Over the course of the last 3 years or so I’ve had the privilege to partake in a handful of Ayahuasca ceremonies. I’ve written about a handful of them here. Each one has been nothing short of transformative. Each one with it’s own message and insight and lesson to be integrated in the future.
One of those such experiences that was particularly transformational was the one I had about my relationship with my mother and family dynamics. I like to look at this story as an extension of that one.
In the following story I will walk you through a transformational tale of how I, in the course of an 8 hour Ayahuasca ceremony, cured a lifetime of emotional and existential angst (potentially throw some mild trauma in there depending on what professional opinion you get), with regards to my relationship with my older brother.
I initially captured this story over an audio note as I recounted it to a friend immediately after the journey. Ive edited and moved it around in parts but tried to keep the integrity of the “immediacy” of my recounting of the story, without updating it for recency. This experience happened over a year ago, and a lot has happened since then, and I wanted to be careful not to interject my current day reality with the essence of what had happened at that time and capture where my head was at as I had these realisations.
I can’t lie, there are some pretty wild spiritual implications in some of this tale. For lack of a better description, I experienced another person’s memories, and those memories turned out to be true. I can’t really explain how I could possibly experience someone else’s memories, but that’s the only way I can describe it. I hope you can take it for what it is and decide what you want to. Most importantly, enjoy the story, because it’s one hell of a spiritual tale 😉
Pre Ceremony Context –
Last year in early 2019, shortly after New Years, I had an opportunity to jump into an Ayahuasca ceremony. It had been over a year since my previous experience, and I was feeling like I was in a transition period of sorts, so I felt ready for it. I wasn’t happy with my job, and I was eager to find direction in my next life move, and the calling of mother Aya seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
Part of this confusion in direction was with my writing. I’ve now been consistently writing and releasing articles for the last 2 years or so. Naturally as an aspiring writer, the thoughts of a book are always in the mind for somewhere down the line. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a vision for that, and it was something that was itching me. I was also battling some inner demons around my relationship to social media. How I don’t really like to post and don’t want to put myself out there as another “coach”, and how I should structure my social media posts for the coming year, and do I have a strategy and all of those other questions about trying to become more serious as a writer.
Around this time I was also reading four different books that played a theme throughout this tale. The first is the book “The Gunslinger” by Steven King, the first book to the Dark Tower series. This one isn’t important for now, but will circle back in throughout the story.
The next two were “Turning Pro” and “The Artists Journey” by Steven Pressfield. Not sure if you’ve ever read any of his work (War of Art must read!!!), but he’s great at lighting a fire under your ass. He’s amazing at getting you to do the work you’ve been avoiding. Turning Pro was all about the ability to go from Amateur to Pro, and the differences between the two. Getting in the mindset to become a great writer. A professional writer.
The third book of “The Artists Journey” is based on the format of “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell. Not sure if you’re familiar with this story, but Joseph Campbell is the author of “The Hero with a thousand faces”, which depicts what is called “The Hero’s Journey” – a step by step format that most, if not all, of the stories that we grew up with, follow. A consistent narrative and plot line across all tales of the hero. From Harry Potter to Luke Skywalker to Greek mythology to Jesus and Buddha – their tales all follow the same format. This was the 4th book in the series, which I also went on to read after the Artists Journey.
But what is the Hero’s Journey? What are the stages? Here’s a quick summary.
- THE ORDINARY WORLD The hero, i.e. you or me or Dorothy or Rocky or Luke Skywalker, is introduced in his or her regular, normal world. But beneath the surface, powerful currents of change and transformation are already in motion .
- THE CALL Some outside event (or it could be internal) breaks in on the hero, alerting or even compelling her or him to take action and leave the Ordinary World behind.
- REFUSAL OF THE CALL The hero always balks, at least for a moment. Rocky turns down the chance to fight the champ, Odysseus feigns insanity to get out of going to the Trojan War.
- THE MENTOR APPEARS Hello, Obi Wan-Kenobi! Or the mentor may arise internally, in a dream or a vision. The hero is infused with courage and overcomes his or her fear of launching into the unknown.
- CROSSING THE THRESHOLD Hero says goodbye to the familiar, sets out into the Extraordinary World (or, in Blake Snyder’s very apt term, the Inverted World.) Dorothy leaves Kansas, Conan the Barbarian sets out from the Wheel of Pain.
- TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, FRIENDS AND FOES Huck and Jim fend off rednecks, crackers, peckerwoods, mob attacks, not to mention the King and the Duke. The Inverted World tests our heroes, but sends allies and teachers as well.
- PRIMAL ORDEAL The hero enters the Lair of Evil, comes face to face with her “heart of darkness.” Theseus confronts the Minotaur in the belly of the Labyrinth, Indiana Jones goes after the golden statue, Bogey makes his all-or-nothing play for Ingrid . . .
- THE PAYOFF Hero succeeds! But wait
- GETTING OUT Bad Guys rally. They cannot let Jason get home with the Golden Fleece! Indy flees. Dorothy bolts. Odysseus escapes Circe (not to mention the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis, etc., sails for home.
- RESURRECTION One final, hellacious test. The hero, in Christopher Vogler’s phrase, “is purified by a last sacrifice,” achieves a moment of rebirth in which the initial internal issue that was tormenting her is at last resolved.
- A GIFT FOR THE PEOPLE The hero returns to the place from which he originally set forth. But he does not come home empty-handed. He brings a transforming wisdom, an “elixir,” that he donates to the wider community, to save it and bring it peace.
You can also think of it like this –
The hero (_) receives the Call when (_) walks into his/her life and does/says (_). Hero crosses the Threshold of Adventure at (_) place and (_) time. Hero achieves his/her goal (_) but must flee for her/his life, pursued by Monsters (_) and (_). The hero returns safely at last to (_), the place from which she/he started, by means of a (_), bringing for the people the gift of (__), hard-won from his/her experiences.
(Credit Steven Pressfield The Artists Journey)
So why is this important for setting context?
Going into the ceremony I had a lot of thoughts on my mind about my life in the context of The Hero’s Journey. Where was I at in my journey. What was happening at each of these stages?
In the larger context of my life, I feel like I have always been good at answering the call. I’ve been through this cycle a handful of times whether it was Korea, India, starting a business and closing it down, and many others.
Specifically in this context though I was thinking about my Hero’s Journey as a professional artist. As a writer. Where can I take myself and my direction in the future. What is the call that I am avoiding?
I felt like I was still in between stages 1 and 2. The normal world and the call. A big part of “The Call” is the need to leave home. But not just in a physical sense, but in the sense of dependency. To leave the comfort and security of the parents and specifically the mother. To become independent and cut ties to you needing the help or assistance of your family.
For this reason my intention leading into the Ayahuasca session was leaving my childish behaviours behind. Accepting the full responsibility of adulthood and embracing this next chapter of my life (I was turning 30 around this time as well). Not to let go of my inner child in my playfulness, but to let go of my inner child in terms of childish bad habits that have stuck around for too long and finally need to go.
Things like not cleaning up after myself, losing or breaking my belongings, being generally absent minded and forgetful. Needing the help of my parents for a place to live when I go back to the US. Not taking care of physical health properly with things like stretching and taking care of my asthma. The childish habits that I need to let go of in order to become the next version of myself I know I am capable of becoming.
I sought the advice and feedback from my family before the ceremony. I asked all of them what they think I need to let go of. It’s funny that all of their initial responses were that I do a great job – I’m a good person with good progress in life and there’s not that much I’m fucking up.
Having said that, both of my brothers had a similar theme in their answers. One brother said I use my parents and their house and resources as a crutch for myself and I need to be more independent. I’m able to travel and live the lifestyle that I do because of their flexibility with me coming and going and not having to buy a place in the US. They enable it and I should be conscious of that and move away from it. My middle brother encouraged me to lean into challenges more in my life. To embrace resistance and build thicker skin. To welcome the inevitable pains of life instead of avoiding them.
What I liked best about what he said though, given the theme of leaving childish behaviours behind, was “THIS REQUEST YOU MADE shows me that you’re FINALLY a man. The single act of you asking me to do this shows me you ARE A MAN now. Flawed like us all. I love you and I know you’re going to become a great man”
I was genuinely touched by it. Not only was it great feedback, but these were more or less the first words that we had spoken to each other after over a year of not talking to each other.
