In July 2017, I had my first psychedelic journey for healing with the help of the Iboga master plant.
My journey with Iboga started during extensive psychedelic research about Ayahuasca and Iboga. Joe Rogan's podcast with Aubrey Marcus was the tiebreaker.
Iboga vs. Ayahuasca a side by side comparison. Aubrey described the differences between an Ayahuasca and Iboga journey; " if you want to feel, do Ayahuasca, if you want to know...Iboga".
I have been struggling with addictions and relationship problems for years. I wanted to know what was wrong with me, why I behave the way I behave, so I chose Iboga before Ayahuasca. I wanted to know, get inside my head, and figure out my problems. I learned that Iboga was more of an inside of the mental journey, so I thought it will be of great help figuring out the mind of Carlitos.
I found a retreat in Costa Rica, the Iboga Wellness Center run by a great guy named Anthony Esposito.*
I booked for a weeklong retreat which consisted of two ceremonies, flower bath, activities, all the meals, and lodging. The center is located in the Hacienda Monte Carlo in Guanacaste, about 2 hours from San Jose. Hacienda Monte Claro is the perfect setting for a psychedelic experience. The rustic setting and open interior are welcoming. The accommodations are not luxurious but with a rustic stone look, dark wood floor and ceiling, and majestic pieces of solid wood for furniture. It has an open atrium where you can sit down and look straight up to the sky. When it rains, this place feels magical. The center has an open pool and the landscape is lush and tropical with hammocks and a fire pit...and monkeys!
I was excited to start my journey. Too excited and anxious in truth. The impulsive and impatient Carlitos didn't get why we couldn't have a ceremony the day we arrived and why we have to wait three days for the second ceremony. I had issues to deal with and didn't come here to socialize or layback by the pool. I wanted my ceremony and I want it now!
After setting in, getting to know the other participants, the staff, getting some rest to clear my mind, it was time for the ceremony.
The ceremony started around 8 PM. There were only 7 of us. We gathered around the fire and Anthony led the ceremony talking about Bwiti tradition and how Iboga was discovered. I am not going to get into how Iboga was discovered or the Bwiti tradition in detail. You can do your own research about it but the oral tradition of its discovery is this: an African hunter killed a porcupine which was in the process of eating the root of the Iboga plant. He brought it home to his wife, who after cooking and eating it, began having visions. The hunter then returned to the site and collected the magical roots and thereafter it was used in spiritual ceremonies.
Anthony talked about Mougandha, the 10th generation shaman of the Bwiti tradition. We also talked about stating our intentions for the journey and performed and smudge ritual.
Then, Anthony and Levi, another facilitator came around each one of us with a big spoon full of Iboga powder (root bark) and we chugged down with a cup of water. It was difficult to swallow and I almost choked, but down it went. The waiting game has begun. I was getting a bit frustrated that it wasn’t kicking in. I was given a second dose in a pill form. I was the last one to leave the fire circle. I brought my hands to my face closing my eyes in frustration and bam! the medicine hits as if all this time, it was waiting for me to close my eyes for the show to start. I got up wanting to go to the restroom and that’s when I felt it the first wave. My palms were sweaty, my heart pounding. It was difficult to walk. I felt like a drunk, zero coordination, and muscle control. I was taken to my mat to lay down for my journey and was given eyeshades so I wouldn't be bothered by the light or so I thought. Things happened quickly in sort of a sequence. Flashes of light overwhelming my vision. I struggled to find one thing to focus on. My mind's eye was everywhere seeking to control what I was experiencing.
As soon I closed my eyes, weird visions started to pop from a tapestry of nowhere. There were random, vivid as living, and made no fucking sense. I was getting more frustrated, is this it? Some visuals with no context? I had the blindfold on but I was able to see through it, through my eyelids, through the canopy of trees, through the sky full of bright stars and weird colored swirls. I was having visions but with little or no sense at all of the meaning of it. One of the most profound as I started into the void was a bright scene. Like when you look up to the sun with your eyes closed. Then slowly, it started to open like an eye looking from the inside out. First blurry and fuzzy then, as I blinked, it cleared up, and a room came up into view through the seeing eye. There was a dresser with a mirror at the other end. Then I saw my Mom coming into view looking straight at me with a big loving smile on her face. I realized then that the eye was really mine, baby Carlito’s looking at my mom from my crib.
I couldn't make out why this was happening when all of the sudden my Dad comes into the frame, his sideburns and guayabera shirt validating that this took place around the year I was born, 1974. He took my Mom off my frame of view very quickly and I didn't see any of them anymore. I don't know what the hell happened and got frustrated by why I was seeing that when I was supposed to be dealing with my addictions and problems. Frustrated I swiped that vision like swiping the screen of the phone and it was gone.
