The Why, The Fear, and the Exploration of the Curious Curios Presumed Inside - Part I
Before one can face their fears, there is the "why."
In an attempt to answer the "why," participants in a plant medicine ceremony are encouraged to meditate on their needs. The act of centering on them, they are told, forms an inceptive intention that can be used to help guide their trajectory into the momentous beyond-o-sphere. When the journey is finally underway, so the story goes, some will find this intention providing a gravitating still point. It's comforting to feel one has a refocus point, a go-to trick when little or nothing else can be held onto. Needing such comfort, few question the logic of such a thing possibly existing while the swirl of one's presumed self undergoes dissolution and rebirth.
Encouragement to establish a serious intention for one's experience is explicit even to the point of being stressed as a procedural necessity. The need to have an "intention" is reinforced with much cross-legged sharing of personal stories in safe-space confessional group encounters. But among the heartening stories and the anguished needs arising from them, there may be whispers of something else. What usually goes unsaid or is alluded to only with the briefest of hushed commentary is the terrifying fact that absolutely no guarantee comes with any approach or related hocus-pocus.
(Cue the paranormal grin-of-knowing from the shaman who's blowing smoke up your face.)
Such understandings, beyond words as they are, must remain as mystically implicit as that dissipating shamanic smoke blown over one's head. If you are searching for truth, know this as fineprint disclaimer: there is only so much preparation one can be given or acquire when launching this deep into the personal unknown -- especially if during the journey of knowing the unknown leaves one without a person to know.
In lieu of insight, we think we must consciously admit to an answer to "why." It may stretch from the curiosity of the recreational dabbler to the sublime aspirations of the devotee of everything that smacks of enlightenment of spirit. Some believe the brew calls to those needing the mystical medicine. Others add a ceremony as a tourist line-item to their bucket-list. And there will always be those who partake merely to score trendy one-upmanship points on their friends back home as the experience is dropped pridefully into conversations. We have to tell ourselves something about the "why" and yet, despite the diversity of yagé psychonauts, once they arrive on the other side of awareness, regardless how trivial or profound their sought-after experiences may seem at the outset, an intensely personal unchartered realm is unveiled that oftentimes becomes enough reason on its own.
In explanation, it's not enough to claim the light source for this revelation is no where in particular and even shadows amazingly illuminate something new. Steeped in the experience, and after, the "why" is no longer as sensible a question as it appeared at the outset, at least not in terms that satisfy. Somehow the bar is raised on what is fulfilling or perhaps the need to measure such things simply evaporated with the smoke from the smudging of the sage. Excuses one gave oneself for "why" become faded preoccupations of a different state of mind, a mind not merely rearranged but left behind and replaced with something woken up with dazzling clarity. As many can attest, not all arrive at this clarity -- and tellingly, only the medicine knows "why."
Night envelops the energy forms of a willing nature and a shaman, who's oddly way-too-normal to be putting off such a chakra-shaking esoteric vibe, commences purification rites with shaken leaves and the hypnotic drone of an icaro. Sitting near you in the maloca's circle of faces is the full range of psychoactive adventurists as well as those deeply troubled and in desperate need of cathartic answers and transformative relief.
The brew has passed your lips. The central fire draws your gaze into a dancing point beyond the space, It's a timeless place that defies even chaotic subatomics -- all such concepts as rendered simplistic to the point of being unnecessary. Night sounds in nature sharpen and stretch a timeless pinpointed awareness. Panicked recognition rubs deep into all self-referencing attempts to hang on. An emotive overture erupts. Everything you hold as so important is mocked by a queasy chorus self-consciously orchestrated just for you by a looming presence. A dizzying rush envelops body and soul with a fainting flush from the alternating slaps of heat and cold and gut-wrenching nausea. Flying into the feeling, you're hit with the ego-glare of a terrifying realization:
You know all those well-crafted intentions you doted on for days? Well, Mother Ayahuasca doesn't care the slightest tinker's cuss what you think about indulging in her entheogenic brew. She stares right through your best-crafted intentions, unimpressed and unpersuaded. She only cares what you feel, that buried time capsule emanating from the matted hairball thing that grows out of the "who" you've made of yourself. As night becomes eternity, for better or worse, her unfolding discoveries of you overtake the dwindling self that's dissolves into questions and messages out of thin air. It becomes abundantly clear - she's not only interested in exposing everything swept under the experience-illusion mask called you (you'll never ever hide it from her) -- she's going to the heart of cleaning it out, even if it means there's nothing left behind. For those who try to hold their space with excuses, a rapid descent into Dante's difficult detours await. Resistance will only feed energy into the divine comedy of Purge-atory.
"The Mother's Medicine" doesn't abide dabblers, either returning to them a disappointing nothing or summarily kicking their asses with a self-revealing reality horror show so epic in proportions that they helplessly scramble onto the next flight for the relative comfort of their tried-and-true Fantasyland rides: LSD, Mescaline, and Psilocybin. On the other hand, many if not most of the truly deeply troubled do find relief or release. The "how" of her help is often by surprise, if not shock. Shuddering rearrangements of the notions of self appear. The intensity is at the level of having one's soul shot through a cosmic car wash of visuals and reconditioned in an emotional Vitamix. Stripped of the costume of self, one impacts nether regions of wonder more real than our dualistic spacetime long ago inverted in purpose by the dark legions of the Demiurge's energy-sucking Archons.
It is said the Ayahuasca experience is unique for each person, even if look-alike patterns emerge. If iconic symbols or elements are shared among differing people, it is likely because they came to the ceremony with common issues, related emotions, a similar need for a type of healing that evoked the medicine in kind. The entheogenic roller coaster may swing this way or that and rise and dip with archetypal patterns all can agree upon, but one should never confuse the well-worn tracks of sensory archetypes with the singular experience they evoke. Many people may similarly describe how they reached for the sky as the clackity car reached the apex of the climb, but the near-death intensity of their descent and the screams heard on the rush inward through the fall are singular and remarkably exceptional.
It's common for those who have been helped out of their troubles not to notice the change in themselves -- not until they return home and try to reintegrate into their old lives. The changes may be subtle at first, but in time they become profound in the whispered effect that manifests in daily life. Old defeatist patterns may melt away. The crutch of a destructive craving one morning is found not to be there. Auto-reflexive judgments on people in passing are not triggered as before. Deeper appreciation for little aspects of caring among loved ones arises. An unexpected clawing, matrix-like cramped feeling in the corporate cubicle rekindles a yearning to shed the trademarked group-think and run back to a childhood passion.
And what's next? What more possibly is in store? Is there any limit to the awakening?
The journey Mother Ayahuasca provides doesn't seem as much inward or outward as somewhere else. That somewhere else is more real than here, more intense than can be imagined, and more apt to leave one grappling with intermediary issues of message integration upon one's return. For many, like me, such a journey requires confronting and clearing away one's fearful debris and programmed identity before anything new can manifest in its place. But as the shaman's paranormal grin suggests, there is no guarantee.
The rabbit doesn't come out of everyone's hat.
Sometimes, one has to go down the rabbit hole.
Only then will having the hat and the magic make sense.
(To be continued in Part 2)