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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Kauenhowen

Ayahuasca: part 2

I dreaded going into the office on the Monday following my first ceremony. Not because I felt sick or anything but because I knew everyone would want to hear about the experience, and I had nothing worthwhile to report. No part of me wanted to drag out the disappointment. I wished that I could take back ever mentioning it.

You’re probably like… well, why would you be talking about Ayahuasca at work in the first place?

And yes, I know this might not sound like typical workplace chatter - but when you work at a startup in Colombia with a bunch of young, curious ex-pats, office vibes are a little different. So much so, that I actually attended my second ceremony with a small group of co-workers.

I was a little apprehensive over the thought of aggressively purging in front of them, but I wasn’t about to let that hold me back. Realistically we were all going to be in the same, pukey boat, so there was no reason to be embarrassed. Most of them had already had one prior experience with it as well, and we were all seeking a deeper, more meaningful trip.

This time we were headed to a different ceremony space located just outside of Girardota, about an hour’s journey from the city. The previous space had been very lowkey due to the limited capacity, but this time anyone was welcome. They also advertise on Instagram and Facebook so overall it was a more well-known retreat center - the sort of place people go for emotional healing holidays.

They offered two nights in a row - Friday & Saturday rather than just a single ceremony - so I decided to make a weekend out of it. The rest of my co-workers didn’t plan to join until the following evening, so I made the trek up there alone which involved getting lost on a sketchy moto-taxi ride through pitch-black gravel roads in the countryside with a driver who had never heard of the place. Thankfully, we eventually found it, and even though it was already dark when I arrived, it felt like pulling up to an oasis.

Compared to the previous log cabin in the woods - this finca was luxurious. It featured an expansive view overlooking the valley, a large pool with a running fountain, frilly hammocks, and a beautifully decorated home.

Upon arrival, it seemed like everyone there already knew one another. I was a little unsure of what to do or where to put my belongings, but someone took notice of my awkward wandering and let me know that women were to set up on the front-facing side of the home, while men took the side hall. The house had a roofed terrace along the outside which is where the ceremony would take place, with the shaman’s altar in the middle.

When signing in we were given an option for either normal or fuerte dose - fuerte meaning strong. I asked for fuerte. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t work because to be honest, I hadn’t followed the diet as closely this time around. I only cut out alcohol one week in advance and didn’t really cut out spices at all. It wasn’t ideal preparation but it didn’t mean that anything “bad” would happen - it just meant that the experience might not be as intense as it could be.

Before getting started, the owner of the finca spoke to the group about how this was the final ceremony of 2019, and with this medicine we were going to leave the year behind us and let go of the past that was no longer serving us. I felt this deeply… I knew I was holding onto an immense amount of guilt that I needed to let go of. Purging isn’t a pleasant process by any means but it is certainly a tangible way of seeing yourself let go.

I ended up taking two cups - each one having a similar timeline. The first 20-30 minutes were just spent trying not to puke too early, then came the initial body high and visuals which led to an intense, shaking buildup. I knew a purge was coming when all the sounds of nature, the music, and the retching noises of people around me became so loud that it seemed to fuel my own process. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s not the same as when you get food poisoning or anything like that. It’s not about expelling the contents of your stomach but rather the toxic traits of your psyche.

After the purge came a state of pure bliss… the sort of contentedness that you want to be able to carry at all times. I was feeling all the feels for about 2 hours. One of the medicine workers came over to check on me and somehow knew exactly what I needed to hear. He reiterated the message that had also come through for me, which is that I needed to deeply work on healing and loving myself again in order to get back on my feet. At some point, I lost my confidence and it showed. It was time to get it back. Maybe I’d been too focused on setting the intention to connect with my mom because I miss her so much when in reality, it’s me that I was dying for a connection to.

The following afternoon, I was taking in the beautiful scenery while reflecting on the night’s journey with someone I’d just met. I was telling him that I wanted to go into the pool and that I wanted to pick some oranges, and he called me out in a way that really stayed with me - he pointed at the pool and said, “it’s right there. If you want to go for a swim, do it. You want a lot of things, but they’re right there. Go do it then.”

I had one of those “oh shit” moments of realization that I do this in a ton of different aspects of my life… I claim I want something - but I just talk about wanting it. I never seem to execute on these desires. Especially if nobody else is already in the pool or picking oranges… it makes it seem impossible to forge the path alone. I tend to wait until it’s too late, letting the moment and desire fade. I like to fall back on the thought that I must’ve never really wanted it in the first place, or it just wasn’t meant to be.

This lack of trust in myself and inability to act on my desires was suddenly very clear. I went into the second night with the intention to dive deeper into this confidence problem. Of course, Ayahuasca had different things in store for me that night.

It’s difficult to remember or comprehend the things I saw. At one point I closed my eyes and it was like a video game inside my mind - with an animated intro of ARE YOU READY?! And I knew that the medicine was asking me if I was ready to explore a particularly complicated and strained relationship in my life. My body was convulsing uncontrollably as she asked me this, and I was scared. It was painful and uncomfortable and I didn’t think I could handle any more - so I shook my head no. The trip ended immediately.

I was kicking myself a bit afterward - frustrated that I said no when I thought I was ready to do deep work. I went up for a second cup trying to say that I was ready now - but she didn’t offer a second chance.

I left that weekend feeling confused and unsure of what was next for my healing journey. I had these important lessons to work on but I was unsure of how to integrate them. I also felt a little bit disenchanted with Ayahuasca. She held sacred space as a teacher for me, but I felt called to explore some other avenues before coming back to her again.

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