This tale goes back to the summer of 2012. At the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into; or how much of an impact this experience was going to have in the direction of my life. I journeyed to Iquitos, Peru to meet up with a shaman I had made prior arrangements with online. He picked up from the airport and we journeyed 3 hours together by taxi, boat and motorized rickshaw to a small village. The people in this village were incredible. The contents I carried in my backpack amounted to more than a couple of homes including the contents inside, yet everyone greeted me like they did not have a care in the world and they were happy simply just being. I can write this now and understand looking back on the experience but at the time, I was coming out of the tail end of my depression. Reality reflecting back to me was not one I enjoyed, but this place seemed like paradise in comparison to my regular life.
I got settled in and it turned out I was the only one at the retreat. The shaman, Orlando Chujandama Huazanga, and I had very little dialogue due to the language barrier. He told me to go rest and we will do the first ceremony tomorrow. After leaving planning my flight to the last minute, I was stuck with a 36-hour trip from Vancouver to Iquitos with 2 12 hour layovers. I was tired so I didn’t bother taking the time to look around. I fell asleep almost instantly.
I awoke several hours later to Orlando telling me to get ready, as it was time for a ceremony. “Alright” I replied nervously. We went to the ceremony hut and sat down. Orlando began to speak in Spanish. He started blowing tobacco first on himself, and then he had me sit in front of him, and did the same to me. He then told me to be brave as we each took a full cup of ayahuasca together.
I laid on my mattress not knowing what was about to happen. I had read any trip report I could find online. By doing this, I had created a self-generated expectation of the way I think the experience was going to happen. I will tell you right now that the experience I had was like nothing I read prior or anything I have read since.
As I starred into darkness, I could make out the roof had a mesh surrounding the top part of the wall. I could see faint moonlight and hear buzzing from insects all around. My mind began to race. Thoughts came pouring in. I laid there with my eyes closed, and I began to have visuals. Within 5 minutes of visuals, I could see a searchlight off in the distance. I have seen this before but I’ll save that for another story. The light drew near and I could tell it was Orlando or at least my self-created projection of him. He floated right up to me riding a submarine-like vehicle. I boarded and this began the journey.
My mind raced. Since I could see Orlando in my vision, I thought we were telepathically linked. I felt like I should think about as much as possible and he would be able to dissect my life back home. The submarine came to a stop. We exited together to a beautiful field as far as the eye could see. It had circular disc’s that were 12 feet wide and crevices separating them for privacy. Some far off in the distance were occupied by monks meditating. We both sat down and meditated. This showed me the importance of meditation. Everything was calm and silent. I remember thinking if only I could bring home this feeling of how amazing meditation feels, and how peaceful it is.
After a short while, we loaded back up into the submarine and traveled down into the crevice. We were heading down a valley with an embankment on each side. I could see statues evenly spaced out up on the top of the embankment. I had seen these exact statues before on N, N DMT. The only difference is that on DMT, the statues were retracting and flowing through themselves at high speeds. It was like a 5 dimensional game of snake. It was a ribbon that was constantly flowing and the ribbon would always follow wherever the head of the ribbon had gone. This was a recurring vision I had at the time. On ayahuasca, the statues were frozen. It was amazing to see. Those were energetic patterns of the ego. We were traveling down a canal looking for the right one to tackle. Much of this experience was accompanied by racing thoughts, which hindered my experience. If you plan on traveling for ayahuasca or taking a medicine locally, meditation is a great tool to quiet the mind prior to a healing.
I found myself upon one of these energy patterns. It was abstract, as I had no idea at the time about ego or anything of this nature. I was there taking the medicine because I had heard and read other people’s stories of how transformational their experiences were and I was looking for that myself. Orlando got up from his mattress at this point and left the room. What I was about to face, I had to do it alone.
