Painting by visionary artist Anderson Debernardi.

How I Overcame Anxiety And Found Spiritual Fulfillment Through Ayahuasca

Painting by visionary artist Anderson Debernardi.

 
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by jpsan

on May 6, 2016

Sing me home.

I would like to share a few highlights of my recent week long ayahuasca retreat. It is in no way a complete accounting of the experiences but I felt that these particular ones may be of interest to others. It was the most powerful, terrifying, unspeakably beautiful, and ultimately transforming experience of my life without any close comparison.

I am an electrical engineer in my mid 50s who has been in a long and seemingly fruitless search for spiritual fulfillment. Starting from a Catholic background, I went through a range of meditations, varied religions, reading channeled material, sacred geometry, attempting altered states, yoga, etc. Pretty much throw a dart at a pathway, and I have done some hiking there. In my state of general discontentment, I even quit my well-paying job and went to live in a remote cabin in the woods for 6 years. It was less stressful, but no real transition. I had developed an increasingly encompassing anxiety that was driving my life. But my life by any normal standards is not stressful. I had to have at least 6 hours of aerobic activity alone in the woods to be able to function the following week. I was so thick and filtered that I did not experience things as they happened, but later in solitude I could process the events. I was also developing sore joints, doing a lot of jaw grinding, etc.

Painting: “Armonia Musical” by visionary artist Jheferson Saldana Valera.

Painting: “Armonia Musical” by visionary artist Jheferson Saldana Valera.

Having read many accounts of ayahuasca experiences, I was ready for the panic and the vomiting, but not for the music. That was the second biggest shock of the week. In the altered state of ayahuasca, the music is the language that conducts the experience, and its effect is profound. At this retreat, there was an older and a younger native shaman. They sang in a combination of Spanish and Quechua which I do not understand, so there was no conscious input from the words; the interaction was purely tonal.

There was also an older and a younger English speaking shaman, so occasionally they would sing in English and I would comprehend the words which had another effect. There were also two women who sang, which provided a very much needed maternal/nurturing feeling. They all also played some traditional instruments and occasionally whistled.

The group would direct the energetics through music, moving through a complex and sophisticated interaction, shifting half notes to create discord and then harmony. For example, one may hold a slow overarching rhythm while another expressed a more emotional sound. One may change tempo against the other and come back again. At other times they seemed to all be singing independently. It would purge and sooth, expand and relax. All these subtleties created and directed the otherwise completely chaotic and unhinged experience. I couldn’t possibly imagine going through this without it, and being in an environment of absolute safety and trust. It is an extremely vulnerable state. I should mention that I took the process and preparation very seriously. This includes dietary and behavioral restrictions and maintaining intention.

The prior night could be best described as an exorcism. Literally picture the exorcist movie on a bad acid trip. I was beat up and worn out by it, but had recovered to a remarkable point just prior to tonight’s ceremony. As I entered an altered state, hallucinations, rapid kaleidoscope images and a feeling of nausea and sickness overtook me as it had the prior night. The music was strong and driving in a specific direction. It seemed very loud. Weird sensations were moving through my body. My head was thick and spinning, and I was hoping it would pass so I could focus. Then there was a voice and a knocking from inside my head, like a thumping from inside a hollow metal drum.

“Can you hear me? Can you hear me?” 

It was my voice, but being a bit of a smart ass.

“Turn off your fear layer. You are perceiving everything through a layer of fear. It can be turned off and on from the state that you are in right now.” 

They showed me a simple four-sided box that was open on both ends.

“You look through this thing into all the goings on out here through a series of filters and perception layers… That generates your experience of waking reality. Fear distorts both the perception and the translation. It was meant as a fight or flight thing, but half of humanity is running around with the darn thing on all the time. It is everywhere. Look at your headlines, most of it has a basis in fear. Turn. Off. Your. Fear. Layer. Remember this if you can’t remember anything else.” 

The words appeared in cartoon bubbles. Everything started melting; I was losing myself and going down a drain. I refused to go down the drain and got up and stumbled into a cold shower. Inside the shower my body was taken over and it began to do some kind of energy balancing on me, moving my hands completely outside of my control over a very specific sequence of pressure points and breathing sequences and water washing. When this was complete, the fear and nausea were completely gone, and I felt an overwhelming strength. Like Sampson strength. Like give me a temple to crush strength. Damn, that was the best shower of my life!

“Nice. That’s old school,” I heard.

“Come on lets go, lots to do… unless you need to stay there and play with your muscles. Geez.” 

I laid back down and the color and patterns were on an absolute maximum; just as much as I could possibly perceive, but I felt a lot better.

“Now look, here is the scary hallucination you saw last night through the fear layer. Now look at it again with the fear turned off.” 

The image I had from the prior night that almost had me running out of the room looked completely normal.

