What Mama Aya Taught Me

I was so scared at first, I felt all the pain that I ever felt in my entire life concentrated in my chest and all I could do was cry. There were two older men lying on either side of me; one was throwing up and the other was groaning and breathing heavily. This darkened my experience at first.

As I was coming up on the medicine my eyes were closed and I was drifting off to sleep (or maybe I was already sleeping?) but I got woken up by intensely vivid fractals that appeared to be flickering, slowly creeping up out of the corner of my vision like a dark, heavy spirit was introducing itself to me. It was an ominous presence, like a storm was brewing from within me (there was also an actual storm happening outside). I sat up but felt too heavy so I laid back down on my mat. I couldn’t get comfortable, I couldn’t stop crying, and finally I resolved to get out of there.

I walked around the house for a little bit and went to one of the facilitators meditating at the alter. With tears in my eyes I told him, “I’m scared.” He took my hands in his and we meditated. He then put his hand on my chest and began talking to my fear. I couldn’t hear him because he was whispering, but then he told me to pinpoint the core of the fear in my chest and to breathe out from there. He said there was a powerful storm that I had to work through, and to imagine myself as a strong warrior. “I feel safe with you,” I told him, and we fist bumped.

I walked all around the house, back and forth, when it would get too intense I’d lean against the wall or sit down, but I needed to be alone to walk and explore. At one point I went to the bathroom and peed and vomited but not as much as I thought I would.

I continued to wander, and found a fireplace in the kitchen. I pulled up a chair and sat down next to it; watching the fire helped to ground me. I wondered why I always feel so alone even though I have so many friends, why I desperately seek human contact but retreat from it when I receive it. I asked the medicine but she was silent. I asked her if I would be alone forever, if I would ever find someone who I could — she interrupted, “you will,” she reassured me. “You just have to accept people for who they are, and not force them to be who you want them to be. You feel disappointed in people because you don’t accept them for who they are. You have expectations for their roles in your life and get hurt when they don’t fulfill them. You’re the one hurting yourself, not them.”

I started to contemplate a life without people. Nature is a constant that has never let me down; it’s a calming and comforting force. What if I lived a life without people and just lived alone in nature? Tears started to stream down my face. Another participant came to sit next to me and put his hand on my knee. The human contact felt powerful and comforting, and I knew in that moment that I could never live a life without people. We sat there in front of the fire, I was still crying silently. He looked in my tear filled eyes, put his hand on my back, and I felt his energy. In that moment it was everything I needed. He walked off and I turned back to the fire. “You’ll be okay,” the medicine told me.

I walked around the house some more and felt a renewed energy within myself. The medicine started to take a different turn, a more positive one. I found myself smiling and wanting to dance. I sat down at my mat. A woman came and put her hand on my shoulder. She saw that I was scared earlier and asked if I wanted to lie down with her. I appreciated it but wasn’t ready for that amount of human contact. I told her I was okay, and thanked her.

Another girl came and sat next to me. “This is your first time, right?” I nodded. “What brought you to the medicine?” My mind blanked. I just stared at her, and finally said, “sorry I’m having a hard time speaking right now.” She understood, and squeezed my hand. It was nice.

I continued to walk and noticed some movement near the entryway of the house. The main facilitator rushed out the front door and I could hear loud hip hop music blasting out in front of the house. Two other participants stood at the open door with me, staring out into the night, wondering what was going on. I couldn’t help but start dancing and moving to the music. It stopped, and the facilitator came back inside with a rogue participant. He just wanted to listen to music in his car at full blast.

I walked upstairs to go to the bathroom again and looked at myself in the mirror, “you’re gonna be okay.” I told myself. “You’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay.” I realized that it wasn’t the medicine dropping wisdom on me throughout the night, it was me. I have the answers within me, I had them all along. The medicine helped me understand that.

I walked out and did some sun salutations (yoga movements) in the upstairs corridor. I found a spot that overlooked the ceremony. I watched as the others interacted with one another and moved about the sacred space below. I turned and saw the guy I carpooled with standing next to me. “How are you doing,” he asked. I smiled and nodded my head, “pretty good” was all I could muster but he understood what I really meant. The others down below started laughing, and we couldn’t help but chuckle too. A participant who was disturbed by the laughter shushed us all, and it became quiet again.

I walked back down to where the others were and sat down in front of the alter where the facilitators had each of us drink the medicine at the start of the ceremony. There were crystals placed at the center. Others sat with me but we were all silent, absorbing the calming energy that the alter and crystals exuded. The woman who reached out to me earlier was lying next to me. “Don’t forget to breathe,” she reminded me. I took a few deep breaths.

“The storm is very powerful,” she told me. I nodded. “I’m glad you conquered your fear.”

I looked in her eyes and knew she meant it. I smiled, and managed to say, “me too.”

I’m not my own worst critic, I’m my own worst bully. But I’m also stronger than I give myself credit for. I fell in love with myself that night, and the medicine helped me do that. I’ve never felt a stronger connection to nature and the people around me. Thank you, Mama Aya, for everything you showed me.