If you’re surprised by the fact that I’ve put terror and love into the same sentence, then good - and welcome to my latest blog !
Some time ago, I finally took the plunge and booked myself in to an ayahuasca retreat.
It was something that had been a long time coming – over 10 years to be exact!
I’d first heard of this plant medicine back in 2006, when my then lover complained repeatedly about how his ex had become rather fixated by it. Far from detracting me, this served to pique my curiosity, though not sufficiently at that point, to act upon it.
Over the years, I would hear about Mother Ayahuasca from friends and lovers and there would be opportunities to partake, but for - whatever reason – the dates or my budget would never align, or I simply got a bad feeling about it.
And then, fresh out of a devastating heart-break and in a dedicated process of self-healing, everything finally came together and a knowing emerged deep within me that the time was finally right.
And so this is how I found myself sitting in sacred circle, speaking my intentions for the ceremony out loud and getting ready to imbibe the powerful dark brown liquid brewed from an Amazonian plant vine.
Not surprisingly, my key intentions were to heal and release whatever was blocking me from enjoying a healthy, harmonious loving relationship, as well as whatever was blocking the flow of abundance in my life.
We were given clear instructions to treat the entire experience as a meditation: to stay present and breathe.
Keen to follow the rules on my first foray into the unknown, I dutifully began my standard kundalini practice of long deep breathing with a focus at my third eye.
Yet as the medicine began to flow through my system, it became increasingly difficult to hold that focus, as a dazzling array of other-worldly images, colours, codes and shapes flooded the screen of my mind in an overwhelming and quick-fire avalanche of impressions.
Mistakenly (as I later found out) doing my best not to get distracted by this multidimensional wonder-movie, but to keep focussed on my third eye and the questions I’d posed, I felt my body pinned to the floor, my breath become shallow and entertained concerns that my head might explode!
As the night wore on and the flood of input showed no sign of letting up, my resistance waned and I found myself asking for a reprieve and feeling afraid that I would never be able to sleep again.
My body and mind were so tired, but every time I closed my eyes, there was a buzz of energy in my head and another rush of sensory impressions to contend with. “You’re not answering me!” I found myself thinking. “This has nothing to do with my intention!”
Sleep eluded me all night and throughout the following day. And it was as much as I could do the next morning to stand up, walk around and attempt to swallow a few mouthfuls of food. I marvelled at how everybody else seemed to be walking, talking and acting like normal, when I felt like a disconnected zombie in a weird dream.
I felt awful, both physically and emotionally, telling myself I’d done it all wrong, hadn’t had the transcendent experiences others spoke of, nor received any answers to my burning questions: questions that I’d spent a hefty sum of money to come and pose to the Great Mother.
I felt guilty that I’d spent so much money to come and lay awake all night and end up feeling so rotten. I thought of all the beautiful things I could have bought my beloved children, or even the number of “more useful” therapy sessions I could have had instead.
And then one of the people on the retreat: a trusted friend, came into the room where I was lying half-comatose on the bed, and asked if I might like them to lie next to me and spoon.
Yes, I said. And so we lay together and I began to talk about my feelings and experience. And, before long, I was sobbing my heart out.
My friend held and soothed, listened and stroked my hair. It felt so good to let go, release the tightness that had been pressing against my chest and simply be lovingly witnessed.
Terrified of a repeat experience the following night, I informed the shaman that I didn’t think I could drink again a second time, but I was willing to sit in the circle with everyone else.
The tone of this evening was very different. The accent was on celebration, rather than deep healing, and as we set our intentions, I made mine very simple: I asked for a gentle, soothing experience of love.
When the time came for me to choose whether to partake or not, to my surprise, I chose to take a very small dose. I wanted to join the group in their experience and trusted that I would be able to tolerate such a small amount.
This time I did indeed get what I asked for, ending the night dancing around the room to what seemed like all my most favourite tunes, even embodying Nataraj (the dancing Shiva) at one point.
I felt back in my body (almost) and back with the group, even if I couldn’t put my hand on heart and say I’d had a life-changing experience of meeting “the Mother”.
What I didn’t realise at the time, was that for me, the insights were to drop in a little later.
It was only some days afterwards, as I was returning back to normal, yet allowing the impact of the weekend to continue to move through me, that it suddenly hit me. And this is what I really wish to share with you.
I thought I didn’t have “an experience”. I thought I hadn’t met “the Mother” (this plant medicine is frequently referred to as carrying the Divine Feminine energy and consciousness, which is why I was so drawn to it), but in actual fact, I had been FLOODED with a veritable deluge of incredible, fantastical, out of this world imagery and encoded gifts.. more than my little me mind could possibly cope with or make sense of… in this way, SHE and her LOVE were abundant beyond anything I could ever have imagined and really wanting to flow towards me with such immense generosity… and yet in attempting to “follow the rules” and “do things right” (the guidance to meditate)… out of an insistence on and expectation that my questions would be answered in a particular way (trying to control the outcome), out of a fear of being shown something really scary about myself, as well as a fear of being overwhelmed by the experience or “losing my mind”… I had resisted this fast-flowing Amazonian river of Love all night long….. (no wonder I felt exhausted!!)… how different it might have been, had I simply allowed it and welcomed it in…. and how ridiculous to ever doubt or try to second-guess the infinite love, wisdom and abundance of the Universe !!!
My biggest fears were a) of being show something so horrible about myself, it would terrify me, b) losing my mind and c) of never being able to sleep again… and yet what lessons each of these fears gave me:…. I was shown how strong my own self-judgement and lack of self-love were and wow…. what powerful metaphors… because, of course, to advance spiritually and live from the heart, I would indeed have to let go of the ego mind, with all its limiting thoughts and beliefs… and yes, once I received this understanding of myself as one with infinite love, then this ego mind would never be able to lull me “back to sleep” (unconsciousness) again.
Life wants to love you and bless you with abundance! Life is answering your prayers! You simply have to open your heart and mind to receive, and trust that She is holding you in love, even when it doesn't feel like it.
And finally, I learned something about my tendency to want to be a spiritual super-hero. On the first night, the intentions I’d set for someone who is both highly sensitive and was still in a fairly vulnerable state were BIG – they were the all-encompassing life-themes of the past decade and I was uncompromising in wanting answers!
In “answering” me, the Great Mother gave me a life-lesson that knocked me to my knees physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.. much as repeated heart-breaks had over the previous years. And yet my over-riding prayer to the Universe had continued to be “let me embody the Goddess in union with the Divine Masculine”… “may I awaken”… “let me know myself as love”…. “let me experience the alchemy of sacred and divine union with the Beloved”… “may I know myself as one with the Divine”….. and yes, the Universe was answering these prayers… not in the romanticized way I might have expected, but by repeatedly taking me places where I had no choice but to surrender and open my heart wider to TRUTH and LOVE.
I recognised the gift of this and yet also the fact that, from now on, I could also choose to be more gentle with myself and simply ask for harmony, fun, easeful, joyous lessons and a life in flow – and indeed, this would be the most self-loving act I could take.
As these realisations permeated my being, I recognised a huge expansion and shift in consciousness had indeed taken place within me. In fact, even days later, it felt as if the medicine was still moving within me. I felt both profoundly humbled and en-lightened.
And it was then that I really understood the incredible, eternal love of the Mother, the exponential abundance of the Universe and the fact that it was only ever my fears that had held me apart from the consistent and embodied knowing of them.
My prayer is to continue to live with this remembering. And I hope that in sharing my experience, your own remembering will be activated.