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Ayahuasca Scared the Hell Out of Me….Before it Saved My Life

“You know, You’ve got to go through hell before you get to heaven.”      -Steve Miller

After Millennia in the jungle, Ayahuasca – a traditional South American plant medicine and spiritual right of passage – has burst into Western Consciousness, over the last decade.  The psychoactive beverage, and the Vine itself share the name; Ayahuasca. 

I had vast experience with psychedelics before I first tasted La Medicina, as it is called by many.  I thought this would have prepared me, but I was woefully unprepared for this depth of experience.  This is the story of my first step into a larger, more vibrant world, full of possibility, but first, it scared the hell out of me!

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Ayahuasca Found Me

I first read about Ayahuasca in the late 1990’s, and it sounded amazing. Visions, spiritual transformations, healing past trauma; Sure, sign me up.  I learned that it was a combination of  two South American plants, the ayahuasca vine and Chacruna leaves, brewed into a tea.  This was in my early days of consciousness exploration. 
Unfortunately, E-commerce wasn’t really a thing at that time, and getting my hands on it proved difficult.  So, I stuck with the mainstream options, LSD and Mushrooms, and had many amazing insights and experiences. 
I eventually started a career and family, and, for a while, it seemed my psychedelic days were behind me.  However, Mother Aya still lingered in my mind, the flames of curiosity occasionally fanned by a late night visit to Erowid, or DMTNEXUS.  Until, one day,  I saw a piece of “wood” in a local headshop.
I asked the girl working there, “What is that?”.

“I don’t know.  It came in the other day, but I’ve never seen it.”, she said.

As she pulled it off the shelf, I read the tag,  “Ayahuasca Vine, 260g,  $19.99”. 

They also had some 16g bags of Mimosa Hostilis inner root bark, a substitution for chacruna, the DMT containing portion of the Ayahuasca drink.

“Yeah, I’ll take the ayahuasca, and 3 of the mimosa hostilis bags.”, I said.

I had ayahuasca! 

Maybe it was the fact that, I had been in this headshop a few day before and they didn’t have ayahuasca, or maybe because I’d never seen it sold anywhere, but it felt as though the universe had aligned just perfectly to put me in that spot, at that time!

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Ayahuasca Journey Preparation

I spent the next 2 months reading scientific articles, experience reports, over-the-top new age BS, and recipes.  Processing the information into knowledge, and trying to take the entire affair as serious as a doctor prepping for surgery.  I wanted to know, from start to finish, what to expect/watch out for.

Preparation for Ayahuasca begins with the Dieta.  The Dieta is a set of dietary restrictions, both for safety and purification purposes. The ayahuasca vine portion of the brew contains a MAOI, or Monoamine Oxidase inhibitor. MAO is an enzyme that helps process tyramine, an amino acid.  It is VITAL to avoid foods high in tyramine such as, pork, red meat, and aged cheesesjust to name a few. Some prescription medicines can have adverse reactions when used with a MAOi.  It is also traditional dieta to avoid spicy or salty foods, alcohol, and any sexual activity.  Yes, that means no touching yourself too.

For a more detailed list on what to avoid, click here for the Mayo Clinics list!

In all Shamanic traditions, music or sound play a vital role in shaping, inducing, or guiding your experience.   For Ayahuasceros, icaros are the tool of choice.

Essentially, Icaros are magical songs either taught by an elder, or directly from a plant’s “spirit”.  These are unique songs performed during a ceremony to guide or heal you. 

I personally, had never heard an icaro, but with a quick search I was able to download a collection to my iPod.  This is definitely not the kind of music you’re going to be jamming to behind the wheel.  My honest opinion at this point was, “I don’t understand the language, and there is no Shaman performing for me, so this probably won’t be helpful to me.” .  Hmmph.

All of this knowledge was needed, yet, no amount of information can prepare you for Ayahuasca.  I set aside a Friday night at home for my voyage, not knowing if I’d need the weekend to recover

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The Ritual

I decided to make my own ritual based on traditional amazonian ceremonies, other psychonuat’s ideas that resonated with me, and my own personal belief structure.

Now, brewing the medicine is a process that takes several hours.  It took me 9 hours total, before I had a finished product.

Because I had Mimosa Hostilis, instead of the more traditional Chacruna leaves, I didn’t brew them together. Three cycles of three hour boils for the ayahuasca vine and mimosa hostilis, keeping the water level even with the plant material, and filtering/saving the liquid each time.  At the end, you reduce this liquid to a drinkable amount.

