The Waking Dream
Below is an account of the author’s 2018 Ayahuasca retreat at Nihue Rao, Peru. It summarises six ceremonies over 10 days. The shaman was Ricardo Amaringo.
It’s pouring in the Amazon today which is a perfect time to write. The rain makes a fabulous sound on the thatched roofs which is both uplifting and cosy. The local dogs laze around, sneak meals from the kitchen and approach you for a scratch. Spanish music filters past from a guitar somewhere.
Ayahuasca is a woman—an Earth spirit. She lives in a vine and is brought to life when she is combined with her lover, chacruna. The result is a dark paste rather like drinking tar. It’s so bad that you are still trying to get the phlegm out of your mouth half an hour later. It’s truly dire and makes your whole body shudder when you throw it back.
The first ceremony was like having my head flushed down a toilet. Imagine a woman grabbing you by the back of the head and forcing your face into the bowl. She lets you up for air and then down again—and again. For hours. You become the EMOTIONAL WITNESS to every shitty thing you have done in your life. This includes loved ones you’ve hurt; dicey romantic dramas plus other ego-driven rampages. It gets so bad that you just want to run out of the maloka and into the jungle. But there’s no escape—she is ruthless (apparently a female trait).
Ayahuasca also shows you things you have forgotten or repressed; physical trauma or emotional wounds that you have carried with you—right down to childhood hernia operations. It’s like an ULTRA HD MOVIE of your darkest self on full display. So yeah, not good for your ego and totally soul-crushing—ruinous to your concept of self.
The DMT has other physical effects: your hearing is magnified ten times. You can hear whispering in the room and calls from the jungle outside. Your balance is wrecked and walking becomes a drunken flounder. You can feel her coursing through your body—rummaging around and moving things. A bit like a woman checking out a man’s crib for the first time. There’s a lot not to like—things will have to go.
The next day she is with you constantly—whispering to you and showing you things. Telling you what a pedantic little bitch you are. Hounding you. Speaking from aspects of yourself you hardly knew existed; removing you from the groove you’re in and exposing new melodies—laughing at your sweet disorder.
And then…the second ceremony with a double dose. The night is darker and heavier. She tastes even worse. There is much vomiting now, from guides and guests alike. I wonder silently about having more, then decide I don’t want more of her inside me. She is deadlier tonight and takes her time coming on…
Closing my eyes I see spider webs opening up all around me. But I move inside them—they push back and stretch infinitely into other realms. Then I notice that the wooden roof above me is made in the pattern of a dreamcatcher. It’s a reference to the dimensional portals that connect the various aspects of life. Ayahuasca shows me jaguars, falcons, spiders and combinations of all of them. Graphic corruption: nudity and debauchery that make Pornhub look like a candy store—followed by a shattering expression of divine love.
Ayahuasca is with you now, more like a companion; a wise conspirator. She knows you, and you trust her because she has seen the WORST parts of you and is holding your hand anyway. The darkness must be faced and embraced before balance will come—only then can there be enlightenment. She shows you how all beings are connected, how life runs as water across the Earth.
In essence the “spider woman” Ayahuasca is a HEALER/TEACHER. Equivalent to years of psychotherapy, her brutality is part of her effectiveness. She seems to attract more males than females but perhaps that’s because the vomiting, shitting and starvation aren’t too appealing to the female psyche. Or could it be that some boys like stroppy women?
There are other revelations too numerous to mention. But suffice it to say that plant life on Earth has been here for MILLIONS of years. Humans are just a novelty: a recent experiment that is rapidly coming to a close. Plants are ALIVE and CONSCIOUS and understand the benefits of collaboration far better than we do. They have much to teach us; many ways to alter our consciousness. They laugh at us when we destroy the world because they will survive—we will not.
Ayahuasca shows us that we are just plant fertiliser. She loves us, but she will consume us. She is the serpent eating its tail: simultaneous consumption and destruction. The circle of life. Really though, she is about personal development taken to astonishing new depths: she is the waking dream with its promise of resurrection. I hope you meet her soon—the world needs a better you, too!