Hello my beautiful souls!
Welcome back to the Modern Manifestation blog. Feel free to listen in to today's topic in the podcast.
In today's post, I am continuing the vulnerable discussion around my Ayahuasca retreat by jumping into my experience on night one.
If this is the first post you're checking out, be sure to read the first part of this series, My Ayahuasca Experience - An Overview, by clicking here. We covered a lot in the previous post, so I highly recommend you comb through this if you're interested in any Ayahuasca FAQs.
Before we jump into my experience on night one, I want to address a mistake I made in the weeks leading up to my ceremony that almost derailed my night...
Your Experience will be Unique
In my attempt to prepare for my first ceremony, I spent way too much time reading about other people's past experiences. I had to know what to expect as best I could and I figured the answer was in someone's recount.
Well, this was a mistake and it dramatically impacted my first night. If you're reading this ahead of your own Ayahuasca ceremony, here is my advice: Go into a ceremony without any expectations and keep an open mind.
In a false attempt to control the situation, I probably read hundreds of people's accounts with Ayahuasca ("Aya", for short). I was on Reddit, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, I couldn't get enough of other people's encounters with the medicine. I wanted to know everything about their ceremonies.
While this helped me wrap around my head around what I was getting into... it also created unmet expectations, so I was disappointed with my first night. Instead of having more ease going into my experience, I had more hope and anticipation. I had high expectations and I struggled to let go of control; although, you could argue that this was the struggle I needed!
In my head, I'd mapped out how I thought the entire process would work. I thought I would have the same kind of beautiful experience I read about on someone else’s blog. However, my experience was radically different. It was unlike any that I'd read about. If you're reading this in preparation for your own ceremony, keep this in mind. Your journey will be entirely unique and custom to YOU.
Any expectations you have going into a journey like this will impact your actual experience.
Aya curates a lesson and a journey that is custom tailored to your past traumas, to your experiences, to your relationships, to your inner thoughts.... all of this is weighing in on the experience that you will have. So use my story (and that of anyone else's) for entertainment value, but don't rely on having a similar story.
If I were to ever say “yes” to another ceremony, I would remain more open minded and curious about the process, as opposed to trying to understand it through the lens of someone else’s experience.
My First Night with Ayahuasca
My first night started off pretty rocky. Like I said, I had a lot of expectations when I sat down for ceremony. I was expecting my mind to be blown open by a spiritual experience as soon as we consumed Aya. You can probably guess that this didn't happen. Honestly, the first night really sucked.
As soon as the ceremony started, I noticed people sinking into the experience within minutes as I sat there meditating, waiting for my own to begin... about an hour later, I was getting frustrated. When would my journey start? Where is she? Am I the problem? This was a question I'd ask myself a lot that weekend.
Another half hour goes by and I'm getting more annoyed and impatient. At this point, the ceremony leader comes by to talk to me when he notices my agitation. I'm the only one who isn't "in it". We talk for a little while before he made an observation: I wasn't letting her in.
Admittedly, I laughed at this because I thought I was doing everything I could to kick-start my experience. He gave me a knowing smile and offered me a little more of "the medicine", but before handing it over, he whispered, "It's safe to let go". He winked at me and left my mat to check-in with others.
I wasn't excited for my second helping because Aya tastes like fermented molasses, but I wanted to get the process moving so I conceded. Pro tip: keep peppermint oil nearby to disguise the smell/taste.
After my second dose, 20 more minutes went by and still nothing. At this point, the ceremony healer decides to comes over to me also; His tribal wear was both beautiful and intimidating and I wondered what he could sense about me. He placed his hand on my shoulder, tuned in for a moment, and when he received an insight, he looked me in the eyes and said, "You don't need to resist her. Ask her to come in". He stood up and walked away. I sighed, "Okay, so it is me". Queue Taylor's Swift's Anti-Hero.
I took a deep breath, re-situated myself, and attempted to let go. For a bit, I continued to sit there with no effects. Then I wondered to myself if she was conversational... so I decided to try that instead. After a few moments, I asked her to join me. Turns out, she is.
That's when the medicine kicked in.
The Physical Effects of Ayahuasca
I won't lie to you. Ayahuasca is called "La Purga" for a reason. Within moments of the medicine kicking in, I began to feel nauseous. This nausea lasted for hours and seemed to build each hour. It was a classic, "Be careful what you wish for" moment.
I continued to feel awful for several hours as I resisted the needs of my body, thinking that the fetal position would keep me from the inevitable. Instead, it stoked the fire... I do NOT recommend trying to hold back the purging.
