Being a student, I am used to writing papers for classes like Social Psychology and English. I like to write but I usually dread the tedious procedures of proper formatting and citing sources. Today my topic is one that is a joy to write about. It comes from my own initiation with a Native sacrament known as Ayahuasca. I am eager to recount just a little of the delicious experience I was fortunate enough to have during my eight-hour courtship with Ayahuasca. Her gifts for me were bountiful, blessed and delivered me a bliss that I cannot help but to share with you.
When my friend invited me to a lecture at a university about Shamanism and Ayahuasca, I accepted with anticipation to learn more about this strange world of which I had no knowledge and all desire. We found ourselves on a Monday morning sitting in an auditorium in the Psychology department with a packed house full of Psych 1 students who looked to be no older than 21 years old. The head of the Psychology department, introduced the speaker, Dr. Jose Christo, Dean of a University in Peru. He was a short, brown, demure man with a very sweet smile. He put everyone in the room at ease with his soft, rolling speech. Since he spoke only Spanish, his patient and gentle-voiced assistant translated for us.
For the next hour, Jose spoke about the healing work he has done over the past 29 years as a Shaman. People come to him to be healed and he works with healing energies to restore their sense of connectedness to themselves and the rest of the world. He works with people who have guilty consciences who may have murdered and need forgiveness. He works with people who feel depressed, lost and unhappy. He also works with people who are already happy and want to feel even more connected to themselves and the Great Source of all life. Jose becomes a channel for that source.
But Jose doesn't work alone. He has a group of dedicated souls both in Peru and a satellite group in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who help him to heal others. They are known as Casa del Corazon, or House of the Heart. Now they were on stage and performing a group ritual in which they formed a circle around the psychology professor and two students while they chanted, waved their arms, and touched the threesome. After the ritual, the recipients smiled and shared the positive energy they felt from the experience.
Jose presented the professor with an honorary diploma and medal and the two men hugged warmly and I got an eerie feeling that I had just watched the symbolic passing of the torch of Shamnistic knowledge from South to North America. Everyone clapped wildly with a deep recognition that we had just witnessed something important. When Jose announced that we were all invited to a special ceremony the following night where Ayahuasca would be present, I knew I was in for something extraordinary.
The next night my friend and I arrived at the faculty lounge of the University's Psychology Department with pillows, sleeping bags, and empty stomachs. We were told to fast all day and to bring oil or perfume with us. We sat down and joined a circle of about 40 people, both students and people from Jose's Casa del Corazon. After the room was set up to block out light, Jose set up his altar. He arranged a candle and prepared a special tobacco, and asked us to bring our oils and perfumes up to him. I began to feel nervous as I eyed the plastic soda bottle filled with the dark syrupy concoction known as Ayahuasca. I was very excited to ingest this sacrament that has induced states of ecstasy in human beings for thousands of years.
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Jose spoke to us again about Shamanism, but this time he focused on Ayahuasca. He told us that in Peru, it is given to adults and little children alike, in ceremonies that are held in the jungles. He told us that the natives call Ayahuasca the "Queen of the Psychedelics" and that these cermonies are revered with the highest respect. He went on to say how much he loved us. He explained that even though this sacrament is used to open people up to their divine nature, it is really love that heals. He becomes a channel for that divine love--the love of the creator, and it works through him to heal others.
He told us that he would breathe healing breaths into each of our oils and perfumes, and that when we wore them we would be enshrouded in a positive healing vibration that would attract others to us. He had pictures taken of the group and he explained that when he was back in Peru, he would look at the pictures, focus on us, and send each of us his love. I was already starting to feel loved and nurtured in a way that I wasn't used to from a "stranger", and I felt tingly and almost giddy.
Now he was pouring the Ayahuasca from a Crystal Geyser bottle into a cup as his beautiful assistant Gracia placed empty pails in front of us in case we vomited. Jose breathed smoke from a special cigarette into each dosage, and cupfuls were administered by his gracious assistant Shaman. "Salud Brother!", "Salud Sister!" was cheered by the group as each person swallowed the potent mixture. I got butterflies just before my turn when my friend reminded me how awful it would probably taste. I thanked him for bringing me to this sacred circle, but he urged me to thank him after it was over.
Now it was my turn and I think I must have mentally made the sign of the cross before I gulped the strange, smoky, syrupy brew. It went down easier than I expected and I shivered a little as I felt it seep down my esophagus. Shortly after I swallowed the Ayahuasca, Gracia came around with an extraordinarily strong-smelling floral tonic that she splashed onto our hands. She then placed our hands over our nose and whispered "Breathe in". The rush from the smell was so great that I immediately felt clear-headed and high.
After everyone drank, Jose and his tribe began to make gentle clicking noises, imitating jungle sounds. I felt as if I were in the jungle as I watched the shadows on the walls from the light of the single candle. It was now about 20 minutes since I had drank, and my stomach began to feel strange--both excited and sedated at the same time, light and heavy. The shadows began to look stretched out and eerie, like neon lights inside a New York subway train.
