Art by Alexander Segregio
Art by Alexander Segregio

This is part two of this series describing my Ayahuasca journey in Peru!

This post is describing my second ceremony, which was the 2nd of three over a five day period.

(Warning!! SUPER long post here! Twice as long as last week!)

If you haven’t already, read the following posts first to get caught up on the story:

The Morning After

After an awful time with the first night, I was of course exhausted and tired, and there was still a bit of a negative haze over me… but after a bit of food and a nap I felt revived. The negativity was gone, the lessons were clear.

Bring on night two!

The days at the retreat were basically spent relaxing, meditating, doing yoga, going for walks in the countryside, and for reflection. I spent most of it writing in my journal so I could remember every detail for later.

Ayahuasca crew going for a walk in the Sacred Valley countryside
Ayahuasca crew going for a walk in the Sacred Valley countryside

When it was time to head to the hut again to drink the ayahuasca brew, I got very very nervous. But I was as ready as I’d ever be. I almost even thought that I wanted to have a little bit more tonight.

They often say that if you have one bad night, often the other two will be better. Or vice versa.

And last night was so bad, surely it couldn’t be worse, right? I did my purging already.

So I wanted to get a bit deeper; perhaps get the visions that Luke had but I didn’t. Maybe I just didn’t have enough last night?

Oh Tracy… Welcome to the Worst Night Ever

Ohhhhhhhhh wow. If I thought the night before was bad, I really didn’t know what I was in for.

This was by far the most intense, terrifying, and undeniably difficult night of my entire life. I was completely ripped to shreds. So. utterly. traumatic. I didn’t even know something like this was possible.

By the time it was done and we were heading back to our rooms, I was literally whimpering like a sick puppy.

As I drank the brown sludge for the second time (I foolishly asked for a bigger dose), I tried to be positive, thank it, tell it I trusted it.

I repeated my intention for the evening over and over: “show me what unconditional love means”.

I tried to be calm as I waited. Surely an intention about love is bound to give me an easier night than an intention about purging, amiright??

lolz.

Good Luck, Lil Darling…

When it came on, I purged into my puke bucket, and suddenly things got REALLY intense. Like far more intense than the night before. Like you’re lost in an insane hallucinogenic sea with no life raft kind of intense.

lost in an hallucinogenic sea
I was this guy, but worse

Still no actual visions though.

But either way, I immediately started feeling really, really, really bad again. So bad. So so so so bad. Just horrifyingly bad. Like ten times worse than the night before, or anything I’d ever felt in my life, for that matter.

And I wanted anything…. ANYTHING to run away from all those feelings. To make them end. Pllleeeeease make them end. The worst torture was that I knew I couldn’t really do anything to make them go away.

All my worst fears were flying at me with extreme emotional intensity…

I came to see that the things that scare me more than anything deep down inside are situations that don’t feel good to me, and I can’t do anything to control them. Much like what was happening to me right then.

In the less extreme examples of these fears, it’s just being stuck in a really boring or aggravating situation that I can’t leave or control.

The most extreme (and therefore most terrifying) examples of these fears are situations like getting terminally ill, critically injured, maimed, disfigured, living with chronic pain; or any of these things happening to Luke, or my parents, or close friends.

Or dying. ME dying. I didn’t realize how afraid I was of death.

I’m a Control Freak!

I was shown is that what it all boils down to is this:

I am 100% not okay with feeling bad, or uncomfortable in any way. I don’t want anything to be particularly hard, or even inconvenient. I want everything to feel good, exciting and fun. If something’s hard, I want near immediate gratification for it.

I’m an idealist. I want life to be and feel as good as it can. I also want life to feel as good as it can feel for those around me.

I have very specific ideas about what my ideal life is and feels like; I often have very clear visions in my mind of how I want things to be or go… down to pretty specific details sometimes.

And I’m willing to take action on that.

In many ways, I think this is a good thing, and I’ve always kind of thought of it that way.

I take life by the horns. I create my own reality. I work towards making my own dreams come true. I’m not ever going to be someone who tolerates sitting by the wayside watching life pass me by, wondering where it went.

And I also care about how others around me feel… I really want them to have a good and enjoyable and comfortable life too. Hence helping people with acne via The Love Vitamin. I’d definitely say I’m a caring person. And I am extremely empathetic.

So yes, there are positives, but now I was being shown the dark side of this… the other side of the coin…

And it’s that I can be downright selfish and controlling in order to make sure I can craft and maintain my perfect feel good reality for myself.

I like to get what I want. I want to get my way. And I HATE having decisions made for me.

And so I can quickly get resentful, or even angry, when I am not in control – when someone or something “makes” me feel bad, or “makes” me do something I don’t want to do, or throws some kind of wrench in my vision or expectations.

