We arrived at Ayahuasca Wasi just after sunset. The whole day, both The Warrior and I had been uncharacteristically quiet. We were nervous.
Despite years of research, many conversations with people who had drunk Ayahuasca before and hours of YouTube videos on the subject, neither of us really knew what was waiting for us. I felt like I was walking the plank, conscious but blindfolded, to the biggest bungee jump of my life.
As per usual, we arrived conservatively early and found only one other guy there. He had clear blue eyes and was from Finland, and later in the night he would end up sitting next to me in the temple.
We drank some of the tea available on the big wooden table in the beautiful wooden house with its thick wooden bannisters, sweetening the tea with big dollops of honey in hope that it would still our hunger. In preparation for the ceremony, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and we were starving. More people arrived. All kinds of people from all over the world.
There was a young couple from the States, an old couple from Sweden, a lovely couple with six kids back home and a few solo travellers. We all sat in silence, everyone uncertain what to expect, especially the first-timers of which there were about seven including us.
During the hour that we waited there, conversations slowly unfolded until there was a friendly buzz vibrating through the room, but when Diego Palma, the Curandero/ facilitator of the ceremony with his quiet giant presence took his seat cross-legged on the one couch we all fell silent.
Dressed completely in off-white with eagle-like features and sparkling eyes, Diego welcomed us all to this special night:
“Welcome to all the responsible seekers. Tonight, we will experience deeply what this medicine does for us. Mother Ayahuasca sheds light on our reality. She gives us an opportunity to zoom out, to look at the whole picture. And when you see the whole picture we can see everything that influenced us to become this person, this being.
All our inherent beliefs, our limiting beliefs that we inherit from society, from childhood, from our parents. Ayahuasca gives us this amazing opportunity to deeply question all our beliefs. Does this align with my truth? Is it really true? Reality is conditional, and it is up to us to dissolve and change our reality.”
In his soothing voice he spoke in measured words about healing, about Oneness, about our relationship with death and with impermanence. Mere hours later, I would be experiencing all those topics in my journey.
Diego then went on to go explain the rules of the ceremony.
“In respect for your journey, in respect for everyone’s journey, there is a noble silence to be kept throughout. Every person will be going through his or her own process, absolutely unique to what he or she requires. Together, in silence, we create and contain the space for transformation.”
We were invited to sing along to the Icaros, the medicine songs, if we knew them, or even offer our own if we felt it was the right thing to do. I didn’t even know what a medicine song -was- until that night. Now, I can tell you a few things.
After everyone had drunk a first time, we would have the opportunity to drink more if we felt it was required once we heard the words -The window is now open-
“If you are not sure if you can feel the effects of the Ayahuasca, then drink more,” he said smiling. Friendly laughter rippled through the room.
“If you find yourself rationalising things in your head, then come drink more. The window will close around one o’clock, and the end of the ceremony will be indicated by the lighting of three candles in the middle of the room. Then, there will be time for hugs and sharing your experiences.”
He kindly reminded us of a few basic things that would serve as guidelines later on, that night and, for me, in the future.
“Follow your breath and keep your posture. It might get intense, and if it does, your breath will be your steering wheel with which you can navigate yourself through the experience.
Just remember, no one has ever died from Ayahuasca. No one has ever gone insane. No one has ever gotten stuck in that world. Your journey will have a beginning, a middle and it will have an end. It will take you far away, it will show you reality for what it really is, but you will be back by the time the ceremony closes. The faster you surrender and stop resisting, the faster Ayahuasca will be able to show you what you need to see.”
Everyone sat with baited breath, listening to every word coming from his tranquil presence, making sure that we didn’t miss one thing that might be important later on. But, really, how does one prepare your spirit for a bungee jump head first into the cosmos?
In nervous/excited silence we entered the temple one by one, grabbing a cushion for our bums, blankets for the cold and a bucket for purging. Vomiting, and sometimes diarrhea is a normal and desired side-effect of ingesting Ayahuasca. Through physical purging we get to release mental, emotional and spiritual crap that keeps us from being completly healthy, completely ourselves.
The temple at Ayahuasca Wasi is a huge round room that can take up to thirty people sitting in a circle on cushions and under blankets. We sat on the opposite side of the room across from the only door where, the next morning, we would find two huge dogs sleeping in between everyone’s shoes.
