Convulsing. Mother. Purging. Nature. Vomiting. Earth. Healing. Crying. Torment. Beauty. Warmth. Confrontation. Fears. Dreams. Confusion. Recalibration. Love. Eternal. Being. Sadness. Laughter. Purity. Freedom. Consciousness. Togetherness. Truth. Death.
Welcome to our ayahuasca journey.
Ayahuasca, in the Amazonian language of Quechua, means “Vine of the soul/spirits”. It is an incredibly powerful plant-based medicine with entheogenic properties, allowing one to access a higher state of consciousness. The ayahuasca brew is made from two different plants, the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the chacruna leaf (Psychotria viridis), both originating from the Amazon Basin.The chacruna leaf contains one of the most powerful hallucinogenics known to man (DMT), however, it is not until these two plants are combined in exactly the right quantity, that the individual experiences intense hallucinogenic visions, lasting for several hours.
No one knows the exact origins of ayahuasca or how the indigenous tribes knew to combine two different plants in a certain way, but it has been used by them for thousands of years for
healing and divinatory purposes.
Ayahuasca involves complex preparation and ceremonies which have been passed down through generations of Shamans (healers). These ceremonies are led and held only by trained Shamans, who embody one of the oldest spiritual practices known to man. Shamans dedicate their lives to helping others with ‘spirit assisted’ healing, viewing illness (mental or physical) as the result of energy blockages and a spiritual disharmony within. To cure this disharmony and find answers, they believe we must connect with spiritual realms outside of our ordinary state of consciousness.
By consuming ayahuasca and transcending to a higher level of consciousness, Shaman’s can communicate with other worldly plant, animal and human spirits, and heal through their wisdom.
The indigenous communities of Peru and the Amazon believe that ayahuasca cleanses our bodies through extracting negative energy blockages, which usually underlie emotional, psychological and physical ailments; and indeed, there has been recent scientific research showing the positive effect of ayahuasca on depression and PTSD.
With more and more publicity around the medicine, from magazine articles and celebrity accounts to news snippets and Netflix documentaries, ayahuasca is quickly finding its way to the Western world, with retreats now being held in Europe, USA and the UK (although not legally). With this increased publicity, people are being drawn to ayahuasca retreats more and more. Some say it is to seek help from the medicine for emotional healing, addiction or depression, others are looking for spiritual advancement and some want answers as to what their true purpose is. But the one thing all these people have in common, is that they feel called to the medicine. Ayahuasca is not to be taken lightly. It can be painful, disorientating, terrifying and for some, it is like doing “10 years of therapy in one night”. But, the experience can also be beautiful and nurturing and provide necessary healing.
For those looking to explore ayahuasca, please do your research. I am in no way endorsing it, or saying it holds all the answers, but I want to share with you our experiences, as a way of shining a light on how this medicine works and how it manifests itself. If you have any questions, please contact me via our Go Travel and Talk contact page.
Ayahuasca is a powerful psychoactive tea, but alongside the hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and convulsing are common. However, these are not seen as negative side effects, because they are intended. There are no known ongoing negative side effects of drinking the ayahuasca brew, however it has been suggested that with long term use of the medicine, tremors may be induced and there is the potential for hypertension. Certain foods can also be reactive to ayahuasca, so a strict diet beforehand is imperative.
If you google ayahuasca you will find a growing amount of available information, but there is also a lot of conflicting advice in terms of how to prepare for the ceremonies. There are certain foods and substances you must abstain from for at least 1 week, but better still, 1 month beforehand. Again, the amount of time and what is on this list, varies considerably but largely suggest:
No dairy products
No processed foods
No recreational drugs
Some prescription medicines
When I was in Chachapoyas, Peru, I asked a Shaman why there were such restrictions to the diet. He said it is because the ayahuasca cannot do her job properly, because she will get jealous of the other substances in your system. The more pharmacological explanation is because the MAOIs in the B. capii plant which allow the DMT to have a psychoactive effect, can cause severe reactions when combined with alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs and certain foods. Either way,
it is strongly advised to restrict your diet before drinking the ayahuasca brew.
Ayahuasca retreats are found in Central (Costa Rica) and South America (mostly Peru), but they are popping up all over the USA, Europe and more recently, the UK. It is really important to do your research beforehand and find a reputable Shaman and retreat. It is really important to recognise that these ceremonies are an intrinsic part to the indigenous communities' culture, and unfortunately with a growing interest in ayahuasca and shamanic experiences, there has been some unethical and inappropriate 'pseudo ceremonies' with untrained Shamans taking place. Not only is this incredibly dangerous, but it can contribute to cultural appropriation. One of the lessons I learnt from the Shaman leading our ceremony, is that they are happy to share this medicine with the Western world as long as it is respected and understood for its wisdom and knowledge.
