Rlnaia S

A painter and experienced Buddhist meditator in her forties describes her one experience with ayahuasca, in which she reached a state of profound equanimity in the face of both the beauties and the horrors of existence.

My first, and as of yet, only experience with ayahuasca took place in a comfortable geodesic dome in a relatively rural setting. Along with the others in my circle, I spent the day fasting, meditating, and fine-tuning my intention—what it was that I hoped to investigate while on the medicine. This intention was dealt with very early on in my experience on the medicine. And although enlightening, it was in some ways the least important part of my experience.

What I would rather talk about is the less tangible, but perhaps more meaningful part of my experience. I had an overall sense of the exquisiteness of the journey—aware that it was very much a metaphor for the journey of my life. At times, I had terrifying hallucinations. However, I never was moved to pull back from these visions. Rathe , I moved into them and through them with conviction, trust, and an appreciation of their own particular beauty.

As many of my generation in the 1970s, I was very interested in various Eastern philosophies. For quite some time I had been a vegetarian and practiced meditation and yoga on a daily basis. Still, I comprehended the various philosophical concepts and precepts of Eastern thought on an intellectual level only, and no doubt superficially at that. My experience with the ayahuasca (as was true of my experience with LSD) put me in touch with an understanding of these ideas experien-tially. It was as if my body accepted ideas of oneness, duality, paradox, etc., on a cellular level. The physicality of this experience was much more far-reaching than any intellectual understanding, and this made it one of the most palpably Buddhist-like experiences I have ever had.

I understood the sad and frightening visions to be every bit as wonderful as the most beautiful visions. The marvel was that I felt totally alive, open, responsive, and fearless! Accepting the fleeting nature of all, it was so simple to be fully present for every moment. Perhaps for the first time ever, I felt an implicit trust in my capacity to guide myself through the incredible labyrinth of dark and light.

It is this experience of trust that is perhaps what I value most from my journey. It has shifted my perception greatly regarding the nature of life and serves as a constant reminder of the wonder and beauty of the whole of my journey—the painful as well as the beautiful. It also served as a reminder of my capacity to navigate even the most treacherous of passages.

On a physical level, my experience felt extremely rich and layered, as if the ayahuasca was winding its way down into the deepest parts of my consciousness, as well as down into the deepest core of my body. My experiences became less clearly defined and more visceral the deeper I moved into the journey. I felt the medicine to be much like a snake, traveling from my brain downward, finally lodging in my groin. As I came to the end of my experience, I felt rooted in some tangled, steamy jungle, rich with the scent of death and rebirth, slowly becoming one with the vines and the very earth itself.

It has been five or six years since my experience with ayahuasca, and the writing of the above account. I have not taken this medicine since then and do not often consciously reflect back on its impact. And yet I know the experience is still very much with me. There were a few moments during the journey that I consider peak experiences, moments that continue to inform my choice and attitudes. The trust I felt in my own courage and wisdom was phenomenal. The joy I knew in the face of every experience, no matter how horrific or celestial, was immeasurable. I feel the ayahuasca was catalytic in my coming to know an openness to myself and my life on the very deepest of levels. There were powerful lessons in this opening. I feel now it is a matter of choice, as I consciously attempt to move toward this full embrace every day that I am alive.

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