Jose spoke English now-- "Close your eyes, please." We were urged to go inside, not to disturb our neighbors, and to keep our eyes closed. He explained that we were to be the recipients of the tribe's energy. They would sing and dance for us, but we were to simply sit or lie back and enjoy the journey. The tribe began to chant, a song of a sort I will never forget. The tribe chanted, in a unison sing-song fashion which utilized the short and nasal sound "nigh" repeatedly. Variations of the song would fill our ears for the next 7 hours.
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I closed my eyes and felt a sinking feeling as I sat cross-legged, a longing to sink inside myself very deeply. I felt a warm euphoric sensation and let my head tilt toward my chest a bit. I began to see colors and flashes of memories from my life. Memories not of people or events that have occurred, but rather random pictures such as billboard advertisements and crazy images from movies, television commercials and covers of cereal boxes. I experienced an overwhelming feeling of the confusion and pollutedness of my own mind by concepts pushed on me daily by the media and television. I became a viewer of a frightening television program of which I uncovered the producer and director. My own mind and the minds of others had produced these cluttered images. I felt trapped and began to sink deeper.
My head fell forward and now my back was arched so that my head rested on my stomach. I calmed my self by breathing into my stomach. I could hear the chanting of the tribe now and it soothed me. I decided to use my new ability to "see" to find out what I was made of. My consciousness was now like a long little periscope that shyly peeked around the corners of my insides to see, for the first time, what was there. I saw brightly colored lights, spiral staircases and lots of empty space, waiting to be used up. Now the music was inching closer, marching inside me like a dedicated marching band, committed to massage parts of my psyche that had never before been nurtured. I was determined that the music had actually entered me and was causing tiny beings inside me to get up and dance for the first time.
"Where is Colleen?", I thought defensively, but this thought took a lot of effort to formulate. It was not as important as the "me" that was looking now. I heard the singing very acutely now, and I was so positive that the tribe was only inches away from my ears that I opened one eye. I was startled to see them sitting on the other side of the room. I closed my heavy eyelids and began to see more pictures of our third-dimensional universe--tall buildings, man-made structures, neon-lit cities that spread all over the earth. I began to feel that heavy feeling of being trapped in a condensed place. I didn't like it--I wanted to fly like a bird and feel free.
I had a bright idea! If my mind was full of the weightedness of 3-D reality, I would go somewhere else to fly. I can remember consciously moving my attention from my mind, down one of the slippery tunnels into the area that lies just between my heart and solar plexus. When I concentrated on this space, I felt a warm joy that seemed to emanate out into the rest of my body. Now I was really flying and I saw bouquets of balloons floating up to meet me. The heaviness was gone and I was as light as a hummingbird. I had the impression that I had finally come to a party that I had always been invited to, but previously declined. I started to have so much fun that I heard myself chuckling sweetly, which really made me laugh. It was absolutely fabulous.
Now I began to have revelations that came so quickly I cannot recount them all. I felt that I had a futuristic vision that this heaven-on-earth that I was experiencing would soon be available to everyone. I felt a joy bubble up inside me that appeared to encompass every cell of my body. In fact, it seemed as though all my cells had their own unique energy and were celebrating their newfound freedom by dancing and jumping for joy.
At the same time, there seemed to be no separation between my consciousness and that of the other people in the room. When my friend touched my arm, all my cells flowed joyously to the spot that was touched. Tactile contact was deliciously accepted and given as an exchange of the most profound sensuality. Touch became an exciting amplification for the love I already experienced expanding from my heart. I felt so warm with love that I was compelled to contemplate the result of my exploding. I placed my hands under my thighs and felt intense radiating heat. The heat energy was accentuated by the Ayahuasca. Later on, my friend related to me that my skin felt so hot that he was compelled to refrain from touching me.
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Now I sensed Jose coming near me. Dancing and chanting, he approached everyone in the room and touched us, placing his hands on our heads or shoulders. When he came to me, he pinched my cheeks. I sensed that he was reassuring me in a divinely paternal way. I understood that Jose was acting as an agent of divine love, and I envisioned him to be the gardener who, with love, was pruning us to grow into beautiful weeds. I delighted in the knowledge that we are all beautiful flowers in God's eyes, that require love and light, water and food in order to blossom fully. No one is a bad seed in the eyes of God, and I comprehended the profound meaning behind this comforting idea.
I was surprised to hear the sound of a woman crying rise above the chanting. I did not have to wonder why she wept. The magnitude of emotional energy that one feels during the Ayahuasca journey can be overwhelming, especially if someone has feelings that he or she has not processed. To feel so much love all at once can shock a person into realizing how long they have suppressed that love and lived instead in a dull, safe illusory state of well-being--a poor substitute for the real thing. I knew her crying was both ecstaticly happy and excrutiatingly sad at once. I felt for her and sighed. I sent her healing energy with my breath and intentions. I am certain everyone else did also.
