I enter the temple hopeful and seeking mentorship from a red substance sitting on a candle lit table in the front. There were maybe 60 others here and everyone had plastic buckets next to them, a pad to sit on, and a thick blanket. The man with a baldhead and radiant smile began to speak.
“Hello my friends. Welcome to the Full Moon ceremony.”
The setting reminded me of rituals performed while joining a college fraternity but this time it had purpose and authenticity. This was as religious of an environment as I’d ever seen. The building was circular and designed specifically for group Ayahuasca ceremonies. There were six large windows on the walls with a roof composed of beautiful wooden arches. The ceiling was twenty feet tall with a massive circular glass window at the top welcoming the night’s sky and moonlight to join us. It was grandiose in a natural sort of way much like the mountains surrounding it in the Sacred Valley.
The circular room had three levels for seating. The top, middle, and bottom levels were filled with exotically dressed individuals sitting in silence. All attention was on the man with a baldhead. Several of the participants surrounding him had just finished tuning their instruments. I was excited to hear their sounds. They wielded different types of guitars, various bongos and drums, a harp, and more. I loved a good jam session and was told this was going to be the best concert I’d ever seen.
“If you need to purge, please do so without restraint. Those of us that are experienced with Ayahuasca welcome and even enjoy purging. You will find that it is a release of negative energy, thoughts, and emotions that you no longer need carrying forward.”
“The proper sitting position is back straight and upward but please feel free to lay if your back or legs need additional comfort. Lying down allows the Ayahuasca to flow through your body more and will increase the intensity of your journey. If it becomes too intense, sit back up. If you need air or cannot maintain a noble silence please step outside where there is a fire awaiting you.” He spoke lightly, kind, and confident as a person with great experience and compassion. It was a powerful skill in itself. His voice was comforting and his words built trust.
“If you only remember two things, have it be this. One, be strong and maintain a noble silence. Sounds will intensify and it can be very distracting to hear others. This is very important. Two, remember that no one has ever died from drinking Ayahuasca. Your journey will come to an end no matter how powerful it is. No one has ever had lasting physical or altered effects from this drink. Be strong and rely on yourself to make it through to the end.”
“I have purposely not mentioned what to do in case you need help. I challenge you to find the strength to make it through whatever it is that finds you. If you truly need assistance, simply ask for help and someone near you will hear your call and come over. Everyone on the right side will line up to be served by my wife and everyone on the left will line up before me. If you are on the bottom row, please step forward.”
I watched as twelve members of our space stood up and made their way to the top level to accept their cup. The table was lit by candle and served each person individually with a small ritualistic bow to accept the cup and drink. Some of the people’s faces walking back to their seat showed me that it wouldn’t taste very good.
After the first and second tiers were served, it was my turn. I stood up, excited and nervous. I paid close attention to the movements each person made when receiving their cup so I could replicate. My turn arrived as I stepped forward to the candlelit table. The baldheaded man wiped off the cup from the previous receiver and poured my glass. He looked calm and gentle as he handed it to me. He had the ability to fill you with acceptance with just his eyes. I touched the cup to my chest and thought about my desire to have a meaningful experience. Next I raised it to my forehead to focus positive emotion into the cup itself and lowered it to my heart.
I took a moment to set my intentions. “Show me what I need to learn, I am ready. Give me strength and compassion. Open my heart and teach me true love,” I thought.
The drink didn’t taste that bad. It was an earthy mix of spices. I made my way back to my seat and started focusing on my breath. I was thankful for my daily meditation practice. The room was silent and the lights on the walls were dimmed until they extinguished. Darkness took over and everyone became shadows. Now we wait.
I tend to have fairly high tolerances and slow onset with substances so it came as no surprise when others began to show signs of its effects before me. There was a hard spasm of someone’s leg next to me, irregular body movements all around, and brief releases of anguish. The room became random and restless as fifteen or thirty minutes passed. I felt the slow onset of an altered headspace with minor pressure building between my ears. Suddenly I was sweating. The room became hot and I waited a moment to see if it would pass.
I lowered the blanket off me and took off my hoodie. Like magic I then became brittle and freezing cold. I moved the blanket comfortably back over my body and settled in. I knew lady Ayahuasca was now inside of me. I could sense it. With that confirmation my body temperature issues went away and there I sat.
I anticipated how intense the trip would be. I opened my eyes and the room had become more formidable. The walls seemed wider and the roof was peering down with light shining down from the top. I noticed my subconscious starting to awaken from within. The Spanish speaking 20-something male next to me started purging into his bucket. This snapped me out of my current thought process and reset my mind. I learned that soft focus is part of the key to welcoming what your subconscious is trying to say.
I started to realize Ayahuasca was unlike anything I had ever taken before or expected. It is a personalized trip conducted by your subconscious. I stayed committed to not fighting what it was trying to teach me. Soon I realized focusing on my breath was an invitation for it to teach me something new. It started off surprisingly loving. Was this working? I expected to be teleported to another world and confront alien beings and demons from within. Instead I was sitting there, in high spirits, enjoying several dream-like stories of self worth and love.
