The First Cup
With simple words but a heavy request the Shaman instructs, “Think of your intention for the night”, how does one have intention with no expectation? “I want to know everything, but I will expect nothing”. I wish our human brains worked like this, to accept what comes with gratitude and release what doesn’t come also with gratitude. “Please heal 20/30/40 years of ignoring or swallowing the past in one night”…or “Please scratch the surface to let me know there is hope”. And in that humble hope, we submerge past the surface deep into a new world of our consciousness.
With this translated instruction to think of one’s intention for the night, a handful of tobacco is given to each person. The gift is followed by a symbolic request to place the tobacco in the fire. We sit in silence watching the flames dance in the center of the Usure. Hecka, the Shaman, stirs the brew that we are soon to find out is strong and long-lasting. It begins to rain outside. The insects are now as silent as the people and we hear only fire and water.
One of the space holders gets up, walks to the fire, takes a final moment to hold their intention to their heart, and places the tobacco in the tips of the flames that spark with each contact to this sacred plant of the Amazonian tribes. I then stand before the fire and do the same silent ritual. I repeat my intention, connect it to an emotion, and solidify it with silence to last throughout the night until past sunrise.
One after another, we greet the heat and burn our tobacco. Hecka is ready and The Statue is first. Hecka asks a question in Spanish. I can’t hear the translation, but we all soon recognize that none of us understood the directions of intention and burning the tobacco. We were supposed to wait until we received the first cup of the brew, then repeat our intention one final time before we surrender to the intention of Ayahuasca, drop the tobacco into the flames, and immediately follow with a gulp. As the shaman sees everyone has already thrown their tobacco into the flames, he lets out a laugh that illustrates the pliable temperament of this ritual and the fun-loving nature of Hecka himself.
With a wide smile, we are given new instructions to go to the fire with our cup, motion the cup over the flames three times, then drink. At least I think these are the instructions: I see most people did this, so I do it, too. I cannot hear everyone, but I catch a few of the intentions set by the others.
The Statue’s intention is one I have heard several times and one I have said as well, the open intention to whatever Ayahuasca wants to teach, “I am here to receive what I need”. My theory for this intention comes from a person who has tried psychedelic experimentation with a specific intention and that intention was ignored, refused, and replaced.
There are several reasons why Ayahuasca and other medicines may not “work” sometimes for some people. Perhaps they didn’t surrender their ego, they didn’t follow the diet, the medicine wasn’t strong enough, they were not mentally or emotionally ready to receive their intention.
We ask for enlightenment before we have healed, cleansed, or done what it takes. We request for the highest reaches of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs before we have obtained a healthy foundation. We intent fearlessly, “Bring me through my death!” before we comprehend or can handle the toll that may take on our psyche.
Perhaps Ayahuasca, (or our subconscious when under the influence of the plants), doesn’t grant us our request because we aren’t ready yet. My ego doesn’t want to believe this as I arrogantly think, “I can handle anything!” So, we go back the next time with the same request and leave with unfulfilled intentions. And, in my theory, there comes a time, the third or fourth Ayahuasca attempt, we give up and surrender: we come with no intention of our own. “Whatever you, Mother Aya, want to teach me, I am open to learn”.
And with this shift in expectations, Ayahuasca (which was working with each session whether we could recognize body work or not) will show us the power of the plants. It is my guess that The Statue has reached this point, by surrendering his own intentions to those of Ayahuasca. I look forward to hearing tomorrow morning what he received during the night. I also believe, with some data to support, that after this little hill of ego is surpassed and we know more fully the depth behind our requests, we can continue again with personal intention.
I rethink about my first intention: “Show me my worst! Drag me through the mud. If it hurts, it hurts. I can take it!” and I am humbled. At the time when this was my intention, I only knew the tip of my personal iceberg. And now that I have sunk, just slightly below the surface and acknowledge the depths of our complicated existence, I wait for the right set and setting to ask this question again. I believe my worst is humanity’s worst. If we are all one, then everyone’s worst is my own. And to know experientially as opposed to in theory that we are all one, good and bad, the bad can be terrifying, even in the open-hearted comfort of the medicine. Ayahuasca has a way of pushing a person off a cliff….will be there with a soft catch at the bottom, but the fall was still a challenge. The soft catch in this case is also knowing, everyone’s best is also my best.
The Comedian has lost his way and is looking for purpose. He would like direction in his life. One that will provide meaning. The Medium states his intention with confidence, “I want to see my past lives”. I quickly glance at Hecka’s face to see if I can read his thoughts. I wonder if there is pressure on a shaman when people expect to have a strong experience, to have profound visions, and that their intention is met with clarity. And does this pressure increase with certain intentions.