This is so important. Please remember this when you are doing your research. Ayahuasca is a sacred medicine that is intrinsic to the culture of the indigenous tribes of the Amazon and deserves respect.
Cj & Vanessa: We took part in an ayahuasca retreat within the UK in September 2018, in a beautiful mountain setting, closed off from people outside of the retreat. In total, there were around 30 people, led by 1 Shaman and looked after by a team of healers / volunteers. Our ceremonies took place over 2 nights and 3 days. We started our ceremonies on each night at 11.30pm and they usually lasted around 6-7 hours. We were accompanied by musicians on harps, guitars and other wonderful instruments, singing specialist songs to help us along our ayahuasca journeys. We spent our days processing, talking, eating delicious vegan food, sleeping and healing.
Kate: My retreat was held in London in October 2018 and I went with my partner. The location was divine, set in a large country manor house/old mill on the edge of a canal and a beautiful lake ~ water everywhere ~ on the night of a beautiful full yellow moon and starry sky.
Vanessa: Since my introduction to ayahuasca during my travels to South America in 2010, I have remained excitedly curious and extremely nervous at the prospect of it. I always felt a huge pull towards taking the medicine but I have never been quite ready to do it. 8 years later I felt a profound calling, this wasn’t my first Psychotropic experience, so I was entering into this with a certain amount of expectation and trepidation. My hope for drinking the medicine was to work on and explore my internal traumas, and ultimately peel away some layers, to facilitate being the best me (I wasn’t expecting too much from her was I?!)
Cj: So like Vanessa, I had first heard about ayahuasca when I travelled through South America, although for me it was much later and only at the beginning of 2018. I had ample opportunity to do it out there, but it didn’t feel like the right time for me. I strongly believe you need to be called to it and really have an intention behind it, like with any other form of therapy. When I heard about this ceremony and that Vanessa was doing it, I knew it was the right time and place. I have always had an insatiable curiosity into how our minds work from my degree in Psychology and in recent years, I have become more spiritual in my outlook, from alternative healing therapies to believing there is no ‘fixed self’ to moving towards spiritual enlightenment. I am also interested in self-development and expansion and for me, I had some things to work on, so it came at the time when I was ready to face those head on.
Kate: It was without a second thought to book my second ayahuasca ceremony on discovering that my first shaman from the forest in Costa Rica was holding a space in London. Myself and my partner would drink together for the first time.
Cj: I was nervous but excited. I was trying not to have expectations or believe that it will answer all my worries and fears, but I felt like I was about to go through a huge transformation and whatever the experience was going to be, for me, it had to be a good thing. The drive there felt like we were on the road forever, but I was ready. When we arrived, everyone was so welcoming, but what struck me was how different everyone was. People from all walks of life and far from the stereotypical ‘ayahuasca hippie’. This was a community of people trying to face their fears, insecurities, worries and for lack of a better word ‘baggage’ head on.
Vanessa: I wasn’t nervous at all leading up to it, I felt extremely ready to surrender and excited to experience what ever it was I was about to experience. I completely trusted the medicine. We got there and initially I thought there were quite a few of us, there were approx. 30 people, however this quickly became a massive positive. It was really quite comforting and humbling knowing all these brave and beautiful people of all ages, shapes and sizes were here too, to work on their inner demons. Donning our ethereal looking outfits, we were as ready as we’d ever be to embark on our ‘journey’. The altar was set up, the candles were lit and the medicine was prepped. After a sage cleansing, we queued to receive the ‘Grandmother’, at this point I was very nervous.
Cj: As Vanessa said, for the ceremony we all dressed in white and whilst at first, I thought, ‘is this a cult’ (awful I know!), I quickly replaced it with, ‘wow, this community and safe space is incredible’. As we queued up to drink from the Shaman, I felt a sense of calm ~ I think Vanessa and I had swapped nerves at this point ~ my nerves had vanished. I was there. I was in it. I was ready. I remember this part so clearly. There was this incredible energy in the room. Beautiful music and light chattering, and everything was lit by candle light with gorgeous paintings hung up all around the room.
