Ayahuasca in the Amazon: meeting of my shadow
I visited Peru back in late 2019 for a week long Kambo jungle expedition. I wanted to meet the frog in person and learn the way Kambo is traditionally done in the jungle. Our location was in the Pacaya Samiria reserve. A 4 hour trip via bus and boat. We did Kambo every day as part of our training, and took many walks into the Amazon jungle learning about plants, animals, legends and traditions. We also had an Ayahuasca ceremony mid-week. That day , I wanted to do Kambo close to the Ayahuasca ceremony to see if there is any benefit in enhancing the experience. I had no idea what I was about to experience.
Ceremony took place at 8 PM. We sat in the Maloca, under candlelight with the shaman and two facilitators. This ceremony was very traditional , different from the ceremonies I am used to. We were asked to share our intentions and the shaman would offer guidance for our journey. I shared everything in a concentrated short delivery. He told me to work on cleansing myself, ( mind , body, spirit), find clarity ( the direction of where I need to go, plan of action, present and future) alignment ( to my true self) and work in my path( abriendo caminos).
The shaman sang an Arkana, a protective icaro. He sang icaros that included religious connotations to the sign of the cross, Gods blessing. Then, one by one, we walked to the altar to get our cup. Everyone else not drinking, was there holding space. After the last participant drank his cup, the facilitator blew off the candle and we were submerged in total darkness. The only available light was the moonlight outside of the maloca.
After a long moment of silence, the shaman started singing Icaros and the first hour went by rather quickly. At that time, I was offered, "otra copa", the first booster. Lit by another candle, I barely saw my facilitator asking me if I feel the medicine. I was feeling fine , so I say no and drank another cup. The shaman continued with his Icaros as the second hour passed by. I got into a dreamy state by the incantation tone in the shaman's icaros, having visions like in a daydream. I am not sure if the candle was lit again or was lit already when the third call for otra copa was made. Now this would have raised a red flag in my usual ceremony setting. I still was not feeling the medicine full, and judging the medicine's look and taste compared to the Ayahuasca I have drank before, decided to take another booster. Things escalated very quickly after making this decision.
At the close of the fourth hour, the typical duration for an Ayahuasca ceremony, I was starting to feel the medicine's strong visuals and vibration. As the shaman walked around the circle, announcing " la ceremonia ha terminado" the ceremony is over, alarming realizations started to creep up through my body, all the way into my mind....
Holy shit, I've been taking a booster every hour, when I take my booster at the two hour mark at the place I go for ceremonies AND the medicine often kicks in for me at the hour and a half mark on the first dose. I had my booster within the hour and had another booster and a second booster at the two hour mark. I just took a third booster when I have never taken a third booster before. The math didn't work here and I felt anxiety taking hold. I never warned anyone that sometimes it can take up to four hours for me to feel just the first dose.
As the shaman came around the circle towards me, everything turn very dark. The shaman wasn't walking towards me, he was gliding wearing what it looked a evil cape, like malificent . I felt a negative energy like I've never felt before. Fear, like a scared child, cowering in a corner, terrified. Something foreign was entering my space and I wasn't going to let that happened. It wasn't feeling right. It felt to me as if the shaman planted the seed of fear in me. He looked at me at me and without uttering a word or moving his lips, he said to me in Spanish, " te voy a poner esto a ti para que me necesites a mi para sacarlo", " I am going to put this on you, and now you're going to need me to take it away".
I didn't like it at all and feeling of being scared, vulnerable, alone in a foreign place, and isolated from everyone there. I felt like Gandalf, in the Lord of the Rings movie, screaming " you shall not pass!". But the demon did passed, and took me over the void. As everybody started talking with each other, my buddy next to me, saw my face and called the facilitator. Time and space perception is lost during an Ayahuasca journey. I felt the medicine intensifying ,panic sounding the alarm.
