I woke up on the morning after my tobacco introspective to a visit from Sto. The dietas needed concluding, and so this is what he was there to do. He had with him on a white plate, if I’m remembering the scene correctly, four slices of fresh chili pepper and about a ¼ tsp of coarse salt sitting next to each pepper slice. He brushed one of the small piles into the palm of my hand and had me chew on them until they were nothing but liquid. I quite enjoyed the flavour. I hadn’t had any salt in 5 days and my tastebuds were remembering fondly. when I was done chewing the spicy treat, I spit it out over my balcony railing and onto the grass below.
When we got to breakfast that morning, I poured myself some smoothie, and then we were asked if we wanted eggs. OMG! Yes, please! Thank you! We love you! I’ve never been happier for eggs in my life. Sitting around the table that morning, it was a bit of a sad sight though. The eggs were wonderful and I was so happy to be done the tobacco, but it was just Delara, Dominic, Kat, and myself eating breakfast. I felt so bad for Krystle, Frank, and Mike who were all in their tambos still, awaiting their 4th tobacco drink. Delara and I practically gagged every time the word tobacco was spoken, and I could never smell the mapacho the same way again.
Today was my 4th full day at Amaru and the 1st day that I didn’t drink down (and bring up) any jungle medicines. We did, however, continue preparations for the following day’s ceremony. Their preparations always were so beautiful. Ayahuasca ceremonies are traditionally held in the evening when it’s dark outside, but at Amaru Spirit, they’ve been testing out daytime ceremonies on Wednesday morning’s, and so, in order to prepare for the next day’s ceremony, we did a vapor bath that evening. As I sit here writing, it is a chilly winter day, it’s snowing outside and I’m now dreaming of the warmth of that vapor bath.
Back in Peru, on the dining room patio, I stripped out of my bathing suit and into my birthday suit while wrapped discreetly in a towel. Jose was there with his mapacho in his mouth and directed me to stand straddling the large silver pot that had just been delivered by one of the lovely kitchen staff. The pot had a lid on it, and inside was a variety of aromatic plants, boiling hot and offering their essence to the water. Jose cocooned me from the neck down inside two large fleece blankets and then had me let go of the towel. He lifted the bottom of the blanket and pulled the towel out, and then reached in again and pulled the lid off the pot and WOOSH! This huge gust of icy hot vapor shot up between my legs. Jose, you’re going to make me blush!
One of the ingredients in the flower stew was camphor, and camphor vapor makes your body feel the way menthol gum makes your mouth feel. The hot pot on the ankle feels like a hot pot on the ankle! Ouch! Fuck. Note to self: stand very still. So I stood very still over the hot pot for 15 minutes, naked and piled in blankets, as my skin absorbed the spiced floral vaporub smelling vapor while my eyes absorbed the small patch of jungle in front of me. If the camphor feels like chewing gum, taking the blanket off is like taking a sip of cold water while chewing gum. Instant ice age. I now understood why Delara wrapped herself up in a couple of blankets directly after her vapor bath. I did the same and curled up on the bench in the dining room. It was a beautiful new experience and my skin was left smelling quite lovely. Kat went for her bath after I did, so I warned her about watching her ankles on the hot pot, and I’m happy to report, her ankles survived the bath! The rest of the evening went on as any other day; reading, chatting, walking around, a candlelit dinner, and retiring to bed at an early hour to read in the dark with a flashlight.
After completing the tobacco dieta, I was feeling quite eager for the second ceremony, hoping that the tobacco had done the trick to give me the experience I was there for. The idea of going into a daytime ceremony was quite nerve-wracking though. There’s a comfort in the darkness. It blankets you into your own little world. The sounds around you become disembodied, and you know that your own noises will also become just background noise to everyone else’s experiences. You don’t have to worry about people seeing you cry, vomit, or run to the washroom. In the daytime, we’d be completely exposed. A comfortability I hadn’t yet acquired.
Ayahuasca Ceremony #2
The next morning, I woke up bright and early to the sound of my alarm clock because I had a ceremony to catch. My skin still smelled sweet from the bath the night before, and that was a pleasant surprise. I washed my face, I peed in my toilet seated bucket, I chugged some water, and Delara and I made our way to the Maloka for 7am. It was just the four of us drinking the Aya this morning; the same group as at breakfast the day before and for the same reason.
This was my first time inside the Maloka in the daytime and wow!! It is absolutely breathtaking. The ceiling is massive and is an incredible web of logs. It was mesmerizing to look at as I lay bright and focused on my mat. When I went up and drank my serving of the Ayahuasca, I noticed that the cup was bigger this time. It took two full gulps to drink down, not just one. After drinking so much tobacco though, the Aya was certainly a bit easier to get down this second time. It didn’t taste quite as bad as the tobacco, and it was only 2 gulps compared to 4 or 5. That’s not to say, though, that it wasn’t still unbearable. I went back to my mat, rinsed out my mouth, and lay down again; covering myself with the scarf that my friend Annalise had given me for my 30th birthday a few weeks prior. I had chosen a mantra to repeat in my head that would help get my mind off of outside thoughts, as well as to send positive messages to Mother Ayahuasca. I told her I love you, I trust you, I accept you, and I thank you. I lay there reciting my mantra while the Ayahuasca sat heavy in my gut and I purged after about 30 minutes. Nothing. Around an hour after the first dose, they began calling out our names to go up for a second cup. I went up but asked for only half of the earlier dose this time.
