With the decriminalization of entheogenic plant medicines in Oakland and Denver (YES!!!!), I’ve been thinking about all my plant medicine experiences, and how I’ve often hidden my experiences over the years. And how if they’d been legal, how I may have reached out for support during these utterly life-changing experiences of altered states of consciousness. I struggled for years to understand or find meaning or even believe that what I experienced was valid or real.
In 2010, I went down to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca for the first time. I was terrified going into it, and I was more terrified during it - what could prepare me for all the images, sensations, being out of the body, and losing connection with all known reality? My high school and college explorations of psilocybin definitely didn’t prepare me for this. Fear, nausea, dizziness, pain, snakes, dark bodies of energy floating in and around me, paranoia, and the impending doom that I was going to die or it would never end plagued me. And then something profound happened. I was in my 3rd ceremony and I found myself lying in a shallow pool of water. Waterfalls were nearby, butterflies and hummingbirds fluttered around, the scent of flowers were deliciously perfuming the air, the icaros of the Shipibo curandera sounded like pure beauty, caressing my every cell. I was in bliss, and understood that the universe was composed of pure energy and love. I rejoiced in the confirmation of something my intuition always told me, LOVE was the divine power. Not the religious “God” from my childhood. I knew it! I was right! Even as a kid, the “God” they were talking about felt like something was missing. Somehow, in this ceremony, I thought I’d been let in on some big secret, that only a few select people ever got to experience in this Western life. And it was because I’d taken the courageous journey down to the jungle, and drank this foul-tasting brew, called ayahuasca, that no one back home knew I was doing. I also saw my life, the lives of my loved ones, existing in this messy reality and them all returning to love, over and over again, throughout time. Everything I thought, or had been taught, that mattered (success, image, beauty, not making mistakes, trauma), was a lie in the big scheme. But it was part of the human experience, and it was all held in love.
The next day, while others were sharing their experiences, I was tongue-tied. Back in my ordinary consciousness, I struggled to find words to describe my experience. I felt confused, emotional and alone. Others seemed to have no trouble relaying what they saw, what happened, and what they learned. But I couldn’t share any of it. I was horrified to speak about something that existed beyond words. What happened, is I started to not believe it myself, and I closed it down as it didn’t seem to fit in with others' experiences. My feeling of isolation deepened.
I returned to the US, and a world of spiritual teachings that felt distant in the past, were easy to access, as if my being already knew their truth. As I plowed through Eckhart Tolle’s books, I cried more than I ever had in my life. I didn’t know why...I just let the tears flow. Again, I had no one to share my experiences with. I’d been opened up to a world I didn’t understand and I had no idea what was happening to me. I was afraid to share with people who may have understood, because I was protective of having partaken in some strange illegal shamanic ceremony in the middle of the jungle. I was afraid of being judged, ridiculed, or looked down upon. At this time, no one in my circle of friends had even heard of ayahuasca. They thought I was crazy. I had a counselor and mentor at the time to help me with eating disorders, and really wanted to talk to her about it, intuiting she would probably know something about my experience, but I shied away again for fear of being judged for what I had done.
I continued to go back to the Amazon, year after year. Something was calling me, yet my mind couldn’t make any sense of what I was experiencing. I just know I had to keep going, and I felt so much better than before. Most of it, I did and experienced it alone. Over time, I found people to share with, letting little bits of my journey be spoken, and also protecting other parts. I still often dismissed many things that I thought were crazy, stupid or “wrong.” I thought I fabricated things in my mind and I didn’t have experiences like others' because my mind was “out of control." Both the profoundly beautiful experiences and the darkest experiences - I kept them to myself, as I didn't trust myself that my experience was real enough.
It took me many years to come to realize that everything I experience is valid in my consciousness, in my growth and evolution. In ceremony and out of ceremony. Nothing is invalid, nothing deserves to be judged, or shamed or hidden away. And I don't have to share it with anyone for it to be valid. It is an experience for me. I can share what feels right, when it feels right.
As I write this, I have clients who have unbelievable experiences with ayahuasca and other plant medicines. They often think they are going insane and dismiss their experiences, hiding them back away afraid of being seen by me or seeing themselves what the experiences are here to teach them. I remind them they can share with me what they feel they want to share, and they can keep things for themselves. Sometimes they stretch and share the "crazy" things, sit in the fear of letting it out of the closet, letting someone else hear and reflect their deepest experiences.
I remind them that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. EVERYTHING is important and valid. EVERYTHING is given to us to unravel, unpack and integrate into our lives in some way. Or also to be put aside for another time. Again, EVERYTHING is valid. Of course, after a ceremony, we won’t remember EVERYTHING that happened, as the human mind simply cannot. But other parts of our being remember- the experience is in our cells, our DNA, our soul, our life force. It is moving and guiding us with every breath. I would have loved to have someone I trust be able to reflect back my experiences, to help me see myself better, to see how the teachings were informing my life, and to help me bring the hidden parts back out into the light. Having someone see those parts, the ones we hide, with openness, welcoming them as teachers, is often the healing we are seeking. We get to be held in love and acceptance, even in the parts and experiences that feel confusing, broken, shameful, unexplainable, or totally out of this world.
I feel grateful to be able to hold and guide people through their ayahuasca experiences, and other profound experiences we humans can have. As it helps them grow and evolve, it also allows me to drop deep into love of both the human experience and the beyond human experience that holds us all.
Protectress of Mother Earth, Energy Healing, Plant Medicine Integration, Coach, Writer