Death and Rebirth by mother Ayahuasca
I do not recall the exact moment I first learned about the existence of Ayahuasca Ceremonies. Several notions led me to it and encouraged me to fight the fear in my path to medicine-assisted enlightenment. My first psychedelic journey took place in the summer of 2012 at a rustic hot springs resort in the historic Nevada town of Genoa. That day I realized that my whole life I, along with most other people, were only cognizant of the small tip of the mind iceberg, my conscious and public mind. I knew at that point that I would a seeker into the hidden parts of the iceberg, the sub-consciousness, through many other journeys in the future.
Six years and several LSD trips later, I had learned about DMT, a molecule that occurs in many plants and animals and has historically been used in many cultures for ritual purposes as an entheogen. The Spirit Molecule, as Dr. Strassman labeled it in his book, “allows consciousness to enter an out of-body, freestanding, independent realm of existence”. Soon after, I learned that the Ayahuasca medicine is made in such a way that it prolongs the effects of the 15-minute DMT trip to about 3 hours, allowing for longer discovery and processing time. I had always enjoyed the inward-looking parts of my LSD journeys yet have found them rare. Distractions from the incredible world around me along with conversations with other journeyers would often take over the inward growth time I was seeking. Since Ayahuasca Ceremonies are led by a Shaman and discourage communication with other participants as well as are done in the night time with little of the outside world to explore, I decided it would be exactly the journey I was looking for.
A good friend, mentor and experienced journeyer, let’s call him Wizard, recommended his admired Shaman to me. Weeks before the ceremony I committed to a Ceremony date after an orientation with the Shaman. For me, this is when the journey actually began. Accepting the vulnerability that came with uncertainty that lay ahead kicked off the growth process. During the last week before the ceremony, I began to follow the recommended diet, including refraining from Adderall, which I depended on during my strenuous working hours as well as some social situations. To my surprise, I was not only able to finish my work but also make time for the gym during these days.
My focus remained on the big day coming up and nothing else seemed to matter. Perhaps it was partially because I knew there was a small chance that I would not come out at the other end, either alive or the same person I was walking into this adventure, that kept my spine tingling. Small distractions dissipated from the hours, making them longer. I focused on the few remaining days of work while devoting most of my personal energy into mentally preparing myself. I met with the Wizard on the last evening at a bohemian cafe where we shared a nourishing vegetarian meal followed by some delicious cacao. The place resembled a typical Tibetan cafe in Dharamshala, a hillside city and home to the Dalai Lama. It was the perfect shanti send-off evening shared with the Wizard. I felt completely ready to give into whatever it was that the medicine wanted to teach me. I trusted myself and everything that has led me here.
It was Saturday, October 13th in the year 2018. I drove five hours, dressed in full white attire, traditional for Ceremonies of this kind. I also brought a white box filled with photographs of people, places and emotions I had encountered in my 20s. I separated these images into two piles, one of which I gave away to the Shaman at the beginning of the ceremony, surely knowing I would probably not be ready to reconcile the experiences in it. I held my mala in my hand as I approached the beautiful property, nested in a luscious forest, where the Ceremony would take place.
Upon entering, I was kindly welcomed by the Shaman along with the other participant. It was surprising for me to see only one other participant, which proved to be a blessing in disguise as the evening continued. The space was centered around an ancient altar, resembling a face of a Native American God, surrounded by feathers, candles and other mystical objects. The Shaman, a man who radiated the energy of a long-lost friend, suggested I put my photographs around the altar. His eyes alluded to an ancient soul beyond his years, inspiring reassurance. An innate intimate tranquility filled the space as the Ceremony began.
INTENTIONS (set minutes before Ceremony opening, unedited)
- Find a way to love again. The way that I used to love.
- Forgive the past. Accept & welcome the present.
- Find courage to be myself… to love myself… and trust myself
- Integrate purpose, travel & freedom into work. Ponder the meaning of wanting to be different.
The Shaman began with a tribute to all the ancestors that have come before us, admiring their journeys to enlightenment. He expressed gratitude for the chance we were now given to follow in their footprints. I began meditating and playing what felt like a long game of patience. Two hours into the ceremony, a length of time I did not know had passed at the time, my metabolism finally accepted the medicine. I closed my eyes and reopened them in the midst of my breath work, when it hit me with a million volts. I felt my lips slightly opening in awe. This new world I was in instantly took me over. There was no come up or signals minutes or even seconds ahead of this instance. The subtle lighting near the altar now expanded and created a bubble of light, making the space surrounding the altar appear larger than before. The round teacup candle above the altar now took a triangular prism shape, extending its edges across the entire room.
