Accidental Near-Suicide on Ayahuasca: A True Story
As my body sank into paralysis, I was unable to call for help. My mouth ran dry as my heart strained to beat at progressively slower cadences. I started to cry internally as I realized that I made a grave error. The cause of this medical emergency was unknown, so my mind raced through the chronology of my previous days. I was searching for the reason for why I was about to die. When you lie on the floor wondering if you are beginning a fatal overdose, the only thing you have is fear.
Eventually, I stopped fighting and let go. I surrendered to fate and settled into a comfortable peace. I started to find the feelings fascinating. The dry and sticky throat, the deep sense of stillness that permeated every cell of my body filled my entire mind. The instinct to cling to life subsided as I drew my last breath. I felt my heart take its last beat, and then things got real……
This Too Shall Pass
It has only been a week since that night, and I don’t believe I am the same person. Once a spasmodic ADHD-soaked mess, I now feel a deep sense of calm and stillness. I realize that life is temporary, and what was once impending doom is now a beautiful adventure. This realization that the bad, the good, the ugly, and the fascinating are all going to end has been conquering many fears that previously took control of my life.
The cause of this radical experience was not a bad party choice; I was not an addict, nor did I do something stupid. I decided that to embark on an experience that has been taking the personal growth world by storm. Ayahuasca, as it is called, is a plant medicine that is regularly compared to doing 10 years of therapy in a single night. This steroid for self-awareness brings you to a stark realization that you are acting from a place of dishonesty every day. There are lies you tell yourself, big and small, that drive your behavior.
Before my Anti-Drug friends decide I am batshit crazy and decided to just go take some fun time adventure drug, let me explain a few things. First, Ayahuasca is a thousands year old plant based medicine that combines plants that contain DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and a MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) in a tea. This tea is used by a shaman or healer to facilitate a serious self-correction in the behavioral programming of a person.
Now, DMT is the molecule that is secreted by the pineal gland when you dream and when you die. It is the most powerful hallucinogenic that the world of science has yet to find. If you were to take any other hallucinogenic, you could say that it augmented your reality. You still can see the walls and door, but experiences and visuals are added to the room with you. With DMT, you are transported into a completely different universe; you are in virtual reality.
Some say DMT opens the floodgates to your inner self and cuts away all of the bullshit that we tell ourselves. We quickly realize where we hurt people, what justifications we use to allow ourselves to fuck up, and what flaws we truly have. The interesting part is that it is not some outside authority that drives these messages, it comes from somewhere else. Take a look at the video below to get an idea of what I am talking about.
Discovering Spiritual Steroids
I first heard of Ayahuasca from Dave Asprey of BulletproofExecutive.com on a podcast a couple years ago. As I continued in my podcast consuming journey, I started hearing it crop up among other elite thinkers like Tim Ferris, the guys on London Real, and even from Joe Rogan. It seemed like this was the experience to have if you wanted to supercharge your performance. I was hooked.
It took me a couple years to find, but once I got a line on some Ayahuasca, I was all in. I remember feeling like I was about to go on my first roller coaster when I arrived at the ceremonial area. It was around sunset, and as I was about to walk in I noticed a double rainbow in full glory behind me. A sign? Who knows, but it was pretty cool. I introduced myself to a couple of people and the two shamans that were setting up, and everyone seemed very friendly. I could smell the eucalyptus-infused mist that was hanging in the air like the fog equivalent of a cough drop. It started to settle my nerves as I prepared my mind for the journey I was about to embark on.
The Beginning of The End
About 40 people came to drink from the cup of dreams that night, and the setting of the ceremony was something out of a fantasy novel. Imagine something like a large yoga studio, and in the middle sat a table with a floral arrangement. Surrounding the floral arrangement sat candles that shone brightly, illuminating the underside of the flowers. Encompassing the center table was an inner circle created by the chairs of the leaders and shaman and their guitars and drums. I assume there would be music, but I did not think there would be a such a variety of instruments at the facilitators disposal. Continuing away from the Inner Circle there were concentric elliptical rows where each of us set our cushions, mats, blankets, and puke buckets.
