I have been hesitant to publish any writing since I arrived back home from Peru 12 days ago. To be honest, I have been fragile, like a pregnant hormonal mother, fluctuating from despondent sadness to being overcome with gratitude and love. I have cried more and given more hugs in those 2 weeks in Peru, than I have in my entire life. I am eternally grateful to have been shown what I was shown in 4 ayahuasca ceremonies, 3 Huachuma ceremonies and one Vilca ceremony (a snuff containing Dimethyl-Tryptamine-DMT “The Spirit Molecule”) over the course of 15 days.
Since being back, I have struggled to give context to the substance and content of my experiences. How does one explain making contact with a divine force, the source of all creation? A source with an infinite power of love that I felt be extracted from my heart. The source I refer to felt like “home” and it was vaguely familiar; as if my human brain was engineered or evolutionarily predisposed to the experience. How does one explain this to the people without being looked at like I am some bible thumping Born-Again Christian or like I am a hippie burnout?
In the last week of being back in New York, I have had conversations with family, close friends, not so close friends, and extended family members about my experiences. I give people a trigger warning sometimes now, I say, Just be warned, if you don’t stop me, I will keep talking for 5 hours about Ayahuasca and how life-alteringly profound it is, and its explosive potential for healing. I’m going to start using words that I don’t normally use like “love’ and “light in your heart” and “truest expression of your heart energy” and I know it sounds weird coming out of my mouth and I think it does too, but its all true and I believe it with every fiber of my being. OK? Cool. As the person gives me a slightly “Pete is brainwashed now”- look.
I’m sitting here in my hotel room in Montauk. It is a rainy afternoon. The wedding mass just finished and I am waiting another hour for the reception to begin. I am thankful the wedding vow ceremony lasted exactly 34 minutes, to spare us more of the institutional expressions of sentiment and verbatim repetitions of promises not unlike a soldier in boot camp parroting the words of a maniacal drill sergeant. It sounded more like indoctrination or initiation into a cult than “true love”. Well, I’m still a cynical bastard, that hasn’t changed, or maybe I am just allergic to the group-think that many religious institutions engender.
This weekend was a family affair so it has been all-family all-the-time for the past 48 hours. I was reaching a breaking point after being in close quarters with my siblings and parents for a full day when I asked my brother-in-law to have a walk down to the beach in the afternoon. The waves crashed and the wind howled, it was an overcast day with a timid sun, only peaking through the clouds every few hours. I abruptly unleashed a load of repressed sentiments that I had been holding in for years to John, as he listened, appearing slightly blindsided. In the ensuing discussion, I learned that my brother-in-law John may have been much less of a culprit than I had previously pegged him for. Although I insisted that he still had feelings of repressed anger regarding his family situation, he made the case to me that he has moved passed it and achieved something like acceptance and peace with it.
When I listened to John, I came to understand that all his ribbing and brash sense of humor were not nearly as malicious as my warped mind has been interpreting them. I wanted to believe for so long that he was wounded and that is why he created this wall of defensiveness and sarcasm, but the answer was more simple. I am an over-thinker and over-analyzer of epic proportions and my paranoia and blind spots have led me to try to psychoanalyze and preach to every one else when this was a mere deflection of my own fears and avoidance of my own hurt and pain.
With regard to the integration of my ayahuasca experience, every day is different, when I have quiet time and I can plug back in to a meditation practice, there are moments of overwhelming gratitude where I get a tiny glimpse of tuning in to the energy of life. When I was in Peru, on the off (non-ceremony days), I would listen to this song called Illuminar by Porangui and the tears would well up and I would cry. I cried to the very fullest expression of crying, with wails and sighs and snot coming out of my nose and swollen red eyes like I haven’t cried since childhood. I cried just as hard in the sharing circle, at least half of the group of 18 had a good cry in the sharing circles that occurred the morning after each ceremony.
The week of Ayahuasca experiences was ragged and exhaustive catharsis. It was an excavation of the soul, not to mention a physical excavation of my stomach and many other organs. I threw up alien looking fungus that had no doubt been caked up on my intestines, and stomach for years. I wretched until nothing would come out and I wouldn’t leave the toilet until 4 or 5 am some nights, collapsing into bed feeling like I had just run a marathon or fought a battle, with every last ounce of energy sapped from my body, unable to even swallow a tiny gulp of water. Ayahuasca worked its way into every last corner and crevasse of my being. I was releasing things I have been holding onto since childhood.
The fits of crying were a release of anger, sadness, gratitude, acknowledgement of the sheer ecstasy and miracle of being alive at this very moment. Above all, they were tears of liberation; liberation from the person who has been my own worst enemy for my entire life: myself. I realized how abusive and cruel I am to myself. I recounted all the opportunities throughout my life that I have shied away from. I felt empathy for humanity, and that empathy started with realizing that I need to heal myself before I can be of any use to anyone else. What a shame it is to hide or be timid with the love in your heart. I realized that sharing your love, expressing your truest passion and serving others is a necessity for all of us, it as necessary as the air we breathe or the food we eat.
