“Life down here is just a strange illusion.”
Iron Maiden, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
Hats off to Bob Morris for his ruthlessly whitebread, antiseptic article in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times!
Glamorizing ayahuasca with celebrity quotes and citing the LA Weekly in calling it “exceedingly trendy” is irresponsible on so many levels!
How someone managed to whittle an enlightening, transformational healing experience down to an anti-smoking advertisement is truly remarkable! Using ayahuasca to stop smoking would be like using the Hadron Subatomic Particle Collider to make Jello, like using mindfulness to toilet train a baby, like buying a Ferrari because you like the cupholder.
For anyone considering partaking in a such a journey:
10. Your intention should be that you wish to experience the divine, the infinite, Mystery – whatever you choose to call “it,” the “other” as Slavoj Zizec refers to it – that which is beyond the limited perspective of your mind.
9. Accept that the divine/infinite/Mystery cannot be experienced in a way that will make sense to your brain; the divine is infinite; your brain is finite. Trying to cognitively grasp the infinite is like trying to pour the ocean into a thimble.
8. Be aware that you may not enjoy the information that the divine/infinite/Mystery chooses to share with you. However – even if you are a “Born-Again Atheist,” as Gore Vidal referred to himself – you will probably learn a great deal about the fleeting concepts you currently refer to as “My Life,” “My Self,” “My Beliefs,” “My Relationships” and “Reality.”
7. Each time you experience the divine/infinite/Mystery will be different – each experience is akin to a drop in the ocean.
6. The experience will be ineffable, beyond any language, and trying to put it into words will be daunting.
5. “10 years of therapy downloaded in a night” seems to be a fairly universal analogy to convey one of the outcomes. You may wish to take this into consideration before you make plans to attend the Knicks game the following afternoon.
4. The “icaros” (songs) are an integral part of the ceremony and through them you may gain a greater appreciation of the power of music.
3. If you do not adhere to a “dieta” (diet) before the ceremony, the plants will assist your body in ridding itself of the chemicals, salt, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, flesh and other toxins and impurities that you have crammed into it. This is commonly known as purging. If your body (including the subtle energy body) is clean, there will be nothing to purge.
2. Ayahuasca should not be used recreationally nor do I believe should be considered a hallucinogenic because…
1. One may realize that everything perceived through the five senses and assimilated by the mind (including afflictions, addictions, prejudices, etc.) is contrived. Ponder this: is it possible that plant medicine allows one to open “the doors of perception” – as William Blake and Aldous Huxley described – temporarily shed the subjective self, “realize” or merge with the infinite “other,” and thus gain a fresh outlook on mundane reality (subsequently inspiring one to curb afflictions, addictions, and prejudices)?
Anyhow, before you endeavor on your first journey, I have been told that you should be wary of the bevy of unqualified people currently pouring plant medicine; be quite certain that your shaman is bonafide as you will be entrusting him or her with your psychological and emotional well-being when you experience your mind deconstruct and reconstruct itself. Yes, once the mind is shattered or “broken open” as Daniel Pinchbeck calls it, one may encounter what Mister Morris refers to in his article as “bipolarity and schizophrenia,” but maybe, just maybe – as R.D. Laing posited – reality OUT THERE (outside of our individual, subjective perceptions) is amorphous and not as linear, rational, well-defined, or comprehensible as our minds are wont to believe.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that, personally, I have never tried a hallucinogenic and doubt I ever will; to me there is something uniquely unappealing – from what I have been told – about hallucinating – it seems like a wasteful and potentially dangerous distraction; similarly, professionally – as a Licensed Psychotherapist and Licensed Professional Counselor – after treating many patients who damaged their brains using drugs recreationally, I do not advocate trying any Schedule 1 controlled substances. However, for anyone who is considering embarking on an ayahuasca ceremony I strongly suggest extensively researching the pros and cons, and refraining from buying into the glib perusal offered in the New York Times “Styles” Section last Sunday. Nobody who has ever drunk ayahuasca would report back that it’s a fucking “style!”
Lastly, it is not a coincidence that people interested in those crazy, New Age “fads” such as yoga and meditation would gravitate towards plant medicine, for yoga and meditation were originally devised and designed to guide practitioners beyond their thinking minds and experience the divine/infinite/Mystery.
Ira Israel is a Licensed Counselor, a Licensed Psychotherapist, and a Certified Yoga Therapist. He is the author of Mindfulness for Anxiety, Mindfulness for Depression, and Yoga for Depression and Anxiety. For more information about Ira please visit www.iraisrael.com.