Some humans get expectation anxiety over hosting dinner for friends, I couldn’t imagine having a position to provide experiences where people hope to see their past lives, speak with their ancestors, get over their fear of death, know their future direction…all in one night! Hecka doesn’t look fazed; he nods like he always nods, smiles like he always smiles, and moves on with his service.
Smiles intention is to be the absolute best version of himself and to push himself further than his wildest expectations. He wants to continue to grow and let life take him where he is needed. The Mom intents on meeting God and asking a few questions. We have gone around the circle. Everyone has drunk their first cup. Some people are seated at the edge of their mat, the others are lying down with their feet toward the fire. The space holders sit on logs with their intention to be of service to all. The firekeeper kneels low blowing oxygen into the blue of the flames to embolden the fire to blaze higher. The translator cannot be seen as he sits in the dark behind Hecka, who is sitting calmly in his chair. We sit in complete silence for a long time.
The rain begins to pour. It is a torrential pour, reminding us all we are in a tropical jungle and a tropical storm has arrived. Buckets of water are falling in the door of the Usure and the perfectly designed trench is keeping the place from flooding. It seems like a miracle that the ceiling holds and we all can stay, not only dry, but also warm. We truly are in a special place. Hecka softly breaks the human silence over the roar of the weather, inviting anyone who wishes to receive another cup.
After everyone drinks again, Hecka starts playing music with the help of his translator.
Everyone is at the edge of their mats listening. Listening to vomit-inducing music. The Blesser begins to purge in her bucket placed at the front of her mat. The Statue turns around, gets on his hands and knees and purges. The Medium turns to his side and purges. We are listening to the beautiful songs of Hecka’s tribe mixed in with traditional plant medicine music. The songs’ tempos range from fast to slow, loud songs and soft songs, heavy drumming and light. People are in different stages of their journey all listening to the music…and purging.
I have heard a lot of vomiting in my lifetime (thank you Texas A&M University) but you have never really heard someone purge until you hear an Ayahuasca purge. Even a Kambo purge which lasts much longer doesn’t vibrate the being like Aya. It sounds as if something deep from within needs to get out, to be released, to let go of forever, never to return again. A woman teetering with her carnivorous diet lamenting back and forth between eating meat or not later recounts, “I’ve ‘thrown up every piece of meat I have eaten in my lifetime”, “then I threw up all the meat my parents have ever eaten and then my grandparents”, “I know from the core of my being that I cannot eat meat anymore”.
I have heard orgasmic purges and monster releasing purges. I believe Ayahuasca literally cleanses the body and spiritually cleanses the soul. What no longer serves a person is released and we become clean.
The Blesser struggles with each medicine. The rapé causes her to whimper. The sananga causes her to cry in pain. The Ayahuasca forces her to vomit. She didn’t hold down the first cup and the second is causing her the same problems. I can read the disappointment on her face and want to tell her it’s okay. I watch her blame her body for not keeping in the medicine. I see her frustrated with the idea if she can’t hold it down, it will be a waste. I want to tell her, it’s okay, don’t worry. I feel her struggle and want to verbally reassure her.
A joke definition of a space holder could be ‘a person who watches a friend in pain and, with a seemingly compassionate look on their face, does nothing about it.’ From the outside, it may appear that way. Because we don’t know the journey that an individual may be going through, we don’t talk to the participants unless they talk to us. We don’t offer hugs when they cry nor touch them in any way unless they ask for help getting up or walking to the bathroom. We are there for emergencies, limited help only when requested, and we silently send strength or love or compassion. I want to comfort her, tell her it’s okay, rub her back as she vomits. But I don’t.
I remember the big picture and smile, a simple smile acknowledging her struggle. It sounds sadistic, I just know intellectually and experientially that through pain is growth, through struggle is strength. I can tell she is going to physically struggle tonight but through that exhausting fight, she will come out the other side stronger. And she did. She did! This woman is incredible. Throughout the night of tears, she goes through personal disappointment, shatters expectations, and she rises above. She accepts and listens for lessons outside of her personal intention.
She has a conversation with the plants, “Okay, I understand sometimes it is not what I thought it was going to be. I will accept. I will surrender. I am open to any lessons you want to share. I am listening”. This surrender happens as she is sitting in the outdoor bathroom purging in every way, with a toilet paper roll that is soaking wet. She is at her lowest point dreading the idea that she won’t get clean and will have to ride out the rest of the night in this state. She calls out to me in desperation, “The toilet paper is wet and I puked on the floor”. It looks so pathetic; I almost want to laugh aloud but only because I know it is not as bad as it seems. It’s a wonderful scene of a woman about to flip the switch. I show her where the dry rolls of paper are located. Her biggest problem is solved. Now for the rest of them.