My body became a resonant tool for my intentions. Each sigh, murmur, and hum became a focused and powerful channel of energy which could affect others greatly. I experienced a huge gestalt when I felt finally the immense power that words have in our lives. I got the message that the only word that matters is love--everything else is an illusion which masks that love. I wanted to write love, speak love, sing love. I perceived a great need to keep things simple in my life. Only love is real because it is the natural order. There is no room or time for fear. There is only one road on the Ayahuasca trip--the Freeway of Love; Everything else is a detour.
My consciousness then found its body curled up in a crouched fetal position, with my back hunched over my kneeling legs. In yoga, this asana is called the "fallen leaf" pose. Every yawn, breath, and stretch seemed to send exquisite shivers of pleasure through my entire body. The "chi" that I had always heard about was circulating warm currents of energy throughout my entire body. What an amazing vehicle we are born with! I discovered a brand new respect for my body and vowed to take pristene care of it so that I could experience the marvelous world of sensations at its fullest. The feelings, revelations, and beautiful universes of imagination that I found inside mysel became very sacred things that I wanted to nourish and nurture, almost as if I was my body's mother and protector.
By this time in the journey, I was smiling ear to ear with the joy that comes from meeting a cherished friend for the first time who you shared a beautiful pen-pal relationship with, but had never met in person. When you finally meet, the beautiful connection with the person is far more intensely satisfying and meaningful than you could have ever hoped for. I was meeting my consciousness, with its innocent dreams, loves and creations, for the first time. I felt a love for myself that was so endearing and unconditional that my eyes welled with tears. I now understand the importance of loving oneself first, before you can love others. I knew this love would never leave me and I felt a reassurring blissful comfort that I still retain even now.
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For the rest of the journey I continued to bask in this loved, nurtured, ecstatic state while allowing the auditory stimulation of the tribe to wash over me like a warm cozy blanket. The chanting was growing softer now and I was surprised to hear Jose speaking to us over the cooing tribal noises of the jungle. His words were mostly in Spanish, and I was amazed that I was able to understand what he said because of the strength of the feelings behind his words. He began to sing a mantra in English which lifted my spirit even higher than it already soared. It was a song from the Father to the children which asked for the children to be patient for just a little longer, and that they would then know a heaven on Earth. In time, all knowledge is unraveled, and the Truth is known. I was honored to be asked by God for patience concerning the plan. God loves everyone and sees no good or bad--only beautiful blossoms or else seeds which haven't ripened yet. Jose's song touched me deeply, and I found in myself an abundance of forgiveness for God.
Now, the chanting transformed into clicking and humming as Jose lured us back to the room. We began to open our eyes as the candle was lit. Dreamily, everyone gazed around the room at each other in amazement of what we had just eperienced together. Smiling as far as their faces would go, the students looked like different people and I know I must have too. I looked at my friend who had brought me and hugged him. I asked him if I could thank him now and I did as we hugged tightly. Everyone was giggling and asking each other how their journey was. Jose asked each person to say a few words about their experience.
The general response varied from "Amazing", "Fantastic", to "Totally Awesome", the latter of which had a little difficulty being adequately translated from English to Spanish. Jose laughed out loud when his translator tried to find equivalent Spanish words for the unique American slang of college students. One lady commented that she felt as if the room was one big heart. The tribe smiled. I told the group about the clutter inside my head which made me afraid. I explained that when I moved my intention to my heart, I felt so much love that I could imagine a heaven on earth if everyone felt this way even half the time! A memorable thought came from one student when he said, "I hope this affects my life the way it ought to." I know everyone in the room wanted the ecstatic feeling to last forever, like lingering at a fabulous party that you just don't want to leave. Most people felt that words were not suited for depicting the magnitude of feeling they felt.
One person from the tribe illustrated the journey in a most beautiful way. He said, "We must come to realize that the heart is the most intelligent." I understand that deeply now. Our minds have been so polluted by the media and negative imagery that we really do need to start over. Our consciousness needs to collectively cocoon, and begin again from a pure place that is free, uninhibited, childlike and good. The Ayahuasca helped me to see this from a deep source. I also felt very firmly that we are definitely part of a divine plan that nurtures our spirits always and wants us to grow into the gorgeous flowers we were all meant to be. My journey with the sacred juice of the Ayahuasca plant rekindled a deep hope and faith inside of me--allowing me to feel a centeredness and sense of wonder that is available always, if I take the time to look within me, toward the Great Mystery that gives birth to me every day that I breathe. Thank you to Jose, and thank you to my dear friend who introduced me to Ayahuasca, the nurturing spirit of nature that lay within me all the time.
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