In the wake of my awakening experience in India, I became totally fascinated with what this new found awareness was, who I was and my relationship to the Universe. To my family I seemed distant, pale and ill because there was a re calibration of sorts occurring, one that I could not explain. I joined spiritual groups in London and met Lauren who was also in the process of spiritual intrigue. We became close and looked together. Fresh sparks of insight came but my sense of spiritual identity grew to cover my emotional pain. Instead of looking within I was concerning myself with how to save the world and not myself.
It didn’t fully register with me that I needed to be emptied out of emotional baggage, attachment, self judgement and identification first. Starting the revolution within.
However misplaced, my resolve to stand in truth was genuine and this cosmic guidance was an auspicious steer towards the light.
The ceremony begins at sundown. I’m very happy to be here, yet knowing that something incredible is about to take place leaves me feeling excited and nervous but confident it will be a positive experience.
Before arriving in India, the relationship I was in had come to an end, along with my concept of what I thought I was doing with my life. I returned to the U.K and had trouble finding work and was feeling uneasy but happy to be resting. Then one day in Camden I met Lauren. We connected from the start and soon realised we were both motivated for spiritual inquiry into our own personal minefield. We began our dance together and I thought I was going the way of Yoga Instructor, attending workshops and helping people in London with her. My story apparently continued.
Ayahuasca was always in the back of my mind as a revered plant medicine. I was open to explore it but I did not, however, expect it to come to pass here in London, so I was not going to turn down this opportunity.
The flat is nice and quiet creating a calm space where birds could be heard in the ‘garden’. Seagulls mostly. Their calls sound like rippling laughter that wash in and out from time to time. Our location was fine for where we were, except for the deep rumbling of the London Underground!
Anyway, six other friends were sitting against the walls too, all probably preparing for their journey. The Shaman was on one end of the room closest to the outside door. His sacred space adorned with small multicoloured bottles, animal symbology both real and made of fabrics and crystals upon his altar. Musical instruments flanking both sides, himself in the middle.
Ok, it’s happening now.
So it actually begins with Tobacco. Not to drink but to snort up your nose. We are informed that Ayahuasca is a female energy and Tobacco masculine. He helps to cleanse your organs, protect you and ‘earth you’, by providing additional energy. Taking it, I gag and cough but it works immediately, trickling down the back of my throat. Tasting like spicy mud. During the course of the night it became less intense and a little more friendly.
Next we begin the Puja (opening of the ceremony) and turn to acknowledge, respect and call the Great Serpent to the south, The Jaguar to the west, The Hummingbird of Joy to the north and The Condor to the east. Mother Earth and the Great Spirit of the sky are also honoured.
The time then comes for the Ayahuasca. The Shaman looks at me and smiles. Without words he pours me a serving he deems appropriate for me in his palm bowl. Although this was my first time and I didn’t know what to expect I was grateful as I like to experience things fully and I hoped this would be the case without any knowledge of what a decent serving was. Turns out, pretty powerful.
The lights are turned out as She (Ayahuasca) finds her way into our systems. The flickers of the candle and the smell of incense embody the room, enhancing the nature of this holy moment. In the sphere of my awareness I can feel the medicine permeating. I think I can feel what sounds like a frequency dial which is being gently turned up, only it’s not a noticing taking place in my ears, it’s everywhere inside my attention.
The candles are blown out to aid any visuals and I close my eyes as well.
The first thing I do is thank Her for being here and that it’s an honour to receive healing. I see a flickering image of a pair of teeth, part of a womans face smiling. I call all higher energies and entities to come into this space to help us all heal and receive insight. Buddha materialises, smiling and embracing. I am happy to see him here too as I’ve had other experiences with the Buddha, in meditation for example, so as always it felt comforting. I then went about setting my intention for this evening.
Healing emotional baggage around relationships and solving my insecurities around money come to mind. I ask for help in shedding this weight so I could move forward with what I was doing here in London and to get rid of any darkness holding me back, although knowing that any cleansing would be appreciated.
The spirals begin.
In the void, they form. It feels so easy to follow their colourful zooming nature delving deeper and deeper inside of something. Diana appears smiling and memories of our time together in Thailand materialise. The visions slowly become more tangible. A tremor is felt in my chest yet my head is heavy, all the while my mind is on overdrive, going full blast. There’s a rampant internal dialogue going on, one aspect curious and asking questions like “why am I seeing that?” and “whoa, this feels quite strong, It’s alright though” and another part me is attempting to answer questions, describe and define everything, saying it understands what it sees.
What a lot of noise…I feel sick.
So I start vomiting. It feels like my contents should be cascading into the bucket, my whole stomach wretches and I lean forward and tense my abdominal muscles with all my might, my face scrunched up like a prune. Only dark fluid leaks out. ‘Pfffft!’ The Shaman sprays a mist of natural perfume over our surfacing negativity that’s been held internally for too long. The music he plays with his instruments sound like a Jew Harp (which is played with his mouth). It helps to draw out the venom.
