A Scientist’s Journey To The Soul: How Ayahuasca Opened The Door To My Heart

Photo: Fully reset in Avebury, England, one week before my wedding.

 
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by Dharma Dale Richardson

on September 15, 2015

I would like to share with you how working with ayahuasca has changed my life. In my early 20s (I’m now 36), I had some experience with psychedelics. I had dropped out of college after my freshman year and went on a crusade of consciousness-expanding drug exploration with a few close friends. I had some positive experiences with certain psychedelics like mushrooms, but had a terrible experience with LSD that landed me in a mental hospital for four days with my poor, panic-stricken parents wondering what had happened to their one and only son. It was quite a shock for them and I remember them standing over me on the hospital bed, looking dreadfully worried as I stared blankly back at them wondering if what I was seeing was in fact real. I had gone over the edge. I wasn’t ready for the spiritual awakening that LSD was catalyzing in my being; my ego couldn’t handle its disintegration. So I did the only thing I could do at the time: have a mental meltdown and spend four days in a catatonic state.

A dream come true. On the way from Pucallpa to San Francisco in a motorboat on the Ucayali river. We saw river dolphins several times.

A dream come true. On the way from Pucallpa to San Francisco in a motorboat on the Ucayali river. We saw river dolphins several times.

After recovering from this quintessential bad trip, I had resolved to go forward and return to my studies and try to become a veterinarian. I enrolled in a community college, took as many classes as I could per semester and aced them all. I transferred to Colorado State University with the intent to get into their vet school, but my trajectory changed and I ended up getting a Master’s degree in botany and then a Ph.D. in evolutionary genomics at the University of Cologne in 2010.

I immersed myself in science. The rational mind and the intellect were comforting to me. They made sense to me. They allowed me to reframe my bad experience with LSD in the light of a temporary schizophrenic episode that wasn’t at all real. [I rationalized that] all that I had come into contact with and felt was just a figment of my warped drug-addled imagination. I appealed to a scientifically materialistic world view that precluded any genuine appreciation or belief in spirituality.

I lost faith in a higher power and was living a life of the rampant individualist, separate and arrogant. After my father died during the middle of my Ph.D., I got into a bad relationship with a suicidal bipolar partner and became an alcoholic. My widowed mother was living alone in the States and I was living abroad in Portugal. I was torn in two and in a horrific relationship with myself and with my partner at the time. I became even more emotionally closed off than I already was, especially being brought up in a family where we didn’t discuss our emotions or how we felt in any open way whatsoever. There was so much pain, guilt, shame, despair and uncertainty in my heart. I was drinking from early morning until late evening and on anti-depressants, anxiolytics and sleeping pills. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Dulling my sensations with hashish. Losing myself in video games instead of finishing my dissertation. Life lost its purpose for me. I was slowly killing myself as I wallowed in a state of nihilistic numbness.

Fortunately, my partner at the time was also unhappy with the relationship. After two and half years of depressive turmoil together, she initiated the breakup and I seized upon the opportunity to get out. I was twenty pounds overweight, over-medicated, a smoker and an alcoholic. I hated seeing myself in the mirror. I couldn’t believe how low I had sunk. I had hit rock bottom. Having had some previous experience with yoga, I was inspired to find some way out of the mire. I searched the web for “yoga detox” and found a place where I could do a seven day juice fast. I signed up and it changed my life. I spent seven days with a yogic monk who taught me meditation and helped to heal me and my wound with losing my father. I gave up smoking and drinking, freed myself from all prescription medications and was born again through the power of detoxing the mind and body. However, my heart was still deeply closed and wounded. There was plenty of anger and pain still buried deep inside and my scientific mind was still dominating my way of being. I was still disconnected from my spirit.

Throwing all my anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications down the toilet while in the middle of my 7-day juice fast back in March of 2012. It felt so good to be free from all that toxicity.

Photo: Throwing all my anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications down the toilet while in the middle of my 7-day juice fast back in March of 2012. It felt so good to be free from all that toxicity.