Kate: I felt very nervous in the days leading up to the ceremony. During the trip, the top flew off my hot tea and scalded by legs! It was very painful and a big shock and I almost thought I wouldn’t want to carry on to the ceremony. I poured cold water onto my legs for most of trip thinking how weird it all happened. The lady next to me at the ceremony later said that she can’t believe the amount of people who experienced weird incidents on the way to ceremonies. She suggested dark energies at play, trying hard to prevent you from getting somewhere ~ maybe their magic isn’t that strong then, as worse things could have happened. Luke and I finally made it, a little sore and very nervous. It was very comforting to see a familiar face and my shaman from my first trip the year before, and then equally comforting to see some familiar faces from my previous journey. Once settled, bed ready, I felt much less nervous and grounded. The ceremony began, and I was invited to receive my first cup.
Cj: Ayahuasca is unique to the individual, just like other forms of traditional therapies which are tailored to you and your needs. Whilst your journey is mostly out of your control, you can ask mother ayahuasca to help and heal you by setting a clear intention before you drink. For me, the first night was around self-belief.
From the time I sat back on my mat to when I started feeling the effects of the ayahuasca, it must have been no more than 20 minutes. I remember hearing people purge around me, some crying and others laughing and then for me, the external world ceased to exist. It was just me and my visions on this powerful journey of self-discovery. I must have been out for 6 hours, completely unaware of my surroundings. The visions started off geometric in shape, really vivid with lots of bright and eccentric colours, it felt like I was entering into a vortex which was slowly swallowing me. I went from hot to cold almost instantaneously, but every time I tried to pull my blanket over me, it dissolved in my hands. I could feel the vibrations of the music on my lips, but yet my hands were foam, I was everything and nothing. I wanted to be sick, but I couldn’t, and when I tried to grab the bucket, it just disintegrated right in front of me. I think at one point Vanessa tried to hand me the bucket, but I didn’t know if she was real or not so I just laid back down. After this, my visions were largely abstract and just lots of shapes and swirls, apart from a long journey down a river towards the most beautiful sunset, at first accompanied by a little Vietnamese lady in a hat, but then I continued along the water on my own. I felt serene at this point. Calm. Loved. At peace. Maybe suggesting that I can achieve my dreams, I am strong enough to do it on my own and that I should believe in my own power?
Vanessa: My experience was completely different to Cjs, and I didn’t really react to my first cup of the medicine, but all around me people started to purge and I looked over at Cj to see her totally out of it and convulsing. Her entire body was shaking and she was as stiff as a board with her legs bent. I was a little worried for her, hoping she wasn’t having a traumatic experience, however trusting that mother ayahuasca would be offering her whatever she needed. All the same I called over the ‘healers’ to assist her on her journey.
Kate: For me, the first cup came on pretty quickly - my body and face starting to feel hot but it began gently. I felt her when I closed my eyes, I knew the signs and the familiar patterns in my mind. It was so physical and so very clear, as though a human was touching me. A finger under my chin slowly pushing my head up to expose my neck. I felt her coming in towards the sensitivity and vulnerability that is this area for me. For as long as I can remember, my neck is very sensitive. I struggle when it is exposed in stretched out positions, for example when sleeping in a car, I have to put my hand over it to cover it for fear I will be vulnerable or hurt. Perhaps a past life memory? I knew she knew this, and Instantly knew that this was a test of my trust. I was aware of her in animal-like form, perhaps a dragon? I welcomed her in to my neck knowing she could potentially hurt me, knowing her power, and an awareness that she could bite but still, I showed her my full trust, my head tilted fully up towards the sky. I felt our initial communication and a definite pact was made between us;
Do you trust me? Will you let me into your vulnerability? Yes, I had replied, come close.
I allowed this twice before I felt her come to me stronger. The visuals taking full form now in my mind, but gentler than my first entry into the world of ayahuasca, I was allowing, she was soft. I felt expansion, love and connection to the room, to the music, a full sense of true joy ~ it felt like coming home to what was right, to what was supposed to be; to joy, connection and to a complete understanding of the truth of love. So simple, so beautiful. I thought to myself, why was I so scared of this night ~ it just shows love of course? The love was so full. I opened my eyes feeling in and out of the medicine and joined in with the songs. The music had begun with its magic. The sounds and feeling changed into something so extraordinary once the medicine began. A friend was playing and singing like only a talented maestro can ~ singing to my core. I looked across the room, wanting to feel that connection with others, singing with them, for them to bring them into my connection, to find one another. I cried tears of complete joy. I laughed at the hilarity of the room. My thoughts went to my daughter and the tough time our relationship has been having and my heart remembered and unveiled the huge love I have for her, and I cried for that as though reclaiming the truth and purity of it from where it was buried amongst the conflict and frustration. I began to come back to feeling sober and happy, peaceful and content when the second cup was invited. I jumped up ready, yet knowing it may not always be this way. I think I anticipated perhaps what was coming.