For some context, my older/middle brother has always been the “problem child”. Fits many of the textbook behaviours of Narcissism/Anti-Social/Sociopathic behavioural patterns. From age 12-18 he was sent away to a myriad of behavioural correctional facilities. Boarding schools and wilderness programs and drug rehabs and the creme de la creme , “The Elan School” (for full context, highly recommend you check out this film of the Elan School, or just check out the Wikipedia page, crazy fucking place).
He was at a point in life where had recently come upon a lot of financial success. He had a supplement company that seemingly exploded overnight. Moved to California and bought Lamborghinis and Ferarris and lived a life everyone dreams of when they finally reach the dreams they have been chasing.
I was happy for him, but as they always say, money just amplifies who you already were. The success had exacerbated all of his worst qualities. It made him more egotistical, more egomaniacal, more “I always knew that I was right and everybody else is wrong”. Those qualities became amplified and he just treated us all worse than before. Throw in a mindset of “Now you just hate me because of my money.” “Now because I have money, you’re all jealous.” “You all don’t like me because I’m rich now.” Whereas in reality my feelings were “no dude, we’ve always felt this way about you. You were an asshole before the money and now it’s worse.”
My issue with him was primarily the way he treated my family members. Very verbally abusive. Always yelling. Confrontational. Treated us like shit and then always had a convenient reason of why you deserve it because of something you did to him. He was always a source of tension and anger for my family. He frequently left my mother in tears, and this is never something positive to see.
As children we were very good friends. Other than taking assaults of verbal abuse from time to time, he was always good to me. I was always the one who stood up for him when he was digging a hole for himself. Always the one trying to understand his perspective. Calm him down. Don’t get me wrong – an incredibly difficult human being to be around, mentally and physically draining to be around – but I like to think I had my ways with him. I was always the one in his corner.
A year prior to this experience I had went to visit him in California. I could see him on a rampage of treating the people around him in the ways that didn’t resonate with me. He was verbally abusive to everyone he spoke with, in some instances mentally abusive or manipulative as well. And proud of it, proud of the very behaviours that are hurting other people.
It was unpleasant to be around to say the least. I was fresh off a 10-day Vipassana retreat and very sensitive to that type of energy and I couldn’t handle it. I decided to leave. He freaked out and the same old verbal rampage began, which then only reaffirmed my sense of “now he shows his true colours”. I couldn’t condone or support that behaviour and I needed to go my separate phase. (At this point in my life I was also reading a lot of that literature on removing “toxic” people from your life and creating boundaries and that definitely influenced my thinking in that moment).
I left that night and then from that point on the two of us didn’t really speak much over the course of the next year. I wanted to give us some space. Give him some time to think. Mostly just create overdue boundaries.
So when I reached out to him that January asking for feedback before the ceremony, it opened a doorway of communication between us that wasn’t previously there for us. It created space for us to have a conversation together. An opening that was hanging there.
Again, I say all of this because this is the mental headspace I was bringing in with me to the ceremony. On one side of my mind The Hero’s Journey of my writing career, on the other the intention to leave childish habits behind, and then mix in a tinge of talking to a brother you haven’t spoke with in a year.
With this in mind I was ready to dive into the Ayahuasca ceremony with an eager and ready spirit 🙂
The Ceremony –
I arrived at the ceremony with three of my friends. I claimed a spot in the back of the forest away from the fire. This was close to the same spot I meditated in during my first Ayahuasca ceremony. And is a spot that had sentimental value to me.
Seated to my left was an Israeli guy who politely introduced himself as he rolled up a spliff. Up on our little section of the forest there was only sufficient room for the two of us. Behind us was nothing but dense forest. in front of us the campfire and the circle of people around it. One layer removed from the action.
Eventually the ceremony began, I took my first dose, and then returned to my spot where I awaited it to kick in. In these times I always resort to meditation. I simply sit and watch my breath. The first dose rarely does very much, so I mostly just lay there on the ground and breathe. Stay calm and patient.
I remember I laid there for what felt like 30 minutes or so, not feeling very much. A little while later, some visuals began. I remember that I could see a giant white castle in the sky that extended towards infinity. It was layers and layers of white diamond and shifting fractal imagery, like the building itself was alive and growing. It was a fractalized diamond castle that extended towards infinity constantly shifting morphing and changing.
