My Ayahuasca Journey
Updated: Apr 4
The first time I drank Ayahuasca was New Year’s Eve 2016-2017. It was something I turned to as a desperate last resort. I finally realized that I could no longer run from my shadow, I was so tired of being depressed. I needed a change of mind.
I had a career going strong but at a high cost. I was working 70-80 hours a week in sales and spent the rest of my waking hours painting. I worked non stop, 7 days a week, often instead of eating food or sleeping, and instead of hanging out with friends or enjoying life. I was 20 months out of an abusive relationship. I was being hard on myself for not being ‘okay’ yet, in fact I was far from okay. I had been suffering from serious depression for 2 years, anxiety and PTSD.
Every day I woke up dreading my life, unable to see the gifts and choices in front of me. I had no desire to take care of myself, and before long I was withering away. I thought that if I just kept working eventually I would forget about the past and about my pain. I thought if I could save X amount of money, then I’ll be happy. ‘X’ amount of money just kept growing in my mind, confining me to more years of that workaholic life...
But that all changed.
I decided I was going to commit to 2 ceremonies, facilitated by someone I've known for half my life and whom I really trust. I knew that I was ready for this experience and the opportunity found me at the right time.
Then, just 6 weeks before the ceremonies, I got in a horrible car accident. Luckily everyone involved was ok, but it forced me to take a critical look at my life. I was afraid to drive a car and yet had to drive 600-1000 miles a week for work. I had an experience, completely out of my control, that came so close to altering my life forever. If anything, this horrific accident made me more certain about my choice to partake in the ceremony.
One thing was clear, I was capable of so much more than the life I was living, working all my days away for a company that didn't even treat me well. I had to fight for equal pay, at a time when I brought in the most sales for the company.
My first Ayahuasca experience was 2 ceremonies back to back (which I recommend). All my ceremonies have been very intimate, with no more than 4 people participating apart from the shamans. This may be hard to find, but I have remained grateful for this small setting.
The first ceremony was really hard, I was very sick and convulsing, my body was fighting the medicine and my expectations. I was unable to control my body temperature, I was either freezing or sweating profusely. I didn't feel any better after vomiting either. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, other people seemed to recount fantastic journeys with occasional vomiting. I wasn't expecting it to feel like my worst food poisoning experiences, where I was so sick that it was slightly psychedelic.
I have to say, I woke up the next day and thought, I must be insane to willingly do this again tonight.
Plus on medicine days, it's important to fast (for at least the afternoon) before the ceremony, so on day two I was also feeling weak and exhausted.
The second night was different. I went deep.
For anyone who hasn't tried it before, the cups range ~2 ounces and the medicine takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes to kick in. I have only done ceremonies in the Shipibo tradition, which for me has meant:
We sit in total darkness, with just 1 candle lit for when medicine is served.
We sit on cushions/yoga matts or thin mattresses, on the ground, we are encouraged to sit up but lying down is ok too.
The shaman/s begin to sing songs (Iquaros) 30 minutes or more after serving the medicine.
Then they go around the room and sing personal songs to each person.
People are expected to give each other space to process. Instead of physical/verbal, you can hold space in your mind and heart for anyone who seems to be going through a hard time.
Fasting, also called "la dieta" is a big part of the tradition as well. I believe the more you give to the diet restrictions before, during and after the ceremonies, the more you can gain from the journeys. I have experienced various levels of strictness, my advice is: do what feels right
So, back to the second ceremony:
This night, the medicine kicked in right as the first song came into the room. I felt pure ecstasy, in love with myself, seeing and feeling interesting patterns and then...vomiting. I continued to feel wonderful and decided to have another cup.
Again, I felt incredible, I was lying down and rolling my hips like a snake. I was feeling pressure releasing from my hips and an intuitive feeling to move this medicine through my body. Once more, I needed to puke, but I did so with ease and yet again wanted more medicine. I have always aired on the cautious side, but in this moment all my senses were telling me I needed more. I did come here to feel love for myself, but I also came here to face the shadow I've been running from.
The third cup went down squeamishly, by now the thick and chunky liquid was tasting less like bitter cacao and nearly unbearable. While it settled, the love continued. I learned a ritual to help me love myself again. I had to apologize to my womb I had to forgive myself. When I say that I was learning these lessons, it wasn't from a vision of some being telling me what to do, it was coming deep from within myself, a source of knowledge/a state of wisdom that has always been with me. The third cup kicked in and quickly things were getting more intense. I saw a beautiful mandala of the womb and reproductive system, it was spinning in my face. Then, through flash back sequences in my mind, I was forced to re-experience every nano second of my sexual and physical abuse in slow motion. It was torture, I thought I had cried every possible tear already for the pains of my past relationship. I was wrong. I cried like I had never cried before. I cried as if I had never taken the time to really see those instances of abuse for what they were, and I never took the time to be gentle and forgiving with myself. I had kept the instances a complete secret for 2.5 years.
The Shaman came and sang to me but nothing subsided. It felt too good to let it go, every cry, no holding back.
