A Ceremony of Lights Awakening
Gratitude is what I would first like to express to all the indigenous tribes that have been eradicated in a world that forgot long ago how to live in balance with nature. Thank you for all that you have taught us about ourselves and human origins, thank you to those of you still pushing on as capitalist greed works feverishly to destroy the lungs of the earth. Thank you for showing me the part I play in the mess making, so that I may mindfully be of better assistance to my brothers, sisters, and the planet. Thank you Mother Earth for the air I am breathing as I write these words, and thank you for the air inside the body of the one who reads them, thank you for your infinitely cradling arms of nurturing grace. We would be lost without them, and have been lost for some time – blind to how much you give us daily. Thank you for your plant medicines and for the Shamans you have shared your secrets with, thank you for helping them find us. Thank you for shaking us to our bones. Bless the brave souls that do this work, for truly the way out is within, and there is still hope left for humanity and the beings of this world. You have looked into our hearts in order to remind us that NOW is the time to live our purpose. I thank you ever so humbly for this borrowed body, and for giving me the words that help others awaken and heal via the art and articulation of my experience.
My partner asked me “Shouldn’t you find some other way to talk about your experience, and disguise that you have tried Ayahuasca?” To which I explained that the level of healing I received, and what I was shown, has removed every drop of fear from my heart when discussing what a powerful healer this medicine and experience has been for me, and can be for so many others. I let my partner know that the message I received about how fast we were destroying our rain forest was too intense to ignore out of the fear of what someone else might think about the beautiful thing I just did with my own life. To be silent, is to be a part of the problem, and a perpetuating aspect of the stigma associated with entheogenic use and spiritual practice; a kind of hypocrite. I must talk my walk. Get it?
It was pay-day, a much anticipated Friday, for it was to be my first time journeying with the mysterious plant medicine of the Amazon, Ayahuasca. A range of emotions filled my spirit, excitement, nervousness, fear. I wasn’t sure if I would make it in time, and I knew that the doors would close to those who were late. I had to cash my check, and buy a new fancy white outfit, white socks, and white underwear in record timing! I absolutely love wearing all white, and didn’t have a reason too for some years. As I entered the discount store, the perfect shirt was the only one on the rack, just my size. There was a series of perfect synchronicities unfolding that showed me I was being cradled by the hands of time all the way there. My trains arrived perfectly. Every step felt like walking the plank, but in a beautiful way. I was the one choosing this death by deciding to answer the call.
I entered the room of about 30 people all dressed in white, all from different walks of life, some experienced with the medicine, some absolutely not. I jotted these words down in my journal “I have no idea why the spirit has bought us together so, but I am looking forward to the magic. It feels like a return home, even before taking the medicine.” I thought I would be a lone stranger in this process, but as I walked in, there were people who knew me from my work in poetry, and I was also pleasantly surprised by the presence of a dance buddy that has been in my life for about a decade. Her presence was most reassuring. I excitedly hugged her and smiled, and between us was a man I had met before, who remembered my poetry, and was far more experienced with the medicine than I was. The lady to my right, answered a question I had about natural allergy remedies, I overheard it in a conversation she was having with someone else. So even before the journey I was being given information that would help me out, just by the presence of those brought together.
Our lovely director, a very gentle lady with a kind heart, let us all know that the ceremony would begin once the sun set, and that it would carry over into the morning. Our modern tracking devices (cell phones), were collected to be given back at the end. Our helpers were introduced, as it would be their job to clean up our vomit buckets throughout the night, and assist with things like, needing to run to the bathroom for a violent bowel movement, and just an overall grounding presence. They glowed with experience and compassion, and I hadn’t known in the moment, just how important they would be. I noticed the Shaman sitting quietly at the opposite end of the room, and I wondered what must be going through his mind. I knew he was real. After a while, I ceased chatting with my buddies near me and began shifting into a more meditative state on my fancy dragon meditation cushion (more on that later) feeling all mindful and experienced and what not, as this was not my first entheogen Shamanic healing experience. But I would soon discover that there is nothing quite like Ayahuasca.
