I have a disclaimer to make.
I don’t think anyone should do ayahuasca unless they have a deep understanding of the vine, and on top of that they should know the reasons that they have for dancing with that particular devil. If you’re going to give yourself over to the journey, you really should know why. That being said, I had no idea what ayahuasca was, or why I was doing it.
Still I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and as I learned later on that day, that means everything. And yeah, I did have some reasons for trying ayahausca, and they were as follows:
One. My boyfriend was doing it.
Two. My boyfriend was doing it.
That day in the car ride to upstate New York, where the ceremony would take place, everybody else was in high spirits – chatty and excited about the adventure to come. They were singing the praises of their soon-to-be enlightening ayahuasca trip. I, on the other hand, wasn’t listening to a word they were saying. I only had two things on my mind –puking and pooping, or, in fancier, foreign, verbiage: la perga.
Let’s backtrack for a minute, so you can see where my obsession with what goes wrong comes from. I’ve always waited for the other shoe to drop. I’m never sure that a good thing won’t lead to a bad thing in the end. When my life is going well, I start to wonder when it will go wrong. I have pessimistic tendencies, and even if I can see that the glass is half full, I will always be able to argue the reasons it looks half empty. I see a common cold as a prelude to cancer. I also saw ayahuasca as something I had to do, because I was afraid of it. Ayahuasca had to be one thing I could overcome.
La Perga is the purge, and some people experience an extreme form of purging, or cleansing (if you can see the glass as half full), in the form of puking and pooping. Now, these were two of my more private activities, which I preferred to do in the comfort of my own home. I wasn’t ready to do in front of a group of friends high on their own spiritual catharsis. I didn’t even go to the bathroom in front of my boyfriend. My mind was reeling by the fact that a lot of people vomit on this stuff, and while I could deal with puking, if the pooping started, I would lose more than my shit.
We arrived at the cabin and its surrounding forest where we would set out on (or to be more accurate — lay down) for our journey. We climbed up a steep hill and set up camp. The first thing I noticed was the lack of toilets on the hill. There were a total of zero. In lieu of modern amenities, our fearless ayahuasca guide had dug a hole in the ground for emergency situations.
I immediately launched into full panic mood. Puking and pooping in a hole is even worse than puking and pooping in a bathroom shared by twelve other journeyers. I was a little nervous, okay, A LOT nervous, and I decided that this was a fear I’d have to overcome and that for now I would just have to let it go, without letting myself go in that hole.
I sat in the circle, and we all drank down the brew. I was the second to last person to drink. I watched everyone make that face, the one where it looks like you actually just ate dirt that happened to be topped off with a helping of live insects. Much to my surprise, it just went right down that throat of mine. I started to get cocky. I thought, “I am woman, and I will rock this trip.” And I was ready.
So I lay down and started to see visuals very quickly. With my eyes still open, I begin to see unusual forms take shape, majestic images of goddesses and femininity and divine power. I saw nature in all of its detailed beauty – trees with the faces of queens, and roots that wanted to hug me and squeeze to pieces (loving pieces). I saw vibrant green leaves dancing in a sea of blue sky and clouds that looked like they could cover you with warmth. I was content with what I could see with my eyes open, so I thought it was time to try something new. I shut my eyes and let my mind wander.
When I closed my eyes, the first vision to appear was that of a room. It was barren and red with two long windows. I was alone, and most of the time I could just see the room, the spacious, deep red, sunny room, but once in a while I could see myself in the room, as if I wasn’t in my body. It was like I was watching myself from above, which made me panic.
This is another thing you should know about me. I’m a bit of a control freak and whether I’m sober, or not so sober, I like to know that I’m in control of my situation, and so in order to control this trip, to stop freaking out, I decided to reopen my eyes. I needed to be reassured that everything was okay, that I was still me. Looking around the circle, things trippy and different, but mostly the same.
So I shut my eyes once again, and that’s when the vine started speaking to me. She said “Close your eyes. Keep them closed.” I had never spoken with a plant before. To be honest, I never thought that I could commune this deeply with vegetation. And so again I opened my eyes. This time, I heard her speak louder. She warned me to close my eyes. She didn’t seem to take my disobedience lightly.
With my eyes closed, I was back in the room, only this time I wasn’t alone. There was a man there with me, a tall, lanky man with wild hair – the kind of hair one would get from sticking bobby pins in electrical outlets. Black and white striped stockings covered his long, lean legs and he was wearing elfin-like shoes that turned up at the tip of his feet. Spastically, he jumped around the room all giddy and excited, squealing with delight “Wait here! Wait here! Something’s going to happen. Just wait here!”
Honestly, he was pissing me off. I was not so sure I wanted to wait. (Ironically, I later learned that this was the coveted “DMT waiting room,” a launch pad to the astral carnival of time and space that so many journeyers hope to reach. Of course, many seekers never find there way in. I had somehow made my way in, and all I wanted was to get out. So I opened my eyes. That’s when everything changed for the worse.