To my left sat Finland, to my right The Warrior. To her right in turn, sat the musicians. They had guitars, a harp and various rattles that would be used to guide us through the journey with sound and rhythm. Diego sat to the right of the band, a cloth spread out in front of him on which he placed ceremonial objects, beautiful things like crystals and then a big two-liter plastic bottle filled with a muddy looking liquid: Mother Ayahuasca.
We all sat down, backs against the circular wall and they dimmed the lights. Diego did a prayer in a few languages and lit a big piece of Palo Santo, a deliciously fragrant wood that is used all the time in Peru as an incense/air cleanser. He blew the fragrant smoke in the direction of every person in the room, the only audible sounds his breath and the burning of the embers. As he blew in my direction I bowed my head in thanks, receiving whatever the smoke had to offer.
After going the whole three-sixty degrees, he put the Palo Santo down and opened a thin bottle that contained what looked like water. He poured it in his hands, smeared it onto his bald head and face and shared it with his musicians. The water, called Agua de Florida has since become a smell that I fondly associate with the start of a ceremony.
Diego took hold of the bottle of Ayahuasca, turned it slowly to mix the contents and held it close to his heart. He brought the open top to his lips, and started blowing into it, whistling a tune taught to him by the plant. The rhythm moved something inside me that started moving with the haunting, beautiful melody. It felt so familiar, so ancient. The melody itself was a prayer, an offering. He might have said a few more words after, that night I was too nervous to take note of all the details. He placed the bottle on the floor, and took a deep breath. It was time to drink.
Starting with the musicians, each person got to step forward, sit opposite Diego and receive their cup of Ayahuasca. Most people held the cups to their hearts before drinking, asking guidance on what they personally needed (although Ayahuasca knows better than you what you need), then rose the cup to the heavens in thanks saying “Causaypaq!” (To life!) After watching the entire room step forward one by one and repeating “causaypaq!” after each person, my turn came.
The moment of truth. Divine Moments of Truth. I walked forward and sat down in seiza in front of Diego, projecting love into the muddy liquid as he poured it into the cup. I held it to my heart, and with love, thought of my intentions: Welcoming Mother Ayahuasca into my body and leaving it all to her. I wanted her to show me what she thought I needed to see. I was ready to walk the road I had never walked before. Ready for the wisdom of the ancients. Ready to meet Mother Nature and my own inner nature face to face.
I sat in the dark for some time, eyes closed, focussing on my breathing and continuously letting go of any expectations. Ayahuasca ceremonies are done in the dark to assist focus on the inner world by removing distractions from the outer. I could hear a few people around me gurgle and vomit, but it didn’t sound like normal vomiting. It sounded like it came from somewhere much deeper. I felt pretty normal though, relaxed from my breathing meditation but nothing major. After a few minutes or maybe an hour, I heard Diego’s voice in the dark: “The window is now open.”
An older Peruvian lady stepped forward, and I watched her dark silhouette, wondering if I should drink some more.
But what if it’ll be too strong then? Maybe I should just wait..
I remembered what Diego said: If you find yourself rationalising things in your mind, wondering if it’s right, then drink more.
Feeling pretty normal, I stepped forward. Diego looked at me for a few seconds, my hands in prayer position in front if my heart. He poured one tiny sip of the brown liquid into the wooden cup and gave it to me with both hands. I drank it in one gulp, the wild aniseed taste lingering on my tongue. My hands stretched out to give the cup back to Diego, I thanked him silently with a nod and got up to return to my cushion.
By the time I had found my seat in the dark again, the blackness was already being replaced by faint rainbow coloured designs, moving organically. The musicians started playing a song again, and as soon as the music started I leaned forward over my orange bucket and threw up. I thought of aniseed again. As soon as I sat back, the faint colours turned into vivid technicolour. I didn’t know whether my eyes were open or closed anymore. Highways of colour grew from my centre of being, braiding across each other into space like DNA spirals.
The music too started affecting me more and more as my hands followed the curves of the colours tracing it into the sky. It was beautiful. It was magical. My heart was swelling with joy and gratitude for this opportunity, for this journey, for this life. I couldn’t say thank you enough times. I said it in my mind. I whispered it into the silence. I wrote it with my body.
