My Third Ayahuasca Ceremony
The evening of the third ayahuasca ceremony began very much like the previous two: Meet at the maloca at 5:30pm, surrender a “herbal support therapy” token, stake out a mattress, and listen to the shaman speak prior to the rapé offering.
This third ceremony was planned to be a little different than the first two. This time we had a woman shaman named Sarah. She was petite like me, and she had a very loving yet strong presence about it her. Additionally, there was going to be a lot of live music that night. Third: The night was planned to end with dancing. We were also told that this particular ceremony was to be focused on feminine energy.
I took some notes pre-ceremony:
Feeling gratitude, appreciation, and happiness pre-ceremony. The shaman Sarah spoke beautifully. I’m feeling uncertain about how much “medicine” to take despite leaning into trust with it from last night’s ceremony. I still feel hesitant to take a full dose – especially because I can tell my period is coming soon.
After writing that, I decided to speak to Sarah about my concern. I had read during my pre-trip research to be cautious about combining ayahuasca with menstruation. It probably depends a lot on the brew and the sensitivity of the person in question. I hadn’t officially started my period yet, but I could tell that it was going to start soon. (For the record, my cycle is a bit erratic and not at all predictable or like clock-work, so I mostly rely on reading my body’s signals in terms of knowing when it’s likely to start.)
Sarah said that you could never take too much ayahuasca. I was surprised by that response, especially since it seemed contradictory to some of my research. But I would’ve guessed that she probably had a lot of experience with it herself, so she would know! I tried to let her words calm my uneasiness.
I had noticed that some people were asking for blessings at the same time that rapé was being offered, so I thought it would be interesting to experience that. Steve and I asked for one together, and Sarah obliged.
I loved listening to the chanting sounds – half-spoken, half-sung – during the blessing. They had a very calming effect on me. It was spoken in Spanish, and I could make out a little of it. If memory serves me correctly, she sang for energetic protection in different areas. I specifically recall the chant calling for heart protection (proteccion corazón). She waved feathers or leaves over us – I’m not sure which; maybe both – while chanting. At some point she took the same protective liquid that Brad had sprayed me with the previous night and wiped us down with it ; our heads, necks, arms, sides, and even some on my tummy/womb area. It all felt very loving and soothing.
When everyone was back at their mattresses, they turned down the lights and began the ceremony as usual. I think they incorporated even more instrumental components into the ceremonial songs and ikaros. It was lovely to listen to. I was sitting relatively close to where they were performing, so despite the candle-lit darkness my view was fantastic.
Then there was the call to drink. I still felt uncertain as to how much I should take. When I found myself in front of Sarah the Shaman, I request about half a serving or so. If memory serves me, I believe I received a bit more than that, but I downed it anyway. I thanked her, and then returned to my mattress.
Generally, I’d say I felt joyful and insightful. I wrote a lot of notes in the darkness. I won’t duplicate them all here, but a particular set of notes seemed of special relevance to me for what I was later to experience this night. Those insights were as follows:
Be yourself. It’s one of the greatest acts of love and service there is.
Never be “sorry”, for that indicates regret in receiving your lesson. Lessons beget learning and growth, which are inherent to our nature. It’s why we are here.
Love is a spectrum. It’s all love.
When you compare yourself with others, it shows the only thing you are lacking is true, unconditional happiness.
Judgment = separation = cutting yourself off from love.
Loving yourself is a service to the world.
You can be a witness for yourself and the universe.
Also, I’m pretty certain I recall seeing even more fireflies twinkle their way into the maloca once the windows were opened. Seeing their twinkles and sparkles filled me with so much joy.
Before long, the call for the second drink came along. I felt pretty happy and didn’t seem to be experiencing anything much aside from that, so I thought I’d try leaning into courage and try a second dose.
When I found myself in front of Sarah again, I requested a small second dosage. I think she could tell I was on the fence for trying something a little more than a tiny amount (which I initially indicated); I remember her asking if I wanted a little more than that, or if I really wanted just a tiny amount. I suppose I took that as a sign to try a slightly bigger second dose, so I suggested a little under half a serving. She turned away to pour the brew into the serving shot glass, and returned with it fuller than I expected. I swear it was somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters full. I was a bit hesitant, but remembering her words from earlier (“You can never have too much ayahuasca.”), I decided to trust her expertise and I drank it.
