As I mentioned in the post about rappelling down a waterfall, I didn’t really know what was going on or what to expect that day. I’d say that summarizes relatively well my ayahuasca experience.
Melissa, the Peace Corps volunteer who helped me get in with the Tsachilas, told me they do ayahuasca ceremonies. ayahuasca is a plant/vine that when prepared offers the user a hallucinogenic experience. For the indigenous people in this part of the world it is a spiritual experience allowing them to get in touch with themselves and their ancestors.
I told Budy, my guide to the Tsachilas that I wanted to try it. He only asked me one question – Did I come to this decision on my own. I said yes, and the next day we did the ceremony at night.
During the day I relaxed. Budy played traditional Tsachila marimba music, I thought about what was to come, watched the movie Gandhi to feel inspired, and napped. You have to take ayahuasca on an empty stomach, so we had a huge lunch.
When night came, a large fire was prepared by burning wood gathered from the farm. Budy smashed the ayahuasca plant with a stone and put the pieces in a pot. He added 20 liters/5 gallons of water, and put the pot on the fire. The fire was intense so the water boiled relatively rapidly.
Once there was just a concentrated liter left, Budy took the pot off the fire. Maro, Budy’s brother, led us down to the river to cleanse ourselves. Basically Juan, another person partaking in the ceremony, Maro, and I bathed to clean the outsides of our bodies in preparation of what was to come.
Fully clean on the outside, we returned to the fire. While the concentrated ayahuasca was cooling down, Maro underwent a baño del vapor (steam bath). Rocks that were in the fire were put in a pot containing water and Maro sat inside a blanket and took in the steam.
When the steam bath was over and the concentrated ayahuasca was cool, we went with Budy to a room I hadn’t been in before. It was the ceremony room and Budy performed a ceremony to prepare us. It involved blowing smoke on us, shaking a plant around us and hitting us with it a bit (not painfully), spreading some kind of sweet-smelling plant extract on our bodies, and then drinking a cup of the concentrated ayahuasca.
Juan went to the tent he was staying in and his girlfriend took care of him. It wasn’t his first time and his girlfriend has done it as well.
Budy stayed with me and we went back to where the fire was. I sat down on a wooden bench and put my back against a supporting pole.
And then I waited.
The picture below was the last one I took during the evening.
People told me I’d have to confront my demons when the ayahuasca kicked in. It might be a euphoric, sense-heightening experience, there might be repressed memories from childhood that come up, I might talk to the deceased, etc.
The first thing I noticed was the wave of warmth and relaxation that swept over me. It felt exactly like what many of the spirituality books I’ve read describe as the inner consciousness or spirit. Before I got sick, it was fantastically relaxing.
Budy would ask me if my senses were heightened or if I saw things. Juan told me the forest might look like the planet in Avatar, for example.
It’s hard to tell if my senses were heightened, but I think I heard things better. I didn’t see things better, but at one point I looked down and it was as if I could see the vibrational energy of the piece of wood in front of me. I’m not sure how else to explain it.
At times I would see people in the woods in front of me. I knew they didn’t exist, but I’d see them. They’d often emerge from the woods or drop out of the tree in the distance in front of me and usually run to the left or right. That’d be it. At one point a dog ran out from the woods and as it got closer it turned into a lion. But it wasn’t running toward me. It was running off to my left.
When I spoke there was a delay. I guess it didn’t help that I was speaking Spanish, but yes, I’d speak and then hear myself a fraction of a second later. It was very weird, like I slowed time down or something.
In the end, I didn’t fight any demons or talk to any dead people. I did get quite sick, which is normal. I vomited countless times and the other side of the digestive tract wasn’t happy either.
It’s just my humble opinion, but I don’t think it’s easy to have a deep spiritual experience when you are vomiting and trying your best not to lose control of your bowels. But maybe that’s just me.
I was very dizzy and my first attempt at heading to bed was a spectacular failure. I stood up, was too dizzy to do anything, and sat back down to instantly start vomiting again.
An hour or so later, I did get up and we walked to the bathroom. Needless to say, it was not easy to do my business in there but everything turned out fine. Budy helped me get there and then helped me get to my bed.
As soon as I got to my bed, I needed to vomit again. He took a rolled up poster, unrolled it, and put it on the ground. Motion seemed to be a trigger for vomiting, so afterwards I was fine.
Budy slept on the unused mattress on the floor in the room to make sure I was ok. I fell asleep quickly and woke up when I heard noise a couple hours later as the Tsachilas started their daily chores at sunrise.
I got up to go to the bathroom and my balance was still off. Earlier, when I walked with Budy to the bathroom and then my bed, I’d speed up to almost be running for absolutely no reason. I kind of did the same thing on my way to the bathroom at sunrise, but I was in better control of myself.
Budy woke me up at 10am.
I was basically fine when I woke up. I wasn’t terribly hungry despite not having dinner the night before and all the vomiting. I had two apples to get things started and then I had a nice lunch with Budy and his family before leaving.
Budy said the experience you have while on ayahuasca is a reflection of what’s inside. So I asked if he thought the lack of demons means I don’t have any demons inside. He said it’s entirely possible. I liked this explanation.
Maro, Budy’s brother, offered a different explanation – a lack of concentration. Maybe that’s true. I probably could have concentrated better had I not been so tired and not so focused on controlling my bodily functions.
Still, I feel pretty “clean” inside and I don’t think I had any demons to fight. But who knows. Everyone’s experience is different and I”m sure if I try ayahuasca again the experience would be different.
I’ve never tried any hard or soft drugs. I still haven’t as ayahuasca is a naturally occurring plant that isn’t illegal or prohibited. But I think I’m done with hallucinogenic plants for the foreseeable future.
I’ll try anything once, and ayahuasca is probably one of those things I’ll only try once.
About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.