On our return to the Usure, I get a little jammed up, clenching my teeth after the word “ouch” accidentally escapes my lips. The Blesser asks if I am okay. She is rising above her experience and directs empathy my way. Because her response is so natural to the caring person she is, she didn’t quite recognize her strength to care for others during her own desperate time.
Synchronistically, this is the moment in the night where I have to purge. I ignorantly try to hold it until I return. The Blesser back to her mat but there is no way. I rush three steps to the side and vomit behind a tree. I look over and The Blesser has stopped to wait for me with her hands on her knees, spitting on the ground. She asks sweetly over her own turmoil, “Are you okay?” The tables turn and this woman who struggled to stand now holds space for me.
With more stability, I later walk The Warrior Goddess to the bathroom and she oddly is taking steps behind me, not next to me where I am shining the light for her. She steps where I am stepping, following me the entire way. I move my light behind my feet and laugh to myself at any idea that this woman should follow anyone, literally or metaphorically. She is a leader. Not because she is a foot taller than me nor because she is built like a tank, a curvy, beautiful tank. She is a leader because she holds the inner strength of a powerful human. Her subconscious already knows it and her conscious is going to catch up tonight that she does not need to follow anyone. She is going to lead people.
So many comforts are let go of that night, from the desire to have clean feet while lying in our blankets to vomiting and hocking loogies in front of other people to uncontrollable crying. I take back the word uncontrollable but leave it to make the point: at no time was anyone without control, besides the vomiting.
While each person has new visions, new thoughts and perspectives about the world and their place in it, everyone’s mind was clear and very aware of their actions and the actions of everyone else in the Usure. It is not like other common substances such as alcohol where the mind slows down, gets sloppy, and forgets portions of the night. Nor is like other drugs that speed up the mind so much that a coherent thought nor expression are possible.
Under Ayahuasca, the mind is clear and the lessons are remembered. A person can choose to be very aware of themselves and their surroundings and be in control the entire time. Or a person can let go of their ego, surrender to the medicine, and cry when they want to cry.
Tears of joy, tears of compassion, tears of sorrow, and tears of pain. We heard them all. We felt them all. Our hearts open with each tear we shed for ourselves and each tear we heard from a fellow friend in the circle. The tears of pain are when everyone perks up from their own journey and hold space for the person going through a difficult time, reliving and releasing what may be the worst experience of their life.
The Warrior Goddess began to sob. A sob that tore through us to the core. I became fully aware that any problem or challenge I have in life is miniscule to the pain I hear coming from this woman. A perspective I still feel today. Already sitting up, I shift my body towards her and, whether I believe this works or not, I send her all my love and all my strength to face what is going through her soul.
One person at a time, I see each participant sit up and turn their body towards her. Even The Blesser, still struggling with the medicine, drags her body upright to share support. They are doing the same thing I am, being present in any way that we can for a fellow human being, a fellow friend.
At first my heart was breaking for The Warrior but then I remembered, that is what she is here for: to heal, to go through this, to face it, to fight it if that is what is required, to accept it if that is what is required, to forgive it if that is what is required. Sympathy turned to empathy. Wanting her pain to stop turned to pride that she is facing this pain. Present concern turned to future happiness for her growth.
“Amor,” an angelic sound radiates throughout the Usure and I look up to the cosmic ceiling, then out to the expanding door, then to Terra realizing she is singing from her soul to give support to The Warrior. As the singing, “Amor” gets louder, the crying gets louder. Many of us are shedding a tear in empathy. A type of empathy I believe is a tool that Ayahuasca gives in a way I have never seen or felt before.
The Warrior yells, “Stop It!” The scream tears through the Usure and the fire appears to whip around from being slapped with this sudden noise. Our hearts are aching and tears roll down our cheeks for this woman not knowing who or what she is pleading with to stop.
“Amor, Amor”, over and over this song rings through our souls. The Warrior yells again through her sobs but with such strength, “Stop it!” “Amor, Amor”. Time seems irrelevant. The Warrior stops crying. She straightens her back into a warrior position. She ‘dusts off her hands’ in such a way as to say, “I am now done with you, this is over and I will no longer allow you to occupy space in my mind, body or soul”. I don’t know if this is what she was thinking, she never told us. But this is what it looks like. She turns her body back facing the group, eyes closed, back straight in a profound meditation pose. She radiates with the control she has taken back in her life.
Another collective breath is released. People return to their own lessons provided by Ayahuasca and their willingness to release and be present. I believe returning to their journey with a new perspective of oneness with each other and with humanity.
To be continued…….. https://thecostaricanews.com/ayahuasca-part-4/