One interesting note is that half of the room was divided between the female and male. The idea behind all of this was that we are the feminine the masculine, the yin and the yang, and brothers and sisters in spirit. This separation was intriguing, but I thought it may be slightly antiquated.
After everyone had arrived the Shamanista (my made up word for the female shaman) gave the introductory speech. She carefully explained that this experience was not a drug trip, party time, or some experience that allows you to enjoy pretty colors. This was about doing deep work. This is about diving deep into yourself and fulfilling an intention.
This was not an easy task. The experience that we were about to embark on was going to drive us into a new plane of existence, and we were supposed to stay aware and present for the entire adventure. This means that we were supposed to sit up and not allow ourselves to drift away to look at the pretty fractal geometry. We were instructed to hold an intention in our minds for what we wanted to get out of this experience. This Intention could be thought of as a desire that you brought to the table as the original motivation for drinking this medicine.
Now, because Ayahuasca contains a MAOI, you have to be careful with what drugs and foods you put in your body. Additionally, because you are embarking on a shamanistic ceremony (not to be confused with the fun kind of hallucinations you experience on mushrooms or LSD), you want to prepare the mind and body for the intense experience. I did not smoke weed, have sex (no ejaculation), or eat anything particularly dirty for a couple weeks prior as I started to get introspective. It was a tough month.
I also stopped taking Adderall three days prior (I wish it was longer) to my experience because I couldn’t do my work without it. The issue I had is that Amphetamines have a strong interaction with MAOI’s and could potentially lead to an ER trip if combined. Fortunately, Adderall doesn’t take long to leave the system, so I was confident I was in good shape.
Bumping Lines of Tobacco
After this fiery introduction, we partook in a first medicine that was called Rapé. Rapé is a finely powdered tobacco that was loaded into a ceremonial straw. This was then aimed into our nostrils and blown into our sinus cavities.
The Rapé driving into my brain felt like a punch in the face.The purpose of this medicine was said to activate the third eye. The side effect I found interesting was that all of your mucus drained over the course the next five minutes as the drug took effect, and you were supposed to spit the grotesque snot into your issued puke bucket.
After we took Rapé, we sat down in a meditation posture at our mats and listened to the music the shaman began to play. As I was sitting there the burning nostril, I noticed the comic strangeness of seeing a large group of individuals spitting brownish mucus into buckets while seated in concentric circles around shaman. To some people, this would be absurd.
As it turns out, the word absurd popped up frequently as the theme to my evening.
Absurdity Started as Clarity: The First Glass
The next step was taking the first glass of Ayahuasca. Everyone started lining up with a shaman in the middle of the room. Holding a communal double shot of Ayahuasca, they alternated giving a woman a drink, then a man, then a woman, and so forth. The Ayahuasca itself was reminiscent of Pu Erh tea which is similar to drinking dirt. It wasn’t that bad, but it’s not something I would drink at a bar without the benefit of having a high-power hallucinogen buried in its liquid.
I walked back to my seat with the feeling of excitement permeating my already butterfly-filled stomach. I then sat down in a meditation posture and listened to the music. As the minutes passed, I started to feel a small tingling in my fingertips. I then began to feel the come up of something similar to magic mushrooms combined with MDMA. It was a slow rise into transcendence, and it was fearless. The music was pulled from many different religions and spiritual practices, which was amazing because the plurality of truths many religions discovered were combined into something that could really penetrate most lives.
I felt like the understanding of love and of objective truth became clearer as I drifted through time. The instruction to stay present, the instruction to not let the medicine take you away on a fractal geometry show echoed in my mind. The reminded point was to focus on what you wanted so you could get deep into your spirit, thus figuring out what your consciousness is struggling with. The instruction was to focus on the flowers in the center of the room and breathe. This is exactly what I did.
Mindfulness was easy. There was nothing else except for me. I started to feel every cell of my body, every nerve ending, and every emotion in stark clarity. This was like when I used to live with dial-up Internet. All information came slow. In this state, the information I was processing felt like the first time I used a High-Speed internet connection. The deluge was incredible, but the clarity was perfect.