I returned to my mattress. I’m not sure how much time passed, but after a while I recall feeling panicked and distressed. The smoke-filled air felt suppressing and I wanted to stick my head outside to breathe, as if I couldn’t adequately get enough air otherwise.
And then I started to feel ill. I tried to get the attention of one of the aides – I was wearing a couple beaded bracelets, so I put up my hand and shook my wrist, rattling the beads. But no one came. No one noticed me. I started to feel worse.
I didn’t simply feel physically ill. I remember feeling a tremendous emotional pain. It started off as anxiety, panic, and stress. But then these morphed in deep, deep sorrow. Combined with the physical pain, nausea, and illness that I was feeling, it was pretty damn intense. And I was dizzy – damn dizzy. I felt a thousand times worse than the drunkest I had ever been from alcohol.
I started to whimper. Then I started to cry. Before long, I was wailing, moaning, and sobbing – deep, guttural sobbing. I felt like I was mourning, crying so deeply, as though I had suffered a deep, tremendous loss. I was so loud, I suppose I was disturbing to the other participants. The aides tried to sooth me, and some of them tried to hush me. But that just made me want to cry more. Why couldn’t I just cry? I wanted to cry, dammit. I didn’t want to stop. Crying was a valid form of emotional purging, so why should I even want to “shhhhh“? Now I was sad and frustrated; I felt misunderstood, too.
Since I was so disruptive and obviously in a lot of turmoil, the aides wanted to take me to see Sarah, who resided at the front of the room. It was difficult to do so, though, because I was so incredibly nauseous and discombobulated. I was dizzy to the Nth degree, and moving felt nearly impossible, especially with my uncontrollable sobbing thrown in the mix. My body was tingling fiercely, I had trouble feeling my extremities. My stomach was tied in tangled knots of anxiety and sorrow, and I felt incredibly nauseous too.
Just getting myself off my mattress was a huge ordeal. I needed the assistance of two aides to help me balance. I swear, it was a miracle I even made it to Sarah without falling over. And once I was there, I just wanted to sob even more. And I felt so ill I was honestly concerned about the possibility of vomiting right into her lap.
Sarah, as a shaman, was of course under the influence of ayahuasca herself, as were all the aides. I remember she tried asking me some questions, but I just couldn’t really stop crying. I was confused as to why exactly as why crying so hard – it’s not as though ayahuasca is known to heighten one’s sense of logic – so I couldn’t exactly articulate a specific reason for what I was going through emotionally. But then I remember she started to talk about being strong and having strength, and that I could draw strength from my womb.
What the fuck? That just made me cry even more! First off, why was my crying being associated with a lack of strength? Unabashedly showing or displaying emotion is too often regarded as a form of weakness, which is bullshit. It felt like there was a disconnect. Why couldn’t I both be strong and give in and cry? I didn’t feel ashamed that I was crying. Purging was what these ayahuasca ceremonies were all about, which included emotional purging. But secondly, I often regretted having a uterus with its expectations of childbearing and motherhood and whatnot. I didn’t exactly want to see it as something to draw strength from at that time, especially since it was likely a major contributor to whatever the hell was going on with me at that moment in time.
Anyway, Sarah concluded that I should go outside and connect with the earth, so the two aides led me outside as I stumbled along. They kept telling me to hold my head up high. but I really couldn’t. I was dizzy and nauseous, the room was spinning. I felt like if I didn’t have my eyes solidly on the ground I couldn’t walk at all. I could barely walk as is. It was frustrating as hell, though, because I got the impression that those who were helping me thought that my inability to stand up straight or hold me head high was due to emotional reasons. (True, I was emotional at the time, but my ability to stand up properly or hold my head high was due to the intense nausea, which only seemed to contribute to whatever emotional turmoil I was experiencing.)
Finally, I was on the grass. I collapsed. Everything was feeling worse and worse by the minute. I could tell that I was severely dehydrated. I knew something was not right. I was pretty damn certain my body was over-dosed, despite that what I had taken was not a terribly large amount. But I’m small, I know my body pretty well, and therefore I know how it can be extremely sensitive at times, and even more so given that the start of my cycle was kicking in.