Enter the fifth hour: the edge of psychosis
The medicine was not letting down and I felt resistance to fight it, falling into despair and survival. It took me a while to say something about it. "I needed help, and now!! The medicine was coming strong and no matter what I did to suppress it. Things were getting out of control. The visuals where overwhealming with intense colors and shapes. My body was shaking, my voice trembling. I was in a state of fear that I was going to loose my mind. I had hape between the 3rd. and 4th. hour, asked for lemon and salt to slow down the medicine . This is the go- to-methods I am used to but they were intensifying the effects not grounding me making me purge. Everytime I was given hape, and I took massive servings trrying to make me purge, it will make the medicine stronger. The lemon and salt wasn't working or they didn't have any lemons, I don't know what the hell was happening. I felt hopeless, vulnerable at the mercy of the shaman, like an abandoned child in a place he doesn't know. I wanted to bolt out of the maloca and into the jungle where I am sure would've been lost in less than few minutes. The stories you hear about people getting lost in the jungle. I was one foot in , one foot out into psychosis to the point that I was loosing control. On the outside I may have looked alright but on the inside there was storm and utter chaos. Someone came to give me more hape, others went to get the shaman who already left to his village by boat. A facilitator asks me " what can wee do for you?" and I yelled " give some fucking thorazine, dammit!" I didn't know what thorazine was at that moment neither did them. Later I found that thorazine is an anti-psychotic and I first heard of it in the movie Fear and Loathing in Vegas. A movie that I love to watch. The fact that I said it at that moment, still baffles me. The shaman came and did "una limpia", a cleanse. I was told that he sang icaros, bathe me with Florida water and smoked mapacho in my face but I didn't feel a thing. I was clawing at the wood floor, begging for help. I stuck my fingers down my throat trying to provoke the purge and even took a hot cup of coffee with salt and nada! I realized that these people were not prepared to treat psychosis and felt myself vanishing into the void as my lifeline was getting thinner and thinner. I thought I was going to go beyond the point of no return. The negative entity was strong. No matter what I did, it was stronger, couldn't focus, my thoughts were loud, too much noise.
Finally another facilitator kneeled down next to me and asked me " what do you want?" I said, I want this fucking thing to be over! and he said, " ok, so be it".
at that very moment, I understood everything. These people have done everything to help me. They gave me hape, lemon and even coffee and salt to bring the medicine down. I would have ate piss and poop if they told me that it was going to end the torture. At that moment, the realization came in like thunder. I understood that no one was going to save me, I had to do this for myself. Had to find the courage to keep calm and work through it... that it is up to me to stop it, not them. It was always an inside job, it's on me, not anything outside of myself.
I slowly started to bring myself back to earth level, saying my name , where I'm from, my children's name, etc...
The ordeal lasted about 6-7 hours. My buddy who was sitting next to me during ceremony became my sitter and even my rescuer when I couldn't do anything for myself. I owe him dearly and look forward to make it up to him in appreciation.
I developed some PTSD from this experience, believing that the Shaman really put something on me. Of course, I have no reason to believe this and later during my integration, I explored the possibility of having met my shadow for the first time. Everything happens for a reason and this experience came, as all of my experiences in my life, as a blessing in disguise. I started to dive into shadow and inner child work, identifying emotions that I have either suppressed or rejected since I was a child.
Ayahuasca has a way to show us not the things we want right away, the things we consciously want to work on , what we came to the medicine for help...but it shows us the things we need to know. The things we need to make peace, make amends with or overcome in order to get what we want. When you sit in ceremony with Ayahuasca, you learn to know that things doesn't happen on your time, but on the medicine time. It challenges you to be patient, humble and respectful of the medicine. Like a good Mother, she can be nurturing and loving, but also like a good Mother, she can give you a hell of a spanking.
That's what I got from my experience. I got my ego handed in a platter in order for me to meet my shadow. Looking back , a year later, it was a small token to pay considering all the work I have done with my inner child and my shadow since then. I am grateful for the experience!