“Thank you.. Thank you..Thank you..”
Gratitude for this existence overwhelmed me and I felt warm tears streaming down my face. I let it run down my cheeks and heard every salty drop as it fell onto the front of my windbreaker.
“..this is my offering..”
I thought, and as soon as the thought crossed, I saw that my tears were turning into jewels. Every drop a different colour, shimmering, sparkling, an Alladin’s cave of gratitude rolling down my face.
“Thank you.. I am so blessed.. I have received so much.. This is what I can give back.. Thank you..”
The song ended and the colours dimmed. I sat back, sniffling, feeling like a little child.
I once was lost, but now Im found.
Was blind, but now I see.
One chord on a guitar, and the next Icaro started. This time there were no colours, only emotion. I started crying again. I found it really strange, as I am not a very emotional person. But it felt so good! It was so -easy- to cry. Protected by the dark, I cried silently until my shoulders shook and my breathing was ragged. I started thinking of a younger me. For many years, I prided myself on the fact that I was tough, that I was strong, that I wasn’t a girly-girl ruled by her emotions. And so, for years I refused to cry.
Sitting in that temple, I realised that I had bottled it all up inside of me, all those times of not crying. It was time to let it out. I wanted to open it all up and let it out. And I cried. I cried for every time I didn’t allow myself to cry. I was purging all those years through my eyes. The song stopped and I sat back, bathed in my own tears. I felt lighter than I had in a long time.
The medicine songs and the visions seemed to be strongly connected for me. In silence I sat back, processing what the songs had released. And when the next song started, I found my body devoid of all physical limitations. It looked like an Alex Grey world around me and my body was pure, rainbow light. Ayahuasca started running through this meatless body in the form of a pure white light, scanning all my organs and healing the parts that required healing. It lingered over my heart.
For a long time I’ve been concerned that heart problems run in my family, fearful that my heart might be a ticking time-bomb pumping off the seconds until my end. Without thinking about it, I stuck my hand into my chest and took my heart out. I held it in front of me. It was beautiful. Again I felt filled with gratitude, this time for this amazing God-given apparatus that works so hard, that never sleeps, from before my birth to the day I will die. I quietly held my heart, thanking it for all it has done and will do for me and I returned it to my chest. I didn’t fear it anymore. It was part of me again. Wholly part of me.
Time passed, sometimes beautifully, sometimes so intense that I couldn’t believe I chose to go through this. But throughout I felt Ayahuasca hold me, carry me, hug me, protect me. They call her The Grandmother. The Mother of all Mothers. Once she even stood in front of me, holding out her hand to take me with her on the next path. I could distinctly feel her vine-like qualities grow through me, and my body moved with the medicine songs like a vine. In one world tinged green, yellow and white I threw back my head and my skin tore open at my throat.
My outside skin dried up and fell off to reveal a shimmering crystal chrysalis from which an enhanced version of myself was born. I emerged from my old self like a butterfly and opened my wings, merging into the All That Is.
At that point, things started getting uncomfortaby intense. As my ego dissolved, my body dissolved with it. Losing my orientation in space I also started losing my grip on this reality. I shifted around uncomfortably, looking for the weight and solidity of my earthly body, the certainty and comfort of that which I know and recognise. Struggling through my discomfort, I remembered Diego’s voice:
“Your breath is the steering wheel with which you can guide yourself through your experience.”
I readjusted my posture, straightening my back. I moved my attention from the discomfort of dissolving solely onto my breath. In the midst of a simultaneous everywhere/everything I found my breath, a white pulse of life that symbolised my existence. Calmness descend over my being.
“It’s okay. It’s okay to lose perception of my body, because I can always find the centre of it again by finding my breath.”
I stayed with this thought for a few moments, enjoying the lightness that being with my breath provided. I remembered what I had shared with many people in the past: The first thing that you do on your own when you come into this world is you take your first breath. And the last thing that you do on this earth is that you exhale your last breath.
And then I started thinking:
Without the density of the body, only the breath remains. But what remains once you give up your breath as well?
I took one last deep inhale, and then I exhaled my final breath.
