This is the story of how Ayahuasca changed my life.
I immediately felt a connection to all the people I would be spending the next week with. On the way to the retreat we spoke of health care, cryptocurrencies, nanotechnology and history. We shared similar musical interests. We were all curious. What would the following week have in store for us? We all joked about how profound of an experience we’ll have, about how life changing Ayahuasca would be. Nothing could have prepared us for what would happen.
We arrived at the center on Sunday afternoon. A welcoming ceremony for us. People were dancing, music was playing, everyone was happy and the mood was light. A group of fourteen of us arrived and we found six people who had already been there for at least one week. We took a tour of the center and had an informational session. Our first dinner was the start of a week of strict dieting. It’s recommended avoid caffeine, alcohol, red meats, refined sugars, marijuana, sex and SSRIs for two weeks before the retreat. It’s also recommended to have a diet of the earth: fruits and vegetables, rice, fish, chicken. I later learned that the idea behind this diet was to keep our energy source as close to the sun as possible. Sprouts > fruits/vegetables > fish > herbivores > omnivores > carnivores. Interesting idea. I like it. I doubt there’s a biological basis for this diet and it’s interaction with Ayahuasca. I do believe that there’s a spiritual/mental interaction. It’s part of the prep work and I’m glad I did it, even a little bit. I’m thankful for the quality of food Arkana provided given the restrictions of the diet.
Nunu was the first ceremony we did. We did it the first night after a briefing on Kambo (which I’ll get to later) and Nunu. Nunu is a blend of 7 different herbs, primarily tobacco, which get shot into each of your nostrils. Nunu is used to clear your sinuses and open your third eye. Your third eye is the spiritual eye. It’s located in your pineal gland and many people believe it’s blocked off because of our diets. The word ‘calcified’ is used to describe the pineal gland of those who have a blocked third eye. I don’t buy into it. Nunu is not something I’d do again. It hurt. It was uncomfortable. It flushed out my sinuses but provided no feeling of relief.
Everyone woke up early the next morning to try Kambo, a frog venom. Indigenous people use Kambo before hunting to heighten their senses. They believe Kambo cures ailments and boosts their immune system. To use Kambo, a shaman burns the skin on the outside of your shoulder and applies the venom (a paste) to each of the burns. Kambo makes your heart race and your body temperature rise. Some people throw up. I had intense diarrhea. I did *not* feel like any of my senses had been heightened and I don’t think it would be a good way to start a hunt. It did not feel good. Kambo and Nunu are worth trying. I don’t think I’ll ever use them again.
Monday night, the night of the Kambo, was our first Ayahuasca ceremony. We each got a mat in the big maloka. The three shamans got their own mats. Each of the facilitators had their own mats. We had a briefing at 5:30. Quiet time started at 6:30. The ceremony started at 7:30. It was abrupt. We all went up one by one as Craig called us, told him how much we’d like to consume (nobody had more than 2 shot glasses) and took our dose. I was one of the last to go up. As I took the Ayahuasca I thought about my intention one last time: have fun. Earlier that day I had spoken with the facilitators and the head shaman about my past and why I was there. They recommended that my intention be to get closer with my family but I chose to instead desire fun. Intentions are similar to prayers, something you think about going into the ceremony. Intentions prime your mind. The candles get blown out after the last adventurer takes their Ayahuasca, shamans and facilitators included. The maloka went dark. The journey began.
Fifteen minutes after the candle was blown out I heard the first of many purges. The trips started soon after. One person repeated “fuck”. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. He was in a loop. Others were crying. Some were yelling. Most were facing demons. The room was full of energy. The facilitators were working hard to keep folks calm. The shamans started singing and it was beautiful. My trip hadn’t started but I was nauseous. I was envious of those who were deep into their trip. Ninety minutes into my trip I called over a facilitator to ask for more. Two neighbors to my right took more with me. This put me over the edge. Ayahuasca is more wonderful than LSD. I became a kid; I laughed at the music, pretended to conduct the songs, I danced on my mat. I couldn’t help but laugh and more than once the facilitators came by and asked me to quiet down. Others were having a hard time. Sometimes the songs would stop and we would have to sit there in silence confronting our thoughts. During these breaks I would play with my shirt. I’d throw it up into the darkness trying to land it on my face. The songs would start again and I would start conducting again. Why was anyone having a hard time? This drug is so wonderful. One of the facilitators brought me to the shamans for my Icaro. I’m not sure when. Icaros are songs sung to you by one of the shamans. The shaman sung about the intention given to me earlier in the day, to get closer to my family. I couldn’t distinguish that intention. I only heard beautiful music. Three of us would get Icaros simultaneously. I could feel the energy of the shamans. I could feel them feeling each others energy. The music and energy wove together. I felt a deep sense of wonder and amazement within me. Music is beautiful. My Icaro finished and a facilitator guided me back to my mat. It was sudden. I needed to vomit. My first purge. The facilitators had told us not to worry about the purge by hovering around our bucket. The purge will come when it needs to come. The facilitators were right. My purge was beautiful. Relieving. Spiritual. It felt *good* to vomit. I threw myself backwards on my mat and revelled in the lightness of my being. My visuals became intense. I was blind. I couldn’t understand anything I was seeing. I was still rooted in reality but I couldn’t see anything. I could hear but I couldn’t listen. Others continued to purge and received their Icaros but I was too absorbed in my own experience to consider how others felt. I felt so good. I wanted to pay for Alex and Reid to come experience this with me when I come back in six months. I convinced myself that I’d be back soon and I wanted to share the experience with close friends. Ayahuasca taught me the value of generosity. I am not a generous person. I’m selfish. I put myself before others. Ayahuasca taught me the value of putting others first. This is still a lesson I’m learning. Generosity breeds happiness and enriches life.
