It is nightfall now, the group has just descended from the mountain where we sat, talked, joked and meditated. We sit in silence, huddled in a circle surrounding the fire, anxiously awaiting the instructions of Maestro Adonias our Shaman.
Without warning the Shaman speaks, he tells us to not be afraid, to trust in the medicine, trust in him and you will be fine, that we may confront our fears, our deepest problems, even death but we are safe. We are all starving, weary, but ready. We introduce ourselves formally to the group along with our intentions for the night. We eagerly follow the Shaman over to a table supporting a bottle of a thick dark brown liquid.
It is time. The Shaman chants over the bottle and summons the first person, the man looks deep into the cup and drinks before returning to the crowd. It is my turn next, I anxiously make my way towards the Shaman, he smiles as he hands me the cup. I stare into the thick brown liquid. I chant in my head “the courage to know yourself” over and over as I gaze into the impossibly dark brown drink. I raise the cup up and a thick foul tasting liquid slides down my throat.
I immediately recognise the taste as the coarse liquid makes its way down into my stomach and almost instantaneously the familiar feeling of nausea begins to creep over me. I take my leave from the group and sit cross legged wrapped in a blanket awaiting the affects to come on.
The group is silent save for the Shaman who chants his ikeras as he moves throughout the group deeply focused on his ritual.
After 20 minutes doubt appears in my mind, after 30-40 minutes my vision is slightly blurry and things begin to distort somewhat but I am convinced I have not had enough. I am comparing this to my last ceremony over one year ago and it feels different, my doubt is growing. I ask the Shaman for some more but he tells me I need to wait.
As I make my way over to the fire the comparison between ceremonies fuels my doubt and it turns to paranoia and as I reach the fire it turns to anger. I can feel these negative thoughts growing in me. Selfish, spiteful, hateful thoughts deep inside of me are rising to the surface. I turn my attention to the Shaman. My mind starts racing.
“He didn’t give me enough, it is not strong enough I should have never of trusted this Shaman he is stealing my money.”
One member of my group starts screaming and convulsing on the ground piercing the silence, another begins to sob.
“Why can’t they shut up, they’re distracting me, they’re ruining my ceremony how dare they it is their fault, it is never going to work for me tonight.”
My mind turns towards this blog post and a friend’s podcast – who wanted to get me to explain my experience. I am overcome with fear.
“What am I going to say – it didn’t work – I am a failure, what will people think, people are excited you let everyone down. Why did you put this pressure on yourself? Why were you so stupid?”
I turn to the side and vomit up the disgusting liquid, along with whatever minuscule amount of food remains in my stomach. I feel terrible but at the same time there is a sense of relief as if some of the hatred has left my body.
At this moment the Shaman appears, he offers me another cup. I accept, still full of doubt I drink and sit back down beside the fire waiting patiently again. Some time passes and the distortions seem to be getting a little stronger but nothing stands out. I am still conscious for the most part and it seems that I have not been able to converse or experience any intense visions.
I fall back defeated, it must have been three hours or more since I have taken my first cup. I accept that perhaps ayahuasca has nothing to teach me tonight. I fall back to try and go to sleep. Some more time passes and I am flung upwards by an intense urge to vomit. I empty the entire contents of my stomach. There is nothing left.
Once again I feel a sort of calm come over me. I feel as if the remainder of the evil has exited my body. As I go to lay down again my face starts to twitch and snarl, this continues down my body it’s as if a powerful animal is trying to come out from inside of me.
I know this feeling I have felt it one year before, the golden cat. I am trying to turn back into the golden cat, my representation of courage from my ceremony last year, he is fighting but he feels weak.
I close my eyes and I can see him pacing back and forward inside of me. I pan out further and I can see a cage. He is stuck behind a cage unable to be free. I am trying to think how to free him, how to let him, to let me be free. I am lost, I throw my blanket over myself like a cocoon. My body starts to shake violently as he thrashes against the cage.
My eyes are closed but suddenly tiny snakes start falling from down my eyelids, they are slithering over every part of my body. It feels as if each one is giving me energy as it passes over me. My body begins to calm. The cat is still trapped but I look inward inside my mind to try and help him.
I am swimming through my thoughts and suddenly an ape-like face appears like an ancient ancestor, wearing an impossibly beautiful crown. It is smiling and laughing and I can feel its warmth. It opens its mouth.
“You are already what you are… You are already you… You are you”
My mind starts swirling in a chaos of thoughts, random thoughts, irrelevant thoughts, lost memories, future memories, sad, happy, angry. There are so many I can’t catch any of them. The chaos is getting stronger. I am drowning, gasping for air. I feel as though I might pass out as my mind goes in circles.
Then whoosh! I am soaring over the mountain, over the ceremony I can see us, I can see my thoughts, my negative thoughts, my positive thoughts, my beliefs, and the cage empty with no roof. I am free from the prison my thoughts were holding me in. I can finally breathe….the air fills my lungs. I am calmed.
I think to myself, “thoughts are not my reality”
A smile creeps over my face which turns into laughter as I lay back breathing deeply and laughing at the universe clear in the night sky as shooting stars pass by.
I understand that the answers we all need come from inside of us, this is true. But when we breathe in we must also remember to breathe out. We can’t allow what we find on the inside to become stagnant, stale, and instead of giving us new life, suffocate us. We need to breathe out. Because once we breathe out we leave ourselves open again to receive life.
As I breathed out those negative thoughts were illuminated in my eyes. I was not angry at the Shaman in fact I felt an incredible respect and love for the man. Nor was I angry at those who I thought were distracting me, they were on their own journey and I should not be angry at them for wanting to heal and become better people.
Finally what I realised is, I have not completely found myself yet and right now in my life that is what is important to me to understand truly who I am. My journey is not about travel anymore it is about discovery. I have decided to keep up the diet as well to keep this clarity I am feeling, right now I can not stop smiling I am happy, alive and thankful for everyone in my life and every experience I have had.
I made it through the other side of the rabbit hole stronger, happier and more purposeful than ever, thank-you for sharing this journey with me!
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
Henry David Thoreau
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