I Tried Ayahuasca and This Is What Happened
A few weeks ago, I escaped the concrete barricade of Buenos Aires, Argentina to the expansive views of Chile’s Patagonia. My destination: a holistic healing retreat center called Aluantu. Located on Lake Rupanco, surrounded by volcanoes, beaches, waterfalls, and what the volunteers call an enchanted forest.
For me, 2017 was rough. As the new year approached, I reflected to realize I had been through a few very traumatic experiences; I lost a partner and almost lost a sister.
I am strong, but I had been coping. I decided if 2018 was going to be different, I needed to accept what life had given me and heal. I know I want to help people, but before I did, I needed to help myself.
A few weeks into 2018, a few people approached me about Ayahuasca ceremonies. I’d never considered Ayahuasca, but after my challenging year, figured it may be something that could help (heal yourself, heal the world, as they say), so I began researching retreats.
Ayahuasca is a blend of two plants found in the Amazon–the ayahuasca vine and a shrub called chacruna, which contains the hallucinogenic drug DMT. It’s known by indigenous people as a master plant or master “teacher plant” and is often consumed in ritual ceremony for personal reflection and cleansing. For over 5,000 years Amazonian Shamans have used the plant to reach “amplified states of consciousness” and “to make important decisions, to ask the Gods for advice, to solve personal conflicts, to communicate with the spirits of nature, to exercise one’s divine capacities and to elucidate mysteries,” among other inquiries.
My search led me to Aluantu, a holistic retreat for deep healing through diet, meditation, yoga, silent retreats, and Ayahuasca ceremonies, thanks to a friend’s recommendation and because it seemed like a legit, precautionary place to take an extremely strong hallucinogen.
I chose to arrive during the week of Ayahuasca ceremonies, which took place every other day. There were four ceremonies in total, led by a Peruvian Shaman named Wilder. Born into the family tradition (both his mother and father are Shamans), Wilder conducts ceremonies in Peru and around South America to bring Ayahuasca, or medicine as they call it, to people that need it.
Since Ayahuasca is a very powerful psychedelic, I was asked to start preparing two weeks before I intended to take it by setting intentions, meditating, and following a strict diet. The diet is similar to the Whole 30: No meat, sugar, salt, dairy or caffeine. Also, no sex; the goal is to get spiritual. The day of the ceremonies, people typically eat a little bit of Ayahuasca-friendly foods, but mostly fast.
The ceremonies last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours and begin as the sun is setting. Everyone chooses a place in the circle and has their own space complete with a mat, blanket, pillow and bowl for purging. One by one, each participant comes up to kneel in front of the Shaman and take a shot glass of the dark green, thick and bitter liquid. Afterwards, you walk back to your mat and wait for it to kick in.
Ceremony 1–Ego Trip
I took one cup and sat down on my mat. After about 30 minutes, I felt nauseous and the room around me began to sway, push and pull in all directions. I closed my eyes and was transported home to Houston, TX. I was in my oldest friend’s backyard in a house I grew up in. The house was sold and demolished last year and I hadn’t realized that I needed to mourn for a childhood loss. I cried and released feelings I hadn’t honored. Next, I was with my best friend throughout her last year, which was really hard on her. I felt her pain and loneliness caused by the death of a significant other and cried with her.
I was then shown my ego and how I was viewed by my family. The love and respect radiating from my immediate family outwards to my aunts, uncles, and cousins was so strong and inspiring. I saw their admiration and felt grateful for the strength I found to get there. Living alone in a foreign country, Argentina, speaking the language with a stable job, and emotionally strong enough to help family members in need.
I was also told that while I was lucky to be in such a beautiful place, the Earth was hurting and needed my help. Taking Ayahuasca brought me into a direct communion with the spirit of Gaia, Mother Earth, and this wouldn’t be the first time I would experience Mother Earth’s battle cry.
Last, I saw my sister who almost passed away in September. I saw that since she crossed over and almost died, she was now able to cross between life and death. I called her the next morning to tell her about my experience, and she couldn’t believe it –– the same night I drank Ayahuasca and envisioned her in a lodge in Chile, she, in her studio apartment in Austin, TX, dreamt that she could cross between the realms of life and death.
That morning, after my first ceremony I realized, damn, there really is something here.
Ceremony 2–Past Lives
The second night, I opted for two shots of the green, bitter liquid. The room began to twist and turn, and I closed my eyes to meet Mother Earth in a grand greenhouse.
