Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ayahuasca - A Spiritual Journey

Our few days in Mancora didn´t satisfy our need for more beach time so we left Guayaquil and headed to the Ecuadorian Coast and the town of Montanita. The town was just as you´d imagine a beach town, full of bars, surf shops and cafes. Unfortunately the weather was awful and we didn´t get in the ocean once in five days. Kind of a bummer but the nightlife was pretty good as long as you like the song "I Know You Want Me" by Pitbull. Its the only song they play in South America. Its a great song with amazing lyrics. Here´s a sample:


I know you want me (want me)

You know I want cha (want cha)
I know you want me

You know I want cha (want cha)

I know you want me (want me)

You know I want cha (want cha)

I know you want me

You know I want cha (want cha)

We met some cool people over the few days we were there including Swedish Mike and Ollie Wentworth Bentley Paddle III (who looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo) and a quite a few people who we were apparently best friends with at the clubs but can´t seem to recall who they were when we looked at the photos the next morning.

Swedish Mike informed us about the Samai Retreat and Spa ( just outside Montanita in the jungle which offers Shamanic Journeys with Ayahuasca. It is run by a guy from Boston who after getting laid off from his tech job in the late 80´s moved into the Peruvian Jungle with a group of Shaman´s for a few years. It was there he was intoduced to the ancient sacred tradition of drinking Ayahuasca. Drinking Ayahuasca is supposed to ¨promote a transformational shift in self-awareness and personal growth¨.

We did a bit of research into Ayahuasca and this BBC video on Youtube made it seem a bit more legitimate so we decided to give it a try. When we arrived at the resort we were taken to our own cabin with an amazing view of the jungle and ocean.(The white in the pic below is the ocean)

We then met Ed and Tanya Tuttle, the couple who run the resort. Ed is probably one of the happiest guys I´ve ever met and he attributes alot of this happiness to the work he´s done with Ayahuasca. He explained how the shamans make Ayahuasca from the Ayahuasca plant along with up to 30 other plants most of which are unknown outside of the shaman communities in the Andean jungles. Here is what their website says about Ed:

Ed Tuttle has been on a spiritual path for over 25 years, studying and practicing Buddhist meditation, Christian mysticism and Shamanism. He has studied with Zen masters, lived with Andean shamans and spent many nights deep in the rain forest learning of the ancient spiritual systems encoded in the shamans cosmology. Ed has a special sensitivity to nature and facilitates the interaction with the timeless plant teachers on our journeys into the rain forest and the Andes Mountains.

Before the cermony started Tanya showed us a few books on Ayahuasca. One was about an artist named Alex Grey who paints the visuals most people see after drinking it. These paintings are what Tanya said we could expect to see during our journey. They often are images of DNA and the insides of your body. Visions of skulls and snakes are also quite common and appear in many of his paintings. Apparently this is also why you find two snakes (representing DNA) wrapped around the Caduceus, a common medical symbol in North America.

A tree carving on the way to the hut where the ceremony took place featuring the Caduceus.

Tanya tried explaining to us that one of the plants used to make Ayahuasca has something to do with the DNA in our bodies and therefore helps us see inside ourselves and is able to help you see areas in your body which need work or are unhealthy. Please Google ¨Alex Grey Images¨ to see what I´m talking about. And if this all sounds a bit crazy, believe me, it did to us as well.

The ceremony took place in a hut made by some of the shamans Ed studied with. The hut is designed with one wall open to the jungle which allows you to be closer to nature and makes it easier for you to throw up which is quite common.

The ceremony started at 7:30pm and lasted three hours. It is pitch black inside the hut except for a little moonlight. Ed explained how the ceremony would take place and then opened it with a cleansing of the space. We were all initially seated in the chairs you see above. One by one we were called up to take a shot of Ayahuasca followed by a little swig of home brewed moonshine to wipe away the taste. The Ayahuasca is red in color and tasted similar to a bloody mary mix but the moonshine tasted way worse. Gemma went first and was the only girl there. She often is the only girl trying alot of the more adventurous things we do and I have to give her some credit for that.