I got back to my mat and I covered myself with my scarf. I lay on my side, curled up in a loose ball. My stomach, not strong enough to hold on very long, let’s go, and again, the very minimal contents of my stomach are in the bucket. I lay my head back down, I close my eyes and immediately my vision is taken over by a vast and dizzying landscape. In this landscape, however, there is no ground and sky; all around, the backdrop was one, like a large piece of fabric, hung vast and loose around my entire vision, and it’s bulbing and sinking and morphing everywhere. The entire fabric is covered in the same pattern. You know that shape toothpaste makes on the brush when it’s perfectly squeezed out in a commercial; the same shape hair makes in a braid?! Imagine that shape, coloured in with a dark rainbow of black, blue, purple, red, and a pinch of white. Multiply that shape and stack it top and bottom, left and right, covering the entire blanketed landscape. In the foreground were 3 long, vertical, solid double helixes, comprised of the same pattern, twisting and moving like a wacky waving inflatable tube man, but without the arms, so I guess just a wacky inflatable tube man.
My head spun, and my stomach turned. When I opened my eyes the pattern was on everything I looked at. It was truly overwhelming. My head was mashed into the mat so my view was a close up of my hands, the mat, and the side of the bucket, and they were completely covered in morphing geometry. It started to make me sick again. I got onto my hands and knees and started heaving into my bucket, not much coming out. I just kept gagging, and I started to feel really squirmy inside my skin. I was no longer in the mind to be worried about what I looked or sounded like to others, and I completely forgot about the other people in the room until I caught a glimpse of Sto and Nicky on the other side of the Maloka. They were looking at me, and Sto had a look of curious concern on his face. I was instantly aware that I was behaving in a strange manner, but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t think of much outside of my own skin. I kept heaving but I could no longer maintain a kneeled position over the bucket, I coughed with my face in the mat. On my knees and forearms, I began crawling backward, trying to escape the feeling that was overcoming my body and settled a few feet away from my mat. I couldn’t stay settled in one position long. I had control over my body, and yet, no control at the same time. One moment I was curled up, then I would flatten out, I’d bend my right knee in, then straighten it back out again. I’d curl my body back in and flatten out again. Even my jaw was getting in on the action. I would rotate my jaw open, feeling the movement inside my head.
I hear suddenly beside me lift your head, I’m going to pour water over your head. I hear the command but it comes out of nowhere and I can’t comprehend the request very well. Sto helps me lift my head and sticks a bucket under my face. With little strength to hold my head up, my head just hangs loose in the bucket and I feel water come streaming down my head and face. I keep coughing. I have a brief thought of I’m not sure if I have vomit and snot all over my face, but I’m pretty sure I do. Is that why they’re pouring water on me?! The water feels fantastic but I squirm and pull away. Now I lay there contorting myself with soaking wet hair all over my face. And we do this all a second time. Lift your head. I do not lift my head. My head gets lifted for me and the water feels unreal as it trickles down my face and through my hair. My hair feels like silk wrapped in heavy strands around my head. The visions were disappearing by this point, and replaced with a simple void.
We’re going to take you to the shower. The voice so distant is right beside me and I get scooped up under each armpit. As I get walked to the shower, my back arching forward, my knees wobbly beneath me, and my weight relying heavily on my human crutches, I focused intently on my feet as I took each step. I would pick my knees up high, before slowly and precisely reaching out my foot for the floor ahead of me. Taking in visually every moment of the movement. It was as if I was seeing my feet for the first time.
When we reached the shower, I dropped myself to the floor and lay down curled up on the tile. Sit up. I struggle to sit, but in three or four curious positions, I briefly manage to do it, and with my back against the wall the cold water comes streaming down. The water again feels absolutely wonderful. I have no idea how long the water was on for, probably only a minute or so, but I remember having the realization at some point later that the shower was no longer on, that it obviously hadn’t been on for some time, and that I was simply just soaking wet.
I lay there, curled up and wet on the tile floor, my eyes barely opening for any moment longer than a roll of the eyelids. The way my body felt during this experience is completely indescribable. It was hands down the strangest and most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt physically in my whole life. My body felt as fluid as the water I was drenched in, and as heavy as the clay in the tiles surrounding me. My thoughts were disappearing. My mind felt almost completely hollow. Everything felt curious and interesting and new. My contortions were an exploration of movement and limbs, of the way my legs felt snaking up the tile walls. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear my joints were bending backward at times, I felt like I was twisted in unimaginable ways. Had my eyes been open, I believe I would have discovered that I wasn’t as wild and misshapen as it felt like I was, this seems in my head almost impossible though.
