Today, thousands of people and organisations are joining forces in the #ThankYouPlantMedicine global campaign to promote wider awareness about the safe use and benefits of plant medicine. I’ve decided to join them and share my story of one of the most profound and transformational experiences of my life – my first meeting with Ayahuasca here, in the Sacred Valley of Peru.
I am writing this as an expression of my gratitude to the spirit of Ayahuasca and to the culture that over hundreds of years has learned how to work with Her to generate deep human healing and transformation. People often don’t talk about this – whether because of being afraid others won’t understand, or because shamanic cultures themselves oftentimes recommend we keep those experiences to ourselves (as they do not elevate the need to understand and conceptualise to the level that Western culture does).
I hope my story serves as a bridge between worlds, giving you a glimpse into that space beyond social stigma and controversy surrounding this topic, into one actual story of an Ayahuasca experience. Whether you’ve had your own experiences with plant medicine or not, I trust you to take what resonates and leave behind what doesn’t. And I hope you enjoy my attempt to articulate the unarticulateable.
The journey to get here…
Over the last years, I’ve been invited to take part in Ayahuasca ceremonies several times. I always said no. I felt that my spiritual path must be clean that pure and that ‘substances’ like this can derail me from it. I was going through a period of my life in which I had to disconnect from ‘external interferences’, human and plant alike, so I could find myself, my truth, my meaning. Last summer, however, upon finishing a course in Deep Transformational Coaching with Peter Wrycza, I felt an inner shift of gears. I had to return from the world of ‘me’ back into shared reality, into the world of ‘we’. I didn’t realise it back then, but as I started exploring what the hell ‘we’ means, I was preparing the ground not just for a more deeply shared reality with other humans, but also for a more deeply shared reality with plants and all there is.
Fast forward a couple of months, several days after my arrival in the Sacred Valley in Peru, I went out for a walk with friends to the nearby village of Taray. We crossed the village and started making our way further, outside of it. We walked straight into Ayahuasca Ayllu – a retreat center created by musician, shaman and writer Alonso del Rio. We were greeted by one of his teammates who showed us around the beautiful space and told us about their upcoming ceremonies.
We went home and started reading. We found out that Ayahuasca should be taken with caution, as it can be extremely dangerous to people under certain kinds of medication. It also puts you in a really vulnerable state, so you really need to make sure you trust who you are doing it with! We got some great feedback about Alonso and watched a video of him sharing about his work. We also found out he donates part of his revenue to the creation of a culture education center for local kids and reforestation projects in the Amazon. We decided to go and kept a diet for a week before going to the ceremony.
Ayahuasca Ayllu temple
Going gentle into that goodnight…
Truth being told, until the very last moment I was not sure I would go into the ceremony. I knew I had to see Alonso for myself and check with him about a medication I’ve been taking in order to feel safe. All turned out well and soon I was drinking my share of the dark bitter liquid that he shared with all 14 of us in his temple. He didn’t offer any instructions or explanation of what was coming. So I just sat and waited in trepidation. I set my intention to heal and connect to my contribution, to what I had to give back to this world after it had given me so much.
In about 20 minutes I started feeling a dense heat spreading through my arms, my torso and eventually my entire body. I felt sick and very heavy, so I lied down and closed my eyes. A world of elaborate visions and unknown feelings was beginning to unfold within me. I remember the initial shock of having my world invaded by something so strange and alien to my being – ‘There’s nowhere to hide!’. I close my eyes and it’s there! Even if I try to hide in the reality outside, I know it’s still there. ‘I have no other choice, but to trust. Take me where you need to take me, Aya. I trust you. I trust you.’
Alonso picked up the guitar and started to sing. I felt a deep sense of appreciation and awe for his ability to play music in a state that left me practically immobilised. And not just any music – some of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard were coming out of him and his partner. I could feel they were offering a deep guidance into this new territory, creating intricate shapes and patterns within me that brought tears of beauty, love and joy to my eyes as they kept unfolding throughout my experience.
What followed was 4 hours of deep inner transformation that I will never be able to fully explain. It felt like a journey into the very substance our reality emerges from, a substance beyond words that felt as true and real as the palm of my hand. My body was consumed by it and the only thing that was left of me was a point of awareness experiencing and navigating its elaborateness. Below, I will share some key points that were communicated to me in a deeply experiential way in those 4 hours of the peak of my ayahuasca journey:
Key lessons from Ayahuasca…
1) The underlying substance of reality is infinitely abundant. It’s an endless landscape of being, spreading in all possible directions of space and time. It is just as magical as it is overwhelming, which is probably why we normally block its vastness out of our awareness.
2) The underlying substance of reality is also infinitely creative. It keeps spilling out texture, shape, pattern even from the most minute vibration that ripples out inifitely in space and time. As it intertwines with and becomes all there is, it keeps expanding further and further at an amazing speed.
3) Everything we see in what we call ‘ordinary reality’ emerges from and eventually returns into that substance. It’s an ongoing movement from subtlety into density, from density to subtlety. Nothing ever dies, it simply transforms, disintegrates back into source and new texture and pattern emerges from that process. That includes ourselves – as we die, we return to that space in an act of beautiful divine reunion with all there is.