The sun set, we were lead through a Kundalini Chakra Meditation that included chanting ancient Vedic mantras to awaken this energy. I was a mixture of anxious, nervous, and just ready to drink the damn thing, as I already centered myself, and did a Chakra cleansing and opening meditation on my own beforehand, as well as a Tonglen meditation for the whole room. I didn’t let my inner voice of arrogance and impatience ruin my time though, I just settled into the experience and listened to the beautiful sound of a room full of people chanting together, ready to face the demons within and experience ego death. Such brave souls. I did not know yet, just how brave.
Our Shaman cleansed and blessed the room. The sun was long set, and we went up one at a time to the Shaman’s place in the room to drink about a shot glass size of what to me, tasted like a wheat-grass shot mixed with soil and tree bark. I grew up drinking similar foul tasting things for good health, so I found it quite, dare I say, pleasant to drink, at the moment. I would not think so for long. Before the 30th person took their shot glass sized amount, the person next to me began vomiting his life away, and I was shocked, and horrified!! I began to ask the medicine “Please don’t make me go out like that, I got this new white shirt, please, don’t make me mess up my white clothes.” I could feel her gently working through me, taking her time, I felt her inspect my heart and I said “See, I’m not fighting you, my heart is open, and I’m ready.” I also took care to use the bathroom before hand, because I was not about to crap on my fresh whites. What a silly preoccupation of the mind.
About two people down from me, another sound effect of vomit being launched from a stomach ooze. This man was face down, butt in the air, face buried in bucket. The Shaman, began to sing. I was terrified, another person somewhere else in the room of 30 began violently retching. Oh god, oh god, my dear friend covered her ears, I followed suit. The sound, if nothing else, was starting to make me want to vomit too. We were an hour in, and at this point the Shaman asked “If you are not feeling the effects of the medicine, you are welcome to come up for another cup.” I wasn’t seeing visuals, or anything major, so me and my white socks walked softly across the floor for a full dose. About 20 minutes later, my journey began.
I asked her to help heal my body and mind, the history in my blood. At this point, I began weeping quietly, because I could see how hurt I’ve been from all the trauma in my life. I saw that I was walking around with invisible wounds, and how those wounds were ruining my decision making process. Another person began sexually moaning in the distance, another vomiting, another crying, the Shaman singing, I felt like I was in an emotional zoo, and yes, I was a part of it too. I felt cradled in the craziness of it all, and found the songs the Shaman sung (Icaros) to be quite soothing and grounding. At this point I was literally begging Aya not to make me throw up, but she was tired of my antics. I sat up faster than I have ever sat up in life and reached for my bucket and vomited so hard my body twist and wiggled like someone was squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube. Only it was my body. I don’t know, I thought that I would vomit much more elegantly than that. I began screaming for help, only it came out like a vulnerable defeated whimper on repeat. My fear of asking for help has been forever removed. That was one of her firsts gifts to me. Asking for help reveals a level of vulnerability many don’t like to express. I saw how stupid the whole idea around that was and just kept asking and asking, “Help.” The Shaman took forever to come over to me. And the helpers were taking care of others. I felt alone, so terribly alone, but I pushed through. The entire moment was the teacher. That was the second gift she gave me, over coming the fear of being alone.
The room, though dark, looked buzzed and electrified, like a layer of energy underneath everything was visible, and vibrating with the songs. Dimly colored mandala like structures were everywhere, I was in awe of what I was seeing, and thankful to vomit because I felt a dark energy leave my body when I did. My fancy white shirt, was now a vomit napkin, and my fancy meditation pillow had my crippled head resting on it, a far cry from my pretentious half lotus posture earlier in the night. All I could do was close my eyes. What did I get myself into? When I closed my eyes I saw that I was trapped in a maze of mirrors, each mirror representing some thought or idea about life that somehow cleverly trapped me into not being or seeing who I really was. At this point I said to the medicine in my mind – speaking for myself and for all of humanity – “Oh my God, we are too clever, I’m just trying to live, please, please, I didn’t mean to get myself into this mess, I surrender, help.” Then the mirrors were removed, and I began seeing the most amazing visuals I have ever seen in my life. Infinite vines of plants, bright lights, geometrics, and so many eyes everywhere, and I was being taught through it all. Sometimes with words, sometimes with light, always with the most intense love I didn’t even know was possible. The love the earth has for all it’s beings. An infinite unconditional love, even for the species currently trying to destroy her, us. An infinitely forgiving kind of love that just shook everything I thought I knew about love to its core. My mouth hung open in awe, and I shook my head in utter disbelief at how much I really didn’t know about love. I saw that our problems with each other stem from that lack of understanding the true immensity of love. I forgave everyone that has ever hurt me, because I knew it was because of this deep inner blindness we all experience, that was now being removed from me.
