Taking a Trip with a Capital T in October…


Something I haven’t been talking about much but has been on my mind quite a lot over the past year. Plant based medicines. Specifically, ayahuasca, mushrooms, that sort of thing.

I’ve had some very interesting conversations with folks about how experiences with these plants have transformed their understanding of themselves, consciousness, etc. And after a friend of a friend of a friend hooked me up with an offer to join an ayahuasca ceremony in October, well…I decided it was worth a try.

You may have heard of ayahuasca at this point; it’s becoming increasingly big business in Latin America as cash-flush, stressed out millennials flock to Peru, Brazil, and Costa Rica for retreats ranging from $40 a night on up to $500. Ayahuasca (from the Peruvian Quechua word with the same pronunciation), is a noxious brew combining two Amazonian plants, Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis.

What’s interesting about the ayahuasca brew is that each plant is not as potent individually. Psychotria virdis does contain DMT but it’s not orally active. Banisteriopsis contains a MAO-inhibitor that allows orally ingested DMT to avoid being broken down by the stomach, giving you a rocket-fueled DMT experience.

I have to admit, I’ve been on the fence about the whole thing. My drug experiences have ranged from intriguing to disappointing but never spiritual. But so much of what I’m hearing about both DMT and aya seem to suggest the possibility for rapid transformation, or at least understanding of oneself on a deep, deep level, which leads to right action.

There’s a ton of reports, Youtube videos, TED talks, and random opinions out there, all of which should be taken with a heaping tablespoon of salt. Still, I particularly enjoyed this one as a grounded yet encouraging report.

The Brutal Mirror: What the psychedelic drug ayahuasca showed me about my life.

People talk about it like a spiritual mother. “Mother ayahuasca,” “la abuela,” that sort of thing. I’m agnostic but open to the idea, and I’m hoping la abuela will show me some things that I’m either hiding from or simply don’t understand over the 4-day retreat.

10 years ago, my physical energy flowered during my first time at Vimutti Buddhist Monastery. But with it came a nightmare host of anxiety, depression, fear, and other elements that I’d never realized were there. While they’ve taught me compassion, letting go, empathy, and intelligence, I also recognize the need to move through these emotional patterns. My hope is that the ayahuasca retreat will help me see how to hold these patterns.

That happens next month. One of my friends reports witnessing puking, staining of pants, and other less than spiritual experiences. Or rather, extremely spiritual: purges are seen as cleansing of the body from negative energies. “La Abuela” is tough medicine!

Maybe I’ll get to take some pictures; I’d love to capture it from a documentary angle but I also want to be immersed in the experience…Sometimes using a camera can separate one from an experience. We’ll see if I’m allowed to photograph or not and whether I even want to. Maybe the jaguar gods are camera shy.

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8 comments

  1. I’ve been curious about ayahuasca for a few years, researching slowly, intrigued but hesitant. Looking forward to your story — and your photographs, if that happens.

    • Hi Gary! I think taking it slowly is for the best while moderating one’s expectations. I can’t imagine there’s much I’ll be able to control, including how little or how much I get out of the experience. Some folks say that they’ll get blown out of their socks one day and take even more the next with no effect whatsoever while the person next to them is sobbing in relief. Last time I was in CDMX I went to a rape ceremony and that was pretty much me. I sat there with a burning nose feeling vaguely irritated while the woman who invited me was sobbing through repressed material that came up. Strange stuff…

  2. While I too look forward to your story I am mystified why anyone would take ayahuasca and be violently ill when they can smoke DMT crystals or ingest magic mushrooms. I have never understood why St John of the Cross needed a dark night of the soul.

    • HI Anthony! Good question. Aya experiences seem to be not only far more unpleasant but significantly more expensive as well. So why bother, indeed?

      My reasoning is that from what I’ve researched, aya tends to be a far more healing and deeper reaching experience due to not only the nature of the plants but the setting of community and sacredness that surrounds it. DMT and magic mushrooms seem to more commonly grant recreational experiences over teaching ones – yet there are plenty of reports from folks who say otherwise. I’m writing entirely from the perspective of someone whose never tried any of these things but has done his homework. So I figure I might as well start with the deep end so I know for absolute certain that there is something to learn from plant based medicine. And then explore more easily accessible forms like DMT/psilocybin in the future.

      • I wish you much success. After almost my entire life of 63 years I may finally have found a little peace with the help of magic mushrooms. They are not the complete answer but they do appear to have rewired my brain somewhat. I am taking a break from them at the moment after almost a year of “treatment” and while I do not consider myself “cured” I do believe I have had great benefit and insight. Yes – beware all the ridiculous hype. I too have been through fish oil, therapy, St Johns Wort, SSRIs and…. Mushrooms seem the best bet. For me at any rate.

      • I read your blog post on magic mushrooms as well. This part really stuck with me: “Under the influence of a modest dose he felt his thought patterns changing – it was an almost physical sensation. Stuff simply rearranged itself in his head. He imagined he could feel new neuronal connections fizzing away, and rutted old paths of destructive thought patterns being dissolved. And his depression simply disappeared. Into the smoke, the ether. Alfred found himself incredulous that it had ever existed or that he had ever suffered from that cruel disease of the mind.”

        It reminds me of my childhood and early teenage years. I remember how I felt as a child, as early as 6. I had a deep sense of enjoyment around living, even though we have so few choices and ways to control compared to our adult lives. There was this sense of genuine gratitude, of zest and eagerness. Into my early teens, I remember hearing about depression for the first time and thinking “How could you be depressed about Life, when it’s so great?” Well, somehow, I learned. It seeped under my mental doors like smoke and before I knew it, I was used to the smell.

        Somehow, we become anhedonic, or whatever alphabet soup term is in vogue nowadays. Something about this life…I’m going to try mushrooms the first chance I get as well to see how they compare. I’m glad to read yet another report of the benefits of plant-based medicine. Like you, I’ve tried all sorts of snake oil cures. Therapy HAS been of benefit for me, but not a cure, necessarily.

        I’d like to know what wisdom you could share after 63 years of introspection and investigation into life, suffering, and depression. What would you tell your 36-year old self?

      • Fascinating reply and so close to my own thoughts.

      • I will ponder your question a bit and come back to you. Happy to have discovered your blog.

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