I was under the medicine’s spell for more than 15 hours. The ceremony was done around 2-3 am and I spent the whole night rolling around, with a restless mind. I had to have a friend drive me home that day. I was still tripping slightly and was starting to feel really sick, like a cold. It was January 1st 2017, a whole new year, and I was meant to go to work the next day
I became very sick, and despite all my efforts I could not make it to work... all week long! I had never missed a day of work, but for the first time in a long time I just laid in bed and reflected on the life I’d been living. I practiced the self love ritual I learned and would continue this practice for 5 months. I thought about going back to work and how much this job sucked the life out of me. I had thrown myself passionately into this career at 23, because I had nothing else and bills to pay and it meant I could keep running from my problems. Within 10 days I bought a one way ticket to Peru for 5 months down the road, I was invited by the Shaman I worked with over new years, to experience this journey with their teachers.
I went back to work, but for the first time, I prioritized my own well-being. I ate healthy home cooked meals, even though I was never able to make the time before hand. I had extra energy and somehow made time to go to the gym too. I grew strong, I slept better at night and became more efficient with my work. My bosses noticed that I found a work life balance, something all my male co-workers had all along. I was fired from my job. At first I was sad because I was close with my co-workers, and although tough at times, they were my life. I was planning to quit before my trip to Peru and this was the extra shove I needed. That same month, I lost my lease.
I decided to sell most of my belongings, put the rest in storage and hit the road. I decided to spend all my hard earned money on living my life!
All the sudden I had no house and no job. Fortunately I was able to sell many paintings, which helped my savings considerably. I was able to save a decent percentage from work because I didn't make the time to spend much, the upside of being a workaholic I suppose.
I drove to Canada, because I had never been. I lived out of my (mom’s) car and explored the BC region and Vancouver Island. Taking time out of cell service and in nature was exactly what I needed after a career that had me clued to technology 24/7.
Then I flew to Peru and spent 2 weeks diving deep into 7 more Ayahuasca ceremonies. I was able to process more of my grief. I felt lots of infinite love, but also, tangibly felt the negative effects of holding resentment in my heart. I was able to forgive my ex, I was able to let go, finally. I have a lot of notes about this second experience and perhaps will write more about it, if I get requests.
I ended up traveling to Cuba, I spent time with my family in Colorado and in October 2017, I took a one way flight to Nepal - for a trek I had always dreamed of. I planned to be gone a year. I knew I could budget for that. I cried the entire flight(s) to Nepal, I was sad and scared, traveling solo with no idea when I would see my friends and family again. Knowing there was no guarantee that I would see them again.
I also assumed that I would not paint during this trip, I didn’t see how I could make it all work.
When I got to India, I began painting murals for the first time. And it clicked, I can trade art for a place to sleep, maybe even food. So I did, and my journey became one with lots of work involved. Often I worked 10 hours a day in exchange for things that might cost $7-12 a day 🤣, but it was adding up, I was saving money. I squeezed every penny, only spending more than necessary if I found incredible local arts, which I’ve always been drawn to support. I even put myself in some not so great situations trying to save money and looking back, that is one of the many lessons. It's easier to budget for a month long adventure, but mine ended up being 2 1/2 years.
A year later I arrived at the Atlantic Ocean. I went through west Asia, Oceania, Africa, around the Mediterranean and into Europe. I met my partner Diego in the Netherlands and I knew I had no desire to go back to North America. I had saved enough money in work exchange to keep on and decided to spend everything left.
Diego and I traveled back to North Africa, back to west Asia, back to Oceania, and over to South America. Made it all the way back to the Ayahuasca community in Peru, and in many ways, where the adventure all began.
I was able to share this medicine journey with Diego for 3 more ceremonies. It was so relaxing to be back on the property. 2 years had passed since my last visit to the community, 2 years and ~ 22 countries. I experienced so much over stimulation, so to be back under the bright milky way, in the jungle, with no electricity, no city sounds, it was heaven.
I believe that if you are interested in pursuing a medicine path of any kind, do your research! Make sure it is something you are ready for. Please make sure you trust the community you want to be a part of.
I have done 2 ceremonies in the United States and 10 in Peru. I have to say I have loved both but there is something extra special about being in the jungle. The healing feels very comprehensive, because I stay there long term, we do plant medicine saunas, we diet different plants from the jungle and it's a very authentic experience through and through. I am open to experiencing other traditions as well.
For myself, working with Ayahuasca has definitely enriched my life. The medicine showed me truths that I hopefully would have seen on my own eventually, but the medicine helped me carve a path towards healing, and put my life and priorities in perspective. I am grateful for finding this path, I look back on my experiences as magical. To know it exists and that the medicine lives in me forever, helps me get through the rough days since.
The medicine helped me see my potential in this life, and after the car accident, it was abundantly clear that "the time is now!" My career allowed me to save money for my adventure, and allowed me the financial stability to leave my abusive relationship, so I look back with no regrets. What began as a leap of faith, turned into the biggest adventure of my life, and no doubt, the memories that I will look back on for the rest of my days.
On May 20th 2019, I returned to America with $19.00 in my bank account.
With love and gratitude,