The floor of the open-walled temple was made of beautiful wood, about 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, enough to hold 20 people participating in the ceremony. A giant boulder was left untouched on one side of the floor, the floor built perfectly around it and letting it become the centerpiece of the space. It was a stereotypical jungle evening with humid temperatures of around 70 degrees and a light breeze that swayed the large green foliage surrounding the place. This was the location where I would be imbibing Ayahuasca, an ancient hallucinogenic brew made from two distinct plants for the first time. I was about an hour north of the coastal Costa Rican town of Quepos and the temple had no walls, no electricity, and plenty of gringos eagerly waiting to become enlightened.
I arrived with a few friends I had met while working on a farm in the Costa Rican countryside. One was Yan, a quiet engineer from France as well as Rahma and her boyfriend Adam who are both from California and well experienced in the psychedelic realm. Two people were on each small pad, enough room to sit comfortably or lay down without bothering the person next to you. Yan and I chose the most laid back spot we could find and moseyed back to another area of the property to hang with everybody else and wait.
After apprehensively waiting all day and evening to get the experience underway, the ceremony finally started round 8PM with darkness enveloping the trees around us and a soft glow of candlelight pervading everything. We were called up one-by-one to the table where the 3 shamans sat and offered to take a drink of the Ayahuasca brew. It was in a shotglass sized cup with a taste and smell like mossy earth, nothing putrefying nor enjoyable. Down it went and back to my little pad I went to wait. After about 30 minutes of quietly sitting and listening to the slight movements of the other 20 people in the temple, something inside began to stir and I slowly lied down on the soft mat.
Suddenly I felt a lightness developing in my feet, a loving sense of infinity, of euphoria, of God, of nature, of oneness, of the placebo effect, who the hell knows what to call it, but I felt it. The smooth silkiness started to tread north in my body before finally reaching my head where it encompassed everything about me. It felt like I was being told “get ready for this”.
Time at this point slips into the fray and I entered a dream-like state for about an hour before coming to and realizing that I was slightly nauseous and knew I was going to vomit soon. For all of you who have drank too much and have been too fucked up to remember your name, this is nothing like that kind of sickness. This was more along the lines of “I think I shall go purge myself now Wellington, best of luck with the Badminton game and good day!” So off I go about 20 feet into the jungle to give back some nutrients to the plants from my stomach acid. They loved it I’m sure.
As I return from my classy barfing session, I sit cross-legged on the pad with Yan who is chilling, hard. Tranquility never looked so French before and his calmness strengthened my mindset of positivity.
As I am sitting, the shamans offer up a second dose to anybody interested which I gladly accepted. I lay back down and the real adventure began into the cosmos. The next 6 hours were a combination of insight, dreams, fear, and projections. My entire visual field started to become gridded with little curly curls like a pig’s tail or a quinoa grain. When I closed my eyes, visions and dream-like states would become my ever present reality. These dreams were not like a typical night of drifting into lala land of REM and waking up wondering why your subconscious would have your ex smoking weed with a penguin play out to you. These had significance, they were concrete thoughts and emotions re-engineered into abstract storytelling from a different dimension of the mind. That sounds kind of dramatic but it’s the best way I can attempt to describe the ineffable. Think of them as dreams with a plan.
I will spare you the intricate and complex range of feelings, cosmic revelations, thoughts, and general sentiments throughout the entire ordeal but a couple major things happened that I hope can help illustrate the overall experience to all you curious psychonauts.
At some point during the night I saw a vortex in my mind. Hard to explain how I “saw” it as it was not being hallucinated in front of me on the physical plane but was projected in my conscious as something to test my inner resolve. Perhaps a better word to describe these notions is ‘appeared’ in front of me. So there I was with this vortex in front of me swirling like a black hole ready to devour whatever came in. Fringes of white surrounded the jet black interior as it revolved at unrelenting speed. I had a premonition of what it represented:
The complete and utter destruction of my ego, my identity and sense of self. Of everything I have ever been, am now, or will be .The things I have said from a place of love and those that stemmed from a deep aching of fear in my heart. Of my family and my history, the pain and the joy of swirling around in a complex world uncertain of what is truth. The disconnect between who I think I am and who the hell I actually am. The experiences throughout my miniscule little life that make me feel like I am special. And this vortex thing wanted to get rid of all that, which was absolutely fucking terrifying.
I figured I could stick my head into this thing and at least get a feel for it without going balls deep on my first try, spiritually speaking. It worked, and I slowly started to dissolve away until there was a thread holding nothing and something together within myself. Before that thread could snap, I pulled my head out and regained my entire self and identity once more. I did this about 3 or 4 times before I realized I just did not have the courage to jump all the way in this time. If I had partaken in more ceremonies in succession like is suggested, I think I would have built up to that leap into ego annihilation. This time around, I was content with just the tip.