Despite the armor around my heart, within a few weeks of the detox I was fully loving my new life. I hadn’t felt that wonderful in years. I attended a Tony Robbins workshop in London right afterwards (in May, 2012), where I met a dear friend who would later become an ayahuasca angel, spreading the good word about this miraculous medicine through her candid YouTube videos

Our paths were destined to cross. After my incredible healing transformation through juice fasting and meditation, I was inspired to learn more about nutrition, health and wellness, so I could help others as I had been helped. I had discovered an online school… that offered a year-long health coach training program, but was unsure about it. In my first conversation with [my ayahuasca angel], the Universe had sorted out my uncertainty. It turned out that [she] was already half-way through the very program I wanted to sign up for. I signed up the next day.

Shortly after this workshop and destined meeting in London, I met the woman who would become my partner for life, my wonderful wife, at a two week-long yoga teacher training workshop in Portugal. She was and is an incredible mirror for me. We went through some harsh times together. What I saw reflected back to me through her was my still-closed heart and utter emotional disconnection, my sexual hangups (I was molested as a child) and my unconscious behavioral patterns that have been on autopilot since childhood.

Photo: Taking a moment to appreciate each other before starting our wedding ceremony. Via: Bruno Grilo.

Photo: Taking a moment to appreciate each other before starting our wedding ceremony. Via: Bruno Grilo.

For three years she withstood all my issues and was hurt time and time again by me. I couldn’t fully love and accept her little four year-old daughter because I wasn’t able to fully love and accept myself. There was a constant rift between her daughter and myself. We would tolerate each other and, yes, there was indeed love, but it wasn’t the open-ended free flowing love that we have now. This in conjunction with my problems with intimacy and unresolved emotional issues was proving to be too much to bear. I remember her saying many times that there was no rational reason to stick around, but she only hung on for this long out of an intuitive understanding of the truly beautiful being hiding inside of my heart, waiting to be released. However, three years of waiting was long enough. She had finally resolved to end our relationship two days before my first ayahuasca ceremony.

So, as you can imagine, I entered into my first ayahuasca ceremony in quite a state of despair. I couldn’t break out of my mold, I couldn’t shatter the ego-prison I had constructed to protect myself from feeling pain. I was seeing a psychotherapist off and on, but I just wasn’t making much headway. I knew I had a closed heart, I just didn’t know how on earth I was ever going to open it again. I had no idea how I was going to learn how to feel again. So when the opportunity arose to work with the medicine in my own proverbial backyard (instead of going all the way to Peru, which I was planning to do), I jumped on the chance to do it. I was scared shitless, but I knew this was going to be the key to unlock my heart.

Photo: Honoring the ayahuasca with love, reverence, and mapacho smoke.

Photo: Honoring the ayahuasca with love, reverence, and mapacho smoke.

And unlock my heart it did. On January 9th, 2015 I walked into the ceremonial space and experienced the darkest night of my soul. I relived countless events from the last 15 years of my life. I could no longer run away from myself. No rock was left unturned, no detail too small or insignificant. I saw all the people I had hurt and felt all the pain I had inflicted on others and myself, directly or indirectly through my actions and inactions, my anger, arrogance and heart disconnection. I was forced to feel all that I had closed myself off from. I felt my heart beating and listened to it as it beat louder and louder, thundering in my chest until my entire being was consumed by it: I had become my heart and fully reconnected to it.

I traveled all the way back to that fateful experience with LSD and felt the tremendous cargo of pain that I had been carrying with me since then. I presided over my own death. I had completely surrendered to the idea that this was it, it was time to go. Time to leave this world. I heard the mourning at my funeral, and felt myself sinking into eternity. I felt myself collapsing inward on myself, through my head and into the ground.

