Walking into the Fire- my Ayahuasca experience at Rythmia
I’ve been an asshole most of my life. I can’t say I knowingly have worked very hard at it, but if you had asked my employees, my family and the general people around, you would think I went to college and got a degree for it.
Like any serious “a-hole” out there, most of us don’t realize we are. Often, we’re excused as having a chip on our shoulder, being highly motivated, a hard-ass businessman or simply being angry at a lot of things in life (unless things go our way). We generally leave a path of destruction, mostly the carnage of other people we’ve been in contact with- those who have worked for us, with us, our spouses and even our children.
There is a reason for this.
Some people say it’s being pulled-off the nipple too early in life, which has many meanings, all of which I tend to agree with. Whether you weren’t fed on time, were ignored, abandoned, didn’t have your needs met in some form or another, it has affected you and created who you are today.
Founder of Rythmia, Gerard Powell says that these experiences make us split with our souls somewhere by the age of five or six years old. He too split from his soul and became an asshole (his words, not mine). Some people, as a result of this “neglect” or “soul splitting”, turn us into being angry impatient assholes, I was one of them.
When you feel abandoned, neglected or unimportant early on in your childhood, you strive for attention, recognition and worthiness. This creates a lot of problems because you are angry, your needs weren’t met, and you desire attention and become either a show-off, a bully, or a materialistic needy person to find and prove your worth. In order to meet those needs, the needs of others don’t matter to you — meet the asshole.
In order to fix myself I have done years of therapy. After realizing that wasn’t working, I turned to eastern philosophy and wisdom traditions such as yoga, tantra, meditation and mindfulness. That has helped tremendously, and I am no longer a “class-A” asshole. I do however, have some dust in the corner of my closet and I committed myself years ago to continue to relentlessly work-on to becoming the best version of myself, and therefore have fired myself from being President of the “A-hole” club.
This leads me to my Ayahuasca journey to Rythmia Life Advancement Centre in Costa Rica. This is where I came to dust my closet and find the piece of me I feel is missing. This is a place you go to profoundly change who you are, into the person who you want to be.
First off, Costa Rica is awesome, the locals are great and the natural beauty is breathtaking. Rythmia is located in the Guanacaste Province, an hour by car from Liberia airport. The resort is beautiful and although not on the ocean, it has a gorgeous pool and it shares the vast property of the JW Marriot which is located on the beach, so bathing in the Pacific Ocean isn’t far away. Rythmia is a safe, remote and peaceful setting.
Ayahuasca is not a vacation…its work.
The program at Rythmia isn’t for slackers. You have to lean-in and subject yourself to the unknown skeletons in your closet. The more effort you make to attain your goal and the more you let go of control, the more you get out of it. You have a lot of work to do, emotionally and physically. Classes and workshops, hydro-colon therapy treatments, messages, meditation, yoga and reflection time are a must to prepare you for the energy draining ceremonies. These side-duties all adds up to keeping you on the road to your awakening and coming out the other side a new you; the one you’ve been longing for, the person you were always meant to be.
How do I know this? Well, it goes like this: As I mentioned above, something happened to us early in life which caused us to lose a part of us, and that is our soul has split from us. Yes, your soul, and we only “merge” again with it when we die, unless of course you go find it before that.
At Rythmia, you go soul searching. You must walk right into the fire! You go in the fire and get your soul and bring it back into you. How? By drinking Ayahuasca, and going through the process of uncomfortably purging the darkness and pain of the past and opening up your subconscious mind and letting it be guided by the energies around and in us- by the intuition and wisdom of plant medicine.
The whole tradition of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon honouring plant medicine during ceremony is an incredibly spiritual experience. I was in such gratitude at every ceremony night of being able to experience this healing modality.
The Maloka, (the hall, including the yoga platform), had eighty mattresses spread out on the floor, each with a pillow, a blanket, and a bucket with roll of toilet paper at the foot of each bed. In the centre of the room against the wall was the alter where the shaman serves out his/her lovingly concocted brew, much like a Michelin Star chef meticulously creates his signature dish. This area is also where he sits with his tools: Wira- dried bamboo leaves from the banks of the Amazon river. These leaves are fastened together like a bouquet and thought to contain the wisdom of the river from the wind blowing it down the banks. The Wira is used like a fan to move and clear energies.
Chindu is a tonic of herbs, oil and water blended and to be administered by the shaman spraying it out from his mouth onto you. There are two types of Chindu: one is sour and used to clear energy, the other is sweet; to put good energy back in.
