Five years ago, on a backpacking trip to Colombia, I participated in my first Ayahuasca ceremony. It was the most intense, awe-inspiring experience of my life, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that the true lesson from that night would take me a few more years to understand.
Before I get into things, I’ll tell you that I did one more ceremony a couple of years later, and I have no plans to ever do one again. Also, while I initially sang the praises of this shamanic ceremony to everyone I met, I don’t necessarily recommend it now. But more on that part later.
If you’re not already familiar, Ayahuasca is a drink made from an Amazonian vine. It has hallucinogenic properties and is meant to be taken under the guidance of a Shaman, which is what I did.
While everyone’s experience is different, my first ceremony was the kind that spirit junkie dreams are made of. I felt like my mind and soul blew open and barriers dissolved, merging me with the greater whole of life. I was open, connected, and I understood energy and the soul level in ways I never had before. I was given an overview of my past relationships and could see their underlying energies and dynamics. I got closure on a past love and even received clear guidance on my life purpose. I could physically feel energetic work being done on my body.
At the time, I was a couple of years into a falling out I’d had with a really close friend. We hadn’t spoken in months but that night, with my newfound understanding of connection and the relative unimportance of time, distance, and words, I decided to send her an energetic message letting her know that on my end at least, we were good. The next morning when I got home from the ceremony, I had an email from her, and that led to the rekindling of our friendship.
So yeah. It was mind-blowing, to say the least.
I have always been a very logical person, and while I longed for a deep spiritual connection, I couldn’t seem to allow myself to let go and have faith in something if I couldn’t understand it. I believe now that Ayahuasca meets you where you are, and since I was so in my head and determined to understand everything, it gave me an experience that was full of explanations and clear cut answers.
In addition to all of these insights, the plant gave me something else: a to-do list. A very specific, kind of expensive, and in some cases uncomfortable to-do list.
While I was communicating with the plant, there were a number of things on the to-do list that I didn’t really want to do. I was told that I didn’t HAVE to do anything- I had free will- but that it was in my best interest and would be very good for me and my life.
Among the things it told me to do, these three stand out to me now: get LASIK eye surgery, get a tattoo, and go after a certain guy whom I’d had a few casual hookups with in the past. The LASIK was fine because, while I didn’t really have the money for it, I had never liked wearing glasses. But I’d never wanted a tattoo, and I didn’t think that the guy was a good fit for me.
From an outside perspective, I know this must all sound completely crazy. But I can’t explain just how real, and deep, and truly miraculous the whole experience felt. It felt completely life changing, and to not do everything it suggested seemed crazy.
This was also a time in my life when I felt very lost and very confused and desperate to figure out my “life purpose.” I was constantly going to psychics and tarot readers and checking my horoscope in an effort to get some kind of insight into who I was and what I should be doing with my life.
I chose to dive in and tick off everything on my to-do list. I didn’t love my tattoo when I got it, and I still don’t, and not surprisingly nothing ever happened with the guy. These along with other things it told me didn’t pan out, and it left me so confused. I felt betrayed and let down and more lost than ever.
Eventually, I gave up on trying to understand why I’d been “lied to,” and shelved the whole experience. Yeah, I was embarrassed that I’d practically thrown myself at a guy who just wasn’t that interested and whom I knew wasn’t right for me, but I got over it and moved on from the whole thing.
About a year ago, my life finally started to feel like it was clicking. A lot of the chaos and confusion that is practically synonymous with being in your 20s began falling away and I started to feel much more confident and centered. I allowed myself to stop searching for answers from other sources and began trusting in myself, my feelings, and my choices. My voice became the most important one to me.
This got me thinking about my Ayahuasca experience, and I realized that the true lesson wasn’t in the to-do list or in the insights. What I really gained from the whole thing was the push I needed to trust myself. I was told by something that felt bigger than me to do things I didn’t particularly want to do, and I trusted that more than I trusted me. Once the dust settled, I saw what a cool opportunity this really was- not because I got a sweet tattoo or a boyfriend out of it but because I got to see that I don’t need to look outside of myself for answers. And I am grateful to the ceremony for helping me to see that.
It’s taken me many failed psychic readings, countless self-help books, and two very intense Ayahuasca ceremonies to realize that I already have everything I need. I have the answers, the purpose, and the power, and I don’t need to look for it from outside sources.
So that’s what I learned from my Ayahuasca experience. That I can trust myself. In the long run, the ceremony helped me to see this, but I would have figured it out eventually with or without it.
I can’t tell you if a ceremony is right for you of course. Only you can decide that. But I will just say, you don’t need it. At least not in the way you might think you do because all you really need is you.