Citation: Wedge. "Finding Total Surrender, Embracing the Ebb: An Experience with Ayahuasca (exp50152)". Erowid.org. Feb 21, 2006. erowid.org/exp/50152
I arrived at my friend Julie's house at 8pm so we could go to the ceremony together. We had some tea and conversation, then made our way to Christie's house, where the ceremony was to take place. The space was perfect: two floors, lots of separate rooms, homey indoor architecture, complete with dark wood trim, lots of plant life, a cat, and the essential ingredient, a fireplace. We dropped our stuff in the main area where the ceremony was to be held and began our preparation for the event through light conversation with the others, peppered with moments of meditation.
The group intention for this journey was 'embracing the ebb'. My interpretation of this poetic phrase was to embrace the idea of letting go, a hard lesson I'm still learning, but have come a long way towards understanding. David, my good friend and ceremonial leader, interpreted the phrase to mean we should embrace that which we do not prefer, be it physical pain, the annoyance of a loud person in a theater, or whatever else we might normally tune out or run away from. When we stop and embrace that which causes us discomfort, we become more aware of ourselves as living beings, and we elevate ourselves out of our animal nature and become closer to our spiritual nature. Embrace in this sense does not mean reversing your preference for something you normally do not prefer; instead, embrace the very fact that you do not prefer it, stand up to your fear of discomfort and feel the thing you would otherwise turn away from. As you will read, I became placed firmly in that idea.
David began the ceremony as it is usually done, setting up a shrine to Grandmother Ayahuasca with candles, flowers, and incense, then having everyone gather in a circle, arms around each others' waists, and reciting the opening ritual, commemorating the life spirits, following each spirit with a group call of 'ha-YAY-yah'.
Tobacco wrapped in corn husk was passed around, giving each person a chance to speak their intentions to the group. Whoever holds the tobacco has the attention of the group for as long as they want it. My spoken intention was to find a way to come to terms with new energies I had been feeling very strongly for about two weeks prior to the ceremony. Should I embrace them, dilute them, or try to control them? My answer was forthcoming.
The Ayahuasca medicine was passed, as the tobacco, clockwise in a circle. When it came to me, I put my hand over the cup, closed my eyes, and focused my intentions to Grandmother. I then drank the entire cup in one gulp, and immediately recalled the pungent flavor of leaf, root, and earth. My journey had begun.
As I sat meditating, waiting for the medicine to take hold, I began to have visions of myself as a jungle predator, stalking through a thick brush as stars and moon shone overhead. A sudden surge of energy, similar to the energies I was seeking to understand, flowed through me, and I had a vision of myself surging forward as a jungle cat leaps for its prey. However, it was not simply an aggressive feeling, it was a thrilling sensation of acting on animal instinct, completely in touch with my surroundings.
A young woman from Eastern Europe named Lola was the first to purge. This was her first experience with Grandmother and, like many who first encounter her power, Lola became afraid of the experience that was enveloping her and through her tears begged for release. David and his assistant Victoria, a beautifully radiant and compassionate woman, came to Lola's side to comfort her and remind her to surrender herself so that her fear could be washed away. Their tender care of Lola gave me courage, too, as I knew I was not alone in my journey.
Over time I could feel the medicine taking a deeper hold of me. I walked to the kitchen to be alone. Staring at a basil bush I found my vision becoming altered, the plants around me awakening as moving, conscious beings. Sounds began to echo and perceptions of space became flat. I was no longer a being moving from point to point, but instead a part of a two dimensional universe-scape, where time and space not only converge, but are nothing more than an illusion.
Feeling the impending need to purge, I carefully made my way to the upstairs bathroom. This first purge was light, not particularly uncomfortable, beyond the simple discomfort of vomiting. I finished purging quickly, then walked out of the bathroom to join my friends who were playing in the hallway.
My friend George was there, lying on his stomach, with Christie sitting at his head, rubbing his temples, and Julie lying with her back on top of his. I sat next to them and Julie grabbed my hand. At this point we were all feeling the loving energy of Grandmother and our speech and laughter were reflective of this. Julie began to sing long, open notes in tune with the music David had chosen for this portion of the journey. I joined in, singing harmony to Julie's notes, and Christie joined in as well. The three of us singing together was an awesome moment of connection, especially as Julie and I caressed each other's hands and arms. George, still lying on his stomach underneath Julie, voiced his observations of the moment, clearly awestruck by the beauty of our harmonized voices.