During this time, I carried my intentions for this journey in the front of my mind.  Infusing the brew with my desire for answers, wisdom, healing. 

I also, used smudging sticks for the first time.  I had never even heard of smudging before my research into ayahuasca ceremonies. 

Smudging is  “energetically cleansing”  a space of negative energy, and inviting positive energy to fill any void, by the burning of plant material. 

I smudged the perimeter of my house, my cooking tools, the plants themselves, and gave a prayer to the four cardinal directions.  I imagined a beautiful, shimmering bubble shield over my house and yard keeping all negative energy away.

I started with 70g of ayahuasca vine and 11.61g of Mimosa Hostilis.  After cooking it all day, I was then standing over 2 shot glasses worth of Ayahuasca brew, and 1/2 a shot glass of the Mimosa Hostilis brew. 

I had read the taste of Ayahuasca described as, the “taste of death”.  I’ll say the taste is, umm, interesting.  It’s very bitter, and literally feels like it slithers down your throat.

I drank one shot of the aya brew, focusing on my breathing to keep it down, and waited.  Fifteen minutes later, I figured the MAOi effect of the ayahuasca was working, so I took the 1/2 shot of Mimosa brew. 

The taste of Mimosa Hostilis root bark brew is 10x worse than the ayahuasca vine itself.  I still don’t know how I kept it down. It almost bounced right back out. 

Imagine the combination of burnt garlic, a fine sand, and kangaroo piss.  

After the initial nausea had passed, I took the second shot of Ayahuasca, and managed to keep it down as well.

I decided the backyard was a good place to wait for my rocketship.  It was colder than I expected, so I bundled up. 

It had now been almost 40 minutes since I drank my initial dose, and I started to feel it.  I felt the familiar wave of tryptamine tingles, like nerve endings being test fired at higher than normal ‘voltage’. 

I first noticed a blanket of ‘cotton ball’ clouds, back-lit by distant soccer field lights, moving over my head fast. It looked beautiful, almost waving, or pulsing as the wind pushed them faster.  “Here we go.”, I thought to myself with a smile.

Jah's Pharma - Ayahuasca scared the hell out of me, before it saved my life
Shit Gets Real

Pareidolia is the tendency of your mind to interpret a vague stimulus as something familiar to you, such as seeing shapes or faces in clouds.  

The “Oh look, honey, it’s a giraffe.” kind of thing. Imagination.

Pareidolia is cute. 

Pareidolia is fun. 

Pareidolia ain’t got shit on Ayahuasca!

So, my beautiful blanket of clouds had blown passed me now, and what replaced them still feels like an odd choice.

Among the spread out clouds, in perfect detail, and about 100ft tall……..Wario.  Yes, evil nemesis  to our beloved plumber-hero, Mario.  He had a cartoonish feel to him, so it was comical.  Nevertheless, he was real and floating right over my house. 

I thought, “Wow, that’s one of the most realistic visuals I’ve ever seen.”.

Now I can feel it coming on strong!  I’ve done some really high doses of LSD and Mushrooms, but this was a different beast.  I was amazed by the force of Aya.

Imagine a giant pipe full of rushing water. Now, drop a napkin in that pipe. In an instant, it is carried far away with no way of turning back.  Yeah, I’m talking about that kind of power.

The wind picked up, and a cold mist started to fall.  It was then that ‘Mama Ayahuasca’ showed herself. 

As large as Wario, but as real you or I; nothing cartoonish. A kind, attractive, middle aged woman turning her head down to look at me. 

It was SO real, I immediately knew this was on a different level from my previous experiences with psychedelics.

I felt the psychedelic abyss open wider, pulling me in deeper than I had ever gone.  This actually, scared the hell out of me. I thought,” How can this get any stronger!”. 

In perfect synchronistic fashion, the wind howled, and slammed my backdoor open hard.  I regressed to a child, scared of the dark, and ran inside.  I left my blanket, glass of water, some cannabis, and a few other items.  My thought at the moment was, “Fuck ’em, the boogieman chasing me can have it all!”.

I used my remaining senses to lock the backdoor, and stumbled to the kitchen sink. 

Along side this ever growing level of fear, the nausea had returned in full force.  I stood over the kitchen sink breathing, struggling to hang on to reality, and terrified beyond anything I had felt before. 

Thoughts of, “I took too much!”, and “I’m dying, what an idiot!”, filled my head.  I realize now, this was my ego, scratching and kicking to maintain control.  Fear was my total being, but then “she” spoke. Mama Aya said, “You’ve already taken it.  Now, relax and go with it.”.