Holy Shitballs Batman! I Ain’t in Gotham Anymore…
The Top of The Roller Coaster
At first, the Ayahuasca did not seem very intense. It was just a gentle come up to bodily sensations that were very reminiscent of LSD or mushrooms, but then the announcement was made for the second class to be taken. Upon receiving that second glass, everything started to become much more extreme.
I sat back down in my seat, and as the lights began to dim I started to feel medicine take hold. The first thing is that I noticed was that room around me drifted into shadow as I glared at the floral arrangement. It was like the entire universe was engulfed in shadow except for the flowers. They became a color-changing array of petals gracefully turning from color to color in a cycle that is very hard to describe. In what lasted for only a few seconds, I started to experience why this drug has such respect in the Amazonian culture.
The bodily sensations drove through me like waves of the ocean. I felt like I was standing in the harbor as the tide was coming in. First was a small Bodily sensation of vibration. The next wave was a little stronger. The wave after that was intense, almost knocking me to the floor. Then the wave would subside a little bit before the next one, but like a stock, the trend of intensity grew as time passed.
As the peak of the evening came, the more experienced of the group worked to support everyone by reminding us to sit up. They encouraged us to do the work instead of allowing the drug to overpower us. It was a beautiful sight of support and accountability.
Soon after, the waves became so intense that I couldn’t sit up any longer. I fell backward like there was an 8,000-ton weight was crushing my body, or like I was Superman sitting next to a bucket of kryptonite. I lost all of my strength.
Game of Thrones in 3D
As I was splayed out on the floor, I noticed outside the window that we were adjacent to a large brick building. I started to wonder about why it was that I wanted to build something ambitious. I really want to create something that stands the test of time. I want to create a legacy with my ambition. Then, I started thinking that ambition was absurd. I started wondering why it is that our species has put so much value on organizing rocks. Shiny metal rocks, baked clay rocks, rocks we melt into glass, and the other things that we have gathered around our world that are used create buildings, which we hold more valuable than almost anything.
As the waves grew progressively intense, I went to blink my eyes, and when I opened them I found that I was no longer in the room. I seemed to be in an ancient desert land that reminded me of Israel from the History Channel. I could look down and see my feet resting in the sand. I could feel the wind blowing dust and warmth against my skin. As I was exploring what was in front of me, I noticed that there was a man dressed in Arabian garb building a wall about fifty feet from where I was.
He was stacking stones to build a wall. The wall wasn’t big or impressive, nor was it grand or artistic; it was a plain-ass wall. As I sat there wondering how the hell I got to the Middle East to watch a man build a wall, I saw a small horde of bandits approaching from afar. It wasn’t a large group. I saw maybe twenty or thirty men on horseback. They aggressively postured to the builder and declared that they were taking his wall. The builder, with defiance in his voice, exclaimed that this was his wall and that they had no right to it.
At the sound of that, one of the horseback horde stabbed the builder with a spear, driving it from the top of his trapezius through his chest cavity. I saw this builder fall to the ground and watched him bleed out in front of me.
I was shocked. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I didn’t know why the horde couldn’t have just asked to join the building project, thus making a better wall. I didn’t know why the builder would not acquiesce when faced with spears and swords. I didn’t know why the builder didn’t just invite the horde to join his quest. There was no reason for that death to have happened.
I blinked again and I was back in the ceremonial area lying down. A small sadness permeated my soul from that experience in the ancient desert. My mind started racing with contemplations about the absurdity of the story. As I looked back at that large brick building, I realized that there’s no difference between then and now. We still build things out of rocks, we still ascribe meaning to the buildings, and we still kill each other over the giant stacks of earthen resources organized in a certain way.
I started wondering about how I would have felt to be one of the soldiers in that horde. What if I had a view that differentiated from the leader? What if I thought that we should work together? I don’t know, but it seemed absurd to force a human to kill someone for a trivial stack of rocks.
