One year ago, clothes were jammed into a backpack and a plane ticket was purchased for Iquitos, Peru. In the Amazon jungle, I spent a week with Shamans drinking Ayahuasca. My life has transformed. I am going to share with you my experiences re-integrating back into life after Ayahuasca.
“Life lived in the absence of the psychedelic experience that primordial shamanism is based on is life trivialized, life denied, life enslaved to the ego.” ― Terence McKenna
Diving into psychedelic, non-ordinary reality is not for the faint of heart. I have spent my life on the Internet. From a tender, young, and impressionable age, the internet has strayed no further than several meters from my inquisitive consciousness.
A brave new world. The connected, instantaneous, bright, fast world where vibrant minds have bled their creative fluids. With retinas scorched by electronic light, few stop to wonder about the cost of off-loading our words, thoughts, pictures, and talents into clouds of server-racks.
For some, the cost is inexplicable yet harrowing. Pointlessness, uselessness. Line after line of machine-language; someone else is moving faster; the jobs are disappearing; the planet gets warmer; a picture of a cat; the Earth is dying.
“About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be defined as the general neurosis of our times.” ― C.G. Jung
The mind has never been more satisfied. Each notification or byte of new information and you receive a refreshing spritz of dopamine — the good stuff. Keep clicking. Keep reading. No messages, feel awful. The only thing worse than receiving 100 emails is receiving 0.
Addiction is inadequate in describing the rampant need for novel information. An occupational necessity, when the food in the mouthes of your children relies upon your keystrokes. Remove your brain from the fire-hose and risk missing out. Your phone cries out for you. Technical teams have as many human dependencies as their duct-taped codebases.
That is how I became numb and dark. A merciless and unbalanced signal-to-noise ratio. Thousands of hooks demand my attention. My brain is elated, happy to be useful. My heart follows, easily tricked by the problems I thought I wanted to solve; I am chipping away towards a better world. My spirit is nowhere to be found.
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” ― Dr. Seuss
I felt there must be more to life. I had been exposed to enough fleeting online-gibberish masquerading as inspiration. Insatiable curiosity led me down different paths towards enlightenment. Taking a lamp to the growing darkness, I completed the Vipassana meditation ritual, 10 days of silent meditation in the thick of the forest.
It was within the trees where I first felt real connectedness. I had done nothing, yet I had never felt more at peace. It was through being useless that I began to understand that I manufacture the reality where I am useful. My emotions, my reactions, choices and my opinions all contributed to the smothering fog I was choosing to live within. I felt better.
“You are a divine being. You matter, you count. You come from realms of unimaginable power and light, and you will return to those realms.” ― Terence McKenna
With mind aflame, I went to integrate back into the world after Vipassana. In 10 days, I had become sensitive. Picture a lake, once stirred up in storm, becoming glass-like with calm peace. Now, the first waves. It is easier to observe new thought as it ripples along a relaxed surface.
Returning to a professional environment, each run-in with ‘ego’ cast a stone into my waters. Each careless word sinks to the bottom after disturbing the surface. Why are people so hectic? When did small things become so important? Ripples, splashes, waves. It is storming again.
The contrast devastated. I had seen peace but now I return to chaos. This is where my life takes place. This is the way things are. I felt life would never make as much sense as it did in the forest, with eyes lazily tracing the grooves in tree bark. I felt trapped. I fell deep into darkness.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ― C.G. Jung
Enter work life. You are a valuable asset, they would tell me. Your skills are lucrative. You are going to be successful. A corkscrew entering my entrails and twisting. My mind had slowed but my thoughts had become black. It was near the end of a rope that a chance encounter brought Ayahuasca into my life.
I had read about the substance in a book, years prior. Another click into another link led me to an article that sent shivers to my core. A depressed woman drank a hallucinogenic potion in the Jungle, was blown apart, then met God. She learned that there is no separation and then never felt depressed again.
As a sober-minded human, this did not swallow. She is speaking in metaphor. She did not meet anyone after drinking a jungle potion. It happened in her own mind, a vehicle to drive her problems away. My depression is more complicated. I am an intellectual.
The seed was planted. Little did I know, I would meet Lady Ayahuasca.
And the earth looked at me and said “wasn’t that fun?” And I replied “I’m sorry if I hurt anyone.” — Dan Deacon, ‘When I Was Done Dying’
The Shaman is an absurd profession. A practitioner of madness. Before the potion, you see people with drums and shakers. Improvisational musicians: singing, whistling, and pounding. There are unfathomable numbers of spirits, alternate dimensions intertwined with our existence, infinities of healing love and light from which you came and will return, the Shaman tells you.
You have been a discerning ‘Scientific’-Internet-Reader for years. Your wry smile at the corner of your lips bites its tongue. The Shaman hands you a cup filled with potion, after singing to it. You sit on your blanket, the soft poster-garment of infantile human comfort. You drink it.
Language is insufficient in sharing the experience. Not with the largest choir, the most radical band or expansive artists, could I articulate the experience of being granted a mere peek, stretched endlessly, into the ‘it’. After the potion — for the first time — I saw truth.
And without even thinking cast me into space / But before she did that she wiped off my own face / She said better luck next time don’t worry so much / Without ears I couldn’t hear I could just feel the touch — Dan Deacon, ‘When I Was Done Dying’
You hear with your ears, you see with your eyes. Your tongue tastes, your skin touches. Activate the ansible that rests between your eyes and welcome the weird. Language is the bottleneck towards understanding. Experience communicates crushing leagues of love, light, wisdom and life.
Your sense of self is the person you are. The one who likes blue coats, nice shoes, and fancy dinners. The one who stares at their phone when they are around strangers. The one who was bullied at school. The one who neglected their children or was mean to their parents. The one who just had every molecule of their being blown apart, dissected, and re-arranged by love-filled inter-dimensional beings.
This is weird. I do not believe these things. Click, click. I want something else. I believe in sugar, caffeine, alcohol, television, and reality — the one the news tells me about. This is a metaphor. This is not a metaphor.
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ― C.G. Jung
12 months ago, my life changed. It is permanent. No memories of darkness remain. The black I lived in dispersed into vapours; a vague memory of someone else’s bad dream. I am here. I am back. My soul came with me and my heart, mind, and spirit live together in the present. I am whole. I am joyful. I am ecstatic.
Everything had to change. Desk job? Flying Eagle. Management? Wild Dog. Cynicism? Blue Bird. Technology has abstracted life away from true reality. We have been choking down Blue Pills. The Red Pill, the non-ordinary realities that ancient cultures have explored for millennia.
Ayahuasca cured what was, for me, a spiritual crisis. I did not know it at the time, but I know it now. Ayahuasca reconnected me with the important things in life. Loving myself, loving others, and living in harmony with nature.
I want to bring Ayahuasca to more people. I want to live a less material life. I do not want to be motivated by the never-ending rat-race. I do not want to drink alcohol and brainlessly consume. I do not want to harm the earth.
I realize now I can not integrate into the “modern world”, as it has been painted for me. From one natural thing, one animal, one explorer, one human to another: your soul misses you and it has a universe of beautiful and strange things it would like to show you.
“Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.” ― Terence McKenna