The biggest surprise to me was the physical sensation I felt instantly throughout my body. I felt both heavier and lighter at the same time. Heavier, because it was apparent that I was taking up a considerable amount of space as though I felt more belonging to the room, the altar and the other journeyers. It was almost as if I had walked into an intimate Shakespeare’s Theater in the midst of a performance and somebody guided me to a front row seat. I felt lighter because my body seemed to have shed all its mass, almost as if it was hollow as if that was a prerequisite to be in that front seat. The heaviness feeling made me feel stuck and unable to move. The hollowness sensation took over, slowly dissolving my mass with every breath. My first thought: “This was much more than what I’d read all these years about and built my expectations towards, in the first minute of the journey.”
The now rapidly fleeing mass from my body became overwhelming. The light surrounding the altar space expanded in a million directions, creating thousands of prisms with overlapping edges, making it difficult to focus on anything. My eyes felt as if I had been staring at the sun that’s been fractionized and dispersed around the entire room, with nowhere to hide. I closed my eyes, seeking shelter behind my eyelids. I reopened them. The overwhelming light now took on a more blood-orange color. I felt as if the devilish color was coming out of me, as if my presence has congested the space with its filthy energy.
My brain made a connection that perhaps the energy was escaping out of me, making me lighter and almost non-existent. Whatever still remained of me was about to implode and I was about to disappear. I was not ready to die but the forces of nature felt too strong to resist. Mother Ayahuasca was getting rid of me and there was nothing I could do about it. The most petrifying moment was here. Completely surrendering to the medicine, I reached for my bucket and purged the rest of what was left of me out into the open.
Suddenly a relief. The blood-red colors in the room dissipated and my body stopped attempting to implode. To my pleasant surprise, I was still alive. In that moment I felt cleansed by the medicine and rejuvenated as pure as a newborn baby. Being alive and well, although quite shaken up, suggested that the universe has accepted me. I immediately felt connected to the millions of ancestors who have journeyed before. I have been reluctant to try Ayahuasca for a couple of years due to my lack of trust in myself to be able to cope with my past that would hit like a million bricks. Now that I was on the other side of a mental black hole, I felt held by the universe as her child. This feeling propagated throughout my journey.
The Shaman was playing a pleasant melody. I looked over in his direction and made out something of a mental nod coming back my way, comforting me in my present moment. I was still having trouble keeping my eyes focused on any one thing as the immense amount of alluring prism shapes painted themselves in dazzling light before me. I took a deep breath and as I exhaled, it became apparent to me that the space before me was a playground. The swings and slides were not the ones I grew up with but I knew this was the time to play and seek answers.
I leaned over to the altar, examining the photos of my family, partner and favorite places in nature I had summoned beside the centerpiece. I had intentionally placed the photos there to assure that I am reminded to explore my feelings towards each of them during the ceremony. However, at this point in time, I realized that all these people and places were there to support me and join in on the experience with me. I no longer felt alone in my journey, both from an intimate, family perspective and from a grand ancestral and universal point of view. It was soothing and comforting to feel this support among the chaos of this new world I had just entered.
I focused in on the handsome headshot of my partner, smiling back at me, radiating joy with a touch of innocence and hesitation. I began to ask myself the questions: “How can I find a way to love again after everything I’ve seen in my 20s?” and “How does this person fit into my life?” To my surprise, I was unable to recite out what I would normally do in a decision making process: listing out pros and cons and juxtaposing the various outcomes. I was incapable of focusing on my partner’s positive or negative traits. Instead I felt as if I was pondering his being. The experiences I had while being really happy with him as well as while being disappointed with him surfaced. I could re-live those moments and feel his energy present next to me now, being able to relate more to his moments of joy and his moments of insecurity and pain.
At that moment, I realized that he was worthy of love. I felt his presence next to mine and felt his need for love and affection. I also felt the strength that the universe was providing me now. I felt there was a purpose in loving him because of the light I saw in his being. I felt committed to supporting and loving him the way that he needed to be loved. I instantly noticed signs of approval from the energy molecules of the world and from the wisdom of ancestors that have loved before me. I took another deep breath to celebrate the clarity before me.