Pain Ain’t So Bad After All
The feelings subsided for a moment, so I sat back up in meditation posture to focus again on the flowers. As I sat cross-legged in a room full of individuals having their own revelations, I started listening to what was behind the music. I listened to the cacophony of puking individuals around me. I remembered reading that Ayahuasca involved a large amount of nausea and diarrhea, but it seemed silly to me. Then it seemed sad that 40 people were throwing up in a similar fashion.
I started thinking to myself, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry that you had to experience such nausea”. Very soon after that thought, I corrected myself. I realized that all good things in this world come from pain and suffering. Having a child requires immense pain, building your body requires immense pain, building a business requires immense pain; everything great requires effort and suffering. I began feeling happy for the individuals throwing up because they were having an experience that was building them into a better version of themselves. Compassion turned to appreciation.
At that point, I started getting nauseous myself. The urge to vomit drove me to my feet and out the door to the bathroom. I took my empty water bottle with the intention to fill it, but unfortunately, the digital display looked like Klingon writing. After what seemed like five perplexed minutes, a white knight arrived and helped me fill my jug.
Eventually, I completed the journey to the toilet, and commenced the purge. The experience of vomiting while on Ayahuasca was quite interesting. It looked like I was throwing up purple sparkly magic dust, It’s very hard to describe. It was disappearing and reappearing inside of the water as my stomach was violently spasming. Eventually, the nausea subsided, and I was left empty while leaning on the toilet.
At this point, the word absurd came rushing back into my mind. I started wondering why we had different bathrooms for men women. The stalls inside of a bathroom are generally little rooms inside of a larger room anyhow, so why is it that if we have bathroom stalls we don’t have gender-inclusive bathrooms? The absurdity of Western culture to apply separatism in so many things dawned on me. Absurdity is an individual’s fear of seeing something as benign as the ankles belonging to a member of the opposite sex.
Get ’em Coach!
I finally resolved to get back to my seat, and as I crept into the hallway, I heard yelling. The owner of the building was literally screaming at the entire ceremony. The man who owned this place was a very experienced football coach, and as I came to hear the specifics of the fiery words, it turned out to be a pep talk. We’ve all seen the military or sports-oriented pep talks in movies, and this was very similar. The passion the voice can have which comes across as a pre-war ritual was gorgeous to my ears. Everyone was asleep, and Coach Carter was in the room.
“This is your time to wake up! This is your time to do the work! This is not nap time! This is not a place for you to take a rest!” he blasted from the depths of his being, “I did not build this place of my blood sweat and tears just so you could take a rest while tripping on a drug! Get up! Get up right now! DO YOUR WORK!”
These words rang in my mind as they hung in the room. I could tell although some people were intimidated by the aggressive-sounding speech, the same amount of people found it invigorating.
This was our time to sit up.
This was our time to stand up.
This was our time to dive deep inside and DO OUR WORK!
Everyone knew it was hard, and some of us needed a coach. Some of us needed an individual to come beside us and say in a strong voice, “I’m here for you, and I will help you stand. You can have some of my strength until you find your own.”
That invigorating speech entered my heart as I slowly, and I mean slowly, walked back to my seat. I sat back down as the Ayahuasca was hitting its peak. As the music was playing, I struggled to stand upright asking…
why am I here? Why am I here?
Again, a force drove me to the floor, as if I was sitting next to kryptonite.
I Fucked Up, Big Time…
As I was laying on the floor, this time was a little different. This was not like any drug I’ve ever taken before, and I was scared I may have taken a little bit too much. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to tap out. Unfortunately, (or maybe, fortunately), there was no tapping out; there was no escape. I started to feel like I couldn’t move at all, and I wanted to ask someone for help. When I opened my mouth to speak, nothing came out.
This is when I began to panic. My mind started racing with all the things that I took and did in the last couple of days. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and why it was that I couldn’t move. This medicine wasn’t supposed to do that. My mind grasped nothing, and the fear continued to rise.