There is something about Ayahuasca that connects one more deeply to the musical muse. I had no problem finding the pitches that I wanted to sing, and our voices were in near perfect intonation with each other, even when moving into dissonant harmonies. It seemed as if we were one instrument, our voices moving in and out of resolution with a natural musical flow.
We then heard David call out for a tobacco offering and a second dose of the medicine. We all went back downstairs to join the group again. When the tobacco came to me, I was still unsure of the lesson I was supposed to learn (knowing it would likely come during the second purge, as it did during my first journey), but I was feeling a strong connection with my musical spirit, so I ruminated over my recent re-involvement in music and the ways in which music, in its purest form, is love itself. 'ha-YAY-yah'
The medicine began moving again in a clockwise circle. When it came to me, I did not finish the entire dose. As I returned the cup to David, a part of me wondered if I should drink more. But then I remembered what David told me at the last ceremony, which is to take only as much as feels right. I gave my trust over to my intuition and did not drink more.
While laying on my back next to the shrine, awaiting my second purge, Julie stood over me, bent down, and put her hand on my heart. Our eyes locked, and in a gentle voice she said to me: 'You're very beautiful, Wedge'. I replied: 'So are you, Julie, in every way.' Such simple loving moments within the group were common throughout the evening.
A few moments later, I began to feel Grandmother taking hold of me again. I considered running to the bathroom to purge, but instead decided it was important that I purge in the audience of the group, as many others had. My intuition was telling me that an important step for me was to release my protective ego, to lose my fear of being myself around others. Purging is an intense personal experience, and to share it with the group, I felt, would be a breakthrough in losing my fear of judgment.
As I felt the purge coming, I grabbed a bucket and leaned over it. Then it came - a purge of such intensity I felt like I nearly went into shock. But it did not end after several sessions of vomiting. Grandmother had me firmly in her loving arms, stripping my ego to its core, showing me just how much of myself I needed to let go.
I don't know how much time passed, as time has no meaning during this kind of journey, but I was in my purge state for a very long time. My body became contorted, wrapped in on itself, as vomit, snot, tears, and drool exited my body (diarrhea followed later in the evening). I was no longer myself, I was a child in Grandmother's arms, suffering her love with agonizing humility. As the purge deepened, I began to shiver violently, and I could barely sense someone's hand on my back. At one point I overheard someone ask David: 'Is Wedge gonna be OK?', to which David replied: 'OK? Look at him, Wedge is having his best moment right now!'
Although I could not control my body, nor speak, nor even open my eyes, I attempted to slowly raise an arm, then turned my head, still dripping with snot and spit, eyes still swollen with tears, in David's direction and smiled. Yes, this was my best moment. I was being set free from myself, my agony giving me more enlightenment than any pleasure or comfort could ever do.
The intensity continued and my conscious mind began speaking to Grandmother. 'I give myself to you, Grandmother. Teach me your lessons, for I am your eternally humble student. I surrender to you, loving Grandmother, I surrender everything. My thoughts are yours, my self is yours, my very life is in your loving embrace.' I suddenly became fully aware of how much my ego had taken hold of me over the years, and how much purging needed to be done. My fears, my doubts, my social anxieties, not merely moments of self assertion, are all driven by my ego. Everything was made clear to me as I continued to surrender more and more of myself, and I at last felt I had attained true enlightenment, or something close to it. I was not afraid, I did not fear pain nor death. At the apex of my suffering, I could finally see myself as a leaf on the breeze, a soaring butterfly resplendent in my beauty, unaffected by my surroundings, yet loving with a pure heart the paradise that surrounds me.
Grandmother reminded me that I control nothing. I am, in fact, nothing. The epiphany of this discovery was so wonderful, all of my burdens lifted in a single moment of complete surrender, knowing that as long as I stop thinking of myself as anything important, I am truly free. I fully understood what all the spiritual masters, from Catholic Saints to Peruvian Shamans, mean by suffering as a tool for enlightenment. When we lose our fear of suffering, we are no longer affected by pain. When we lose our sense of importance, suffering becomes merely a state, like joy or any other, and we do not feel the need to seek its end.
While still in the grip of total surrender, I felt Julie's hand lightly stroke the back of my head. Her hand moved from there to my neck, lightly stroking, and I had the feeling of her reading my energies while simultaneously feeding her compassion to me. However, it did not seem to be me that was being touched. It was as if I was external from my physical self, able to sense feeling on my body, but not actually being within it. It was a direct perception of what David refers to as the 'spiritual uplink'. My spirit communicating with my body from a far away place, not from within the physical realm.
