Ceremony (ayahuasca experience)
I suppose I am not supposed to talk about it... But I recently attended a gathering where I participated in a Peruvian ayahuasca ceremony.
Several events preceded this decision. After trying to resume a semi-normal life, acquiring a new part time job and making contact with Victor, I was hopeful... Then smited- again.
One Monday morning I awoke from a good dream... I recalled in it I was wearing a particular pink t-shirt. So, I put it on. I went to work, home, then biked into Center City to attend group therapy. Afterwards, I began biking home to find myself trapped in the rain... So, I took a hint from fate and parked myself at Fergies Open Mic. There I chatted with friends and performed... Then Uncle Phil walked in.
"Hey. I saw your ex- down the street at Time."
"Really?" I was hurt that Uncle Phil presumed to know anything about my relationship status and excited to coincidentally bump into him. I gathered my things and ran down to Time.
On the street, Matt slowed me down for a moment, "Hey Echo, you sounded great tonight!"
"You too, Matt!"
Upon entering, I tried to slow my heartrate. He wasn't on stage... Then there he was... at a four top table, with two other men, sitting next to a young girl with bobbed blonde hair and boobs bursting from her tank top.
There was shock in his eyes. I can not imagine how I looked to him. I was shaking.
"We're just hanging out."
"We were just hanging out... until we weren't."
I don't know how I managed to get myself home and asleep without suicidal thoughts, but I did...
I told myself Uncle Phil must be some harbinger of pain. He was there when I met Mr. Mister... and now this.
In the morning, I dragged myself out of bed and into work. As I entered the building, all the employees commented on my appearance, "You look terrible. You don't have to be here."
I finished one of the two classes I was supposed to teach. "You're right. I can't do this today. I'm going home."
They thanked me for my attempt and wished me well. That was the last time I saw them. Spending a better part of the day in bed, I read The Four Agreements. They were exactly what I needed to hear at that moment:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
The rest of the book gave advice about how to slowly implement these strategies in one's life. It said the fastest and most difficult way was to accept the angel of death; to truly live every day as though it was one's last. This was not a difficult proposition for me, as I was already battling my suicidal tendencies. I told myself- Five days. If you still want to die in five days, you can figure out a way. Until then, don't waste any time pondering the method. Just do whatever you want.
The next day, when I woke up still despondent, I called my boss, "Remember I mentioned things were rough with my boyfriend? Well, they got worse... and I am not able to go to work. I can't say when I will be able to return... You should probably go ahead and replace me."
Then I packed up my laptop, parked myself at the coffee shop down the street and began writing... I looked at my budget and realized I had just enough money to survive until September. In September I could worry about my rent and my credit cards, but for August I would just listen to my intuition... and finally let myself go broke, let myself fall, let myself finally find the ground. -If I didn't kill myself after five days.
I spent an entire three days doing nothing but typing. When I ran out of steam, I would read and play guitar. I started cooking for myself again. My apartment slowly got more tidy. I did laundry... By the end of the first five days, I told myself- Okay, five more days.
My intuition spoke to me... It said, you don't need these pills anymore. If you feel suicidal again, you can start taking them again. Be honest with yourself.
I discussed my decision with my doctors and family. I did not discuss it initially with Victor, when I asked him to go hiking with me... A wonderful first date. He taught me to skip rocks across the creek. I took an impromptu underwear dip in a deep pool. I got down on my knees and told him, "I know you don't see a way forward for us... because I painted a very ugly picture of the future, and it's the only one you think there is... But it isn't going to happen that way. I am not that person anymore. Please get to know me as who I am now." Then he held me. When we said goodbye, we kissed, unexpectedly. I told him it was his turn to call me for our next date.
I also planned dates with girlfriends. I traded Reiki with other practitioners. One of them told me she was considering attending a ayahuasca ceremony... It struck me- I didn't really know what that was about, but something told me it was what I needed.
...Money was becoming tight. I asked my contact if anyone would carpool with me, maybe chip in for gasoline? Instead, a man offered to give me a ride in his car- for free.
For the hours long ride, we talked. It turned out that he was a psychoanalyst. I laughed to myself, "Thanks, Universe... Is this your way of giving me some free therapy?"
More than anything it normalized the experience for me... It wasn't just something that crazy hippie kids were doing for fun. It was serious. Many of the other attendees participated in ceremonies once or twice a year regularly.