(FYI: When the menstrual cycle starts, liver is over-flooded with an excess estrogen. This leaves the liver overworked and overburdened. I believe it couldn’t properly or adequately process the excess estrogen in my system and the DMT in my system.)
I wanted to see a doctor. I felt severely dehydrated. I couldn’t feel my body and extremities properly. I was nauseous and dizzy as fuck. I felt like the drunkest I had been in my life. Plus, I remember reading somewhere that ayahuasca shouldn’t make you feel like you’re drunk in the same way that alcohol does – and that if you do, it likely means you’ve over-dosed. And I tried to express my concerns for my health and wellbeing to the aides and kept requesting to see a doctor, but the aides just kept saying the same thing like a broken record: “But it’s the medicine working. It’s just the medicine working.”
I was getting so frustrated. I was angry for not being listened to and for not having my wellbeing taken seriously. I was kneeling in the grass on all fours, and I kept hitting the top of feet against the ground as well as my fists, partially out of anger and partially because it was the only thing I could do to remind myself that my feet were still there since they had gone so numb.
In fact, it felt like my entire body was numb. I was scared that I would stop breathing. I tried to focus on taking deep, controlled breaths to reassure myself that I was breathing, as I no longer trusted that my body would handle that task automatically. It was really quite a terrifying feeling. (When I later checked my vital stats from my Apple Watch the following day, apparently my heart rate had slowed to 43 BPM or so that night.)
But finally, finally, the aides decided to fetch a so-called doctor to check on me. But whoever this individual was, he just repeated the same phrase to me. It’s like everyone was trained to be brain-washed and say the same thing. “It’s just the medicine working.” Uh-huh, sure it was. How did he know? He checked absolutely nothing. So much for the purported safety of this place being a medical facility. That surely seemed like a joke. What use was that if no one could actually request their vitals to be checked by trusted medical means? I felt like I desperately needed a hydration IV. And seeing that I’ve never had the need for an IV of any kind in my life (except perhaps possibly when I was a newborn) and how adverse I am to such things, you can imagine how awfully sick I must’ve felt to have drawn such a conclusion.
Now I decided to purge my anger and frustration by screaming. Why not? There was no evident reason I could see to attempt to restrain myself and act like a perfectly sane, normal person. Whatever I was experiencing at the time was far from sane and normal, and it seemed beyond my ability to convince the supportive staff to address my health concerns in a sane and normal way. And so I let loose, screaming, crying, and pounding my fists against the grassy ground. I clawed at the dirt and grass in effort to cope with my writhing pain.
I would’ve loved to have vomited, but I couldn’t. I would’ve welcomed it, as surely it would ease the nausea. But I wasn’t even close to actually bringing anything up. Then for a while I felt like maybe something would come out the other end, or goodness, even both ends… but still nothing.
At some point, I realized I couldn’t see properly. (It may have been this way just before I made it outside, but now it seemed even worse.) My vision couldn’t focus, despite the fact that I still had my glasses on. The sensation wasn’t too far off from spinning yourself around and around and around and then stopping, but then feeling like you’re still spinning despite now being still. My internal accelerometer was completely offline. And in addition to that, at some point it seemed as though my vision was being put through some moving rainbow-spectrum visual-effect filter, the exact effects of which are incredibly difficult to properly articulate. (But I’ll try: You know those little spectrum rainbow glints of light one might see when, say, looking at a diamond? It’s like I could see a bunch of those little mini rainbow spectrums in my vision, and those spectrums seemed like they were moving vs being static – probably due to the same effect that causes one to feel like they’re spinning despite being still.)
My writhing pain and not being able to vomit or poop went on for hours. I’d drunkenly crawl and stumble to the single-stall bathroom on occasion, in hopes that being in a proper position might somehow coax something out of me, but nothing. I felt so intoxicated and drunk –exponentially beyond the most intoxicated feeling I had ever experienced in my entire life, without any end or soothing in sight. An aide even helped me with my removing (or was it putting back on?) my leggings for and/or after one of my failed bathroom attempts since I felt so drunk and so in pain that I couldn’t even seem to manage that simple task.