My vision went dark. So dark it wasn’t even black. It was just nothing. Off in the distance, I could see a blue spec. The spec slowly came closer, and closer. Eventually, I was able to make out a blueprint of some sort. It rotated in the space I found myself in. It was a blueprint of my brain, a sheet of blue paper with white marking signifying a brain. As thoughts would come up, I could see the brain light up at different parts. Yes, this is my brain. At the beginning, the image was a side view of my brain, but eventually, it rotated and I was looking head on like I was face to face with someone. Immediately, I zoomed into the brain at an incredible speed. I could see neurons and synapses. It was like I was on a ride on the magic school bus. Eventually, traveling deeper into the center, I could see a black blob in the middle. Immediately my first thought was cancer. I asked, “do I have cancer” The answer came back “yes” as a thought. This had been a fear of mine for quite some time. I was then rushed with thought after thought that could back the idea of cancer up. It made sense at the time. I worked in a very dusty environment and would see blood occasionally when I blew my nose. Everything and anything that was remotely related to cancer was a thought simultaneously. I had even started watching breaking back at the time where the main character suffers from cancer. I remember thinking that was the universe giving me warning signs.
I was defeated. I sat there with my head low, with tears rolling down my cheeks as Orlando came back in and sat down. He shined his light on me. “Are you ok”? “Yes,” I said. He then told me the ceremony was over. He helped me up and walked me back to my room. I thought it would have been more difficult to walk after the ceremony but it was actually fairly simple. He brought me to bed and told me to be brave. He told me that the next day I was going to go into isolation. Sure, I said not knowing what he meant. As he left my room, I burst into tears. I had cancer and I was going to die. Obviously, everyone has to face death eventually but I didn’t think it would blindside me like that.
Ok so how long do I have I thought. Immediately the answer came back 3 months. That was a tough pill to swallow. Ok, I need to go home and set up my wife the best I can in that time. I’m going to say goodbye to my loved ones and try to make the most of the time that I had left. Eventually, everything settled I was ok with it. Once I accepted it, the thought came back; actually, you only have 2 weeks left. Once again I found myself processing what little time I had left, and once again it settled. Actually, you have a choice. You can die tonight. I was faced with a decision. My mind raced on making sense of it. Things like, I didn’t want there to be bad press about ayahuasca if I died in a retreat, to what happens after I die. The voice in my head told me to not worry about anything. I settled on me being able to see my loved ones on the other side of death. This was the ego comforting itself into the decision. Ok. I will die tonight. How do I die?
I came to the conclusion that I was simply going to be raised to heaven. I took off all my clothes and awaited my departure., leaving all my earthly possessions behind as they would be no use to me where I was going. Nothing seemed to be happening.
I was then rushed with a feeling. I thought to myself, you are going to make me get up, aren’t you? The voice in my head came back, yup! I then had to pee, badly. It came out of nowhere. I tried for 2 seconds to find my light but was unsuccessful. I had to get up. I jumped out of bed and walked out the door. I was on the second level of the sleeping quarters and hadn’t yet walked around to see where anything is. I just went off of the balcony.
Starring up into the night sky, everything was peaceful. I looked down and it looked as if there was no ground. The darkness looked like a pit. This is how I die; I jump off the balcony into this abyss. The ayahuasca at this point was still in full effect. The initial ceremony only lasted about 3 hours and was half the time from what I’ve read going into my experience.
I bent down, sitting on my heels and I began to rock forward and backward. In actuality, I was maybe 12 feet above the ground but it looked like eternity. I was trying to build up the courage to just rock far enough forward that there was no way to come back. As the rocking continued, a plank on the boardwalk caught my attention. It was a nicely constructed facility, except this one board was out of place. I reached down and moved it back into its slot. As I did, the entire experience shifted. My reality clicked and I snapped out of whatever trance-like state I was in. I don’t need to jump off this ledge I thought. I can use the stairs.
I looked down the hallway to where the stairs were. They were maybe 50 feet away going down to the left. I should go down there I thought. Ok, let do it. I stood up and started to make my way toward the stairs. The rush of fear was in full effect. I was barely putting one toe in front of the other but progress is progress.
So there I was, completely naked, still feeling the full effects of the ayahuasca, trying to solve the mystery of how I am supposed to die that night all alone in the Amazon. I eventually came to the end of the hallway. The stairs didn’t seem so interesting to me at that point. I looked across and there was a roof of another building I could hop onto. I decided to go ahead with it. There was a small space I need to hop over and the roof itself was about 4 feet higher than the level I was standing on. I jumped up. As I did, I could feel I left my humanness behind. I was no longer human at this point. I took on the role of a monkey.
