What Ayahuasca Taught Me About Surrender and Gifts

It only took me a handful of times working with plant medicine to understand that the worst thing you can do in ceremony is resist. This means to resist an urge, a movement, a constriction, a message or an experience you have been presented with. If you fight the medicine and what it is there to show you, you will only cause yourself to suffer. This is not just a lesson in Ayauhasca, it is a lesson in life.

Earlier this year I had a good lesson in Surrender. The medicine came to me through a friend to say that it was time to sit in ceremony. In short, this friend expressed that she felt it was time for me to sit again and I was instantly triggered. For the two weeks leading up to that ceremony, I thought about how to back out of it because I was in full blown panic mode. The fear and anxiety that often preceded ceremony for me was eating me alive. To make it more perplexing, She (the Medicine) visited me every night leading up to that ceremony, preparing me with mini journeys and glimpses of what was to come. As I continued to struggle with the calling, She told me that I had to come in order to receive my gifts. At that point, She had my attention.

WHAT?! It’s time for gifts?! YES!

All of my hard work had finally paid off and I was going to receive gifts from the medicine. I had heard Maestro talk about gifts before, but I never knew what they were specifically. After psyching myself up a little and then working with Kambo to clear my anxiety, I was ready to go in. It was the first time I went into ceremony with excitement and determination. Looking back, I now know that was more ego than anything else LOL. I went willingly because I thought I was about to get something out of it. Doh!

As it turns out, this was the most difficult night of my life and it felt like an eternity. I spent the whole ceremony fighting the medicine, not understanding how to surrender or what to do with the piece of me I needed to let go of. The piece of me that needed the approval of others, the affection of strange men and the numbing bliss of alcohol. It was that deep and dirty core belief of “I am not enough”. I felt that everything I had been taught about working with the medicine was thrown out the window because I did not yet have the experience or context to understand it.

In the final minutes of the ceremony I found myself in child’s pose variation reverse prayer pose, offering myself to the medicine. I spoke aloud and said “I don’t have anything left to give, all I have is myself”. The voice that came to respond said, “You are enough.”

And that was it.

I wasn’t quite out of the medicine when ceremony ended and I went to bed upset and confused. The medicine had talked me in to taking way more than I wanted and into a place of suffering for so long. I was still feeling it and I wanted to be done. I didn’t receive any gifts. I kept trying to surrender and it brought me nothing but more heaviness and pain. I felt betrayed and pissed off.

Those feelings loosened the next day, but were still present. I saw a beauty in the people around me that I had never seen before and felt an absence of some of my “heaviness”. I facilitated for the group the following night and supported everyone in a mostly blissful and joyous time. There was dancing and singing, many saw God in one way or another. I was so happy for them, but I couldn’t help feeling this was the experience I wanted for myself and my feelings of frustration returned.

I am really feeling the child-mother dynamic right now as I rewrite this. Feeling mad that I didn’t get what I wanted and having to learn my lessons “the hard way”. I am sarcastically and nostalgically thinking “thanks mom” lol.

On the final day of integration, Maestro spoke about the gifts we receive in the medicine. There is only a handful, but they sure are profound. As I listen to him speak it dawns on me that I already have most of those gifts. I use them with myself and with my clients on a regular basis. I have most of those gifts and I have not spent one minute being grateful for them. *Facepalm moment*

As the weeks moved forward and I felt the difference the ceremony made in my life, I grew this tremendous amount of respect for the medicine. My “I am not enough” core belief held me back in ways I had not even realized. It held me back with my clients, my career, my self respect and my relationship. My life was one giant projection of how I felt I wasn’t enough. I was/am so grateful that the medicine helped me shift this core belief and forced me to look at my lack of gratitude for the things in my life as a result.

And so, as I began to feel grateful for my many gifts, they grew. (Surprise!)

My gratitude for the medicine turned to awe and reverence. I knew this medicine was something I needed to surrender to in all ways of my life. So when I got the message to move across the country and create a sanctuary space to work with her, I did.

To be continued…


Paranoid Delusional Panic Attacks, Self Love and Shamanism – My Week With a Healer of Healers.