I might seem “chill” if I don’t really care one way or another about something (which I often don’t), but if I do, and I have that vision… and I can’t do something to get it… it eats me up and drives me crazy…

Yeah. Okay. I’ll say it for what it is… I’m a control freak.

However, I’m much more of a closet control freak than an outward one.

I don’t think most people, including good friends, would realize that. I don’t think that anyone aside from Luke really knows the extent of it (after all, sharing a life with someone tends to bring out the control freak in people!)

I know I can’t control most people or situations, so my way of controlling them is simply avoiding, withdrawing from them, or just refusing to think about them if they don’t feel good.

When I really thought about it, I realized there were about a million little ways that I try to control my world to make it feel good and avoid potential pain and suffering. It’s an entire theme in my life.

And that’s right up to the big things – like not being sure I wouldn’t want to run away if something awful happened to Luke that made me feel trapped and scared… right down to being annoyed when he cooks something differently than me, because I know I could have made it taste better.

Yep. I sound like a terrible person right now.

But if there’s one thing ayahuasca doesn’t let you do, is get away with your own bullshit… so here it is, all on the table!

Thing Is… I’m Pretty Good at This Perfect Reality Stuff… Most of the Time…

Thing is… for the most part, I’m actually really great at this “making my world feel good” thing. I do a good job of moulding it to how I want, fixing and preventing problems, and avoiding pain.

As a result, I feel very good most of the time, because things tend to go my way. Of course it’s easy to feel good when everything’s going well!

But you know what really helps with feeling good and comfortable and having things go your way?

It’s not just my magic controlling hands.

Oh no, it’s also a heck of a lot of sheer luck and privilege.

Ayahuasca was really driving this point home:

I am EXTREMELY privileged. And EXTREMELY lucky.

Aside from had I been born a man, I’ve been born into a pretty damn optimal life situation.

On the privilege side, I’m white, young, middle class, heterosexual, healthy, able-bodied. I have time and freedom. Parents who love me, a respectful husband who loves me (and is super go with the flow, therefore well tolerating of my control freak side), amazing business, great friends, great dogs. I consider myself intelligent and well liked. I was born in a safe, developed part of the world, full of natural beauty. I have never gone hungry.

And on the luck side of bad things that still happen to us young middle class white people… well, I have simply been very lucky that I or anyone I am close to has yet to befall any terrible tragedy, abuse, awful illness, death or otherwise. I have never had my heart seriously broken. I’ve barely even broken a bone!

Of course all this immense luck and privilege makes it that much easier to feel good than for those who have not been so lucky.

And I KNOW IT!

I KNOW 100% that I have it so friggin’ GOOD!! So much of the world does not have it this good. I don’t deserve it more than anyone else, but it’s just how the cards got played.

And I am utterly attached to all of it.

I was always aware of and grateful for my blessings, but now I see that that gratefulness was actually just attachment.

I have it easy, and I have it good, I damn well know it, and I am downright terrified of something coming along to change it and lead to my own pain or suffering or even just inconvenience or general uncomfortableness.

It’s not like worrying about this stuff keeps me awake at night (normally this isn’t really stuff I actively think about), but it does subconsciously lead to my controlling behaviours, and to having a really rough time when things don’t go well.

I simply can’t accept it when shit goes bad.

I mean, sure, I have had some difficult times in my life, but it’s never been that big of a problem, because I always knew that I could rely on myself… my drive to fix things… to either fix it, run away, or just let it pass…

It’s not that hard to let the tough things pass…. that is, if you know that it will only last so long, and afterwards, you can just get right back to feeling good.

If it’s something that isn’t just going away any time soon… well…. that freaks me out big time.

The Acne Tested My Limits…

The worst thing that has happened to me by far was the whole severe acne thing.

People who haven’t had skin problems often don’t get it and may think that sounds vain, but if you have, then you understand the feelings of deep despair, anxiety, paranoia, and worthlessness that comes along with this.

Um, yeah. This was hard.
Um, yeah. This was hard.

And the thing was that there was never really any true acceptance of the situation.

I knew that I could use my own will power to change my lifestyle and eventually make it go away, but in the meantime, until it went away, it was absolutely torturous.

I couldn’t wait to go back to having everything be the way it was before, back when things were easy and going my way. Back when I felt good.

I very much tried my best to do things I loved while I was going through it, and not let acne stop me from living.

But it still did.

I felt like I couldn’t fully live and be happy until it went away. The resistance to this ‘lesser’ reality was beyond strong.

But what if I couldn’t just make it go away?

What if I had to live with a face full of severe acne for the rest of my life and there was simply nothing I could do about it?

How could I possibly live with that and also be happy?

