I surrender! Mother Ayahuasca (part 1)
A journal of the attempts to find my life purpose through the sacred hallucinogenic Amazonian plants
I leaned back on the wall of the indigenous-built chosa, staring into the fire in the centre of the circle, trying to stay focus. It was around 7 p.m. The room was dead quiet, except the sound of the relentless river behind us, as if everyone was waiting for something important to happen.
I was the first, and the only participant in this ceremony, who drank a dose of ayahuasca from a small soy sauce bowl. Followed by Shaman Alberto, an indigenous Shuar shaman from the rainforest in Ecuador, and his wife. I nervously waited for the medicine to kick in, it seemed like forever in the silence.
Everyone was doing their own thing, Paulo, an indigenous young man who was my caretaker of the session, kicked his feet up by the fire, chilling. Linda, the Shaman’s wife, lied sideways on her mattress, while Alberto sat up super straight on a chair craved out of a log. I pretended to relax, but in fact I was super anxious not knowing what was gonna happen.
It wasn’t long before I felt my vision changed a little, like I was seeing through smoke. I was still totally conscious, amused by swirling shape of the fire. Sometimes a sparkle went off, I quietly laughed, just like a small child seeing fireworks for the first time.
Nothing happened for a long time, I kept staring into the fire. I thought the Shaman would start singing icaros, but he didn’t. I felt tense in the silence. Time passed slowly in stillness.
Bit by bit my body started to feel numb, my head turned cloudy. It was not exactly numbness though, but I couldn’t quite figure out what that sensation was — it was almost like my skin turned into pixels and they were shivering to leave my body, in a sci-fi movie kind of way. “Bring it on mother ayahuasca!” I said to myself, ready for the rollercoaster ride.
BAM! I suddenly lost all of my balance, even though my body hadn’t moved an inch from my mattress. My heart was now beating like crazy, pumping so fast I could have a heart attack right now. I calmed myself by tapping my own chest, while counting my breath.
Now I felt extremely sick, my bowel moved so rigorously as though an angry snake got trapped in a potato sack. Then in a split second, I felt the need to purge. I swiftly flipped my body to the side of the mattress, got hold of the medium-sized plastic bucket, stuck my head into it and purged into the darkness.
The force of the purge was fierce, like a tsunami coming out of my mouth, emptying everything inside my stomach, dragging my stomach out along the way — but there was not much — since I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. The purge felt like never-ending ocean waves crashing the shore, every time I thought it was over, another one kicked in and I found my head once again inside the obscure universe of vomit. It felt like eternity. The force squeeze-emptied my stomach, until the very last bit of nothingness was out. I gasped and moaned when this ordeal was over. I lost all my energy, rolled back on my mattress, desperately trying to breathe.
I drifted between consciousness and cloudiness. One second I closed my eyes and I saw totally absurd visuals — little soldiers matching in the Willy Wonka chocolate factory, machines pounding, geometric patterns fading in the background, while some unrecognisable faces floating in the foreground. One second there was absolutely nothing — as if I came back to reality. The next second something chaotic appeared, without any storyline, yet hundreds of stories happening at the same time.
At one point I saw a super high speed train going through a dark tunnel, came out to a gorgeous valley full of greenery on a bright day. The frame swiftly zoomed into the train cabin, I saw a woman who wore a big hat, we were so close I could almost sense her warmth, but I couldn’t see her face. And then everything disappeared again. What did this all mean?
I was mildly entertained by the randomness of my visuals, and I felt like I could start directing my own movie. So I visualised the guy I really liked, reiterating some of the funny dialogues we had, cuddling on a hammock by the beach. It felt real, just like we were together again in a different space-time spectrum. I couldn’t help but had a big grin on my face. I felt happy. Have you ever heard about the myth that if you miss someone that someone would miss you at the same time? I chose to believe that’s true. So I talked to him in my head, hoping he could feel it. It was nice even though it was not real. I liked to cheat myself into believing I had telepathic superpower at that moment. Images of my best friends also appeared, so I went with the flow to talk to them as well. Through that I felt joy, tremendously loved, even though I was “alone” in the middle of the rainforest.
The sweet moment didn’t last long. Now I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. I had been holding it for a while because I was reluctant to leave my romantic zone. I crawled up like a sloth, fighting to remove two layers of blankets, trying to stand up.
Paulo saw me struggling, and passionately sprinted over to grab my arms and led me to the bathroom. I locked the door behind me, tried to stay centred in this little bamboo hut with a white ceramic western toilet. There was no light but a candle on the floor. I sat on the toilet, while focusing on my breathing. Unexpectedly I became claustrophobic, I have never been claustrophobic in my entire life — then my world started spinning, I tumbled as if I was in a washing machine rapid spin cycle. It was overwhelming, and I was shit-scared. I hadn’t even pulled my pants up! “What’s happening now?”
My world was at a 45 degrees, I lost all senses of orientation. The moment I stood up I smacked my forehead onto the wall. “Estas bien?” Paulo must have heard me screaming and concernedly asked me through the door, he had been waiting for me outside. I didn’t have the energy to answer. Using all my will power to stay focus, I leaned my back against the wall, trying to pull my pants up. This simple process that takes a grown adult half a second, it took me forever. I opened the bamboo door and collapsed onto Paulo. He caught me and slowly walked me back to my mattress. That 20-meters walk was like summiting the Himalayas in the dark, while my head was all muddled and spinning. I landed on my mattress dramatically, with my limbs all spread out, I was totally exhausted like a marathon runner crossing the finishing line. My world kept spinning for I didn’t know how long, and then I passed out.
I woke up to some sounds, Shaman Alberto was chanting a song. I couldn’t understand a word he sang but it felt nice. My world had stopped spinning, and I felt sober. It was weird to feel sober. I realised it was over.
This trip was totally different from my experience 4 years ago in Peru, when one of the ceremonies shook me to the core spiritually and emotionally, leading to my decisions to quit the rat race, leave everything behind and pursue something more meaningful.
All along I was expecting something profound, out-of-the-world, spiritually-enlightening to happen this time. Nothing happened, except for the horrific purging and space spinning. My continuous pleading to mother Ayahuasca didn’t come through. I was disappointed. Maybe the more I wanted the least I could get? Maybe I had to let the medicine guide me instead of guiding the medicine? Maybe I needed to let go of all expectations? Maybe I didn’t need answers from the medicine? Maybe this stuff just didn’t work on me anymore? I have no answers.
“Mother Ayahuasca always gives you what you need instead of what you want” My shaman said to me. I smirked, secretly annoyed by how uneventful this evening was.
This article was originally published on Medium on March 23, 2019