Apparently, I had a thing for resistance. Consider this insight #1.
While I'm fighting the need to throw up, I begin to have negative thoughts, "I'm such a baby. People have experienced worse. I'm just seeking attention. I'm so weak. Suck it up". This was the beginning of my downward emotional spiral and my nausea wasn't helping.
Needless to say, I was disappointed with the experience so far. It wasn't what I was hoping for and I'd wondered if I'd made a mistake. Even so... I didn't want to give up, so I tried to find ways to make sense of the physical discomfort I was experiencing.
As I sat there fighting the urge to throw up, I thought about my mind-body connection. I thought about my mind wanting to resist the urge to throw up, while my body continued to ache in agony for it. I realized that I’d always hated this part of being sick. In fact, I could count on one hand how many times I’d thrown up in my life. Shockingly, I always felt immediately better afterward. But, this didn’t change the fact that I habitually resisted the nausea for hours before finally giving in, anyway. This was one of those moments.
If you’re a frequent reader, you already know that the mind-body connection is something I’ve worked to heal as an adult. My trauma response was/is to disassociate from my body; to live in my mind where it was safe and I could escape. I lost the subtleties of my bodily cues for many years (hunger, fullness, pain, etc.). Even though I have healed that side of me quite a bit, I still experience discomfort when it comes to my mind body connection.
Now that I’m older I see a huge connection between my need to control, to repress and suppress my emotions, and my need to do the same with my bodily sensations. While I sat with this, I realized that it all needed to end.
This was just the beginning of the discomfort that Mother Ayahuasca would make me endure.
While I'm thinking about this mind-body connection, I'm still resisting my need to throw up. I figured that my body would eventually stop sending me the cues for this discomfort (an old habit).
I believed I could think about ANYTHING else until the discomfort stopped. The problem was that I was still emotionally spiraling, so my thoughts were not an escape after all. It was either focus on this mind-body connection, or face my self-deprecating thoughts. The mind-body connection seemed like the better alternative for once. I have to wonder if that was a part of the planned experience.
I was reminded of how I’d abused my body so I could live in my mind, for years. I didn’t want to keep doing this even though being present with my body was still really uncomfortable. If I wanted to heal, I knew I had to move through this discomfort until it became more bearable, more normal for me. I wanted to quit disassociating.
However, focusing on my body when it doesn't feel good is like an attack on my mind; an assault. My go-to response is to insert fight or flight mode. I get angry and frustrated with myself. This only made physical experience worse.
I could feel a direct connection between my mind (my negative thoughts), and my body (how shitty I felt). And I felt her (Mother Ayahuasca) watching this unfold, forcing it to happen. Forcing me to sit in this lesson. I wanted to tap out, but then again... that's what I always did. I was adamant that I would see this through. It felt important to tell myself, "I can do this".
I know, this experience sounds AMAZING so far. Am I right? ;)
The Emotional Battle
While the physical battle rages on, so does my emotional turmoil. I'm experiencing a range of emotions: anger, frustration, disappointment, unworthiness, self-hate, resentment, loathing, jealousy, etc. I feel myself sinking deeper and deeper into these emotions by the minute. Part of me is worried that I won't be able to claw my way out of this. The other part of me is pissed that my inner "suppressor" seems to be malfunctioning and I can't seem to escape these feelings.
That's another thing about Ayahuasca, she doesn't let you avoid your lessons. She's happy to sit back as long as it takes until you give in to them. I imagined her getting comfortable at the edge of my consciousness—watching me squirm, kick, and scream internally. Patiently waiting, knowing, like a grandmother who loves you but isn't interested in contributing to the stories you tell yourself..
Meanwhile everyone else around me seemed to be having a beautiful experience with Mother Ayahuasca. This increased my feelings of anger and unworthiness.
I began to think the worst, “Maybe I don't deserve to have an experience with Aya. Maybe I'm not ready for this. Maybe she wasn't calling to me and here I am wasting everyone's time. That's why I'm probably being punished. I don’t deserve to be here. I’m worthless. Who do I think I am? I'm nobody special. This was a mistake”.
These thoughts only made the physical discomfort worse. My physical discomfort and my self-deprecating thoughts began to feed one another: worthlessness, cramps, self hate, trembling, despair, nausea, wanting to prove myself, thirst, needing validation, toilet… It felt like a tornado was brewing within me emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.
I sat there feeling ill, tired, bored, annoyed, jealous, disappointed, angry, sad, frustrated, depressed, anxious, and everything in between... for a few hours. We weren't even halfway done.
