It’s 8:00 am and I crawl out of bed to layer on clothing, throw my hair in a bandana, and slab some sunscreen on my face. My usual morning routine seems like a distant memory here in the valley where the priority is anything but beautification. I’m here to do the most intense emotional work and smudged mascara will undoubtedly be a distraction as I spend the day delving into my life troubles under the influence of the powerful plant medicine San Pedro Cactus.
I meet the group 20 mins later around a bonfire and cuddle into blankets on the damp cold ground. The smell of the ceremonial Palo Santo wood fills my senses as our Shaman Bernard explains what’s about to happen. We are instructed to keep to ourselves for the first half of the day to maximize the benefits of the medicine’s ability to help you go within and uncover emotions. Communicating with others has a tendency to distract one from doing the inner work, so he instructs us to go off on our own and enjoy the idyllic scenery of the retreat grounds. Bernard sits in front of an array of stunning crystals and stones as he blesses and cleanses the cactus juice while singing a stunning ceremonial song in Spanish. When it’s my turn to drink, I stare down at the viscous green slime, cringe, and throw it back. Although not as horrible as Ayahuasca, this is definitely NOT delicious.
I lie back and stare up at the massive green canopy draping over me. Slowly I begin to feel the medicine and a mild nausea fills my belly. I lie there feeling emotions bubble to the surface and my intention for doing this comes front and center: What am I doing with my life? How can I find a way to love my career again? Bernard comes and kneels by me and asks how I’m doing. I begin to tell him what I’m feeling and words pour out of me. I realize the usual self-conscious censor is turned off and I just let it all out. His kind blue eyes and compassionate smile overcome me and I feel tears fall down my face though I have no conscious control over it. These are not things I talk about. My fears and frustrations belong to me and my journal, so saying it out loud held a power I wasn’t expecting. Bernard reminds me to make sure I don’t get caught up in the mind chatter, and to explore what the heart is saying. I feel well enough to walk around and find a sunny spot near a garden. After days of rain, I feel like a lioness sprawling out and basking in the sun’s invigorating light. I close my eyes and enter a meditative state where I transcend upwards out of the mind space as if I were looking down at it. I become separate from it and see it as simple, convenient tool like a thought computer. It is a part of me, but it is not me. How much have I been living in my mind and not my heart?
About an hour later I see my new friend Amy and her tearful eyes tell me she has been busy with her heart homework as well. We discuss our insights and both delve into our personal situations. We are sprawled on the ground half covered in dirt and sweat with layers of clothing and crystals strewn around taking turns crying with intermittent outbursts of laughter. As the housekeeper casually walks by, we wave and smile as if what we’re doing is completely normal. As the day progresses, we are joined by the rest of the group and discuss our experiences. Judy spent five hours straight shivering in the grass while Franko had, as he described, Tantric sex with Mother Earth. Maria spent the whole afternoon terrified and prophesized her impending death, while Tony on the other hand, said he “didn’t really feel nothin”.
The following four days were focused on the Ayahuasca ceremonies, with a second San Pedro ceremony planned for the final day with one “break day” in between. After five days of ingesting plant medicine that had a 100% sure-to-make-you-want-to-vomit rate, I was NOT excited to drink another full 12 ounces of cactus slime. But what else did I travel 4,000 miles for if not to get my ass kicked by nature’s finest teachers? Having experienced so many insights and extreme introspection the whole week, I felt ready to tie up any loose ends. I talked with Bernard for a very long time and he helped me realize that part of my career battle was the fact that I was giving all my energy to an image of how I thought it should be. An image holds no power because it is not real. We choose to empower it by giving it meaning. I realize I’ve become identified with the label of “singer/songwriter”, and struggled with the constant yearning of living up to my fullest potential for so long that I forgot to want anything else. I had told myself a story and spent all my energy strengthening my story, without stopping to ask myself what it really was that made me the happiest. “Chasing the dream” has become an unfulfilling race against myself that I no longer want to run. I want to allow the dream to find me as I am by living my life the way my heart wants.
I’m shedding who I thought I was. I’m slowly but surely releasing my grip on the image of the life I thought I wanted, and allowing space for however my greatest joy will manifest. I am taking time to check in and listen to the guidance from my higher self. I know I would have discovered these profound insights someday, but embarking on this wild ride with plant medicines came at the perfect time for me. Having these experiences right before launching a business like Mystic Babe seemed divinely aligned. For once in my life, I don’t have a definitive plan. Every door is now wide open and all I know is I plan on having a blast trying to figure it out.
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