Not being able to completely let go I realize is a hindrance. The original scars from my first experience with these substances propelled me into a mental challenge to establish complete control over my mind. I succeeded and it has served me well as I have overcome all addictions and obstacles that plagued me in my life and that I had for years struggled with and of which I could never rid myself. It is now very easy for me to do but with this strength comes a clash with the hypnotic realms that these plant medicines take you into. I recognize and flag them right away and if they don't feel friendly I don't let them get very far. And I'm very good at it, however if there are lessons to be taught by any of this darkness then I bypassed some of them because I can shut the experience down. I have reflected on this and I'm going to have to address it. When I finished this latest round with the plant medicines I felt done in a way and I felt that way because I did receive purposeful teachings that I can integrate into my life that will allow me to form a nuanced worldview I can work to change. However I know I need to introduce balance into my life and let go of the grip I keep on my mind. I have all the tools I need to regain control if necessary but I think I need to let go and trust the process. That will in all reality become my obsession and why I don't think I am done with this modality of the exploration of consciousness as of yet. I do for now have to let the process unfold over the course of the coming months. When I'm ready to resume this exploration I will intuitively know but it won't be for a while.
The mind is a curious thing. As the jungle got closer and I met up with fellow seekers/travelers, sleep deprived all of us, I remained excited about what was to unfold. I liken it to the process of childbirth that I saw my wife go through. The first one is pretty traumatic and looks very painful yet women tend to forget this aspect and go on to give birth to more children. Here I was, mental scars and all remaining from my first experience, blissfully entering into another go round with this powerful, stern, and unpredictable teacher.
SpiritQuest Shamanic Sanctuary
Looks like the source relief from Abydos (pic I took in 2009)
When I went to Egypt in 2009 it was the first temple I visited. The temple honours the god Osiris, the one called the god of the dead by Egyptologists, who essentially is the soul come to incarnate in matter and being ensconced in matter is considered asleep or dead. The Eye of Horus is the left eye (or as a shaman would say 'the left hand path') representing the moon that is reconstituted (healed) by the power of the Goddess Hathor (represented here as Wadjet) and this allows you to 'see' in the corporeal world and thus head on down the path of spiritual rebirth. Seeing is a metaphor for being able to grasp spiritual truths and coming to an awakening realization of who you really are. I learned long ago these coincidences are something to take note of so I immediately noted the connection and then asked around to see if anyone else had Egyptian paintings in their rooms. (The answer was no). One of the participants here who is a channel and healer, Mary, said to me at dinner time that she was getting this message from a goddess named Demeter that was directed towards me. Another amazing omen I thought as Demeter was the patron Goddess of the Greek mysteries at Eleusis and she also had a connection to the owl. At the mysteries of Eleusis it seems the evidence points towards the use of intoxicants to come into contact with Demeter and her mysteries. The owl is a symbol of the wisdom goddess Athena and I had seen one in the woods where I live a couple weeks prior to leaving for the Amazon. The owl was flushed out by my dog and flew up in the air eerily positioning its head so that it could look me directly in the eyes much like this image.
Athena's Sacred Owl
The third connection is the name Mary - it is the pet name I use for the Goddess when I seek her out, invoke her, and speak to her. There is a large group of people here, over two dozen, with most being new to Ayahuasca. This retreat is set up in such a way that everyone becomes like a family with communal meals and gatherings allowing for that bonding to take place. I share my room, dorm style, with another guy. It has been refreshing to talk with others openly about my experiences and interest in spirituality and shamanism. Because of my experience with Ayahuasca many have asked me about what to expect and I've tried to be straight with them, no romanticizing or candy coating the experience. Until they experience it themselves I find that is the best approach. Once they drink and 'see' then they will know.
Soplando over the Ayahuasca Brewing
We were introduced to mapacho, jungle tobacco, and allowed to smoke it and use it to set our intentions for our work with the medicine.
The mapacho seems to give a sense of calm as well as a slight buzz in my extremities. We went out into the rainforest to set our intentions and I was able to enter into a meditative state where I access my third eye rather easily. Afterwards we had a good lunch and more stimulating conversation. A conversation with the shaman don Howard then ensued which took us into an Ayahuasca orientation to give everyone an idea of how to approach our first ceremony tonight.
One of the participants I was talking to has experience with smoked DMT and he curiously asked me if I had ever come across a goddess in my previous Ayahuasca ceremonies. It seemed very peculiar and interesting why he would ask that. So I answered enthusiastically in the affirmative and told him my story and he shared similar recollections of the Goddess and a strong desire to revisit her. I said yes that is the goal of all that come into contact with her! I remember writing after my first experience with Ayahuasca and meeting her that I could envision men spending the rest of their lives in pursuit of this intoxicating woman.
I entered the Maloca at 9pm and took my place on my mattress for the night. There are over two dozen participants in this first ceremony with only three of us having ever experienced Ayahuasca before. The shaman don Rober sang a protection arcana for each of us individually while his wife anointed us with perfume which I believe is camalonga. My turn to drink the Ayahuasca was towards the end so I was able to observe the others drinking Ayahuasca for the first time and gauging their reactions. I felt some anxiety as my turn approached but I wasn't fearful. I went up to drink and was given a full cup. The consistency was more watery then the last time I remembered drinking and it still had the unpleasant taste but now with hints of burnt honey and citrus. After finishing the cup I lit up a mapacho to take back to my mattress to smoke and purify my surrounding area. I had a feeling I wouldn't be sick right away so I glanced around the room watching the nausea envelop most of the participants. Soon afterwards the discomfort starting coming up for the first drinkers and one of them puked. As some of the others started coughing and gagging, my hand holding the mapacho started to tremble as the former terror of the experience came flooding back into my consciousness all at once triggered by the noises of distress. I tried to comfort myself with long draws on the jungle tobacco but it was to no avail. Fear had enveloped me and I gazed around the room listening to the sounds of distress and I seriously questioned why I was doing this again. My intuition was warning me of the upcoming ordeal as a sense of panic flooded me. I could barely hold the mapacho anymore as the trembling increased. I dropped the remaining tobacco into my vomit bucket and prepared myself for the onslaught. Before the last light of the remaining lit candle was blown out the intoxication came on, it was not sudden but gradual with a buzzing of sound and images everywhere. I was immediately familiar with the heavy, pulsating, and hypnotic strobe in an off pinky-purple and off green colours. The colours were spinning much like a Vegas slot machine. With my eyes closed it was in my face; with my eyes open it was still there - an omnipresent nightmare. Wherever I looked it remained in my vision. The energy was male, malevolent, and familiar as we were previously acquainted. I had forgotten the machinations of this dark entity who wishes to exert control over my life and soul. A huge feeling of fear and dread washed over me as I envisioned the next two weeks at this place being torment. Once again I questioned why the hell I was doing this again? The attempts to hypnotize me never stopped the whole night. Gradually the pressure increased in terms of threats if I did not give in to the wishes of this dark entity. The literal basis of the threats was a demand for money in exchange for allowing me safe passage home. Ten percent of all my earnings, which mirrored his demand of ten percent of all the wealth created in the world was what was required. I dubbed this entity Mr. Ten Percent. The symbolism of this demand was to return to destructive habits in which you spend your resources in pursuing them with the result being that it entraps you and the initial expenditure soon balloons into more and more. I didn't commit or give in to any of these demands as I surmised this whole scenario to be a test in that I needed to gather up my courage to get through this. At times I felt paranoia, thinking once again that many were in on this however that didn't last as I was able to keep my resolve and ascertain it was all a part of this test. I knew I would have crumbled by now if I hadn't spent the last two years strengthening my mind. The threats continued and escalated trying to get me to make a deal with this entity. It eventually dawned on me from my research into the nature of power that this was the base form of the shamanic levels which is this manifestation and presentation of power. I had realized that most cannot get past this seduction of power as it is the easiest to obtain and many are lost in its pull. The seduction works in many ways using threats and enticements. I remembered back to other Ayahuasca ceremonies where I was offered a share of this power and I declined. This dark entity now told me he was going to turn up the heat on me to increase the pressure, I actually started to sweat, and this constant barrage on my senses had me very much annoyed and I was growing tired with it. The dark entity said this will go on all night if necessary and as a corollary to this I was hearing auditory hallucinations of my name being called, as I had previously experienced and freaked out over, but this time I held firm. I remembered my tools to get through this that I had prepared as an acronym BALMIT. The B stands for breathing, the A for aegis, L for love, M for mantra, I for icaros, and T for tobacco. I started to take deep, calming breaths to calm down and regain a hold of myself. The aegis is a cloak of protection the Goddess gave me when I first contacted her through Ayahuasca. I was unsure of why she gave me it at first but I understood why now and have used it many times.
Athena's Aegis as a Cloak at the Acropolis
Love reminds me of the reason I am doing this and to have compassion for all others on this journey. A mantra is a tool used to gain control over your mind and thoughts. When the pressure is turned up a mantra can clear your head and subdue the energy in your immediate surroundings. The icaros are the songs performed by the shamans that move the energy on and can be used as a lifeline to get you out of tight situations that you are stuck in. In this case they seemed to be perpetuating this nightmare so this wasn't working. The mapacho tobacco can be used to clear the space and move things along but right now I was trembling and couldn't actually hold one of these. At the same time the participant to my left was going through a tough time. He had puked, went to the washroom, and when he returned he sat in his vomit bucket. This distraction was actually welcomed as it allowed me a brief respite from my own internal struggle. He then got disoriented and starting grabbing my leg at times which I also in a strange way welcomed as another distraction. The onslaught of fear continued and the threats escalated to harm my family. This was very distressing and I thought about giving in as I couldn't face this now. As I was getting ready to capitulate the higher power in me said "no this is a test, just get through it." Finally I was threatened with death. I weighed my options; I thought of shaman don Howard's admonition and teaching that at some time you'll have to face your own death. I knew know this was a test and I resolved to die rather than give in to the demands of this dark entity. At this point I called for help in order to go use the washroom and when I returned I sat down on my mattress and immediately puked for the first time in what seemed like a grand finale to the evening. Following this I laid back on my mattress seemingly free of this constant attempt at hypnosis and control over me. Shortly afterwards the ceremony ended and I said to myself "I did it, I passed the test." I got up with a feeling of completeness and exhilaration and went back to my room to sleep. About a half hour later a lost soul wandered into our room and after trying to set her straight I realized she needed help and I walked her back to her room remembering my state the second time I had drank Ayahuasca two years ago where I became confused and lost. At this point the effects of Ayahuasca were largely diminished.
The drink consisted of the flower of the plant combined with wild honey and aguardiente, which is sugar cane alcohol. I hadn't had a drink since the summer of 2013 so it was my first exposure to alcohol since then. The taste of this concoction reminded me of cough syrup so the association of drinking alcohol was this time not pleasant. I enjoyed the ceremony as it was a chance to bond more with my fellow seekers and we shall see if this plant medicine works in conjunction with Ayahuasca to further open my heart. In the second ceremony the Goddess opened my heart so this ceremony came at probably what was not an accidental time and in conjunction with this, bobinzana is used as an admixture in the Ayahuasca beverage. Ceremony three on Saturday night, as with all of them, was unexpected in where it took me however I was well prepared to deal with it. My understanding of intuition took a huge leap forward at the start of this ceremony as I got this feeling while seated and awaiting my turn to drink that the darkness was returning. I had no reason to suspect its return but my power of intuition flagged it right away and when it came on I felt the strong hypnotic pull of this dark energy and I vowed to never dismiss my intuition again. I decided to go the washroom and see if that could alter the bad vibes I was getting. As I sat on the toilet the familiar hypnotic imagery of off colour purple and greens returned. As I re-entered the ceremonial maloca I immediately noticed the last candle had not been blown out, almost like they were waiting for me to return which didn't play well into my dwindling trust and instead made me react negatively as a wave of suspicion enveloped me. I got the familiar feeling of these realms being something not to mess with and that I should be cautious about navigating them. I wanted to leave myself a note to remind myself to not come back and drink Ayahuasca lest I forget and find myself back in Peru confronted by these same questions. There is some truth to this I realize especially in talking to others. It makes you forget the really negative aspects of these realms and only focus on the positives. The shaman don Rober started to prepare the room for his first icaro and I became intensely aware of what he was doing as I could see the energy had gathered together in the maloca. He took his chacapa and with this flitting motion he dispersed the energy around the room and then started singing the first icaro with dona Eliana. It also marked a turning point in my Ayahuasca education where I could now be present and accounted for in the moment and not be hanging on to my seat as if I was on an out of control roller coaster ride. It was an affirmation that I had conquered the fear aspect however my mood remained sour as the darkness remained. At this point I had not realized that conquering fear doesn't automatically excuse the darkness; instead it just allows you to get past it in a sane manner. I had been talking to don Howard during the day about how Ayahuasca is not just 'good', rather it is a way into a world that has two paths - the left hand path which is healing and the right hand path which is sorcery. You will have free will to choose at all times which path to follow and it seems you never know what path will be presented to you. In this ceremony it was the case in that I felt the dark energy and then later on in the ceremony there is a healing mat that people would be brought up to in order to experience healing. It was an eye opener to realize this and it seemingly explains a lot of my personal battles between the two paths. Because of this I didn't fear the darkness coming on, there was a touch of anxiety, but I felt a resolve to fight. However in retrospect I'm not sure if that was the right thing to do as the desire to vanquish this dark energy was coming from a place within me that never wanted to go back to that place again. The scar tissue had sealed up the wounds and there was no way I was re-visiting any of those emotions. If there were any lessons to be gained tonight from the darkness it wasn't going to happen as my mind, my ego-mind to be precise, put up its barricade and exercised the mastery it had obtained over the past two years in order to shut out all thoughts and visions coming its way. I left my eyes open so I wouldn't get sucked into a visionary abyss and I started to see figures in my peripheral vision gather around me and they reached out to me and tried to draw me in to their world. I honestly don't know what they represented as I didn't give them a chance to manifest completely. I started to use my acronym of tools to further control the situation. I breathed deeply to ground myself; I used my cloak of protection to keep them at a distance; I told all these apparitions that I loved them which would cause them to disintegrate and my mantra kept my thoughts in check. At times I felt when I let my guard down negative thoughts were implanted in my head, thoughts I had mastered long before but under this intoxication and constant bombardment of hypnotic imagery you have some slip through your guard. I caught these thoughts before they started to cycle out of control and I was surprised some had gotten as far as they did but I was able to recognize and correct it. My mouth got really dry and I felt exceedingly thirsty at this point and then these exotic looking women with cocktails in their hands appeared and offered me the drinks.
This tree was omnipresent in my visions at this point
Once again I refused them as I ascertained it as being another trick to try and get me under a spell. I dismissed these apparitions by telling them I loved them as well. This all continued for a while and I closed my eyes for a short time and saw the Goddess undulating in a rhythmic pattern which was very reminiscent of something I had witnessed in the bobinzana ceremony the night before. I did not let the vision get very far before I opened my eyes once again so I could put a stop to it as I was determined this night to remain in control. An icaro that was referencing the light then followed which lifted me up higher and higher until I reached an area that was filled with bright light. It was a positive feeling but I remained guarded. Now that I have processed this experience a bit I totally realize the night could have been a lesson of the darkness in the journey eventually transcended by the light but I was too stubborn to allow any teachings tonight. At this point nausea started to envelop me but I did not purge as it seemed stuck in my throat and would not release. This continued for quite a while where I was out of any state of altered consciousness and just felt sick. I tried drinking water to get it moving but to no avail. Finally I had a huge purge - a cacophony of air being released in a staccato effect that was punctuated by a loud and forceful vomit. After that, the hypnotic imagery was not intense at all so I closed my eyes and went with it and saw how hypnosis is used subtly in forms of advertising. I also understood the relationship clearly in the path of the shaman and how they are constantly challenged. They have the power to recognize the paths and modalities and master them. As the night ended I was filled with doubt once again considering my journey with Ayahuasca. I felt that after I participate in the final ceremony tomorrow night I don't feel the need to experience Ayahuasca anymore. After the battle tonight I'm tired of the darkness. I reasoned with myself that I had come to conquer my fear and I did that and gained courage, opened my heart, communed with the Goddess and I feel ready to move on past this. Perhaps I felt Huachuma will be what I need. Looking back at this ceremony I can feel the frustration oozing through my writing. It all had to do with the darkness and I started wracking my brain trying to figure out why it was still present. Like I said I did not give Ayahuasca a chance to teach any lesson tonight once the session started out with the darkness. I realize now it was a big mistake on my part and it all boils down to trust; trust being something I sorely lack as I can see very clearly now. Perhaps that was the lesson to be learnt?
