“God, there has to be an easier way” – my mind screams out as I am in the throes–(perfect word – those who have done these ceremonies will know what I mean) — of a full on dimension merging, mind-body-spirit purging, reality melting Ayahuascan Shamanic ceremony in the Amazonian rainforest.

Wow she is strong! – Ayahuasca. She is a beautiful plant – goddess – force, loving, caring, but very strong. As soon as the medicine takes effect one of the first things I have an encounter with is a green skinned young goddess with copper colored hair. She seems to peek in on me, like she’s interested in the ‘new soul’ that has come to her for help. Being in this unfamiliar world, I have a sense that it is Ayahuasca herself saying ‘hello’ but not being sure I apologize to her for not trusting her. She is not offended in the least– and after scanning me, quickly moves on to whatever the myriad of things she’s doing with all us of.

It is an insistent ‘purging’ on every level– my mind, my heart, my spirit, my body! The young man next to me is screaming, “Jesus please save me”. There is wailing, moaning, crying out for help in the darkness to every imaginable God, Archangel, Angel and helping spirit that humans have called upon through time filling up the room all around me. We are all facing our inner demons on internal ‘journeys’ throughout dimensions both heavenly and hellish. The heavenly experiences come later in the week, right now we are fully occupied with fighting off the giant snakes, the pits of huge spider beings wanting to suck us in, the planet of flesh orchids that want to invade and feed off our soul essences, the dark tunnels-vortexes downwards towards soul dungeons where pieces of our souls are trapped.

Ayahuasca in concert with the Shamans and their magic Icaros – the songs they sing, are bringing our ‘stuff’, our darkness, our unhealed places to the surface. It’s a bit like surgery without anesthesia, but there is no real physical pain – it’s all occurring in our consciousness. It’s not a pretty sight though. ‘La Purga’ is in full effect, people are throwing up in their buckets and heading for the bathrooms, inhuman noises seem to be coming from all around the room. It’s amazing and a testament to the skills of the Shamans that full on pandemonium and mass terror doesn’t ensue with people running screaming out into the jungle. (Though I am told later that that does in fact occasionally occur.) I know better than to give in to my urge to run away and when I feel like there is a 30 foot forest spirit behind me just outside the flimsy mosquito netting, I know I’d rather stay here and face my self and my personal monsters head on.

I’m surprised more people don’t throw in the towel and head home the next morning. I know I have been told by my inner voice, that this is something for me to do for my healing. I can’t walk away, and I don’t want to. I have promised myself that whatever Spirit suggests to me I will try my best to do. When I ‘accidentally’ picked up the magazine in the airport a few months ago and read the article about Ayahuasca ceremonies, I can remember intuitively knowing this was something I needed to do and resignedly telling my girlfriend half jokingly -” I think I’m going to the Amazon to visit Hell.”

And by the way, Ayahuasca is likely the most powerful plant ‘medicine’ on the planet and for those of us that are so inveterately ‘stiff necked’ that we need Big Medicine to knock us off our perches and get us to take a look at ourselves– I highly recommend it. But it’s not for everyone. There are occasions when after drinking the brew that people have had no effects and Ayahuasca has told them that she is not for them.

There are 23 people in our group from all over the world. A retired professor, a Vietnam vet, an Italian couple, a screen writer, a young musician, an economist, a woman trying to heal her depression, a mortician, an executive recruiter, computer managers. It is not a normal ‘spiritual’ gathering. There are about twice as many men as women – and from the outside we seem an unlikely group that would get together. But in some strange way it makes sense. It’s like there’s a willingness to try something real in our lives and a sincere intention for it.

In the 2nd Ceremony I’m right next to the Shamans & their apprentices. I ask mentally to be shown how they ‘work the room’. It’s as if they allow me to piggyback on their consciousness and I can see how the Icaros-Songs are actually sung ‘into’ the bodies & psyches of my fellow participants. At one point I am actually seeing horrible faces, monsters, demons coming out of people. I can see how the Shamans sing into a particular person and coax out, (really it’s an exorcism) the stuck energy or demon that is ready to come out. At one point the shamans are all laughing at the grotesque faces these ‘monsters’ are making. It’s like there is a contest between the demons as to who can look the ugliest & the shamans are comparing them and pointing them out to each other.

Franco whom I get to know later in the week – spends what seems like a couple of hours just howling & retching & having some alien monster froglike being coming out of him. Later when asked he doesn’t recall any of it.

After the ceremony is over some people compare what’s floating in their vomit buckets. Like it’s some sort of reading of tea leaves. I’m not that interested, just glad whatever it was is now gone.

There are giant blue morpho butterflies flying around the camp the next morning. Surprisingly my body feels really good. I’m a little shaky inside but I don’t feel bad in any way.

Some of us head off into the jungle for some exploration, I and others choose to stay in the hammocks and try to put the pieces of ourselves back together again. I just want time to be and do nothing.

I have purposely not done any research or reading on Ayahuasca before this trip. I had not wanted to try to understand only mentally what Ayahuasca was before being part of it. Now that I’m here and have gotten the direct experience in 2 ceremonies I’m reading some of other people’s accounts. I had heard the word ‘Yage’ during my first ceremony and now come across a book called ‘The Cosmic Serpent’ by Jeremy Narby – where he shows strong likelihood that the shamans are able to bring their consciousness down to the DNA level during ceremonies and ‘see’ the twisting rope ladder of the DNA as the ‘cosmic serpent’. That rings true to me as I recall those years at the University studying cell & molecular biology and almost becoming a geneticist.