I suddenly wasn’t feeling so well. I could feel the sensation coming up my throat, and I knew that I had about five seconds before I was going to puke all over the place. I got myself up, as difficult as this was, and ran to the nearest tree, where a vile, green substance poured out my mouth. It kept gushing forth. I wasn’t sure it would stop. I stayed hunched over for a good few minutes, throwing up everything. When I finally could inhale air without exhaling puke, I realized that I had another problem. While things had stopped going up and out, other things were now ready to go downward.
I glanced at the sad excuse for a toilet — that hole some 20 feet off in the not-too-distant horizon — and I thought that there was no way was going to drop trou there, al fresco.
Over in the circle, everyone was lying on their backs and I thought I don’t want to leave this circle because I feel safe here. But I was sick, and I couldn’t go number two so close to our number one sacred spot in the hills. I thought about staying, about the benefits of pooping so close to home, but there weren’t many, except that I didn’t have to go as far.
The truth was, I’d never felt like I had my own circle before, whether it was a circle of friends, of support, or of love — no matter what the circumstances — so, I wanted to feel like a part of that this time. I didn’t want to leave, but that’s what I knew best.
I looked down the hill, and in the distance, I could see the chimney of the cabin, and I knew the cabin had a toilet, a working toilet complete with flusher and water, and all I could think was that I must get there. It was less than a five-minute walk to the cabin, so I began to move one foot, then the other.
As I made my way down the hill, I realized that while I was totally in control of my mind, I had absolutely no control over my body. I started running down this hill, full speed ahead, knees high. Actually, I wasn’t running; my legs were doing their own thing and forcing my body to follow. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t stop sprinting even if I tried. I was having an uncontrollable, semi-out-of-body experience while awake and alive.
That was when I saw the tree, the tree that was right in front of me. My brain was screaming at me, telling me that I was going to run into this tree, YOU ARE GOING TO RUN INTO THIS TREE. Somehow I managed to flop my hands up in front of me. I managed to protect my head from serious injury, but I was not saving any face. On the ground now, I crawled to the cabin. On hands and knees, I literally crawled, baby step by baby step over rocks, over driveway, through branches and up onto the wooden deck outside the front door.
I made it to the bathroom, a miracle in and of itself. And when I sat on the toilet I heard that voice again. “Get it all out of you. Get it all out. You want this out of you so get it out.” I pooped for what seemed like an entire year of my life. And when I was done, or at least when I thought I was done, I stood up (barely) and placed my hand on the handle, and proceeded to flush.
Only the toilet, it didn’t work. And now I was faced with another dilemma because there was another person who’d found his way down to the cabin and was knocking at the door. I needed to get out of here. To flush this away and move on.
I spent the next fifteen minutes devising a way to pour water from the sink into the top of the toilet to flush it. And when I was finally done, I crawled out onto the porch. I was sitting on the porch when a rooster suddenly appeared out of nowhere. It ambled close by, turned and looked at me for a moment, and then went on pecking at invisible specs in the air. “Is it real?” my brain raced for answers. “Yes, it looks real. Well, maybe. No, wait, it’s got to be.”
And that’s when my stomach started up again. This time it was dry heaving. I’d call it throwing up, but I had nothing to throw up. I didn’t even eat that morning. With every heave, my insides burned hotter. And I felt like I was dying. I was convinced actually that I was dying. I must be dying, and before I die I will be forced to go through hell. This was my death and death also happened to be my biggest fear. It was facing me now, and it didn’t feel as scary as I thought it would. In fact, the worst part about it now was that I was dying of pooping and puking. What a way to go. I hoped they would leave this part out of my obituary.
The vine was still screaming in my head “Get it all out. Get it all out,” and as I continued to get whatever it was that was in me, out of me, I had this epiphany. I embraced the puking. I embraced death. And I realized that what I was actually throwing up was my fear. My fear of dying. My fear of losing control. It was all gone now. All the control I could have ever wanted, I had none of it anymore. I had just been taught that I had no control in this, or any, situation.
As I dry heaved more, and more, I started to believe again. I believed in hope, because I still hoped I could survive my death. I also realized that I had brought this whole trip upon myself. The puking, the pooping, the things I couldn’t stop thinking about in preparation for this day, they all happened. Couple that with my fear of dying and this was a trifecta of manifestation for all the things I feared most. This was the way I willed it to be.
Five minutes later my boyfriend appeared, and he begged me to come back to the circle. He promised to help me, to guide me back. I begged him to leave me for dead, it was better and easier that way. I mean I weighed more than him, so if he had to drag my dead body back to the circle, that might be bad for his already fragile back.
He insisted that we carry on…together. What should have been a ten-minute walk up the hill took two hours, with me stopping every three minutes for one last heave. With each push of air out of my lungs, I pleaded with him to carry on and leave me again. But he wouldn’t. He refused to leave me alone because at this point we were in this together. I think he just didn’t want to have to explain my death to my parents.
When we finally made it up to the top of the hill, everyone was excited to see me. I had been gone for a while and most of them were almost finished with their journey. Me, I needed to lie down again. That’s when I realized that now, on the ground, back safe on my blanket, my journey was only beginning.
Image by ladybug, courtesy of Creative Commons license.