How Ayahuasca Taught Me Gratitude And Pulled My Life Together

Banipsteriopsis caapi, one of the two main ingredients of the ayahuasca brew.


by Ray

on April 15, 2019

I don’t have a lot of trauma in my life – no childhood abuse, no violent crimes, death, etc. I lived a great childhood in the suburbs of Utah and was very lucky. I struggled with depression and anxiety in high school (didn’t realize it until later in life though) but was generally a happy, funny person in college and further on. I met my wife on a cruise in Hawaii and we were head over heels for each other. We have two beautiful kids.

However, as we started raising our kids, we lost sight of ourselves, our relationship and have become strangers in our own bed. Judging and yelling about raising kids, constantly stressed about money, never seeing each other, not going on dates. This apparently is typical of early child raising – but no one tells you since it’s sacrilege to put anything above your kids.  And, you should. Every couple should.

Around 2007 (before kids), I started getting really into 2012 and the Mayan Calendar and was convinced something was going to happen to the world as the day came. While the world didn’t end I still marked it as a significant day in human history. Where did my curiosity in prepping, conspiracy theories, UFOs and other alternative history topics come from? Sometime around 2012 I saw other people waking up: becoming gun owners, prepping, reading more, starting to question their reality and the powers that be. That was what 2012 did to the world, in my opinion. In a 13,000-year cycle, 4 years is a blink of an eye – as we look back I believe we can still mark 12/21/12 as a turning point in human consciousness. As for me, that was what initially woke me up to The Vine.

As I read other testimonies on this website, I became convinced I would have a terrifying experience on top of diarrhea and vomiting – but it would be cathartic and something I believed everyone needed to do for their health. I was prepared to face my demons in the hopes that I would be able to become re-centered. I wanted to get the negative voices out of my head and stop resenting my life and my wife because I felt like I was being stifled in my own ambitions by her. I came to realize I was the one stifling my own ambitions but I still had no way of confronting the voices in my head.

When I arrived at the retreat I was told the first rule of ‘taking the medicine’ was, while you need to have intention, you can’t have any expectations. The Grandmother would deal with you in her own way. I was okay with that.

The people at the retreat were gracious and endlessly respectful of the ceremony and its meaning. We were Saged and doused with Florida Water, drummed and sung to. We were given a truly nasty, stinging medicine as eyedrops that we were told would help with our pineal gland. They wanted us to have the best healing possible.

As we took the medicine we were told to lay on our mats and sremain quiet out of respect for our neighbors, as they dealt with their own issues privately. They played beautiful music all night that helped us flavor our experience and led to my first real realization.

This amazing piano music was playing and it inspired an image in my head as I started to really feel the effects come on. I had been waiting to meet the Mother for a long time and was looking forward to learning what she was here to teach me.

I imagined a beautiful organic-type room with shimmering, rainbow colors pulsating up and down fractal vines and diffused membranes. The lights came out of the ground, stoked by each piano key strike, and washed through this tree-like material and mushroomed out over my head and lit the whole space in a phosphorescent glow that changed with the music.

I saw a third-person version of myself there, standing looking at the wonder. I then imagined the Mother there, a sweet wise woman about in her late 60s, strong with leather skin. She stood in front of me, we looked at each other. This was the moment I had been waiting for.

She then turned to look at the camera, pointed her finger, and sternly said: “YOU!”

She looked right at me – the real me, the person behind the camera imagining this whole scene. The ‘person’ in front of her was an avatar of my creation, a placeholder. She wanted me. I was having a hard time concentrating in general – I couldn’t stay on one thought or vision for more than 15 seconds. The chatter in my mind was too fast. I realized I couldn’t get my mind to stop chattering and whenever I would get lost on a whim of a vision or deep thought, I would imagine a scene to explain it and from nowhere the Mother would literally fly at me, finger out like the tip of a rocket, and scream “YOU!”

I got a recurring image that first session: A grainy surveillance-type camera scene in an elevator. She was riding the elevator and would look up at the camera and smile in a menacing way. The next scene would be her face right at the camera, reaching behind the lens trying to pry it off the wall.

She wanted to take the camera away from me. I realized I was living my life the way people at a concert record the performance with their phones – instead of trying to actually experience it. I was a spectator in my own life, hiding behind a lens in my mind to protect myself from judgment and fear. This had consequently stunted my intellectual development for all of my adult years and left me languishing in a career that wasn’t my passion and feeling like I had let my life pass me by. I knew I had talents to give the world. I knew I had something to offer but for some reason I had never gotten off my ass and tried.

Through all of this, I never threw up or defecated. I had the realization that purging was my choice – only when I fully decided to step into my life and commit to it would I end up purging something that had to come out of my body or my mind – and I’d gotten a pretty clear image that she wanted me to barf my camera. This thought coincided with the notion that I felt like I wasn’t committing to the ceremony entirely either; I was somehow able to control the chemical so that I would be able to temper its effects on me and was then not allowing it transform me. I was too scared to go deep because I hadn’t yet stepped into my life. I was having a pretty enjoyable, not scary experience. But, around me I could hear others deeply sobbing and painfully retching, nonsensical jabbering mixed with occasional laughter.