The world that’s rushed upon me like a million volts of energy, what felt like both minutes and eternities earlier, has receded almost as swiftly. I took another dose of medicine, seeking to continue journeying. This time, the world I re-joined felt like coming back home to a neighborhood I once lived in rather than a bizarre new planet full of uncharted territory. I wanted to lean in and examine the photos of my parents. My father’s photo, against a bright yellow autumn tree, from a time we took a father-daughter trip in the mountains. My mother’s face, pinned against mine, both of us smiling and squinting from the sun, with our hair standing up from the San Francisco wind as we returned from our trip to Alcatraz. I didn’t realize at the time that both my parents’ photos were from separate weekends I planned with them just after they filed for divorce. I wanted to get to know them as adults, separately, outside of the context of their crumbling relationship. I remembered how anxious I felt during the weeks leading up to these plans with them.
I never really knew them as individual people. As a child, I knew them as parents who served as barriers to my freedom. In young adulthood, I knew them as a married couple who was pursuing a better life, while coping with cultural alienation as immigrants. Today I saw them as long-lost friends. I saw a glimpse of the future, where I knew their aspirations alongside their vulnerabilities. I didn’t quite know what these were but I sensed the feeling of knowing and the intimacy that knowledge would create. This was analogous to meeting someone on a date and for split second seeing a life with them, years in the future. I couldn’t see what the years in-between were like or the effort they required. I only knew where I was today, a few pages into the book, detailing our friendship. I knew this book had a revelation worth seeking. This was enough to inspire me to look past our cultural and generational differences and to focus my attention to learning their needs and aspirations rather than impose my own.
I wanted to create the space to examine what led them to where they are today, factoring in both their personality traits and Eastern European nurture along with their circumstances as young parents leaving their home country. In doing so, I noticed a wave of discomfort, followed by acceptance of the state of discovery as it stood at that moment. I now realized there were many other doors I have yet to open and many other discoveries to make in time. Today I learned the importance of the journey that lays ahead for my parents and I and that I would strive to see and accept them for who they are and to be there for them when they needed me in the way that best suits them. In doing so, I knew I would move in the right direction and one day I will revisit some of these other doors that I am not yet ready to open today.
Suddenly my eyes opened and the atmosphere of the space shifted. Sounds and vocals entered the room, yet I refuse to call what I experienced music or singing. At this point, I felt I was somewhat in control of my visual senses and looked over to the Shaman to see if I could piece together how these sounds were created. I noticed a small boom-box to his left. I quickly convinced myself that it was impossible for something that small, used to play music, to submerge me in what I was currently experiencing. The voice that began to slowly caress me seemed to be traveling around the room rather than come from a single direction. It appeared as if a woman with a voice of a child and yet the spirit of an ancient being gifted us her lullaby while we sat in the midst of her stage, immersed in the beauty of her gift. The vibe of the space around me transformed into something of another world. I could feel the notes of this music with my whole body whilst being showered by the wondrous voice of this angel-being.
I gave up the desire to understand and surrendered to the beauty that surmounted us all at that moment. A whirlwind of white and blue sparkling lights began to form to the right of the altar, right before my eyes. I closed them and opened them again in disbelief. The twister of lights, sounds and all of ancestral kindness presented itself in front of me. I felt submerged in the desires, hope, love and support of the universe, which now had a physical presence in the shape of this sparkling twister. I knew now that my purpose was to be one of the lights in the spiraling universe, which would guide and support the others around me. All of us, including my partner and family, belong to this universe and deserve love, care and the pursuit of enlightenment. I will hold on to that glimpse of purpose and let it inspire me in my life going forward.
The Shaman began to conclude our Ceremony. I felt grateful for the support both he, the space he built for us and the universe had provided me throughout this journey. I had seen the most terrifying and the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in the span of a several hours. I also knew this was only the beginning, the first door of many, to be explored in years to come. I am grateful for the eye and heart opening experience that this medicine has gifted me and look forward to integrating everything I learned in the default world.
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Written Minutes after Close of Ceremony (unedited)
“Words are missing depth… It will be difficult to explain. We are children of the universe. The universe will hold us all and teach us acceptance and love through the wisdom of tribes through time. Helping us find depth in that words have yet to be said… I saw the most beautiful thing in the world tonight. This will be the future that we all fight for… All of us need love and acceptance. It is our duty to protect our clan to move us all forward with no one left behind. There is so, so, so much to learn and I have just barely cracked the surface… Everything goes back to energy. There is an infinite current of energy in the universe. So much love. We use it to think on, ponder the possibilities not the answers to questions but hope and love, allowance and abundance. The shaman knew just the right everything. I understand now why they call it medicine. There’s nothing like this. Your whole body is lit and held by the universe.”