Mornings after ceremonies start with group share. Everyone sits on their mat and gets an opportunity to share with the group whatever they want. We take turns holding a ball, sharing and throwing the ball to another when we’re done. A facilitator translates what we share for the head shaman. The shaman then gives advice on what the trip meant and what intention he thinks you should have going into the next ceremony. When it was my turn to share, I didn’t speak much about my experience. Instead I spoke about the events leading up to the ceremony. During the prior two days I had a lot of skepticism about many of the traditions and ideas surrounding Ayahuasca. I challenged lots of them. I wanted to know the dosage of DMT in our drinks. I wanted to know why we took floral baths. I wanted to know what flowers are used in the bath. I challenged the notion of Kambo making hunters more effective. I asked lots of questions and I felt vilified for it. How dare I question what’s been done for generations. When I asked one of my questions one of the other adventurers told me to shut up. I felt disrespected. This attitude surprised me. Many put on an air of open mindedness but didn’t accept my curiosity. I felt like the vibe of the room change after I shared that. I felt disconnected from the group that day and kept to myself. I worried some of the adventurers would walk on eggshells for fear of hurting my feelings. That was the last thing I wanted. I wanted others to challenge me and question *my* beliefs. I didn’t want others to tell me to shut up and I didn’t want others to get exasperated by my questions. I wanted respect. After I shared my feelings I shared my experience. I shared how my intention going into the ceremony was to have fun. I had no deep revelations and didn’t face any demons like many of the others. The advice given to me by the shaman was useless. So useless that I don’t remember any of it. This was a theme for me throughout the retreat.
My intention for the second ceremony, on Tuesday, was understanding. The results: total confusion. My second ceremony was emotional. We all sat on our mats at 7:30 and one by one Craig called us to take the drug. I took one shot on Monday. I took 1.5 shots this time. Most adventurers started their journey within fifteen minutes of taking the drug. My journey didn’t start until two hours into the ceremony. Ayahuasca redefined love. Whatever I called love before was meaningless and superficial. I hadn’t loved anyone before. I hadn’t loved myself. Love filled me. I radiated love. Love of self. Love of others. Before this ceremony I had a fear of death. Not fear of a horrible and painful death, but fear of the idea of death. I would think about not being alive anymore and that would scare me. I felt such love for myself that I no longer fear the idea of death. My purge, like the ceremony before felt great. Ayahuasca had a much stronger hold of me this time. My purge lasted much longer. It seemed like it lasted much longer. After the purge I got stuck in a loop. The love was overwhelming. Why was I so happy? Will I always be like this? Did I eat something? I don’t want this anymore. I’m scared. Why am I so happy? It confused the hell out of me. I was stuck in this loop for what felt like hours. It was uncomfortable. The ceremony finally ended and the candle was lit. I was blind. I couldn’t perceive any light hitting my retina. I could see light and objects but I couldn’t make out what any of it meant. There was someone lying on my mat and I wasn’t sure who it was. I kept asking “who is this?” and “who’s there?” but they wouldn’t respond. I was so, so confused. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I couldn’t stop asking questions. My questions had no theme. What is philosophy? How do I sleep? What are questions? Can someone talk to me please? What’s going on? Who are you? Who am I? I kept repeating the same questions. I had felt confusion before on LSD, but not like this. I have no idea what Alzheimers feels like but I felt like I had hints of it. I was lucky that Charlotte, Rebecca and Justin were so patient. They dealt with me for hours. So did many others. Thank you to everyone who tolerated me. I’m sure it was annoying. During this eternal confusion I felt a great need to touch people. I hugged everyone in the room at least once. I cuddled with everyone too. Jay was the best cuddler in the room. This ceremony I learned what it means to love, that questions are good and that touch is powerful. It’s such a shame touching isn’t ok. I hope that changes before I die.
