There are many ways to sit with mother Ayahuasca. There are ceremonies of light and ceremonies of darkness. Circles of singing and circles of silence. Religious ceremonies and those of just dancing and happiness. In many ceremonies though, the theme of death and resurrection is almost always present.
The first cup signifies the choice and willingness to face the dark. The courageous act of closing our eyes and facing our inner world. Be it what may, we are choosing to visit the darkest recesses of our subconscious and bring them out to light.
We take a leap of faith, knowing that diving inwards is always taken in our best interest and is an act intended to bring about transformation and healing. But, as intended, facing darkness, even courageously, involves fear and some form or another of apprehension. That is one of the reasons, taking part in an Ayahuasca ceremony, even for those who have done so hundreds of times almost always brings about a mixed experience of fear and excitement.
One of the names for Ayahuasca is ‘Vino del Muerte’ – the vine of death. Many of us, as we dive inwards, truly have an experience that feels like, as much as we can imagine — death. Physically, the body goes still and heavy, our breath slows down and we feel as though our body and organs are failing one by one. There seems to be a heavy cloud shrouding our mind and at the same time, emotionally, we truly feel drained and emptied. Often this sensation brings up a deep and very realistic fear. ‘This is it’, all is lost. There, exactly there, healing happens. The understanding and the reminder of our mortality, is the initial trigger that startles us out of taking our lives for granted.
You’ll experience the breakage of your habitual self. Your tendencies, your patterns of behavior will seem fragmented, disjointed. You’ll witness how your precious sense of ego or protective self is a separation between you and life. You’ll get to see how repetitive your thought process truly is, how uncreative and predictable. Something in your sense of self-defense will ultimately die. You’ll get to experience first hand you monkey-mind, witnessing it’s restlessness and fears. You’ll be shown where and how you use your thoughts as a barrier and not as a vehicle to communicate and connect.
That shock, that frightening sensation is the alarming ringing that wakes us up. Our relatives, our relationships, our connections and attachments will be brought to the front of our attention. We will be invited to observe where and how there are places in our lives, in our approach to our interactions and friendships where we lack awareness, where we might have been hurt or caused pain to others. Ayahuasca might show us how our actions affected others, or how, without our direct attention certain moments and certain situations affected our path and might have diverted us from where we wish to be.
Without facing our fears the healing process cannot begin. Without walking through the dark of night, the light of day will never come. Ayahuasca is considered by many the master teacher plant, or the teacher of all teachers. One of the reasons for this title is her infinite compassion and approach to teaching us as we face our darkest moments. The experience of our challenges, she teaches, does not necessitate agony. Yes, the way out is through, but through does not imply pain or heartbreak. Through means understanding, listening, seeing the same situation with new eyes.
The Ayahuascero, the medicine carrier or Shaman has walked this path many times. They are aware that your tears need not be dried and that you are held in the hands of the divine mother. You are shown and given only that which your soul can handle and grow from. They will always be there to assist, but their assistance is mainly in allowing Ayahuasca to offer her care and teachings directly to you – without any personal interference. In other words, they are there to hold space for you to learn on your own.
And so, as you take the sacrament, you are taken, so to speak, to the sanctum sanctorum – the holy of holies, the temple of the heart. Where, as mentioned before, you’ll face your fears and symbolically die. Your approach, your attitude towards dying will in a way, determine this grandiose experience of the cocoon transforming into the butterfly. The death of one and the emergence of the other.
And then, an hour and a half later, ninety minutes which to you, might seem like an eternity – you come back. You return to the surface. You will be offered a second cup. This time, after facing your own mortality, the darkness, the fears, the physical challenges first cup brought up in your body and facing the choice to drink again might seem even scarier. To choose to return to that agony seems paradoxical and counterintuitive. You follow the shamanic guidance and choose to trust a deeper voice within you. You listen to your soul and the voice of your heart. You choose to take the sacrament once again.
Here, in that choice the magic is found. From the abysmal experience of death comes your resurrection. You meet the other face of mother Ayahuasca. This time, she appears as ‘the Mirror of the Soul’ – shining, brilliant, full of love and compassion. From this moment onwards and till you’ll resurface again, you will be given the invitation to witness how beautiful you truly are. How precious and unique, how regal and divine. Drinking Ayahuasca and partaking in this ceremony is nothing more than an invitation to fall in love with yourself. An opening to commune with the divine and realize the depth of who you truly are.
We learn, as we follow this path, that one of life’s greatest challenges is our innate ability to take our life for granted. The ease in which we forget the magic, the awe and the curiosity with which we have entered into this plane of existence. You are brought back to the sense of innocence you experienced as a child. Your inner child is awakened and is given the front seat in relating to life. Once again you get to wonder at the sight of a tree or the sound of an insect. Your world expands once again; you become small as nature around you grows in size, enveloping your inquisitive eyes.
Your resurrection is very tangible. Your body is filled with energy as your limbs shake with vitality. Your breath deepens and all of your senses sharpen. You hear sound and music like never before. You absorb light and color with a whole new sense of depth and perception. Your third eye opens and you get to perceive glimpses and visions of the astral planes. An experience, so profound and so transforming that most Ayahuasca travelers never come back the same.
And now, in the second part of this journey you get to learn of loving in a completely different way. As the same challenging experiences from your first cup morph into opportunities for growth. You get to witness how creative and resourceful your heart truly is. You’ll get to witness yourself from every angle, understanding your mind through every possible perspective. You will be given the choice to shift, transform and ultimately alter the course of your life.
The feeling we experience when facing this light and overflowing love is somewhat overwhelming at first. The mind will try to capture and capsulate the experience so we can talk about it and break it down in order to understand it further. With time, as you take the sacrament more, you allow that attempt to cease. You know and understand that you’ll never be able to remember it all, contain it all, keep it all… You understand that it is not meant for you to capture and contain. This experience is meant for you to be captivated by and surrender into.
The real meaning of the resurrection this experience offers is found in the days following ceremony. One of my spiritual teachers in walking the medicine path says that ceremony begins day after ceremony. The rebirth of choice and action we choose to make following this tremendous heart expansion we just experienced. We get to reevaluate our lives, our decisions, our relationships and vocation. After being awakened to all that you can be and all that you are, your life can simply not be the same as it was before.
You were born before, but that was not a result of a conscious decision, at least not within this plane of existence. When you walk the medicine path, you choose your rebirth. You take action to bring forth your death and your resurrection. You are given a choice as to how you’d wish to be an active participant in the love story you call – your life.