I think everybody has their own unique moment when they just know in their core, that they just must do something. There is no doubt. They can’t stop thinking about it.
It’s an insatiable itch that drives you mad.
I feel that way about venturing into the jungle in search of ayahuasca in Peru.
Ayahuasca, if you haven’t heard of it before, is a vine from the Banisteriopsis caapi plant, which twists up the trees along the Amazon basin. This vine is then combined in a concoction with a shrub, Psychotria viridis, whose leaves contain the psychoactive molecule DMT- which is what leads to visions and ‘hallucinations’. The indigenous people from the Amazon region – Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia – have used it for centuries therapeutically and to connect spiritually with their ancestors. Ayahuasca translates to ‘vine of the spirits’ – perhaps because some people report to hear voices, see regressed memories held in the unconscious mind, and can become entranced in a dreamlike state. To my understanding, it is basically a direct ticket to the unconscious psyche that we often bury and you may not know, or like, what you will find there. The latest research has shown a lot of promise in ayahuasca and psychedelics treating PTSD, depression and anxiety effectively.
Ayahuasca healing journey or tourist trap?
It has become en vogue these days, apparently, for other Westerners acting as ‘guides’ to shepherd groups to luxury resorts to partake in ayahuasca ceremonies. There are flower baths and itineraries all at the push of a button. Maybe that works for some people.
I can’t speak to any of that tomfoolery. My interest lies in the individual journey. No luxury spa, massages or white person named Noah with Sanskrit tattoos telling me about my chakras need apply. Just me with nothing but my intuition guiding the way. Hopefully it guides me to a place where my kidneys remain intact.
Exploring the Unconscious Mind with Ayahuasca in Peru
To be clear I have always been and still am fearful of hallucinogens. And the uninitiated, myself included, put ayahuasca into the ‘hallucinogen’ category. Not to get too technical and wordspeak about it, as the word ‘hallucinogen’ from the Latin is ‘hallucinari’ which translates ‘to wander in the mind’ – which is probably a pretty apt description of what is about to happen in the Amazon. But in modern times, the term has taken on the meaning ‘to confuse’ or ‘to be mistaken’ – which I am sure the practitioners of the ayahuasca experience might take umbrage with. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I have always leaned toward paranoia in times of releasing control of my mental faculties to a third party. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was really concerned about having a freak out and bad trip for 10+ hours…for multiple days. Likewise, having said bad trip in the middle of the jungle cloaked in a hive of mosquitos is also ranking in the top 5 of concerns at the moment. But I still feel like the risk is worth the reward. Some people claim to feel euphoria, some paranoia, some intense nausea usually coupled with violent vomiting, but regardless of the experience in that moment, there is a supposed ‘after effect’ in the weeks and months following the experience – whereby people just report to feel, better. Like a heavy weight they had been carrying was suddenly lifted. It just seems to me, that the possible attainment of self-knowledge – vis-a-vis access to regressed memories that maybe preventing you from moving forward in your life, and possible visions of other encumbrances deep in bowels of your unconscious mind, is a journey and risk worth taking.
Confronting your inner demons and bringing them into the light feels like a horrific undertaking– but maybe it is also liberating. So much of our actions, emotions, and thoughts are rooted in repressed memories and events – that we don’t even know the difference between acting and living sometimes. Auto-pilot has taken over and we end up becoming slaves to our inner beliefs that are/were made up to begin with. Or maybe it is just me and I am the big weirdo. It would not be the first time.
All this being said, this journey didn’t start here and will not end when I emerge from the jungle either.
Hypnosis: the Spark that Lit the Path for my Ayahuasca Journey to Peru
I have always been curious about hypnosis and hypnotherapy as an alternative means of figuring out what why I am so nuts, and why I have always felt so much internal resistance around being ‘successful’ – whatever that means. However, I was always reluctant to find a hypnotist because of the cost or just plain laziness. Or maybe, just maybe, since I never actually looked into the real ‘cost’ and I am generally not lazy when something interests me, perhaps there was another reason I never followed up…da da daaaaa (cue spooky music).
Ahh that stuff probably doesn’t work
those people clucking like a chicken on stage are just weak minded
There are a myriad of thoughts that materialize when you hear the word ‘hypnosis’, but the most common one is probably picturing stage hypnosis, whereby audience members volunteer to be hypnotized by a hypnotist. These hypnotists range from the cliché goofball wooka wooka guy to famed Derren Brown from the UK (you can see some of his amazing feats of hypnotism on Netflix) who creates elaborate shows using hypnosis.
My experience was like neither.
I underwent a total of 7 hypnotherapy sessions. These involved everything from deep relaxation in a plush chair while wearing headphones with serene music playing and the hypnotist’s voice speaking gentle suggestions into a microphone, to exercises given by the hypnotherapist that involved regression to different stages of childhood and writing with different handgrips. The latter part sounded like complete bullshit when he started explaining it to me, but lo and behold, it worked like a charm.
I never thought I could be brought to tears from a writing exercise, but flow the tears they did and for a brief moment my unconscious mind surrendered. I saw that the stories around my fear of failure which have been circling me like a vulture for all these years, have been nothing but a mirage of the psyche.
The whole thing is weird. But, I’m now a believer – in hypnosis that is, not in anything that involves me sacrificing a goat.
I could probably donate several blog posts to hypnotherapy and the unconscious mind, but I won’t bore you with the details, probably – let me know. What I can say is that the unconscious mind and the things we bury deep down can radically influence the ‘stories’ we tell ourselves and even do so without our consent. These stories can profoundly change our lives – for better, but more often for worse.
Diving into the Unconscious Mind with an Ayahuasca Journey
So there you have it. At the ripe age of 35 I discovered I do have a soul and one that is/was malnourished. So the way I see there I only have two options:
Option 1: Go on trucking along on the treadmill as I have been, dancing around the edges of my fear, and maybe on occasion stumble into something resembling happiness and contentment.
Option 2: Take the red pill, go deeper into the fear and into the heart of the Amazon, drink copious amounts of the spirit vine with a shaman, and see what shakes loose.
It’s not a choice is it really? I have to follow the white rabbit.
And down Alice went.
See you on the other side.
To continue on – check out Journeying to Peru in Search of Ayahuasca