Cj: Wow Kate. See my night was completely different to that ~ I don’t really remember much and the visuals were so abstract and it only took me one cup the entire night. My body was sore the next day but I don’t really recall the convulsing ~ and definitely don’t recall doing it for hours or how intense it sounded! But I do remember the healers, feeling their warm hands on my heart and holding my hands and feet and telling me it was going to be OK. They also put salt on my lips to try and bring me out of the convulsing. Completely unaware of this, I woke up thinking how incredible it was that my visions had manifested into salt on my lips ~ having no idea that it was the healers! One of my last visions whilst I was in it, was of me outside of my body, standing over it with a sense of love and admiration, watching it burst into these bright pink flowers. It was incredible, sensual and so unbelievably empowering. I genuinely felt mother ayahuascas presence and the warmth of her embrace and she kept saying over and over ‘You are enough, you are enough, YOU ARE ENOUGH’. It was beautiful.
It was like my body had completely recalibrated.
Vanessa: I felt really resistant to go up for another cup, especially after seeing Cj and everyone else around me. Reaching out for guidance, I was talked round by what appeared to be (when the medicine did take effect) the most beautiful and enchanting little fairy angel (one of the healers), she said to me ‘what are you afraid of?... love?’ For me, when the medicine kicked in, I initially felt a huge surge of love, I felt I was receiving it from mother earth, she was leading me in gently, as I had kindly asked her to. The room was as it was, however it felt like I had put 3D glasses on, I was seeing the room in a pink and green 3D effect, with coding attached to everything. It started off gentle and loving, and then the work began. I was continuously in and out of an altered state of consciousness then for the next 5/6 hours. I was faced with lots of my story traumas, these were brought to me in thought from a higher source.
As I went deeper into my experience, laying on my bed and no longer conscious of the reality around me ~ I was seeing geometric, obscure shapes and patterns being twisted and turned upside down and inside out ~ it was as though they were my traumas appearing in an abstract notion, being teased out and reworked, to a point whereby they no longer consumed or tormented me. This wasn’t a pleasurable experience, instead it was frustrating and extremely intense, however I knew this was the work that needed to be done. Resisting or unable to endure the continuous mind bending I was able to bring myself out of it momentarily, to sit up and look around, to make sure I still had some kind of control or sanity. However, I was quickly taken back in, as my work there was not done. At one point I felt her recalibrate and heal every single cell in my body, I surrendered to this, and I felt a bright light shine down on me, healing every inch on my being. I had an extremely profound sensation that of which all men and women, past and present, were being cleansed through me.
The live music and the healers were intrinsic to the experience. The songs that were being sang by the incredibly talented musicians sounded like they were being channelled from a higher source. The music played a huge part in assisting me to go deeper in my experience. When I thought I’d done the work and gone as deep as I could go, the music would take me even deeper,
guiding me to some other trauma point.
Cj: I completely agree with Vanessa. The music is such an important part of your ayahuasca journey. It guides you to all the things you need to explore. It is such a weird feeling. You will be facing one trauma and then as the music changes, you are guided to another area that needs work. The medicine, music and healers combined together offer an incredibly intelligent and powerful form of 'therapy' to work through things you have buried deep in your subconscious.
Kate: Like Vanessa, I drank more than one cup ~ I had three! My second cup came on fast and strong, it pulled me in deep. I found myself sinking from my upright position until my face was flat on the mat in front of me, sucked into my blanket, smothered. The visuals grew in intensity pulling me in, lost in the labyrinth of another dimension, pathways and space and strange enchanting shapes - who was I? I felt myself slipping away pulled into the world of ayahuasca. I felt like I had been within that world for an eternity. I was relieved when I was given rest from the intensity as a drum beat brought me back round to the room. Starting to feel uneasy and sick, struggling to keep a grounding on where I had just been, I struggled as the medicine sucked me back in. I felt a sense of losing my mind, thought after thought moving so quickly there was no way to catch them or hold onto anything, my mind started to feel more and more erratic as I lost my grip on reality. Everything started to strip away, my connection with reality, my sense of myself, my being as a mother, a partner, a friend, a human, it terrified me. I wanted it back but it was pulled further away.
