My girlfriend and I joined an ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica last December and it was simply amazing. Wonderful. We had undergone two particularly powerful ceremonies, each of us drinking two cups each ceremony, and since we were leaving Saturday, we opted for a single small cup during Friday’s ceremony. Ah, but there’s no telling what may happen with Mama Aya. Those little cups produced quite an ordeal for both of us.
Everything was going fine as the ceremony commenced. We were smoked, slapped with leaves, blessed. There was a strong feeling of love and camaraderie developed over the week with the other participants. We drank. The music was beautiful. Kuyay, our Peruvian ayahuasquera and easily one of the top ten most beautiful women in the world, and her two young Tico apprentices had everything under control. Then one apprentice began playing his flute.
My reaction was instant: rage. I wanted to kill him. It was so loud, piercing. Like a spike pounding into my head. I looked around and couldn’t believe no one else was holding their ears to muffle that unbelievable racket. I couldn’t stand it. I went outside to smoke by the fire and get away from it but that maddening noise followed me and even outside it was far too much to bear.
Going back inside, frantic, hands over my ears, I asked the other apprentice to please, please make that awful noise stop. Completely perplexed, he asked me what I was talking about and I growled, “That fucking flute!” Of course, he tried to calm me but I was at this point far from being reasoned with and that fucking flute was tearing my mind apart. I looked at the kid playing his instrument from hell and experienced such a powerful compulsion to grab the damn thing and ram it down his throat that I knew I had to get out of there quick.
Problem: it was cold, this place being in the middle of a cloud in the mountains, and my girlfriend had our bed comforter; if I went back to our room, I would freeze. Being in this indecisive state — flee or murder — just made it worse. Finally, I told my girlfriend I had to go, the flute was killing me. Somehow I made it up the hill and back to my room and shivered under a sheet as the medicine hit with full force neon cacophony, a battle royale rivaling the war of angels. “Honey, are you Ok?” My poor girlfriend had followed me, and without our only blanket. Now we were both stuck in that cold bed.
At one point, both of us desperately thirsty, I marshaled every fiber of my being to get out of bed, walk four feet to the door, open the door, walk ten feet to the kitchen, grab the first thing I could — which, fortunately, happened to be a large bowl that would also serve as a puke bucket (I congratulated my cleverness) — and then I had to reverse that whole Herculaneum task. Back in bed, holding the water bowl up to my girlfriend’s lips, Aya struck. I convulsively threw the water towards the door before my poor girlfriend could even wet her lips and prematurely turned our water bowl into a puke bucket. It was some time before I could manage to make that journey again and when I did, I, of course, soaked my socks and freezing feet in the puddle by the door.
I won’t go into too much detail about our terrifying ordeal that night. That I repeatedly growled “don’t touch me” to my poor girlfriend, who desperately needed comfort, still does not sit well with me. That I was able to somewhat calm her fears that we were in dire trouble and needed help by assuring her that we were fine and it would be over in a few hours (which I did not at all believe), I’m somewhat proud of. I would say that surviving that night together brought us closer than ever and mere hours later we were laughing about the whole thing. We still do. The whole experience has had a profound effect on us and, I believe, has allowed us to make quite a few recent, rather drastic decisions, which we are now enjoying the fruits of.
Over the course of the morning, I tried to figure out what had happened. What was it about that flute that drove me away? My reasoning was, based on what I’ve heard, that the purpose of the music and icaros, smoke and blessings, etc., is to cleanse the space of dark energies, evil spirits, and demons. Whatever all that is, or is supposed to be and mean, I have no idea. And the fact that I had been literally driven out by that horrible flute left me with one disturbing conjecture.
I sought out Kuyay and asked her, “Do I have an evil spirit in me?”
“Oh, yes,” she said.
“Well,” I asked, “Can you get rid of it?”
She laughed and told me it isn’t that simple, that it takes time, that I need to continue with this work. She told me not to think of it as evil spirits or demons or even necessarily “dark” energies, just different energies at a different vibration. She said that energy subtly influences my life and decisions, so that my energy harmonizes more and more with it, then turns my thoughts and emotions increasingly negative. At least that’s what I think she said; my Español is very no bueno. But it makes some kind of sense, doesn’t it? That somehow, somewhere I picked up some sort of low-vibrational energy package that would, for instance, make me procrastinate more and more, which would then alter my life in ways I don’t like, cause depression, anger, etc., increasing the power of that other energy, a vicious cycle, like some kind of energetic cancer. Given my absolutely uncharacteristic, over-the-top reaction to that flute — the sheer intensity of it — I can really come up with no other explanation.
Getting ready to leave that day, amidst many hugs and group selfies, Howard, Kuyay’s gringo husband and the most garrulous, wonderful man you’d ever want to meet, approached me with his hands behind his back and a big, goofy yet sinister smile on his mug.
“I have something for you,” he said. “Close your eyes…Now open them!”
I’ve been procrastinating on my promise that I would learn to use his wonderful gift: a beautiful white, plastic flute.