Over the past year, I have been working with the powerful medicinal brew called ayahuasca. Spiritual healing is often tremendous amounts of work, and can be a very difficult process. Interestingly, I was recently invited to partake in the opening of the Ayahuasca Adventure Center in Iquitos, Peru. There, I had the most profound, spiritually healing experience of my life while still enjoying myself immensely. This journey showed me that good friends, laughter and adventure can all be wonderful, and even critical, components of spiritual healing.
Throughout the course of the eight days I went through a lot personal growth and development, shedding old habits and characteristics I know inhibit me from moving forward. This journey not only included the medicine of ayahuasca, but also experiences such as kambo and psilocybin mushrooms alongside a vast array of jungle adventures. Kambo is the poison collected through the secretion from Monkey Frogs, used by the natives to heighten their senses before hunting. It is believed to boost functioning of the immune system, and has undergone testing in Brazil for its believed capabilities in assisting people with HIV, AIDS, and cancer.
I had been curious to try kambo, but admit to having a slight aversion to purposely sticking poison into my body. I sat down and patiently waited as the guide burned the top of my skin, lifted it and inserted the small drop of poison. I began to feel an intense rush over my body and could feel all the blood going to my head. I leaned over and felt the Kambo pulsating through my entire body as I began to purge intensely. After waking up an hour later from a much needed nap I felt amazing, fortified and rejuvenated. My vision and other sensory perceptions were noticeably improved. We then took flower baths, which are believed to cleanse your auras and remove negative blockages to prepare us for our upcoming ceremonies.
At sunset we all consumed psilocybin mushroom on a picturesque sandy beach across from the center. The beauty and tranquility created a light-hearted commencement to the retreat, in which we all contemplated and enjoyed the wonder of nature. Everything felt perfect; I found myself dancing through the sand, opening my mind and my heart to the joy of being alive. I was surrounded by a group of very special people and we communicated with one another fluidly and effortlessly; we came back across the river with foundations of deep respect and budding friendships. It was a truly beautiful end to our first night and allowed us to ease into our upcoming ayahuasca experience.
Over the next few days, we experienced the wonders of the Amazon with adventures such as jungle treks, catching caymans (small crocodile-like creatures native to South America), piranha fishing and immersive cultural experiences in the local village. Once we had become comfortably integrated into our environment, our ayahuasca journeys began. The maestro’s (meaning teacher; the word shaman is not native to Peruvian culture), who guided our experiences is a Shipibo healer from a small jungle village outside of Pucallpa. I could feel a very intense energy radiating off of him, and knew immediately that there was something special within him. With him was his apprentice, who went by “Angela,” and provided perfect balance between male and female energy.
I anxiously awaited for nightfall, unsure of what to expect from the imminent night. As I honestly reflected on the days leading up to the ceremony, I realized that I had completely ignored the diet as well as my morals as a conscious consumer; I recently reached my one year anniversary living in South America, and handled my homesickness by taking solace in the food that I ate. During the ceremony, I felt extremely uncomfortable in my own body. I began to purge and shake as I felt the medicine seep through me, removing all of the garbage that I had been submitting myself to.
As the medicine came to me I was shown that my body is my temple and everything I eat should reflect respect and good intentions. I must take care of my body, this beautiful gift from the universe, because in the end its all that we have to exist with in this life. In order for me to connect with the Source, I knew I would need a pure and clean vessel, completely free of toxins. I felt very shaken by the experience; I do not know if it was the spirit of ayahuasca that was angry at me for my poor choices, or if I was simply angry with myself. After each of the ceremonies, we would discuss our experiences and the power of intention, which allowed for each experience to flow into the next.
The next day was a peaceful and relaxing one, spent searching for sloths and reflecting on our first ceremony. As the night fell, we all returned to the maloka in preparation for our second ceremony. As I set my personal intention for the ceremony, I asked for help connecting to the light. As the medicine began to work through me I went into a deep period of self criticism, picking apart aspects of my being.
I had the tendency to be wrapped up in myself, in my own goals and projects without connecting to the people around me. Through my work at ayahuasca centers I have had the opportunity become close to so many beautiful human beings, and I’ve had to say goodbye to many of them. This started to make me feel alone, and I was unconsciousnessly keeping myself from connecting to the others in my current group because of this. Goodbye’s are not the end; they are beginnings ending with the joy of meeting again. They are both beautiful and filled with sorrow. I learned that the only way to find the light is through love.
Looking up at the spider web ceiling of the malocka, I began to wonder if spiders inadvertently draw out the design of the entire universe. I saw a bright light in the center with array of colors pulsating within every ring of the web. I had the sensation I was looking into the center of the universe, the place that our souls go when we reach nirvana, enlightenment and the light. I felt in awe of everything; the grandness of life and the significance of my place in it.
Because of a celebration in the nearby village of Libertad, we had to partake in three ceremonies in a row. Though not an ideal norm, this worked out perfectly, as none of us could resist or fight our visions due to our physical and mental exhaustion from previous ceremonies. My intention was to open up my heart to receiving and giving love, as compassion for others was something that I have continually struggled with throughout my life; I often detach myself from others as a defense mechanism. As the ceremony began I felt a wake of intense emotions flow through me. At first it felt like ecstasy; giggles and chills were running through my body, elation through my mind.
Time passed and I began to feel the need to purge, but I couldn’t. I went to fill up my water bottle, then held it to my heart and said the words “compassion and empathy” over and over. I drank two bottles of water, repeated the process, and during my purge I felt that I was letting go of something that disabled me from connecting with others. When I returned to the maloka I could feel all of the suffering going on within the participants and I began to cry. My heart had been opened, and I could feel everyone’s struggle around me. It been so long since I had this release of emotion, and as the tears streamed down my face my new friend next to me soothingly whispered, “Its ok…its ok…its ok.” I could feel her words come over me like a wave, healing and cleansing my spirit.
Moments passed, and I heard more sobs coming from a woman on the other side of the room. I immediately went over to console her, putting my hand on her shoulder and whispering the exact same words that were whispered to me. I could feel the waves of love that went from my friend, to myself, to the girl crying across the room. We were all synchronistically dealing with the same theme: love for others, and yourself. This left me with the impression that ayahuasca is an intelligent and conscious energy that connects people and their intentions through a grand design that often can only be understood though deep reflection. After this ceremony it was apparent that the only thing that matters is love, and its contagious. If you give love to someone, it will ripple outwards and that person will give love to someone else.
Our final ceremony had to have been the most intense, and inward of them all. My intention was to look within myself and to have a night of profound spiritual healing. At first I was incredibly overwhelmed by everything I was experiencing. The nature of the universe was too much for my human mind to comprehend. I struggled to find the meaning behind everything. Perhaps we are living in a giant simulation, if not an infinite dream? It was hard to grasp was was real and what wasn’t anymore.
I began to feel desperate to return to my concepts of reality and asked for mercy. In that moment, as if something was listening to my request, I felt as if infinite knowledge was gifted to me. There was no longer a sense of doubt or questioning. I understood that each of us are fragments of the universe and that all of the answers are within. I went outside to look at the stars and they were shining brighter than I had ever seen. Like a wink from the universe it was a reminder to myself just how vast everything is, that we aren’t alone. Upon discussing our intentions the next day many of us shared similar themes within our experiences. The parallels reflected in our connections to each other perfectly embodied the synergistic nature of the ayahuasca experience.
I didn’t come expecting to experience such profound healing, as I have done many ceremonies within the past year. Extraordinarily, I feel as if my entire year was leading up to this enormously powerful, uplifting and unique experience. In addition to my journey with ayahuasca, I found the integration of different natural medicines such as kambo and psilocybin mushrooms incredible. The trip leaders were very helpful, kind and supportive in our journeys. The maestro’s style was one that left no room for mistakes. His cleansings were meticulous and his wisdom provided everyone with the right amount of guidance for our ceremonies. Being surrounded by good friends, laughter, light and love, this experience taught me how to be the best me that I can be. Through being here I have learned that not everything has to be such a serious ordeal. You can heal, and still enjoy yourself. In retrospect, taking joy in life is the best medicine of all.