When the shaman sings, it is known as “Icaros”. Wikipedia describes it as “a South American indigenous colloquialism for magic or alchemy, or any esoteric modality by which an experienced user can channel their energy to manifest their will”.
The first night ceremony
…was extremely difficult and painful as I wretched into a bucket for hours. The shaman’s say that the negative experiences in your life are collected in your body and stay there until you take them out with Ayahuasca. Much like a garbage truck collects garbage, you suppress or allow these negative emotions to stay in your body. Enough of these energies can create a lot of dis-ease. The plant-medicine is there to “take out the garbage’. The idea behind Ayahuasca is to make you “purge” out those negative energies in one of many forms such as vomiting, diarrhea, yawning, scratching, sneezing. Yes, this is the hard part, but this is how it works. You need to break down those stored emotions so they rise to surface. Just like your body makes you throw-up excessive alcohol in order to protect itself from being poisoned, your body becomes ready to purge out the toxic emotions thanks to the healing powers of this plant-based medicine.
I hallucinated like crazy, seeing the most vividly beautiful visions of floating objects and mechanical devices that are too bizarre to explain that were moving and transforming into shape after shape in a flowing ebb. Under the shaman’s watchful eye, he saw I was purging continuously and came to my aide and sprayed me with Chindu and rubbed me down with Auga de Florida (concoction of herbs, water and oils). Seven hours and two shots of Ayahuasca and a bucket of vomit passed by, I was left exhausted emotionally and physically, but I felt lighter, less darkness — higher in vibration. I knew I was on my way to my healing.
I do think the reason I got so beat up on the first night was that I was meditating weeks before setting my intentions to go very deep into this experience and completely surrender and let Mother Ayahuasca do whatever she needed to do to me so I could get my answer. I opened the door wide for her to come in, but I actually opened the barn doors for her to drive a truck right through it, and right over me.
I call this surrender “walking into the fire”, and liken it to — “jumping into oncoming traffic”. Yup:)
The second night ceremony
…was a little more centred in the ancient tradition and the Ayahuasca was a different brew, slightly stronger which deepened my experience into the subconscious mind of fluttering images of people that were in my life that I had some trouble with, especially those I am distant from. I realized these were emotions I attached to them that didn’t serve me any longer that were boiling to the surface to be released.
I repeatedly saw a matrix of brilliantly colourful transforming rubix-cube-like boxes that continued to move within each other and rebirth continuously. I was tripping out and it reminded me of my earlier LSD days. I only vomited once this night, but yawned uncontrollably, purging the emotional negative energies that arose. By the second glass of medicine I started having visions of intricate geometric designs and moving machinery and cavernous tunnels that would close tight whenever I moved towards them. I was on a chase to find a path to the next level of the game that was playing out in my mind, but each time the vision would change forms and leave me falling into an continuous unfolding of tunnels and paths that changed directions and would never let me in.
The night ended with me learning that I needed to let go, stop resisting or trying to control the storyline, and instead of searching, I should have relaxed and let the paths and tunnels do their own thing and come to me instead. It was about surrendering and relaxing into it. That was my lesson to take forward to the next ceremony.
The third night ceremony
…was by far the most theatrical, intense and emotionally uncomfortable. The theme was the divine feminine and the shaman and her assistants were all women. They sang and chanted and played instruments all night as opposed to playing recorded music the previous two nights. The music on the previous nights was amazing and something I have never heard before. It was incredible. However, the live music accompanied with women singing added an element of emotional richness and mixed with the strongest medicine thus far, had the effect of trippy LSD hallucinations to the entire night. The energy was so intense that a few participants reacted wildly with “Linda Blair” outbursts that elevated the energies that were brewing in the Maloka. It was frightening to some people, but they were also resisiting the “what-isness” of the moment and refused to let-go.
This night I managed to drink almost three shots of Ayahuasca and inhaled through the nose two “Rappe” servings (ground ashes of tobacco and herbs) from the Tepi Pipe that are used to stimulate the pineal gland and the chakras.
I eventually managed to go outside and stand beneath the most magnificent stars I have ever seen in my life. The Guanacaste area of Costa Rica has no large cities so there is no reflective lights in the night sky, the air is pure and you can see deep into space. I admit that I was really high, even wasted at the time, but the stars really were so incredibly abundant and bright that I had no doubt that we are not alone in the universe.