During a chaotic time in a later ceremony there is a young purple jaguar that comes and lies right in front of me, curls up and purrs contentedly. He is very comforting and it feels like he helps me navigate the chaos. Later a shaman apprentice tells me this is a known spirit being that helps out during ceremonies.

It seems that we are connected by ‘cords’, sort of like an umbilical fiber optic cable, to other parts of ourselves that may be stuck or existing in heavenly or hellish places. During the ceremonies often one will travel along these cords to visit the places where these other parts of ourselves are. If you help release or free a part of you that is trapped in some ‘hell’ dimension – it may be likened to what has been called a ‘soul retrieval’ process. You feel freer and a particular healing may occur – a physical or psychological situation usually clears up. And when visiting the heavenly places it’s like we get infused or filled with the powerful, comforting energies of pure essence.

Maybe I’m a wimp, but during the ceremonies I’ve been traveling along these cords and when I come to a ‘soul dungeon’ I’ve looked inside and decided to pull back and get out of there. At one point the head shaman comes over and gently suggests ‘Why not go down there and face those beings and see that you are stronger than them.’ I smile wryly and say ‘Sure, maybe I will’. But I have no intention of going fully down in there yet.

In one of these places I visit,(and it’s not like you choose where to go, it’s more like there is a guidance by Ayahuasca taking you to places that the medicine knows are important for you to go see) – I see a being in the center of what appears to be a spiders nest. And this being is feeding off of souls that it has trapped in its web. It’s a horrible hell place, compressed space, no freedom, a feeling like the walls are closing in while being fed off by this being. I just observe, resisting the impulse to get the hell out of there as fast as possible. There’s something here for me to see. I’m very careful not to get noticed by the ‘soul sucking’ Spider being. After just observing for a while I can sense that this being as just another soul – like me, like all of us – that has gotten tangled up and caught in this web of feeding off of others. It’s like some parasite-host game going on. And in some way I feel that from the bigger perspective of eternity, even this soul-being will ‘come back to its senses’ and wake up and realize that it’s a part of ‘God’ or the creative force.

Visiting the ‘heavenly’ realms has another awakening eye opener for me. Others had described how great their experiences had been going to these places of light & realization. I thought of course that it would be wonderful, ecstatic, etc.

At one point during a ceremony I find myself being lifted up and it’s like my being is expanding outward starting to envelop larger spaces. I’m in a place with a mountain range of 1000 ft Buddha’s to my right. They are shining with gold & silver light coming out of them. Unruffled, eternal, powerful with half open eyes, they seem to barely notice me. In this place of expansion it’s as if I feel my self, my personality, I guess it’s what we sometimes call our ego, start to dissolve. I had thought this would be great, it’s what I’ve been meditating for all these years, to merge back with God. Instead it feels like I’m disappearing, dissolving, and it’s terrifying, I feel like I’m going to explode. I plead with God – “please, no more, I can’t take it. Put me back together again.” I realize later that I’m being shown that expanding a soul before its ready can be very painful. I realize also that I have done this to others in my sometimes pushing them to ‘wake up’. I feel chastised by Spirit.

Though you can’t really describe what Ayahuasca ‘does’ very well in our linear language – it is most often a very personal & customized experience – talk to people that have participated in it and you’re likely to get as many descriptions of what it’s like. But there are some things that seem common for many people. One of those seems to be the ‘life review’. During this process it is as if you are taken on a journey where you feel in excruciating clarity exactly what you have been doing with and towards those people that you are closest to in your life. In my life review I had to see and face things about myself and my relationship with my father in particular. I saw that what I had been projecting on him is really what I had been guilty of. I had felt he had been ‘hard’ on me and not open to having a father – son relationship (in the way I thought it should be). And I saw and felt (ouch) that I had been equally closed and judgmental. During this ‘life review’ I found myself basically apologizing to everyone about what an insensitive idiot I had been to my mother, my partner, my ex wife, my friends.

Another thing that happened that others said they also experienced, was a sort of ‘spiritual MRI scan’ where Ayahuasca literally scans & shakes your whole body section by section as if the she is looking for anything out of place or out of balance. While this was going on it felt like an outside force was running through me, scanning me, inspecting me and part of it was to ‘vibrate out’ whatever energies may have been entangled with my nerves, bones, muscles that needed to be cleaned out. It felt great, like an ultimate massage therapist somehow that detoxed whatever built up impurities were stuck in my body.

While it’s impossible to describe everything that happens in a ceremony that is literally occurring outside of our normal space & time – there was another amazing incident.

We had an Earthquake.

About 4 hrs into our second to last ceremony – in an instant – the whole room, the whole group went from being engaged in our personal journeys to complete stillness and alertness. We all raised our heads at the same time and opened our eyes and at the same time the cacophony of jungle noises by insects, birds etc went instantly quiet. Then there was a strange sound that I interpreted like some sort of air craft squealing towards the ground – and then the earth moved back and forth 3 times.

The Ayahuasca ceremony was instantly over.
We were back in our normal reality.
When asked the Shaman said that had never happened in a ceremony before.

Later someone researched the time of the earthquake.
It had occurred at exactly 11:11pm local time in Peru.