I feel dizzy but try to meditate but find it hard to stay sitting up. I lean against the wall again and notice my right hand involuntarily shuddering. My legs twitch here and there. Naturally my mind is a bit worried but inside the heart knows it’s tension and trauma being released. I sway back and forth like a snake.
Time for Tobacco.
I know the Tobacco will help purge the rest of my contents out but I don’t feel like I can take that now. Tobacco again. The liquid is taken and I purge a little more. Eyes crumpled again. I see visions of my friends and have massive appreciation for them. Will and his powerful mind and sweet soul, Thoma a spiritual brother and Kyla a spiritual sister both from climbing related adventures on the road. I see the beaming face of my Mum and know despite the nagging issue I have with her ‘mild ocd’, she really is a rose that just wants to be loved and to be happy. My dear brother Oliver whom I am very close with, flickers also. Lauren does not come up which surprises me. Sinue, on my left is fighting his own battles too.
Face to the bucket again, I purge. Perfume is sprayed and beautiful melodies are sung from the Shaman. Despite my purging I feel safe and the candles are re-lit, as more Ayahuasca is called forth. Lauren goes first and I without thinking go second, not really knowing how I could ingest more but a part of me does so anyway. I glance at the shaman and give a sheepish look of “Thank you, this is amazing but…well, you know how I feel”. With a friendly nod he drops a little in the cup and hands it too me. The muddy viscous goes down, only to return to the bucket immediately. We both laugh when I can breathe again and retreat to the toilet. It’s a slow process but I stagger slowly, one foot at a time. I drop the trousers and then turn around to vomit. Repeat once more. Finally I’m empty.
And in that little space alone with the candle on top of the sink, I indulge in a moment of self pity. A few tears come but the solitary candle stands there like a sentinel and sings to me with a whistle.
A short while later we take the Tobacco one more time and the first ceremony is over. I curl up and go straight to sleep.
“Umm ‘xcuse me mate, there’s a fire in the toilet. I tried to put it out but the smoke made my eyes water and I couldn’t hold my breath for very long”.
Huh? Eyes refocus as they return to the waking state. It’s Kevin. His inherently calm nature comically dampens the sense of urgency normally associated to fire inside a building. Lauren and I shuffle over to the toilet. Ah. Fortunately, it’s gone out but thick smoke resides in the closed room. All doors and windows open. Dehumidifier on. Turns out the lone candle caught onto the toilet roll which caught onto the paper covering the big mirror. You cover mirrors by the way. Staring at yourself in altered states is not a good idea.
Fruit has been served and is spilling from bowls over by the altar. We sit in a circle and nibble. We trade our experiences and what we currently feel. I’m in a bit of a daze and sit mostly in silence. The Shaman asks how I’m doing. I reply with a smile and an absent-minded shrug. He says to me. “You know when we get the clothing and we wash them in the river? We dunk them in the water and bash them against the rocks, before we hang them to dry. This is how you look my friend”
I have to laugh. This is exactly how I feel. Lauren and I go sit outside. At this point, I’m thinking this is all going to serve me to help me move forward with my idea for living in London. Lauren relates her experience to me. “I got some messages about you and me too”. As it turns out, we are not as compatible as we thought.
Cue, the trigger. Boom.
The dam starts to crack. ‘How could this happen, I thought…but we’ve…what happened too…’. They keep coming as my ego’s house of cards fall down, piece by piece. Quivering lips tremble. She holds my hand. A compassionate gesture. Give it up. The damn crashes wide open. Let the flood come. I cry and cry.
The Ayahuasca is still working.
It turns out I was clinging to a concept. ‘I am this, I am going to be this’. Looking to be something without accepting myself first. I looked back on my previous relationships and saw that I was trying to be someone, trying to love other people hoping it would bounce back to me, creating attachment instead of letting that self love radiate from me. I saw how unconscious I was to behave this way but thankful this revelation was occurring. The tears kept coming.
Part of the group decided to take a walk in the park. I join in a silent daze, bewildered really. One part saying ‘Why me?’ the other ‘Trust the process. It’s for your own good’.
‘But what I am going to do with this?’ I persisted. ‘Tell your story’ my humbled heart replies. I sobbed under my pashmina in Regents park for another hour or so.
We return to the flat and some people have left and some people have shown up for the second night of the ceremony. It’s mad how tiring crying is. I curl up on the bed and let the deluge continue. Lauren sits with me again. The crying just doesn’t stop, it goes deeper and deeper. “I feel like a child” I whimpered. My thoughts take me all the way back to when I was a little boy in Lanzarote, at a national park volcano exhibit with my family. We came across a hole on the ground with mirrors either side, reflecting its image all the way down a hole into infinity. I was entranced for such a long time, when I finally broke away to leave, my parents and brother where not there. I burst into tears feeling scared and utterly alone. This is how I felt, curled up on the bed. A 26 year old little boy, scared of rejection and being alone, looking for validation in all but myself. Hitting the nail on the head.
