My First Ayahuasca Ceremony — Part 1/4
It has taken me a few weeks to come to a place where I feel ready to begin to write about my Ayahuasca journey and the spiritual awakening that it has catalyzed. I have been unpacking, but also continuing to receive downloads as I meditate and write.
In honesty, I also hesitated because I had to be ready to quiet the last vestiges of my ego, chattering that it was a bad idea to share my story so publicly. I understand the feelings of vulnerability and the the absolute bravery it takes for people to share their deepest aspects — their spiritual and emotional journeys, on an unforgiving — and often dark — internet. A place where people in pain, come to wound others. But… more importantly, a place where people also come to connect and lift others up as a collective.
I imagine as I begin to unpack, more posts will crop up that explore themes, stages, and lessons from the journey. For my first ceremony post, I wanted to offer an overview of the distinct stages from a sensory perspective.
My First Ayahuasca Ceremony Involved 4 Distinct Stages
My first night involved several different experiences (and what felt like lifetimes) in one night. At the simplest level, I’d list 4 stages:
Stage 1: Into The Light: Riding the Cosmic Winds.
Stage 2: Into the Shadows: Past Lives and Karmic Healing Journey.
Stage 3: Into the Shadows:Trauma Work & Letting Go.
Stage 4: The Light: Connection, Divinity and Love.
When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears
It is said (the Shamans say this too) that Ayahuasca will call to you. You know when you are ready, and she will arrive in your life. I can tell you, this is very true.
Not even 2 months before, I had said “Nooope, noooo way, I’d never do anything like that!” I’d listened with fascinated rapture to podcast episodes by Tim Ferris, Joe Rogan, and had read about the Heroic Hearts Project working with veterans -and so many others on plant medicine. The conversations are out there, hitting the mainstream. The Amazon, the Netflix, the NY Times and the Goops.
I Was Frightened of Ayahuasca and Said I Wouldn’t Do It (Famous Last Words)
I’ve constantly treated myself as my own science experiment, signing up for research studies at the university where I worked, but plant medicine really did frighten me. I was frightened of what it might unleash. I had heard it was the equivalent of 10–20 years of therapy and that it had the potential to unlock the deep inner recesses of my psyche.
Part of me has long wondered if I have trauma locked away … I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk opening a pandoras box and then not knowing what to do with it. Tim Ferriss’ episode about his own traumas being unearthed in Plant Medicine Ceremonies unnerved me and I could sense what an utter life changing experience it was for him; he sounded and spoke differently after his experience (for the better!)
I can see now the fear was coming from a place of ego, fear of the unknown and the mistaken understanding that my own psyche would create the trip and there was nothing more to it. You know, nothing divine or woowoo.
Officially, I have no doubt, ZERO doubt, that there are divine powers at work through plant medicine. The plant simply facilitates breaking through to those higher planes.
Furthermore, Aya doesn’t just tear everything up and leave you open, raw and broken. It tears up the weeds, digs them out, shows you them, but then plants new seeds and smooths over the soil. It then fills in the holes and helps get you back to a whole place as long as you do the work afterward and align with what it showed you. **THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. AS LONG AS YOU DO THE INTEGRATION WORK.** It is intelligent medicine. It is plant medicine. Living medicine. It goes in, and it knows what to do. It knew precisely what to do with me over 2 ceremonies.
The 5th Dimension / Higher Consciousness / Divine Plane
Ayahuasca journey is one I have to say is also otherworldly. It involves other dimensions, other entities, and a departure from the confines of our ego.
Yes, a big chunk of the ceremony is digging deep into our own subconscious and psyche but there are distinct parts in the journey where you are transported to love, light and divine places. To past lives. To places and times beyond the 3rd dimension. To touch god, so to speak, in ceremony, is so profound. You come out permanently changed.
The night involves stepping outside of our own psyche, and out of the fishbowl, then being guided by a higher power to look back into it, pull out, examine, heal and learn from all of the pieces. The fact that we can observe ourselves doing this work *in* ceremony is an indicator that we are not our human selves. Within us, there is a watcher, an observer watching all this stuff go down. The observer knew when my soul wanted to depart. The observer knew when I was back in the room and in ‘3d’ and the observer knew when I was out among the starts in the 5th dimension. The observer is here writing a blog about it.
