Recently, I have written about Ayahuasca on this blog. In that article, you can find out what my opinions are regarding the trending healing plant. Today, I would like to tell you about my journey and how I integrated the messages of Grandfather Yage (as Shaman Tiata Juan Martin calls it). You see, the hallucinogenic trip that the plant provides can be difficult and challenges. However, once you ground back down into reality, one must find a way to bring the knowledge back into the real world.
There is much debate about whether the experiences induced by Ayahuasca are real or purely hallucinations. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter. In the same way, as I don’t think there is a reason to understand the science behind dreams to rip their benefits. The fact that any mind-expanding experience is personal is enough to uncover the aims of the medicines. It is enough to understand that the images, sounds, feelings, and vibrations are not random. People who have adventured into their psyche will probably agree with me (although it is hard to speak for everyone).
For demonstration purposes and your amusement, I will use my Ayahuasca Journey as an example. I participated in two Ayahuasca – Yage ceremonies. I have heard that Yage a be a lighter version of Ayahuasca brew, either way, it is offered a few times in one night but not required. You may choose, as you like; it is your experience after all. After a couple of hours of drinking Yage, the participant may also have Yopo, a mind-expanding substance. Yopo is said to open the third eye and help Yage induce visuals. This is what I did the first night.
My first Yage drink has introduced me to La Purga or the Purge. It felt cleansing, however besides that nothing happened emotionally or visually. I fell asleep straight after the purge. Laura, one of the facilitators, woke me and suggested that I have Yopo. I trusted her, and I am glad I did to this day. However, I had my doubts during the experience. Yopo worked instantaneously. I started to see colourful strikes in front of my eyes, but physically I was going through tremendous pain. I asked the Plant to please chose one, we are either having a visual journey or physically cleansing me. Physical cleansing it was.
My feet carried me to the bathroom, but when I got there, all I could do was fall on the cold bathroom floor. The music that the Shaman played intensified the experience, so it was a relief to hear it from a distance. The only withdrawals I have ever gone through were from eliminating gluten and sugar from the diet – this was much worst. I don’t know how long I was examining the bathroom ceiling for, but eventually, Laura came in to check up on me.
“Are you okay?” she knocked. “No,” sounded a hopeless voice from the bathroom. I knew that this was cleansing and by the end of it I will be better than okay. “Come on out, you will be okay soon,” Laura responded. I picked up myself and went back into the ceremony room. As I laid there, I wondered when is this tension, stomach pain, physical discomfort was going to end. Then, I remembered the advice of the Shaman. Before we began, he stated that one must go on the journey without hesitation. Instead of waiting for the pain to finish I merged with the experience. I started to feel every sensation without judgment. I don’t think even five minutes have passed and the pain evaporated. I saw images of a traumatic experience from my childhood. I forgave and found gratitude. Then, I went for a walk to contemplate the full moon and wondered what will the next day bring.
Day 2 I was a little less nervous, but I also understood that every journey is different. After my first drink of Yage not much happened again. However, the second drink is where I got what I came for. This is what I wrote shortly after the experience:
“ I rested my head and wondered if anything shall happen that night. I hugged the bucket and welcomed La Purga. The energy that was holding me back left my body. The pain and discomfort followed fast. I thought, now the trip has started. I shall let go of control and let the medicine do its work. The music and the images blended into one. I was present, yet I was in many dimensions at once.
I pressed my forehead to the ground and met Grandfather Yage. He never showed her face, but maybe he had many faces. I heard his voice and guidance. I watched the images unfold. Words cannot describe the depth and, but I shall make my best attempt.
It was geometry – squares, circles, even a couple of geometrical beings. The colours were vivid beyond real. I wish I could remember more. But then I heard it coming. I knew that fear would make the experience terror but letting it happen would transform me.
The spider, twice as big as me approached me and started to . . . Devour me. I don’t have a better word to describe being eaten by a spider. I lied on my back and let it happen. It felt much different to have been eaten rather than what I have imagined it to be.
Once the spider was gone started moving to the flow and enjoyment of the moment. It was a dance with the universe. Yage told me to lie back down. As I have lied down a bigger spider came to visit. To my surprise, she wasn’t scared she was beautiful. She was enormous, and all I saw was light around her with purple hues. I felt her more than saw her face. The spider talked to me, she said, you judge our way of living with little understanding. You are terrified of us and yet you know nothing of nature’s plans. We eat our mates to share the bliss of dying. And died, I did.
As I was lying, dead and I felt I was wrapped into a web-like in a blanket. I quickly turned into a corpse and then to ashes; as if time started to move at an incredible speed. My soul lifted off my body and yet I was still present. Images that I am afraid I cannot remember. Or was I inside the images instead? It was bliss. Fear almost crawled back into my mind once again. What if I never come back from death? What if I don’t want to go back to life?
Yage told me to return and ground. I breathed in, and I was alive. I breathed out, and then I died. With every in-breath, I was living, and with every out-breath I was dead. It’s so easy to die and to return to live. How is that that we fear the most natural of occurrences? We fear Death, yet we know that eventually all of us will die. Do we live all our lives in fear of dying? What is life if all we do is suppress the fear that one day it will end? Here is something even more terrifying – death can happen at any moment so live. Yage reminded me once more to bring myself back down. I started doing yoga so I could ground.
I ran outside feeling absolute ecstasy from my experience. I ran up to a tree and fell under its branches. I died and was reborn. Anew and different - never to be the same again. I looked up at the branches like it was the very first thing I have ever seen.”
The next day I spoke to Laura. She told me that seeing a spider is a good omen. In the Columbian tribe that Taita Juan Martin, our Shaman comes from a Spider represents femininity and creativity. The reason is it is said that it is the Spider that weaves the web of the world. Later I have learned that the Spider carries this symbology in many cultures.
Carl G. Jung’s teachings suggest that when an animal is pursuing a person in a dream, it usually means “an instinct has been split off from the consciousness” (Man and His Symbol, p.266). A dream or a hallucination offer the same benefits when adequately understood. There was a point in my life when I forgot about my personal power. The Spider reminded me that there was a lot of potential in my feminine creativity. It shifted an old pattern in one night. My fear of spiders was diminished by a mile (it is still there for sure, but I no longer jump up when I see an innocent eight-legged house creature. My creativity flow keeps improving by day as if the Plant Medicine is still working on me.
I can’t say that the fear of death has disappeared either. However, my will to live is stronger. My will to live in the ways that I always dreamed of is undeniable. I see that the point of life is to love every minute of it. I don’t know if Yage killed me, but it has transformed my chronic depression. Do the episodes come back? Sure, they do. Depression is complicated but it is a rare occurrence, and I have new tools to move the sadness into meaning.