The fourth night ceremony
…was the biggest, longest and best. This is the grand finale here at Rythmia. It starts at 7pm and goes to 10am, and what a show it is. Gerry brings in a shaman by the name of Mitra, a beautiful authentic loving soul that exudes a massive amount of love and kindness. He is accompanied with his crew of assistants who are talented singers and musicians as well. Mitra dresses as a traditional Peruvian shaman medicine man and sings and chats the ancient wisdom of the rich Ayahuasca songs.
I was the first to drink
…the brew that night, and soon after my first drink of Ayahuasca I was spinning in a tornado of emotions that bumped and grinded me from the inside out. I never vomited the whole night, or had diarrhea, I just churned inside in pain and nausea, and because of this I was nearing my emotional breaking point and the realization of who I had become in my life and what I didn’t like about myself.
This person isn’t the one I wanted to be anymore. I wanted to rid myself of the discomfort I have felt my whole life; the lack of my true divine self. Until this night I have been struggling to find a sense of wholeness, happiness and inner peace, I was now at the gate of finding out who I really am.
A most significant part of this night is the Blessings the shaman gives to you. He and his tribe dance and chant and spray you with Chindu and use the Wira to move the energies and thick smoke from the Kappal (tree resin) that is periodically permeated throughout the Maloka.
On each ceremony night I had the luxury of being across from the shamans and the Ayahuasca alter. This particular night I was very grateful for my short distance to him from my mattress. There were four blessings in total, each with around twenty people in them. People sat in a semi circle around Mitra. I couldn’t muster up the will to make it to any of the previous blessings because of my nausea, and finally I had to crawl from my mattress across the room to join the final blessing. I hadn’t broken through yet and got my “miracle” as Gerry called it, so this was my last chance to get it. It was “last-call”.
I sat there shirtless with my hand over my mouth to prevent myself from puking on the floor in front of me while Mitra and his tribe chanted, danced and played music. This rhythmic energy he was building started to awaken my soul, and soon I felt like a cobra swaying up straight from a basket on the floor. I couldn’t prevent this and I didn’t start this. I was in a trance for what may have been fifteen minutes and then all of a sudden the shaman stood in front of me and touched me, and it happened.
It was like a car turned on its headlights in my eyes, and my body snapped to attention and straightened. An angelic energy started pouring over my head and down my torso and then — BOOM! — there I was, looking right at my estranged brother who I haven’t seen in twelve years. His face was looking at me, his eyes in a blank stare, I just sat there stunned and not understanding why I was seeing him. That was until “I” stepped out beside him. The little boy “Me” when I was six or seven years old was now standing in front of me. We stared at each other, I was looking into the eyes of this young innocent boy, and all of a sudden it came to me why he was there, I just started to howl and sob uncontrollably, I couldn’t stop.
As I sat there in the semi-circle with tears rolling down my face and snot coming out from my nose as the dancing and blessings were going on, I was staring at this little boy whose heart was just broken; the point where the pain of being shunned was so great that it had divided me from my soul.
(As a kid, I was known for my anger and tantrums almost from birth, I’m not sure why, but that is another story I will uncover I’m sure. However, my only brother, my big brother, didn’t have the patience for my behaviour back then and throughout my young adult life to this very day, so he turned is back on me then and discarded me. My brother had been my hero my whole life, I looked up to him, he was very intelligent and a strong athlete who became a very successful man).
As a boy, and a teenager through to an adult, I never could get his attention or his affection. I can’t blame him for turning his back on me, I was a lot of trouble and always have been and he had his own life to create. Therapists used to ask me who’s love I wanted most, my mothers of fathers? I could never answer that. But, now I know the answer: it was my brothers love that I wanted most.
In the Meloka, shirtless in a semi-circle of people, bawling my eyes out, I called that beautiful boy by holding my arms open. He was soon in my arms and we were hugging and crying together. He looked at me with reassurance- like he was at peace, and as I looked at him I promised never to let him go, to always respect and regard him, to forever protect him and love him always. We stayed in an embrace for what seemed like hours. I was crying in bliss as we were both engulfed in light, I felt my heart soften, open wide as it filled, I felt alive and happy like never before. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel pain or emptiness there, just shear complete joy and love.
The ceremony had stopped at some point, and although I never once opened my eyes throughout it, I managed to crawl to my mattress where I sobbed for another hour in pure love, happiness and gratitude that I found myself, found my soul.
I found myself — I now loved myself — I found my soul, — I found my miracle.
My life is forever changed.