The plant medicine Ayahuasca has been one of my greatest teachers and I pay tribute to it in this article I wrote earlier this year for Guru Purnima, a Hindu Buddhist tradition that honors our revered teachers. The medicine has been a part of the indigenous cultures in different parts of the Amazonia for millennia and is used in their traditional ways to heal the mind, body and soul and as tool for wisdom and deeper connection. I specifically work with the Shipibo Heritage in the Peruvian Amazon through the https://templeofthewayoflight.org/ . This tradition involves the Shamans (Healers) administering the medicine in a ceremonial setting (a retreat can have 4–7 ceremonies) and singing the healing ‘Ikaros’.
While it is no substitute for the experience, this document does a great job of illuminating the tradition of Amazonian Shamanism & the Ayahuasca Healing process.
Having experienced the medicine in the same retreat before with near death experiences that transformed my life, I was called to visit again to herald the entry of the 4th decade of my life. If my first Ayahuasca retreat was rebirth, this was graduation. I could not have given myself a better 40th birthday present. Read on to know about the learnings that I brought back to the real world from this trip (pun intended):
Contentment and Abundance and Identifying the Source of Fear –
In the first half of the third ceremony, I was lying down in despair. I was clutching on my genitals and wouldn’t let go; it came to me that I did this a lot as an infant grappling with fear.
This was the source of my fear in the present, and I felt like superman for having identified it. ‘How?’ you ask- well…while the cause of the fear itself as an infant seemed irrelevant, the fact that I held on to my genitals for dear life in great distress held enough wisdom for me to Let go now.
At the end, I was bathed in unlimited content and abundance. This was unlike any psychedelic experience I’ve had before because I felt this feeling was more permanent than any other feeling that I had experienced.
And the revelation came the next day. Before heading to the jungles, I had lost a decent bit of money in the market because I was hoping the securities I bet against would go down. Not just that, I was writing with the hope to get likes…This was all wrong! This was a fear & need based approach that was just not working for me.
The revelation was — Create wealth from a place of abundance, create content from a place of contentment and the rest will follow.
Being Present and Saying Bye to Fear –
I noticed that during lunch on the second day in the jungle while talking to the facilitator there sitting in a chair, nowhere to be or go, my legs were flayed, as if I was ready to run. I realized that I have been doing this for decades — been in flight mode while interacting with anyone. And I shared the same with the facilitator. This issue was preventing me from being present with anyone for the longest time.
And of course, the medicine then did its magic by showing me where the fear came from. I noticed that the day after that while I was talking to my friends, I sat very comfortably with my feet grounded, and that has continued ever since.
Knowing the source of my fear liberated me from the fear!
Speak Your Truth (Another source of Fear), Let it Go –
With these 2 amazing gifts and 3 more ceremonies to go, I wanted to share my victory notes about letting go of Fear with my fellow passengers the next day in the group share. While attempting to do so, I choked. There was a lump in my throat. I could not fully express the joy I felt the night before.
After sleeping on it, I found out that I always have had trouble speaking my truth fully, which didn’t let me let go of things and I just held on to more fear.
The source of not being able to speak my truth was also revealed from my childhood. It was my father who would overpower us (my sister & I) by not letting us speak when we did something not ‘correct’ or got into trouble. This was also a source of fear which came from being very scared as a child.
So many things got buried in there with no way out for so long. Well… I was not going to let that happen anymore and that led me to an empowering revelation –
I speak my truth, I let it go, I let go of Fear.
Dissolution of Self Doubt –
I got the message that I had to take more medicine in the 4th ceremony, but I had serious reservations, since the last trip on high doses gave two near-death experiences, which as cool as it sounds, believe me — is not fun.
While you never know what lies on the other end after taking the medicine or no matter how many times you have sat with it or while I neither intended for a near-death experience nor can I prevent it if it happens, knowing all of this fully well — I doubted in my abilities to handle a larger dose.
