With this article, I want to provide you with a brief summary of one of the most profound experiences of my life. It took place in the middle of the Amazon, in a wooden circle-shaped building. Inside were me, my girlfriend, a shaman, and some other not-so-average people.
I'm quite aware that the word "shaman" might already put you off, but please bare with me. I'm not particularly a strong believer in hocus pocus. However, together with a shaman, I embarked upon an ancient ritual with a jungle plant named "Ayahuasca".
This plant is known to give very vivid, sometimes dark, hallucinations. Mainly about things that happened in your life that clearly impact your view on the present, making you anxious about the future. It's for this reason that it's now being researched as a therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I did 4 ceremonies, meaning I took a distillation of the plant, together with some shamanic singing, lying flat on a mattress. The effects lasted about 7-8 hours, and sometimes it felt like a lifetime.
This is a recount of my last ceremony, because it had the most profound impact on me. It ended up being years of therapy condensated in 7 hours.
I hope I can help to break the Taboo about this subject, because it's clearly overdue.
Enjoy the trip.
This was the last ceremony, I still felt like there was more work to be done, so my expectations were high again. Because of this, the shaman asked me if I wanted a higher dose. I agreed, and it did not disappoint. This ended up being years of therapy condensated in 7 hours.
It took a while to have lift off, but I gradually started to feel more and more dizziness. A bit like feeling drunk, but without the mental numbness and lack of awareness.( By the way, it still strikes me why alcohol is considered as such a "moderate" mainstream drug, whilst it just closes you off from your perceptions and literally kills your neurons?)
It kept getting worse and worse, I really started to question why the hell I was doing this? What if I die, or if Marieke dies? Why have I always been seeking to manically? Luck, efficiency, success? What did all that thinking, worrying ever do for me? I turned to the left, looked to my girlfriend, and thought: why did I focus so much on these abstractions whilst the happiness has been right in front of my eyes every moment? How could I have lived so blind such a large part of my life?
It kept increasing even more, and after a while it was absolutely terror. Even more frightening than the prospect of doing small talk all day back in my good old physiotherapy years.
Anyways, I wanted it to stop. My consciousness was no longer divided between "hearing", "seeing", "feeling".. It was now an all-in-one multidimensional experience which even modern cinemas can't provide.
Suddenly the shaman came up to me. Some framing might be necessary when using the word "shaman". You'd imagine a weird-looking guy in an indeginous costume convinced he can talk with the ghost of Elvis. That clearly was not the case. He had a stylish tshirt, and a surprisingly low level of hocus pocus attire.
He started singing for me in an ancient primitive language. Turned out to be Spanish afterwards, who knew. I started to sing with him as a distraction from the agony I was going through, and started to enjoy it quie a lot after a while. The music and the agony became the same, quite a weird experience, but it showed me how everything really is just a confuscation of this thing we call our "mind", and it's never truly real. So I could let go of the nausea for a moment and suddenly it was gone. The neurotic part of my "self" had the brilliant idea to go look for where it had gone, luckily it was no place to be found.
My experience shifted, suddenly I felt immensely blissful the moment I started to accept the terror and sing along with it. Is this how a bipolar experience looks like?
When I closed my eyes, I saw a huge eagle soaring over a vast landscape, covered by a rainbow. Even though I'm by no means a person that would even consider the notion of being somewhat religious, I started to see all kind of Jesus figures. You really see how all these religious classes fuck with your childhood.
It felt so wonderful, so obviously the first thing I had to do was start worrying that this would go away. That I would go back to my neurotic self, to the darkness. I tried to push these worries away but they were quite strong. And thanks to the psychedelically-induced synesthesia, I really experienced a magnet pulling me away from my "happy place".It felt like there was a "little neurotic guy" controlling the magnet. Some king of energy that contained my darkest fears, frustrations, obsessions, etc. I kept trying to push it away, but it kept coming back and back. It was the first time in my life I realized what an annoying little prick I was. I was getting more and more fed up with this "self" that I seemed to carry along with me everywhere I go. It's so high maintenance, you always have to make it feel appreciated, comfort it about the unpredictability of life, and at what cost?
The contrast between the little neurotic prick and the feeling of bliss was getting so big that I started considering to put him into a rocket and sending him off to the moon, where I hope he'd find a more interested audience.
This visualization was quite vivid, and I saw my "self" being put in a shuttle. Soon enough we had lift-off into space! Boy was I happy to be rid of this nuissance, so I could enjoy my eternal feeling of bliss.
Sadly, I couldn't truly enjoy my bliss anymore, something didn't feel right. That's, by the way an extra-ordinary thing for an autistic guy (autism is just one my talents) to say, because having the automaticity to feel clearly what needs to be done is as rare to me as it is for a politician thinking about the greater good.
Anyhow, I started feeling a very deep sadness, but in a cheerful way. I know that sounds very weird, but bare with me. I started to feel how my neurotic little self just wanted me, and the people I care about, to be happy... It felt like this neurotic little prick was conjured into existence through the years because of bad (and some might even deem it "traumatic") experiences. All the bullying, the lack of appreciation, the urge for connectedness but the reality of nothingness. My "mini-me" had learned through the years to continuously be in a state of tremendous vigilance, like an obese person paranoid about somebody wanting to get into their fridge. His cold attitude, his restlessness, was there to help me "survive".
The excessive worrying, for the very first time, didn't feel anymore as a henious shame, but, and I know it sound really hippy, LOVE. And as with any drug-related experience, this loving feeling I had kept growing exponentially. I started to truly care deeply for the annoying "mini-me", and shooting him to the moon was the last thing I wanted. I saw him transform into myself when I was still a baby, and I hugged him very tenderly. I said: "sssst, it's ok, thank you for taking care of me all these years, you can have a rest now, you earned it".
Suddenly he was gone and I had a magnificent feeling of consolation. The visions I had about the eagle and rainbow appeared again, but this time much stronger. It didn't feel anymore like I was the witness of this experience, there was just this raw moment, here and now. I started to ask myself, "hey, how do I look like?", and I couldn't manage. It was absolutely impossible for me to recall my own face. As a guy with a magnificent talent for neurosis, this would have normally been agony-inducing, but it wasn't. It was so nice, even if it was just for a moment, to be rid of this "self" that I had to nourish all the time. And, the only answer to the question of how I looked like that I could find was: "I am exactly this moment, this chamber, these people, this nature, this everything I'm surrounded with.
So it's quite the understatement to say that this was years of therapy condensated into a few days. It of course depends greatly upon the therapists you've been in contact with, but if he/she contains a large amount of ethanol, it's probably not the best choice in the long run. Whilst alcohol closes yourself off from your inner world, these psychedelic compounds tend to open all doors, inviting all friends, but demons as well, into your home.
However, I have to bring some nuance to the end of this article, because being outraged has become a little bit like a national sport. It's important to mention that this kind of therapy is not for everybody, if you have real traumatic experiences or a history of psychosis, then you should consult a professional first. In my opinion, if you have the mindset of accepting everything that comes, and you see that even the scary things are there to help you, you'll have a potential life-changing experience. But if you feel some resistance to revealing skeletons in your closet, it's definitely better to consult a psychiatrist first.