and negativity was leaving my body.
After the purge, I managed to relax and get in the right frame of mind. I became focused and a sense of euphoria began to rush over me. The feel of the sheet on the mattess, the blanket over my body, my fingers running up and down my stomach and chest, it all felt incredible. It was the most intense feeling of ecstasy. I lost all inhibitions and felt like a child again. I truly believe this is what utopia feels like. Pure bliss. At this point the shamans had stopped singing and the sound of the jungle echoed throughout the maloca. Insects, frogs, birds and monkeys. I could feel the energy flowing all around me. As though I was being hugged by the jungle.
Then the most incredible and unexplainable thing happened. I went a step beyond to what I believe was true enlightenment. It sounds crazy and I can understand if people don't believe me but there's no other way to describe it. I felt a surge of energy rush through me. My mind became clear and for the first time I finally understood what enlightenment meant - To feel at one with everything..
The energy that was flowing around me and through me was almost too much to handle. My hands automatically began to create a continuous loop flowing from my chest to my stomach and back up again. As thought I was directing the energy through my body. And all around me was her. The fabric of the cosmos. I had never felt so content in my life. Time ceased to exist and the mere concept of time seemed strange. It was as though I was connected to the matrix and I could finally see how it all worked. That we are all energy and vibrations moving through space and time. It was as though I had found the Devine Realm.
The more I began to think about everything; life, time, reality; The more these concepts made no sense. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't distinguish between reality and this experience. I began to scare myself that I would never come out of it. That I would be stuck in this strange dimension forever. It was as though my mind was being pushed to the edge and everything I thought I knew about the world was being questioned. I calmed myself down, telling myself that I would come out if it and eventually I did.
Elyas, lit a candle and placed it in the center of the room. I laid there in the silence staring up at the ceiling, very content and questioning all that had happened. How would I explain this to people? Will they believe me? Do I even bother? Was it all real?
In my heart I feel that it was real. But to whether people would believe me or not, it doesn't really matter. I know what I know, and if it's not hurting anyone then there's no danger in it.
. . .
After speaking to everyone else, I noticed that my experience over the last few days was very different. Everyone seemed to have a very personal experience where they would confront some personal trauma, would be taken to a certain place in their mind or encounter lost loved ones and friends and family. I had nothing like that. It was as though she was trying to show me how it all worked. How the matrix worked.
What I take away from this experience, only time will tell. It was no doubt the most incredible, powerful and extraordinarily beautiful experience of my life. One that I will cherish forever. Maybe one day I will meet her again. Maybe then she can help me piece this all together. Until then, I think there is a lot more growing for me to do, trying to figure out my place in the universe.