My Ayahuasca Story
Updated: May 1
I first heard about ayahuasca from a friend. Her clients’ stories of recovering from depression, anxiety, and trauma sparked my curiosity. [No, she is not a psychotherapist or any other mental health professional.] The more I learned about ayahuasca, the more I grew determined to have my own experience and to form my own opinion. After careful consideration, I chose a spiritual retreat in Holland facilitated by a world-renowned healer and international bestselling author.
I had all my intentions ready several weeks before my trip to Holland. I knew exactly why I was going there and what I wanted to accomplish. Three weeks before my trip, I started keeping a strict diet and focusing on my intentions. While, for the most part, my life went on as usual, I started noticing some new developments – directly related to my intentions. I shrugged them off as mere coincidences.
The day of my first ayahuasca ceremony had finally arrived. I was in Holland, surrounded by over 30 people from all over the world who had come to experience healing and magic. After hours of introductions, excitement, and nervous anticipation, we all gathered in the ceremony hall. It was a few minutes past 7 p.m. The hall was dimly lit. Over 30 mats, each covered with a white sheet, had been placed around the perimeter. Each mat had a white pillow. A black bucket and a roll of paper towels stood right beside it. Beautiful music was playing in the background. Most of us were wearing white clothes. One by one, we approached the main shaman for a small glass of brown liquid. We took it back to our mats and waited. When everybody had a glass, the shaman reminded us to focus on our intentions before drinking the liquid. We drank, lied down, and waited. Ten minutes later, we drank another shot of brown liquid.
[One brown liquid was ayahuasca, the other one was “the inhibitor” (MAO inhibitor intended to prevent the DMT from breaking down). I am not sure what we drank first. To me, both brown liquids tasted about the same. I find it difficult to describe the taste. Just thinking about it makes me feel a little nauseous. Yet, based on what I had read on the Internet, I expected ayahuasca to taste worse.]
The main shaman started guided meditation. Gradually, I began to feel a little weak and dizzy. I closed my eyes and saw what seemed like rapidly changing images of humans and other beings. They were so small and so far away that I wasn’t sure if I was actually seeing them. I wondered if this was the beginning of my journey. I kept on waiting. One by one, people around the hall started purging. Several minutes later, I heard someone a few mats over to the left giggling. The giggle grew louder as more people joined in, and quickly turned into a laughing chorus. Soon a few people in the opposite end of the hall started laughing. Then another group joined in – as if the energy ricocheted though the hall, affecting new groups of people. When the laughter subsided, I started hearing a variety of other sounds. People were talking, chanting, singing, screaming, dancing, and making all kinds of unusual sounds and movements. The hall had come alive.
Two hours later, following other people, I went for a “booster” – another shot of ayahuasca. I continued to lie down and wait. My mind was working as usually. I was paying attention to the action around me and listening to the beautiful music in the background. I could hear the shamans helping people to face and work though trauma. I was keenly aware of the unusual smell that had spread throughout the hall. I wondered how I would describe it to my friends. The only word that came to mind was “sacred.” To me, ayahuasca smelled sacred. I felt calm and peaceful – the way I usually feel. I was patient. It was nice to just be...
By dawn, everyone around me had calmed down, and had either fallen asleep or left the hall. I went back to my room for a quick sleep. Around 10 a.m., we met for breakfast, after which we went back to the ceremony hall, split into two groups, and started sharing our experiences from the night before. Everyone was overwhelmed with impressions and emotions. Everyone was open and vulnerable. I heard the most incredible stories of healing and transformation, and the most profound insights and revelations about this life and beyond.
I was the only one in the group without a single psychedelic experience. Yet, I didn’t feel left out. A quiet voice inside me was telling me to be patient. Still, I wasn’t sure what to make of my experience. I decided to have a quick chat with the main shaman. He advised me to surrender to Mother Aya, to go on a journey, and to face what I needed to face. He promised to help me if I needed help. I agreed. I spent the next few hours preparing myself for the second ayahuasca ceremony. I checked every part of my psyche for signs of fear. I prepared a strong intention to surrender. I was determined to follow the shaman’s advice.
Despite my efforts, I didn’t have a single psychedelic experience for the rest of my trip. Although I drank four or five shots of ayahuasca, I didn’t experience any noticeable changes. Nonetheless, during the second ayahuasca ceremony, a very unusual story unfolded, which involved several people including me. In some ways, everybody in the hall was involved. This story became the answer to my main intention. Over time, I had all my questions and intentions answered.
I don’t know why I didn’t have any psychedelic experiences, even though the ayahuasca we drank was quite strong – according to the shaman who prepared it and based on other people’s reactions. Perhaps the DMT was broken down by my digestive system, instead of going to my brain, or certain serotonin receptors in my brain were not sensitive enough. Or perhaps Mother Aya knew best what I needed… I can think of several reasons why it may have been better for me not to go on a psychedelic journey. As one reason, instead of getting overwhelmed with impressions and emotions, I needed to stay focused and learn as much as possible from others. And I did. Here are just a few examples of what I learned:
Everything we see, think, and feel is an illusion. Time is an illusion. If nothing is real, why not take the drama in our lives easier? Why not just enjoy this game of life, learn from our challenges, and grow? [Easier said than done, right? I know – both as a psychotherapist and a fellow human being...]
Our thoughts are like carriages in a passing train. If we simply observe them, they come and go. If we engage with a thought, we jump on the carriage, and it becomes our reality.
We are all connected. We are all One. When we are judging others, we are hurting ourselves because a part of what we dislike in others is in us or is a reflection of us.
Love and forgiveness can heal all wounds.
I learned a lot from other people’s shares, from observing the shamans’ work, and especially from my conversations with one of the shamans – a lovely, insightful, and caring lady who had prepared our ayahuasca. I had the privilege to spend my last two days in Holland with her. The more we talked, the more she helped me to connect the dots in my story, and the more we grew convinced that it was better for me to not have gone on a psychedelic journey. She told me that Mother Aya was very gentle with me. The quiet voice inside me agreed, “This was not the right time to go on a journey.”
Despite the lack of psychedelic experiences, I got what I had gone to Holland for and more. I met and connected with incredible people. I heard incredible stories. And I certainly got my magic…
Disclaimers: This post is not an endorsement of ayahuasca as an alternative to a medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. The information here is not intended to serve as a therapeutic treatment. You are advised to consult your professional healthcare providers before deciding to try ayahuasca.