I have read enough about enlightenment and dissolution of ego to be interested in it, to have the desire to know it, to be curious enough to find ways to seek it. My understanding has been intellectual and so when I read the accounts of people who have experienced taking ayahuasca, I thought it might give me the experiential understanding I lack. I never intend to rely on plant medicine alone, but I do want a "head start", just to catch a glimpse of what is ahead.
I joined an Ayahuasca Ceremony that included sangana eye drops, snuff rapé, kambo vaccine (which I skipped because it is not vegan), and ayahuasca. The eye drops were painful but lasted only a few seconds. I didn't really notice any significant immediate benefits. The rapé is this powder the shaman blows through your nose, and you keep it there by breathing through your mouth. It gave me an instant hit, I was fully awake and alert in seconds, with a jolt of clarity, and though it was accompanied by discomfort at first, it was followed by tingling from my shoulders all the way to my fingertips, after which I started to feel propelled by an energy to sway and move my upper body. It felt as though I wasn't moving, but that an energy was moving me.
Now to the main event. We were told to set a clear intention about what we want to get from the ayahuasca journey. I set my intention to experiencing that I am whole, that I am complete, that I am loved, that I am free. I drank the ayahuasca. I must have purged way too early, because nothing happened. As other people around me started to go on their journeys, obvious by their monologues or deep sighs and cries, I felt nothing. I called the attention of one of the volunteers, and I was eventually given a second cup of ayahuasca, and given further instructions not to purge for at least one hour. This time, I changed my intention. I want to be enlightened. I want to feel the oneness of being. Then it started.
I closed my eyes and saw visuals at first, like fractals, random shapes and patterns and colors that I've never seen before. Then I saw Ganesh in encrusted gold outline across the sky, part like constellation, part like Chinese paper theater. How interesting, I thought, for Ganesh the remover of obstacles, to appear. I saw Marcin next, and I got in touch with the part of me that I have not been giving that much attention to in my day-to-day life, that is how dearly I love him and how much I miss him. I missed him so much it hurts, that I started to cry, and in that crying it felt like too much, and it was then that I purged from the second cup of ayahuasca. Acknowledging the love that I feel so deeply for him, I let him go. I know he is going to be fine and he can take care of himself, so I let him go.
I began to feel separated from my body, as if going into outer space, no longer feeling where I end. But that moment was too brief, and just like that I was weighed down by the heaviness of this physical body. My hands on top of my abdomen felt like chains. I felt trapped. I kept shifting my position to no avail, the body is still heavy. I remember blurting out loud, "I am sick of this body". It felt like a burden to carry this body, and I thought of Albert Camus and his question of existence. I wondered if I were suicidal. I would not kill myself. But I have no desire to prolong this life or hold on to it as it seems others do. I also questioned why it is that I teach mostly asana. Isn't it ironic to think of this body as weight to carry around, all the while teaching how to move this body? Perhaps it is ironic, or perhaps it is exactly what makes sense. At one point, I saw my soul/consciousness float up into space again. I could be free, I thought. I am so close. This is it. But just as quickly, I felt that weight again. What is stopping me from letting this body go? What is stopping me from releasing this life? What is stopping me from enlightenment? Then I felt the pain of collective animal suffering, and I couldn't ignore it, and I couldn't let it go.
Time seemed to drag on as I cried for the suffering of all animals, as I felt the anger directed towards those who don't care. I felt the pain of the pig who was slaughtered, the pig whose ear one of the volunteers showed me in the afternoon before the ceremony started. Not knowing I was vegan, she asked me if "the cut was okay". During the journey, I felt the pain of that one animal as I felt the pain of many. And it is then that I understood that life after life, I will keep coming back here, bound to this Earthly existence, because I cannot let go of this pain, because I cannot leave the animals alone in their suffering. I felt desolate, because as much as I say I want to be free, I cannot do it. I keep looking for ways to be free, to seek the inner world that is the consciousness, and yet my path is already carved out, exactly where I am, in the path of enlightenment through compassion for all beings. I cannot be free by leaving others behind. As long as others are not free, I cannot be free. That will be the work of my soul, life after life after life after life.
The ayahuasca journey didn't offer me anything I do not know yet, but it gave me the experience of understanding from a place of clarity. It didn't give me answers to blind spots I have, as I had hoped it would. Instead, it told me that the work is not out there, it is in here.
The day before was full of heaviness and suffering, and to counter that I set my intention for ayahuasca to show me love, to show me light, and to show me hope in the world. I've heard people seeing flashbacks played before them, and perhaps this was what I thought would happen.
Upon taking ayahuasca, I held it down for as long as I could, my estimate about 30 minutes before I purged, and laid down to close my eyes, thinking the visions would come soon enough. This time, it started with a bright white light. Quan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion, appeared with her hundreds or thousands of arms and hands, circling around her body. I felt my breath becoming more expansive, so much that I have to inhale everything in deeply, and exhale the air out in gasps. I had to deliberately breathe to make sure I am not holding the air in. Then I felt the energy moving through me in a way I have never in my life experienced before. It started with my right hand swaying, and was followed very quickly with trance-like dance movements where I just felt the energy leading the actions, hands and arms and head and upper body moving in accordance to how the energy moves them. There was nothing for me to do but observe. The body felt graceful, and flowing, and most of all light. I kept reaching my arms up to the sky, and I felt, as my teacher David Life must have said, that this body is an antenna to tune in to the Divine. After the trance, the body collapsed into the floor. I was in awe of everything that was happening. And as the movements continued when I lay down, this time smaller movements, I felt an initial tingling, trembling, then the energy shot up along the spine, the kundalini rising. I was conscious of thinking, this is it, it's not something someone made up after all. It's not the collective lie that my cynical mind suspected. There I was, experiencing it for myself. When that was over, I felt the subtle energy in the form of vibrations. The body wasn't made up of anything solid anymore. It was just pulsating vibrations through and through. It was intense, like the sensations I felt during Vipassana meditation but a thousand times more. I was filled with so much gratitude for having this body. In as much as it felt heavy and a burden the day before, today it felt like a gift with its lightness and range of movement. Ayahuasca showed me what I needed to see, not what I expected or conditioned my mind to. I experienced my energy body, and that is the lightness. Within me is the frequency of vibrating energy. All of us, all of us bound to the Earth, we are just frequencies after all; and therein lies our lightness. And in the two ayahuasca sessions I experienced thus far, there is the union of opposites: heaviness and lightness, suffering and ecstasy.