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Let The Healing Begin

With a heave, I puked in the sink.  Just a little, mostly brownish liquid from the ayahuasca. And again.  And again. 

As I stood there hunched over the sink, images, thoughts, ideas, old fears, and beliefs flashed through my mind like a movie in fast forward.  So fast I only caught glimpses, but I could also ‘feel’ them as they bubbled up. 

With each heave, there was relief and tears.  I was purging attachment to beliefs that weren’t true, the past, and pokes and prods from my youth.  Not love, not family, but emotional walls, pain, and this identity I call, Me.  It honestly felt glorious.  

After I was done emptying my stomach(thank god I fasted before hand), the nausea lingered for a while, and I was surprised, but not scared to find I was still coming up.

Mentally and Spiritually, I was flying across a “great void”.  Like flying at high speed, above a silent ocean, on a moonless night to some unknown destination. 

Physically, though, I was VERY slowly working my way to the floor.  First, the counter, where I followed it like a toddler learning to walk, into the living room.  Then down, to hands and knees on the floor. Finally, face down on the living room rug.

An occassional thought of this “real world” was able to creep in still, at this point;  “I hope my wife doesn’t see me like this.  I probably look dead.”.   

My physical surroundings had become TOO much.  The lamp, the ceiling fan, and especially the Christmas Tree were hurting my head, and holding me back. I summoned the strength, and crawled like a drunken monkey towards an empty guestroom.

I had set this spot up with a blanket, pillow, water, and my iPod beforehand; not my first rodeo.  I pushed the door closed, and then it was utterly dark.  The outer space had been quieted, so that the inner space would be more accessible.

The Place Beyond

I covered myself with the blanket, as the tryptamine cold chills made it impossible to feel warm, and pressed play on the icaros playlist. 

The first sound I hear is the Jungle at night.  A powerful symphony of insects and frogs hit all the notes, high to low.  Then a female shaman, a curandera, starting shaking her Chacapa. 

A chacapa is a bundle small palm-like leaves, tied at the stems.  The shaman can move these in a variety of ways, to create a wide array of sounds.  She shook the chacapa in a quick rhythm, getting louder and louder, until it eventually matched the Jungle’s song.

She opened her mouth, and it sounded like an alien language, spoken in a faster than normal cadence.  I had NO idea what was being said, but I found it calming and it gave me something to focus on. 

Almost instantly, the discomfort and nausea passed.  I left all grasp on the physical world behind and followed her song into…..another place.  One beyond the “great void”.  It felt every bit as real as this world, but very different; ethereal.

I first ‘came’ to a glowing jellyfish type creature.  The body glowed a brilliant golden light, and the tentacles were like fiber optic wires.  They were almost translucent, but had that same golden glow at the tips. 

I followed the tentacles to see where they were going. They were going….to the physical world.  Each tentacle fed life to different people, animals, and plants!

I was now “spirit walking” in the physical world, and able to SEE the spirits animating all life.

They were what I would imagine pixies or fairies to look like; Tiny, fast, and overjoyed with the fact that they were alive.  I called them Sprites, and I think that is a perfect description.

I walked past some flowers, and there were tiny, high pitched cheers of joy.

“You’re doing it!!”, cried several of these tiny voices.

I thought to myself, doing what?!, and, in response to my thought, one of the flower spirits started explaining in a very enthusiastic, almost ADHD kind of manner.

“The Jellyfish is ALL  of us; All consciousness, All life.  We all get sent here(the physical), at different times, for different purposes.  It’s so exciting you get to be a Human this time.  So much more you can create.”, said my new little friend.

“Create?”, I asked.

“Oh, we all do what the universe does….create.  That’s your greatest purpose.  I get to create these.”, he said, indicating to the patch of flowers he occupied. 

They were rather normal, mundane flowers, but seeing how much pride he took in them, I now had a different perspective; they were beautiful.   

“….But YOU,  you get to create anything!!”, he continued.  “We all CAN’T wait for our turn to be human!”

“Ok, so we’re all, ultimately, one being that breaks into smaller parts to bring the physical world to life, and our purpose is to create?”, I asked.

“Mmmhmm”, said the Sprite.

“So, why were you cheering, “You’re doing it?” , when I got here?”, I asked my new teacher.

He giggled as if I were being silly, “You’re being a Human, and you’re doing great…keep it up!”