The roof was slanted. I felt I needed to make it to the peak where both sides met in the middle. I walked on all four appendages. As I moved up the roof, I felt moss underneath my right hand so I picked a patch of it up and gave it a sniff. It provided no benefit to me so it was discarded, throwing it back at the building I came from. The moon looked different than any moon I had ever seen. It was radiant. It provided light. That light was my way of seeing if predators were in the area. The building was long. A human thought crept back in. This is how I die. I don’t physically die. I just leave my old self behind and join the jungle as a primate.
A light began to shine from underneath the roof. Orlando had woken up and was coming out to see what was going on. The light looked like a predator in the night. It shined 180 degrees below the roof as he was fumbling in the dark to come upstairs. As he reached the point where I had made the jump, I backed up. He was definitely a predator. He was auctioning me to come to him. I backed up even more. The roof bounced. In my experience, it felt like a thunderous roar and a wave of energy raced across the roof. It turns out, plastic shingles draped over a 2×4 frame isn’t meant to hold a 200 lb. person. I had cracked his roof. In my experience, it felt like a test from reality. Face your fear! It had little to no effect on me.
Orlando had a headlamp on. Behind the bright light was a shadowy figure I couldn’t make him out, but as his had reached in front of the light to gesture me to come to him, I got a glimpse of what I was up against. His arm was hairy like a big ape. He was the enemy. He was speaking to me in Spanish. I couldn’t tell what was real and what was not. I began to have small moments where I was coming out of monkey mode. As Orlando spoke in Spanish, I felt like I needed to copy him. It was more like a rude mocking than anything. Only speaking when he spoke, louder and more upset than he was. It didn’t seem to change anything.
I looked up at the moon and thoughts were coming back. I remembered something Terrence Mckenna said. He said that if you are having a bad trip, its good to sit up and sing. I was having a bad trip I thought so I backed up to the highest point at the center of the roof, I sat straight up and I sang as loud as I possibly could: “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. The song was sung a total of 3 back to back to back.
Orlando’s cousin came upstairs. He saw what was happening and took off downstairs. He went to go get some wood to lie across the roof for my to disperse my weight onto. I remember feeling bad that he was struggling to bring up these 20 ft. 2×4’s. It must have been all that he had access to. I looked at Orlando. “I can’t do this anymore,” I said. He continued to try and get me to come down to him. Still reluctant, I hopped on the boards and began my descent down to Orlando and his cousin.
Finally, after inching down to the pair, I made it to the edge and the pulled me off the roof. I looked at them and gave them both the biggest hug. I was back to being myself. Orlando embraced me, however, the cousin was leaning away out of our circle hug, it was probably the nudity.
Orlando walked me back to my bed and we talked like we were best buds. As we sat there, I told him I wanted to be just like him. I just thought the idea of being a shaman was the coolest thing. Maybe in another lifetime I thought and left it at that. He eventually left the room and I was still determined to die. All I had to do was fall asleep and that was its own struggle.
Eventually, I woke up the next day and began to cry. Orlando told me to be brave but I couldn’t hold it together. I literally thought I was going to not wake up and ascend to heaven where I was going to be with my friends and family forever.
This was my first experience with ayahuasca. For the rest of my stay, Orlando referred to me as his crazy monkey brother. Someone else had shown up the next night, Caucasian, medium build, a lot like me. We compared our first experiences with the medicine and he claimed his was very mild. He was given less than half of the medicine I was. We both felt like I was to blame for that. Orlando mentioned me, the previous night I went crazy. I can only assume this isn’t a normal experience, however, I wanted to share it with anyone that could hopefully benefit from reading this.
I never felt unsafe. I never felt like I was in danger. On the medicine, I may have taken part in actions that I would not have normally taken part in, however it was exactly what needed to happen for me to face the fears I faced. The biggest lesson I learned, was that fear itself is an illusion. On the other side of fear is understanding, and once you have an understanding, fear has no power.