My first Ayahuasca experience occurred in the spring of 2013 somewhere in the Brazilian Rainforest. Little did I know at that time how my life would be changed forever — as if I had taken the red pill option from the movie The Matrix, choosing to see rather than hide from reality. The veil had been lifted, and I started seeing the entire world in a new light. It has been almost 3 years since that first day (and many other Ayahuasca experiences in between), and I have finally got around to putting some thoughts out here into cyberspace.
Dennis McKenna once said to me that “Not only is DMT (the active ingredient in Ayahuasca) more interesting than television, it’s probably the most interesting thing in the entire world,” and I couldn’t agree more.
To go through life being aware of the possibility to have such an experience and never seizing it is, in my opinion, comparable to missing your highschool prom, never having a child, or never trying Italian food (with the gluten). It’s just an experience I think everyone should have at least once in their life, if not more.
Let’s start with a little background on Ayahuasca in general.
What is Ayahuasca?
It’s a South American brew made up of two plants (yes, only two). These plants embark on a magical dance in a cauldron for over 12 hours to produce an effect on humans like nothing you could possibly imagine. One of the plants contain DMT(dimethyltryptamine), which is the psychoactive ingredient, and the other has MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). The MAOI allows the DMT to “diffuse unmetabolized past the membranes in the stomach and small intestine, and eventually cross the blood–brain barrier . . . to activate receptor sites in the brain.” If there was no MAOI in the brew, the body would be unable to absorb the DMT and nothing would happen.
How was it discovered?
In a jungle with over 150,000 plant species, trial and error just does not seem like a logical solution to find a visionary plant mixture. The pair of plants look nothing alike and don’t even grow near each other in the jungle. I can’t even begin to imagine how anyone stumbled across this recipe.
Without one or the other the brew has no effect whatsoever. But combined, the most magical inner fireworks (or nauseating nightmare) will ensue, and most likely, if you listen carefully, some very deep and at times very basic life lessons will be revealed to you that can both rock your world and set you on a new path.
Many legends maintain that the recipe was delivered in a dream to a single person — a dream that is literally changing the planet as we speak.
Anthropologist Jeremy Narby (1998, p. 154) states that Ayahuasca “belongs to the indigenous people of Western Amazonia, who hold the keys to a way of knowing that they have practiced without interruption for at least five thousand years.”
Wow. Five thousand years? That is simply mind boggling, taking us way back in human history. The Amazonian tribesmen (and women) were literally tripping out in the jungle while the Egyptians were… getting high on similar compounds (blue lotus flower) in Egypt. But we’ll save that story for a different article.
It has taken some time for it to catch on in our modern day, but Ayahuasca use has been gaining momentum recently (looking like a small J curve, if you’re into stats) and is increasing exponentially. Over the last 30 years or so it has catapulted itself out of the Amazon, reaching all over the globe and drawing people to the rainforest.
Unfortunately, doing Ayahuasca is pretty much illegal in North America and one could face jail time for being in possession of it, even though it has no recreational or abusive properties. There is a big grey area in terms of the legality of using Ayahuasca for religious purposes, however. In south America there are Christian-based churches that use Ayahuasca as the holy sacrament and, once joined in prayer, chant songs and have holy visions. I’m not making this up. This is happeneing right now and is spreading to North America.
Ayahuasca plants and bottles containing Ayahuasca have been confiscated from Ayahuasca church members repeatedly by various authorities. The UDV (The União do Vegetal) recently went to court in the USA, with the judge concluding that there is no issue with their using Ayahuasca as a religious sacrament.
What are the potential benefits?
Ayahuasca can be used for many things, but it is primarily used for healing, and for teaching from the inside out.
Countless numbers of people have healed through Ayahuasca and other plant medicines, seeing improvements in psychological disorders such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety, as well as physical ailments like cancer, diabetes, and more. More research is definitely needed, but that will come with awareness. The stigma surrounding these plants is, unfortunately, still too great.
Many celebrities have been vocal about their life-altering experiences with Ayahuasca and more are coming out of the woodwork. Most recently, Lindsay Lohan and Sting have expressed how much their lives have changed after having this experience.
Here’s what I experienced
The day after my first Ayahuasca ceremony I finally understood how alive the world truly is, and how connected we all are to it. Since then I have been to many ceremonies, every one different in its own way and each very powerful.
Many people report some type of divine spirit directly communicating with them. This has happened to me on multiple occasions while in ceremony; it feels like talking to a motherly plant spirit.
The spirit of the plant (yes, I just said the plant has a spirit, though I probably would have called someone crazy for saying that before I experienced it firsthand) speaks to you in a way that is both heartfelt and mindblowing at the same time.
Another very common reaction is to have a death experience. In my case, I died, decomposed, and sprouted back through the earth. During this process I realized that I was not my physical body: I was much more. I was all the life in the universe, including the maggots that consumed me and the plants I had become. Upon awakening I was still very much alive, and recognized with absolute certainty that there was more to life than death. It was a simultaneously horrifying and profound experience. You could read every spiritual text in existence (assuming you had the time) and still never gain the same level of clarity and understanding that comes from a direct Ayahuasca experience like I had, in my opinion. I mean, I always believed there was an afterlife, but now Iunderstand there is one.
At one of these ceremonies I dragged out Coletti (co-host of our brand new podcast) and got to sit down and interview a Shaman (though he prefers to be called a Vegetalista or Curandero) who was born and raised in Canada to ask him some questions.
I mean, who better to answer lingering thoughts I had than someone who has 15 years experience with this powerful medicine?
Some of the things we talked about were whether or not it can heal physical illness, and if so, how it does so. We also asked how someone starts using it in the first place.
We openly discussed the pros and cons of doing Ayahuasca and why it is stigmatized to this day. He gave us insight into connecting with oneself and finding our true path.
I also share some of my own experiences during the interview.