Thursday, 26 January 2017
This month marks the fifth anniversary of the most recent time that I imbibed the ayahuasca brew. I write 'most recent' rather than 'last' deliberately: I have no plans, or indeed reason, to drink ayuahuasca at present, but what I may or may not decide for the future I have no idea.
Nowadays the internet is awash with reports and articles connected to ayahuasca. Much of this I consider to be pretty low quality stuff. It is full of claims and counter-claims; a remarkable degree of certainty, dogmatism even, on a subject which, given its nature, is nothing if not strange and elusive. "Ayahausca is this...... No, ayahuasca is this........ No, stupid, ayahuasca is this......." It seems to be a case of Ego attempting to understand, get a grip on, make sense of, something which is well outside its realm, its comfort zone. It is a well-known psychological process, to experience dimensions of consciousness beyond the normal, then desperately try to 'understand' them within the parameters of the more confined Ego which experience returns to. At worst, the Ego hijacks the entire show, claiming to be God, Jesus, Maitreya, or whatever. Experience beyond that of ego consciousness does not require a personal narrative to validate it, but this is a lesson which everyday mind finds difficult to swallow. So often it does not - as is the case with many of our modern ayahuasca slurpers.
One subject about which much is written and said is 'la purga'. This is a prominent feature of most, though not all, ayahuasca trips. A serious, deep intestinal vomiting session or two is viewed by some as an essential aspect to taking ayahuasca. Without it, some will tell you, the healing elements to the encounter with Mama Aya are severely compromised, if not completely negated. There is a way, I had discovered, a little-known method, of preparing ayahuasca so that nausea and vomiting potential are almost totally removed. Some will call this cheating, but I didn't care. As somebody who, at the time, experienced deep intestinal cleansing, complete with outpouring of copious bile, on a monthly basis due to severe migraines, I wasn't the least bothered about bypassing the delights when it came to ayahuasca.
The liquid that I imbibed five years ago is not, in the strict sense, ayahuasca at all. It is known as mimosahuasca. The 'classic' ingredients of ayahuasca have their origins in the Amazon Basin. They are normally psychotria viridis and banisteriopsis caapi. The same psychoactives can be found in many other plants, however, especially some species of mimosa eg mimosa hostilis, and syrian rue. Some of these grow in places closer to home, such as the Near East, giving rise to all sort of theories about the origins of Old Testament visions etc etc. Mimosahuasca has the reputation of being more bad-ass than ayahuasca strictly speaking. There may be something in that......
I had experimented with both types of 'huasca' before my drink of January 2012. With both I had enjoyed either light visionary experiences, or nothing at all - apart from the serious purga. I had no special reason to expect anything different this time. Even without the main nausea-inducing elements, 'huasca' is vile. I did what you need to do: take a deep breath, gulp it down in one go, ensure you don't breathe again before you rinse out your mouth with water or mouthwash from the local chemist. Even then, this sense of imbibing an extraordinarily bitter liquid sends shivers through your body.
Like any right-on conscientious psychonaut, I wrote the trip up afterwards. The rest of this post will rely largely on quotes from that particular trip report.
"The brew was prepared in precisely the same manner as previously, with the same quantity of plants. The only resultant difference was the rather larger quantity of liquid to drink. But there, more or les, the similarities end....."
"Soon after lying on the bed, I realised this might be something else. The closed-eye visual effects became far stronger: geometrical shapes moving around frenetically. The strength intensified, and I decided to open my eyes to orient myself better. No such luck: the blue carpet had transformed into a wild, choppy sea, with wave after frantic wave. I closed my eyes again."
"The trip was nearing its peak. A huge tunnel, its walls composed of white polystyrene-looking material, opened up to the left and above me. By now, I had lost all but the most peripheral awareness of the 'outside world'. Consciousness of my physical body reduced to one or two vague sensations. Then I felt something like an electric charge passing up my left arm. 'I'm going to have a heart attack' was the instant response. But then I recalled having similar experiences up my left arm before. I was going to be alright."
"This 'electric sense' moved all through the energy and light that was, I suppose, my body. Then I had a strong sensaton of the 'golden tubes' of energy that form my intestines moving, or being moved, around. It was as if they were being reconfigured, reformed, reset. I say 'moving or being moved' because, though I saw no entities, there was a definite feeling of something 'being done' to me, rather than it just happening."
In Castaneda language, I don't really consider ayahuasca a plant ally of mine. If I had to make nominations, a number of other substances with which I have interfaced over the decades would be nearer the top of the list. But most fascinating was the experience with the intestines.
For many years previous to the trip, I had had real problems with my intestinal tract: IBS would be the rather vague and unsatisfactory catch-all, if you are desperate for an orthodox diagnosis. The slow, irregular improvements in intestinal function that I have experienced over recent times can be dated back to this ayahuasca experience. Something happened that has impacted slowly but surely on my physical health, to the point where, though still needing to exert caution with how much I eat of what, I am free of intestinal pain and discomfort for most of the time. Other factors have been involved in the improvement as well as the mimosahuasca, but this seemed to be the first step in a process, one which has wrought a big change.
There are plenty of ayahuasca devotees who attest to the healing properties of the sacred plant brew, speaking of its curative effects even on conditions that orthodox medicine will proclaim as 'untreatable' or 'terminal'. Personally, I am inclined to believe them. The personal reports are there, and I have my own experience. Nevertheless, as is the case with other 'energy-based healings', the chances of these approaches getting a proper hearing in the mainstream are slim while Big Pharma is still in business. Should you want to give your advanced cancer a go with Mama Aya or hands-on energy healing, rather than poisoning it silly with chemo, you do so off your own back. You do it as a courageous pioneer, taking your life into your own hands, quite literally. Anybody wishing to do so has my well-wishing behind them.