The sheer idea of it is simply something I can’t seem to really accept.

How could I be in pain or have a terrible illness or just any extremely unpleasant situation, and just have to live with it? And then somehow learn to still be grateful and find joy in living, even though I feel so damn bad at the same time?

This concept is so foreign to me… I just don’t understand how to do it.

This recent relationship issue I had (which you can read about here) showed me that when I’m stressed or things aren’t going well, I simply don’t function.

I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate.

If I don’t learn to accept my situation and manage my negative feelings and still find a way to function when things go wrong, how could I possibly deal when something really bad happens that I can’t make go away?

I will literally waste away from not eating or sleeping, and I could easily see myself quickly falling into a deep depression.

I mean, I have to figure this out, because my perfect lucky little life can’t go on forever. Even if nothing truly horrific ever happens, at the very least, Luke and I are still going to age.

We won’t be young forever, we’ll be victims of ageism, our bodies will start deteriorating. We’ll get aches and pains and wrinkles.

Our dogs will die. Our parents will die. Our friends will die.

Luke will likely die before me (because men usually do) and I’ll have to mourn and potentially be very lonely.

These things are inevitable.

So this is something I need to figure out how to deal with before I’m forced into it and I simply can’t deal.

It Keeps Coming…

Anyway… the first part of the evening was just so incredibly intense and overwhelming. The negative emotions and fears and uncomfortable, deep scary shit was SO strong. I wanted to get away so, so bad.

I squirmed and fidgeted and writhed around like an insane person. And when a wave of awfulness came that was absolutely intolerable, I would sit up and puke from the depths of my soul. Or just make an awful, horrific retching noise.

I realized that the fidgeting and squirming was just a way to distract myself from the pain, and after a while too, I realized that the puking was becoming not just a positive purging thing…

It was also becoming a way for me to distract myself from the feelings… to throw them out, get them out of me… ANYTHING to not feel them anymore.

But I Knew the Answer

I instinctively knew the answer on what I needed to do. I needed to accept the possible realities of my fears.

Accept that I may, at some point, need to live in pain… and accept that one day I will die. This is reality. Bad stuff happens. It is life, and I am not immune to it, as much as I so badly want to be.

I knew that I needed to feel the pain fully, explore it, and let it be there. And remember that hard feelings… well, they are unpleasant, but they won’t kill you.

So don’t run from it. Just sit with it. The more you resist, the harder it is.

When the fear and anxiety gets intense, bring it back to your breath… to your centre. Accept that you don’t feel good right now… and stop fighting it.

Just Let Go
Just let go…

Like if you were paddling as hard as you could upstream against a current, and then suddenly you just let go and go with the flow…. stop resisting, accept it for what it is, and ride it out…

Finally, I also knew that I needed to surrender to the higher power. The spirit inside of me. God, source energy, the universe, the light in all of us, whatever you want to call it.

I knew that I needed to fully trust that I would be taken care of.

Stop fighting.

Just let go. And trust.

I knew that was the answer.

Except… I just couldn’t do it.

Sounds so easy on paper, doesn’t it?

I Just Couldn’t Do It!

I tried to explore what truly, actually accepting a painful situation would look like, and I just couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t imagine really truly accepting anything less than exactly what I want my life to be like. And of course, the more intense and painful the situation, the less I could imagine accepting it.

Next, I tried to stop squirming and puking and just sit with all the unpleasantness, which I could do for about a second before it got way too overwhelming.

And I tried not to comfort myself with the fact that as horrible as this is, in a few hours it will all be over and I can go back to my normal life and just forget about all this.

Because I knew that wasn’t what this was about… if something bad happens, I it won’t be over in a few hours.

I won’t be able to comfort myself that way.

I will have to just be with it. Live with it. I’ll have no choice.

I also tried to explore and let myself go deeper into the big scary ideas… the idea of me dying, my parents dying, Luke dying, a close friend dying, or any of us getting really ill, disabled, or disfigured.

But again, I couldn’t do it. It was so terrifying, I just pulled away every time I tried to mentally explore it.

And Inner Self? The Universe? Source Energy? What IS that??

I also realized that I don’t have any trust in anything beyond my physical body, my identity, and my privilege. And my ability to use those things to change things to what I consider to feel “okay”.

I saw that the concept of my own spirit, God, the universe, source, or whatever is actually so foreign and unknown to me… and that it actually was completely terrifying to me, as opposed to comforting.

My “inner light”… I just don’t understand it. And I never have. I don’t understand how to “feel” it, or have a “relationship” with it.

And therefore it feels boring and not worth my time, since I can usually rely on my physical being and mind to muscle my way towards what I want.