You should also know that ceremony is not one cup and you’re done. There are usually anywhere from two to four cups in a ceremony, so it takes commitment to continue with this experience when it gets really physically uncomfortable. The hardest part was continuing to say “yes” to the last few cups. I felt like Dumbledore drinking the green poison in order to retrieve the horcrux in Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince.
I still continued resisting the needs of my body. As I sat there, another lesson creeped into my awareness: I fear taking up space.
I've always been afraid of being an “attention seeker" or a “drama queen”, so I've been hyper independent and "kept out of the way". I could see how this fear played into my unwillingness to take up space.
At least when I was out of the way, no one was annoyed with me. I was able to see how this fear had kept me small in many ways, especially how it's held me back on the podcast and the blog. And in that moment, how it kept me from honoring the needs of my body. In many ways, throwing up is the opposite of staying small, it's a violent act of expansion (no matter how gross). I wondered if I feared the physical act of throwing up or the attention it would attract, more. Did I equate throwing up to attention-seeking? Shit. I think so.
At the same time, I also realized that I don't ask MYSELF for help in these moments because I know that I would meet my own needs with self-shaming. If I can't show up for myself and meet myself with kindness, who can?
These lessons hit especially hard knowing that I have a podcast and blog where I do my best to show up for you all. I always encourage y'all to show up for yourselves, but here I was... not heeding my own advice. This made me feel like a fraud.
My old habit would be to say, “Shouldn’t you already know this by now? You’ve talked about it on your podcast and blog a million times…”. As an example, I’ve recorded recent episodes about hyper independence, resistance, and asking for help FFS. Yet here I was, not doing any of those things! The self-shaming saga continued...
I sat there wondering why I committed to this, annoyed that I was relearning the same lesson about resistance AGAIN. My inner recovering perfectionist was having a field day.
It's funny how lessons re-visit us in a new package JUST when we think we're ready to move on. Recent work tells me that this will keep happening until the issue is fully resolved. Consider this my 100th lap around resistance. ;)
Giving In to the Experience
The theme of my night seemed to be: resistance and the mind-body connection.
I continued to allow more negative thoughts to bubble up, getting more and more uncomfortable with the process, until finally... a thought appeared out of nowhere, “Let go. Release. Let your body do what it needs to do”. I looked up and made eye contact with the healer who nodded. He knew.
Even now, I can’t tell you where that internal voice came from. Was it mine? Hers? The healers? In the moment, it didn't matter. You sort of accept messages as they come, without questioning it. Perhaps this is why healing can be so powerful because you don't second guess what comes up. Whoever it was, they got me thinking.
At first, I remained defiant. I thought, “If I REALLY needed to throw up…. I would…” and I knew that was a lie. Even in that moment.
A lot of people assume that your physical sensations are incontrollable when you're on Ayahuasca. This is not true. You can hold it in if you want to. And so far, I had.
But, I took a deep breath in preparation. And in the midst of my thoughts, I finally gave myself permission to purge, IF I needed to.... (we know the answer to this).
The second I thought, “I give my body permission to take care of itself”, boom. I did. It kicked in as quickly as the medicine had earlier when I gave it permission. It happened, instantaneously….
I grabbed my bucket and purged everything out. Not just vomit, but also my feelings of self-hate, loathing, resentment, anger... all of it. At that moment, I ended hours of suffering; my body released and I finally felt better. Relief washed over me, along with feelings of hope, contentment, and peace. I'd finally let go and given in to the ceremony, as it was meant to be experienced.
The nausea was gone as quickly as it came.
I sat in discomfort for hours, resisting it, when it could have been over it in minutes if I had JUST LISTENED. This realization made me think, “How many times have I held my own needs back because of what I think I should be doing or how I think I should be feeling?”. My guess? A lot.
This concept of giving myself permission to do what I needed to do was a really beautiful message for me to learn that first night. Even though this was not the message I WANTED to learn, it was the one I needed: to give myself permission to move through discomfort, instead of resisting, avoiding, or escaping it. All of this tied in closely with resilience and a willingness to fail. While I was sitting in discomfort, it was really the fear of failure I was avoiding. I was reminded of the Brene Brown's and Tim Ferris' podcasts on fear setting, courage, vulnerability....
I thought about what I'd want to share with you, and the message was: a lot of times in life we avoid the things we fear because they are uncomfortable, or because we don’t feel like doing them, but how different could our lives be if we give ourselves permission to do them anyway? To step toward the fear?
