“I’m headed to California in a few days, so I just wanted to know if you could feed and water my cat while I’m gone,” my friend asked.

“Sure. What’s happening there?” I replied.

“I’m interviewing someone for an article I’m writing and then I’m headed to Joshua Tree.”

“What are you doing in Joshua Tree?” I asked.

“I’m going to an Ayahuasca retreat,” she said, as if I knew what that was.

As she started to explain it to me, it sounded so out of this world and I couldn’t help but wonder – why I hadn’t ever heard of this before?

I spent the next several weeks going completely down the rabbit hole, learning everything I possible could about Ayahuasca. I watched every documentary I could find. I watched countless YouTube stories on people’s experiences and read everything I could find. Several celebrities swear by it. Podcaster Joe Rogan talks about it repeatedly on his show. Chelsea Handler, Megan Fox, Aaron Rodgers, to name a few all speak on their experiences.

I remember my friend saying, “It’s not for everyone. You have to have the calling.” Ayahuasca wasn’t just calling me, it had a bullhorn on a continuous loop cycle.

For those of you, like me, who have never heard of it, Ayahuasca is a psychotropic tea, derived from two plants found in the Amazon Jungle. Translated, its name means vine of the soul and it’s been used by Shamans and aboriginal populations for its spiritual and healing effects.

Many claim to meet an entity they call Mother Ayahuasca. A spiritual being, many refer to as Mother Nature, who guides you and answers what questions you may ask. Some see aliens, the cosmos, deceased loved ones and things beyond this world.

It’s been said that it cures trauma, depression, anxiety and many, many other ailments. Some people even claimed that it had cured their cancer. From all of the experiences I watched on YouTube, the thing all these people had in common was that they were all certainly changed by the experience and they all say the same thing – “Ayahuasca doesn’t give you what you want. It gives you what you need.”

Extreme claims require extreme proof and despite my misgivings about taking a hallucinogen, I had to find out for myself, so I booked my spot at the retreat in Joshua Tree and hopped on a plane to Palm Springs.

Several weeks prior, it is required that you stop taking any and all medications and that your diet must be completely plant based – no meat, no dairy, no oil, in order to facilitate your connection. So, starving for a burger I arrived at the airport and I rented a car and made my way to the retreat.

There wasn’t a lot of time to get acclimated to my environment, as the gates opened at 7:00pm and the ceremony began at 9:00pm. I found my place in the little bunkie I would be sleeping in and looked over the intentions I had written out. It is recommended that you write out a list of questions and issues that you would like to ask or have resolved prior to the ceremony.

Some of the intentions I had written were that I wanted to see Mother Ayahuasca, (not everyone does). I wanted to see and talk to my deceased father. I have a strained relationship with my brothers and I wanted to know what to do about that and if they cared about me at all. I wanted to know about my house, my relationships and my career. I wanted help dealing with the resentment I carried for those that have wronged me, especially my ex, a narcissist. I wanted help with my health, my body and I gave permission for them to perform any spiritual surgery they deemed necessary.

The temple was a large round building with big windows and a wooden roof. I chose my spot on a mat against the wall and when the Shamans and musicians came in we all had a meet and greet and a quick Q&A.

“What is this?” I asked the Shaman, prior to taking the Ayahuasca. “Is this a hallucination, is it my subconscious mind? Is it spirit?”

They smiled, looked at each other and said, “You tell us.” And handed me my cup.

I said a silent prayer, went over my intentions and together we all downed the thick, brown concoction.  I’m not going to lie, the tea is vile. It’s thick and bitter and getting it all down is a real chore.

There is much talk in chat forums and on social media about “The Purge,” so I knew it was coming, but nothing can prepare you for it. The claim is that this ‘purge’ is the plant medicine’s way of getting rid of all the negativity inside of you, which is necessary to clear the path for connection and a higher vibration. It’s an intense, involuntary heaving. Sometimes it’s dry and sometimes you’re convinced there is no fluid left in your body. A few minutes in, I felt the need to grab my vomit bucket. I didn’t want to be the first one in our group of about 20 that spilled their guts, so I tried to keep it in. To my right I heard the sounds of a woman, who I had become fast friends with, toss her cookies. I immediately followed suit and soon a cacophony of hurling sounds were heard throughout the temple. As you are going through this you will ask yourself several times, “Why am I doing this?” And you will promise yourself that you will never, ever do this again. But you will.