What was wrong with me? I felt like I was in a tiny room at the edge of the cosmos without any windows.

The next day they offered a daytime session in this quaint wooded area with a clearing shaded by trees. It was hot and humid with a slight breeze and only a cut-up piece of carpet to lay on. It was perfect.

As it started to hit me I realized if I just laid there, like last night, I would go crazy. I had to do something with my crazy mind to get it to focus on something. I got the image in my head of a body pose I had never done before. I wanted to meditate and stretch my body so I could apply the medicine and the ceremony to something. I likened it to standing in the lobby of a building with a beautiful experience and not getting on the elevator.

It turned out I was being fed Yoga positions by the vine spirit. I had never done Yoga before but I was apparently doing a lot of Bean Pose and other types of positions usually used for the Sun Salutations? I learned this later. In the moment, though, I was being told to relax my feet, keep everything symmetrical, engage every muscle in my body with an intended purpose. To relax all around. And breathe. Breathe. I was praying through Yoga. I was saying thank you to the Earth and to everything. I spent almost 4 hours doing various yoga positions, with a crystal clasped between my praying hands.

As I settled into a relaxing pose, curled over my bent knees and stretching my arms out in front of me as far as they could go, I started focusing on my breathing. But, it didn’t turn into just breathing. I was told to open my mouth, lock my jaw, open my windpipe, stretch my diaphragm and become a breathing machine.

I started taking these deep, loud inhales as if they were gusts of wind. I felt my whole back expand as I dug out the cobwebs at the bottom of my lungs. I held it for as long as I wanted and let out a slow gust as if it were coming out of an Oceanside cave. It was exceedingly relaxing and my mind was starting to be put at ease.

I imagined this hulking figure, curled up like I was, sleeping by a vast ocean expanse. This figure was ancient, made of rock, but it had spiraling, light-tipped breathing orifices on each side. They were enormous. This timeless beast was sleeping. I let the image sit with me for almost an hour as I breathed in and out the biggest breaths I’d ever done.

Everything became about my breath; the sound, the feeling, the relaxing steadiness. My entire existence had been reduced down into one act: converting oxygen.

And then I realized: the cycle of breath is the cycle of life. An hour comes in….an hour goes out. A day comes in….A day goes out. A year comes in….a year goes out. A life comes in….

This was a cathartic conclusion. I laid in awe, bowing in thankful praise to this breath of life.

I then saw my family, my kids, my wife, my own parents and brother and everyone else. Everyone was laughing and in love, happy and perfect.

I got the image of a content, motherly panda looking over my life, a scene of my kids being lifted into the air in a joyous, sun-dappled scene that resolved into a painting with the mother panda looking over it all.




Tears grew up from inside my body and out my eyes. It felt like I was made of water with too much love in it. I had been presented with such a perfect image of my life I had no choice but to lay down – again – in thankful praise and admit I had nothing to fear,  regret, or be angry about. My life was perfect and we all fit perfectly in it. All I had to do was BE GRATEFUL.


I settled down into bean pose again, repeating my newfound mantra: “Thank you, Mother.” I could feel the effects of the medicine start to wear off and I figured it had been long enough, I should start saying goodbye and thank you to the Vine and re-enter my life.

I began the breathing again and started wrapping up myself for another 30 minutes or so. Time was amnesic, it could have been 10 minutes, or 45. I focused on my breathing and saying my mantra.

At the very end, as I was about to open my eyes, I took another large breath and exhaled my mantra. After a very still day in the sun, a strong breeze picked up and blew through the trees around us. One large exhale from Mother. I felt it was just for me, a secret embrace between her and me as I was saying goodbye. I wasn’t surprised, I wasn’t even in awe, it felt like we were so together on it, I had learned so much from her that it was her salutation for the day. For the lesson I learned.

“Thank you, Mother.”

I didn’t really have a sobbing experience that weekend, I felt like I didn’t have a major cathartic experience like I had seen around me. But, comparing myself to others never ends well. Plus I’d had a shatteringly beautiful experience outside and knew it was mine alone.

They say the medicine keeps working days after the initial session. I was looking forward to seeing what developed. As I was in the airport getting ready to go home I stopped in a gift shop and got a souvenir for my daughter. I picked up a card for my wife too, determined to write something for her to tell her what I learned and to say thanks.

I sat in an airport TGI Fridays and had my first real food in about 36 hours (I fasted unintentionally for almost the whole weekend and it felt amazing). I opened the card and started to write. I told her about my expectations and my session outside. As I came to the part at the end, on being grateful, the tears came hard. They were such happy tears, cleansing, purging liquid I couldn’t control. I also realized I haven’t cried in public – happy tears – in my entire life and I wasn’t going to stem this refreshing experience on account of social norms. It felt pure and real. Every time I read it back I cried happy again. I was so present and at peace. I could have stayed on that barstool watching the general bustle move around me for days.

But, for possibly the first time, my heart broke from missing my beautiful, perfect family and I was ecstatic to get them in my arms again.

Thank you Mother.