A year after ayahuasca

I just realised I’d never actually written a blog post about my ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru. Writing about my experience a year after isn’t going to make any sense without telling you what happened during my time there. This is going to be a long ass post. If you already know about ayahuasca, then just skip to ‘A Year After’ further down.

Prologue

Last year, I was in a really bad place. I was bed ridden with depression. I had nothing going for me. No job, no studies, nothing. I never smiled, I never ate well, I never saw friends. I hated myself so incredibly much. I hated that I even had depression, because I felt like I didn’t deserve it. There was no reason for me to have it, and as a result, I became even more depressed. It was a terrible downward spiral. A cycle of hate. Although I felt suicidal, I don’t think I would have ever done it for the sake of my family.

To heal myself, I saw therapists but that didn’t help. I tried to explain to my parents but they were dismissive and my dad even got angry at me. I knew they wouldn’t understand but I was hoping there was a small chance that they would sympathise.

How I came to know about aya

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Some cool psychedelic art I found when I googled ‘ayahuasca’.

I found solace in chatting with online people who also suffered from depression. It was good to be able to relate, but it was also toxic as everyone’s negativity would bring everyone down if that makes sense. I was in a huge group chat and decided to split off from them with 4 other people and we made our own little group. We’re called OG Crew because they were a few of the first people I made friends with. Although the chat has died, it’s still nice to see the group there.

Anyway, I started talking about ayahuascsa to one of my online friends, Karina, in that group. I guess if you haven’t searched it up yet, I should tell you what ayahuasca is first. If this was a TV show, I could have explained this post in a more efficient way with flashbacks haha.

What ayahuasca is

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic medicine (or if you wanna say, drug) that orignated in Peru.

I decided to give up explaining and link you to a website about it instead. It’ll make more sense this way since I’m terrible at explaining things.

Ayahuasca is an Amazonian plant mixture that is capable of inducing altered states of consciousness, usually lasting between 4 to 8 hours after ingestion. Ranging from mildly stimulating to extremely visionary, ayahuasca is used primarily as a medicine and as a shamanic means of communication, typically in a ceremonial session under the guidance of an experienced drinker.

The main ingredient of this jungle tea is a vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, which like the tea itself is also called ayahuasca (which means ‘vine of the soul’ or ‘vine with a soul’). The secondary ingredient is either chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or chagropanga (Diplopterys cabrerana), plants that contain a relatively high amount of the psychedelic substance DMT.

Although Amazonian tribes have been taking this drug for years, there hasn’t been much research done on it. This is because one of the plants, chacruna, contains DMT which is an illegal substance in the US and the UK.

The ayahuasca mixture itself is a thick brown liquid. It takes hours to boil to perfection and can only be done by experts on the medicine.

So the reason I was looking into ayahuasca is because I read that a lot of people who have trouble dealing with their depression issues have found success with ayahuasca. I did a ton of reasearch into it, reading articles, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries. Check out Amber Lyon’s website. She’s a former CNN investigative news correspondent who gradually started to suffer depression from the experiences she had reporting. Read the article in the link and you’ll understand everything and why I wanted to try it.

Ayahuasca has to be done properly in ceremonies with a trained shaman, or so they say. Some people actually make ayahuasca themselves but most people go to ayahuasca retreats. The one I went to was run by a man who moved there from London years ago. For more information on ayahuasca ceremonies and the effect it has on people, I recommend locating the documentary called This Is Life With Lisa Ling – ‘Jungle Fix’. I can’t find a link online so you can try to find it yourself or I have the video on my laptop if anyone wants to watch it with me. There’s also many videos and people’s first hand experiences with it on YouTube.

The planning

I didn’t originally plan to go to Peru the same year I found out about ayahuasca. The deal I made with Karin was that we’ll go within 10 years or something, but something made us go that year (last year). Maybe we were at wits end? Maybe we found out about this miracle drug and wanted to get rid of this pain we were in as soon as possible? Whatever happened, we started planning quickly. Everyday we Skyped, looking up plane tickets and things we could do while we were in Lima, the capital of Peru. My friend in real life, Anthony, was going as well but since he had a job, Karin and I did the research on his behalf.

The more we planned, the more real it felt. Doing something so crazy as going to the Amazonian forest to do some drug that had little research… simply crazy haha. I guess it shows how desperate I was feeling at the time.

A few weeks later, the plan was complete. We’d stay in Peru for about 2 weeks. I think it was 5 days in Lima and 10 days in Iquitos, but my memory is terrible so it might have not been that. Iquitos is next to the Amazon forest and where the retreat was situated. Before that though, I planned to meet Karina in the US first where she resides. I figure it’d be less awkward if we got acquainted before we were suddenly thrown in the deep end. I’ve always wanted to visit the US anyway.

The ceremonies

Skipping all the stuff in Lima since it’s irrelevant to the post, Karina, Anthony and I found ourselves in a quaint little place in the Amazonian forest. There were a few other participants during my time there. Stace, the owner of the retreat, welcomed us warmly. He was awesomely nice. He, along with Drew (an assistant and also the friendliest guy I’ve ever met) and Estella (the shaman) conducted the ceremonies and looked after us. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, I felt at ease. You could tell everyone there had a purpose and had battles to fight.