I took the plunge. I was in a very safe setting for sure. And I’m so glad that the doubt surfaced. It did so to leave me, in what was a very blissful ceremony.
I got the message to never second guess myself, trust myself and the self doubt was gone for good.
I don’t know why this specific intention came up for the 5th ceremony. I was to find out the intention after the ceremony.
In the full effect of the medicine, after my first Ikaro by my favorite Shaman Maestra Teresa, I involuntarily said ‘ Te Quiero Mucho’ meaning I love you a lot. While Maestra Teresa always called me Rajita (‘ita’ added to name at the end in Spanish is to express endearment), after the second Ikaro from Maestra Katiya, she called me Rajita too. This was Love, Unconditional love!
After waking up I realized that the chronic pain I have for many years is from the biases and judgements I hold and continue to pile on. This also prevented me from loving anyone unconditionally. These biases and judgements are also what the Buddhists call ‘Sankaras’ — knots trapped in your body which cause physical & mental agony and meditation is the practice that unties these knots and makes you realize your higher self. Clearly, there is another way to untie these knots too. Fascinatingly, the Shipibos have a concept of knots causing sickness in their customs too.
Later in the day, during the group share I discovered why I treated Love as an exchange. It was because my parents always offered me the thing I wanted or asked for in exchange for something — ‘Do this and you will get this’. I don’t have a memory of my parents bringing me a shirt or a candy and saying, “I got this for you”. This recollection made me awfully sad. I also processed this earlier in other healing journeys & forgave my parents. But the medicine touched a deeper layer that was hidden and was now exposed to be addressed.
I realized it was infrequent and unintentional. But I used this concept of exchange in my relationships and it was to stop from that day. Either I can give/help someone or I can’t. There is no quid pro quo.
Later on, one of the facilitators told me that the indigenous people don’t have a word for Love, and certainly no concept of ‘Unconditional Love’, which is very western. There is no word for Love, it just is!
I’m Content, I’m Abundant –
With everything I was seeking given to me, in the last ceremony I was chasing the same bliss and contentment from the 3rd ceremony. I got dejected by not finding it.
Then the message came to me, ‘How much contentment and abundance can you chase? You already are content & abundant’. I was humbled and schooled, thank you Ayahuasca!
The set and setting of these retreats deep in jungles, without any modern facilities or internet is such that healing occurs throughout your stay — should you invite it. I was lucky to take away many lessons outside the ceremonies. I have already written about these and the links to the same are embedded within:
I speak my truth And Don’t say or express things I don’t mean
I found Contentment and Abundance in Relationships
I reconciled a fully blindsided incidents of Bullying from school
These incidents are not very linear. Time becomes very hazy when you are taking medicine in the jungles. Imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie on steroids, that’s how it is. While delightfully disjoint, it all makes sense just at the right time.
On the last group share ,we were asked what we are taking and leaving behind and my answers were ready-
What did I leave behind: Bias & Judgment
What I take with me — Contentment & Abundance
While in the jungle, it came to me that my first Ayahuasca was very transformative, But I did let the learnings somehow slip at times in the real world. Whether it was passing out drunk a couple of times or getting emotional about investments, or not treating people right.
“I know I will slip again, but I will forgive myself, will dust it off and start again – Awareness is a practice of lifetime.”
While I was tempted to think after my first and even this experience as to why I never cultivated a relationship with the medicine earlier in my life, cause I sure could have used these insights in my life 10 or 20 years ago, I was reminded instantly that everything is happening as it should and I’m grateful and blessed for what I have now.
And that is my invitation to you, it is never too late to begin the process of healing or self-discovery, whatever your calling is — Ayahuasca, Vipassana meditation, Yoga, anything that connects you to your deeper self . The beauty is too immense even if it is just one day of bliss that you get from it, no matter how old you are. And if you need more inspiration to get started, read about how my mom who learnt how to headstand in her 60s
stay blessed y’all — raja
26th December, 2021