Goddess Hathor at Denderah
I entered into this temple and felt a powerful surge of eroticism in her presence and came face to face with the Goddess in her human form dressed in red lingerie. Behind her on these screens were images of her in seductive poses; the screens were made of a watery substance that would dissolve when I gazed upon them. The erotic feeling intensified to a level I had never felt all over my body, my face felt numb, and my appendages paralyzed as I looked upon the writhing erotic figure of the Goddess in a red corset. In response to my casting my eyes upon her she started making cat like movements. The icaro came to end at this point and with it the whole scene ended. A whole dramatic shift in my thinking then occurred at this point. I came to the conclusion in my mind that I had not come here for an erotic peep show but instead I was more interested in exercising my intellectual faculties and advancing on my spiritual path. I felt these visions and their attendant fireworks that were part of the Ayahuasca experience were now unnecessary distractions. I came to the conclusion I wanted to only now experience Ayahuasca in its purest form without the additives; I don't want the visions and hallucinations nor the constant hypnotic pulse that is betraying the true nature of the vine. I reasoned with myself that the first time drinking is the only pure form of this medicine and any following experiences become tainted with expectations and desires. I then came to this realization in relation to the constant yo-yo of experiences I had been having with the darkness interspersed with moments of reward to keep me coming back for another experience seemed to be related to the energy that contaminates the brew. I reasoned that all operators of these kind of retreats, regardless of good intentions, are in business first and foremost and the need to sustain themselves financially in order to offer what they do. I totally understand that and this is not a condemnation of those practices but it is just an honest account of the reality of this scene. The introduction of the profane equation of money into something as pure as Ayahuasca as a medicine will produce unintended consequences that multiply and manifest in the energy of the drink. As a participant in retreats I spend time purifying myself mentally and physically and I take it seriously so how could I not feel the effects of introducing something so profane as money into the equation? Yes I realize I do not have a better way and have no expectation outside of a mythical Jesus type to offer healing in a really nice environment with all your meals catered to and your laundry done for free! To me that's why no matter where in Iquitos you go to drink the tea this dark energy will always be a part of it I guess. At this point my ego-mind was looking for answers externally to why there always seems to be a darkness associated with Ayahuasca. The obvious counter to that of perhaps it has always been within me I wasn't really considering at this point. The shaman don Rober is an incredible healer, you can see he has a gift for it yet he must also play the other part with the icaros that take people on the visionary journeys that will enable them to experience the other side as well. I started thinking about my vision in ceremony two of the Goddess imprisoned in the fortress of gold by power and wealth and connected that to how Ayahuasca is used by some as a means for profit by appealing to people with a touristy adventure vibe. Not only can human potential be locked away by the pursuit of money but the potential for Ayahuasca to be locked away by the greed of a nefarious operator of a retreat trying to make a buck off of her became a concern. At this point I halted the visions. I have gained such mastery over my mind, well myself, that I seemed to be able to do that at this point. Now that I'm back home I really wish I hadn't have done this and had just let myself go into the visions. I have nothing to fear and it would have been the better decision at the time but I let my ego-mind and distrust of the process get the best of me. Like I said before, that very well could be the lesson I need to learn out of this process and that is to let go of suspicion and distrust and free my mind to experience this journey with no preconceptions and then take it for what it is. Okay so then I started thinking about my family, especially my wife and how she has put up with me for so long. I wanted to apologize for my behaviour and for how I'd changed. I wanted to tell her that whenever I disrespect her to immediately let me know. I thought of my children and how I enjoy having them around. I worried about my son and his future and wanted to tell him he can always live at home. I thought about how much joy my dogs Brindle and Luna have brought me. I thanked the Goddess for this opportunity and she told me to enjoy the last week here with Huachuma, as it will be a good experience. She told me to keep my spirits up and just soak it all in. After the ceremony ended I felt content however afterwards I learned part of my path. An older couple was struggling and the man needed to get back to his room. There were no helpers left to lend a hand so I got up and roused his son to help but he was still mostly in the intoxication. Luckily another guy, Brian, who hadn't drank that night was still in the maloca and between us we were able to help him back to his room and then upon returning we helped his wife back to their room. We received much thanks from the couple and their son for doing this and as we were walking back to the maloca we both realized how wonderful and heart opening it is to help people with no expectation of reward or recognition. When I saw them again today they once again showed tremendous gratitude which was nice. As well the guy who had helped commented on how sober and together I was despite drinking Ayahuasca. I said I came out of the intoxication early however in truth it is because I have developed such mastery over myself that it doesn't have a hold on me anymore (...or at least I thought so until I was introduced to Huachuma). I control what I let in and how it can affect me though I concede a stronger dose or a formidable addictive could still send me reeling but the normal dose is not strong enough for my mind and I immediately recognize the hypnotic quality of the intoxication. In retrospect I see now how clear it is that I need to cede this control if I wish to advance any further on my path. At the time though I remember being happy for the experience and pleased that I had such control over myself. If feel now that I could have learned so much more if I would have let go and immersed myself in the experience. My mindset currently will not let me and that is something I need to work on before continuing on the plant medicine path. My path right now involves integrating the lessons and knowledge I received, working on opening up my heart, and also letting go of the iron grip and lock I have placed on my mind and my willingness to allow plant medicines to access and control it. So that's it for the Ayahuasca portion of this trip and after a few days rest we move on to Huachuma.