Meeting the great great grandmother of all plant medicine…
a relationship every child of earth should be entitled too…
At the start of 2019 I was gripped with a powerful and crazy idea.. I wanted to go to Peru, a foreign country with a foreign language, do the ayahuasca native to the jungle there and I want to thrive in the process. When the pandemic hit at the start of 2020, I thought this goal was put on hold. I resigned myself to the inevitable and prepared myself to take over the business I had been working in for four years. I was going to work my ass off for the next decade or so and carry out my old plans in the future. But.. as I have discovered, making plans is almost pointless. Somehow and someway I got a travel exemption to leave Australia, and my dream was still alive. This is the story of my introduction to the very old, ancient, and sacred plant medicine of Ayahuasca native to the jungles of la Amazonas. A very beautiful, humbling, and in my opinion terribly misunderstood form of ancient healing that would have very real and powerful effects on modern society if we were able to drop our shields, get off our high horse and allow ourselves to be swept in the magic that is oh so real.
January 8th, 2021. I fly from Lima to Iquitos, two hour bus ride to the port of Nauta, and a two hour speed boat to the town of Jenaro Herrera.. and then a 15 minute walk to La Casa Del Otorongo. Here I meet two poms and a jungle Peruvian OG.
Paul was my translator, Tristan my chef, Levan my shaman, and La Casa del Otorongo my home for the next 10 days. I wasn’t aware of any lineage, no shipibo tradition or school of approach to the ayahuasca at this time. It didn’t matter too me, because what I ended up finding couldn’t have worked out any better. I connected with myself, the jungle, a proper space holder and medicine worker, and shattered my own limitations and perceptions. Levan was a home grown shaman, had been working the medicine for 6 years, and was 6 years older than me (ominous forshadowing).
I’ve met more than one person in my life who wanted nothing to do with their own subconscious. Meeting yourself that deeply can be, and was for me, a daunting prospect. The unknown of what might or might not be lurking in the shadows might read as weak, but the tension that builds up in your body is real.
It’s important to understand for anybody who might feel this way, that what is happening for you deep down below, is having a very real impact on your day-to-day life. It can have an impact on how you perceive the world and the people around you, it can impact how you feel and interpret the things happening around you, it can impact how you react or respond to those things. I have chosen this journey and the medicine path, because it is no longer acceptable for me to ignore my shadows in the corner. I can see those shadows now, before they may have been obscured from my view, but now it is painfully clear my impact on the people around me and my environment as a whole, and I am choosing to do the work.
Having said all of that, this can be an exhilarating and equally terrifying experience. Four days into my diet, about to accept my first cup of ayahuasca, two years in the making, nestled deep in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, a looong way from home and anything familiar — and I wanted to run for the door. But I accepted my cup, I knew that I was my own poison, and descended for the next four hours into the depths of Ayahuasca…
Aya likes metaphors, she’ll download images, visions, thoughts feelings and emotions through your awareness. This is why the diet and electronic detox is important, because the more you tantalise your senses the harder it is to sense the ayahuasca and tune into the medicine that is there.
I dieted out all chicken & meat, refined sugars, oils, predatory fish, caffeine and alcohol for 8 days. My only sugar and sweet-sweet was pineapple and papaya in the morning, served with a nice dose of Maca (grows locally) and peanuts. Lunches and dinners consisted of cabbage, carrot, lentils, potatoes, yuca and peppers, no oil or spices, and no salt. I had fish on two occasions — but strict conditions that it had to be a bottom of the food chain fish, they had heaps of bones and little flesh, and the dogs and cat enjoyed the leftovers. Safe to say after 8 days of this my appreciation for fruit, and lying in hammocks, had gone through the roof. And I’ve eaten fruit every day since.
I descended into the pits of my own subconscious, and I only met myself. I met myself in the form of a big gross ugly spider, full of hair, eyes, and clicking pincers. I was in my deep dark and shadowy lair, laying a billion eggs and coating the place with web and scuttling all over my lair. Yet it kinda felt like a warm hug.. I felt all this while being nestled into my scarf and blankets on a soft mattress in the pitch black of the Maloka (no actual scuttling took place) and when I realised that the only thing you can do to the ugliest and scariest parts of your soul is embrace it, scratch its furry head and realise how fucking instrumental it is in your own existence — the darkness lifted, the fog cleared, and I felt more sober and awake and aware then I had in a long time.
What I’ve heard both before and after, and what I fully resonate with, is that the ayahuasca doesn’t do the work for you, it just shows you the work. It was beautifully simplistic to accept the realisation that all you can do is love yourself no matter what your shit looks or smells like, but to put that into practise after ceremony is where the work is.
A worthy endeavour, and not always the easiest task.
I partook in a lie for all of 10 months that caused a great deal of pain to more then one person.. I still have not had the balls nor the opportunity to look many of these people in the eye since.. for me to accept the notion to love myself anyways, and ultimate radical self love being the source of forgiveness for self and others..
Do I deserve forgiveness?
Do I deserve to let myself off the hook?
That’s the work for me, dear reader.