David's voice became a beacon of support as I traveled this neck of my journey. Being a much more experienced traveler, David understands that supporting someone during a purge is not a matter of touching, or asking if you'll be okay, or telling you he's with you by your side. He instead encourages the experience, infused with his unfailing sense of humor, by saying things with an almost cheerleader-like inflection, such as 'come on, Wedge, I know you've still got some more stuff to purge, you can do it!', or making exaggerated vomit sounds, or saying 'embrace the purge, surrender yourself to it; it's all sunshine and rainbows after this...'
He also did a great job of choosing the right music for the journey. During the most intense moments of my purge, David put on a song by Seal, (don't know the name off hand), the words and music of which passed into my consciousness so strongly that I felt I was lifted, first floating, then soaring on a wave of music. David gave me a copy of the CD, so recalling Grandmother's lessons is never far away.
Eventually I began to come back to the physical world. I slowly opened my eyes and saw myself covered in snot, drool, and vomit (most of the vomit landed in the bucket, thankfully). Someone gave me a paper towel and I cleaned off my face. My return to the physical world continued as Grandmother slowly and gently released me. Upon my return, I looked up at David. My eyes locked on him as I perceived him as my greatest spiritual teacher, outside of Grandmother herself. I surged with love for him and everyone around me, having finally found my true spiritual nature and glowing with the understanding that everyone around me was also finding theirs.
David's comment when he saw me return was: 'man, you were really embracing a strong ebb there'. Indeed.
Then I heard what sounded like a child's voice behind me, and when I turned I saw George laying on the blankets sobbing. His purge did not come in physical form, but as raw emotion. As he sobbed like a child, repeating the phrase 'I'm sorry, so sorry' over and over again (he was speaking to Grandmother, not to any person), I put my hand on his head and encouraged him to let it out, do not hold back, purge those heavy energies. Suddenly he let out a loud wail that clearly came from the ultimate depths of his being. His total emotional surrender was beautiful to behold and I forgave him all his sins in that moment.
Feeling the need to be alone, I went upstairs and sat in a dark room by myself so I could process what I had just experienced. There was a wide chair covered in blankets and pillows that, when I sunk into it, gave me the feeling of being a child again, a sense of joyous abandon rediscovered. I sat there for a very long time, a serene smile on my face, reflective of the pure inner peace I had found. Having fully relinquished my ego, I had absolutely no fear, no worries, only joy at being alive. People came in and out of the room over time, including George, who popped in for a second before going into the next room to talk to himself (everyone processes their experience differently). At one point, David stopped by to let me know they were about to pass the tobacco again, but I declined. I still needed my moment of reflection.
Later, Julie came in to say hi. She hopped up on the wide window ledge and stared out, and as I laid back in my chair, I saw her full beauty silhouetted against the window. We talked and laughed a lot, although I observed with humor how much we were both pretending not to want to be closer to each other. Even after Grandmother's indelible lessons, we still were afraid of stepping over the wrong boundaries.
Punctuating the playful feeling of the moment, Julie mooned me as she left. I laughed like a kid for a long time after that.
Over time I felt the need to be back again with the group. I went downstairs and laid on a pile of blankets and sleeping bags, cuddled next to Julie and John. I found myself feeling such a deep love for Julie I almost feared it. But then I remembered Grandmother's lessons, and I let go of my ego once again, closed my eyes, and released all thought. The smile of peace returned to me and I found my hand slowly caressing Julie's arm, as if to reassure her that I am there, and that not only are we all going to be okay, but that we are, always have been, and always will be okay.
I then whispered to Julie that I wanted to dance. She thought it a grand idea, so we got up and moved our bodies to the meditative sitar music playing on the stereo. While it felt good, I still found my body a little difficult to control, so I sat down again, next to John. We talked about our respective purges, and I encouraged him to consider purging in public during his next journey. He, like me, is a bit uncomfortable with vomiting in front of folks. 'I don't know, something to do with social decorum,' he said. I replied with: 'But as Grandmother would say: get over yourself, kid!'.
Throughout the rest of the night and into the morning, I spent some time alone and some time cuddled up with friends. There was a wonderful period of time when Victoria, Julie, Jim, and myself were all wrapped up together under a blanket. Jim, a newcomer to Ayahuasca and one who deals with depression, expressed his concern that once he is alone again, such as when he goes to bed the next night, he would be depressed because he would miss the people and the love he was feeling at that moment. I told him to fear not; when he is alone, he will remember this moment of pure love, and the people who are resonating it, and that will give him far more comfort than any distraction could. We are all eternally connected, we are never truly alone. He became visibly comforted by this and said: 'Yes, we all understand each other...we all understand...'