I was trying to control what I was seeing. If there was an image and wasn’t what at I wanted to see, I simply swiped it away and it was gone. I saw my family; my sister came back thousands of times. I was impressed by how vivid everything looks. Her shiny hair, her bright red lipstick, and her beautiful smile. She was always smiling. I saw the rest of my family as they popped in from nothing, pan in and out of my visual field, and shaped made out the surrounding environment. Images from a guy that although looks familiar, don’t remember him somehow. Is he related to a part of my childhood?...and my sister, what about her?... I will have to ask my Mom for details to make a connection or sense out of this. Later the next day, I learned that the visions were important for me to understand things about my childhood and my issues. I cursed myself for taking myself out of it. I didn't have any preparation for this, so I was not aware that things like this could happen in an Iboga journey. I swore from that point on to be patient and to trust the process of the medicine no matter what.
Already aggravated and thinking that the medicine wore off, I spent the next several hours pissed off about the whole thing. My expectations were too high, trying to control the outcome of the journey and I wasn't understanding how Iboga works. I didn't want to let go of control. Anthony came over to check on me. I was given a booster. I told him about what was happening and he told me that I had to stop resisting and just listen to the music. I needed to let go of controlling the situation and just let it unfold as it happens. No analyzing, no judging just lay back and listen to the Bwiti music. And so, I did.
Stop resisting and just listen to the music.
Music is part of the Bwiti tradition. the music was loud and lively. It is played by the tribe with handmade string instruments, rattles, horns, and anything else that can make a sound. The music was so clear and live that I thought it was played right next to me. I heard so many sounds and noises, even people talking but when I opened my eyes and removed the blindfold, there was nothing there...just hallucinations. The fast-paced rhythm of the drums, bells, and the Bwiti instrument, the mondongo, was surreal. An audio-visual experience. What ensued in the following hours can be described as being in a madhouse with smoking mirrors, tools, and tapestries of color, light, and whatever else my mind was projecting out. I was still angry, like in disbelief but did my best to carry on.
Despite the visuals and audio overstimulation, this is not what I came up here for. I wanted to find a deeper meaning somehow and get my lifelong answers. Kicking and pouting like a small child wasn’t going to help me go through this night. So, I let go of my expectations and let the medicine do the work. She will give me what I need even if I can't find the what, the why, and how of everything. Just let it go!
Seen the Unseen
I was looking up and I could see the thatch ceiling of the gazebo we were in. I had to remove the eyeshades several times in disbelief. I could literally see through my eyeshades the framing of the gazebo and it was moving. There was something up there, like a veil. It was fluttering as if blown gently by wind. I removed my eyeshades again and sure enough, it was up there but wait, I had my eyes closed all the time. I could see through my eyelids, through the eyeshades, all the way through the roof, to the canopy of trees where the monkeys were. I was like "what the fuck is going on?".
I had to go to the bathroom. My knees were wobbly, I couldn't walk without being supported. A volunteer took me to the bathroom. I was walking like Frankenstein. A surreal buzz was coming from the walls and all around the room. It was so loud, so intense that I thought I was inside a beehive. Two candles on a plate were on the floor. The candlelight illuminated the walls like devils dancing wild. As I tried to approach the toilet, the toilet seemed to move away from me. It was like being in the twilight zone and I just wanted to pee.
Awake for Hours
I open one eye and it was dark, I open my other eye and it was daylight. I was moved to my room at around 6 am. Then it happened again, experiencing the hallucinations, intense buzzing in my ear, flashing of light. Everything was moving around me. My senses were enhanced and I continued tossing and turning for hours and hours with no respite for sleep. I felt extremely weak, my body ached. I couldn't hold a glass of water or support my self straight. I curled up in bed exhausted. All I wanted to do was to sleep. I lay there, eyes closed but I was wide awake. I felt the mattress springs digging into my bones every time I rolled to one side or the other, trying to get comfortable but it didn't help. My body was aching in pain. All my muscles, joints, and bones hurt like being sick with the flu. I felt like shit and there seemed to be no end to this. I remember every time the AC came on. I literally "saw" how the flap opened, blew air, closed and the AC shuts off. I looked at the tapestry on the wall with a guacamayo in the jungle. The guacamayo jumped out of the tapestry, its head morphed into my Dad's head-turning around as if saying something and then disappearing. What the fuck?
