Last week we gathered in the garden of a house by the beach, had a small ritual prior to imbibing and then settled down to experience the plant’s teachings. After about an hour I began to enter the hallucinatory field. I’ve consumed a lot of substances in my time as a psychonaut, but I had never experienced anything of the degree of intensity and fullness as these. Imagine the psychedelic scenes in 2001, a Space Odyssey or in Contact and multiply by a factor of 100.
But this was only the beginning of the experience. I then found myself pinioned to the ground, unable to move, my every fiber and cell pulsating and radiating with the energy of creation. I watched, amazed, as a vision of the Ayahuasca vine energy wrapped itself around and combined with my brain’s neurons on a cellular and then atomic level and then became one with my entire body. My body contorted, twisted and shook, my hands spasmed, my breathing became short punctuations of intakes and gasps. I became unaware of anything beyond my body and had no control over what was happening yet strangely I felt absolutely calm, knowing at the deepest level that everything that was unfolding was part of the plant’s teachings, and that my body could cope with anything presented it. The physical sensations were beyond anything I had experienced. I felt like I was being placed on the anvil of creation and that my body and awareness were being shattered into a thousand million pieces. At times the energy coursing through my body was so intense and I had so little control over it as I spasmed and shook but I strangely never felt afraid.
I had reached the point where language has to surrender to the numinous, where rationality pails before the enormity of the mystery of creation, and the only thing to do is to accept and die to yourself.
As I surrendered, everything then went black.
I awoke, disorientated, aware of my drool soaking the carpet, my arms and hands reaching out behind my prone body, moving in ways that made sense only to them, and amazed that my glasses which I had laid beside me were still intact. I began laughing as the thought crossed my mind of how amazing what I had gone through truly was, beyond any mental or physical experience I had ever had, and how Ayahuasca could in no way be thought of as a recreational drug, something to be done for kicks or when one had a few hours spare.
In all my experiences of taking hallucogenic drugs from LSD to Magic Mushrooms to pure Opium I had never experienced anything on this order of pure power. Never before had I lost consciousness, never before had the observer or watcher within me that had always managed to float above the wild, psychedelic experience and calmly guide me and keep me safe, ever succumbed or been overwhelmed by the experience itself. I was shocked; I was awed.
I continued to laugh at my helplessness as my body was convulsed by jolts of energy and I experienced feelings of bodily intensity that made the best sex I or for that matter anyone else had experienced seem trivial and insignificant in comparison. It seems incredible to write these words now, but it felt as if I was staring at the unveiled face of God, embraced by the naked elemental forces of nature, serenaded by the raw creativity of life in all its forms, past, present and future which raged through every cell of my being.
How could words describe this experience, this music of creation that my mind had forgotten the words to, but my body was happy to dance to?
”Holy F***!” I cried out, panting, still convulsing, amused by the humorous truth of my proclamation and truly exhausted by my experience.
I had gone beyond myself, transcended the confines of my rational mind and had dived headlong into the homeland of mystics. I was truly home. “More”, I grunted, ‘more!’ My face locked in a primordial grimace as I struggled to gain physical control of my body. “MORE!!” I bellowed. I saw the plant as testing me, testing my resolve. Do you have what it truly takes? Do you have the mettle to die to yourself? Yes, I did. If I had to walk the warrior’s path and descend into the deepest and darkest levels of hell, then so be it. I would. I had surrendered my old self, had been seared alive by my own misconceptions and illusions and had survived this to be reborn. I could do this!
And I still wanted more.
I emerged from the tent, no doubt looking like some ancient hermit that had been fighting demons in the desert for ten years. My friend approached me. I said, “I’m not sure who I am. Who the hell are you?” And we both fell about with laughter. My friends congratulated me for ‘diving right in’, for having stared deep and long into what Ayahuasca had to offer me, and we gathered ourselves to drink some water and nibble a little. We talked a while and I shared my feeling that the psychedelic visions – like yogic miracles – were a smokescreen, that it was important to not get entranced by the amazing images, to remember that beyond them lay a deeper reality.
Half an hour later, I braced myself for a second cup of Ayahuasca and shortly afterwards I found myself heading towards my tent, lying down and continuing my journey of courage and liberation into the invisible inner worlds as the Ayahuasca bit down even more heavily and again I was held in its vice-like grip and my every sense shaken senseless until again I gave up my illusions and my struggle and entered the darkness.
I awoke to real darkness and real surprise: hours had passed and night was drawing in. I had given in and a greater power had shown me innumerable worlds where I experienced the fullness of the symphony of birth and death, of coming into being and of disintegration. I was exhilarated to find I was alive, more alive than I had ever been. Again I cried out, ‘More’. It was the Ayahuasca which had called me and sought me out, and I would respond by going as deep as it allowed me to go, even if it meant dying over and over again.
However, it was not to be.
After resting and sharing some food I readied myself to plunge into the maelstrom and took a third cup. Yet apart from a slight buzz nothing happened. I realized that Ayahuasca would decide when I would plunge into the numinous, not I.
It’s been four days since my experiences, and I’ve been trying to understand and integrate the teachings.
Truly, I had been on a journey that few ever get to experience, a sacred journey that pushed every sense, every fiber, every belief beyond its normal threshold, journeying beyond the security of the familiar into the unknown, my spirit uncoiled and tempered in the heat of the encounter. Even today I’m not sure of what exactly happened. I don’t clearly recollect what happened while I was unconscious, dead to myself. All I know is that I feel humbled before such an encounter and at the same time stronger, wiser, braver and ready now for any challenges I might meet on my future path.
I also know that I have been truly blessed, Ayahuasca, I thank you, and look forward to your future teachings.