4) The underlying substance of reality provides immediate response to each thought, each word, each movement we make. They ripple infinitely in space and time, becoming part of this generative creative process. Everything we think, feel and do is also seen, acknowledged and responded to. You might ask who or what is responding…
5) An inherent characteristic of the substance of reality is that it is conscious. There’s a collective consciousness that has created it, is emerging from it, IS it. The nature of that consciousness is beyond our comprehension, yet it appeared to me as incredibly wise, playful and benevolent. Part of its playfulness is that various forms of it emerge out of the stuff of the reality we know – eg. the collective consciousness of cold noses is a thing, I swear haha
6) In a space of infinite creative abundance, everything is infinitely significant. Everything matters, i.e. everything creates matter. The smallest word or movement ripples out infinitely, beyond our comprehension. Aya showed me the importance of the creatures at the bottom of the Mariana Trench and drove me to tears with how incredibly beautiful and important they are.
7) Impact is a higher order truth than the duality of dark and light we like playing with. I asked to Aya to show me my shadow. She started joking with me: “Uuuuuuuuu shadow. What’s a shadow? Anyone knows what’s a shadow? Hello hello? Shadooooow!”. I insisted. ‘Are you sure?’. Fear. ‘Yes I am’. I was thrown back into the substance and immediately understood that shadow is something absolutely natural to that space. At the same time, it doesn’t really exist in the way I understood it. In order to define a shadow, we need to draw a boundary in a space beyond bounds. Whatever appears as shadow within the limits we’ve drawn by creating that concept ripples out inifitely beyond the limits of our consciousness and we can never know what it transforms into.
8) There are three ways in which creation happens. They were communicated to me in Bulgarian, my native language and are as follows:
– seeding (цък-цък-цък) – a fast paced mode of creation in which things are seeded into existence by the collective consciousness with lightness and ease. They can be seeded in our minds (as ideas), as well as in external reality (as new beings or events). It seems a bit random, but in fact it’s playful and very mindful.
– movement (щъкане) – as beings and things move around independently (in a rather funny way, still fast, but not as fast as seeding) they generate ripples thus creating new texture, pattern, emergence.
– interaction (гушене-мушене) – that translates more into something like ‘cuddling and sliding’ where things interact with one another in deeper more intense ways. It’s a slower mode of creation, an earthy, dense liquid kind of movement, almost like organs or beings rubbing off one another, also generating ripples across space and time.
9) Human art and culture is generated on the basis of a knowledge of this underlying substance of reality. It is a form of guidance back into and within it, in the sounds of traditional music, in the symbols and patterns in traditional textile and clothing etc. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it anymore.
As you can imagine, the task of integrating such lessons into ordinary reality is not necessarily a simple undertaking. Traditional Peruvian Shipibo culture doesn’t address this. Foreigners oftentimes feel the need for it as they try to understand what happened and how they can apply more of it in their lives. Both agree on one thing: Aya’s spirit stays with you and helps make changes in your life for many months, sometimes years after the ceremony.
Here’s my experience with this. I know lots has shifted in those hours that I might never fully comprehend and probably don’t need to. Over the next days, I could feel a very perceptible change in my energy. My body felt stronger, my mind was sharper and more clear, as if some kind of unknown power had returned to me from who knows where. That feeling is still with me and I believe it’s a big part of the incredible speeding up of my life, my creation process and personal growth in the last weeks. I could also feel a deep connection to the magical mystical aspect of reality and a stronger confidence in my ability to navigate it. For this, I could use the medicine of my own playfulness, love and wisdom which Aya had thrown back at me in a magnified form with its way of showing up in my journey.
My initial intention about my contribution was answered in ways ranging from very clear insight to experiences beyond my understanding. As a Westerner, I feel a longing to bring more of this incredible journey into my consciousness, into my being, into my life and my work. Writing about it feels like an important step in that direction. I also go about exploring the terrain through lighter non-ordinary states of consciousness as a way of bridging the two worlds. I’ve found intentional drum journeys, polarities practice, authentic relating, journalling, dancing, interacting with nature and rapé have been very helpful in my process. More recently, I am also collaborating on creating an plant medicine integration circle with psychologist Ibrahim Kurdieh here in Pisac.
Ayahuasca has also helped me understand the importance of exploring the space of shared consciousness with other humans and beings. I can now see it as a way into deeper unity both within myself and within my relationship with all there is. As She opens the gate to this awareness, it’s easy to see how every person we interact with, every piece of food we put into our mouth, every flower we smell is an opportunity for deeper union with this divine magical mystical Universe we inhabit. What’s left is the journey of reconnecting to our ability to feel into the subtle aspects of reality that allow us to experience this sacred unity in our daily lives. This appears to me as the ultimate celebration of the gift that life is and the honour to share it with this living, breathing, conscious Universe we are part of.
About The Paradise Vlog
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The ‘The Paradise Vlog’ youtube channel is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you – an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves. I also love creating spaces for growth-oriented people to connect to their soul power and life purpose. I do that in the form of coaching, shamanic work and online and offline workshops. Reach out if you feel curious to explore these topics with me.