I am now sitting here on the beach on a Sunday morning watching the waves crash in Montauk. I’m tearing up just thinking of the people that were on the retreat with me. I never imagined that 18 strangers could bond in the way we did. The people on that retreat will never know how much they helped me, inspired me, carried me through those 8 days and 4 ceremonies. Taking Ayahuasca is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, when the week was over I was thanking God, Mother Ayahuasca, the universe, whoever the hell it is, that it was over. I was completely humbled and brought to my knees. Ayahuasca will kick your ass and hold you accountable for every thing you have ever done in your life. No matter who you are or how virtuous or enlightened you think you are, you will learn to surrender to Ayahuasca.
After you drink the first or second time, you will realize that drinking Ayahuasca can be like going into battle, and encountering divine forces that are light -years beyond what our simple human brains can comprehend. Put simply, its terrifying, literally gut-wrenching, the scariest experience of my life, it works throughout your body as the “doctorcitas” (little doctors, work their way through every vein in your body, healing you from the inside out). Its like strapping yourself to a rocket that you have no clue what realm or universe you will end up in. Ayahuasca can also be pure divine connection and the most spiritual experience of your life, but that will depend on the amount of emotional trauma that you are carrying and that needs to be purged (vomited) and released. Whatever you think you have or don’t have in terms of pain and sadness, Ayahuasca will reveal the true reality of things and for me, it was earth-shattering.
It is almost hard to comprehend the depth of my self-deception for the entirety of my life. I was buried so deep in the various mechanisms I have used to repress sadness that I never realized how numb I have been for so long. Before going to Peru, I thought that I had reached some level of happiness, some level of coping with my pain and feelings of worthlessness. Ayahuasca shattered whatever limited conceptions I had of what my potential level of contentment could be. Meanwhile I was just maintaining. I was putting on a happy face and ignoring the pain inside. I feel as if a blanket of dark clouds have been lifted off my soul. The things Ayahuasca showed me when I had my breakthroughs in the 3rd and 4th ceremonies, made the hell and terror of the first 2 ceremonies worth it, and that much more gratifying. If it wasn’t hard than it wouldn’t be so fucking miraculous. I came through it and after the end of the fourth ceremony I felt like I stared down my deepest, darkest demons and emerged, battered, dazed, nauseous, shaken to my very core, but victorious, and infused with love, humility and a whopping dose of empathy.
Regarding specifically the insights I received as it pertains to this blog and my aspirations as a writer, it gave me plenty to contemplate. In ceremony and following the ceremony it occurred to me that what the fuck am I doing with this blog? Writing impromptu rants and unedited, sloppy re-tellings of dates with girls. What purpose is it serving and where is the energy I expend writing this blog, going? Is it passive entertainment for people that are bored at work and need a distraction? Is it helping people connect and improve themselves? Is it helping someone who is depressed and anxious like I am?
This plant medicine experience ignited a fire in my heart that I doubt will ever go out, it is something that will carry me to the other side (death), when I return to “the source”. The medicine (specifically the second week with the plant medicine Huachuma) awakened a warrior spirit in me that I feel has been dormant my whole life.
It is extremely difficult feeling like a massive amount of information has been downloaded to my mind and now I am tasked with sifting through all of these divine messages and complex wisdom about my soul, my behavior, my identity. Ayahuasca just turned everything up side down and chucked it into a massive sloppy pile, and what sits in that pile, is my life, my aspirations, my values. I am now tasked with picking up the pieces of what was once my former reality.
I feel as if my intuition and sensitivity to both negative and positive energy from people has been enhanced. I feel like I now have magnified detectors in my brain for people carrying negative or toxic energies. This has been jarring in a way, because I am recognizing with this hyper-tuned, telepathic type reflex, that most of the people in my life have some degree of pain or toxicity manifesting in their life in myriad ways, running the spectrum from diabolically cynical and complete ignorance-is-bliss greed, to simple sadness that I smack myself for not being able to see in friends and family before.
I realize after being back one week that most people have absolutely no desire to re-examine anything in their life and that is hard to deal with, to feel like I have discovered this secret treasure of the universe and no one gives a shit. I want to talk about it but most people in the Western, developed world, don’t care. They observe me and feign interest about my trip, but don’t ever envision any type of drastic action like this and that pains me.
When I think about my immediate family members and the benefits and massive amount of potential healing Ayahuasca could bring them. I think my dad would take an extremely long time to integrate the experience because it is essentially a death of your old self and you need to do the work to resurrect that new self out of the ashes. Ayahuasca does not do all the work for you. My dad has such heavily fortified walls of defense and some of the most deeply embedded mechanisms of self-deception that I could see it being one of the most cathartic weeks of his life, possibly 100 times more profound than my experience because his repression has been happening for 40 more years than mine has.