I was shown shapes and things, I heard myself saying out loud, ‘you can take it’ ~ as though I could have whatever I wanted but I didn’t know what it was. Confusion came in, taking over. It started to feel more like madness. Thought on top of thought speeding up and spiralling to the centre. Everything so important yet ungraspable, everything just stripping away, whirling, creating the sickness, into the darkness. I reminded myself to breathe as I spiralled deeper to the core. I became the whirling spiral, I was it ~ the start and the creator, I was mother ayahuasca herself. That was the jackpot, ‘it’s you it’s all you, you, you, you, you, can’t you see??’ I had reached the solution, the answer, I was at the core, resting on the button, ‘you’ve got it – there’s only you, This is the game’. NO, I didn’t want to know this. I didn’t want to be everything, No, let me unsee.
I heaved myself up and forced myself to open my eyes to try to grip some sense of reality again. I was instantly pulled back down before I was ready. I slipped down again, deep down the vortex of visuals, space and time, I had now truly lost myself, I was in a dreadful place. I was greatly suffering, although conscious of, ‘this is healing’.
‘What? How can this be healing? This is hell’.
Despite this, I knew it was right. I told myself it would pass. I tried to open my eyes to move away from what felt very hellish and dark, to only be pulled back in. I felt sick, so much bad feeling and looping thoughts ~ I felt like the room was in a darkness, what had we taken? Had this gone wrong? Had I done something wrong? Was this part of the experience? I couldn’t remember, I was worried I had broken my mind, that I was this way forever now, what had I done? I lost the voice and started to panic. I opened my eyes to see one of the helpers smiling and dancing in her own world, her lightness was reassuring, but I felt like I was slipping away, I wanted to reach out, to shout help me, but I knew there was nothing anyone could do. This was my journey. I lay back and looked at my arms, thin and veiny, I was growing old. I felt myself grow weaker and weaker and was slipping away. I think I may have stopped taking breaths until I urged myself to sit back up bolt upright, I question now if I had let myself ‘die’ would I have found truth on the other side or would I have actually died? It made me think I was being tested again on my trust, or was my test to choose to live, to find my strength? I was trapped. I moved around in complete sufferance feeling like I could get away from it or surrender to it. I couldn’t remember how to do anything at all. The innards of the earth, life force itself but in an extreme form. jaggedy with so much power it was sucking from me, pulling at force from my mind. It was trauma, it was a physical manifestation of something horrendous. My stomach lurched, I welcomed some release from this suffering. I let go of whatever it was that has come forth, my fear and my darkness into the bucket. I was released a little from the trauma, I looked around and I caught my breath. I tried to turn around and lean my head on the pillow, to be offered momentary peace and rest from this darkness. My eyes began flickering like a lizard as I looked around the room. The man across from me still purging and crying and shouting loudly, the girl next to me, crying. I was with them in our shared sufferance as I clutched the end of my mat, begging for mercy. I became the devil, I was controlling everything. My eyes wide. I looked directly across at the suffering man, I was making it happen, I could stop it at any time, I momentarily felt how it felt to let it continue. ‘No, I don’t want this, I don’t choose for him to suffer, I choose light.’
I looked towards the source of the music and the helpers, the source of light and found my way back. I had chosen the light. I recognised I could choose this again and again, I could continue to choose light over dark. I am the chooser and the source, the channel and the channeler, I can take and choose light. I was tested in choosing and knowing I could choose, it was my biggest lesson of the journey and will become a life mantra for me
choose the light.
I came back slowly, feeling shaken but knowing. I recalled that despite the hellish nightmare, there was a voice that saw me through, reminding me it would pass and this was healing. This was healing, it was necessary. The voice was mine. My intention was to strengthen my intuition and for me, this was answered. My own voice got me through. I fell in love with myself a little more on that realisation. I realised that if I could guide myself in the lowest of low that I was shown, counsel me in the pits of hell and dark, then I could always anchor myself. My voice and words could always keep me reassured and safe. I had my own back in the worst of scenes and I could have it again. It was incredibly empowering to know I was there for me and could always be.
The third cup was called, I heard myself say to myself ‘NO FUCKING WAY’ but somehow the next minute I was back in the line asking for a small one. I don’t quite know how I got there. Once I had drunk it, I was worried I had made a mistake, but I could feel by the sickness in my stomach that I had more work to do and after the earlier experience, I knew I wouldn’t be back for some time. I lay down, my mind and body exhausted and waited for the next cup to take hold wishing I hadn’t drunk again, and that I could just sleep now. It was way into the night and many people around me were sleeping. This felt like the resting time before morning. My mind started to bend and twist again but this time I was direct and conscious. I focused on another intention, more work I wanted to do tonight; I wanted to love my body, I wanted to mend the times when I haven't been kind to myself and honoured my body in this life. I had the sickest feeling and I thought ‘I can just puke it out and be done with it, I can go on forever loving my body’. I wanted it so bad that I used my fingers to try to purge to get rid of that one. It wasn’t happening, I walked to the toilet, the floor moving crazily around me but I was intent on this. I knelt down and put my fingers in my throat and wretched and wretched noisily, I pushed and pushed, yet I dry heaved nothing. How could I feel so sick but things so still in my stomach and unmoving? Suddenly, a vivid realisation came to stop, that I couldn’t force it ~ that I was being really rough with myself. I apologised to myself on this moment of clarity and for the harshness with the way I was approaching this situation. I wasn’t ready and this needed tenderness and it started from self-care and self-love. Another clear lesson. I was instantly sober.
