Humbled and in awe I gazed upon the face of god – my experience of a four day Ayahuasca retreat


A brief recap. I spent 30 years of my life trying to heal from emotional pain. Ultimately I was to be freed from this by my mediation practice. But, during my years of research into self help, actualization, healing and development there were two words that kept on cropping up again and again. Vipassana and ayahuasca. Vipassana was primary in my healing journey, but what was this Ayahuasca? Ayahuasca, Ayahuasca, Ayahuasca, the word kept on cropping up.

Upon investigation I discovered that Ayahuasca ceremonies can supposedly heal both PTSD and addiction. So I decided I had to give it a go. At that time my goal was to compare the efficacy of Ayahuasca with that of Vipassana, but as it would turn out, there is no comparison.

I arrived at the retreat on Friday night. I was welcomed in with warmth and compassion which went a long way to calm my trepidation. The people felt right. The location felt right. Over the years I have learned to trust my intuition so I knew that this was going to be right for me. Even on the journey there my heart said “you are going home”.

I set up my personal healing space. This consisted of a blanket on the ground and a sleeping bag and pillows, a vomit bucket, a toilet roll and bottles of water.

After the initial greeting the first order of business was a brief interview with the assistant shaman to ascertain whether my system was free from prescription medication or illicit drugs, that I hadn’t drunk any alcohol in the last two weeks, and that I had avoided processed meats and other Ayahuasca unfriendly foods foods for the previous two days. Luckily I was able to answered yes, as I has done my research and knew what was required of me. Apparently you aren’t meant to have sex a few days before a ceremony either, but I’m not sure that this was mentioned.

Next I was interviewed by the shaman. She asked about my mental health, previous traumas and if I had an intention for the ceremony. I mention wishing to investigate any residual pain and the desire to break my unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

There were to be three ceremonies over the course of the weekend, but I will only discuss one here for brevity.
The room had the alter at the front with the shaman and assistant shaman sat behind. Nine of us tessellated our blankets and pillows into the available space. The room glowed with candle light, incense and herbs protected us from inquisitive entities.

The ceremony was to begin.

One by one we were called up to sit beside the alter and kneel on a cushion whilst Rapèsito, a form of snuff, was blown into each of our nostrils. Basically this is like having pepper blown up your nose. The net effect is that your eyes, nose a throat burn like hell, you bottom lip begins to quiver and then you begin to drool sputum in uncomfortable amounts. After the initial unpleasantness dies down you are left with a feeling of calmness which pervades your entire body.

The nest stage was to drink a cup which appeared to be a cold brown herbal lemon drink.
And then it was the next bit. The scary bit. What was this stuff going to do to me?

I had read that Ayahuasca was the most unpleasant taste possible. Maybe I’m weird but I liked the taste. I was like a rather bitter exotic earthy thick coffee.

I lay on my blanket and waited,….and waited. Is it starting yet, is it starting yet? After fifty minutes nothing had happened so I went up for a second cup. Twenty minutes later I started to feel sick. I really hate nausea, I really do. If there was anything I could have done to avoid it I would have done. But it was just a case of sucking it up and getting on with it.

The nausea built and built and built and then pop there I go, bluurgh. And then it started, the ride was on. Too late to back out now. In the words of the matrix “Buckle your seat belt, Dorothy. Kansas is going bye-bye”

My vision filled with thousands of tiny little rings on a black background. They began to spiral inwards like a worm hole. Rainbow colours washed over them the change in pigments of cuttlefish skin. I told the rings that I loved myself on the advice of the shamen and the little rings shivered in delight and did a little dance for me. I think they beckoned me in. Come with us, come with us.

And then the circles changed to sequins, and the sequins changed to rhomboid scales. The shimmering scales grew in size and complexity. Then I was in a world of lego bricks. Coiling and sliding like snakes, or rotating like a clock work mechanism. A kaleidoscope mandala of lego bricks. And then a kaleidoscope medala of rpg dice.