We sat in complete silence for about 40 minutes waiting for the effects to kick in. Have you ever sat in complete silence for 40 minutes? Its boring. We eventually all moved down to the floor and laid on the mats. While Ayahuasca is a pychadelic type drug, its not one you could go about your daily activies after taking. You have to lie down and just let it ¨open your mind¨. Ed told us to ask ourselves questions like ¨What is that which has no other?, Who am I? or What is my purpose in life?¨

After about forty minutes Ed invited us to have another shot and then called us up one by one to sit in front of him while he performed a type of ritual. He shook a bunch of palms (you can see in the pic below) over our heads actually kind of smacking us in the head. At first I wasn´t sure if he realized he was hitting my head so I lowered it a bit but he just kept smacking it. He was chanting in Quechuan and making these really cool sounds that sounded like someone shooting an arrow out of a blowgun or blowpipe. Hard to describe but it sounded like an arrow was flying really quickly past your head.

Then he did one of the craziest things Gemma or I have ever experienced. He put his hands on the side of our head and put his lips to the top of our head and blew out vibrating our skulls. It was wild. He then took his two thumbs and put them on our forehead and did the same. It felt almost as if a drill was going into our head but not in a painful way. Kind of like someone giving you rasberries but to the extreme.

We then went back and laid on the mats. At this point we were supposed to be seeing these crazy visuals and having a life altering internal conversation with ourselves. For me, it didn´t really happen. I just felt kinda sick, cold and bored laying in the dark. After three hours Ed invited us to go back to our huts and ¨continue our journey¨. He warned us to keep the lights off because they are harmful to the Ayahuascan spirts. Boy was he right, I turned on the light to go to the bathroom and it was a horrible experience.

As I said I didn´t really have the experience I was told about while we were in the hut. I actually spent the last hour or so thinking about emails I hadn´t responded to. I also thought it was kind of odd that all the research we did spoke of how inevitable it is that you will get sick but none of the six of us did while we were in the hut. Then as we left the hut and walked about ten steps Gemma got sick. After she finished Ed´s immediate response was ¨Thats great, good for you! Thats alot of negativity leaving your body.¨

We got back to the hut and laid down. I really started to feel funny once we got back for the next four hours but still no visuals. It was 2am when Gemma looked at her watch but it seemed like only about 20 minutes had gone by since we got back.

The next morning when we woke up I wanted to know how it affected Gemma. Man did she have a different experience. She told me of the visuals she had. She first saw herself floating above the Amazon Jungle and then she´d dive down to a building which would then turn on its side. She rode on a giant snake that she was climbing up but could never reach its head. One of the wildest things she described to me was a ceremony she watched from above. It took place in a big stadium that was full of smokey spirits whose faces resembled the mask from the movie Scream. All the spirts were pushing all their energy and love into the middle of the stadium which was a giant glowing sun. How wild is that!

She also described to me how when she was getting sick there were skulls coming up from the ground which her vomit would then push back down into the ground. She rode in a miners cart with diamonds and gems on the side. She came to a giant door that every 10 or 15 minutes she tried to open but couldn´t and said it had a light coming through it. At the very end she finally saw the snakes head which she said had my eyes. Wild Wild stuff.

We met with Ed the next morning to talk about how it went. He wanted me to do it again the next night and said he´d double my dosage but it was quite expensive and I wasn´t sure I wanted to go through with it again. Gemma wants you to know she´s not crazy and Ed confirmed alot of her visuals were common. I´m glad we tried it but I´m not sure it had the life changing effects most speak of.

1 comment:

  1. Woah! Gem!!! What a crazy trip!! Was it enjoyable or just freaky? I think I would like to give it a go..pity about your experience if you need double the standard dosage!!!! Hahaha says something like doesn't it?