Ayahuasca is not for everyone. Sometimes the experiences can be frightening and extremely challenging. If you are the type of person who likes to keep your boundaries fixed and to stay within the status quo, then it’s not for you. However, if you are open to dissolving your personal boundaries to explore more of who and what you are, then an ayahuasca journey can provide a direct and powerful means to that end.
by Chris Walton
From the book: Incredible You – Unleashing the Power of Your Beliefs and Intentions to Achieve an Extraordinary Life
By Chris Walton (From Appendix A: Discovering How Big You Want To Be.)
Every culture in human history has used some kind of natural consciousness-altering substance. They have used them to cement social relationships, divine the future, call for rain, find animals in the hunt, and expand vision to access the spiritual realms.
However, the most common use is for healing. By altering consciousness, shamans claim to travel the inter-dimensional realms to detect what is wrong with a patient and to find a cure or a helpful remedy. These consciousness-altering plant ceremonies are still undertaken today in many parts of the world. In our culture, which shuns the use of consciousness-altering substances, natural or not, psychedelics are still used by the ‘underground’. People from all walks of life and for a host of reasons find it useful to expand their consciousness using plant-derived natural psychedelics.
In parts of South America, the most common and powerful consciousness-expanding plant ‘medicine’ is ayahuasca, a large woody vine whose scientific name is Banisteriopsi-scaapi. It is made into a tea with another plant, often Chacruna. The two plants have to be boiled together to make the resulting ‘tea’, capable of inducing altered states of consciousness. Over the years the use of ayahuasca has spread into the western world, and many travelers and seekers have ventured into the Amazon to participate in ayahuasca ceremonies. Ayahuasca has also been the subject of many scientific studies, with clear evidence showing that it increases brain cell growth (neuro-genesis) and improves serotonin uptake, helping to relieve depression. It is safe to use, but is not a pleasant experience, as the ayahuasca tea is bitter and generally tastes disagreeable. However, its effects can be spectacular.
Most people report extremely heightened states of consciousness, access to ‘spiritual’ realms and a connection to the deepest aspects of nature that are not possible in normal waking states of consciousness. In 2006, I went to Brazil to participate in a 17-day ayahuasca retreat, during which I would take part in six ayahuasca ceremonies.
The setting was on the beautiful Bahia coast. We were a merry band of about 30 people from all walks of life and from all over the world. As I got to know these fellow adventurers, I learned that they shared a common motivation for attending the retreat, which was to heal themselves on all levels so that they could be happier, more peaceful and have a deeper understanding of who they really were.
After relaxing for the first day, we participated in the first ceremony on the second night. We gathered around and watched the shaman bless the ayahuasca—which shamans consider to be a plant spirit with a being-ness all its own—and chant and commune with it in his own language. One at a time, we went up to the shaman to receive a cup of the ayahuasca brew. As we drank it, each of us thought of a specific intention for our inner journey. After we had all ingested the brew, we reclined under the palm trees, near a central fire pit.
The shaman then began singing special songs called Icaros, which are sacred songs that guide the participants’ energy, visions and healing during the ceremony. I had mixed feelings as I began this journey, feeling both relaxed and excited—and just a little bit nervous. I focused on the stars I could see shining though the palm trees, enjoying the warm night. Soon the fire, with its hypnotic flames, drew my attention. As I relaxed more deeply, the Icaros seemed to be flowing through every part of my body. I allowed them to work their magic, and about an hour later, I began to feel huge waves of energy pulsating through my body. I felt as if I were being bathed in a warm, nurturing ocean. The waves seemed to be emanating from within me, but at the same time from far outside of me. It was an indescribable feeling, one I had never experienced before. A little while later, the energy waves became stronger, growing ever more intense, until they were overpoweringly strong.
Suddenly I began vomiting and rolling around like I was a rag doll being tossed around by a playful dog. (It is not uncommon to vomit while journeying with ayahuasca, as it is a purgative.) I was defenseless against these waves of energy. I felt as if every cell in my body was riding huge wild rapids. My mind felt like I was on some giant roller-coaster, and I didn’t know where the next turn or dip was going to be. My physical boundaries were dissolving into these waves of energy; I was losing my body and along with it any sense of who I was.
The next three hours were extremely challenging and cathartic, and are nearly impossible to describe accurately in words. I began seeing an incredible visual display of interconnectedness among all the trees and plants. Fibres of light radiated from them and everything else around me, so my entire visual experience became one of a huge matrix of interconnected spectrums of light. As I looked at the trees I realized that at the deepest level there was no separation between me and them. We were energetically connected by light. I looked at the other participants and realized that at this deepest level we were all integral parts of an interconnected, intelligent consciousness.