This was no ordinary greenhouse. It was decorated with intricate, geometric stained glass windows, but instead of glass inserted between dividers were precious, colorful, twinkling stones. It was here that I met her, but in place of an omniscient goddess-like figure, was an alter. The altar was much like any altar, but made from the same precious stones found in the stained glass windows. Through the altar Mother Earth spoke to me.
It was the second ceremony that really made an impression on me. The idea of speaking to Mother Earth was so out there, I got to thinking maybe we’re all just too much in our heads – we try too hard to make everything we experience based on logic. Logic is limiting. It was at this moment when I really opened up to the experience as Mother Earth showed me what I needed to see.
She spoke to me like a close friend, welcoming me back. She told me we were ancient friends and she was so happy to connect with me in this way. My spirit felt it; it was a feeling of being home. A jovial, warm glow holding space with a wise, old friend.
Next, she explained how ancient my spirit is. I am well-known within the universe. I should respect myself knowing this. “Don’t forget who you are,” she said, “respect yourself as the wise soul you are. Trust yourself.”
She showed me past lives. I saw myself as a warrior. I looked down to see tattoos all over my arms and legs and envisioned myself as a viking. Next she showed me on an alien planet. I was there with tall, wise beings. I saw a glowing light and a ship that we were surrounding.
From there I was surrounded by my ex-partner’s family, that I’ve known well in this life. We were all laughing together with so much unconditional love all around us. From one life, to the next, to my current one.
I was filled with so much love, and I felt my soul shining.
At this moment, the Shaman came up to me to sing icaros, which are old shamanic songs that help you on your journey. He also sprayed me with rose water and blew tobacco across the crown of my head.
I laughed so much; streaming tears of joy down my cheeks, shining. The immense gratitude and love emanating from me also impressed the Shaman who said the next day he was almost sick from the intense feeling of love I was emitting.
Ceremony 3–Pain of Earth
The third trip was more about feeling than seeing. I could only stomach one shot of the medicine that day. In this experience, Mother Earth made me feel her pain. It was excruciating. My entire body felt like it was being ripped apart.
I twitched and turned with pain over and over again on the floor for hours until I eventually blacked out from the pain. The experience left me completely drained even a few days later. The cry for help from Earth from the first ceremony rang out again and again.
Don’t forget the pain that I am in. Help me.
In the days following the ceremonies, I was so sensitive and open, along with everyone else I went through the ceremonies with. While in ceremony, I was aware of everyone around me in the circle. I saw my neighbors crying, laying down with their eyes closed, purging, smiling and taking in the scenery. Some people interact with each other, though it isn’t suggested as the experience is supposed to be internal. Though I experienced deep emotional highs and lows and physical pleasure and pain, I never threw up. Everyone else did.
I was told by a friend that during the journey, they were able to see people’s souls as they are. One woman saw my soul. She saw me as very old and part of me was deteriorating, like sand swept off the beach on a windy day. She also saw light shining upon me adding brightness and beauty to my life and soul’s purpose.
The experience was extraordinary and something that I recommend to everyone. The feeling I got from my ego trip with my family and seeing my sister really helped me heal and connect with the shocking event.
Many unexpected things were brought up which helped open my heart to the idea of different types of love. How love can move from romantic to unconditional, family-like love. I realized how wasteful I can be, and now I’m vigilant about recycling and have started educating people on beneficial recycling habits. I realize this is a small change I can make now that has the potential to make a big impact.
After leaving Aluantu, I stayed on the diet for about a week, as it took my body awhile to readjust after the cleanse. The experience left me with one key lesson: logic is limiting. Obviously, the logical mind wouldn’t understand everything I saw, but it was more real than not.
After taking Ayahuasca, I feel more healed and connected to my purpose and Earth. I’ve become more sensitive and vulnerable. Today I realize that a few barriers needed to be broken down in order for me to experience the deep healing I was looking for.
If you would like to learn how you can help heal Mother Earth, please check out the extraordinary strides these organizations are making to restore our planet:
Surfers Against Sewage is an award-winning charity dedicated to protecting our oceans from plastic waste. Click here to learn more or to donate to their cause.
The Nature Conservancy aims to protect and restore every species recovering from or on the brink of extinction. Click here to learn more or donate.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) researches and spreads awareness about toxic chemicals, sustainable versus exploitative agricultural practices, consumer product safety, and corporate accountability. Click here to learn more or donate.