I could now feel my chakras spinning and buzzing with such intense energy, especially my root chakra, as it needed the most work. I kept hearing “Remember what you see,” over and over again, and I asked her “How?”, because what I was seeing was moving so fast, and was so intricate, that it was hard not to be overwhelmed or even distracted by it all. And then I kept hearing “Learn, Learn, Learn” and she showed me such wonders, and all the wonders were tiny little pieces of the whole and each were astonishing to look at, and then she said to me, that is why you don’t see your beauty, it is for them to see, the same way that you see theirs. The message was to know that I was part of the beauty, and that I was also it too, and that my shining was for others. At this point I was just like “Oh!” it was an instant epiphany, so gentle, so perfect, so what I needed to know. I cried and cried tears of healing release and joy. I saw that I was already whole, and knew it to be the truth with every fiber of my being. Then she started saying “Too fast to cry, too fast to cry.” While showing me, through intense abstract visuals, how fast life really is, and how silly it is to waste so much time on mourning, when our lives are but a blink of an eye. At this point I’ve officially lost count of the gifts. Everything felt like such infinite remembering. Some learning was happening too fast to consciously digest. I could feel her working in the background of my mind, like a soft surgeon of the soul.
The Shaman, finally came over and began singing the Icaros right over me, at this point something strange happened to me. I connected to his heart, as it is a habit of mine to try to hold a space of compassion for others no matter what. So here I was in this vulnerable state, still trying to hold a space for everyone in the room, and now even the Shaman. I felt the immensity of his story, as the medicine began to show me plants weeping and in so much pain, I felt the destruction of our rain forest manifest in my body as the most sad and horrible thing in our world. It hurt so much to feel it, it was as if the purge was now coming through my eyes in a most painful way. My tears were hot, and endless. I was in such a humble state of gratitude, even though his home is being destroyed, here he was still doing this ancient work. I could not understand how he didn’t give up, I felt his power, his compassion, frustration, and love all at once. I just kept saying to him with my hands in prayer position “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I knew that he felt that I knew. It was an empathic intuitive conversation of energy. Don’t ask me how it works. He then proceeded to help the others. As he walked away I began contemplating who I was, and I saw this big strong beautiful being with beautiful dark sparkling skin that seemed to have gems of light in it, he was pulling light through his left hand from the heavens, and shooting it out his right to those that he loved, which was pretty much, everybody. Then it hit me, Oh…that’s me! I got to see me from a perspective outside of myself, and I literally saw the beauty flowing from my hands to everyone. I saw the determination in my face, the will to keep going, something reminiscent of the Hindu deity Hanuman. I whispered to myself “I’m awesome.” I saw just why I should love being me, no matter what the world thinks. I saw that even in times of great turmoil, I am able to hold a space for others, because that is just who I am, and have always been. I’m a healer. I open my heart and funnel light with everything that I do. One foot in the unseen world, and one foot in the seen world. I am of ancient design, here for all who need me.
Uh oh, Bathroom time. As the helpers were busy emptying full buckets, during one of my “elegant” vomit episodes some spilled onto my journal, I was a sloppy hot mess, exhausted, and over it. Ready for it all to stop. It was calming down, and I was very thankful for that, so I finally got up and made my way to the bathroom, in my fancy white tank top. I was told by one of the helpers that the Shaman would be doing individual healing and that I should join the line for it. All I really wanted to do was lay down and just breathe, but who turns down a focused healing from a Shaman on their first Ayahuasca experience, not I! This healing was great, some Reiki was given to each person by the gentle lady who organized the event just before each of us went up to the Shaman. So perfect. A nice pre-closure to it all.
