We arrived at the ayahuasca retreat yesterday. After an hour bus ride and a 3 hour boat ride , we arrived at a secluded lodge in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. The boat ride was amazing. The clouds looked like something out of this world, the water so calm. As we traveled, I put my right hand into the water. The coolness relieved the heat I was feeling. I put the cool on the back of my neck and forearms, a heat rash had come back.
I gazed into the sky and many colored butterflies crossed the path ahead.
It had only been an hour and felt I had made a few friends.
Getting to the center seemed long and was a bit uncomfortable.. and completely worth it. The views were something of a foreign and beautiful land.
Once we arrived, I felt I was in a little village. There were huts all around the property. I was asked by a group of 3 girls to bunk with them, 4 to a room. Each room had a separation piece and curtain, a double size bed with pillow and sheets, a towel, table, and two cabinets to put our things. I was in the only all girl hut and there was a scent of noticeable feminine energy. In the room, there was one girl from New York, from the area I was now currently living.. another from the area I grew up around, in Canada.. and another living in the area I was had thought of having a home, in Woodstock, New York.
Once I settled in, we had a group meeting in the center where we would be partaking in Ayahuasca ceremony, the moloka. Our facilitators introduced themselves and gave an overview of what to expect. There we had introductions to the rest of the group. Two of my bunk mates had attended the retreat just a week before, the other third mate joined them for the last leg of the journey. On of the other two girls on the retreat is a holistic doctor from the states and the other is very sweet and works for government in her province. There are two friends here from Iceland, chess player and soul journeyer. There are two brothers from California, a true gem from Australia and the youngest on the trip voyaged out from Alaska.
After our group meeting, we had lunch.. what seemed like the strictest of strict regarding Ayahuasca diet. Green pea mash, quinoa, boiled potatoes, beets, carrots, with a side of broccoli.. and banana for dessert. No salt, no sugar, no pepper.
In a few hours we got ready for a flower bath to be done by one of the shamans. We each sat down and let her bathe us down with buckets of floral war water. We were told to let the water dry on our skin and to get ready for ceremony.
Once dried, we entered the moloka. Our facilitators engaged us in some simple yogic exercises. Then we sat in silence, with two candles lit in the center and waited for the shamans to arrive.
After they entered, they prepared their things.. and one by one, we each sat in front of them and were given a cup of this sacred brew, ayahuasca. We were asked prior to have intention when partaking in this ceremony and having that intention in our mind when drinking. It tasted like camu camu, looked like dark cocoa. I took deep sips, in she went. I sat down on my bed, waiting for the medicine to activate within. After 10 minutes or so, one of the girls, whom I will later call- my barf sister, purged. With hesitation to leave the moloka, I got up to use the bathroom. On my way back, I noticed the sky, the magnificent display of stars. I had never seen anything so amazing. There were so many. The whole sky was illuminated. Some twinkling rapidly, some more steady with a radiant brightness. Even the stardust was visible. .. I could feel the medicine inside me, I ran to my bucket. I purged for a few minutes, I felt dizzy in the room, my head felt heavy, I had to keep moving so I could feel ok. I began to pray, asking the mother divine to heal those things deep inside me. At one point, I looked outside and felt the sky was within my reach. I threw up again, this time more painful. I asked Ma to mend my broken heart and the things that have tormented me in my life.
As I finished purging, I gave thanks to Mama Ayahuasca for releasing.
I sat back and felt a heaviness. I did some deep breathing. I breathed so deeply, a noise came from me as the air entered my stomach. I exhaled, unlike ever before. What seemed like every last ounce of air exited my body, so much so I was sitting straight with my head toward the sky and noises exiting as the air left also. I felt I was breathing out negative vibes and sadness, I gave Ma thanks for helping to heal me.
The shamans began their icaros. It sounded like a mix of ancient bhajan chanting and native american spirit songs. The melody was somber and full of a healing energy. I began to hum along as if I knew the song. My feet began to move and hands started to tap along. I wanted to dance. Then there was silence. I felt very mellow and observant. I had an itch to stretch my body but stopped myself. The sounds of others in the room seemed to tell each was having a somewhat intense experience. A bit of envy entered me but also I had some comfort, feeling my intentions of the night had been met.
After a while longer, the shamans began personal icaros and sat in front, one by one, of each of us. Later, the first first of the two shamans, I will call him, mi padre de peru, sat in front of me. I felt a surge of energy coming through him. He sang and had a certain kind of breathing which he did over me. He put a liquid in his mouth, aguaflorida, it had a strong citrusy menthol scent. He breathed the cool air on me and touched my head.
When he moved to the next person, his wife sat in front of me, mi madre de peru. As she sang, a great sadness came over me. I cried a lot. The tears seemed to be falling out of my eyes like huge water pellets. I felt each tear bounce off my arm as it fell. She seemed to be singing for a long time in front of me. The uneasiness at the end of her notes made me feel that she knew the hurt inside me. I was so thankful to be apart of this. The ceremony continued for another while. When it was announced the ceremony was closed, I headed to my bed. I put on my phone to take a picture of myself, as I wanted to see into my eyes. It was 3:30am.
The next morning I woke to the heat of the sun and the birds chirping… jungle sounds divine. I could hear the birds having conversations with each other, the crickets, flies buzzing, other noises I was hearing for the first time.
“Desayuno” said the little boy who was the son of a employee at lodge. A four year old little boy, friendliest child I may have ever met.