Inner light

It’s just that … how can I put my full trust into something that feels so unknown? So confusing? So lonely?

This feeling of foreignness… being unfamiliar with spirit, is why I’ve never felt comfortable being alone.

I mean, truly alone.

I never would have thought that about myself, because I actually LOVE being alone… but not without distraction. The internet being my absolutely favourite distraction.

I’ve spent plenty of time dabbling with meditation, but I must confess that I really don’t like it. Beyond five minutes, it feels incredibly difficult and boring to me. Because I just don’t really get it. Sitting down to meditate is the LAST thing I ever want to do in my day to day life.

I totally understand the relaxation side of it, and the ‘watching your thoughts’ stuff, but the ‘connecting with your inner spirit’ thing… I just don’t know.

I’ve always felt like I’ve had a bit of a spiritual block. I understand all these theories of source and spirit and God in theory, but never in practice.

They say that when you truly connect with and trust your spirit, it feels infinitely powerful, comforting, and beautiful… like infinite love. Being wrapped in a warm, loving blanket.

But I was feeling anything but infinite love in that moment, and putting my trust in spirit and letting go into whatever that is, felt incredibly scary.

I was afraid of the power of it, if I really looked at it. If I knew I had that kind of powerful force inside of me, what would I do with it?

Just Surrender, Tracy…

So, basically, every once in a while, I’d take a great big deep breath and try to relax my entire body and imagine surrendering. Letting go and falling into the loving arms of the higher power…

And that would feel good for about a second, but then I’d get scared and pull out. I was just too afraid of the unknown. Since I don’t know or understand it, allowing myself to let go into it felt like I was dying.

Not literally dying, but it’s like… if I let all my fears and my identity leave me …. what am I? What is this? My physical identity is all I know.

Won’t I be lonely if I let go? If I let go and become spirit?

Yes, the spirit in me is supposed to be the same spirit that’s in you, and everything. So how could I be lonely then?

It was just so hard to imagine trusting and letting go to something that you have no real idea about. That you haven’t experienced. How do I know I can really trust it?

If I let go, I fear something bad will happen to me, because I only trust my physical body and my mind to change, fix, or do. It’s all I know.

Even the ayahuasca… all the advice is “trust it and surrender to it”, but I was having a very hard time feeling like I could possibly trust something that was making me feel THIS bad.

Yet I instinctively knew that trust and surrender were the answers.

90% of the world doesn’t live an easy life like mine. Most live every day with pain and illness and struggle and boredom. How do they get by?

Well, they surrender to God, that’s how.

Aha! So that’s why religion is so popular.

But yeah… anyway… I just felt like there was this huge block there. Like literally some kind of energetic block that was stopping me from exploring that higher power and seeing that infinite love, and therefore making me too scared to really give in.

And What About The Unconditional Love?

So yes. This was the basis for the night. Feeling worse than I’ve felt in my life, wanting to run and escape, trying hard to accept, sit with the emotions, surrender, and feel grateful…

But ultimately failing.

And what did this all have to do with my original intention of ‘show me unconditional love’?

Well, I have to admit, when I set that intention, I was hoping for an easier night.. to feel the love of the universe like Luke did the night before.

But it gave me a slap with reality instead…. it showed me that unconditional love isn’t the lovely happy feelings.

It’s being there for someone through the hard times, sticking with it, even when it feels awful… when it feels boring, difficult, thankless, or scary.

Like looking after a sick spouse or your elderly parents, or still feeding your kids even though they tell you they hate you or stole your credit card and wracked up thousands of dollars in calls to 1-900 numbers.

It means that it’s okay to feel bad or uncomfortable sometimes, if it’s in the name of love, or just being a good person.

And the only way you can get through these tough things it is to trust. To accept the situation as it is, and trust that it’ll all work out ok in the end.

Hit by a Dump Truck

After the ceremony ended, I went to my room. Luke came in and I tried to explain. I felt like I had been hit by a truck, pummeled beyond anything…

And despite there being a heck of a lot of understanding, there was no peace. No resolution. No being put back together.

I remember making this whimpering noise that didn’t sound like me… an expression of complete exhaustion and suffering.

And when he left, I purged my guts out… vomiting like demons were coming out of me. Luke said he could hear me retching from two floors up.

After that, the ayahuasca kept going for hours and hours… I was just forcing myself to try and be still and sit with the pain, trying to surrender, trying to avoid getting up to purge, instead sitting with the nausea until it passed.

It was so, so, so difficult, and I could only stay with it for a few minutes at a time… I was not overly successful, but it was something.

It was a glimpse into what I needed to do, I just needed to prolong it… and really trust it and let go.

Wow.

What an insane night.

(Stay tuned for part 3 next week, I promise it will be shorter!)