I started to feel like I was dying. I felt like I may have overdosed, or accidentally had a drug interaction. Eventually, as I said in the first paragraph of this story, I decided to let go. I let myself die, and with that decision, I finally felt some peace.
After a few moments of relaxation in what I thought was my deathbed, I saw a small white light far off in the distance. I felt like I was floating towards that star while a feeling a sense of utter contentment start come forth from my soul. As I started to get closer to this white light, I started having visions of all my loved ones. I saw my friends, mother, father, sisters, my old dog Elliot, past lovers, and everyone that I felt love for entering my consciousness. As that happened, I felt the most amazing bliss that I’ve ever experienced in my life. The sense of happiness and peace was indescribable. I was totally okay with passing away. The feeling was out of this world.
Just as I was reaching that white light, I blinked, and like the earlier blink, I was thrust back into my body. I opened my eyes, took a deep breath, and said to myself, “I guess I’m not dead. Well, that’s a relief…” and I sat up to re-engage the flowers and my breath.
Sweet, I’m Not Dead! I’m Now Mexican?
Now, something weird started to happen after that. I started seeing a strange-colored light coming from behind my shoulders to fill the room in front of me. I turned around to locate the reason for this light. I failed. The light source appeared to be behind me no matter where I was looking. I finally realized that I was most likely the source, so I looked down at my body. When I did, I was shocked…
I was no longer human. Strangely, I was a skeleton that wasn’t even made of human materials. It looked like I was made of light itself, or maybe glass, or some other material that I was unaware of. I was patterned like a Dia De Los Muertos skull but as an entire skeleton. Fractal geometry and light came from my body and lit up the room. Maybe it was my soul? I have no idea. This is something that I haven’t necessarily figured out yet, but I’ll tell you what, it was beautiful. I was beautiful.
Eventually, the peak came down, and I was spent. The shaman then announced that it was break time and that we can all lay on the floor to do what we needed to become whole again. I just laid down, melted into the floor, and listened to the beautiful music for what seemed like hours.
The End of The Night: A New Life
There was a third drinking of Ayahuasca that night, but I chose to not embark upon another level of that journey. I decided to drink just a tiny little bit and gracefully came down from my venture into the soul.
After the break, the shamanista stood up and started to dance. In the beginning, the shamanista told us that in the early morning, when we wanted to lay down and die, was the time to get up and blast through the roof. She started the fire of dance, and all of us followed her moving glory. Strangely, even though the environment was turning into a spiritual rave, the boys and girls remained separated. For hours so we danced and enjoyed each other’s spirit. We took an adventure together, and we are forever connected from that night.
Nearing the end of the ceremony, we were allowed to share a piece of music, a song, a speech, or a poem that was in our hearts. I brought my guitar and decided to play. I always feel afraid to share my music or sing my songs. I never feel like my music is good enough for someone else to enjoy on its own, and that time was no different.
Fortunately, by the end of my song, I realized that everyone truly enjoyed the spirit in which I played. I was invited to do it again, and I improvised a song about our journey. I was invited to play music with the shaman for the rest of the morning, and I danced into a deep connection with a drummer I was accompanying. We danced till the rest of our energy was gone, and then broke out into the world.
It’s coming up on two weeks from that journey, and the visions that I had are still unfolding in my mind. The meanings of everything that I saw and experienced have had a profound impact on the inner workings of my psyche. A new sense of calm and fearlessness has been rising up from the deep within. I discovered that there’s something more to us, there’s something more than just being human. I don’t believe that we are just complex machines trying to ascribe meaning to the meaningless. I question reality as we know it, and everyone should. Someone who holds their belief as the unquestionable truth is dangerous. Someone who does not understand that all of us are wrong at some level is a person who will stop progress. I used to be like that, but hopefully no longer.
As Ayahuasca permeates my everyday living, I realize that the struggle to survive is one of the things that kept me from succeeding. Like a man trying to swim up current or fight a rip tide, all I was doing was wasting my energy. With calm vulnerability, I’m embarking on a new chapter of my life. A chapter that’s hopefully free from fear. Not being rid of fear, only being free.