Right as I was losing myself in this vision, they made the announcement for Dose #2.
I took my dose, but this time instead of returning back to my spot I sat in front of the fire. The 2nd dose is usually where the action hits, and I wanted to be right there and ready for it. This is also when the band starts to play music, so the intensity goes up a notch as well.
This is where the trip starts to get fuzzy and drift into Ayahuascaland…
By the time they started playing music the Ayahuasca was already hitting me. The music had an immediate and deeply profound effect.
The first two songs were very slow and peaceful. I breathed deeply and relaxed as visions started to envelop me. As feelings began to intensify and swirl throughout my body. The next song was faster and more intense. More loud. I started breathing heavier and feeling the intensity of the music. The rush of energy throughout my body. I remember that it felt like I was on fire.
Then again the next song was slow. My intention of childhood came back to me. I tried to think of the habits I need to implement and what I need to change.
But in that moment, all that came up was, “you’re good Troy. You’ve already done the work you need to do. You already know what habits you need to work on. Your posture. Your breathing. Smoking too much weed. Being forgetful. Being less reliant on your parents. And you’ve already taken and continue to take meaningful action on all of those. You’re on top of it. You’re aware. The fact that you even asked your family for feedback shows you that you’re already on top of it and have it under control. And this is what it means to be an adult. To be on top of your shit. Aware of it. You don’t need an Ayahuasca journey for that, you’ve got that under control in your day to day life. Give yourself some credit.”
And keep in mind that whole insight hit me in what felt like less than a second. That’s often how Ayahuasca works. I call them “lightning bolt moments”, because in a sudden flash it’s like you understand everything, and then you spend the next god knows how long piecing together and making understanding of that lightning bolt moment so that you can then go onto explain it afterwards.
The message I was receiving was “Troy, you’ve already done the work to let go of that part of yourself, the last part remaining is to actually let go of it. Accept it in your mind that you are no longer that same person. That part of you is gone, and you have to let go of it.”
I was hit with a scene from the end of the book, the Gunslinger (Spoiler Alert!!!). In this story, Roland the Gunslinger knows he will eventually have to kill his 12 year old companion Jake, but he doesn’t know how or where. He knows that in order to get to the Dark Tower, he will be faced with this decision, and he will have to choose the Tower, which means the death of Jake.
Eventually the moment of truth comes. Roland has to decide to drop Jake and allow him to die so that he can get the information he needs from the Man in Black. Roland drops Jake, Jake dies, and Roland continues on his journey.
In that moment of the Ayahuasca ceremony, instead of Roland and Jake, it was me holding onto my inner irresponsibility. Not wanting to fully let go of him. Seeing him in his full light, in all of his flaws, but not wanting to let go all the same. Realising that once I let go he’s gone forever. But also realising that if I want to move forward, if I want to make it to my version of the Dark Tower at the end of the road, I will need to let go so that I can continue my journey.
And Alas, just like Roland let go of Jake, I let go of my former self. Coincidentally(?), I had this thought right as the song was ending. It was like I finished the song saying to myself “let go Troy, let go.”
And as the song ended, as I felt like I emotionally and physically let go with a huge exhale of relief, I could feel this energy of black sludge pooling around me, oozing out of me. I could see this black thick oil like substance pouring out of me onto the floor. I could see it all lying there in a pool in front of me.
I thought to myself, “Holy shit Troy, that’s you!!! Those are your bad habits and behaviours lying in a pool of sludge on the floor! Those are the things you needed to let go of. The internal energy you could feel holding you back. It’s out of you and lying right there!!!
As I sat there staring at the pool of my bad habits, the next song started. And this one was INTENSE. It was a tribal war cry song. Immediately many people begun to stand up and dance to the beat of the drums.
In that moment I stood tall and proud. I towered over my former self in dominance looking at the spoils of my conquest. I felt like Superman. Strong, confident, victorious. Able to handle the challenges of everything.
I danced and began to pound on my chest in victory. I felt a burst of energy flow into me. I yelled and grunted. Stomped and clapped. It felt like my whole body was pulsating, on fire. I felt like an animal. A victorious animal who just won the battle of a lifetime. An animal celebrating the spoils of my victory. And for that song I rejoiced. I danced my ass off and felt stronger than I have ever felt before.