My journey was over, I laid back down exhausted, but overjoyed to be back in my humanness. I was overwhelmingly grateful for my life, the room, the music, the love and my human chance. I went outside to the water with bare feet and cried tears of joy and walked over the candle-lit bridge to the fire and warmed my feet. I giggled at the riddles being spoken by the shaman’s daughter.
Beautiful Ayahuasca. It may be a long time before I meet you again.
Vanessa: I was mainly feeling so much love, I felt like I couldn’t wait to get out there to be open and vulnerable to love and be loved. I felt an even stronger connection to mother earth and the medicine. We were also extremely exhausted, as we hadn’t started drinking until 12am and didn’t come back round until approx. 6am. I actually felt like we were all beautiful strong warriors who had just come back from a battle we had fought alone together.
The thought of repeating the ceremony again that evening seemed unbearable, mainly due to the awareness of the length of the ceremony and how tired I was. However, I was no longer scared of the medicine, instead I felt completely at ease and at one with her.
Cj: I love the idea of all warriors together! That is exactly what it was like. So, for me, although I am much more spiritual in my outlook on life these days, I spent 4 years studying Psychology from a modern medicine standpoint. It is what I have grown up with and for years, where I thought I wanted to be in terms of my career, so I was a little sceptical going into the ceremony. I wondered whether the effects of ayahuasca were as poignant as people believe, or do we interpret the visions how we want to, moulding the answer to what we want to hear? But after the first night, my view changed. The notion that has been spoken by cognitive scientists and Buddhists for centuries, that there is no ‘fixed self’ and everything is a construction of mind, really hit me and knocked me sideways and suddenly, everything that I believed to be real in my 29 years, was in fact, not. I don’t think anything can prepare you for what you experience whilst you’re in it, but more importantly, what you feel afterwards and how your perception of reality is undeniably flipped on its head, turned inside out and shaken to its very core. I remember coming round from the first night at about 2pm, after all my convulsing and healing and crying the night before. I sat up and felt so confused. Vanessa went it to hug me but I couldn’t work out if she was real or not, I almost cried, I wasn’t ready for another lesson, another layer to be peeled back. But I gently came round and found myself back in my constructed reality. I will never forget how happy I was to understand my surroundings again and to see and feel Vanessa’s warmth and support. As Vanessa said, we were all exhausted and I felt incredibly disorientated. I was confused about what I saw the night before. I couldn’t make sense of any of the visions because they were so abstract and I actually felt really alone. Even though you are surrounded by people, everyone’s experience is unique, so the only person who has the answers you are seeking, is yourself, and when you have no idea what you just saw and what you just felt, it is incredibly isolating.
The intention I needed to focus on in the second ceremony was one I had been avoiding,
so I knew that the next part of the journey would be difficult.
Cj: I felt so nervous going into night two. Not because night one was awful, far from it, I had a great time in my abstract vortex, but because my intention had changed, it was something I really needed to face, but something I had been avoiding. As I drank, I said my intention in my mind and I begged mother ayahuasca to be gentle with me. But, as mothers do, she did what she thought was best for me, and it was brutal.
Vanessa: Night two was similar to night one for me, in that it took me two cups to get on my way. However completely different in that this time I had decided I wasn’t going into it to do more deep work, instead I was more focused on enjoyment and experience. I was adamant that I wanted to be in a state to be able to dance. We again had done a role reverse, I, unlike CJ, was feeling completely settled and at one with drinking at the second ceremony, as I knew no matter what she was going to show me or what I was going to have to face, it was going to come from pure love.
Cj: When I sat down on the mat, I could feel the medicine pretty quickly, but this time the build-up was much slower (it was a different strain of ayahuasca). As I lay on my mat, I began to feel the energy in the room. I could see people talking and dancing and surrounding them were these amazing sparks of energy, like something out of a film ~ luminescent lines darting around the room. The music was beautiful, and I could feel each individual musical note vibrating off my lips and all over my body. In the beginning, the visions were vibrant and warming, but annoyingly abstract again.
