I’m throwing up. In a car, in Ecuador. And no one notices. It’s 5am, I try to close my eyes in the early morning light and sleep, but my stomach disagrees with my desires. The winding road does not agree with me either. I open my small empanada bag, my discarded breakfast, and continue purging. How is everyone sleeping through this? I’m embarrassed and relieved at the same time, not wanting to draw attention to my sickness. Please make this bumpy journey to the Amazon end.
I finally arrive, silently praying to something I don’t believe in, to feel better. Humidity envelopes me as I attempt to settle into my new surroundings, pretending like I feel okay, both for myself and for the people around me. Apparently I still have not figured out how to take care of myself when I’m sick, and I agree to go for a hike. I trudge along the path, reaching the Amazonian river, and fall asleep on a rock in the shade.
I come back, I’m still throwing up. I can’t stop. I finally accept the fact that I am not well, and go ask for help. Except I don’t get the help that I want. Instead, a self-proclaimed Shaman blows tobacco smoke in my face, hits me repeatedly with leaves, and gives me tea. I have bad energy. But somehow it works, I emerge from my sickness, smelling of herbs and tobacco, grateful to not be vomiting.
I meet you, sick, laying on the floor. It’s not until I’m healed that I notice you. Ayahuasca, I overheard you, and I want to know more, can I join you? Even though I’ve been unwell? Perfect you tell me, I’ve already been fasting. I’m invited into your ceremony, into the Amazon, into the unknown. I discover new plants and animals that I’ve never seen before. Noises I’ve never heard before. I meet the Shaman, in a foreign place, but I don’t understand what’s happening. I look to you, you’ve done this before, you have experience. I’m grateful for your presence and afraid of things I have not experienced, the darkness, the unknown.
It’s night, I can barely see. I’m sitting in a chair, made of wood and anticipation. I snort tobacco and water, it burns and involuntary tears run down my face. What am I doing? You are given a large glass, Ayahuasca. I’m afraid, I don’t want that much, I try to bargain with the Shaman but my pleas, my fears are not translated. You give me a large glass and I drink it, I have to. I can’t go back, I brace for what will come, in my body, in the darkness. The candle is blown out, and in the blackness doubt seeps in. What am I doing here? Am I crazy? I just took drugs in the middle of the jungle, I don’t know anyone, and I don’t know what will happen. What if I die? I wait. But you look so calm. Time creeps slowly through the night. I don’t want to do this, but I’ve already made my choice. I wait for my consequences.
I’m afraid. I whisper to you and I feel myself leaving, but I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t want to go. The Shaman must sense my fear. He comes over and the world starts swirling around my head with his tobacco leaves. A burning ember is spit on my face, I feel it burning, but I can’t find my face. I open my eyes and the Shaman is a demon, dancing around me. He sucks the darkness from my head and I’m transported into another universe. Fear consumes me, I desperately want this to end, I have a strong urge to stay here, in my body, in the world, in control. And then I don’t have a body. I travel through other worlds and universes, through a portal, I realize that it’s infinite. It never ends. On the edge of the world, looking down into the abyss, I vomit into the emptiness, bodyless, on the floor. I suddenly experience myself as a little girl. I travel through my childhood, righting all the wrongs, re-parenting myself. For the first time I feel kindness and compassion for myself as a child. I image my life differently, all my needs are met, I’m happy and cared for. I do things differently for myself, the things my parents couldn’t do. I heal myself in this timeless universe.
My body comes back, my mind follows. I follow the trails of light back to a familiar place, a bed. I feel calm. The experience sets in and I process. I want to share my experience with you, I compare my experience with my expectations. I wish I could let go more, enjoy the journey. I’m grateful for all my experiences, this new compassion and love I feel for myself, my adult and child self. Nature pulls me apart and heals me simultaneously. I settle into the Amazon, the aftermath of Ayahuasca, into this new experience.
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