Welcome To The Jungle
Ayahuasca Sound Exploration — In Brooklyn, NY
Last Saturday I went on a powerful journey and I never left my friend’s apartment. I experienced the ”vine of the soul” known as Ayahuasca. It was my first time learning from this plant teacher.
Although I am a writer, I do not pen articles of this nature (until now). My skills as a scribe pertain to screenwriting, hip-hop lyrics, and the occasional spoken word performance. I find it easy to express my feelings, yet post Ayahuasca, I felt the need to fully process my journey before gifting these words to the world.
There are several reasons why I wrote this article, but mostly because I feel there is still a big misconception of what Ayahuasca is, and what it can teach us. Let us breakdown the components and get to the essence together.
Here are the 10 elements of my Ayahuasca experience:
1. The Ceremony
“There is no one way.”
The facilitator asked us to bring in the following items:
A blanket, back jack, or cushion to sit on
Refillable bottle of water
Totems: personal sacred objects
Tissues and a small towel
A pen and paper
I parked my car in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on an empty stomach. We were instructed to write down a list of things we wanted to let go of; negative emotions, destructive behaviors, anything needing to be released. We also included tangible examples of what we wanted in life, specific desires to manifest, and an intention; What was I here for? What did I want to ask the plants?
I wrote four pages in the car, then burned the paper on the street in ceremonial fashion. I watched flakes of ash whisk across the pavement under the August sun. This pre-ceremony set the tone and without it I don’t think my evening would have went as well as it did. Being clear from inception was important for me, and I suggest it will be important for you if you ever undertake a similar experience.
Inside the space is beautiful, open with art on the walls, and the energy collected from past ceremonies is palpable. The inhabitants have titled it the “Honeycomb”, a fitting name for such an inviting home, the people are sweet, everyone is gentle. The twenty-five men and women in attendance have all been in observance of a specific diet for 10 days. I fasted for forty-eight hours leading to the ceremony. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in a week, marijuana in five days, and coffee is a fading memory. We sit in a circle, on the floor of the large living room, side-by-side under blankets, comforters, totems, scented oils, instruments, and thermoses of water. Some joke about wanting a cheeseburger, a doughnut, I miss fish tacos. As much as I am ready for pizza and beer, I am at peace…I tell myself “this is worth it.”
2. The Medicine
“We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.”
Our brew is composed of two plants, Chaliponga, a powerful tryptamine that contains DMT, The Spirit Molecule (see the doc on Netflix), and Ayahuasca, containing beta-carbolines, some of the strongest hallucinogens on the planet. The brew is warm temperature, served in what can be described as a double shot glass. The facilitator sits on the floor in the front of the room, surrounded by musical instruments collected from all over the world; a gong, an accordion-like object, drums, and other makers of sacred sounds.
We are told that we will all ingest an equal amount, about 30 milliliters for the first hour and a half, before the first “booster” is offered. Going around the room, people approach the facilitator and drink the brew followed by a piece of dark chocolate. When it’s my turn, I swallow every drop down my throat to avoid as much of the foul taste as possible. I thank the facilitator, bow with my hands in prayer, eat my chocolate, and take my seat.
3. The Shaman
The facilitator is not a shaman. At least he doesn’t call himself one. He has been to the Amazon and experienced Ayahuasca under the guidance of well known shamans, he mentions, “some good, and some not so good”. He has obtained the brew for us to ingest, brought all of his knowledge and expertise, musical instruments, and most of all his love and compassion to the ceremony. He is our guide, but he is not our guru.
He speaks at length about how he is not the healer, not even Ayahuasca is the healer. We will be the source of any healing that occurs. It is us who are sacred above all. It’s empowering to know this.
4. The Self
It’s time to backtrack. Why was I here? What was my intention?
A week before the ceremony I was finishing a screenplay under a tight deadline. I began to have doubts about the whole thing. A few months prior I broke up with my girlfriend of six years, a woman I called my wife although never legally married (unless you count a beautiful ceremony at last year’s Burning Man). The summer has been an emotional roller coaster, and at times writing was my only saving grace. After the adjustment period and working through these emotions, I felt I had finally arrived to a peaceful state. I was good, I was happy. So why did I need Ayahuasca?
I emailed the facilitator, we’ll call him James, and told him all these things. I didn’t have any addictions. I had forgiven everyone in my life I felt had wronged me (including myself). I had a loving supporting family. I was thirty, single, no kids, and on my way to a thriving career as a professional writer/director. Not everything was perfect but I was in a good place. I knew this because I was once in a not-so-good place.
James explained that healing can happen to even the happiest people, for there is always something be healed in all of us. A truth I knew from writing complex characters. So what was I pretending not to know?