By the time the song ended my heart was pounding out of my chest and my body felt like it was filled with electricity,
One song ends, another one begins.
In that moment I sat down. My heart was beating really heavy and I could feel it pulsating throughout my whole body, especially my head. It was very intense. I focused on deep breathing and calming down.
Eventually I regained my composure and began to sink into the sounds of the music. Part soothing and relaxing but also part sad and somber.
Suddenly waves of sadness and grief overcame me. I could still see that puddle of black sludge in front of me. Like a pile of vomit just sitting in front of you, but bubbling and alive and black. In that moment I felt remorse for what I had done. I looked at that pile of sludge and began to cry. Began to say to myself “That was YOU dude! That is ME on the floor dead. That’s my experiences and knowledge and learnings. That’s everything that I have been through, everything that has helped me get to where I am now. FUCK DUDE that is you!”
I tried to appreciate how all of my bad habits and behaviours have all been there to help me. All parts of the learning experience of being a flawed human being.
…and then something interesting happened. As I started to think about different bad habits, and appreciated the role they played in my life, the black puddle bubbled and white balls of swirling light evaporated off of it. They swirled up and around and then flowed back into me. Over a series of what was probably minutes but felt like a lifetime journey, I watched as my appreciation for my past bad habits and former self evaporated into white balls of light that then integrated back into me. With each ball of light that entered me, so too did a corresponding series of chills and waves of energy flow through my body. It was like a proverbial phoenix being born from the ashes, but instead it was white balls of light evaporating off a pool of black sludge, and then integrating into my body filling me with positive feelings. It felt like I was surrounded by fireflies injecting me with energy that I reincorporated. Like instead of being bit by a mosquito it was like firefly fairies kissing me and giving me energy.
After some time the puddle was gone and I was buzzing. It literally felt like I was vibrating. I felt very strong and energised. Buzzing.
The next song is very tribal and upbeat. Feeling this new positive energy, I get up and start to dance again. Again I feel like I’m on fire but this time there’s a vibrating and a pulsating along with it. Like with each beat of my heart I could feel a forcefield rippling off of me. Very intense feelings.
I’m dancing and really feeling that strength, and then next thing I know, I had what I can only describe what was an out of body experience. I was watching myself but not in control. Like something else is in the drivers seat. As this happens, my body just starts walking back to my spot. It felt like I was watching myself get up and walk to my spot. Internally I say to myself “Why are you leaving the fire? Dude, the music’s here.” But my body doesn’t listen and it just walks me back to my spot.
But I can quickly feel that the reason was to give myself space. It’s time to dance and let out some energy.
Again, the next song is very loud and intense and upbeat. I start dancing with all of the force in my body. It’s like a possessed force took over my body and had me moving in ways I’ve never moved before. Doing movements I didn’t even know existed. If you had a video of me it may have looked like I was possessed…I may very well have been haha!
But this is short lived – I quickly become nauseous and started to vomit. Then, I regained my energy and continued to dance. Again feeling like something else was driving me, shaking me – cleansing me.
For the next 10 minutes or so I bounced back and forth between dancing and vomiting, ping pong back and forth. After this continued for some time, I eventually collapsed in exhaustion and laid down in my spot. My heart was beating out of my chest. Giant pulsations of energy flowing throughout my body with each subsequent heartbeat.
By the time my heart calms down I’m no longer feeling nauseous, and I’m feeling calm and collected.
I started to think to myself about the recent experience of watching myself die and reintegrate into myself. I thought of my childhood intention. I thought of the Hero’s Journey. “The Call” came to mind. What can I learn from these childhood integrations that can lead me into the call that I have been resisting? I know that I want to write, I know that I have accepted the call, but what is the part that I am resisting? What have I been avoiding?
I thought about writing a longer story. How all of my stories have been short. How I am avoiding the longer narratives. I remember that the thought “But I haven’t really had a story I am avoiding writing. I’ve been waiting for that story to come to me. Been waiting to let the dots connect. Like yea, I could write my own story, but I don’t feel ready for that yet as I haven’t accomplished what I want to. It feels like there’s something else I’m not seeing.”
And in that moment, again like a flash of lightning, insight struck.