And then everything CHANGED. I started seeing this film reel going round and round of all the people who loved me and certain memories we had shared together. It was so vivid. it was beautiful and felt incredibly real - I felt like I was there, in my childhood, or in that place or on the bench with that person all over again. It was like someone was plucking all these amazing memories that have been buried for years out of sight and saying, ‘remember this… remember how incredible this was?’ (*It is at this point I should tell you, that my intention was around wanting to be loved and desperately seeking it with one person in particular. Over the last few months, I felt like I had lost myself as a person. I was losing myself through this desperation of wanting to be loved and whilst I hadn’t really realised the extent of it, mother ayahuasca showed me*). I remember smiling a lot, laughing and swaying from side to side and then crying almost wailing and realising how lucky I was to be surrounded by so much love, that I had perhaps taken for granted. It felt nurturing, as Vanessa said, like mother ayahuasca was showing me what has been in front of me the whole time. And then it became really, really intense and twisted.
Vanessa: Unlike the previous night, there was less of a psychedelic feel to my experience, it instead felt really clear, clean and crisp - there was a feeling of complete peace and harmony, no background noise or interference, just clarity and love and everybody was well. It felt as though I was seeing a potential perfect reality. I was much more conscious during this ceremony, and I was able to dance. The movement of people dancing alongside the music was a really important part of the ceremony and definitely aided in setting the tone and helping to keep light in the room.
Cj: My experience was SO different ~ this time, I was in and out of consciousness, so I was very aware of what I was feeling, what I was seeing and what was going on in the room around me. After I was shown the love that surrounds me in my life through the film reel, my visions and experience then turned to self-love, something that I really struggle with. I felt my heart ache and literally shatter into a thousand pieces, as I realised how unkind I am to myself and how much damage I have done by neglecting such a crucial part of my existence in this reality. It was excruciatingly painful. Like I wanted to rip open my chest and piece it all back together. I held my chest and begged it to stop. The pain. The burning sensation. The sharp stabbing pains to my core. It was terrifying. ** To be clear here, when I say self-love, I don’t mean looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘yeah, I look good’, I mean loving yourself like you love your partner, you sister, your mother, your friend or your father. Being really kind, considerate, supportive and caring towards yourself and being your biggest source of empowerment. For the next 3 hours I yo-yo'd between trying to be sick, convulsing uncontrollably, crying, rocking back and forth and feeling this severe stomach pain, I wanted it all to stop. I thought ‘what have I done’ and ‘why am I doing this’. I thought at one point I wouldn’t be able to bear the pain for much longer. I wanted to call over the healers, but I thought my pain was nothing in comparison to those around me. I didn’t feel worthy. Why should I have healing? Another vital flaw of mine I’ve recently discovered, not being able to ask for help when I really need it.
When it finally became too much, I tried to stand and make my way to the bathroom, I just wanted to escape. I wanted it to be over. I managed to get to the bathroom but when I sat down, the walls moved, vibrated. The toilet roll dissolved in my hands and I couldn’t understand where I was or in what reality I was in. I have no idea how long I was in there for. The healers kept checking in on me but there was nothing they could do. This was a battle I had to fight on my own. After some time, I realised I was never going to be sick ~ that’s just not how I purged and I didn’t want to force it anymore. I moved out of the cubicle to wash my hands and saw a stranger in the mirror. But it wasn’t a stranger. It was ME. But not. I didn’t recognise my reflection. I had lost myself in this desperation to be loved but to be loved in the exact way I express it.
When I finally lay back on my mat, I cried and then surrendered. I gave in. I gave myself completely to the medicine and stopped fighting it. I lay back and said, 'OK, SHOW ME. Show me what I need to do'. What I need to know. HELP ME. At this very point, everything went quiet. There was no music. No purging. No thoughts racing through my mind. No energy in the room. My ego was dead. I came out of my body with a spotlight shining on it from above, and watched this disgusting dark black mass leave my stomach, travel up my throat and out of my mouth. I remember tilting my head back and opening my mouth wide. So wide my jaw felt like it was going to split in two. I had visions of a snake opening its mouth, regurgitating its half digested pray. This Big. Black. Dark. Mass. Then silence. Nothing. It was like the lights has been turned up and the film with over. But I was different and the world that I use to see around me, had completely changed.
