Ayahuasca – Vine for the Soul.
Martine was a very quietly spoken man. I noticed that when I first saw him. He laughs a lot, but in a kind of lessened tone. Tomba was the opposite, but he provided well-required balance to my experience – to provide a lighter side.
The first cup of ayahuasca was quite easy to drink. I was expecting it to be a lot more bitter and thicker in consistency, but it wasn’t like that. I was told to drink it down quickly, so I did. Straight down. Up until that point it all happened pretty quickly I guess. I met Martine and his assistant Tomba at 6pm at the agency, boat to San Buonventura, motorbike for 20 minutes, then a 40 minute walk into the jungle. And before I knew it I had just drunk the ayahuasca.
The setting was perfect. Sitting on a blue tarpaulin under a timber pergola, in the middle of the jungle. Martine was sitting next to me. He was still wearing his pants from the day, but he had taken his shoes off and put on his light blue “shaman shirt” with red trims. He wore a thin, red headband which before he put on, he stroked many times slowly over his knee, talking or praying quietly to it.
I had taken my headband off, and it lay next to me on the ground. I was wearing my jeans, yellow capoeira t-shirt and bare feet. Perfect. I thought that the headband and shoes may restrict my ability to experience whatever the hell was going to happen.
Martine’s mouth was full of coca leaves, and he was smoking specially-rolled cigarettes. As I drank the ayahuasca, he blew smoke into my face and on my head from left to right.
A candle provided the only light. It sat on a rock beside me. A fire was also lit, but didn’t provide that much light. It was 19:57 as I drank the ayahuasca. Martine said that it would take 20 to 30 minutes for the effects to commence. Not really knowing what the effects would be, I just waited. The sort of waiting that is like “is that it?”, “do I feel something now?” …… I just sat there waiting.
At about 20:25 I was then told to close my eyes and put my head down. I became extremely conscious of my surroundings. I could clearly hear all the insects around me, the chicadas especially. And I then noticed a river or water in the background. Everything was very clear. Clarity. That was the key word in an email that crazy Jeff Frame had sent me a couple of years ago when he wrote about ayahuasca. That was the first time I’d heard about it, and Jeff said that it was supposed to provide clarity. I had been intrigued ever since.
Slowly I started to see colours appearing in a kind of swirling but pixellated effect. Ok, so this is the start. It’s happening. Nothing I can do to stop it. I clearly remember thinking that at the time. How I’d already taken the drink, and nothing I could do now could stop its effect. The choice was not mine now. The choice had already been made half an hour ago when I drank.
Now thinking about it, I don’t remember a lot, if any, specifics about what I saw. Mainly a recollection of amazing colours and my emotional reaction to them. From here my thoughts are going to get a whole lot more random ……
I remember lots of animals, but not jungle animals that Martine suggested. More “cartoon” type animals than real-life skin and bones. Lots of ants, but not “real” ants. Huge “cartoon” ants. The colours were continually moving like I was on a roller-coaster with streaks of colour on both sides of me. I remember the feeling of up and down the roller-coaster, and swerving left and right.
I remember being conscious of my jaw and my teeth. They were constantly clenched. And I could feel my eyes moving rapidly, going crazy trying to keep up with what was going on. I remember thinking that I’d never been so conscious of my eyes moving like that before. Like when you’re travelling on a fast-moving train looking outside – but much faster.
I remember thinking a lot about throwing up. Not that I needed to – quite the opposite. I was thinking “why haven’t I thrown up yet?” Every article I read spoke about vomiting. I think that was a problem for me in this whole experience. I was thinking a lot about what was going on around me, rather than letting myself go fully. This changed though I think about half way.
I remember my head falling further and further down as I kind of got “deeper”.
One of the strangest things for me was the feeling when I kind of “came to” or woke up from a particular dream. That’s exactly how the whole experience felt – like a rapid succession of super-intensive dreams. Some flowed into each other, but others definitely had a start and a finish. It was incredible how different “real life” felt to the state of being “under effect”. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it felt like at any time I could make a decision and just stop this experience – just by keeping my eyes open. I only experienced the major effects when my eyes were closed. It was just like being in the room after you’ve had an operation, and you’re kind of aware of what’s going on (or so you think at the time) but could just nod off into a dream at any time.
But always I chose the option of closing my eyes and experiencing what was before me. It wasn’t just what I saw, but also the emotions that I felt, and the whole surrealism of the occasion.