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A tranquil location in the Amazon forest.

 

We had 5 ceremonies over 10 days. It started on 31st August 2015 and ended on 9th September 2015. I had an idea of what a ceremony was like since I did my research at home, but actually being there, the feeling and atmosphere was incredible. The ceremonies took place at night. There were no light sources at all so all my senses were muted and my mind was allowed to focus on itself. Well, apart from hearing. I could hear the sounds of the rainforest and Estella’s singing. I’ll quickly walk you through my first  ceremony.

Everyone (about 9 people) was spread out around the edges of the maloka, a circular hut where we slept and also where the ceremonies took place. Here’s a terrible photo I took one morning.

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At around 11PM, everyone was sitting on their mattresses. There were only two sources of light. A single candle in the middle of the maloka, and a candle outside to indicate where the bathroom was. As the Estella prepared herself, Stace called 3-4 of us up at a time. When it was finally my turn, Stace handed me some ayahuasca in a glass that was a little bigger than a shot glass. I’d read online about how disgusting the taste was, but literally nothing could prepare for the reality

The actual taste of the ayahuasca is indescribable. All I can say is that as soon as it touched my tongue, I wanted to puke. I soldiered on however, and downed the vile liquid, if it could even be called a liquid. It was so thick, I struggled to get it down my throat. I’m actually gagging a little right now just recalling that horrendous taste…

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I hate looking at this but here you go. Ayahuasca.

Under the influence

After drinking the ayahuasca, I walked back to my mattress. Once everyone had drank their shots, Estella began to sing. It was… well, I don’t remember any of the lyrics. It could have been Spanish, it could have been some ancient language, I can’t recall. Not that I could even focus on it. I’d begun to feel woozy about 30 minutes after drinking, but I knew this was meant to happen. I also felt nauseous. The taste was still lingering in my mouth and it wouldn’t go until the end of the ceremony. To try and get the taste out my mouth, I gargled water and spat it into a sick bowl that was beside each of our mattresses. We were also given jungle tobacco which I smoked exhaled around my body, as I was instructed. Oh, also it was my first time smoking tobacco so that was a thing.

Here’s the thing I should mention now. After taking ayahuasca, you are expected to vomit. Multiple times. According to the Shaman, you puking is the act of you purging out your darkness. It’s cleansing the soul. I must have vomited about 5-6 times each ceremony.

The candle in the middle was put out, meaning I could see nothing but blackness. It was silent apart from the insects of the jungle and Estella’s singing at intervals. I puked several times over the course of.. well, I couldn’t tell you. I’d lost all sense of time. It felt like the room was moving around me. I closed my eyes and focused on thinking about what I wanted to get out of this experience. As I was thinking this, I began to hallucinate. The visuals weren’t strong, not compared to LSD. This surprised me as ayahuascas is one of the strongest psychedelics in the world. I read that a lot of people hallucinated and saw mystical beings or animals. In fact, so many people saw a figure that they now called her Mother Aya. I wanted to see Mother Aya, but all I got were geometric shapes and patterns.

What affected me most though was my thought process. I remember doing research on this but I forget exactly why psychedelic drugs cause you to think differently. Anyway, the ayahuasca was forcing me to think in ways that I wouldn’t have before. It felt like a lock was broken and my thoughts were allowed to be free for once. I was asking myself questions and also giving answers. It’s kind of hard to explain to someone who has never tried psychedelics before.

I’ll probably go into more detail one day but long story short, after my 5 ceremonies I felt like a new person. Everything was suddenly awesome in my life. I was rid of depression and even all the bad things that still existed in my life, I could see past them as simply an obstacle. Stace and Drew were really awesome and they helped me realise so many things. One of the most important things I learnt was that it’s okay to be flawed. We’re only human after all. To move on, you have to forgive yourself. I remember after one of the ceremonies, I forgave myself for all the bad things I’ve done and told myself I loved me. That was a surreal moment.

The present

So how am I now? This time last year, I was doing my final ceremony in Iquitos, Peru. Since then, my mental health has drastically improved. I’m no longer thinking about death. I’m no longer crying into my pillow, wondering if there was a way out hell. I’m progressing with my life. I’ve got a new hobby I enjoy. I’m super thankful to ayahuasca for this. I’m so glad I went and so glad that I was accompanied by two great friends. Although I don’t think about the experience that often (sometimes I even forget I had it), it will also have a place in my memories because of the profound impact it’s had on me.

Despite that, not everything is great though. I still have negative thoughts now and then. I get sad. I get lonely. But it’s okay, because I’m just human and I have a new outlook on life now. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I won’t make the same ones again.

In 3 weeks, I’ll be starting university again. I won’t can’t waste this chance. This time, I’m ready. I have lots of plans and I’m excited to just really get on with my life now. The last few years for me have stopped my progress but I also learnt so much about so many things. With my new knowledge equipped, I’m ready to take on the future.

st.

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On non-ceremony days, I’d go on small hikes with my friend. We were accompanied by two dogs, one of which you can see here.
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