“Get it? That creepy melting feeling on your skin is also a misinterpretation of a sensation that you don’t understand. It is not hurting you. It is like a breeze to someone who has been indoors all their life. Calm the freak down. This is not hurting you. Little Johnny snuck in to see the Rolling Stones live at the colosseum and guess what? It’s loud, it’s intense, and there are a lot of things you don’t understand. Deal with it. We don’t turn down the music for the kids. You ready? We are tuning up for a show.” 

I was lead through a series of bizarre and very fast moving psychedelic images. All along the way I would get various reactions: shivering, screaming, dry heaving and retching, strong limb twitching, and occasionally intense pleasure — each change initiated by a slight variation in the music. Then they rang a bell or bowl? And I felt very ill.

“Why do I get so sick when they ring that bell?” I asked.

“We use that as a kind of frequency comb. The pure tone of the gong resonates and creates sub-harmonics over many layers to create a grid structure. We drag that through your etheric body to rake out discordant frequencies.” 

Ooooooooh! I get it. Rake away. I opened myself to the process and continued.

“The images you see that look like gibberish are in fact gibberish. There is nothing to figure out or understand with them. Your normal energetic body is sort of spread out right now and we are over flooding it with our cleaning process. Yes, you are seeing components of an energetic framework but it is all distorted, it doesn’t really look like that. It’s like somebody is banging around on the keys and strings of a piano while cleaning it. It’s not what Mozart sounds like. When there is something to see, you will know it. In the meantime stop thinking and breathe.” 

The music shifted again and I saw a bunch of jellyfish-like images all moving rapidly in one direction.

“Those are fragmented energies being called home. It doesn’t concern you; let it be.” 

It continued on like this for a while.

“The acoustics here in the Amazon are awesome. You can rock the whole planet from here. It is no accident that the plants you consumed grow here. We put all this together knowing humans would get homesick and they could visit this way.” 

You mean from the origin of the species?

“Well, that’s actually another story, but it’s like a messed up long time ago.” 

We then came to a scene where there were a series of thin grey lifeless disconnected little fragments floating in space. I knew these were the components of my life as I saw them. They were the only things I had seen in the entire experience that had no life or color or movement to them. The scene then shifted to reveal them placed perfectly in an enormous mandala that was rotating perfectly in space. It pulsed with color and music and massive power. I absolutely freaked out.

No, no, no!! That’s not true! You can’t tell me that, it’s not true. I reacted with the deep emotional wound of a little boy who had been lost and away from home for a very long time. In his desolation, he convinced himself that he had no home, and could never be loved. It was the only way to deal with the pain and disappointment of a fruitless search. Then one day his mother found him and said, I love you, come home. He screams at her, no you don’t and tries to run away.

“This is what you have been searching for. Your. Whole. Life.” 

The scene opens up to an enormous domed concert hall with the most astonishing light show imaginable. The living force of the Amazon was there dancing in energetic patterns. The music shifted into fully harmonious tones that permeated me completely. I was paralyzed and shivering with tears pouring out of my eyes. Everything that ever hurt on any level was pulled out and soothed. The feeling was most likened to an orgasm but not centered in the genitals.

“Damn these guys are good, I gotta get this album.” 

I would have laughed but was incapable of expressing another emotion. I don’t know how long it actually went on physically, but I can tell you it ended way too soon. As the music subsided and the ceremony ended, they rang little chimes which created geometrically perfect cylinders of light that overlapped as they expanded. Then the top of the building opened up revealing an intense view of the stars. Sitting up with eyes open and completely lucid, I could still see energetic structures present in the physical building we were in.

“You realize that you have shut off part of your rational function because it felt like it was in the way. You may want to think about that pretty soon as well.” 

I thought about it. In college I was a math wiz, most comfortable in front of a differential equation that spewed over pages. These days I can scarcely add in my head. Hmmm…

I played the scene over in my head about 50 times over the next week until I could do it without shaking. I had no definition of my own presence. That deep infected wound of feeling on the outside all the time feels healed. I now know what it means to pray and to be in a state of reverence. I can tell my wife I love her for the first time without feeling angst. Both saying and hearing the term had always made me uncomfortable.

I breathe differently; I walk differently, and have a whole new fascination with the life I am living. I literally had been starving for the feel of this divine connection that I knew was there and could not find — and I looked hard. I had become an irritated bag of malnourished bones.

A big part of its power is that this process did not insist on its own framework. Although it is a shamanic pathway, I didn’t experience snakes and plant spirits and jaguars, even though I was in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Nor was any such thing presented or promoted by this host group. The doors opened and I linked in through metaphysics and geometry. It was intellectually perfect. That is the framework I needed. This process to remove blockages and entanglements feels clean and unencumbered by its own baggage.

It is so clear now why I had self-worth issues, avoided conflict, rarely maintained friendships, and generally preferred being alone. I wasn’t living my life, but was sitting and waiting for the timer to expire so I could go home. My overall anxiety is not better. It is gone — completely and absolutely gone.

 

This article has been edited lightly for typos and clarity, and to remove names of specific people, places, and/or entities.