After some time – no idea how long, but maybe half an hour, I kind of “woke up”. Martine and Tomba instantly walked over to me and lit another candle (I think). My eyes were open and I could speak to them properly (I think). “Esta bien?” “Si, esta bien”. (“It’s good?” “Yes, it’s good”)
Up until that stage they were sitting about 5 metres away in total darkness. It was just me and a candle. Whenever I opened my eyes I could sense or see them, but it was so strange. For the entire experience I thought or sensed that Martine was sitting right next to me watching over me and blowing wind or smoke over me, when required. But he wasn’t. I remember waking up to look at him beside me, but he wasn’t there.
Martine brought over a sleeping bag still in its case, and told me to lie down on my back with my head on the sleeping bag, with bent knees. It kind of felt that this was definitely “stage 2” of the experience.
When on my back, I had this sense of “bursting through” like a roller-coaster on the uphill and just keep on going up through the sky. It was a sense of “up”. I was looking “up” into the sky. Instead of gnawing my teeth, I was now with my mouth open wide, gaping at what was in front of me. The problem is (not really a problem), I now can’t remember what it was that I was looking at. But it made me feel good. My hands were initially on my chest, but then felt much better to be open and by my side.
I was always conscious of the sounds around me and the animals. They always accompanied me on the journey. When the roller-coaster was “up” and bursting through the sky, the sounds became more intense and clearer. I remember there was one stage that seemed an important moment or breakthrough, and I heard a large animal loud and clear, almost like it was laughing at me, or a symbol of some sorts. Very clear at the time – not so right now.
Did this whole experience even happen?
As I sit here writing this in the town of Rurrenabaque the next day, I remember constantly having to push thoughts out of my head. Thinking. I didn’t want anything to spoil this experience. Maybe that is very important for me. I have the ability to decide what and when I think about things. Hopefully I can help myself with the amount of thinking that I do. Not normal thinking, but incessant, debilitating, and all-consuming thinking. Cerebral tiredness
The word CONTROL kept appearing in front of me. Being told to always be in CONTROL. Why is control so important?
I remember thinking how great it was that this experience was the total opposite of control. When I closed my eyes, I had no control. I was lying here by myself in the middle of the jungle, on the ground, totally sprawled out making funny noises, smiling and laughing randomly, grimacing, and absolutely not giving a shit. I felt like I had given away control. I had totally given myself up to this drink, to this experience. I did not care how I looked or what I did, or what mess I made. It was a total SELF and SELFISH experience. It was all for me. And to do it by myself was even more amazing. It further enhanced my feeling of self. I remember smiling, thinking that I am truly blessed to be able to have this experience by myself. I NEVER allow myself this “self indulgence”. To give up total control is a wonderful thing. I didn’t care if my mouth was open, or I made silly noises, or I chuckled or smiled to myself. I was FREE!
While on my back I remember putting my hands back on my chest, and they reminded me somehow of a baby deer – very dainty like a woman or a child. That is exactly how I felt – like a baby lying helpless on the ground. I still hadn’t vomited. My stomach was starting to get really sore all of my stomach muscles were tightening up.
Then I went through a bit of a tough period. I don’t know if it was my stomach contracting or wanting to dry retch or what it was, but my right chest and shoulder started lifting and thumping down onto the ground violently. I had absolutely no control over it. It would rise and then thump back down on the blue plastic tarpaulin I was lying on. I have no idea for how long this was happening, but it seemed like an eternity. This was the only time that I was “scared”. I’d read about different reactions to ayahuasca, including spirits leaving the body, and to me this was exactly how I felt. I was grimacing in pain and making low noises. I remember opening my eyes and seeing almost just black. The candle had almost burnt down to its end and offered little light. I remember thinking “shit, something big and important is happening here, and Martine is not even here to see”. Whether it was important or not, or whether he could see/hear/sense what was happening I have no idea. My stomach muscles were still cramping, but slowly the reactions in my shoulder and chest began to stop.
I began to feel even more and more nauseas, like I wanted to throw up. My stomach was cramping more and more, and I was making noises. Every time this happened I heard soft whistles coming from where Martine was sitting about 5 metres away in the darkness. It felt like the whistling was willing the vomit to raise out of my mouth. But it didn’t happen.
Martine came and sat next to me and re-lit a new candle. He asked me if I wanted more ayahuasca. I didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t like I was making the decision, it was kind of made by someone or something inside of me.
Martine poured another cup. I drank it down quickly, but this was much more difficult than the first. It tasted so bitter and disgusting that I wanted to be sick straight away. But I wasn’t.
This second time was a lot more intense and I definitely felt a lot more free and was thinking less and enjoying the experience. After the second cup Martine again went off to sit in the darkness. Before this, he again blew smoke onto my head as I closed my eyes and put my head down, sitting down again.
After I have no idea how long, my whole body started to cramp and contort and I began to vomit violently. I didn’t have time to go into the bushes – I didn’t even know it was coming. I just lay in the dirt and vomited everything from my stomach, which was very little. It seemed like an eternity, but I have no idea for how long I was sick for.
All my muscles in my legs and feet were taut and cramping, and I was getting a sever pain behind the inside of my left knee. It was somewhere where I’d never felt pain before, and the rational me was trying to work out where and why the pain was there. Martine came over to me. “Todo, todo” he said. “Mieu buonito”. I gathered that to mean that I had vomited everything from my stomach and all was good. He gave me just a little water and went back into the darkness. At one stage in total darkness I remember looking at the glow from Martine’s cigarette, then across at the glow from Tomba’s. Nothing else. Just the soft tones of fire in the middle of the darkness. I lay down and recommenced my dreaming. I can’t remember anything specific that I was seeing, but my vision was full of colour and experiences.
I opened my eyes at one stage and looked at the black and grey of the sky, trees and clouds, and remember thinking how boring they look compared to the images and colours I was seeing.
I always felt that Martine was watching over me, even when he was away somewhere in the darkness. Like his presence was always right next to me. Not only could I sense it, but I could kind of “feel” and hear breath and smoke being blown on me. Especially when I was having a more intense experience, it felt like he was walking around me blowing smoke softly.
This last period was more relaxed for me. I was having nice dreams, and a beautiful feeling of letting go, or giving myself up to whatever may happen next. But again I started to feel nauseas and began to dry retch. But I had nothing left in my stomach to vomit.
My whole experience was made up of good and bad visions and thoughts. I could feel and hear myself breathing heavily and my muscles contracting when I was having a bad “dream” then my whole body would relax in a split second when this “dream” suddenly changed. My breath would slow instantly and I remember times when my breath stopped fully. I felt like I never had to take another breath again. I have no idea how long between breaths, but it seemed like an eternity.
At one stage my entire visions froze. I think I was stepping over a log in the jungle, when I froze half-way over the log. The experience made the entire concept of time irrelevant. My experience went for almost 5 hours, but it really felt like a whole lifetime of thoughts, ideas and experiences went through my head in this time.
Because you are in and out of dreams or this semi-conscious state, I had no idea how long the dreams were actually going for. Even as I write this something is becoming more relevant to me about “time”. I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, and the whole concept of living in the “now”. For now – not for before or after. I’m finding it difficult now after the event to remember or explain what I saw during this experience, but I know that it was fascinating and amazing because I felt it at the time, chose to drink a second cup of ayahuasca, and fully experienced it “at the time”. Isn’t that what’s important? To experience “it” (everything) at the time and not have to worry about reliving it again at some later date for either yourself or someone else. At that later date you should be experiencing something else in the “now”.
I remember when things became clear for me or I understood them, I started to nod my head. If it was really important I nodded (it felt) very strongly. One of these moments occurred when I was thinking about a marrionet. It’s not totally clear to me right now exactly the significance of the marrionet, but at the time it was very strong. Something along the lines of “David is the person inside. The person who is experiencing these moments, these experiences, this feeling of letting go and becoming distant to the physical being.”
I also felt that my experiences were also only bound by my imagination. It all came from within me, is all contained inside me, but is never allowed to reveal itself. I made things happen in my dreams. Negative images I found I could change into positives.
The whole experience was very humbling. I felt like I was just one of many millions of humans on this earth. When it was all broken down, I was lying down in the jungle by myself, amongst the dirt and the insects, with no shoes, just like an abandoned person in the street with nothing.
At about 12.30am Martine came and sat down next to me and lit a candle. Despite the language barrier, we chatted for a bit about the experience and about ayahuasca. His belief is that it opens communication channels, specifically with nature and animals. I put myself to bed in the tent.
This time when I closed my eyes there were no more visions – just black.