The anguish of the earth absolves our eyes
Till beauty shines in all that we can see.
War is our scourge; yet war has made us wise,
And, fighting for our freedom, we are free.
Horror of wounds and anger at the foe,
And loss of things desired; all these must pass.
We are the happy legion, for we know
Time’s but a golden wind that shakes the grass.
There was an hour when we were loth to part
From life we longed to share no less than others.
Now, having claimed this heritage of heart,
What need we more, my comrades and my brothers?
Absolution – Siegfried Sassoon
The maloca now had a different feel for me as I walked in. There was less uncertainty and fear, and more of a beautiful warm glow emanating from the mesa. I felt a bit changed. More perceptive to the energetic pulse of life around me. Malcolm kicked it all off by his usual cry of “Who’s ready for some ayahuasca?!” I could feel the love and happiness from all my fellow seekers, but I could also detect a twinge of bittersweet sadness. This was the last night we would all be together, and we had become close. We fed off each other’s positive vibes as well as uplifted each other. This was something really special that I have never experienced in my entire life.
The ceremony began and flowed as usual. When I went up to get my cup, I asked Malcolm for a bit more than usual. My plan was to take a bit first, and save the rest for later as a top up. Back at my mattress, I arranged all my things neatly. By now I was a pro when it came to placing all the essentials in the right way. No more fumbling for my torch. No more grasping in the dark for my steel cup of water. I had it down pat. To the cry of salud we drank, with me leaving a bit for later. I placed my cup by the wall in the corner by my mattress and the wooden skirting, so that no one would clear it away by accident, then settled into the medicine’s space. I wondered what I would see or experience tonight. I felt remarkably calm about everything. This feeling of calm was alien yet welcome at the same time, for I could scarcely remember ever feeling so calm about anything in my entire life. Hmm, life was certainly different now.
The familiar warm buzz began to rise in me after about twenty or so minutes of nothingness, but the feeling of purging was even calmer than the night before. I rose to my haunches with bucket in hand, purged with ease and grace about twice, then laid back down with a smile on my face. I don’t know if it was just my brain overthinking things, but I swear I could feel the thoughts of the people around me. It was as if I could feel them thinking “Good on Dan. It seems easier and easier for him now.” Like I said, perhaps I was overthinking, but perhaps I wasn’t. I seemed to be becoming increasingly sensitive to certain things. After a while, my bowels twitched and alerted me to the need to contribute my offerings to the porcelain gods. Same as the night before, I got up unaided and slowly made my way to the toilet in the gloom, torchlight firmly cupped in my hand so as not to visually disturb my fellow seekers.
Plopping myself down on the seat, I remarked to myself how calm and easy everything was in comparison to the other nights. The darkness didn’t have a strangle hold on me anymore. It flowed out with ease, with me in total control. Chris suddenly appeared outside my toilet, whispering through the curtain somewhat concernedly. “You alright in there Dan?” “Yep!” I replied cheerily! “Just giving my offering to the gods, mate, don’t worry about me!” He chuckled softly, but still stood outside the door just to make sure I was fine. Bless him. Malcolm suddenly appeared next to him. “Doing great work, Dan! You’ll be riding that rocketship through the universe in no time!” From inside the toilet, I cheerily replied “Rocketship? The only rocketship I can see right now is my arse, mate! She’s going full steam!” I must have said it a little too loudly because a peal of laughter erupted from outside. From my little porcelain throne, I suddenly felt this wave of love and joy being flung at me. All I could do was smile and fart.
Once tidied up and back in my seat, I relaxed and waited. And waited and waited. Hold on, did I do something wrong again? Why was the feeling subsiding? Was my body getting too used to the dosage? Did I shit and vomit all the good stuff out too fast? I reached for my top-up dose of aya, only to find that it wasn’t there. “Surely not…” I grabbed my torch and frantically searched the area. Nope. It was gone. Gone gone gone. Anxiousness started to give way to frustration. Frustration gave way to anger. “Fuck this. This is my last night. This can’t be happening!” One of the helpers must have scooped it up while on their rounds. I caught Loretta as she walked past and explained the situation to her, asking for more. “Sorry we can’t do that at this stage, Dan.” Fuck. Okay, now I was pissed. I laid back on the mattress and tried to clear my thoughts, but suddenly my mind was filled with all sorts of negative nonsense. I was annoyed because I was hoping for a mind blowing final night of revelation and learning, and instead I was just angry again. The mosquitoes must have just calibrated their GPS, because right then, they found me and descended upon me mercilessly. I was swatting them away angrily, cursing under my breath each time. I pulled my blanket all the way over me even though I was sweating bullets in the tropical heat. “Fuckers are even biting my ears!” As I lay huddled under my blanket, the familiar feeling of rage, disappointment and pessimism crept back in and occupied the totality of my being. I simmered and festered away, drowning in that rotten feeling.