Once that phase is over, you lay back and get ready for the most incredible ride of your life. It starts out for most, like a kaleidoscope of colors, dancing to the music. My friend who went weeks before, expressed that she had seen colors that we don’t have here on earth. I didn’t have that experience, but the colors I did see were vibrant. The mystical chants of the Shamans permeated the temple and the vibe felt very sacred.

It was dark outside and the lights in the temple were dimmed to almost nothing. Your eyes are closed, yet inside your mind it is as bright as a sunny day. I never understood what it meant to see through your third eye until this experience.

Though I had a couple of ceremonies I’ll condense my visions for the sake of space.

In my first ceremony I was sort of demanding. I said I want to see this and that and I was somewhat disappointed. At the start of my second ceremony I said, “I’m open to whatever you want to show me.” And I surrendered to the magic of it.

I felt this incredibly powerful vibration. It kept coming and going in waves. It was so intense I knew I couldn’t handle it. Think of the vibration as a sound that gets heavier and heavier and it permeates throughout your entire body. I knew I would purge again if it got any stronger and I kept saying in my head, “I can’t take this, you have to dim it down.” Once it eased a little or that I got used it, I’m not sure which, I started hearing whispers all around me. They were in front of me, beside me and behind me – even though I was right up against the wall.  My vision got clearer and I then saw spirits all around me. They were so close, right in my face and I asked them to back up. They were faceless and I felt their presence all around me.

As they cleared a path, I saw Mother Ayahuasca, this beautiful green woman, with long green hair, dancing gracefully to the music of the Shamans. She showed me images of things I had asked to see the day before – my future home, my future partner….

She then showed me my deceased grandmother. I was shown a glimpse of all of the past lives I’ve shared with her like quickly thumbing through a book. My deceased mother was there and then I saw my deceased father. At that point I started silently sobbing, with tears running down my face. I kept saying to him, “I want to stay with you. I want to stay with you.” He said to me what most would expect a deceased loved one would say.

“You can’t stay here. It’s not your time. I am always with you. You just can’t see me.”

This felt very much like a near death experience. I really felt as though I was getting a glimpse behind the curtain, like I had stepped into a different dimension.

I was overcome by a feeling of unconditional love. I have never ever in my life felt love like that before. It was all around me and beaming through my chest. I felt love for everyone and everything and I was completely at peace. Afterwards, while trying to describe it to others, I said it was like that old cartoon Care Bears. I felt like Tender Heart bear, who’s super power was to project intense love out through his chest.

I then saw my brother Michael and I felt his love for me. My other brother appeared, but only in silhouette. He had shape, so I knew it was him, but it was all shadow. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time and it took a few days and a few conversations to decipher it’s meaning.

The experience ends abruptly and at different times for everyone. Once the journey was done for the evening I quietly walked out of the temple.

It takes awhile to soak in and interpret everything that happened.  I had asked prior to the experience, “What is this? Is this our subconscious mind, our imagination, spirit….” What I know is that the images that I was shown, were not mine. The house, the partner, among other things, were not what I would have chosen. I didn’t create the images. They were put there. The conversations were all telepathic and again not a construct of my imagination. I wasn’t actively creating anything, just reacting to them like I would in real life. Images, thoughts, feelings I’d had during the ceremony were given to me and as I said, this all felt to me what I imagine a near death experience looks and feels like.

One of the greatest gifts I received from that day was that my resentment towards anyone was gone. My resentment was one of those mainstays in my life that I could always reach for. But every time I tried, it just wasn’t there anymore. I kept trying days and weeks afterwards and it was replaced with peace.

Mother Ayahuasca also gave me a desire to eat only a plant-based diet. Something I had never wanted or even asked for – though I did ask for optimal health. When I stepped out of temple that night, I was in complete awe of the experience. I knew I was different in ways I couldn’t yet explain. I felt so much lighter and happier and driven towards my purpose. It is for certain a sacred ceremony. This was something we all agreed upon as we sat outside, in the cool California desert and excitedly shared our experiences as the star-filled night sky danced around us.


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