The sun was coming up, and I was still on my journey, a lighter version of it, with mild visuals when I closed my eyes. I was sick of the visuals at that point and just wanted to see the room and hear what was happening in my mind. As I laid there in fetal position I began contemplating my history, and I felt the memory of warriors in my genetics like tiny little light switches in my blood, I felt how important my gentle ways are for creating harmony even in times of war. I saw that thousands of years of perfection went into creating a being like me, and then Aya gave me the best gift of the night, I quietly whimpered out of my mouth “Oh…I’m not a mistake.” You see, I don’t know just when I began believing that, or how I so successfully buried it. It was an invisible wound, a result of being thrown away so many times in my life. A wound that I now have in my conscious awareness, which allows me to act in a different way. My power, my inner sense of strength and purpose came back full swing. I haven’t felt this brave and alive since I was a teenager. My last humble request to her was “Please, teach me how to love like you.” What a miracle this experience has been. Aho!
We ate fresh fruit and nuts in the morning, pot luck style. Each carefully crawled to the middle to get little bites of food with the only energy they had left from what was for many, a very difficult night. Rewarding, but difficult. Such is life. We then shared a bit of our experience to the whole group, still in the Aya afterglow. So awesome to hear what each had to say. Pieces of the puzzle we all are. Such insight, such love. Then the thought hit me “Oh NO! I have to do this all again tomorrow! What the hell was I thinking?!”
When I returned home I could not sleep, and had I known the intensity of the Ceremony beforehand, I probably would not have chosen to do two nights back to back. I would have placed a day in between. Though, I am glad that the naive adventurous part of me won this battle.
So there I was, back in the room after only 4 hours of sleep, if you can call it that; my dreams were intense. I was one of the earliest to arrive, it felt like I never left. I found a spot closer to a window, so that I could get some air during the more challenging parts of the ceremony. We followed much of the preparation we did the night before with meditations, introductions of helpers and so on, so I’ll jump ahead and share what happened during my journey as best I can. You see, I was emotionally and physically exhausted, and after beautifully vomiting on my journal the night prior, I was reluctant to write as much down. I was, spent, as they say.
I purged much less than the night before, and as I began communicating with the plant teacher, I noticed that I didn’t have much inner limiting garbage left to work through. I’ve done so much preliminary work on myself with meditation and journaling, that this second night was kind of an emotional breeze in comparison. I had strange experiences of group consciousness that become hard to describe. At moments I would have a question or think a thought, and someone else in the group would shout out, or sing and answer in a repetitive manner. This was quite bizarre to me. I’m used to the normal way this unfolds in groups. Close friends often finish each others’ sentences, or sometimes we can think of a person and they call. These are common place experiences that we take for granted. However, what was happening in that room took all of that to a whole different level, that again I can’t completely describe. The best description I can come up with is, awake and active conscious oneness in the realm of thought and emotion. The idea of the separate self was taking a back seat. It felt like we were all inside of each other on multiple levels of our being. My neighbors healing, was also my own. My healing, was also my neighbors.
So with my personal traumatic baggage left behind in a bucket somewhere, I decided to ask her to work on an issue that I see damaging the planet. In an effort to be the change I wish to see, I asked the medicine to work on my greed. That is when the purging began, and after spewing my guts out into the bucket, I saw infinite teeth on tiny little faces strung together infinitely chewing, until I was just utterly disgusted by witnessing the feverish consumption of everything in the path of the teeth. They were just chewing for the sake of chewing, destroying so much. I began chewing my own necklace like a wild mad man mimicking the teeth I was seeing in my mind’s eyes. If felt like I went back in time in human evolution, where we had to be greedy to survive. A level of greed that is totally unnecessary in this age. The chewing of my own amethyst necklace’s string made me see that we bite off even things we can’t chew. We take more than we can actually consume. I saw the horror of greed. It is hard be greedy after going through that. So when I thought I needed more medicine, I was reluctant to go up, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t an act of greed, as the first dose had already been quite strong on this second night.
After that, my journey felt like I was walking through the park with a friend having a light chat with profound implications. At some point, I began gently asking the medicine to show me herself. I used the softest, most kindly, loving inner voice I have ever known myself to use. The kind of voice you use when you don’t want to scare away a tiny animal you want to take a picture of or something. A voice that approaches silence as your heart swells with yearning, curiosity, and capture. The kind of voice you use when you want to tell someone that you love them, but you think your love might scare them away. It was at that moment of sincere vibration, that through the complex visuals and dances of light that I was seeing, the medicine manifested in front of my mind’s eye as a gentle feminine like face pushing through the infinitely moving vines. There was depth, there was beauty, there was calm, and this startled me deeply. Seeing that the medicine was an actual being that could manifest into a somewhat recognizable from was shocking, because up until that point, the visuals, though they had their “forms” and patterns that my mind could not comprehend, my mind could undoubtedly comprehend a face, and the emotion upon it. It peaked out at me, then just as quickly became hidden again.