After some reflection and meditation I chose to go ahead with it. I was unattached from outcome and was open to the unknown possibility of what could manifest. Borrowing a line from the dreamy film Inception, “I took a leap of faith.” That decision is one of the best I’ve ever made.
The point is to shed away our ego, the false self, until we reach the point of near nothingness from where we came. The universe was sung into existence, so it is natural that sound can bring us back to our origin.
As the medicine begins to work we enter into a state of silence, the absence of sound. We place our eye covers on and delve into nothingness. We ground ourselves through deep diaphragm breaths and chakra aligned postures. James strikes the gong and we start to chant, humming at first, so the vibration of sound builds within our bodies. When we open our mouths male and female voices blend into powerful tones. We evoke the spirits, calling out to the universe, to our guides and ancestors, to our highest selves.
Over the course of several hours James plays instruments from the front of the room. An ocean of sound washes over us along with Brooklyn’s own soundtrack. He walks around and plays the instruments near us, sometimes on us, taking the time to visit each individual and provide them with a sensory buffet of amazing notes, tones, and other words that mean sound. He plays things I’ve never heard before, instruments that create visions, calming emotions, peace and love. Every time I feel consumed by the medicine the sound brings me back to a state of bliss.
The face of God is a Serpent Goddess with penetrating eyes and a forked tongue. Her presence defines power and commands respect.
During a closed-eye meditation you see a lot of trippy things. With other medicines such as Mushrooms and LSD, the visual cortex provides much amusement. When forced to look inside without the distraction of the eyes the visions are deeper, mythological, and at times terrifying.
I experience much Reptilian imagery during the first few hours of the ceremony; birds, lizard’s eyes, scales, undulating movements of snakes in the grass. The God Head I saw was a hybrid woman in a Serpent body; a hood like a cobra, sharp fangs, glaring eyes, breasts, curves, and full lips under brown skin…she was not to be fucked with. Yet the Goddess was not there to intimidate, this was my mind’s projection of what she appeared as. One thing I knew for sure was that she was powerful, and that’s the thing about Ayahuasca, it humbles you because it is very, very, powerful. Prior to ingestion James explained; “There are no heroes”. Meaning that tonight was not about ego, it was not about how much Ayahuasca you could do or handle.
During my visions with the Goddess I felt she was working with me, guiding my exploration of mind and soul. She did not dictate what was to come, she provided choice, and this element allowed me to shape my experience, something I’ve never had full control of when under the influence of LSD or other hallucinogens.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
At one point I experienced a past life. I was a King of sorts, perhaps a Pharaoh, an ancient leader who made decisions that affected many people in his kingdom. My physical self back in Brooklyn was positioned in the corner of the room so that I could face everyone with my back to the wall, a feng shui position of power and protection. This was my throne, one arm rested on my standing foam roller, one knee up, while the other hand stroked my totem necklace.
I experienced the burden of this king who loved his people yet felt overwhelmed with the responsibility to govern so many lives. This was a man who could send thousands to war with a flick of his hand, yet he had grown tired of death. He cared more about love, art, and being surrounded by his many wives and children. It was a vision about responsibility to the self and to those closest to me, a key component of my personal growth that I’ve come to recognize.
As visions flashed, James reminded us to use the power of our imaginations, to envision our minds and hearts opening up, like flowers in bloom. I imagined my heart opening and felt the chakra illuminate within me. My mind was a seedpod that became ripe with fruit. I delved deeper into my highest self and stripped away the layers of my ego.
“She is the ocean to which I swim. The Moon guides us all. I am love. These words dance across skies like typhoons on the sun. Squiggles, giggles, heroine.”
There were times during the trip that I felt pure bliss, the type one experiences when eating mushrooms or MDMA, you feel high and it feels amazing. Then there were times I began to cry, I was emotionally purging. The feeling behind the tears was forgiveness. I forgave myself for various transgressions, I forgave those I felt had impacted me negatively, but mostly I thought about my ex-girlfriend. It was challenging but never did I once feel hopeless or despair. It was a cathartic release that my conscious mind was unwilling to undergo.
There were times a door opened that I did not want to enter. It’s hard to describe, the dark energy was present, like a dense shadow looming over me that I could feel the weight of. The Goddess gave me permission to enter the room or close the door. I grounded myself and changed course. I closed the door and chose to focus on happier things.
A few times during the evening I removed my eye mask. My vision was impacted similar to that of LSD and Mushrooms; wavy lines, blending of perceptions, fuzziness. I looked around and saw some people laying down and curled up, others in the lotus position, some laughing, some crying, others staring in awe. This was healing in various forms. I returned to the darkness, plunging deeper into no thing.
Ayahuasca connected me to the unifying oversoul. It encompassed joy, love, pain, every emotion one could ever experience as a human being. This may seem overly poetic, but what it was, was an outpouring of empathy and connectedness to all beings on the planet. I asked James for my first “booster” and dove further down the rabbit hole.