With a role of the eyelids, I realized at some point that I did not have two or three people standing over me like my barely cognizant mind had felt likd I did. I only had one; Nicky, crouched in front of me, patient and quiet with his hands cupped gently under my head, protecting my skin from the hard tile floor. I suddenly noticed the feeling of his fingers under my face, I hadn’t realized his hands were there before. His fingers felt unfamiliar and unusual, but soft on my skin. I moved my head around a little inside his hands, feeling his fingers swish across my face. My left hand was touching the silky wet tile, and my right hand found Nicky’s arm. I ran my hand up and down his forearm and I remember his skin didn’t feel quite like skin, it felt more like soft rubber. There was a moment when I grasped onto his wrist, and I didn’t want to let go for some time. I’m not really sure why, I think it somehow felt safe or something. When I touched my own face, it was almost like a reminder, a realization that, I have a face. And I was then again aware of the fact that I was a visible form. I might not be able to see, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be seen. This realization had nothing to do with my vanity though. It was a formless, wordless thought, it was just a genuine understanding of owning a physical body.
As my time in the shower reached its end, I lay curled up on the floor, moving around less and less. Nicky instructed me to take some deep breaths, and I was able to follow his instructions. My mind and body were starting to come back to me. The focused breathing helped ground me back into my body, and I sat up, lacking any kind of energy. Nicky fed me some water from a bottle and asked if I was ready to go back to my mat. I nodded and reached out for him to help me up. We walked to my mat, and I lay down, completely pooped by whatever I had just gone through. It felt so good to be out of the shower and in my right mind again. When I got back, Kat, to my left, was curled under a blanket, quietly still in her experience. Delara, on my right, was sobbing heavily. I could feel her emotion in my chest and for a brief moment, it completely consumed me and I welled up with tears. This, for some reason also made me giggle, so I lay there, crying and laughing at the same time. Dominic just sat cross-legged on his mat, his experience long done, and watched all of this transpire in front of him.
When the ceremony was done and I was myself again, I had no idea what to make of my experience. All I could really think was what the fuck?! and I referred to it as my exorcism. I chose that word partly for comic relief, but also because it expressed how strongly I felt about what I’d been through, how tough it was to be in my body during the experience, and also because it felt like I’d been through some sort of transformation. I didn’t feel so much like something had left my body, but I knew that something had changed.
It’s not exactly typical of people to have such a physical reaction as I did, and I thought, of course, leave it to me to have the strange reaction. I was completely thrown off by the Aya trip. It was absolutely nothing like I’d expected it to be, aside from being difficult. I was feeling a little self-conscious about the whole experience, but the only comment on my appearance during the trip was quite adorable. Dominic, later that day told me, when you walked to the bathroom, it was beautiful! You looked like a gazelle! And mimicked with his arms how I was walking. This was hands down the best comment he could have made. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the walls of my own vanity were really beginning to crumble.
Two days after the daytime ceremony, on December 8th, it was Dominic’s 41st birthday, and we celebrated by making hot sauces and eating Mouth Orgasm; an all natural super food ingredients chocolate pudding that Slocum believed comparable to an orgasm in your mouth. I would have liked to have taken part more in the making of the sauces, but I’d been feeling rather crappy for the last 24 hours. I was weak and had no appetite, so I sat on the dining room bench, watched, and slowly sipped the new sauces on a large spoon. Watching the veggies roast in the hand-built oven on the back patio was a beautiful sight.
That evening was the next Aya ceremony, and despite feeling ill all day, I joined in anyway, because I didn’t want to waste any opportunity. After the last ceremony, I was feeling completely nervous about having the same experience again, but I managed to fight through the fear by telling myself, ONE; it can’t possibly be physically worse than that, so whatever happens, I got this, TWO; if it happens again, well at least I can hide away in the darkness this time, and THREE; it felt like the exorcism was complete, there’s no need for the Ayahuasca to put me through that again.
I was the first one to drink the Ayahuasca that night, and the first one to throw up. In fact, I threw up the moment I made it back to my mat. My already ailing body wanted nothing to do with that, so, no heavy Ayahuasca experience for me that evening. I sinply lay there in my head, contemplating the last ceremony. I asked the Ayahuasca What the hell was that about?! And the word rebirth came to my mind like an answer from the air. Rebirth. Wow. Connections spun and whirled in my head. Rebirth. That’s exactly what it was. I had felt like a newborn, a blank slate exploring what it felt like to have a physical body.
To find true meaning in the idea of a rebirth took me quite some time; even up to this moment of writing about it and trying to put it into precise words, I find new connections. The true meaning of my rebirth cannot be expressed fully until we reach the end of the story though, as my final Ayahuasca ceremony helped give the rebirth even greater meaning. The two ceremonies are largely connected, just like all of the other lessons and happenings that occurred at Amaru. As rebirth implies beginning, it really, truly was, just the beginning. I don’t know exactly what the Ayahuasca did that morning, but on December 6th, 2017, Randi 2.0 was born inside that Maloka.