breakfast: porridge watered into what I imagine gruel must be like
Lunch: big tin of rice, brown lentil, carrot, potatoes, and a hard boiled egg on top
Last night was ceremony #2. I don’t now how to describe this except to say that it was mostly terror and insanity. It all started exactly like the first; I was feeling good and confident and ready and I was able to speak a little bit more when it was my turn to state my intentions: A few years ago, I said, I had the opportunity in a vision to unplug from my sense of being a separate self, to let go of my fear, but I couldn’t do it — I turned back three times in fear. So tonight I would like to see what I’m hiding from myself and have that opportunity again, to unplug from my fear and get unstuck in all the ways that will allow me to move forward in my life.
When it was my turn at the altar, N filled the cup nearly full, which felt about twice the amount of the first ceremony. And it tasted truly terrible. I sat up on my mat instead of laying down and waited to see what would happen. It turned out I was not prepared fro the heavy cloud of something that settled quickly up on me — a psychedelic art show that threatened to engulf and overwhelm me completely.
When I realized what was happening, that I had lost all control of what was happening and that something was happening that I could not comprehend, I panicked. I thought H next to me was also panicking (H to my left and F to my right last night), but in hindsight that was probably not the case. Regardless, I immediately called out, cried out for help in the dark smelly room - I need some help. Can anyone help me? Is there anyone that could help?
I had crawled a little bit off my mat and it felt like my body temp had risen about 200 degrees, and I couldn’t or didn’t have the presence of mind to attempt to calm down to consider what was really happening. With the mushrooms there was always someone right there to hold my hand if I needed it, to remind me to breathe through it, to let go and just ride the wave, but I forgot all of that last night. I was so hot that I ripped off my clothes (my wife beater and bra were strangling me) and so panicked that I started to hyperventilate, lying there on the floor half-naked. Someone came to my side — L, I think — and after some time wheezing on the floor the clear thought struck that I could leave here, I could go to the bathroom and maybe escape this whole thing.
I run away when things get hard.
I have to take a shit, I said to the person. (Who says such vulgar things?) Can you help me? He took my hand and I sort of crawled/hobbled to the door, desperate to get outside. A big part of the problem was that I couldn’t see. When my eyes were open, all I could see was white; I couldn’t see any of the normal world at all, and all I wanted to do was to get back to the normal world. I just wanted to this to go away. When my eyes were closed, I was immersed in visions that felt threatening, that I did not want to see.
Is there a way out? I asked L over and over; is there a way out of this? I’d read about a guy (the guy who wrote The Shaman’s Way, I think) who once got an “antidote;” could I just have the antidote? No, he laughed, there is nothing to take. The only way out is through. This is what you signed up for; this is what you came for. Not like this! I was yelling now, still trapped in a white room with no doors and windows. I’ve made a mistake! Not like this! I was berating myself inside my head at the same time, wondering why on earth I had made this choice. I could not believe I’d chosen to come here and do this.
Trying to get to the outhouse up the hill was a never ending journey, with me unable to see unless I was crawling on the ground — I could see a matrix pattern of the ground if it was a few inches from my face — and having what I imagine amounted to a full blown panic attack. Seriously we went in circles for days looking for that outhouse, with me stopping to retch every so often (while holding my crotch so I wouldn’t pee my pants). I thought he was playing some cruel trick on me, that he was taking me round and round and we were never going to get there. Eventually we did get there, and he left me to it — it was just the normal outhouse — and nothing came out. I retched into the big plastic trash bin, nothing came out. I pushed the giant rock in my abdomen -- nothing came out.
At this point the plant had settled in so fully that I knew, without a shadow of a doubt and with my head resting on the splintered outhouse door jamb, that I was going to die. I apologized to Tommy and to Brady and to Brian in my head for coming to the Amazon to die, for being the worst kind of selfish mother in the entire world, for thinking I needed to leave home and go die in the jungle a few thousand miles away. The sadness! I was terrified to die, much less die here, so far from home.
Eventually N came to check on me - what’s happening, he said. Well, I said, I feel like I have to take an enormous shit but nothing is coming out, and I’m going to die. I heard these words come very calmly and clearly out of my mouth, like I was just going to the store or something. (I wish someone would have told me to just calm the fuck down.) I still couldn’t see anything, but I sat there long enough to apparently make my peace with death.
Yes, he said, there’s an order to these things— first you shit and then you die.
At some point I decided to leave the outhouse on my own, but I still couldn’t walk so I crumpled to the dirt just a couple steps away. Still half naked, but at least less hot. This is it, I thought. I’ll just die here on these roots and someone will find me. That’s fine. The cool air outside felt really good.
But I didn’t die, and pretty soon I heard someone coming. Hello? I said, I’m up here — I still couldn’t see him — but I’m dying.
Wouldn’t you be more comfortable dying on your mat? he said.
He helped me up and tried to put an arm around me without being inappropriate god bless him, and we sort of hobbled back down the hill. It’s easier if you don’t resist, he said. This part will end if you stop trying to make it end. In a few hours this will all seem like a bad dream. Really? I asked, unable to believe that could possibly be true.