It is writing about it now that I realize that the reason she vanished so quickly, was because I was not there to see her, I was there to see myself. In an act of service, to prevent my distraction, she moved herself out of my way. Even more peculiar is the realization that she was teaching me how to ask her to show herself without the use of my words. The proper description of what I am trying to convey escapes my language. It was a lesson in how to help selflessly, and how to teach quietly. Sometimes we help because we want to be seen or heard, and we want others to ask for us, but we must all grow beyond such petty traps of the ego, and help even when no one is looking, or knows that we are there. Lessons upon lessons.
Then the medicine took me to a point beyond the fractals, and shapes, and forms, a point beyond the vines, it was a space that was only profound pure light, a point that felt like it was where all things converge, and become truly one. It was here that I felt the undeniable presence of my Grandmother who recently passed. And for the very first time since her passing, I knew that she was okay, and that she was in that light I was now seeing. I witnessed the ease after death, the return to the light we will all take. I miss her, and it hurts that she is gone, but I am so happy that she is in light. What a gift this plant teacher is. Do you understand?
One of the noisier travelers tried to sing with the Shaman and the organizer and it was terribly off-key, and I wanted to laugh so bad, but I kept stifling my joy. At this point the medicine said “It’s just as hard for you to laugh as it is for you to vomit” and I thought that was crazy! Realizing that I was killing my own joy made me laugh and laugh and laugh uncontrollably. You know, I could just see how little control we have over what happens around us. I saw that at times, it is okay to just laugh at it all, and not try so hard.
The medicine began to subside, and in the moment I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of the experience because some of my deeper moments were interrupted by that same off-key singing traveler, now screaming in the ceremony. I would have liked to inspect that bright light and the presence of my Grandmother some more. But there was too much noise, because there was just so many people. I would have a divine moment, and then get ripped out of it by a scream or a yell or something utterly unnecessary happening in the space by someone less grounded. I wasn’t mad, but you know, the noise did take away quite a bit of my experience on this second night.
So I did what any wise person would do! I went up for a second full purge inducing dose after the yelling stopped. My purging this time was just dry heaving and deep breaths, no liquid. It was like I reached the bottom of myself, like I “got it all out.” The visuals returned and I asked the medicine in my excited arrogance “Do you remember me?” to which the reply was “You are just a leaf.” Keep in mind that, I was seeing infinite leaves for the past two days, so to be told that I was just a leaf, was quite ego destroying. Then she said “but you are a leaf on me.” That, really warmed my heart. Why? Because of how it translates to humanity, you know, we are each a leaf of humanity, and we are each playing our part, and we will each fall off and die, but that doesn’t take away the fact that we are all a part of each other, moving as one whether we are aware of it or not. We are all small, we are all important. Then she took on the strangest shapes and began teaching me through light and magic once again. Magic is the best word I can use, because the visions also took on the effect of landscapes and scenery, or realms I have no other way of describing without using the words cosmically magical – I saw what the visionaries paint. So I said “that’s beautiful, but I can’t paint, please help me use the right words when sharing this experience with others.” Dear reader, did she answer my request effectively? Have you been moved by these words? Have they taken you to a part of yourself that has similar wounds? Magic. However, I was still perplexed by her lack of taking a shape, to which she responded “I don’t need a form, it is not me who must remember my beauty, it is you who must remember yours.” Isn’t remembering what it’s all about? I forgot some of the deeper lessons that only happened about an hour before during my first dose and purge. I was baffled, how could I forget on the same day, the same night, in the same ceremony? It is true what they say, the real ceremony begins after the ceremony. We can only remember what we allow ourselves to integrate…with time.
And this is where my sharing of the journey ends. I am still integrating so much, I could not fit it all into this entry, but you will see my art, and know, that something deep within me has been changed for good.