Vanessa: I was so exhausted throughout the ceremony and recalled asking her to do whatever work she felt she needed to do on me, however I needed to sleep. I don't think I actually slept, however I felt a resistance to do any deep tiring work. Towards the end of the ceremony I had a strong feeling that I needed to purge. It came over me all of a sudden, I sat up and reached for the bucket, however I was struggling to bring anything up, only retching. I kept laying down thinking there was nothing to purge, and then the music continued to play, I had this terrible feeling that unless I purged the ceremony would not end. It felt like I had this huge lump in my throat that I needed to get out ~ I sat up and let out an almighty sound, and the tiniest bit of sick came up. All of a sudden I felt this strong sense of sadness come over me like I had just purged sadness that was so deep and profound and perhaps not even mine.
Cj: When I first came around on the Sunday after our second ceremony the night before, I was so exhausted. I couldn’t think straight, my body felt sore, my head hurt and again, I felt confused. Whilst nothing prepares you for the experience of ayahuasca, people often forget that the hardest part is knowing how to deal with the new knowledge and insight you have just received. We had a beautiful lunch and shared our journey’s in an open circle which helped, but I still felt isolated.
Vanessa: I was feeling slightly deflated after the weekend was over, it was similar to that flat feeling you get when you have just got back from having the best time at an amazing festival with all of your best mates…. A come down. I suppose I wanted to hold on to that love I had felt and the connection I had made and shared with these beautiful people.
Cj: I couldn’t talk to anyone other than Vanessa for the days following the retreat. Mainly because I didn’t know what to say, because I didn’t understand it all myself. It is only recently that I have been more open which has led me to sharing my experiences through this article. But, to this day, I strongly believe that my ayahuasca experience saved one of most important relationships in my life. I have learnt to stop seeking love from external sources and I now understand that everyone shows and feels love differently, and I should not expect to receive it in the way that I express it. But one of the most important lessons for me, was that love starts from within, YOU are your biggest source of love and empowerment.
Vanessa: I felt like I wanted to hold on to my experience, but I felt it slipping through my fingers rapidly. Relaying my journey helped to keep it alive somewhat, and the beauty of having shared the experience with CJ, allowed us to understand and empathise with each other after the weekend was over, on a deeper level than we could with anyone else. I did manage to find some of the ‘Aya music’ on Soundcloud, which was a profound way to reignite feelings and thoughts and even propel me to a very small degree back in to my trip. I didn’t want the journey to be a fleeting experience, I really wanted to try to integrate my teachings into my life, which I have to admit takes work. She shows you the way, opens your mind and your heart, but the work is never ending, it is a constant practice.
Cj: Ayahuasca is not to be taken lightly. It is not enjoyable or pleasant, so if that is what you are looking for, do not do it. It is a medicine. Not an Acid trip or a synthetic hallucinogenic that you think will give you a ‘fun trip’ (not that I am condoning that either). You really need to be called to the medicine with a purpose and intention, and whilst that can be a whole range of things, really think hard about whether this is the right medicine for you. If you do decide to do it, do it with a reputable Shaman who knows what they are doing, seriously do your research and talk to people about your plans, seek advice. As well as a reputable Shaman, the healers and musicians are so important to the process, without them, my trip would have been so different and probably alot more terrifying. I can't thank those healers enough or the musicians, they were like angels. It is also important to note that you will likely come away with more confusion than clarity and that is OK ~ that is very common and it takes time to understand your experience and what to take from it. For me, the work is far from over, it is a continuous process of self development and I dedicate time and energy every day to try and work on the knowledge and wisdom I have received.
Vanessa: I totally agree with CJ. I think you know when you are called to drink, when you are ready to take the grandmother in. I also feel strongly about the use of the term ‘a bad experience’ ~ often people will talk about Ayahuasca and their bad experience with it. I agree in that I wouldn’t say it is a purely pleasurable experience, but you get what you are prepared to take from it. It’s all about perspective, and I think there is a lesson in every experience, and usually more profoundly in the tough ones. There is no quick fix to internal human suffering, however mother ayahuasca does enable the process to be speeded up, through her ability to open our minds, our hearts and see ourselves from a completely different perspective.
Cj: From the moment we are born, we are being conditioned ~ by our surroundings, our education, our friends, our family, societal conventions, everything that we come into contact with, but it is what we retain and remember that creates our identity. But imagine if we unlocked all the memories we have repressed over the years ~ all the traumas, all the love, all the pain, all the bliss, all the euphoria ~ WHO ARE WE THEN? Ayahuasca gives you the opportunity to reconnect with your true self separate from the conditioning, and with that insight and wisdom, she gives you the opportunity to see things from a different perspective, so YOU can make the changes YOU need to live in harmony. But remember, nothing comes easy, be prepared to work for this.