He parked me back on my mat in the maloca and I’m not sure how I got there but I ended up lying across the mats of the people next to me, H and F. Idk where they were. Or if this was a problem. All I know was that I was going to die and that was okay. I settled in, closed my eyes, and all sense of time and space and self dissolved — I apologize again to my family and then just let go — and very quickly I could not remember a time when my family existed. I could not remember being a person in time. I was watching a crazy fun house where the eyes of clowns were spinning in hypnotic madness - I felt like it was hypnotizing me - and it felt like I may never exit this void, that I may be trapped in this emptiness. At that point I did not know if my family, if I, had ever existed at all. There was nothing. I was nothing.
This is it, I thought; I’ve lost my mind.
Idk how long that went on, but the next thing I remember is becoming aware that E was chanting over me his magic. Not touching me but singing his mystical songs over me — it was the most transcendent sound I had ever heard. At ceremony two night before I didn’t get it, didn’t understand what we were doing, but those songs — the songs weave a feeling, an experience, a connection between him and me and everything. Pure magic.
Every so often he would stop and call Julie? Julie? In his sweet voice and I could not have been more surprised to find myself in the maloca. Still alive. Still alive and also half naked. And that was okay. I could not move so I lifted up a finger in response to his call and tapped his leg. For a long time he and O sang over me, stopping to call my name and check for a pulse every so often, lifting an eyelid to peek in at me. At this point I was in there watching, but I couldn’t’ figure out if I was supposed to be dead or alive. Did they want me dead or alive? To respond or no? When they called my name and I didn’t respond they called Luis over and he shook my head rather violently. So they must want me alive, I thought. Okay. It didn’t really matter to me; it was just nice to know.
In this stretch E sang the most haunting song — which I somehow knew was a funeral song without really knowing why I knew. I heard him say my name and weave the song — it was the most moving thing I’d ever heard. All the music that night was incredible. I still couldn’t move and they sang and sang, and I felt like I was being resurrected in a way, coming back to life after being nothing at all.
A little while later L asked me to go back to my mat, and I did — where O kept singing over me for a long, long time, and I thought it must be morning but it must have still been early because they sang to everyone forever after me. And I heard the funeral song again from E, and I knew someone else had also died.
About the time I came back to something like normal consciousness I heard K say Holy fuck, I’m out! And people laughed around the room in the dark but I felt some kind of relief when he said that, like I hadn’t been the only one having a hard time. Follow my voice, he said, but then didn’t say anything else and I suspected he went back to dreaming.
This time I could tell that H was not the one singing the crazy third chant line with O and E, because he was right next to me. He must have been having a very different kind of experience because I would just hear him sigh now and then, a deep sigh of something like satisfaction or ecstasy. Even when I was dreaming I could hear him sigh, and honestly it was the most comforting sound I’ve ever heard.
I desperately wanted to sleep when E and O finally left my side — “good” E said to me, nodding, when he helped me sit up (at which point I found my shirt), and I tried to pat his arm, my new best friend in the whole world, the one who brought me back from nothing — but I couldn’t sleep for some reason, couldn’t tune it all out. So I tossed and turned until I sat up and retched, violently, into my bucket, and then went back to tossing and turning. At some point N came over and said maybe save this for the next time, yes? — like he could see or sense the loop I was trapped in maybe — and he said something about how I could shut it out or make it stop, everything is choice he said, but I didn’t understand and was unsuccessful at doing so.
Eventually the morning light came and I rinsed out my bucket, gathered my stuff, and returned to my tambo where, for the most part I’ve been unable to sleep. My legs are itchy, twitchy, and my mind will not transcend.
I did not try to make eye contact or try to talk to anyone when I left; I wasn’t embarrassed and wasn’t in a hurry — I just left.
I need to ask N what he told me at the end. What he meant.
I don’t know if I will survive this. I may die down here. In which case I feel like the most selfish human on earth. But I also suspect that running away from this hard thing is not what I should do either. Trust the process, N says. If you think you can, you can. I just don’t know why I chose this way, when God is only Giant Love.
On the bright side, I’ve been emptying my bowels all day, in piles around my tambo. Ten years of pooh hiding under giant jungle leaves.
Things learned from ceremony two:
1. I run away from hard things. I was desperate to escape last night, which is symbolic of so many things. How I haven’t finished any of my projects in years.
2. I am very attached to this world and my family. My special relationships. I am very afraid of death.
3. I feel like I now know what facing my actual death would have felt like, had I not had this experience. In the process of dying I would have faced this same stretch of fear and terror, the sadness and regret.
I can’t leave because I gave N my passport and wallet. Would I really want to anyway? Continue denying the inevitable? I’m resigned to die here, what ever that means.
At one point in my dream last night there was a giant spider, lit up like a heavenly being. It seemed very important to pay attention to but I’m not entirely sure what it meant. Is it my spirit animal or guide? My power animal? Today there is a big brown spider on the back netting of my tambo. Just hanging out. There was also a giant mantis thing by Tommy’s head — and an owl who appeared later. Idk what any of it means.
I cried a little when I saw the hard boiled egg on top of lunch today, though I was able to eat very little of it. I’m not hungry and the food hurts. I’ve also been crying off and on through out the day — not sure why. Just this deep welling sadness that I need to unleash — and yet I don’t. Or won’t. I want to wail into the jungle, but I don’t, for fear it will frighten the others, make someone come running.
I feel like I’ve been hallucinating most of the day. I don’t know what this is.
I’m so weak. I can barely walk up the stairs to my tambo; I get worn out going to the camp latrine. It has to end sometime, right? This too shall pass? I’ve almost poohed my organs out.