I am going to attempt to describe the indescribable. No words can accurately convey the following experiences, but I have attempted to articulate them as best I can. On this particular occasion, I was to embark on some of my earliest medicine experiences.
I spent my New Years Day in a very different way than most people do. In preparation for my experience I had to follow a strict diet for ten days: No salt, no sugar, no fat, no caffeine, no alcohol. This made for a very limited Christmas, but then I never was a fan of pandering to commercial coercion, so it was actually quite liberating to go against the flow.
Having experienced ayahuasca many times before, I was already well aware that it pays to take it seriously. In a previous experience with this fascinating combination of Amazonian plants, I had witnessed the what happened with others who hadn’t taken the traditional guidelines seriously and as a result had had either disappointing or traumatic experiences.
Plant medicines get a bad rap in the media
Medicine is not a name that the mainstream media – or science – would ever bestow upon psychoactive plants. Instead they prefer to tarnish the plants' names with fear-inducing tales, lest the public catch on that they are one of the most powerful facilitators of positive change and healing in the world.
Ayahuasca, termed ‘vine of the soul’ has an interesting reputation. There is a lot of hype around it. There are as many glorifying reports floating around on alternative media as there are scaremongering stories popping up in the mainstream. The latter are no doubt designed to turn the general public off the idea. This is apparently to keep people unwittingly languishing in the restricted level of consciousness that has them tuned into Government dependency, economy-boosting consumerism and all things material.
If that weren’t enough, it isn’t hard to find stories about challenging psychological experiences under the influence of ayahusaca. What may not be immediately obvious to an inexperienced reader is that all of those psychological challenges are down to resistance, and resistance is the result of ego domination.
Enter that persistent and tricky little ‘friend’ the ego
The ego is without a doubt our biggest trickster. It is a phenomenon that is all encompassing; so much so that humans often identify with it fully, obey it without analysis and are completely unaware of its unhealthy hold over us.
A lot of the behaviour displayed by those that are ‘unconscious’ is driven by egotistical impulses. Sure, the rational mind serves a purpose and we need it in order to carry out the multitude of practical tasks in our everyday lives, so we should not demonize it.
Likewise, it is a mistake to think that it can be eradicated. Anyone who thinks they have destroyed their ego is being fooled by it. The problem is not that we have one, but that many people are so accustomed to relying on the intellect for almost everything that they have become disconnected. Is it any wonder that relationships are increasingly challenging?
It goes without saying that the ego is petrified of ayahuasca. It fears both the unknown and loss of control, but ayahuasca requires that we relinquish control; doing so is the only way to objectify the ego and see its workings in action. It allows you to step back from it and see the constant taunts, reminders, narcissistic notions and fixations with the past or future.
Ayahuasca makes it undeniably clear that we are holding ourselves back from being in the places we want to be; at the same time it cuts through the fantasies we harbour and helps us to see how pointless so many of our preoccupations are. It filters out the negative and offers you a choice.
Do you want to be ruled by your ego, fears and trivial concerns, or do you want to be brutally honest with yourself? Do you want to admit to and deal with your issues so that you can move past your blockages in life? If you have the guts – and serious guts it takes – to choose the latter, the rewards are huge. The voice of ayahuasca is unmistakable and the wisdom imparted profound. However, occasionally the ego is so strong that even the plants lose the battle with it.
The key lies in letting go
As if that weren’t enough, ayahuasca requires that you not only purge psychologically (crying, laughing, shouting, sighing, even raging) but physically too. This part is often really puts people off trying it: vomiting and diarrhea don’t occur for everyone but they are certainly a possibility. Yawning, fidgeting and twitching are also common ways to purge negative energy.
The nastier of the purges don’t usually last all night, but they often coincide with heavy resistance on the part of the imbiber, so the trick for making the process easier is always the same: give in, and let go of control. When ayahuasca knows she has your trust, you will rise up from the depths of the self-created hell and literally see the light.
The amazing visual experience is also something almost impossible describe in terms of our usual perception. With plant medicines, the proof is in the pudding; no amount of reading about it will prepare you for an experience that can only ever be unique. All I can say is, it’s worth it.
One ayahuasca experience that springs to mind equated to borderline overwhelm at times – but not so much so that I couldn’t cope. It was to a certain extent challenging physically and psychologically, but always extremely educational. I was in awe of how much my rational mind had me in its grip.
Funny how the ego itself can try to convince you that it doesn’t have such a hold over you anymore. It’s like a cosmic joke. My experience invoked a very positive mindset, one of true acceptance; not just of circumstances but of other people and most importantly, of my full self. The overall theme had been learning to relax - to not obsess over details or controlling anything through fear of an imperfect experience.