I’d been doing this for years in meditation, transcending my own mind and thoughts… but this was like a rocket ship journey. Anything I did prior was more like jumping on a pogo stick.
Departure from the ego, trauma and healing the subconscious may be a rocky ride for some and I think this is what makes up the more frightening and intense accounts of Ayahuasca. Mine was intense, yes but the beauty, healing and going through of the inferno in order to heal and evolve — well, it was necessary. I wouldn’t ever go back to the me before, and I don’t regret it.
Managing the Pre-Ceremony Nerves
The ceremony began in the evening after, to be honest, a nerve-wracking afternoon in nervous anticipation. I have never done anything of a hallucinogenic nature. My extent of altered states of consciousness have been contained within a daily meditation practice of 7 years and lucid dream journalling (a lot of out of body experiences as a kid) , a one-time hypnotist show in which I was the willing participant, and coming out of a handful of surgeries.
I wound up walking out in the trails just trying to get myself into a peaceful place out in nature , which has always been my go-to and source of solace. As I walked, I contemplated trust, surrender and acceptance. I knew I was entering ceremony with soul family, people I would trust my life and soul with, and that was a very important aspect for me.
The sun quickly went down and with an “oh shit.. here we go” it came time to return to the house, but as I walked back, I felt compelled to sit at the base of an ancient cactus, known as the Saguaro cactus. A plant that was hundreds of years old. Generations have arrived and passed at the feet of these giant cacti of the Deserts.
You’ll see the word compelled a lot in my writing and if I could attach one word to this entire experience, it would be this word. It’s worth noting the etymology. It has roots in the Latin compellere, com (“together”) + pellere (“to drive.”). The definition itself is “to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly.”
Leading up to and since the ceremony, I feel in many ways that so much of what I am doing is compulsion. It feels like the divine winds are now in my sails and are making things happen with synchronicities and opportunities. I’m trying to trust that journey and let things unfold as they will but my goodness, the ego goes down battling.
And this my friends, is the integration work.
You see the truth, a crystal clear path forward, and the ego says “no, this is not what I had set up for you.”
Back to the cactus: I seemed able to drop into a pretty deep meditation at the Saguaro, and as I dropped deeper, I got an overwhelming sense of grandfatherly protection and reassurance. I came away fortified for the final 10 minutes of walking back to the house and my ceremony (I may as well have been walking to my own bloody funeral with the gravitas I accorded that walk.) It wasn’t until later, reading up on these cacti, that I found out they are known as having a grandfather energy. That was very interesting.
The temperature shifts quickly when the sun goes down in the desert, and feeling strengthened by my contemplative walk and meditation, I said to myself, well, let’s do this. (Admittedly my Whatsapp was pinging with “where are you?”)
I settled onto my mattress and the Shaman had set up a beautiful altar with crystals, flower, and a tarot reading to enter. She began a beautiful, intentional and graceful ceremony using instruments, song, sound and motion to invoke love, protection and offered us Santo Diame prayers in the churches’ tradition. It was a sacred process of creating a safe and consecrated space of love and light with no room for the bad stuff and bad energies.
There was a lot of work put into setting protection around the ceremonial space and I have to admit, it did have me nervously wondering if I was walking around with some kind of energetic entourage of bad entities.
This quote perfectly encapsulates the reverence offered the ceremonial space, participants and the Ayahuasca:
AYAHUASCA: She is the mother of all medicine. A tool to help you FIND YOURSELF, to KNOW YOURSELF, by destroying the image of who you think you are, and ILLUMINATING THE TRUTH. The knowledge that you can acquire from ayahuasca is not imparted from the Great Cosmic Serpent, or from a source outside of yourself. THIS IS AN INNER JOURNEY, where only LOVE and FAITH can guide you.” — Don Juanito
As I watched my Shaman drop deep into her work, her voice shifted from that of a woman to a distinctly Amazonian tribal man and the very 3d part of me kept checking in with myself, asking “okay, this is happening right? I hear this with my own ears, right? This is a man’s voice coming out of a woman, right?!” but it was just the beginning, oh, it was just the beginning.
As I watched the Shaman, her face took on a distinctly male shape. I rubbed my eyes, momentarily wondering if I was coming into this ceremony sleep deprived.
The time came for accepting the cup of Ayahuasca and I took it reverently with all of the awe one could possibly have. I probably looked as if I had just been handed a diffused IED.