8. The Purge
“Shout, Shout, let it all out, these are the things we can do without…”
We all had small buckets in case one needed to vomit. I did not experience diarrhea and my nausea was mild compared to the accounts of others. A few times during the evening I felt the urge to vomit but I resisted. I had programmed my mind to not purge in front of others. It wasn’t so much that I was ashamed to vomit, but I held a belief that I could finish the evening without the physical purging.
During the visions of the Serpent Goddess she asked if I was ready to purge, granting me the permission to choose, to which I replied, “I’m not ready”.
I went almost a full 8 hours before I purged. It was the tail end of the night after my first booster, I didn’t feel the need for more Ayahuasca, I was not going to be a hero. The Goddess asked me again if I was ready and I replied “yes”. I stood slowly and walked over the laid out bodies on the floor, careful not to step on anyone as I made my way to the bathroom. In the hallway I bumped into James and told him I was ready to purge. He instructed me to make a ceremony out of it, to use my imagination and create a visual association of what I was releasing from my mind, body, and spirit.
I entered the bathroom and stared at my reflection in the mirror. I took deep breaths and grounded myself, channeling my inner strength for the act that was too follow. As I breathed my skin moved in swirls, the hair on my chest formed shapes and designs, I was definitely still tripping.
I got on all fours on top the bathroom mat. I bowed my head in prayer and asked God to help with my purge, to allow me to rid myself of beliefs and thoughts that were holding me back from my true potential. I envisioned the things I was relinquishing; bad habits, people I could no longer teach or learn from, self-imposed doubts and limitations. With each breath I drew in I manifested boundlessness, infinite possibility, love, happiness, and abundance. When I rose I looked myself in the eyes again, it was time, I was ready, this is what I came for, this was my intention.
I positioned myself over the toilet and induced vomiting; several minutes of regurgitation of all I was letting go. When it was all said it done, it was some of the best vomiting in my life.
“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…” ― Nicholas Sparks, At First Sight
After the ceremony many of us were beaming with smiles, some were quiet, others a little sad. This is to say that your experience is your own, there is no right way to feel after Ayahuasca, there is only your way. We ended the night with a blessing, personal stories, songs, and some laughter. I recited two spoken word poems; freestyles that came out of me freely, wonderful and unexpected. We thanked ourselves and all the entities responsible for the evening. When we finally ate, the potluck included fruits, breads, salad, some sweets, and juices. It was time to heal the body.
A part of me died that evening, the part that limits me from my full potential. The part that tells me I’m too old to do hip-hop, I’m not talented enough to write great screenplays, the voice that tells me you’ll never find love again. I’m happy to rid myself of this false self. I am grateful to have experienced something with beautiful sounds, souls, and creative energy.
I watched the sunrise on a rooftop in Brooklyn, a pink sun following the Super Moon and her glorious power. It was the best symbolic way for me to end one journey and begin another; a powerful reaffirmation that life goes on, the cycle of death and rebirth commencing for an infinite time. I thank my lucky stars for embarking on this ride
10. The Lesson
Ayahuasca is a powerful plant teacher with the potential to illuminate our personal and outer word; “the world is as you see it.”
What I’ve taken away from this experience is my own. I have not included the accounts of others nor have I discounted their emotions and conversations that I absorbed. I believe that those who had tried Ayahuasca prior, those that have experimented with LSD, Mushrooms, and MDMA, were able to understand and navigate the powerful visions and feelings better than those who had not. There is no prerequisite for Ayahuasca, this is merely an observation I made.
Following the days after the ceremony I was not in a typical enlightened state. I didn’t rush off to save the world. I didn’t feel the need to tell everyone about my experience; as a matter of fact I kept it private until writing these words. What I did do was drive to Massachusetts to spend time with my family. I saw my mother and kissed her, told her I loved her and thank her for giving me life. I thanked the various friends including my ex girlfriend who let me crash at their apartments during my week in NYC. I spent time with my two year-old niece and played with her. I rested and watched movies, ate good food, I did what made me happy.
Ayahuasca is sacred but so are you, do not give all the credit to the plants. Only you can determine what level of healing will and needs to occur. There is a high power that exists connecting us all, I know this because I felt it, I don’t need to believe it. It’s not about getting fucked up, trust me there are other medicines easier to digest if you want to see trippy things. It’s not about fixing yourself either, for you are perfect, whole, and complete. You don’t even have to fly to the jungle to experience it, more and more Ayahuasca churches are facilitating ceremonies in the United States, the shift is here, a change gonna come. Love yourself and be willing to forgive and let go. You don’t have to do this through Ayahuasca, but for me it helped.
I thank the Goddess for her love and awesome power. I thank myself, and I thank you for reading.