Not all plant medicines are the same
The ayahuasca seemed to have prepared me well for a huachuma ceremony the following weekend, although in hindsight I would say that huachuma may be an even better preparation for ayahuasca, due to its more gentle approach and the way it encourages.
Huachuma (a South American cactus otherwise known as San Pedro and containing mescaline) seemed to have a different effect on some of the group than it did with me; I was full of life and wanted to move, whereas others wanted to relax and journey inward. Both plants cultivate a sense of universal connectedness, but they do it in different ways; ayahuasca encourages introversion whereas huachuma seems to more frequently encourage real-time connection with others.
As this medicine took hold, objects around me developed an unusual level of luminosity, but initially it was still very mild. After I imbibed a second time things started to intensify. We sat in a circle and the shaman began drumming and chanting. I found myself wanting to giggle at it, and felt like a naughty child not taking things seriously.
Then I realised that it was the medicine taking effect, because I found myself giggling at things repeatedly from that point onward. The shaman passed me his drum, so I started playing. Soon it seemed that I wasn’t moving my hands but the drumming kept happening anyway. Others picked up instruments and we developed a rhythm that went on for a long time. We seemed to be in a trance. I started singing, just making things up. I remember thinking that I didn’t seem to have as much control over my voice as normal, but I kept on even though it seemed like someone else was doing it.
Intelligent plants can speak to the DNA
The visual experience had started and everything I looked at seemed to be alive. The detail I could see in every day items was astounding. I remember looking at a towel in the bathroom and seeing every minuscule variation of colour in the fibres. It was like I was able to view anything as if I were looking through a magnifying glass, and got lost in the pattern of the towel for a while.
When I eventually went back downstairs everything in the lounge seemed to have a silken quality. The previously yellow curtains looked to be made of twenty-four karat gold, and everything in the room shone with an effervescence impossible to perceive through the normal filters. Patterns danced and moved constantly, and all colours had intensified with a range of hues that completely surpassed those seen in our everyday 3D realm; they were other-worldly. Every item had an iridescence and a depth of detail that was captivating. I found myself staring at certain pictures on the wall, trying to keep up with the dancing movements and changing colours. It was like living in a hologram.
The medicine made me feel that that my entire being was energized, as if my DNA had come alive, so to speak. Everything seemed to be lighter than usual and anything white gleamed like a mirror, as if the sun was shining in the room even though it was dark. I asked the shaman to put some music on.
His selections were world music, upbeat and beautiful. Upstairs, others were having a more introverted experience akin to that which ayahuasca often facilitates, but I couldn’t sit still. I was dancing and laughing. I couldn’t stop moving for hours and every song complemented the experience perfectly. While I danced, I found myself looking at my own arms moving. They seemed to be doing it of their own volition and seemed very long and thin; the skin seemed to be flawless, like a newborn baby’s.
Surprisingly enough, it’s all quite simple
I suddenly realised that the medicine highlighted the perfection in everything. Even the simple fruits we ate tasted unbelievable. I had a profound sense of appreciation for everything and everyone; a deep sense of love for the people in my life, and for myself.
The medicine made it very easy to clearly see peoples’ positive traits. This is because there is no place for ego in a plant medicine experience; ayahusaca requires that you face the ego and deal with its authoritative nonsense, but with the huachuma it seems that ego just slips out the back door with its tail between its legs.
I wasn’t required to work on anything about myself; the huachuma just infused my entire being with love and appreciation so that I could see my own potential - my human power - more clearly. This isn’t a delusional feeling due to being ‘intoxicated’. On the contrary; it just removes the layers of illusion, the false conceptions of the ego and unnecessary fears.
The whole experience lasted around sixteen hours for me, although I had no concept of time at all until the medicine started to wear off. We had started at midday and the visuals didn’t calm down until around 4am. I left the next afternoon feeling exhausted after dancing, singing and laughing all night, but feeling very much in love with life, the present, and inspired for my exciting future.
Entheogens versus pseudo-psychedelics
I am a thorough advocate of plant medicines, although I cannot say the same for their chemical counterparts. I will paraphrase what microbiologist and anthropologist Jeremy Narby states in his groundbreaking book ‘The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge’: such synthetic drugs are pseudo-psychedelics.
There is no guiding intelligence behind them so the experience stems from your own mind. Yet there truly is intelligence in nature and perhaps it can only be fully understood after a person has consumed a psychoactive plant medicine, now termed an entheogen (a natural substance that gives you a direct line to 'God'). The difference is that you do not ‘lose your mind’ with these substances. If anything, you gain a clarity you couldn’t have previously dreamed of.
Nevertheless it remains the case that because science doesn’t accept this, society continues to genuflect at the altar of a flawed educational model while ignoring the tuition of the most powerful and knowledgeable source available: nature.