The next moment, I felt like a knight of the round table, and that Merlin himself had just offered me a goblet of magic potion or maybe even the chalice at the round table, just before going out into the battle of Camlann. I don’t know why that vision flashed through my mind’s eye at that point, but it did.
(As I write this post, I have to constantly to remind myself it’s not about explaining anything, it’s just about sharing. As an instructor, analyst and constant learner I always want to pair everything with explanation, it’s the human condition, isn’t it? )
What Does Ayahuasca Taste Like?
The brew was distinct and I’d personally describe it as a rich, almost cough medicine / strong port taste. I wouldn’t describe it as disgusting or awful, it was simply… unique. The strangest part for me was that the taste seemed familiar to me, like I had experienced it before.
I caught myself flipping back through the farthest recesses of my memory, to try and locate that cough syrupy taste in the fogs of time past. Maybe a better tactic, speaking from the other side of this experience, would have been to locate that taste in the fogs of lives past. As I sipped I couldn’t help but think ‘this taste is familiar to me.’
As the warm potion oozed down my esophageal tract into my stomach I sat there, in all honesty trying to appear cool as a cucumber but SO nervous on the inside . That was my ego. The unknown. The unpredictable. The vulnerability and utter trust I had in my friend Jess to the side of me. Yet, that trust was what carried me through. It was like I knew all of this had to happen. It was inevitable. So what was the point in worrying. I knew the people I had there were soul family…They would have my back, my life and my soul if needed.
Time ceased to move in the way I understand it in the 3rd dimension, so it is difficult to estimate times, but within a few minutes and a second cup of the medicine, things moved very quickly.
It felt very distinctly like I was getting ready to leave my body and I needed to lie the body down to “go somewhere.” Not like anaesthetic, where you are distinctly within and feeling your body and the heaviness of it. I quickly laid down on my mattress as gravity seemed to intensify and darkness settled into my vision.
The best way I can describe it, is that I retained some connection with 3d — my body (hearing — I heard the music and the shaman, had some awareness of my place on the mattress) — but my mind and soul began the journey elsewhere. I’d come to understand as I googled my way through integration, and chose words that landed with me, that these were the 4th and 5th dimensions and I’ll likely refer to them as the higher planes.
What also astounded me was the realization that when I was in and out of my body (and mind) in the process of astral travelling / in the 5th dimension…whatever words you want to use… the fact is, there was still the observer. The watcher. That observer is able to write these blogs and recount the story even when my brain was technically offline.
There were many things in the ceremonial room that also became very important. For example, the tethers back to the room — the music, the shaman’s voice and my friends’ voice and touch, and some items like crystals and rose spray… those would all prove important for me, and I will talk about this in later words.
Stage 1: Flying on the Cosmic Winds
As I slipped into darkness and closed my eyes, I felt a dark bird’s wing descend and the sweep of its wing moved air past my physical face. I felt a distinct whoosh on my skin, which I was still aware of at that point. I was then taken on its glossy black wings, ascending to a beautiful night sky. It was a windless, starless sky. It was then that the most beautiful coloured fractals and patterns appeared, rotating slowly around.
It was like taking my entire self and transporting to another place where I was vividly seeing, hearing, tasting, sensing and touching in another realm, whilst also retaining the awareness of the shaman and music. Interestingly enough, it felt like some elements of the 3d had come with me to this other dimension. The Shaman also seemed to know where I was and what was happening at all stages.
The imagery sits clearly in my mind’s eye as I write and I wish I could capture them — but these are a close estimate. Any art labelled “5th dimension” has been strangely reminiscent of what I saw.
As I floated out there in space, the fractals would swirl and slowly they began to take on the form of goddess, a feminine form that had a soft blue light around it.
The feeling within this part of the journey was one of awe and feeling just astounded, particularly with this utterly beautiful, divine feminine goddess that showed up.
The Divine Feminine
The fractals spun into the more defined shape of a woman’s body, much like in the first image and the overall colour went to blue. I remember feeling awestruck at the beauty of the woman’s body. The form had a feel of a deity or goddess. As my mind thought that, a voice came through that corrected me, gently saying “Shakti.” HOnest to goodness, prior to my ceremony, I had zero knowledge of Hindu gods, just the occasional yoga nidra class with some nice sitar music and references to Shakti, and some vague memories of very colourful paintings and many arms/legs from the Indian grocers. I couldn’t tell you who Shakti was or anything of the sort.