It is a scary thing to let go of everything you hold dear as cultural ideals, even if those ideals and conceptions are serving to keep you imprisoned and trapped. What I am slowly learning is that I used to LOVE that prison and I almost miss it now. I’m not completely liberated or healed, but to recognize that I have been imprisoning myself at all is a huge step in the right direction. It is odd to see this new me who at times is bouncing off the walls with inspiration and to have to reconcile it with my old self who was repressed and surrounded myself with others who were negative and self-limiting.
To see myself as someone who can help guide others out of depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, is a massive injection of hope into my life. Every day I am beginning to sense a tiny window into what my higher purpose is, in subtle ways. I am beginning to see avenues and potential ways to serve and be of use to others. I know what its like, because I lived it: depression, loneliness, social isolation, social anxiety, and I am armed with this unique makeup to serve others struggling. These issues are close to my heart and I’m feeling a passion and energy in me come out that I have never allowed myself to have, previously being this self-regulated, masochistic automaton my whole life.
Let me be clear about something: Ayahuasca is NOT a magic potion or instant healer and anyone who claims it is, is full of shit. It SHOWS you things about yourself, and it will be up to you to take a few months to a few years to digest and process the lessons and start doing the work and getting out of your comfort zone to GROW. At the wedding this weekend I still had a whole bunch of borderline awkward or strained conversations in the game of mingling that I always struggle at. Mostly it was just hard to be back in the mundane bullshit of small talk after an experience that profound in the Amazon. I still felt that reflex of feeling like a dumb schlub, but I realized that cocktail parties and bars aren’t real life.
This weekend, I actually had the thought Go easy on yourself Pete, (a near blasphemous statement to the vicious dictator in my mind that punishes me for every misstep). In between cocktail hour conversations, I bounced from group to group, all the while hating the charade of just having to appear to be next to someone, just so I didn’t look like a loner. I wouldn’t have minded sitting alone and resting on the couch for 20 minutes to recharge my batteries. Also, it occurred to me that people that drink excessive amounts of alcohol are harboring some kind of emotional poison in themselves and they need care and love more than most do. So I need to get off my high horse and stop looking down my nose at people who drink and like to get drunk every once in a while.
l think during the Ayahuasca ceremonies, I got a tiny glimpse of what it is like to be liberated from my pesky ego and my attachment to it, if only for a short span of time. The issue for me now is that it is completely odd and disorienting to see that I hold the answer, that I no longer have anyone to blame. It is a revelation to discover your consciousness, and your ego are two completely separate entities. That when you tune into your consciousness and your innate connection to earth and all living things that we are holding the power of a thousand suns in our hearts. Ego is the whiny child at the corner table that won’t shut up and keeps whining and screaming at his mommy. The child wants to be seen, to throw a temper tantrum, to be noticed and complimented for every little deed and the child is angry every time he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. The objective of elevated consciousness is to observe this needy little child in your mind as a completely separate entity, something that you merely observe, not something that defines you as a person.
The fact that I don’t have as strong of a reflex to punish myself at every turn is a completely foreign feeling. It is as if I have been a captive of a zoo my whole life and they set me free and I don’t know how to live in the wild. Like I have been a prisoner of a captor that chained me up and whipped me, beat me every day and now he has set me free. It is as if I have Stockholm Syndrome and yearn to be under the abusive captor’s rule again. I crave the reinforcement, even if it is all overwhelmingly negative. I miss the control of beating the hell out of myself in my head all day long. So now being back at home, its: who will tell me I’m a shitty person and I’m not worthy of success and not deserving of happiness now? No one? Not even me? Holy shit I’m actually free? Now I am actually completely responsible for my own life and my own happiness and the obstacles were only in my head and imaginary? That is both the most amazing news ever and the scariest news ever. Shitttttt who the hell am I gonna blame my misery on now???
I can no longer cling to the victim schema or the various constructions of my mind that I put there in order to shield me from reality and truth. I can no longer deny the fact that I am a good person, and that I don’t deserve the shit I put myself through. I have a desire to serve to make the people around me better, to inspire, to lead, and for the first time in my life, in those two weeks, I saw myself as a person capable of serving, of leading, of offering guidance and encouragement. I was infused with a belief in myself and a belief in the power of love as an actual physical force, that I have never come close to before.
Next step: (and this feels almost like a necessity now after the Ayahuasca experience): a Silent meditation retreat, and a regular practice of meditation, to learn to listen to what the energy of the universe is saying, to learn to listen to what my purpose is and where I will find the truest expression this unique bundle of organs and cells that are generously renting space to the soul of Peter.