The Past, Present, and a Mother's Love

I traveled in and out of visions for some amount of time, until I found myself in a room with a baby crib.  I heard crying, and could ‘feel’ the baby’s desperation, loneliness, and fear. 

Looking into the crib to see who was making all this noise, I saw a beautiful baby, less than a year old.  When I turned my awareness to the baby, there was a complete shift in perspective. 

I WAS the baby!!  I was looking out through the bars of the crib, crying out for mama, scared and confused.

My mother came into the room, as sweet and caring as always, and lifted me out of the crib.  She held me in her arms, bouncing and singing to me.  It felt warm, loving, and safe. 

In this same moment, there was an emotional release.  It was like I had been holding on to some secret pain…a hidden grudge against my mother for letting me cry as a baby. 

Now, with my adult consciousness, this pain that had been hiding deep in the past seemed obviously silly.  My mother was always there, always caring, always loving, and she always had been. 

The baby simply had a much more simplistic outlook; I want/need it NOW!  Strange that I could, unknowingly, hold on to this pain for +30 years, and be unaware. 

I wondered how this hidden thorn had affected our relationship.  I knew when I came down, I’d need to give her a hug. 

I also knew, this would change my perspective with my own children(at the time I had a 2 month old boy, my first).

The baby grew, in a moment, into the man, and my mother’s loving arms became those of…Mother Aya? The universe? God?  Who, or whatever it was; it felt right. 

Like I was floating in a perfect space, where all the love of the universe flowed through and refreshed every cell in my being.

The Point I Can Not Pass

Aside from the TOTALLY realistic visions, the most surprising thing for me was, the clarity of mind. 

Sure, there were times I would be “floating” through the cosmos with no concept of self, but, when I was present, my thoughts felt crystal clear.  It was in one of these moments of clarity that I thought, “Let’s see how far we can go!”.

Soaring through a bright emptiness, there was nothing but the light and this wandering, inquisitive Sprite.  After an eternity of warm, bright light, I saw something in the distance.  As I got closer, the first thing I noticed, was a dull silver colored metal pitcher pouring water. 

I watched the pitcher tilt, and start to pour it’s crystal clear, sparkling water into…..the same pitcher?!  Which in turn, was pouring into….the same pitcher?! WTF!  It was some kind of fractal mental loop.

I “re-focused”, and , to my surprise, saw Ganesha pouring the water.  I really had only a vague awareness of Ganesha before this whole experience, and I find it strange that he would play such a large role in my journey. 

If you don’t know, Ganesha is one of the best-know and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon of Gods. He is easily recognized by his Elephant head, and is considered to be the ‘remover of obstacles’,  I found this title to be ironic given that he was my ‘obstacle’.

I kept flying towards him, and every time I got close, my view would “re-center” on the flowing water.  I would then follow the flowing water into the pitcher, which then poured out of the pitcher, and into the pitcher again. 

I continued to try and get passed this mental wall, but I was stuck in this loop.  With this realization, came a kind voice in my head, “This is as far as you go this time.”.

The Journey Back Home

The last few hours I was a feather falling back to the ground.  My thoughts would sway this way and that, but I knew I was coming to the end of the ride. 

I think there may have been 2 hours before I heard my wife making breakfast in the kitchen. 

Awe-struck and amazed by this experience, 2 hours was more than enough rest for this Sprite.

One of my first thoughts was, “Wow, ____ needs to try this!”, or “_____ would really benefit from this experience.”. 

I went and told her EVERYTHING that had occurred, and, while I’m positive I sounded like a little kid on too much sugar, she listened to every word.

For the next month, I told everyone I knew, outside of my professional life.  Some sounded interested, some looked at me like I was crazy. 

The people that I thought would benefit from drinking ayahuasca, were, unfortunately, the people who seemed the least interested.  Many of them being completely engrossed in this physical world, and the majority of them could be called “control freaks”.  I suppose it’s the universe’s “Sprite-ish” humor.  

I’m more aware of myself, my actions, and my intentions.  I am able see others as a distant, yet connected, part of myself.  This really helps increase my empathy, which I feel is vital for true communication.

When I look at children now, I see that little hidden Sprite inside.  Curious, mischievous, and silly with ample amounts of unconditional love.  Every day I see it in my 2 beautiful children, and, with all my patience and love, I hope to never snuff out the sprite.

There are always difficulties.  

There will always be trials.

I hope the next time you find yourself in times of trouble, you slow down and enjoy the beauty and effort involved in those mundane flowers.  And just remember, “YOU’RE DOING IT!!!”