My body felt great. The heat and coldness from before had passed. I gave in to letting my mind explore and was actually enjoying it. Dear reader, take a moment to think about your normal self talk. What are you good at? What should you be doing instead of reading this? Are you happy? Ayahuasca gives that voice in your head full control over your mind. It becomes uncontrollable and shows you truth. I was prepared to uncover realities of myself that were painful to see but that had not been the case with this first cup.
My subconscious was proud of me. Why should this come as such a surprise? I began to feel emotions about myself that I hadn’t in a long time. Two hours passed like nothing and before I knew it, the man with a baldhead started lighting the candles again.
“If you would like a second cup, please come up to receive it.”
I had expected a much more powerful experience than I had received. What was it trying to teach me? Wasn’t this supposed to be intense and difficult? I had relied on my focused breathing to stay out of my mind and subconscious’ way. I found being calm, accepting, and present was the key to riding this rollercoaster. I was first in line to receive the second dose.
I repeated my same ritual, this time with only positive energy rather than any nervousness, and sat back down. Ten minutes later, people really started to purge again. I hadn’t purged yet but noticed it went in waves and would help you gauge time on how long you were into the trip. Twenty minutes to an hour was peak purging time and then it would sporadically happen for the next hour until settling down.
My body remained calm and positive. Sitting up straight proved to be a much better position for this. Thoughts came flowing through my head like a rapid river. It was beautiful and dangerous. A calming flow I knew capable of turning out of control and crashing in on me at any moment. I further entered a dreamlike state and lost all control over the story running through my head.
My brain had separated down the middle. I was now capable of being shown my real nature, taken to different times of my life, teleported into the body, pain, bravery, and emotions of others, all while still accessing my left brain to store these lessons, memories, and make side comments. My mind was still showing me how special I was. Two cups had been drank, people were crying around me, purging and playing the most wonderful and supportive music I had ever heard.
“We know we are SO provided for,” repeated the chorus. The songs were all about opening yourself to love and accepting gratefulness. They became the backbone of the experience. Encouraging all of us to be strong through the hardest realizations and remain hopeful. I could sense the darkness trying to creep into my mind. I wouldn’t give it a moment’s notice or attention. I knew it was a trap.
Although I had lost most control over my heightened state of consciousness, I still could make the choice between love, positivity, and the darkness. Hate never showed up for me but I’m convinced it does for others. I could reset the underlying tone through focusing on my breath, the music, or sometimes others’ sounds. My brain was traveling through space and time with each moment presenting new opportunity to take a different direction. Everything was chaos. Memories and thoughts would show up as a test for me to follow or disregard and then lead me down a new series of tests and self-realizations. The basic premise of these tests stayed constant: love, positivity, or the darkness.
Like last time, I decided to go with it and let it take over. My subconscious took more shape; I begin to really feel it inside of me. It was a body of powerful energy flowing through me. I felt like the Energizer bunny all charged up. Its means of communication was through my thoughts, which were the epitome of virtual reality. In that moment, I saw how incredible I was for the first time. The energy in my body started vibrating and expanding until I had my first real breakthrough – I love myself. Then I purged.
That first purge reset my mind again. It took me two cups and several hours but I had learned my first lesson. I was almost in disbelief but Lady Ayahuasca had shown me all of the reasons I am great until finally accepting a most ambitious truth. It hit home hard and I felt emotions bottling up inside of me. I could have cried in that moment but I kept a noble silence. Now that I had been equipped with self-love, the real journey could begin. There was barely any time for celebration before the real work came.
I was teleported through the last several years. In these years I had built a multi-million dollar company, made big mistakes, and learned many lessons. After almost losing everything a year ago, I had dedicated myself to accepting ownership in my failures and figure out how to authentically be myself. As this dream took me through all of the accomplishments I had experienced over the last year, my subconscious showed me the truth. It hit me like a punch to the gut. I am selfish.
I had a platform to reach others with, employees that counted on me, family, close friends, and more, but selfishly kept everything I had learned to myself. All of these incredibly important discoveries could be taught to others and make their lives better but no. Every emotion you feel while under the influence of Ayahuasca is intensely magnified. I felt deep shame and sorrow but accepted this truth. This is another key to Ayahuasca and life. Once you witness unwanted self-reflection you must accept it or pay the consequences. If you fight it, you will be punished. You have no control over what is true. Playing victim or maintaining delusion will lead to sorrow.
Every time I accepted a new truth, my mind was off to the races again. If it were a dark or sad lesson, my body would automatically purge to announce it had been received. Soon the songs of love intermixed with purging around me had slowed down again and the baldheaded man stood back up. “If you would like a third cup, please line up now.”
That second cup had been a more intense experience than the first but it still hadn’t been as powerful of an experience as I had imagined. That or maybe I was just looking for a reason to dive further down the rabbit hole. I was fascinated by how impactful this had been. Having previously tried mushrooms and LSD I had certain expectations of what this experience might be but those weren’t even close. This was one of the most important moments of my life.
One aspect of this experience I haven’t really touched on is how religious it is. My parents tried to raise me Jewish but I had been an atheist most of my life. Through open reflection and LSD use I was now firmly agnostic. I didn’t expect to take that third cup of Ayahuasca and teleport to a religion of self-love and connection.