Throughout the rest of the night, as the jungle breeze moved through the open-walled temple, I moved through a series of stages that could each be written out in pages due to their complexity. I imagined I was a wind-chime in my grandmother’s old backyard, watching my sister and I run around on her deck. I spoke to a tree after I threw up at the base of it, sure that he was a homie on this spinning rock. I sat on a wooden bench by an actual large fire, my feet in the soft dirt and my eyes fixed on the strands of light echoing from the flames. At one point I was sure I could play those strands of light like guitar strings. The Shamans played various instruments and danced in ways that sober Alex would have found ridiculous but in that moment made perfect sense.. the synchronicity with the music, the patterns of their movement. Somehow it was a physical, dynamic representation of what was going on beneath the surface at that very moment.
The night ended in me crying like a little baby when I contemplated my own altruistic actions, are they there to truly do benevolent deeds or are they a mere ploy by the cunning ego?
“Yes” the ego would say, “You do it to feel like you are special and important and so others can see you doing it. Then they will think so highly of you, what a good person you are Alex! Now you can tell others about your accomplishments. Tell them about how many things you have done for society and people who you have helped along the way. ”
Somehow I was lead to remembering the pure love I have inside which was symbolized by my younger sister. Their was a purity to human connection, to contributing for no reason other then just to do it without the ego’s input. And after I wiped the tears off my cheek, I drifted into a dreamless sleep for about an hour until sunrise and the raucous birds started to wake me from the slumber.
Now, how did my life benefit from this hippie fest in the jungle? Did I decide to eat Vegan food and use pine needle tea for bathing? Well, the “benefits” are subjective and complex. For weeks, even months after this experience I felt different and was treated different. I flew home two days after the ceremony and was promptly invited to go skydiving with a friend that had always wanted to go. When we eventually went about a week later, I never got nervous. My heart rate might have even decreased while on the ground, in the plane, and while falling. I found myself much more relaxed and open in social settings, which lead to everyone else interacting with me in a…you guessed it…relaxed and open attitude. Law of Attraction woo woo type shit.
I did not get a major epiphany or see my life’s true calling other then realizing and feeling the inner self that has always been there and is hidden underneath layers and layers of junk. It was an onion peeler to my soul. That metaphor is often used to illuminate the process of discovering the inner self but I think a better one would be your bed with sheets and blankets on it. 99% of the time, your bed is covered with a fitted sheet, a regular sheet, and a blanket. If you are a women then it has around 15 blankets of assorted colors and uses depending on the temperature range of the outside air and sleeping partner availability. The mattress, the actual piece that brings you comfort and peace and to which you look forward to all day is rarely actually seen. In fact, the only time it is seen is if you have to clean off the layers. When I have been with people who have been away from home for weeks, months, or years at a time, most of them proclaim “I just can’t wait to sleep in MY OWN bed.” But what if I switched their precious padded rectangle out with a much more expensive and comfortable model? Would they still enjoy it upon returning? Of course they would, because it’s not about the bed. It is about the peace and comfort their space and home affords to them. It is where we all feel like ourselves again and love is hopefully surrounding us.
That is what Ayahuasca and many other of these types of drugs do. It reminds you that you have the feeling of sleeping in your own bed inside you at all times. Life puts the sheets on, the blankets, the pillows, everything on top of the mattress until you are convinced that the entire package is your comfort, but it’s not. It is the feeling, not the actual mattress that matters. You can truly take it with you anywhere with some dedication and consistency. (For the record I have not figured out exactly how to do this but it sounds good when I write it out) . Like the old adage goes, “home is where the heart is”.
One last note: I participated in ONE ceremony on one night. Most experienced adventurers in this topic will suggest you try to do at least three sessions over the course of a few days, sometimes up to five. Apparently they all start to build on themselves and you are able to reach incredible depths and insights.
ALWAYS remain true to if the plant medicine calls to you in particular and not just to your significant other/friend/parent, etc. If you are ready, then you will be ready. If you asked me to do it again tomorrow, I’m not sure if I would. But in a month I may say yes. Last but not least, use reputable sources to find a shaman and ceremony that is bonafide legit and has excellent reviews, preferably from people you trust.
I will leave some links for further exploration and education at the end of this post and as always, feel free to contact me with any questions regarding this or any other topic at email@example.com or message me on facebook/instagram
To pushing boundaries, inside and out…
Listen to my 30 minute solo podcast with more details on the experience here
Go to Aubrey Marcus’s site which has tons of information and first hand accounts on Ayahuasca, Huachuma, and other psychedelic journeys