They helped me meditate and set my intention.
I stayed and participated two nights... The first, I asked to know how to trust people, how to trust myself. I asked for insight. I asked to know if I was crazy, if I truly was emphatic.
Our shaman gave me a small shot of the elixir... I laid down and waited for it to kick in. It seemed like a long time...
Then the show in my head started, dancing colors and geometric figures... a kaleidoscope of images.
Time perception is altered by the plant. Suddenly I heard many people purging- a normal side affect. I felt frustrated with my lack of impetus to purge. I went to one of the sober babysitting observers, "I don't feel right.
Why am I not purging?"
"Some people don't. It's okay. It is whatever it is supposed to be."
"I feel the opposite of how I think I should feel... hungry and bored."
"You could drink a little more..."
I did. Then the dreams kicked in... Victor, Mr. Mister, my parents, my friends... The plant took me on a grand tour or my mistakes and misunderstandings. It showed me many times when I was lost in my own head, others had been trying to show me affection and kindness. It showed me many times when I had not meant harm, but I had been careless in my communication.
Then the purging came. The shaman came and sang to me. Brown bile spewed forth. Then more dreams.
A few times, when the shaman was quiet and the purging was paused, someone would sing. Sometimes I sang along... At one point, I sang "Infinite Patience". It felt amazing.
Sometimes I begged to not see certain things. Sometimes I retreated to the lovely images I had seen during the start of the experience... and I would hear the plant chastise me, "Why did you come here? To play in the playground or to learn?"
At times I was completely alone in my dreamworld. Other times I felt the energy of the room, distress from my fellow participants. Then the plant would remind me, "Learn to shut it out. Learn to focus on yourself."
Other times I would dream that the entire room was focused on me. I would realize that my intellect would get in the way of my intuition, my self-consciousness would project the illusion that I was the center of attention. If I thought bad things, I imagined other people thinking bad things about me. If I thought good things, I became disillusioned by my pride. Eventually, I would reach a place of centering, where I could remember the Four
Agreements and accept them.
...The second night, a different bunch of participants arrived, the others left. My ride opted to stay but not partake again so soon. "It's a lot to process," he told me.
I set no intention this time... I received what I had asked for, and now I was ready to listen and learn, to stop questioning.
Again I received a somewhat mild amount, but this time I did argue with the gentle nature of the experience. I did not request more. This time I sat up and kept my eyes open as I waited to feel it kick in... When I began to see the colors moving, I heard a voice, "Go outside."
I obeyed. The stars were beautiful! They danced in geometric shapes that reminded me of Ananda's paintings.
Then the sky collapsed, and I found myself on stage... "All the world is a stage," I thought. How beautiful!
My ride came out to check on me, sober. "You know, of all the recreational drugs I have tried, they usually make me talk too much... and I already talk too much. This is the one that seems to do the opposite."
This time the plant made me face many fears, including my long standing fear of snakes. I saw them writhing. I saw them hissing at me. I felt them slithering against my skin. "Desensitize," the voice said. "These images can't hurt you."
I also saw beautiful things. Things I am fearful to believe may be possible. I saw mistakes I avoided, like being a bad mother by having children before I was ready. I let it all wash over me. I did not fight or ask for anything. I observed and absorbed. I purged fear and pain... and as I did, I dreamed of Victor being with another woman. In this vision he was not in love with her. He simply was trying to regain some sense of confidence and balance. My mind told me, "Let him do what he has to do. You do what you have to do- This is why you are here, to let go of this pain. Take care of yourself and your body first."
I realized that Uncle Phil had not been a bad omen. He had given me the opportunity to know the truth- and had I found out later, I may have never forgiven Victor. Everything was indeed, as it should have been, despite my disapproval.
I heard my sobs and to not become self-conscious. I heard the sounds of others purging. The shaman spitting. I let go... I let everything go.
Upon returning to Philadelphia, I greeted my mother, who I had invited over for the two interim days before I left for FFest. Together we tackled the remaining cleaning around my apartment, and she took my cat to stay with her while I would be away.
Victor sent me a text, "Too busy to see me before FFest?"
"Maybe. Maybe I'll see you there," I responded. If he comes, wonderful. If not, no big deal. No rush. I focused myself on my goals. I forgot about counting down days to death and started living the life I wanted...