Steven Pressfield talks about how the call is often right in front of our nose the whole time but we don’t see it. It’s too close to us to notice. We need perspective and distance and then what we were looking for we realize was right in front of us all along.
This was one of those moments where I realised that the answer to my question was sitting right in front of me the whole time. A massive “DUHHHHHH” moment, an “aha!”, or “of course how did I not see that!”
In that moment of flash of insight, my answer came to me.
The call I have been resisting wasn’t writing, the call I’ve been resisting is writing the story of MY BROTHER!
Sitting in front of me this whole time, the greatest story untold. Wrapped up in his mind. Guarded. Protected. He’s never told any of the details to anyone. We know bits and pieces here and there, but we don’t know the real story of what happened to him.
In that moment I was then, what I can only describe as, transported into the mind of my older brother. I had visions of him in the various boarding schools and rehabs and correctional facilities that he had been to.
It was like I went down a timeline of the various places that he had been to. Had visions of him in the wilderness program and boarding schools and being surrounded by addicts in drug rehabs.
At one point I was transported to a childhood memory. I’m not sure how old I was at the time, I want to say around 11 or 12, at the age where I was reading Harry Potter, when I went to go visit him at The Elan School. I remember that my parents had a meeting with him and his teachers, and I decided to stay in the car and read while they had their meeting.
While I was sitting in the car reading, in the near distance I could hear people screaming at each other at the top of their lungs as hard as they could. Tons of curse words flying everywhere. “You motherfucking piece of shit inconsiderate fuck” type of shit.
Then the camera flipped to my brother being one of the people inside of those rooms. I had visions of people screaming at him. Him screaming at other people. Screaming being the way of communication in this place, and FEELING. all of the stress that comes with that.
I had one particularly fucked up vision was of him being forced to stand in the corner and not be able to leave. Stay there for hours and days on end. Forced to piss and shit himself as he stood there in the corner while people verbally abused him from behind.
(I would later confirm that this was indeed how life was run at the Elan School, which has since been shut down. The creator of the school was eventually murdered by a former student. That gives you an idea of the type of place we’re talking about here. Early 90’s kinda shit that wouldn’t ever fly in today’s world. Again – watch this documentary).
Then I had a vision of him playing the system. Becoming the manipulator that we know him to be. Playing the games of the school and convincing everyone of what he needs to do to get through it all and survive. Seeing how he developed the reaction of screaming at people in response to stress and confrontation. Seeing how those experiences hardened him and forced him to take control in his own hands in his own way and prove to himself and everyone else that he is the smartest person in the room.
He always says that the programs made him superhuman. That it gave him powers of resiliency and understanding of psychology and human dynamics. That he is impossible to be stopped now. It created a monster but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
I could see how the roots of that personality exterior stretched deep into these experiences. How that personality he cultivated was the result of the situations and experiences that he had.
I could also see how he had a natural disposition for it all. How his hardwiring made him susceptible to these types of problems. How it was the perfect storm of nature and nurture, that created this human being that is my brother.
It felt like I was downloading an understanding of why he is the way that he is. All of the factors and pieces of the puzzle that have compiled into making him who he is. All of the fucked up experiences that are still inside of him unexpressed, lying dormant but nonetheless lying there all the same.
Seeing all of this was incredibly painful. Physically painful. I was writhing around on the floor for a lot of this. Rolled up into the fetal position. Tears flowing down my face with pangs of anger or waves of sadness and grief. This was a visceral experience where I was going through the things that he went through and feeling all of the chaos that went along with it.
And the worst part about it is that THIS PAIN IS STILL INSIDE OF HIM!
The quote “hurt people hurt people” came to mind. The people who hurt other people are the ones who are in pain themselves. If we cause harm or grief to others, it’s because we ourselves are hurting. Thus, these are people who should be met with compassion and understanding because we realise that they are in pain and need help.
He still hasn’t fully processed his own pain. These stories emotions and experiences are still locked away inside of him. No one knows the tale. I had visions that the story was locked inside of him. That it was a tumor eating away at him. Causing him pain and grief and sickness. Subtly influencing all of his interactions with people and the decisions he makes.