What about when we put off starting our own companies, jumping into a fitness routine, or giving up a nasty habit because we fear the discomfort? What if the discomfort we feel now is WORSE than the thing we fear? And if we just did the thing, and got it over with, we would already have moved on? This resonated with me on so many levels.
When I finally gave my body permission, it was like I'd released the floodgate. And then, I felt peace. I no longer felt sick or uncomfortable.
If I hadn't given myself permission to purge that night, I'd have sat through the entire six hour+ ceremony in fetal position (and probably the following nights, too). Instead, I got to move on, or move through it... rather.
Being the Observer of My Experience
Did I see the light of God that first night? No, absolutely not. But I saw my old patterns in a new way.
Ayahuasca helped me cut through my bullshit and say, “Hey, here's what you're doing. Here's how powerful your own mental blocks are. Here's how it shows up physically for you. Here is what it feels like to give yourself permission to take care of yourself”, followed by instant relief.
The first night was very much a metaphor for my emotional resilience.
It was powerful to experience these thoughts again, but to view them from an entirely different perspective. While I’d done a lot of work on my self-talk and on my feelings of self worth, she allowed me to view my blind spots from a different vantage point, like I was an outside observer. Clarity that, in a way, felt separate from emotion.
I was able to view what was happening from an unbiased perspective WHILE ALSO experiencing the “shit”.
On one hand, I was deeply feeling all of these really crappy emotions. On the other hand, I was an observer of them. I was in two states at once; Both witnessing and experiencing.
This duality allowed me to step back and say, “Wow, she is so mean to herself. She does not deserve that. She's such a worthy, loved, supported being and she's being so mean to herself. Why?”
I knew I was referring to myself, but this didn't seem to matter. I saw my light, my inner beauty, my soul.
I purged some more, thinking about the grief I felt for myself.
I wanted to treat myself better. I could see that clearly through the sweat and vomit.
There was another observer in the room, Aya. Except, I didn't want her to be an observer, I wanted to interact with her.
I felt Mother Aya there, but it was like she stayed on the outside, watching, from the perimeter. I felt like I was the main figure in a snow globe and she was the observer on the outside, looking in. And when she felt like it, she would shake the snow globe a bit to get some movement happening.
This really frustrated me. I thought this was her way of telling me that I wasn’t worthy of her experience, but when I finally let go, I realized that THIS was what she was waiting for. My surrender. Tomorrow would be different.
Overall, I’m thankful that I got to be the snowman getting my world rocked on that first night. It was a night of realization and I still had two more to go through.
Integration After the Ceremony Ends
Ceremony with Ayahuasca makes you feel like a newborn baby again. Afterwards you're fresh, exposed, and so vulnerable to the energy around you. Because of this, the last thing you want to do is put yourself back into an environment that caused you to experience a lot of your default negative behaviors. This is where integration comes in.
For anyone who is interested in how to integrate following an Ayahuasca experience (or any plant medicine experience), I HIGHLY recommend Katherine Coder's After the Ceremony Ends book. This book really helped me make sense of the experience and work through the next phase of personal growth. If you're not currently enrolled in therapy, this is a MUST HAVE for integration. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, but this does not impact the price you pay.
If I hadn’t made time to integrate my lessons after my ceremonies, my self-deprecating habits would have returned quickly. They likely will at some point, but I’m creating space to determine how I want to respond when they do. Integration helps you figure this out.
In my integration since this experience, I’ve treated myself radically differently; The tendency to talk down to myself has diminished significantly. I know the habit is still there and that I could go back to that old lifestyle, but I'm choosing not to. This is one of the gifts that she's given me—helping me reset the default setting.
As I’ve said a million times, and will continue to say, Mother Ayahuasca does not do the work for you; She shows you how you could be. I had to sit through that discomfort until I learned the lessons myself. She was there to hold space and wait while I did. Afterward, she expects you to continue the work for yourself. This is integration.
Allowing yourself to integrate will allow you to settle her lessons into your body, your mind, and your soul. Otherwise, when we throw ourselves back into work, our relationships, family events, etc…. It’s like we throw ourselves back into the ocean without a life vest where our old negative habits can cling to us until we drown. We need to remind ourselves how to swim before we jump in so we can form new neural pathways that support our new trajectory. THEN we can jump back in, already knowing how and what we’re swimming to.
I don’t want to put myself in a position where I beat myself up mentally (again), so I need to establish healthier habits during this time. To that end, avoid toxic people, chaotic places, and draining tasks until you’re ready. For me, it took a week. For others, it takes a couple days or a couple months (obviously, you would have to go back to work though...). You will know when you’re ready to re-emerge in the world.