Soon a gray, rainy dawn broke outside. David put Holst's Jupiter on the stereo to bring everyone back to the room (figuratively and literally) for the final tobacco offering. When it came to me, I simply gave my humblest thanks to everyone in the room, especially Grandmother. 'ha-YAY-yah'
The rest of the day, until about 2pm, was spent talking, laughing, hugging, and breakfasting (it is important to fast for a day before Ayahuasca, so naturally we were all starved). I got to know the other folks in the group quite well during this time. It's my favorite part of the journey, after you've survived your purge and are filled with love for yourself and the others, openly conversing and learning more about each other.
For example, along with the usual thrilling existential conversations we always have, David and I discussed a new idea for a community web site project, but the approach takes the opposite angle from sites like Friendster and MySpace. I was wishing I could dump my business so I could just work on the community projects he, Don, and I have been talking about for months. 'Was' wishing? Still am.
I also spent some time with Lola, and found out she works for the same graphic design company my good friend Jeff works for, and where I worked for a week last year. I'm amazed at how this community continues to grow and envelope other social networks. The larger the community grows, the smaller the world gets.
Holly and I had a tender heart-to-heart chat about my purge. She told me she was watching me through it all, that she could see I was putting in some serious hard work. She also told me that my struggle and triumph in making it through such an intense purge without fear or any sign of pulling back gave her strength. Again I was thankful for having the insight to purge in the company of my friends.
David told me later that morning that he had lit some incense (dragonbreath, I think) during my purge, and was fanning the smoke over me. Shamans do this to help encourage the purge so that the traveler's 'heavy energies' can be fully released. What struck me, but did not surprise me, was that as soon as the incense was done burning, I came out of my purge.
George was at his most sincere and endearing that morning. When he lets go of his ego, he is actually a joy to be around. He was full of his reverent admiration for the city skyline, visible through the window, and grand cityscapes in general, a perfect metaphor for his sense of human heroism.
Speaking of George, he clearly needed this experience, and I think it truly elevated him. Granted, he is still George, and his shadow ego is sure to rear its ugly head again. But now he has a lesson in abject humility to carry around with him, which may very well keep him along a self nurturing track. His abuse of others is merely a reflection of his abuse of himself. Now that he has been touched by Grandmother, he will hopefully be uplifted away from his dark side, even if only slightly, which is an amazing achievement in and of itself.
Everyone started filing out and we said our goodbyes. The bonds we all created with each other were reflected in our long, full, parting hugs. The full magic of the night and day came to us in those moments, and we were so thankful to each other for simply being.
On the way home, Julie and I discussed our experiences. She was actually somewhat disappointed that her purge, being her first, was not more intense. She felt it was too easy and she did not feel she had been as transformed as others, like me, seemed to be. There was nothing I could say to that, other than what she already knows. I reminded her to simply trust that the experience was right, and perhaps her next journey will be more introspective, that she will be given a loving lesson in suffering similar to what I had experienced. Or maybe not! One can never predict.
Our conversation continued at her doorstep, and we held hands and looked deeply into each other's eyes as we thanked each other for the love we've shared, not just during the journey, but all of the time we are together. I felt perfectly in tune with her and the loving smile she gave me as she left indicated she felt the same.
I am still processing my journey (this journal is part of that process) and am coming to new and wonderful conclusions about myself and my life every day. I am so thankful to David for opening the door to this experience, thankful to all of my friends, not just for their love and support, but also for the opportunity to nurture them in return, and I am of course humbly thankful to Grandmother Ayahuasca for her spiritual lessons in love and suffering, lessons I could never have learned any other way.
As for my intention, I was given exactly the answer that I was seeking. Embrace the powerful energy within me? Not quite. Dilute it? No, that will only turn the energy against me. Control it? Ha! Like I can control anything. No, the lesson was this: when I stop thinking about my energies - my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors - and simply let myself be, I find the grounding that enables me to soar. I don't have any need to be concerned about these new powerful feelings, my only job is to let them guide me, for they are powerful indeed, as powerful as Grandmother's lessons, and just as humbling.
I now know that happiness is not an emotional or mental state, it is instead one's spiritual purity made manifest. It is possible to be happy and have sorrow, it is possible to be happy while suffering. I do not say 'turn your sadness to joy', I rather say 'embrace your sadness, feel it deeply, do not be afraid of it, and it will release you.' As I told my friends the next day, when we return to the grinds of our lives, we will stride, or even soar, in our understanding that the gift of suffering is the gift of life.
There is no fear, only love; there is no death, only life.
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