***Names have been changed to protect the identity of all individuals involved
Judy is a 55 year old Nutritionist from Chicago going through a hellish divorce. For 30 years she suffered through an emotionally abusive relationship and now lives in fear of feeling this lifetime of pain. So, she decides to feel nothing at all. Amy is a 42-year-old psychotherapist who just hit rock bottom after totaling her mom’s car after another night of binge drinking. Franko is a professional rapper who experienced a spiritual awakening that completely altered the course of his music career. He is here with his girlfriend Maria who owns a renowned school of metaphysics in Slovakia. Phil is a 24-year-old pizza delivery boy who has spent the last five years delving into psychedelics and spirituality trying to find his life purpose. Then there’s me; the tall, talkative bohemian singer chick who desperately yearns for answers about my career path. These are six of the twelve amazing humans that traveled to the Sacred Valley of Peru in hopes of finding answers to life’s biggest questions. The twelve of us are about to spend the next twelve days together in a lush forest getaway surrounded by Andean mountains on all sides. We have come to journey through the depths of our consciousness by choosing to drink the powerful shamanic plant medicines Ayahuasca and San Pedro Cactus. Welcome aboard and fasten your seatbelts fellow Mystic Babes!
So what are these magic potions and why would one drink them? Ayahuasca, which translates to “Vine of the soul” is a tropical Amazonian vine that is mixed with Chacruna leaves to create a drinkable brew. (I use “drinkable” lightly). In the traditional context, shamans of the Amazon use ayahuasca for healing and divinatory purposes. The knowledge, rituals, icaros (medicine songs) and preparation surrounding the use of Ayahuasca have been passed down for generations of healers. Ayahuasca purges us on a physical, emotional, and mental level. She is seen as The Mother plant and takes you into altered states of consciousness in which insight, healing, understanding, and clarity can take place. (1) People who have consumed ayahuasca report having spiritual revelations regarding their purpose on Earth, the true nature of the universe, as well as deep insight into how to be the best person they possibly can be (2) This is viewed by many as a spiritual awakening and what is often described as a rebirth. In addition, it is often reported that individuals feel they gain access to higher spiritual dimensions and make contact with various spiritual or extra-dimensional beings that can act as guides or healers. (woohoo! Sign me right up!) Vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion, and this purging is considered by many shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca to be an essential part of the experience, as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one’s life. Others report purging in the form of nausea, diarrhea, and hot/cold flashes. The ingestion of ayahuasca can also cause significant, but temporary, emotional and psychological distress. (4) (oh..uh, nevermind?)
San Pedro is a medicinal cactus that has been used for healing and religious divination in the Andes Mountains region for over 3,000 years. It is a benevolent and intelligent spirit plant that cleanses on many different levels in many different ways. San Pedro is often said to be the polar side of Ayahuasca, which is the Feminine Introvert Journey, where San Pedro is seen as the Masculine extrovert journey. This medicine of the heart helps us to reconnect with ourselves and with our heart to have a greater understanding of the belief systems and conditions we create. It teaches us to approach them in a different light and roots out the cause of suffering or limitation. (1) (I can get down with that)
We meet our retreat facilitators Neils and Sara on Day 1 and they help to answer the myriad questions we all have been dying to ask. We are all yearning for insight into the experience from two people who have journeyed with the medicines a combined total of over 400 times. They assured us that we are in good hands and the shaman Gume will be there to guide us throughout the ceremonies. Sara tells me it’s impossible not to benefit from the medicine regardless of one’s personal experience. I have no expectations but I am hopeful. I’m shown to my cabin which is quaint yet rustic. I’ve been told the town we’re in, Uribamba, translates to Land of the Spiders in Quechua. I shutter as proof of this stares at me from its web in the corner of my freezing cold shower. The fear of being cold and having arachnid roommates for 12 days is really starting to worry me.
At dusk we converge by the bonfire to share our intentions for the ceremonies. I’m interested in hearing from everyone and the atmosphere makes me feel comfortable to open up and share myself. The vibes are good here and I’m developing a trust for everyone around me. For weeks I’ve been trying to word my intention perfectly. By the time it was my turn, I explained, “I’m a talented and professional singer and need clarification on how best to use this gift for healing. I feel I have a lot of blocks and limiting beliefs about my career and would love to illuminate what it is that’s holding me back. I want to fall back in love with my life”. There, I said it. It was out there for these beautiful spirit medicines to do with what they will. I was ready. I had spend the last 8 days refraining from any sex, alcohol, sugar, fermented foods, meats, caffeine, and dairy in an attempt to prepare my body for the detox bomb that was about to go off once I drank Ayauashca. Looking back, I cannot begin to imagine what an experience would be like for someone who took no such precaution. May God have mercy of their soul. And their bowels.
Luckily, Neils and Sara organized a perfect itinerary that allowed us to fully experience the beauty and culture of the Sacred Valley and we ventured out to see a handful of Incan Ruins. Neils guided us through these ancient worlds and educated us in the rich and colorful spirit of the Incan people. At the end of the retreat we traveled to Machu Picchu and marveled at the majesty of this epic wonder of the world. Luckily my Spanish skills haven’t faded over the years and I was able to fully immerse myself in the culture and haggle with the native shop owners at the artisanal markets in town scoring some serious deals on souvenirs and crystals.
I purposely kept mum about my real reason for visiting Peru. People at home assumed I was just gallivanting around for fun, and luckily I had great pictures to prove it. Considering the negative and ignorant view the United States government has regarding psychotropics and plant medicines, I remain reticent to be fully honest about my journeys in fear of a potential backlash from those who just aren’t willing to understand. Nature has an uncanny way of providing what we need most. In my opinion, it is no accident these plants exist to teach and heal us. Our society has become so disconnected from nature that we forget the endless generosity that our Earth provides. Partaking in these ceremonies was the most intense and illuminating experience of my life and I hope these entries awaken you to the healing world of spirit and nature. Head to part 2 of my journey to hear all about my spiritual ass kicking.
- Gorman, Peter (2010). Ayahuasca in My Blood: 25 Years of Medicine Dreaming. ISBN 1452882908.
- Campos, Don Jose (2011). The Shaman & Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms. pp. 81–85.
- Schultz, Mitch (2010). DMT: The Spirit Molecule.
Read This Next: