I will start by saying Ayahuasca is not for everyone and it should be something you feel prepared for in several ways, both emotionally and physically, because if you’re not, it can open a Pandora’s box. Otherwise it can open up your mind in ways you can’t imagine and help you let go of deep rooted traumas that maybe you had no idea were stuck in your subconscious. I found it to be a useful tool in my own pursuit of happiness.
I won’t get too detailed on my own adventure with ayahuasca, because the journey is something very personal. When I felt ready, I decided to go to the jungle in Peru to a place that had been recommended by several friends called Ani Nii Shobo. I decided it was something I wanted to do on my own. I typically worry for others around me, and get concerned with their well being rather than my own so I took the adventurous road of going on this journey by myself, with very little expectations and admittedly some skepticism. The people at Ani Nii Shobo never left me feeling alone, in fact they prepared me to understand the journey I was about to embark in ( in full detail) and offered all the support so that I would feel comfortable and open to the experience. I’d been to healers and Shamans in Mongolia and Cambodia, one who slapped my whole body while chanting and pounding/lightly slapping my face to release old “ toxic” energy that was keeping me stuck from a past relationship.
The result actually surprised me, the next day a student of mine who never spoke in class, rose his hand as I entered the class room and told me I looked new, fresh and with a new energy. Coincidence? Who knows, I’m not sure what to make of all this kind of stuff. I once spent a fortune to have my cards read by a well known fortune teller who told me I would be an actress and that I would struggle with a very lose-lose situation with an ex. I tried hypnosis, which did absolutely nothing, and I guess what I’m admitting is that I’ve tried a lot of things but ayahuasca was one that I had been flirting with for a long time that I was afraid of the most. I didn’t want to do it for the wrong reasons, or not be prepared to see something so dark that I would have a hard time recovering, as I have heard some people fall into a darker depression after facing their demons. So yes, I was scared.
I also suffer from severe digestive issues so I was also afraid that I might have some very serious issues with the effects ayahuasca has on the body and the “purge” as they call it. This was probably what I was most nervous of the first time I tried it. The shaman knew it was my first journey so he gave me only a little to see how my body would react. To my surprise, I was perfectly fine. No bathroom, no vomiting, no groaning, I sat there like a mute and just saw some “ cosmic/psychedelic lights”. I might have seen a “ friendly” Anaconda in my journey. Typically I am super afraid of snakes but somehow these were more like symbolic ones, not real ones in the wild, they formed the logo of life that we see in pharmacy logos everywhere in the world and I was told by the Shaman not to be afraid of Anacondas as they are the symbol of life, and should not be feared.
The second time, I drank the whole bitter shot and I didn’t feel anything for a while and I just lied flat on the ground as still as a board. I was afraid to move or make a sound. The Shaman took turns with their “Icarus” and when it came to my turn, I had gone into a deep psychedelic journey, that was so peaceful, I felt that if this what death felt like, then I was not afraid to die, ( a fear I’ve always had). I imagined myself being buried, it was a beautiful feeling, no fear, no evil lurking, just a sense of peace which allowed me to understand the journey to the next world is a part of life we have to accept and not fear. Maybe our behavior in this world affects the transition to wherever we go next, this I don’t know but I can say, that the anxiety of discussing death was very much resolved, although I still dread the fact that we have to face it in our lives. Its helped me come to terms with it a little better.
After this intense “ lesson”, I thought I’d had enough and I was ready to digest the journey and enjoy my last few days in the wild, listening to nature, monkeys, take some herbal steam baths, eat healthy jungle food, detox from technology, and keep exploring this part of the beautiful Amazonia. The Shaman however, felt that I still had one more plant journey to experience, I refused at first as I was exhausted from the previous one but he insisted this would be the one that would make the difference.
As a journey it was a completely different experience from the first two, and way more intense. I describe it as going back in time like in the movie “Back to the Future” – so interacting with your past self with your present self. What shocked me the most was how I could remember particular details, smells, what people were wearing, the temperature from so many years ago and it made me realize that our brain stores every single memory we have, plants like ayahuasca help us retrieve those points that may or may not need be rediscovered. I was able to relive a memory from my past and I came out with it like I had completely resolved an issue that had kept me back for so many years in this few hour out of mind experience. So yes,it’s very powerful and I am fortunate that it had a positive effect on me. The journey took me to places I needed to dig in my thoughts that were keeping me stuck in a cyclical loop emotionally with no way forward.
Everyone has a different experience with Ayahuasca and one really learns something different either about themselves, or things they want to change in their lives. I think you need to listen to your body and let it tell you when it feels ready to go, never force it. Not everyone goes for psychological healing. Some have used the plant to help them gain focus on developing complex business ideas in their head to proper strategic business models they later put in practice. Others for learning new ways to process creative ideas, particularly that are so in tune with the current topics of today’s world, sustainability, the environment, pharmaceuticals, the plight of indigenous tribes, and the power of nature. For others it helps them create life timelines, and in such a chaotic world that type of structure can be extremely helpful. Others helps them give them the strength to quit their bad habits, drugs, smoking, toxic relationships etc. As a Shaman will say “the plant knows”.
Finding the right place is equally important. There are so many places now in Peru offering the experience as part of a tourist itinerary that includes visiting Machu Picchu. There are also Shamans all over the world claiming to be healers charging ridiculous amounts of money for a practice that is supposed to be a respected gift of nature. So please do your research, avoid fads and trends and famous “gurus”, specially ones living between Tulum and Ibiza. I am extremely happy with where I went. Everything felt simple, and right to the point. Next time I think I would prefer to go with a partner to experience our journeys and have someone I can share that with. It takes a lot to digest it especially when you have to internalize what you are experiencing.
Last but not least, I won’t say my life changed for the better or for the worse. It gave me clarity, I learned to let go of emotional traumas that were holding me back, and I came to peace with some of the subjects that caused me plenty of social anxiety. Many people say its like 3 years of therapy that you can take care of in one night, if you go with an open mind. If you decide to go for it, best of luck! Don’t be scared, be prepared to see your own universe and I hope the journey takes you to places that will inspire you and help you in your personal development, and in finding peace in such a chaotic world.
Ani Nii Shobo, Healing – Ani Nii Shobo – All Rights Reserved
Portrait Leila by Ziga Mihelcic- All Rights Reserved
First published at Medium
Guest Author Bio
Leila Antakly Leila Antakly began her career as Fashion Assistant at Italian Vogue in New York City. She has since been involved in film production, public relations, non profit work and was recently Director at Willhelmina, the model agency in Dubai for several years. She has a Master’s degree from Bocconi University in Milan. It was in Dubai, she became passionate about wellness, yoga and meditation and has since explored many retreat centers around the world and traveled extensively to learn more about plant therapy. She currently resides in Madrid and has had a creative platform interviewing some of the world’s most inspiring people since 2008 called Ninu Nina.
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