My physical boundaries were no longer recognizable and my being continued to expand, until I merged into this vast matrix of energy, which was intertwined with a matrix of energy from every being, animal and plant on earth. The expansion continued further still, until I was part of a larger matrix of all the planets, solar systems, galaxies and star systems in the universe. And still it went on, beyond the known universe to regions unknown. I sensed an infinite multidimensional intelligence behind it all. There were systems within systems within systems, much like our DNA within our cells, which are within our organs and tissues, which are within our bodies, which are combined into societies, and those into countries, and those into the world, and on and on.
This was the most astonishing experience of my life. I became aware that consciousness is a field of infinite energy, information and intelligence—and I, as Chris Walton, was a droplet of that consciousness having a physical experience as Chris Walton, born into a material body on January 19, 1970. I understood that we all are consciousnesses born into physical bodies with the ultimate goal of realizing our part in the whole and awakening to the experience of our true self. And I was not only human. I was the trees, insects, noises, wind, other people, songs, stars—my consciousness was the consciousness of everything. I was aware that the consciousness I access in day-to-day life is just a minuscule fraction of what is available to me—and to each of us. I was bathed in a supernatural ecstasy, in a state of cosmic unity of consciousness that continued for hours.
Some time later—time was not important to me—my individual mind started to reconstruct itself. I found myself trying to analyze my feelings and experience, trying to make sense of it all. I wanted to put it all in definable boxes and clear-cut categories. I witnessed my own process, detached from myself: the mind of Chris was trying to reduce the experience to separate parts so that his rational self could make sense of things and say, ‘Ahh! This is what is happening, and it’s okay.’ My mind was struggling to frame a picture, and to make that picture into the ‘real reality’.
Yet almost as soon as this process started, I was blasted back out into the infinite pool of pure interconnected and expanded cosmic consciousness. This back-and-forth mind movement went on for hours: one moment I was rationally trying to define and categorize and the next I was in a state of pure cosmic unity. I finally came to see that I could learn from this see-sawing of my consciousness. It was like a lesson being taught me: we reduce the cosmic down to the mundane. That’s what we do all of our lives, creating limitations through the conditioning of our minds and losing the reality of how huge and interconnected we really are with everyone and everything else in the cosmos.
After several more hours of this kind of roller-coaster experience, my mind settled down and I relaxed into a state of ecstatic bliss. I lay on the ground for hours, feeling this bliss and marveling at my new understanding of what I am—and what we all truly are. We are without any doubt beings who have for some reason decided to materialize on planet Earth to become creators of our own destinies. We are here to experience the physical, yet our goal is to awaken and realize that we are far more than the physical. Every second of every day our beliefs, thoughts and feelings determine what we are and how we view ourselves. We have access to a state of being of pure loving awareness within an unlimited matrix of possibilities, and to engage this infinite field is our true destiny.
This single experience profoundly changed my life. From that moment on I have felt a deeper connection to nature and look at people with ‘new eyes’, knowing that at a core level of reality we are one. This was a brief account of one of the six ayahuasca ceremonies I participated in. They were all equally powerful, deeply insightful and healing on all levels of my being. Yet I learned that they were also larger than me. The shaman explained that in the ceremonies three levels of healing traditionally take place: our own personal healing, a collective group healing because we are all connected and our individual healing and intentions affect everyone else, and a global healing since we are all connected in the larger universal mind.
Ayahuasca is not for everyone. Sometimes the experiences can be frightening and extremely challenging. If you are the type of person who likes to keep your boundaries fixed and to stay within the status quo, then it’s not for you. However, if you are open to dissolving your personal boundaries to explore more of who and what you are, then an ayahuasca journey can provide a direct and powerful means to that end. However, as the shamans say, you do not choose ayahuasca, it chooses you. It is a plant spirit that must be treated with respect, and it is best to wait until you ‘feel its call’ before exploring working with it.
No matter how you choose to expand your awareness, doing so can be a satisfying and even a life-changing experience. A transformative experience is, in the words of Dr Stanislav Grof, something that “comes about when you are forced to reconcile your ordinary world view with insights gained from extraordinary or non-ordinary experiences.”
Incredible You – Unleashing the Power of Your Beliefs and Intentions to Achieve an Extraordinary Life
By Chris Walton (From Appendix A: Discovering How Big You Want To Be.)