If you say yes to your own ceremony, give yourself this time to rediscover who you are BEFORE you re-introduce yourself to the world. Remember: newborn baby vibes.
Take the time to learn how you want to show up for yourself first… because others in your life are going to challenge you. They’re going to force you to decide whether or not you're going to fit back into your old mold….
I can't stress enough about the integration period. This is true for ANY healing session where you experience life changing insights, by the way. Whether you use plant medicine, therapy, kundalini, or some other modality to heal... give yourself the time afterward to rest, process, and to integrate.
Your New Identity
People in our lives label us with an identity. We do this too; This isn’t good or bad it just is. Your best friend has an identity for you, your partner has an identity for you, your parents have given you an identity, etc. In turn, you have identities for the people in your life also: Your best friend, the person who is always late, the person who loves to shop, the smartest person you know, etc. The list goes on…. Labeling people, good or bad, allows us to give structure to our lives.
The act of labeling isn’t really important in this post. What is important is that you recognize that you will have labels given to you that may no longer apply after a journey with Ayahuasca.
Your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc. will still view you as the less healed version of you that you were before your ceremony. They may get angry that you've changed.... even if, and sometimes especially, when you've implemented healthy changes. People don't like it when we break out of our old identities, our molds, our labels, even when it's in our best interest. They really don't like it when they feel like we left them behind.
When we choose to subscribe to NEW labels, the people in our lives will feel uncomfortable. This could result in some friction within your relationships for a bit.
When you're working to heal aspects of yourself, your old identities could expire. Unless the loved ones in your life are willing to re-evaluate the identities they've associated with you, they may eventually fade out of your life. This is natural and normal. It is also sad and you may need to make time to grieve your old self.
This is the part of personal growth that isn't talked about a lot: having to grieve the old version of you EVEN WHEN you know they weren't the healthiest. They are a version of you has been there for you, protecting you, and they built friendships for you... it can be hard to let all of this go as we move forward with a new identity.
Integration gives you time and space to determine how you want to show up in response to your grief, to other people's discomfort with your change, to align with the version of yourself that you want to be moving forward.
This period of time will require firm boundaries. The ability to say "no" to things that don't align, to family events that you don't want to attend, to friendships that cause you to mask, to bosses who seek to give you more work than your time allows.
For additional support with boundary setting, I highly recommend Nedra Glover Tawwab's, Set Boundaries Find Peace. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, but this does not impact the price you pay.
Regardless of whether or not you use plant medicine or some other modality for healing, this is one of the hardest and most beautiful aspects of healing.... coexisting as a new person with other people who remain the same. You get to decide how you will integrate with this new world, moving forward. Seek support if you can, or read books from your local library if you can't.
I'm not gonna say my own integration has been perfect since that weekend. It never is. I still have thoughts like, “I should probably do this today” or "I wish I wasn't so..." which can easily be the gateway to more negative self-talk. Even so, I'm committed to imperfectly working through integration for as long as it takes. I truly want to be changed by this experience and not just entertained for a weekend.
To Summarize My Lessons
Because of Mother Ayahuasca, I was able to experience a better version of myself without my default programming interfering with my clarity. It feels like my neural programming has been altered. I've experienced, for a few hours, what life could be like without my old self-deprecating thoughts.
Mother Ayahuasca lays the groundwork for you. She shows you how you could be, so you can continue your work toward this version, with a little clearer of an image.
You're given the map, but you're not transported to the new place.
She shows you the way. She lets you experience it. She makes sure that you have the tools and you know what to do. But, she doesn't force you to do the work following. It's up to you to make the conscious change moving forward.
Night One was a lesson on physical discomfort, how I talk to myself, on letting go, not always being in control, of giving myself permission to take up space, and asking from help from myself.
While I didn't experience what I'd expected to, all of my lessons from night one were necessary. I started off disappointed, experienced more than a little shame and self-hatred, slid into awareness about my own mental bullying, and through the emotions until I got to get to the other side.
Even though I was uncomfortable that night, I also felt like I only made up for a fraction of all the times in my life that I've avoided those feelings. From that perspective, six hours seemed so insignificant. To that end, I might consider doing it again...
I hope this gives you some great things to think about. At the very least, I hope you’re able to learn from some of my own lessons. If you do, I would love to hear about any “ah-ha” moments you had!
Stay tuned for my posts about nights two and three if you're interested in learning more about this journey.
Thank you for hanging out with me today. I will catch you in the next post!
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