This [is] when I felt my father’s loving hands from the great beyond lift me out of this darkness and steady me once again. It wasn’t time for me to leave this world. It was time for me to be truly reborn into it. In the end, the funeral was for who I thought I was. All my ego trappings, my emotional and energetic blocks were dying and being released. Staring into the infinity of my puke bucket, I hurled all this dark energy and pain out of my soul, and squeezed these wretched memories out of my cells.

Though that first night was at times horrific and the most challenging psycho-spiritual experience I’ve ever had, it was also a night filled with infinite unconditional love, light, forgiveness, peace and communion with God. It was a night where I regained a living faith in the divinity of each and every one of us. It was a night of breaking the armor surrounding my heart and opening it once again in the midst of unconditional love.

I begged for forgiveness and the Great Mother granted it. The illusion of separation faded — the medicine lifted the veil and I was able to see with my spiritual heart that we are all One, breathing as a single organism, forever connected and though manifested individually, we are like rays shining from the same glorious sun. I was finally free and met my soul for the first time. When we live disconnected from our own hearts, we live disconnected from the entire Universe.

Coming home the next morning, I walked into the bedroom where my beloved was sleeping. She took one look at me and saw light radiating from my eyes. She knew. I had awakened. My heart was reconnected and fully unblocked. We embraced and I broke into tears professing my sorrow at all the heartache I had caused and that she had to bear. Love and forgiveness flowed. When her daughter awoke, I came to her and knelt before her. I said that I had something I wanted to give to her. Being somewhat suspicious, she asked me what it was. I replied, “My heart.” She smiled bashfully and we truly hugged for the first time.

And so, it is the same thing that I have to give to all of you and to all beings; My heart, my eternal love, and this story of how the sacred medicine has changed my life forever.

Photo: Happily married to my lovely life-buddy, on June 14th, 2015. This beautiful day, flowing with love in all directions, was only possible after awakening to my heart by the grace of the medicine. I am forever grateful to ayahuasca for opening the doors of my heart and healing it. Via: Bruno Grilo.

Photo: Happily married to my lovely life-buddy, on June 14th, 2015. This beautiful day, flowing with love in all directions, was only possible after awakening to my heart by the grace of the medicine. I am forever grateful to ayahuasca for opening the doors of my heart and healing it. Via: Bruno Grilo.

My partner and I were married in June of this year. We honeymooned in Peru and spent some time in the Pucallpa region… where we had some profoundly unforgettable ayahuasca experiences. We continue working with the medicine and fully honor it as an invaluable component of our spiritual path.

Over the course of several ceremonies, I have been able to deepen my healing. The scientific mind and the spiritual heart no longer live in mutual exclusion; the rational mind is guided by the unconditional love of the spiritual heart in harmonious service to God. In short, I am discovering how to be a spiritual scientist, which is an ongoing process.

I was able to forgive and extend true compassion to the person who had molested me when I was a child. My issues with sexual intimacy, shame, and how I relate to my body have been brought into full consciousness and healing by working with ayahuasca. I’m consistently learning how to live in my spiritual heart and to trust my heart as my guide, my inner guru. I’m learning that when I abide in the spiritual heart, I am truly aligned with the divine and living in the eternal moment fully and purposefully.

I am forever grateful to ayahuasca. She has been instrumental in awakening my sacred heart and helping me to remember my divine Soul. I dedicate my life in service to all my brothers and sisters. May we all remember the light within and let it illuminate the world with unconditional love.

May we love everyone, serve everyone and remember God while we’re doing it.

 

Edited lightly for clarity and to remove names.

  • zlop

    Drugs and circumstance, to become oblivious.
    Then, what are the rancors that motivate?

  • J Kashy

    Thanks for sharing! Looks like Ayahuasca was able to pierce through the layers you created in your life.

  • yvo84

    Thanks for sharing. This was excellently written and very relatable.

  • countryrd

    While the difference may be in degree the essence is the same: Peace, Pot and Microdot – free your mind and find your soul.

  • Joao Pedro Feliciano

    Thanks for the “partilha” (sharing). Amazing to see what you really are. The message touched deep inside. Voa alto irmão.