It’s almost dark and we sit in our spots for part two of the ceremony.
The Shaman looks at the people who were present for the first night. His eyes saying ‘Ready to go again?’. Smiling, his eyes meet mine. “Toby, tonight you will meet the Jaguar”
* * *
Personal Power with the Jaguar
The ceremony is opens for the second night and Tobacco paves the way. I’m sitting on the other side of the room this time. It is said that to harness the full power of the healing given from the Ayahuasca you sit with your back straight so your ‘chakras are aligned.’ I resolved to sit for as much of the night as I could in this way. The Warriors Way.
With the brew administered, the visions manifest right away, only much different. This time, I’m present with the Animal Kingdom. The Owls appear. Knowing, they represent the winds of change in Native America, I ask ‘why has this happened?’, still hoping inside that this ceremony will be for the betterment of Lauren and I as a couple. Still a shred of attachment. They shake their heads. ‘It doesn’t matter, accept it’. This went on for a while.
Then the Jaguar appears. A shimmering 2D image of the proud creature. Hours go by, I cannot falter. Back straight, breathe. Somewhere, somehow I can feel a sense of strength in this solitude. To be proud of my travels, climbing adventures and quest to find my path. During the course of both ceremonies, participants would sit in the middle of the room to receive an additional cleansing from the shaman. It was my turn.
The sacred ritual took place with spray of perfume shot over key parts of my body. He sees strength he says, I just have to believe myself. We finish with Tobacco in the eyes. It burns but feels amazing afterwards, my vision crisp and clear. So grateful.
Back in position, I meditate once again. This time the golden Buddha returns and I feel joyful and content in this presence. My thoughts became clearer and the visions amplify into multiple Hindu deities also in higher kingdoms or dimensions. Goddess and Gods. The gold turns to silver which turns to white. The Kingdoms ever more magnified and as the multitude of divine beings tell me something of our inherent nature. It is in this place that we know we are boundless and free. The divine images begin to fade with the pale glimmer of dawn.
Smooth ecstasy follows a feeling of nothingness. The images are wiped away as an Eagle soars across the void, graceful and proud. I feel lighter now but fatigued. It’s been six hours or so and my back aches. We take Tobacco four times in a row and I’m done. Stretching on the mat, I step into my sleeping bag of comfort, my warm cocoon. The hummingbird of joy flutters in my periphery before I pass out, utterly knackered.
The birds sing with the dawn of a new day. Nothing occurs in the mind and I’m incredibly happy about it. All my preconceptions about myself and my plans had been annihilated yet it feels like so much space has been cleared and opened up. Things begin to make sense. We are all to walk our own paths, I’m grateful to all beings present especially Lauren. For us to go through so much together in such a short time and come out the other side friends is such a blessing. I admire her for her strength and feel like Mother Ayahuasca is ready to release me back into the wild.
* * *
Before we leave, one more ritual spontaneously took place. The Kamba. Frog poison. Now, my initial notion towards such a thing is probably the same as to what you are thinking right now, as well as the fatigue from ceremony before. Having said that, with all the healing from the rainforest, I was happy to trust again in the medicine Gaia has to offer.
The Shaman plays the sounds of the rainforest on the stereo for the mise en scene. He burns 4 small holes into my right arm and applies the poison like scraping butter. The element associated with this animal is fire, so we were instructed to fill ourselves with water until we were full to the neck. I was shivering in the morning air and a little anxious. As soon as the poison was administered I got warm, really warm.
I sat and tried to meditate, the sides of my head pulsating, I can see a strong image of a little green and red frog appear but the purge remains at bay. I glance left, the yoga mat has a label that reads ‘Warrior’. “It’s really better if you purge” says the Shaman. Urgh. ‘Ok, two more holes’..Jason throws up opposite me and I’m actually envious! Who would have thought. Even in this state I allow a brief smile. ‘Please Great Spirit,help me purge’. Wham. My belly empties, cascading three litres of yellow water into the bucket. Apparently, it serves to strengthen our immune system. I lie down to rest once again.
Waking refreshed. It’s over. For now. I feel like a wave that crashed against the rocks and is now white and foamy. Washed out. Content. An hour later it’s time to say our goodbyes. I am truly grateful to have experienced such profound insight and healing with friends in such a sacred space. I look at the Shaman and hug him.
“You are on the right path” he says. He gives me some Santo Paulo wood. I feel immense gratitude for this man. A healer, a wise protector and a true saint for mankind, delivering this message from Mother Earth. I am so thankful for the masculine Tobacco, the Frog and of course the Mother herself.
So much gratitude, all I feel is love. Walking to the Underground I see a picture of a green and red frog with sunglasses, smiling on some beach commercial. Thumbs up. Ha! A magical Universe indeed.
I walk on towards my happy destiny.