I slowly started to get why the weeklong retreat and the space between ceremonies. I couldn't sleep for like 36 hours, unable to close my eyes because I felt I had no eyelids.
As I recovered from the first experience, I read a meditation from the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. "Receive without pride, let go without attachment" from Marcus Aurelius. How fitting it is now after the experience with Iboga. Experience the medicine is working on me, showing me what I need at that moment and nothing more without forcing or demanding answers based on my expectations (pride). It best to let go without attachments and revive what is given. I had to take a less emotional route. Powerful!
The next day we went to the beach and a national park to relax and think about our experiences. I felt weird, like I was aware of everything going on around me.
Still, on the second night after my first ceremony, I was seeing traces of lights.
From Dusk Till Dawn
The second ceremony came with much anticipation. This time I was ready to let go of control and surrender to the experience. I took a higher dose of medicine.
I closed my eyes from the top left I could see a dark bulge trying to press into view. From the right almost simultaneous an eye like Washington's dollar taking shape. I was ready and a booster later, I was laying on my mattress.
I lay there and almost immediately, then eye again. It appeared several times clearly telling me to "see". In the background, a red veil or tapestry with Maui flowers was hanged right above me. Then slowly it dropped down held only by air flowing underneath. I could feel this too, I thought!
Then shadows swerved around me. First subtle and them more of them. I finally register what was happening immediately, I just want to stay calm and let it happens. It scared me to see shit like this but I must conquer my fears. The shadows came to me slithering like that scene in the movie "Ghost" where the shadows came and grabbed the man and took him away. They came to me and began taking shape of women, wearing the same dress some thin another fuller with curves, showing legs and cleavage. Some were faceless others masked by the shadows, others showed faces of women that I don’t want to see and other faces were not at all pretty. They were kissing me, arousing me, tempting me to give in for the flesh. Two went down on me; another got closer to me very close. They were so vivid, very close almost face to face that I could see the blackness in her eyes. What got me fucking floored about this experience, is the fact that I WAS feeling it too. I could feel them as they got closer pressing down on the mattress, their skirts caressing my skin until I got goosebumps. Some were leaning to me whisper something in my ear I couldn’t hear but I definitely felt a tiny blow of cold air in my ear. Then they all merged into one with three heads. Like in the movie "Dracula" when Keanu Reeves was being aroused by the vampire woman and they all became one.
I was starting to get the message and knew I had to let them all go. When I told them they have to leave my life, they were not happy and one of them showed her face and it was the woman I had recently an affair with. She was angry when I told her I was letting her go and slowly started to retreat back into the shadows. I didn't believe in spirits before, but sure as hell I do now.
It was the most fucking bizarre living experience ever!!
The excitement of the events and trying to get the handle of navigating with the medicine got me tensed and wired like high on cocaine. I was clenching my jaw, slight tremors, and tension around my entire body. I got worked up so much with what I experience with the spirit women that lead to several vicious purges. I didn't purge on the previous journey. I was not familiar with purging, even the word sounded foreign to me. I did my purge for the entire week! I kneeled close to my bucket and spewed massive amounts of nasty bile cascading down 5-7 times or more, I just don't fucking remember. Each one of them I felt clean, detoxifying my body from all the negative energy.
I lay back down and closed my eyes wide open. The red tapestry was above me again and slowly floating through me. I was expecting movement and saw lots of it shapes and shadows in the background or behind or the sides ...who the fuck knows!! Alas, no women showed up. I got images from others too, my dad, mom, sister, rice but nothing unfolded. Not once my kids. I had my wife Marie's face showing up several times but nothing else came up. I realized again that I was in control of my behavior and must be ready to become aware and execute delay, distract, and reframe any shit that I don't want.
Levi came around and startled me. He was behind me but I could see him as if he was in front of me. He told me that we were going to do a guided journey to
reconnect with my soul starting with the pygmy kiss. He was painting something into my forehead to open my third eye. I saw him as if he was an African pygmy tribesman talking to me.
He asked me to imagine being in front of my house. I immediately got there, in front of my door.
Wait, he says...is it daylight or nighttime?
Daylight I said
Switch into nighttime, he said.
Boom, it was nighttime.
I went inside my house while everyone else was sleeping. I walked my hallway taking everything in as if I was really inside of my house at that precise moment. I walked into my room and I was blown again for what I saw. I saw myself lying in bed next to my wife cuddling. I could see and feel everything in detail. The quietness of the room, the sound of the fan, and even the coolness of the temperature. He then asked me to talk to my wife through me as I was lying next to her. He guided me to say everything I want to say to her through the other Carlos in bed. All the things I wanted to say to her but couldn't because of the situation we had at that time between us. I told my wife that I was sorry for what I've done to her, that I loved her, and asked for forgiveness. I was able to get some answers through the Carlos in bed and Marie and got silence for other of my questions.