During my Ayahuasca retreat a few months back, I bunked with a lovely young woman named Eliza.  She described herself as a Medicine Woman who ran a retreat in Colorado.   The entire weekend I stayed relatively close to her because I felt comforted by her presence, but I didn’t think much about her beyond that.

In the weeks that followed, as I integrated the Aya experience into my life, Eliza continued to visit me in my dreams.  I knew I needed to reach out.  Once we had the opportunity to chat about what she does “for a living”, I signed up for a week of one-on-one healing/training at her retreat in Nederland, Colorado.  As I understand it, she is a healer of healers, a plant medicine woman, a shaman, a psychic, and everything that falls in between.

Last week I spent a full week at her retreat, Rise & Shine, Love.  I am however, going to state that before I even left for Colorado, the energy around me was in chaos.  The day before leaving, someone swiped my favorite Ray Ban sunglasses while I was shopping and later that day, I was the object of some pretty bad road rage.   In my experience, this means that I had quite the resistance to whatever work was about to occur between myself and Eliza.

After spending my first night at a hostel downtown and roaming around the streets of Denver, I arrived on her property the following day.  I felt a little panic on the drive up, not being a huge fan of cliff-side driving as well as always being the driver of my family outings, but I shrugged this reaction off.   However, when I began to unpack my belongings and settle in, something came over me that I have never experienced  in my life.  My head and shoulders grew hot, my heart raced and my breathing increased.  I knew that something very very bad was about to happen, I was with someone who was trying to swindle money out of me and I needed to leave IMMEDIATELY.  This was the first genuine bout of delusional paranoid thinking, coupled with a panic attack, I have ever experienced.  I started texting my friends and my husband, seeking someone to rescue me and talk me off the ledge I was standing on.  I felt I needed to leave the property immediately or that I might die.  The whole event maybe happened in a window of 20 minutes.

Once I connected with my breath, spoke to my husband and slipped into a light meditation (and let’s face it, had a damn good cry), I realized that these thoughts were not real.  I was creating them to avoid the Work that I had come here to do.

This was only the first episode throughout the week – I had two more, but each one became less intense and easier to identify.  I have a new found curiosity and empathy for people who have these attacks regularly and hope that in the future it can be something I  help people work through.

Throughout the week, the theme was self-love.  This act of loving myself properly has forever changed my life.  Here are some things we worked with:

  • Rituals that I would practice before bed and upon waking.  This included things like breathing exercises, self massage, tongue scraping and herbal tea.
  • Eliza taught me how to move my body and encouraged dancing and play activities – a great way to connect to with my playful side or inner child, which I had long since repressed.
  • I spent several hours naked in the sun, hammock, pool and performing self massage.  I had shed a layer of shame that most of us harbor about our body and ourselves.   This work has since enhanced my sex life with the hubby – it’s unreal.
  • Eating only fresh organic foods and herbs.
  • Guided Meditation.
  • Energy Healing.
  • Watsu with Eliza and massage performed by Integrative Bodywork by Galadrial.    

Later in the week I experience my first mushroom ceremony.  I was so grateful to find that it was similar to a mild Ayahuasca journey, with a lot of emotional release and overwhelming sense of love and connected-ness.  I hope to work more professionally with this plant medicine in the future.

To wrap up the trip, I was given the opportunity to see Nahko and Medicine for the People for the first time in Vail, Colorado.  This show was absolutely amazing and exactly what I needed to conclude my trip.   I highly recommend going to see them if you haven’t already!

The biggest takeaway from this retreat for me was that, without doing the Work on myself, I will never be able to effectively help others or be the healer that I know I am to be.   I will have trouble moving forward on my life path.  Without clearing out the stuff you have inside you, it is hard to be open to what is right here and available to you.  It is hard to see situations and others clearly or at least to see them without looking through the shit-colored glasses of your own struggles.

I will continue to take this beautiful experience and apply it to my every day life.   I do also want to encourage others to let go of some of their fear and think about their own self-love state and practice.  Life is so much more full and joyous when you clear out the cobwebs for a better view.