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Day 7: recap of ceremony 3

Breakfast: porridge

Lunch: quinoa, carrots, plantains -- with an egg!

Well last night was ceremony #3. And if I haven’t adequately described the apocalyptic fever dream of these evenings, let us never forget.

Last night began like all the others — intentions (mine was to reconnect with my higher self, open my heart and open to whatever healing serves me, which I suspect might include retrieving my voice and my memory) and then E calls to he six directions and O begins pretend puffing on a smoke and chanting for protection I think over the medicine. They both put this sweet smelling stuff (aqua de Florida, it turns out) from a small bottle on their forearms and O puffs smoke over the medicine. When they’re done, N calls us up one by one to the altar and pours the brew into a this relatively small ceremonial container — like a special ceramic shot glass.

Just a little please, I said as I sat on the floor next to him. He murmured like he heard me but then filled the cup nearly full. I took a swig, not the whole thing, and whispered That’s All and went back to my mat.

When all 11 imbibed N served himself (not L tonight, who has announced that he is abstaining to be of more help. I’m sure this is because of me) — I never see the shamans drink, but assume they did each time — and then blows out the candles. The maloca is submerged again into darkness. The birds and insects are loud outside, and we wait.

Last time the psycho art show descended so quickly that I wasn't ready and it scared the bejeezus out of me, but last night was so slow I thought maybe I had not taken enough and that I’d have to lay three all night looking at the ceiling. I even reached the point where I invited it in — even if I didn’t actually drink enough, you’re welcome, I said, to the plant spirit, or the Spirit. I’m willing. It’s okay.

For some reason I felt like stretching so before long I was in child’s pose on my mat and then some cool vision stuff started without me even really noticing what was happening. While my body was still in the pose, in my mind, I rose up above the clouds of a night time sky and broke through to the stars beyond; it was beautiful and not scary at all. I was like Whoa maybe I did drink enough and laid down while the plant kicked in a light show on the ceiling in green and purple — and a voice, the voice I conversed with during the mushrooms — said “What is there to be afraid of when you have seen your own death? Which was the most perfect thing.

I watched the show and thought about what she said for a little bit, like Oh Yeah, if all of that terror I felt last ceremony was really just about dying, but I didn’t die — well for a moment I could see it, that dying in “life” is just like dying in the ceremony was — we get scared and sad but then eventually when we let go, when we surrender to it, we finally just pop out the other side.

What is there to be afraid of when you’ve seen your own death?

I think last night might have been great for me in a big way, but every time I laid down my stomach would clench and I felt like I was going to unleash my bowels right there on the mat. Don’t shit yourself, the man said, which apparently had become my new greatest fear. The twisting clench cramp was not a great feeling but it also kept me anchored in this reality in a way I appreciated, since I was still clearly holding onto some fear about the previous ceremony.

I headed up the hill to the outhouse, now a path that I could probably walk with my eyes closed, and got there again as the medicine set in fully, which for me always seemed to be a fairly terrible feeling when my eyes are open. It wasn’t scary; it’s just that my body feels bad, a giant yuck. So I sat down and leaned my head against the doorjamb, like I had in each ceremony before, and berated myself for choosing to do this again. I promised myself that this was it — that I absolutely, positively would not do the fourth ceremony. Not because I was scared, but because the feeling of this early part was so unpleasant. Why do I keep doing this? Why do I retch for twenty minutes and nothing comes out?

By the time I got back to my mat, the maloca had become complete chaos. Every once in a while a red light from a headlamp would illuminate the scene — there must have been five guys violently puking while all three chanted feverishly, the room dark and cloudy with smoke. It’s hard to describe this well since the sounds are so important — the puking, the curanderos singing, the third dissonant line of chanting, people sighing and moaning, the birds calling outside while the insects hum, and last night a disco playing loud music somewhere in Nauta — it’s chaos but its also this absurd symphony in the best way. The chanting carries the journey, brings the spirits, help with healing. I just laid there enjoying every second of it while everyone puked their demons into a bucket, hoping not to shit myself. Magical.

Last night my mat was positioned between K and M. M was so kind to me before the ceremony, asking me about my bad night the ceremony before. She mentioned in her intention that four years ago she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which led to her quitting her job and moving to Mexico eight months ago. She’d been in playa del carmen learning Spanish until recently, when she came to Iquitos to dieta with a woman relatively nearby. We talked a bit before the ceremony about how scary my earlier journey had been, and I just cried and cried. I couldn’t help it. Her journeys are always beautiful, she said, and she prefers to journey every night. I wondered aloud why anyone would do this and she just smiled.

Right before everything began last night K leaned over to me and said When things get scary the key is to surrender. Don’t fight it. That’s the key. Thank you, I said, still worried about what was to come.