The divine feminine / goddess then turned her attention to my own body adn I could feel her scan it (with her eyes?Soul?) but instead of assessing my body, she was applying love and this feeling of reverence to it. Slowly her eyes travelled over my body, which was the most incredibly pleasurable and sensual experience I’ve had in my life, both in the 5d and the 3d in that room, and I caught myself letting out sighs of pleasure a few times.
I could feel her blue energy and light sort of swirling in patterns and she gently taught me / lectured me that the female body is to be honoured. I was presented my first lesson and that was to allow touch. I found this an interesting stage, because in my British culture of upbringing, I’ve been a low touch person, right down to my penchant for either avoiding or failing that, committing awkward British hugs .
This gentle journey went on and she continued to (telepathically) talk to me. I didn’t hear a voice at this point, it was more like she was landing lessons directly in my soul.
She kept saying “you can’t heal until you allow touch. You can let others touch you. You can let them love you. Accept others’ love. Accept their help. Accept their gifts. You cannot be a lone fortress. Stop crossing your arms over your body. In the 3d, at this point I was constantly crossing my arms over my body, then stating out loud “stop protecting yourself, drop your arms” and then I’d drop them to my sides. Over and over again. It was at that point, probably because she was at this point trying to land the lesson in a different way …. I got a visual of a lone fortress, something I imagine stood in ancient India at one point. Just one large rectangular column, standing alone and abandoned in the wind. Her voice came back: Discontinue the shame, the divine feminine body is beautiful and should be sacred — at this point, it felt more like she was saying it out loud for others to hear, and at these moments in my journey, I would talk out loud. I have recollection of saying many things out loud, including a distinct channelling stage and my journey seemed to be a mix of things for me, and at moments, things for the others in the room. I’d seem to know when it was for me, and when it was for the other two women.
Her voice was one of the most beautiful melodic things I’ve ever heard and it continued, somewhere between whispering and regular speech, but it wasn’t speech she was using. It wasn’t mouth-to-ear sound vibrations. It was energy vibrations right to my soul without need for mouths and ears.
“You are whole. We are all whole. You are not damaged, you never were. You are beautiful and others will desire you. Others will desire a strong woman, do not worry about that, but strong and gentle need to co-exist. You can be both. Stop deciding on one,
Then she made a general comment for everybody: “You humans try to do that. Strong and gentle co-exist. Masculine and feminine co-exist. Stop the seeking. Be both. Soft and fierce. All of it. Together. Not one.
With that the dark bird’s wing (perhaps a raven or a blackbird) arrived and I could feel it sweep over my face. I was aboard it again. The fractals and night sky returned and I couldn’t stop smiling. I distinctly remember my mouth in a huge, open, wide smile in the 3d room and feeling rather silly about it, but I had no control over it.
At this point in the room there was a lovely meditation with a man’s voice and a sitar. I was enjoying the night sky and glowing stream of rainbow colours, sort of like the Rainbow Road level in Mario Kart, when out of the damn blue John Lennon appeared along with the Beatles (I was never a fan of their music so this was a real surprise to me!)
He said ““now you get it?…this is what we were about! It is beautiful isn’t it?! We used to do this, journey together. And you get the message about making love, it’s beautiful now isn’t it? It’s about honouring the divine. Make love not war, right?”
As Lennon’s face faded another appeared, a simple image of Bob Marley smiling. Though I was deep in the journey the little part of my three dimensional human mind that remained was like “what in.the.fuck? The Beatles? Bob Marley?!” (I guess this is something I actually said out loud in such a surprised manner, that the others in the room laughed.)
And that closed the first stage of the Ayahuasca Journey. It almost felt like being eased into it. A pleasurable orientation, some (I guess?) familiar faces and an opening stage.
I’ve reflected on this a lot since I got back. Ayahuasca (and all Plant Medicine) I now understand is intelligent.
For every person it is a completely different experience because it knows exactly what you need. It knows exactly what to do with you, and I couldn’t agree more.
Despite similar doses of Kambo and Ayahuasca, each ceremony was distinctly different and almost custom-built for me to cleanse, heal and move upward in my soul’s journey.
The pleasant introduction was needed for Stage 2.