Ayahuasca – A reflection, one year later
I’d been fascinated by plant medicines for at least five years. A fascination which began after listening to a podcast with Graham Hancock in which he discussed the role he believed they played in ancient civilizations. It wasn’t until November 2018 however, that I felt the time was right to experience them personally. I wasn’t (and still am not really) an avid user of narcotics in any form. In fact, my first experience with psychedelics was only one year earlier, with LSD. An experience that also coincided with my first experience practising yoga.
It’s been well over a year now since I had my experience with Ayahuasca and had I written this post back then I think it would have been very different. After completing my two sessions with the plant medicine I was convinced my asthma was gone, and that I had life more-or-less figured out, or at least a distinct plan. I felt unstoppable and had a drive and presence like never before. After the session I was convinced I would fall into the perfect job, I had found the love of my life and that this feeling of self-love would last forever. I felt completely connected to everything and everyone.
Set & Setting:
There are a few critical factors to a safe experience with plant medicines such as Ayahuasca. Most important of which are set and setting. Since I’d moved to London six months or so prior to my experience with Ayahuasca, I’d heard that guided sessions were available in Amsterdam (no longer the case). However, it wasn’t until two strangers within 12 hours of each other mentioned Ayahuasca in Amsterdam, one of which gave me a recommendation, that I decided it was time to give it a try. They say that when it’s your time to try plant medicine it will call you, and the call will be undeniable. There were definitely cheaper options to my referral, but I knew set and setting was important and I trusted the word of this person over a google review. I knew I’d made the right choice when I looked up the next available session and it coincided with a trip in a few week’s time that I had already booked to Amsterdam.
As with most of these things, I don’t think the details of my own personal journey are important as they will just lead to expectation, and if I learned anything, it’s that there is no real way of knowing what the medicine will have in store for you, and experiences are vastly different. That being said, I will give a brief outline.
In the preceding weeks, we were given a detox diet to follow which became more strict the closer we came to our session. On the night of the session, we started off a few hours of bonding with fellow participants, the Sharman, and her assistants. This aided in feeling more comfortable with those around you as you shared the experience. Once they had cleared our energy and the energy of the space and stated our intention for the experience we were then given our dose and made our way to our mattress where we lay for the duration of our trip.
As we lay there the Sharman chose music, both contemporary and more tribal, sung, danced, played instruments and watched over us with her assistants. Given aid to those who were being challenged in some way. I would highly recommend taking a notepad and pen with you as there were a number of times in my first session where I found it necessary to jot down ideas and thoughts, even if they didn’t always make sense at a later date.
Like most who speak on their experiences with Ayahuasca, I felt a deep connection with nature, that of which is difficult to describe and for those who have not experienced it, almost impossible to comprehend. There were a series of ideas that came to me, concepts I was familiar with and thought I believed, but somehow it that moment they seemed cemented and profound, such as the idea that love is all that matters and I was perfect and worthy just the way I was. It showed me the importance of coincidence and that literally everything happens for a reason and as a guide for the path ahead.
There were experiences of shadow and light. For example, finally grieving the loss of my Nana (the shadow) followed by the knowing that she was there with me smiling down (the light). Another was the experiencing the heartache of the loss of my unborn twin brother followed by the deep understanding that an individual I’d recently met and felt a strong connection to, was in fact a reincarnation of him.
After years of asthma, like many asthmatics, I was shallow breathing. Ayahuasca “spoke” to me and taught me to breathe properly, but not in the sense of hearing the words, or visualizations. It was more a knowing, instinctively understanding but realizing that the information came from a source outside of myself. It gently encouraged me to focus on my breathing and breathe more fully. By the end of the session I felt a lightness in my chest and breathing that I had never felt before.
During my final session, there was one more lesson, it highlighted who my soulmate was. It showed me our lives together and how deeply we were connected through more of those instinctive understandings, like how a tattoo I had seemingly got at random many years earlier was in fact a representation of her. As you can imagine I left and thought that was it, it was all sorted, but a few months later I found that feeling wasn’t reciprocated creating a great deal of heartache. Now looking back I can see it was a valuable lesson in external validation, it taught me to be present, and that there was still work to be done in learning to love myself.
Looking back I find it was a valuable experience but not the be-all and end-all. Ayahuasca gives you a taste of what life could be like if you learn to love yourself and others unconditionally, release all fear and be guided by love. The taster that Ayahuasca gives you eventually wears off and there you are left with the real work of making a conscious effort to put the lessons into practice. Having said that, it gives me the space I needed to let go of losses and experiences that I had burying deep down, and for the first time in a long time, cry and let myself be able to feel these emotions fully. Previously these feelings just built up and turned into frustration, and anger, and eventually sickness. It was very common for me to get sick seemly at random. Now that I’m able to sit with those emotions fully and let them go through crying, breath or meditation I get sick far less often, and recover faster.
Advice: My advice to anyone interested in plant medicine is, like most things, do your research. Find likeminded people, watch podcasts, read books, and don’t rush. I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind (my review is here).
To have these profound experiences you must feel comfortable and safe. If at any point something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. There will be another chance. These medicines are no joke and some people have found themselves in horrible situations having placed their minds and bodies in the trust of the wrong people.
Next time? I think I will try plant medicines again soon, but there is no rush. I’m now of the mindset that if it doesn’t come easily, or with obvious signs that I must do it, then I will just wait until the time is right. Right now I’m content in better understanding the science, reading anecdotes and focusing on personal growth through journaling, reading, and meditation. After all, most of these individuals working with plant medicines eventually discover that meditation is the only sustainable way to become love.
“The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.” — Aldous Huxley