During groupshare on Wednesday I shared my experience. I had radiated love towards myself. I wanted understanding but instead got total confusion. My connection with the drug felt much deeper. I was almost ready to start calling it a medicine like everyone else. After groupshare we did yoga. The exercise felt great. I missed moving my body with purpose. At the very end of yoga we did a few minutes of shavasana. To perform shavasana you lie on your back and relax. Simple but powerful. Val spoke to us during shavasana. She told us to love ourselves. To love others. She spoke of pure messages. I started to cry. When shavasana ended and all the others left the room, I stayed. I wasn’t ready to leave. I kept crying. Yesterday’s confusion was still lingering. Why do I feel so *good*? Why did it take me so long to achieve this understanding of happiness and love? How is it that most people never experience this? What happened to me last night? My own happiness and love confused me. I had an emotional glow like I’ve never had before. My emotional breakdown must have lasted close to an hour. Justin, Craig and Val helped me through it. I’m so grateful to have had such an amazing group of people to help me. In that moment and throughout the retreat. Thank you.
Wednesday was our day off. We didn’t do any drugs. We didn’t do Ayahuasca. Our schedule gave us time to recover and reflect. I needed. We all needed it.
Thursday was third ceremony. Third of four. It was my last ceremony. I struggled deciding on my intention. I didn’t settle on one until a few minutes before my dose. I took a half dose with the intention of “teach me”. Again, it took several hours to start my journey. I didn’t start tripping until the Icaros started. This journey was by far the most productive. I learned more than could have ever imagined. This was more than an individual event. It was a species wide event. Coming into this retreat one thing I hoped to find answers for was my weak work ethic. I have never been one to buckle down when things get tough. I’m quick to give up. When learning a new skill I get the quick novice gains and give up when the hard work begins. I got my answer for this. My past two ceremonies had been positive. I had not dealt with any demons, fear or terror. Many, if not most, of the other adventurers had. This journey started with demons. I could see them in my periphery with closed eyes. They looked like snakes. I couldn’t quite perceive them. I was aware of what was going on. I had to work to keep them at bay. If I gave up, they would take over. Failure was not an option. I noticed I had scrunched my face. This self awareness astonished me. I decided that the only way to keep the demons away was to smile. So I smiled. I faked it. I wasn’t scared. I knew I could win but it would be hard. I suddenly realized the power of listening to others. I had beaten the demons. My face was no longer scrunched. It was no longer working to keep them away. They stood no chance. I learned the power of positivity. I learned mental resolve. I learned resilience. I learned the value of work. I learned understanding. I learned to question. I learned to be curious. In an instant I gained the wisdom of a lifetime. I no longer had anything holding me back. I could grow unbounded. I learned the most profound lesson of my life. I am great. I have greatness within me. I could feel the neuroplasticity of my brain. My brain was rewiring and I could feel it. My thought patterns were changing. My perspective was changing. I had more questions than anyone has had in the history of time. I felt powerful. I didn’t feel like the world was at my fingertips. I felt like the universe was at my fingertips. I will change the world. I understood people like I never had before. There’s this notion that the subconscious processes many many times more information that the conscious mind. I felt like a small part of my subconscious had become conscious. I could think so much faster. So much more effectively. I felt powerful. No words will ever do justice how I felt. Ayahuasca is medicine.
Friday morning we did group share again. Many of us had experiences the night before that tied things together. Our lives were finally being resolved. Our journey’s coming to an end. Closure. After group share several of us tried 5-MeO-DMT. 5-MeO cured someone at the retreat of PTSD. I experienced eternal peace. It was hard to understand the feeling. I felt calm and collected. Content with all things. Apathetic of the future. Forgetful of the past. Present. The experience was far less intense than my last Ayahuasca journey but because of it I decided to forgo the final ceremony.
My life now has purpose. I don’t know what that purpose is yet. Faster than light travel is possible. I suspect I will be part of that solution. Whether it is or not, I know that I will put my stamp on humanity. This idea scares me. What does it mean? I know I’m capable of executing on this. I’ve found that people laugh when I share this idea. I’m sure there’s skepticism. Even with my own conviction I find myself skeptical. It’s hard to integrate this idea. The best way forward for myself and all humans is to make sharing ideas easier. Ideas are the cornerstone of humanity. I have many ideas but I can never have enough.
What are your ideas? What do you think?
 This is my understanding of how Ayahuasca works interacts with the body. There are two active ingredients, DMT and a MAO inhibitor (MAOI). DMT ingested without a MAOI inhibitor will not be absorbed by the body, the DMT isn’t bioavailable. This is because the MAO enzyme destroys the DMT. Much of the DMT in a first dose isn’t absorbed because the MAOI in the shot hasn’t had time to inhibit the enzyme. When given a second dose, you’re given a lot less because the MAOIs from the first dose have had time to take full effect. My second dose was a quarter shot. If any of this is wrong, someone please correct me.