I was second in line for the third cup. I set my intentions as I looked into the bald man’s encouraging eyes and drank it down. Like clockwork, those that took the third cup started the purge ten minutes later. Of everyone in the room, only 15 or 20 people continued on this journey with me. It was an extremely brave and crazy thing to do but I was too intrigued to stop now. What happens at stage 3? I hoped this was going to be the boss mode.
My consciousness expanded to new heights. I no longer had any control. Vivid thoughts raced through my head and I started to see visualizations around me. I was on a bullet train and could barely hold on to lay witness. Looking back now, I can only remember bits and pieces of this third cup. My mind was moving so intensely fast that it felt like a mix between total lunacy and a dream.
I was teleported to a few days ago when I had visited two hospitals in Peru. I was in the two rooms again at the same time. One was filled with abandoned children with mental and physical disorders. Their smiling faces from our playtime was mixed with the sadness of their situation. I could see their mothers and fathers leaving them by the road and how unfulfilling their lives will always be. I felt the full power of true empathy for the first time in my life. It was the very essence of sharing love and with that I purged.
Next I was at the crusification of Jesus Christ. As mentioned, I was raised Jewish and was an atheist most of my life so this was a surprise to me. Through love and understanding of what he stood for I entered his body in that moment. I was able to experience pure selflessness as this lesson consumed my being. By now I was completely taken by Ayahuasca. I could not have stood up if I wanted to. My mind was taking me on a continuous stream of emotional realizations at unbelievable speeds.
My subconscious was almost tangible now. I could see it within me, I could feel its force, and it was the most peculiar thing. I could tell my conscious self was extremely joyous to have the opportunity to talk to me in this way. It was all-powerful and yet it was me. I became an untethered force of strength, determination, love, and compassion to be reckoned with. It wanted to teach me everything it could in the strongest way possible before the window had shut and normal reality could set back in.
I was on the edge of total insanity. The understanding that this would end and commitment to self-love were some of the only things keeping me in my seat. This was my limit and in the rare moments I could regain the ability to make side comments, I congratulated myself and was overcome with pride. This had proved so many meaningful things to myself.
The journey kept rushing forward. Every time I was nearing total loss of control I would rededicate myself to a powerful breathing technique I had created in this moment. I would sit back up, hold my head high, slowly breath in from my nose and make a gentle yet resilient-pitched release from my mouth. This would always center me. I could count on it. The most difficult tests in life require the strongest self-belief.
The music played in waves. They knew exactly what to play and when to play it. All of us in that room were connected in some alternate-reality. We could sense each other’s current state of wellbeing. When the darkness was setting in, the choruses would become more supportive and positive. This was the first time for most of us and we were all mentally sick. I traveled back to a native tribe’s culture.
They supported one another and were guided by nature and love. I saw how their use of Ayahuasca had led them to become stronger and create the monolithic structures we still see today. They lived in harmony and respect. It was beautiful and I was taken by it. I saw hope in our future. All it takes is one leader to change the world. One leader to tear down the programming of shallow ideals we suffer from and guide us to a new era of modern society. A world where people were true to their self and had deep meaning in that. It was beautiful.
I saw my family and acknowledged how unappreciative I’ve been. This vision told me to lead my broken family into love. They have and always will be there for me but I’m the only one strong enough to make the necessary changes. I would need to dedicate myself to making their lives better. This is another area I had been very selfish.
Stories, experiences, and lessons kept flowing through at lightning speeds. I had found three sources of strength to keep myself sane and along the ride. I could sense wanting it to stop would transform it into overwhelming negativity and pain. The first source was my breathing technique, the second was music, and the third was the love of my life.
Bethany is the most important person in my life. Her presence in my thoughts was more powerful than any near disaster my mind almost led me down and could always help steer the ship. I realized what I have with her is beyond explanation. The word love almost became meaningless by comparison in my mind. We are truly compatible and a union. She is everything and vice versa. That was the moment I realized I needed to marry her when I got back to normalcy.
I could finally sense the journey was nearing its end. The purging around me and my own had mostly come to an end and I could sense my mind floating rather than speeding up. I had somehow survived not only the maximum dose but was filled with the most self-love and pride I had ever experienced. I hadn’t given in to the darkness even once. The bald man lit candles and slowly turned the dim lights back on.
“Welcome back my friends.”
“Once you leave here, take with you an open mind. Question the programming you received as a child. Realize the conditioning of your mind is not true. The person and role you play in life is not the real you.”
“People are really sick and need your love. Be compassionate and understanding in everyday life. From now on you should question everything on a constant basis. Is this how I really feel? Is this who I really am? What do I believe in? Do I still believe this? Does this person or thought serve me? Why am I discouraging to myself?”
“If you are surrounded by people that makes you unhappy, remove them. If you are in a job you don’t love, quit. Go live a life of purpose that is authentic to you.”
“Thank you for joining us on this very special night. And a very grateful thanks to…” The bald man thanks each of his musician friends individually by name. “It is now time to close. Join us in the middle for prepared fruits and celebration.”
And with that, I began anew.