And then donkey kongs face, and then clowns, fucking clowns, so many clowns. And then skulls. More skulls coming out of the mouth of skulls. And bones of a rib cage designed by giger himself.
Apes, clowns, skulls, apes, clowns, skulls. Hello subconscious. Nice to meet you.

End of level one. Level one complete.
Was that the end? No, no, oh no.

A little break perhaps, a little breather. Welcome to level two.

On a conveyor belt moving forwards whilst the scenery of excessively bright orange and yellow vertical columns enveloped me. I’m pretty sure there was some Celtic knot work in there somewhere. I was scared. This wasn’t fun. This wasn’t watching something on a screen. This was there, I was in it. A different reality, a different dimension. I had no reference points. I had no residual reality to hold on to. The advice of my shamen came to me. “I love myself, I am safe, don’t resist, go with it, breath.”

I kept trying but I was so afraid. I pushed on a little with that intent but I was so afraid. So very afraid.

End of level two. A god, oh god, oh god.

Welcome to level thee. Oh fuck, clowns again, why is it always fucking clowns?

I was in my own personal clown hell. The fear level hit night terror level. I’m not sure there is any higher than that. Big huge thick red vertical pipes, with white and back pipes. And black and white diamonds. And jesters. Fucking scary jesters. I cant handle this help, help, help. Is this what they call a bad trip I thought to myself? In wanted to push on but the fear was just too much. I opened my eyes and for the briefest of times I got a break from my personally designed hell.

Could things get any weirder? Oh yes.

The body started going “ bwouuur, bwouuur, bwouuur” It was either expelling something, or trying to expel something. “bwouuur, bwouuur, bwouuur” My voice took on an unnatural sound. To be frank it sounded demonic. “bwouuur, bwouuur, bwouuur” and then “bwaourgh, broaugh, bluuurgh, bwuer” and then the body vomited. It may just have been vomit, but right then at that moment, it was darkness, it was negativity , it was evil . It was casting out of something truly horrible from within me. From my perspective my bowl was almost full of vomit, but when I came to inspect it later there was almost nothing in it.
It was at this point that I completely lost control of my body. The body was sat cross legged rocking backwards and forwards and in circles. The arms jurked at twitched, almost like an ape scratching the fur on its arms. The head was shaking from side to side making the lips flaps making a bawewe, bawewe, bawewe sound. Then the voice started babbling unintelligibly. Basically I was acting full horror film possessed. But I have been reliably told that this was not what was happening.

Then suddenly I managed to regain enough control of my faculties to rush to the toilet and so a full on squirty, liquid bowl evacuation. Lovely. Thankyou legs. Without them it could have got very messy.
Then I sat down at started rocking and scratching and softly saying “ blu, bla, bla, bla, bla” over time this softened off.

Then the body was rolling around on the floor. I ended up kneeling with my head down on my arms. The shamen touched me on the back and told me I’d feel better if I vomited and that I should lay on my stomach. But I had other ideas. I didn’t feel like vomiting, I really didn’t want to be touched and I was quite comfortable in my current position. Eventually the utter horribleness passed and I collapsed on the floor and started wriggling and writhing. That was until I had to leg it again before pebble dashing the walls in korma sauce.

Reality was warping and shifting, the floor was tilting. My arms were phasing out of reality and getting delayed and catching up with themselves. I collapsed, exhausted.

And then it opened up.

Infinite diamond stars, of infinite sparkle, embedded in infinite velvet blackness.
At that moment I realized that all my experience in life up until this point were as a speck of dust to the universe. Not only the experiences I had had to date, but all the experiences I ever would have. In fact all the experiences of all humanity were infinitesimally small compared the beauty I beheld.
I laughed and cried in wonder. All My preconceptions were a joke, all the traumas and conflicts were a nothing. Everything I had experienced when compared to this ultimate beauty were so small as to be of no merit.

Who has seen what I have seen? Who have felt what I have felt?

Humbled and in awe I gazed upon the face of god.

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