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My Ayahuasca Experience: Part 1

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

-Hypocrates

We started preparing for our ayahuasca retreat about a month before we departed for Ecuador. If you’re still unsure of what Ayahuasca is (also known as “Mother Aya”), check out my previous blog post here. My friends, fiancé and I were instructed to stop eating red meat, refined sugar, processed grains, onions, garlic, spices, coffee and alcohol. We were also to refrain from sex and any other “indulgent” substances or activities to obtain the utmost spiritual, mental, and physical purity possible.

I was nervous from the get-go. I did my research and watched several videos–including Chelsea Handler’s experience on “Chelsea Does”. Every single person’s experience seemed so vastly different; so I didn’t know what the heck to expect. Fear of the unknown is one of the most terrifying forms of fear…

I’ll never forget my first Ayahuasca ceremony. It was the second night after we arrived in Ecuador, at the beautiful plant medicine retreat center, Gaia Sagrada. Everyone in our group was extremely anxious, including myself. We ate light meals that day and mostly relaxed. I journaled, set my intention (which ended up changing last minute) and filmed some of my thoughts. The ceremony didn’t start until after dinner and would last for up to 6+ hours.

The ceremony begins.

Dusk arrived and finally, we gathered in a circle around the maloka (a small, beautifully painted hut used for ceremonies). We were bundled up in our mattresses full of blankets and pillows, exposed to a beautiful, yet frigid night in the Andes mountains. We sat there, watching the fire dance while anticipating whatever awaited us in our cup. My anxiety was through the roof just before we took our first dose of the sacred plant medicine. The main thing that seemed to help was my friends / fiancé’s presence–knowing we were all going through the same thing together. Native drumming and chanting started and thus the beginning of the ceremony. I think the Shaman’s traditions and authentic, passionate demeanor helped comfort everyone. They really believed in what they were doing. You could tell they truly cared and wanted us to have the best experience possible.

It was finally my turn. The Shaman handed me my medicine, I thought of my intention once again, said a prayer, and down the hatch (thankfully, with the help of an orange slice.) Just like any psychedelic experience, Ayahuasca experiences are extremely difficult, if not impossible to describe. It was an intense sensory, visual and emotional experience to say the least. The medicine hits everyone at different times. Mother Ayahuasca penetrated my soul within 5 minutes… I believe I was one of the first.

When Ayahuasca hit me.

I was staring at the fire at the center of the maloka and everything shifted very quickly. Everything felt very primitive, like back in caveman times (I’m sure the music amplified this). I started seeing technicolor patterns and symbols that looked ancient in nature. The fire keeper turned into a woman and I immediately was overwhelmed with deep feelings and gratitude for all women, especially for mothers. (Mother Ayahuasca is known to have very feminine energy). My heart was open and full of love, forgiveness, and compassion, but this quickly turned into deep pain and sadness that seemed to penetrate deep into my soul. My new intention (to let go of anger, hurt, and resentment from some recent trauma) was quickly working together with ayahuasca, in what felt like a cathartic collaboration. I started weeping harder than I ever remembered and cried out for a “helper.” Someone came to me, but I begged for a woman, specifically the owner of the retreat, and Shaman, Christine. I was overwhelmed with grief, so they helped me find my things and leave the circle to somewhere more private.

I intuitively knew a large part of my purge was meant to be verbal. I needed to talk to one of the Shamans to process my overwhelming feelings and receive some comfort so I could calm down. In the back of my mind I made a mental note on how dependent I was on external things for comfort: deep breathing, my aromatherapy scarf, my essential oils, water, physical touch, the presence of others, etc. I couldn’t comfort myself or completely surrender, which is what Mother Aya “wants” you to do. The more you resist and hold onto control / reality, the more you struggle. Once I got settled onto a bed far away from the maloka near the bathrooms, I let it all out… I was bawling to Christine about the extremely difficult and emotionally draining situation I was in. We had just received some shocking news before we left on our trip and it was all catching up to me.

Since I walked into this stepmom role, being the empath and highly sensitive person (HSP) that I am, in addition to being a marriage and family therapist, I was holding onto a lot of things that weren’t mine to hold onto. I was holding the emotional weight and worry of a parent on my shoulders, and I wasn’t even a parent yet. I needed to let it go. So I gave myself permission to let go of what wasn’t mine…

They don’t tell you how many grievances are involved with becoming a stepmom. And my situation has sadly had a lot more grievances than most, within a short amount of time. I continued to cry about how sad, painful and scary the situation was. How I tried my best and it didn’t feel good enough. How I’ve tried nothing but project kindness and love onto the children and the situation, but still ended up feeling so defeated, misunderstood, judged, hated and alienated. I conveyed how I was worried for my fiancé, his children and our family’s well being. I believe the crying and verbal purge was a big part of my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual release of these deep feelings and grievances. The biggest and most shocking grievance of all–that I most definitely didn’t see coming–was grieving the loss of the relationship with my future stepchildren’s mother. Someone I will sadly never get to know and who will never get to know me. I know this sounds pessimistic; I’d like to hold on to a little hope for the future. But for the near future, this is how it is. She has no interest in me and having any sort of friendly relationship. I was longing for a relationship I couldn’t have. Possibly even hoping for a friendship, as I saw my mom and my dad’s ex-wife have growing up. A relationship that could help me understand my fiancé’s children even more. A blended family that encouraged and supported each other.  I wasn’t able to really know a side of them, and it was out of my control. Again, I needed to let it go…

After the ayahuasca wore off and I calmed down, I joined the ceremony once again. They were about to pass out round two. I was emotionally, mentally and physically drained, but was urged by the Shaman to take another cup. Lets just say, this round was much stronger than the first… But I’ll save that for another post.

Now I would love to hear from you.

Have you ever experienced Ayahuasca or any other plant medicines? If not, would you be open to trying it? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to going deeper with you. Sending much love, self-care, and gratitude.

Namaste,

p.s. Check out my ayahuasca experience via my new video Project Ayahuasca: The Journey Within below. It’s only 5 minutes long!

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