Breakfast was a bowl of watermelon, cantaloupe, apple, orange and banana. Porridge on the side.
I took a nap and was awaken by the same little boy for lunch. Lunch was a plate of raw cabbage, beets, pumpkin, broccoli, salad and an apple for dessert. I ate as much as I could stomach and then I sat down here to write.
We just had our first one on one meeting with shamans and facilitator to assist in translating. I told them my cousin sent me here… that I came for healing.. I felt a void of unconditional love throughout my life. I had a lot of pain from my fathers departure, my mother, perhaps her reaction to his departure.. amongst other things. I mentioned I had performed healing with my hands before and was told there are gifts that had been passed down in my family.. I was hoping this experience would help me to embrace these things more. The shamans told me to medicine would help me and when they come to me in ceremony I need to be present. I cried from beginning of meeting until end.
Tonight is the second ceremony.. we will be given option of second cup.
Last August was my first trip to Peru.. to the Amazonian capital of Peru, Iquitos. I made this journey on my own, without friends or family, it was my first time traveling solo. This was a trip I needed to do in that moment and better to do alone; ayahuasca was calling me.
So, what led me to Peru? to try these native plant medicines in the Amazon?
Depression. I was living in what many have dubbed 'the best place in the world', New York City. I had been living there for 3 years. As a child, New York was a place I would visit to see many relatives from my mother’s side of the family. It was nice to visit, but never did I think I would live there- I was a Florida girl... in the ocean, laying in the sun.. on the grass, gazing at the clouds.. on the patio, smelling in the flowers.. Florida girl.
Fast forward many years, post law school, I reunited with my high-school sweetheart and picked up my things and moved in a moments notice near to the big city, in Queens. The flame too love turned into a flame of hurt.. and once I left him, I decided to stay in New York… this time for money, not love. I had a well paying job at a prestigious company in the big city doing my favorite thing, research. Despite the work environment, as it was very toxic, egos flying high, a lot of disrespect in the air, the money spoke louder than all else. I was working hard to pay off a loan from law school, which I was very close to doing and with this job it would be easy for me to save a little chunk of money; I decided this was a good reason to stay.
Soon after, with my heart on my sleeve, I met a man whom I would end up being in a ‘relationship’ with for almost 3 years (relationship in quotes because he never did ask me to be his girlfriend.. and made it a point not to do so). There were good times and sad times, more sad than good, but the loneliness, the unhappiness that I held inside kept me with him. My unhappiness pushed me to accept and accept and accept.
After a few years of studying for the bar exam, I finally passed. I was a lawyer. I was happy to achieve this goal I had set for myself. It was no easy task. I interviewed for my first job as an attorney and was pleased to have gotten the position. It was hard work, running around from borough to borough every day, meeting clients with little background knowledge, winging it most of the time.. but I was doing well. The position was in real estate law, most of the work was landlord tenant based, getting people to move out of their rentals. I was doing well, yet not proud of the work I was doing.
I had a lot of family on my mothers side living in New York but I rarely spoke or saw any of them and the occasional times I ran into someone, I was met with some layer of hostility. When I became a lawyer, none called to congratulate me or call my mother; it hurt my feelings a little, knowing they were all nearby and how important education was valued in the family as a whole... I was the first to generation raised in USA, and the first to receive a degree so high... but their choice to not recognize hurt my mother more as she was closer with them. When I was on my own in New York, only person ever called to see how I was doing, I felt quite alone there. (Somewhat related I had been dubbed the black sheep of the family.. those stories are for another time.
A dear friend, more like a little sister, my sisters childhood best friend and also shared same age, was recently murdered. She was 2 years younger than me and full of light and happiness. She was so young. She was raped and murdered by someone she should have been able to trust. It was weighing on me that her life had been taken from her at such a young age and in such a horrible way. She was educated and working hard to save her money and one day travel the world. That day would not come, at least not in this lifetime.
The sadness was getting to me. The heartache from the boy I was seeing, the disconnect from family, the death of a friend who was younger than I, the unfulfilling feeling I had from my job, being in New York (I grew up in Florida and was accustomed to the beaches and the fresh air), the terrible apartment I had rented... all had caused a lot of ache in my chest. It was becoming unbearable. I would go to work, at the courthouse, and would need to hurry to the restroom to wipe tears that refused to stay inside. I would go home in the evenings and be sad, feeling I was living without real purpose, living in unhappiness.
Depression ran in my family, my father suffered from this, part of why he is no longer living on this earth. I had to do something about it. I did not want the depression to take over me. I quit my job. I needed to get away from the toxicity of New York for a bit. I remembered a conversation I had with one of my cousins, 5 years prior. He had told me about ayahuasca. He had a sadness he was also working on and went to Peru, to the Amazon, to try this amazing medicine. I was intrigued years ago, and my curiosity began to intensify again.
Then the universe started showing me the signs, ayahuasca was popping up in advertisements online, I was seeing Peruvian restaurants, Peruvian vacations all over. I knew I needed to go.
So I did. I researched different retreats online and chose one that I felt was calling me. I booked my ticket and prepared for my departure.
The lease for my New York apartment had run its course, instincts told me to put my things in storage and sell all what I didn't need; my mother told me to get another apartment to ensure I had something to go back to. I had a feeling I wouldn't be coming back, but instead of following my gut feeling and to calm my mothers worry, I rented another apartment and moved my things in before I left for Peru.
… to be continued.
Sharing this journey with hopes of deeper understanding and to help aid you in your own inner travels.