Then He asked me to go inside the other Carlos's body through my belly button. I immediately went inside my body through my belly button without putting any effort into it. He directed me to my brain and clean all the junk and gunk floor to ceiling. I went into this superhighway all the way up into my brain.
What do you see?
Man, what a filthy place! Posters of nude girls, alcohol, drugs, porn magazines laying everywhere.
Let's clean it up he says...
I started cleaning my brain with a pressure washer, apron, and rubber boots, scrubbing the surface of my brain. I pressure washed the walls, scrubbed the floors removing hate, despair, judgment, anger. depression, anxiety, feelings of inferiority, loneliness, and sadness junk that no longer serves me.
How does it look?
it looks damn clean. I could see the gray matter glistening, healthy, spotless.
Ok, let's go to your heart...
Vroom, I went down the highway into my heart.
What do you see?
I see blackness again
Ok, let's clean it up...
So here I am again, pressure washing my heart like washing the floor of an underground tunnel. My heart was black, charred from all the anger and frustration I had pent up inside me. I pulled out a rag and started buffing the surface. Soon I could see the color of my heart but it was not red color as I though a heart's color will be, it was a green color.
How does it look?
It looks squeaky clean, wow! I said with a laugh.
Let's go to your intestines...
I went inside of my guts, flushing everything out. I had suffered from chronic constipation all my life since my years in the Army. I watched as I swept all the gunk off through my intestinal tract, every fold, every pocket all the way out. This took some time.
How does it look?, he said.
It looks decent, don't know what else to do, I said.
Ok, now let's go through your spinal fluid. I want you to give it a flush.
So I did, flushing everything top to bottom. After I was satisfied, he asked me to come out through my belly button out of my body.
This journey left me feeling amazing.
I got into my hands and knees and purged into the bucket. I felt my whole body vibrating, my guts wrenched into a violent purge. It felt like a small mouth like the movie "Aliens" was coming out of my mouth to purge. When I was done purging, I looked at my bucket thinking I was going to see a mess of puke deep from my guts out but there was nothing inside the bucket. Only a black swirl was coming out of the bucket in a spiral, then I collapse in my bed.
Our last journey was intended to answer some of the questions we were asked to write down before the journey. Out of all the questions, the one that I remember and was most important to me was " who is God, and what is his role in this life?". I have always been troubled by the God concept. Being born Catholic, the God figure has always been portrayed as a person in my life. Someone to rely on and one that never fails you when you need him. Well, I have been calling God to help me all my life and never got an answer. So I was angry at this God for not helping me.
The answer I got came up as fast as is was asked.
I saw a giant being, a titan, holding the universe, making sure everything runs as it should. God's role in life, as I understood, was to make sure the moon comes out when the sun comes down, to make sure the rain falls to water the ground and the trees, to make the birds sing, the seasons come at the right time. To make the sea rise and the waves crash, to make the wind blow. All this understanding came clear to me and I found peace in my heart.
I had other visions come into view that night. Saw my grandparents, dead now, looking at me from a balcony way up in the sky. They didn't say anything just smiled at me. They were dressed just like the way I remember them when they were alive.
The rest of the night went through other visions and thoughts. I remember someone saying in a stern voice" this is where you fucked up", " these are your mistakes". This was a kind of torture. I could not call it bullshit because I realized it was me talking to my self. A higher version of me talking to Carlitos, telling his faults, where I made those mistakes and I need to do to change my life around. This was my truth or as the Bwiti say "Bassé".
I left the experience with a sense of awareness that has never left me. I now know exactly why I do the things I do and can see myself doing it, weighing its pros and cons of the action and the consequences in the process. It is up to me to make that choice. I'm like on a scale where I can see the old Carlitos on one end and the new Carlos on the other end. I am poised right in the middle weighing my options. It sounds logical but alcohol never allowed me to see things clearly and I screwed up all the time with bad decisions that hurt my life and the people I loved.
Now with a clear understanding as of why I behave the way I do and realizing what I need to do to overcome my issues, I sought the help of Ayahuasca to heal the wounds and suppressed emotions that led me to lead a life that was empty and self-centered.
I am forever grateful for this experience and look forward to sit with Father Iboga again. It has been calling me since the day I left Costa Rica.
*Anthony Esposito runs now the Awaken Your Soul Center in Costa Rica.