Now as this was going on Levan was coming round to the house every day to give me what is known as a flower bath — I don’t remember the names of the plants themselves but it wasn’t until my second ceremony that I fully felt and understood their presence. No longer (entirely) fearful of the unknown, I dived face first into my second cup which took place two nights later, and it was incredible. I hallucinated, I laughed, I reconciled difficult relationships within myself. I was able to drop silly little things out of my consciousness and awareness, I almost wanted to call up my old mentor and tell him how much I loved him and appreciated how he looked out for me.
Into the edges of my awareness floated in these alien looking creatures, with long and thin tendrils working their way into my body and scanning every square inch of my being. At first I rejected these little spirits, not knowing what or who, or why. But I calmed down, relaxed, and surrendered to the process. I trusted Levan. And back into my awareness they came, and on deeper into the medicine I sank. It was after ceremony talking with Paul and Levan I received confirmation that this is what the plant baths are for. There are hundreds of healing plants in the amazon, one of the reasons why myself and others who know this are deeply saddened by the deforestation taking place. Some people just have no idea of what power, and what beauty lives there, and has lived there for thousands of years.
Yet I had trouble believing everything I saw, because a lot of it was premonition-ish of the future, and I have a real hard time believing a certain somebody is going to say thank you for what I did to him. It was this point I told ayahuasca to get fucked, and you can bet yo ass I was the one being fucked in the next ceremony.
8 days into the diet, lean, mean, hungry, refreshed, revitalised, full of youth and chomping at the bit to sink my teeth back into the world, I broke the rules, and I spoke with somebody on the outside. My girlfriend, who is not my girlfriend anymore, was telling me all the things I didn’t want to hear, and was not ready to accept. I went into my third ceremony very nervous, the opposite of relaxed, and ready to quite literally jump off the cliff.
All or nothing, Aya, what’s up? Show me, tell me. Is this fucking happening or what? Did I come all this way, did I leave Australia for a dead end, in the midst of a pandemic. How do I make this work? What do I do?
I waited for the medicine to show me the way, I waited for the medicine to cure me of doubt, to show me the keys to turn my life into that of an international beefcake of sound resource and invincibility…
buuuut thats not how the medicine works..
And as the realisation that this was not the happy ending I’d been waiting for slowly creeped in, I felt the touch of the abyss that was the grief on the other side waiting for me. I rejected this notion entirely, and a deep cold demonic voice erupted in my chest. “I will not let her go.” And for a second the medicine backed off, and I thought I had won.
I had the arrogance to think I could control the medicine, to think I could dictate the terms of what happens in that Maloka.
And Aya put the pressure on. I was being nipped, prodded, poked, and strangled. I thrashed on my mattress trying to clear my awareness, my breathing was ragged.
I sat upright, meditative position, trying to control the onslaught, and like a true demon killer only seen in movies, my shaman appeared towering over me armed with Icaros on his tongue and rattle in hand, and Levan goes to work.
This is why you need to trust your shaman, this is why your facilitator needs to be a true space holder, because when you descend to where you haven’t gone before, the space holder is EVERYTHING. It’s not all love and light down there, the light illuminates the shadows and the shadows don’t always go without a fight.
Terrifying it felt, to see Levan stand over me like that, I felt every part as dark as the voice that rose within me. On and on, this man of the jungle sings, drawing up to the very crown of my head what has got to get got. As he works, I remember. I remember words said in the cold of fear, I remember tactics, and ploys, shit that I had said, shady shit that I had pulled so that she wouldn’t leave me. Things of which I have no conscious memory, things I can’t even remember now, just knowing that it happened. And as Levan pulled the last of my resistance out of me, I collapsed on my mattress, defeated, and return did the warmth of the medicine. Aya wrapped herself around me like a blanket as I surrendered to the grief on the other side of the solid concrete wall that had just been obliterated. And I released, I surrendered, I let go.
I would walk out of my girlfriends apartment 10 days after my final ceremony, no longer able to buy into the illusions, no longer wanting to live in a state of pretence that this was anything worth preserving and suffering for, and finally, willingly stepped into the unknown that was life outside of her front door. Aya helped me recover and re-discover myself, buried as I was beneath a stinking pile of my own bull shit.
If I can be as arrogant enough to offer some of the lessons that have come to fruition for me so far.
1) Don’t lie, don’t accept somebody else’s lie, it’s shit. If your walking the street and you see somebody being assaulted, and walk past like nothing is happening, you are responsible. You have power, you have the ability to create change. You can yell and scream and call somebody.
2) Your intuition is one of your best friends, and for me was one of my most neglected allies. Listening to your instincts is the direction to which you can let your power flow. It took me a painfully long time to reccaliberate this, but I can assure you I will never again allow myself to lose my autonomy.
3) Sometimes, being punched in the face is the best thing that can happen to you.
It may interest you to know the infinite, eternal and unconditional love these plant spirits have for us, they’ve seen it all, a million times over. We are all children of the earth, we are made of the earth, these plants work synergistically with us and our body systems and they depend on us to grow and thrive just as much as we may depend on them to heal and grow. My solar plexus is close to bursting with intention to share, co-create, and grow.
This is quite close to full five months after my introduction to the great grandmother of plant medicine, I’ve been through a lot, I’ve learnt even more, and I’m back in Peru. I’m currently in prep for a tipi ceremony with GrandFather medicine AKA San Pedro AKA Wachuma AKA aguacolla. As far as it feels like I have come, there is more work to do, more illusions that need to be evaporated, and more shadows to be incinerated.