I remember at some point, the night was clearly drawing to a close. There was more live music, and I could hear joyful music and singing from those dancing and laughing in the maloca. Meanwhile, I was hunkered down in the bathroom with intensely nauseous, painful, hopeful determination that I would expel the toxicity from my body. And finally, through the music and dancing and singing in the distance, I began to retch and dry-heave within the confinement of my distanced, tiny, solitary bathroom.
A few song titles stuck out to me, particularly, All You Need Is Love. Also – and I’m not sure if I’m remembering this, but it sure seemed to fit – You Can’t Always Get What You Want. (But if you try sometimes well, you might find, you get what you need.)
I have never heard my body make such horrific gut-retching noises. Since I couldn’t seem to poop (I’m guessing my body was probably too dehydrated), my body decided that it had to do whatever was necessary to get me to vomit. But I was too dehydrated to vomit, too. So after many iterations of deep, gut-wrenching gags, I finally, FINALLY vomited up some kind of dark, thick sludge. It was so thick, there was no sloshing whatsoever in the receiving bucket. I’d consider this stuff to be a solid. In fact, it looked like it really should have come out the other end. And, oddly, I remember noticing the shape it took in the bucket eerily resembled that of a frog. (This is symbolically fascinating, but more on that later.)
Mere moments after vomiting, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. Almost immediately after my little shifting and moving rainbow spectrums in my vision finally faded and vanished. I still felt some nausea and dizziness, but the intensity was dialed down significantly.
I still felt ill though. And although I had hopes of the nausea finally dissipating – and for an ever so brief moment, I think it did – I was beginning to become aware that my body was now entering a new phase of nausea; a different flavor, if you will.
I decided to just keep my pants and underwear off. I was wearing a polk-a-dotted, short, stretchy cotton dress that I normally pair with leggings of some kind, but since I predicted future trips to the bathroom, and nausea and dizziness were obviously about to continue in new form, I figured, “To heck with it. I’m going commando. And if someone sees my flabby naked ass and hairy crotch, oh well. And I’m not going to feel sorry or ashamed about it, either.”
I stumbled my way back to the maloca and to my mattress. The singing, music, and dancing was just wrapping up. Sarah then spoke some closing words to the room at large. Everyone else seemed to have regained all their wits about them, save for me – I was back to rocking and writhing in discomfort, nausea, and pain on my mattress.
It was time for everyone to mingle and then say goodnight and depart back to their rooms for the night, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I knew my body really needed water, but I felt so dizzy and nauseous that it was hard to make myself drink any. Just sitting upright in order to take a sip felt like a nearly unsurmountable task.
I stayed on my mattress for a while, on all fours, rocking back and forth. I wondered if I’d vomit again, but it never came. I remember Steve helping me hobble over to one of the bathrooms inside the maloca (the one I had used before was located outside the maloca), and I sat in there for a while, feeling ill and hoping I would vomit and/or poop. But again, I just continued to feel rather ill. At least my vision was no longer as fucked up as it was from before I vomitted.
An hour or two passed. I didn’t feel stable enough to walk “home” to our room. Steve and some others tried to help me to and from the bathroom on occasion. I took over a new mattress near that indoor bathroom so that I wouldn’t have far to go. I was so tired, and I wanted to sleep. But I was also still so nauseous. …I think finally, at some point, I was able to expel some poop (which was difficult to do due to my dehydrated state), which thankfully helped me feel a little less dizzy and slightly less nauseous. But I was still in a horrendous state overall, so I decided to camp out by myself over night in the maloca on the new mattress by the bathroom that I had claimed.
I was rarely actually alone, though, as the maloca had to be cleaned by staff. The blankets from all the mattresses had to be collected, the sheets and pillow cases stripped, the vomit buckets collected and washed, the floors washed, etc. And I watched it all happen from a horizontal position on my (new) mattress.
Little by little, I was able to force myself to sip a tiny bit of water here and there. (Steve had been such a sweetheart helping me with water too, at least up until he had left to go back to our room to sleep.) Sleep in the maloca escaped me, however. I don’t think I was able to actually fall asleep until sometime near or after dawn. And any sleep I actually did get was next to nil.
At least I had my pants and underwear back on… I think.