K went on to have a huge experience — at one point he was on his stomach like a worm, at one point standing at the end of my mat, then sprawled sideways with his feet next to me. The guys couldn’t move him; he was too far under.

This morning when we woke up again he said he was worried he wouldn’t find his way back to this reality — that he had lost all touch and then started to wonder what this reality is anyway. But he did come out — he’d experienced himself as God, experienced another world, experienced the great spirit of Ayahuasca. It’s a spiritual experience, he said. It’s a living Spirit.

Meanwhile on my mat my stomach had settled down. I put two fingers to the ground, closed my eyes, and was filled with this divine love for everyone and everything, and a power and light which permeated my whole being. It was bliss again, bliss like with the mushrooms, bliss like when my room disappeared and I was free of concern. It went on for so long that eventually doubt creeped in the edges of my mind; Maybe you’re just burning a fever, it said, but it didn’t matter. Just allow the love to be, the voice said. Get out of the way.

Why am I always looking for the bad, somewhere in the good? Waiting for it to end? Why is it so hard to believe that the Truth of things is good? Is bliss?

Lessons of the night: speak speak speak

What is there to fear when I have lived through my own death?

I have felt all the fear of death I would have felt upon this body’s death — so there is nothing to fear when death of this body eventually happens.

In the journey, at the beginning and when it is fearful, you just want it to be over. So I am constantly hoping for a purge. If only I could purge, the thought goes, I’d feel better. But like N and L had been telling us all this time, joy and relief only come with giving up that idea, giving up the desire for the purge. Purge or not purge it’s doesn’t matter. Wake up or don’t wake up, it doesn’t matter. Freedom is in this surrender. Peace is in this surrender.

The lesson was that it is this way in “life,” too — peace is in the surrender to the experience, to whatever I’m perceiving. It’s the only way out of suffering. To give up attachment to what happens. To my investment in what happens. Whatever happens is all right.

I run away when things get hard; I have to face my fears instead of running away.

I came face to face with my fear in the medicine and though it scared the shit out of me I eventually realized the fears were all nothing but illusions, delusions, projections of the mind. That there was nothing to fear because my fear was tied to something that had no reality. That I was wasting time being scared of something that didn’t exist.

When I finally gave up trying to control what was happening I was enveloped in bliss — God exists! Love is! God is!

Nobody died last night (this was not actually true; I found out later that B drank his whole cup and died again) like the ceremony before, when B, F and I all died and they sang the funeral songs.

Last night’s chanting seemed to end earlier too — the disco was still playing in Nauta so it couldn’t have been too late. (Learned later that they’d ended early since #2 had been so very long)

After a bit of silence J played his lullabies on his guitar — and last night Andean flute, too. I need to get a recording from him for sure.

If spirit animals are really a thing, I think mine might be a giant tortoise — or giant sea turtle. I have the exp of swimming with her last night it was so easy and peaceful. The lesson was to be like the sea turtle in life — gently, effortlessly, gliding through the experience. Eloise is her name.

I read in my book on shamanism that the spider is often a symbol of patience. Maybe seeing her the first night of ceremony was to show me to be like the spider. Be patient.

I didn’t purge last night into my bucket, but it seems like five productive trips to the outhouse ought to count, and I woke up feeling great and could not be more pleased with the whole thing.

At one point I felt a little bug crawling across my voice box inside my body - that seems to have helped with my ability to speak.

Rainy and cool this morning - perfect.


Remember this feeling always, the sweet bliss of surrender. It’s in you, Always.

Another memory: I saw clearly when K is struggling that I want to help people — that’s my calling. And I saw how clearly I am a MOTHER and what that means — the most beautiful word and being in the whole world. Comforter, caretaker, unconditional love.

There’s a brown butterfly sleeping on my sneaker outside my door.

There’s a guy walking our path with a boom box on his shoulder, playing Peruvian polka music at top volume. Pretty funny. I can’t see him, but I can hear him make the round.

Sitting here sweating to death and it starts pouring. This is such a magical place.

I just realized:

1. Right perception is not seeing everything as healed, whole, or beautiful; right perception is seeing it for what it is — which is nothing. Just experience.

2. I experience death of the ego but didn’t die. Death of the body is the same.

3. Like I was shown with the mushrooms — just watch the experience like the psych art show, without fighting it or needing to change it. Surrender your desires, wants, needs — any idea of being a person in a body at all.

May I remember this very day for the rest of this body’s lifetime. :)

At one point last night I realized I understood clearly that the higher Self I connect to is me. I don’t understand that as clearly today, but it felt true in the moment.

I feel buoyant and ready to go home. I can see now that I will do the ceremony tomorrow without fear, and then soon it will be time to go home. I feel ready and unstuck. May I remember these lessons every day.

It’s dusk: the birds are calling, cicadas humming, and a bat is flying laps around my tambo. Glorious.

continue to Day 8

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