Recently, I did 5 nights of Ayahuasca in Mexico. After the first night, I didn’t think I would do all five. I’m so glad I stuck with it as I learned so much and had some profound healing.
From time to time I'm asked why I do the amount of plant medicine healing ceremonies that I do. I always give the same answers: 1. We have more trauma than we know. 2. Our deepest wounds are difficult to heal. 3. It's part of the path of being a plant medicine guide. 4. I learn a great deal about how to support people in their most vulnerable places because I am taken to my most vulnerable places. In NVC terms, the deeper we go into our healing (plant medicine healing, done well, is some of the deepest healing work I know), the more we can connect to the emotions and sensations in our bodies, the more we can connect to our needs, and the more we can stay connected with ourselves and others during conflict and stressful situations.
As you may know or may guess, writing about psychedelic journeys is challenging. The things you see, feel, understand and experience can be hard to put into words. Furthermore, the effects of the Ayahuasca tend to last for 4-6 hours, sometimes longer, and a lot happens during that time. Below is my attempt to pull together the most important parts of my five ceremonies in Mexico.
My Five-Year-Old Boy
The day after the 4th ceremony (ceremonies go from about 9 pm to 3 am) the woman who had been sitting to my right (I’ll call her Jan) told me that during the 2nd ceremony Ayahuasca told her to sit up and face some of her shadow figures. Jan said that she saw several figures, including a 5-ish year-old boy to her left who was sitting on me hugging his knees to his chest with his head hung in sadness. Ayahuasca told her that the boy was not one of her shadow figures; he belonged to me. Near the beginning of the 3rd ceremony, she saw him there again, but at the end of the 3rd ceremony he was gone. She had forgotten to tell me about the boy after the 2nd and 3rd ceremonies. I was glad that she remembered after the 4th because it made my 3rd ceremony that much more meaningful and powerful.
My 3rd ceremony was the hardest of the five. The medicine came on fast and strong and I had a lot of fear and shame for a good couple of hours. I asked for help twice. Finally, I somehow traced the shame back to its source and connected to a young part of me that felt ashamed about being so unloveable. I was shown the depth of his longing for love and the abyss of his shame and sorrow, and it broke me open. I sobbed for what felt like forty-five minutes. There was a hot, piercing pain in the centre of my chest, and I wanted to wail, and I would have wailed had I not been in a circle of 18 other people who were deep into their journeys.
As much as the pain in my chest hurt, I was utterly grateful for it. It helped me come into my body after a few hours of not being able to be in my body due to the fear and shame. I believe that the sad 5-year-old boy that Jan saw sitting on me during the 2nd ceremony and at the start of the 3rd was no longer there at the end of the 3rd because I brought him home with my grieving. He no longer had to feel ashamed about needing love.
Battling for My Body
Somewhere near the end of the third ceremony, I traced the fear I’d had at the beginning of the third ceremony back to childhood memories of being terrified of my mother’s rage and punishment and doubtful that I would survive them. After exploring some anger and boundaries and receiving some wonderful healing during my fourth ceremony, I decided I wanted to explore rage for my fifth and final ceremony. I was nervous, but I wanted to bring home that terrified boy. Again, the medicine came on strong, and I struggled to stay with my body. And then I came to the crux of the night. I was hovering just above my body, looking down at it and feeling afraid of the intensity of its emotions and sensations. I was afraid to go in and feel what was there and considered asking for help. But then I thought of the many times my friend Vince had told me about staying with excruciating feelings during ceremonies and I thought of the courage he and the others in the group had with facing their edges, and I decided I could do it. I got angry. Fiercely and with great focus, I shouted inwardly, “That’s my body. That’s my body. That’s my body.” I yelled and screamed with my thoughts (not out loud), “No! No! No!! Back off! Get away!! Get Away!!!” As I inwardly yelled and screamed those words, my consciousness went right into my body, and it was excruciating. It was as though the energy of my will and my thoughts pushed their way into my body and squeezed out the shame and fear. My body became hot and prickly with the pressure, especially my arms and legs. I thought for sure I would vomit. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to purge all the harmful energy out of my body. But I didn’t vomit. I don’t know why, but it didn’t matter. I was in my body. All the way in. The intense vibrating in my nervous system eventually settled and I felt amazed and so happy. “This is my body,” I kept thinking to myself. “This is my body.” I had battled hard and courageously for my body and I was so glad.
Soon after I went into a deep and magnificent meditative state. I felt very spacious and peaceful. Sitting, breathing, and feeling the energy of Ayahuasca engrossed me for the next hour or more. Thoughts would flicker in and out, but they weren’t important to me. My connection to the energy of the medicine felt so precious and I didn’t want to miss a moment.
When the ceremony was officially over, one of the other participants came over to me, gave me a hug and said, “We did it. Five ceremonies.” Something about how he said those words to me brought home how much I’d felt and experienced over the 25-30 hours of those five ceremonies. I’d been through intense fear, brutal shame, agonizing grief and sorrow, edgy anger and fierce rage, deep gratitude and exquisite peace.
Most of the group (there were about a dozen of us left) ended up in the outdoor Kitchen after the fifth ceremony. In two’s and three’s we chatted and shared about our journeys. Then Vince asked me to tell a joke and our corner of the room started laughing hard. Because we were laughing so hard, the couple next to us wanted to hear the joke, so I told it again. Somehow it was even funnier the second time, and we laughed even harder. Of course, the people a little further away wanted to hear it, too. I must have told the joke four or five times and we laughed harder each time. Other jokes were told, some funny, some silly. We split our guts laughing at each one (well, almost all of them; there were a couple groaners). And so, along with all of the other big emotions we had each felt over the five ceremonies, we got to feel raucous hilarity. All of the stress and intensity of the ceremonies came bubbling out of us through our laughter. It was a perfect ending.