The beast was back and he was in a vicious mood. I had felt this all too often in my life. Whenever his cage got rattled, he would pace and pace around it, waiting for a stray hand to rip off. It felt like a return to those horrid nights. When people laughed, I scowled and cursed under my breath, cursing them for their levity and happiness. “Wait a minute Dan, is this really how you want this to end? Not like this. You worked too hard to get here.” I pondered what kind of bloody lesson this could possibly be, but before I could answer the question, my heart did it for me. Similar to the night before, my heart began to open up. Within seconds, all that had been bothering me was instantly squashed by a mountain of love. The negativity disappeared just as quickly as it came on, and I realised at that moment, that that was the lesson of the night. In retrospect it was the perfect integration lesson, for surely when I left BM I would face challenging times as well. How else to deal with those moments without first learning how to use my heart? This was what needed to happen. After all that had happened to me, especially in the weeks leading up to getting on the plane, I no longer believed in coincidence.
“Thank you, Papatua. Thanks for everything.” A wellspring of gratitude and love burst forth from the ground that only minutes ago was a parched desert of cynicism and lifelessness. Funnily enough, the sensation of the mareacion started to come on a bit again. Only slightly, but it was noticeable. It was almost as if the medicine deliberately dialled back a few gears first, to see how I would react. I spent the rest of it just enjoying the moment and living in love. The hours went by, and soon we had come to the end of the last ceremony. I got up and walked over to Juliana, Marcus and Alex and spent some time chatting with them. Marcus was going through some really crazy physical stuff, where according to him, he was being twirled around by the spirits. This happened the night before too. His legs were in constant motion, bending his torso sideways repetitively. After a while of this, Matt came over and performed a ventiada on him, which seemed to help.
I got up and did my rounds, chatting to a few people here and there before making my way over to my jungle mama. When I finally got to her, Lynne was absolutely glowing and radiating love. She told me that she had had a wonderful night, and that the spirits had told both her and Adrienne that they were done with Ayahuasca; that they had completed their journey with it. A part of me was happy for them both, and a part of me was sad. I was really hoping that I could join them on future tours. But there was still hope, for they were going to come back for San Pedro tours. Lynne was, to me, a very brave woman. Mother of three children, she had one day decided several years back that she would go to the Amazon to discover the spirit of the medicine. Usually it’s the children who strike out first and eventually lead their parents with them on the journey, but with her, it was the other way around. I have so much respect for that kind of bravery.
It takes a lot to acknowledge that you have things inside you that you need to give up, to let go of. It takes even more strength to actually take the plunge into that fuming sea of doubt and uncertainty, not knowing if your head will ever rise above the waves again. Lynne got me thinking about my own mother, and how badly I wanted to bring her with me on my next trip. But of course, such things are deeply personal choices that one cannot be coerced into. The medicine simply doesn’t work that way, and the results of coercion can be disastrous at best. I told Lynne of my desire to bring my mother, and how I had no idea how I was to go about it. Her answer was simple. “Show her by being the change.” Yeah. Made sense. For there is no point in ranting and raving about how great the medicine is if you aren’t genuine living proof of that change. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t stop it from shitting in the creek.
More people joined us, and we ended up all sitting on that wooden floor, all sharing stories with each other of our experiences. It was a time for sharing, a time for baring the soul, removing the ego, and basking in the warm glow of each others’ true selves. You see, some people think that Ayahuasca changes you, that it makes you a new person. My experience of it proved otherwise. It was akin to peeling back the layers of an onion. It was about removing all those years of trauma, self harm, anger and frustration that had closed around you like a wall, and exposing the real self. The self that did not apologise for who it was. The self that had been there from the moment of your conception, devoid of all the nonsense self-defence mechanisms we build over time. And when you peel back those layers and find this self buried under all of that noise, it is intensely beautiful and deeply satisfying. The beast was firmly ensconced in his cave with no sign of rearing his wicked head.
Finally, the signal to finish up was given. People started walking back to their rooms, while I decided to spend my last night in the maloca once again. It was a beautiful night, after all.