And as I died, I knew: A smile. All that remains is a smile.
Ayahuasca. Vine of the soul. Rope of the dead. I understood why…
And I continued smiling as I gave up my life
And I went home
There from whence we all came
And to where we will all return
And I could see all
And understand all
I remembered who I am
Who I was before I came to Earth
And who I will be again once I am released from my body
Always has been
Always will be
Any other option is unfathomable
Death: It’s our final gift.
Why do we fear the inevitable? Why do we shun away from something so beautifully certain? We have it so backwards here on Earth. Death is to be celebrated, not mourned! Maybe we mourn not for the person passing on, but we mourn for ourselves, feeling deprived of the feeling that our loved ones bring out in us when we share time with them.
Death: It’s returning home to the arms of our original family.
It’s the best time during our cycle of lives, when we get to bring back our earthly experiences to the collective mind, share them with each other and have a good laugh before returning into the next life most suited for us to continue learning what we need to for our own evolution.
We choose to go to Earth in order to forget, so that we can remember again who we really are through experience and in the process get to know ourselves better as One.
From my new, yet very familiar vantage point I was shown the process of incarnation and reincarnation. I could see the Earth as one option for incarnation, I could see her as our Mother, as the womb that held all the necessary conditions for us to grow and live as human beings in a human experience.
Zooming out even further I could see lives come and go, cycling between the temporary physical life on Earth and the more permanent life as energy, each of us a drop returning to the ocean. Watching this cycle, I got the distinct impression that Earthly incarnations were but one chapter in an infinite story, and that after a certain amount of these lives we got to upgrade into other realms, where we would exist and not-exist for another eternity before changing realms yet again.
Life: It is truly eternal. Forms get recycled, but life will continue existing as it always has. It Is What It Is. Nothing else can be.
From that vantage point, this one little life of mine seemed like dust in the wind. Birth, growth and death moves with a certain rhythm, as it always has, as it always will, and struggling against any part of it seems ridiculous.
I could see our entire human history. I could see every soul that has lived on Earth and every one that still had that in its future. When we return to the Source, there is no good or evil, no right or wrong. It just IS. As it has always been.
As the medicine was metabolised by my body, I started retreating from the world of the dead. I found myself back in my body, head resting on my knees. But, after the freedom I had felt in death, this world seemed more like dying to me. This world of impermanence. This world with its rights and wrongs, with its good and bad. The world of duality, the world of experience.
“We have it all backwards,” I thought, but at the same time I was thankful to be back in this familiar world of opportunity. Thankful for this chance to live a human life. Thankful for every part of the Greater Soul that has shared moments with me in this life.
Like a child tucked in by their unconditionally loving parents, I curled up under my blanket with an inner smile unfolding onto my face. I drifted off, lulled to sleep by soothing medicine songs and the knowledge that I am eternal. The Warrior shook me awake as the ceremony came to an end. I sat up straight as the three candles were lit, indicating the end of the ceremony.
Diego, with a smile that showed that he too knew what I did closed the ceremony with a prayer to God in all the names that we share between each other on our planet, on our infinitely intelligent petri dish primed for life. Gratitude and respect rested in the air, and the beauty and power of the prayer brought tears to my eyes. Humbled by the experience I let the tears roll freely down my face, born again but this time from my universal parents: the energy of God inside the warm womb of the Earth.
After the ceremony closed, stories and hugs were exchanged over plates of freshly cut fruit, everyone on the room my brothers and sisters. Diego’s wife, Milagros, came inside. In her arms, she was carrying her one-day old daughter, Catara. What magic! How privileged we were to be in the company of new life! Another drop from the ocean, here on Earth to live a life, to grow and experience and one day return to Source. I could see it all again, from beginning to end.
Even though I still can’t fully comprehend the purpose of it all, I am satisfied knowing that not all is to be understood. What I can understand is that we are here to experience life. For that is what we take back to Source. And we are here to remember who we are. For the faster we wake up in this life, the faster we can move on to the next levels. There is still so much more ahead. And we have an eternity to experience it.
Contributed and written by Marilu of Where Is Marilu who we met on our recent trip to Paracas, Ica. We soon discovered that Marilu & I both had our first Ayahuasca experience at the same place in the Sacred Valley.