The whole reason why he treats people this way is because he’s not understood and nobody’s taken the time to understand that story. Nobody’s taken the time to sit with him. We reject him because he’s so difficult to deal with. He needs to be understood. I need to be the one to understand him. By learning his story I will simultaneously grow a deeper understanding. I will need to dive into it with him and pull that story out.
That person needs to be me. I’m the only one who can do it. Including himself. He won’t sit down and write it all and heal himself so I have to step in and make sure we do it together for his healing, my healing, and that of our entire family as well.
I need to get this story out of him, not so that I can write a book, but so that he, so that WE can heal. The process of extracting and capturing this story will be therapeutic for him to let go of, for me to gain understanding, and for our entire family to heal through mutual common discussion.
We all need it. This story is the cures us all. That heals our family. That helps my brother to learn how to love. To let go of the past in a healthy way. Most importantly, to enjoy the process of telling the tale. To own the story and get it out there to help other people. That this story will not only heal our family, but that it will heal other people who have been through similar struggles.
This is the call that I was resisting. The cave I wasn’t willing to walk into. And I was resisting walking into this cave because it’s going to suck. It’s going to be a painful process trying to work with him and get this story out of him. He might not even want to tell it. He might want to write it himself. Although I’ve just had this Ayahuascarevalation, he’s still a difficult person to deal with. Don’t kid yourself and think this is all going to be butterflies and rainbows, this will be a labor of love with a lot of pain along the way. This healing journey is gonna get very bumpy as we unearth some fucked up shit.
I thought to myself, “you’re the only motherfucker and all of your training has lead up to this point. All of your meditations, all of the breath work, the books, all the patience, all of your writing, all of these have been training for you to sit the fuck down with him and pull this story out of him. I don’t care how painful or uncomfortable it is. You’re walking into that cave. And that’s the calling that you have to answer.”
It made sense. I was no longer resisting the idea. I wanted to do it. I could see the plan falling into motion. It felt executable. It felt like a genuinely great way to create more mutual understanding with my brother and cure our relationship together.
I then began to have visions of the two of us working together. Visions of us having conversations seated at a table with microphones in front of ourselves. Video calls online. Us capturing the story together bit by bit, piece by piece.
I didn’t get a clear vision of the format either. It was more focused on the extraction process of the story. What we decide to do with it afterwards could be decided at a later point in time, book, movie, podcast, who knows. The important part is our journey together and capturing this story.
This was also the direction that we needed for how to structure our conversations together. The book/story gives us a format to build upon, a framework we can use to set healthy boundaries and keep discussions to specific topics with a specific focus. Without this format conversations would spiral out of control and become destructive. This now becomes our guiding light and MUTUAL goal.
I had visions of our family helping out as well. It bringing everyone together. Unearthing a lot of drama and creating some tension and disagreement along the way, but all the same digging up the thoughts and feelings that we have been burying for all these years. I knew that they would be participating in this process as well.
Then for the next indeterminate amount of time I sat there visualising this process unfolding. But if I’m honest, it was ping pong in my mind on overdrive. Pattern recognition systems going out of control. Dots connecting creatively for insights about how it’s all coming together.
My mind was racing and looping around the thoughts of what had just occurred. So much information in such a short amount of time. I knew the bulk of it, but it felt like I was grasping at smoke trying to remember every detail and not forget anything and make sure that I leave with proper retention. And it worked (evident as I tell this tale) but in the moment I felt like I couldn’t get my mind to calm down.
And right around this time, they offered a round of Rapé for those who were interested 😉
Now normally I’m not a big fan of Rapé. I think I have an allergy to it, as I’m always congested for a week afterwards. Having said that, mid-ceremony it’s the most effective tool at stopping thought loops, so I decided to partake.
I sit down in front of my Rapé master. I call him that because it’s the same guy I go to every ceremony. He knows me and my allergy and knows how to give the dose slowly and then pack the end with a punch.
He gives me the first dose of Rapé. Immediately I start drooling and I gag ’cause it’s a huge dose. I feel like I might vomit everywhere. Was struggling to stay stable.
But you have to do both nostrils as quickly as you can, so he gives me the second dose. BAM! Explosions go off in my head.
Immediately I run over to a tree, half stumbling, half drooling all over myself, and immediately just start purging violently. I sat there vomiting for the next 10-15 minutes. Heaving. Sweating. Gallons of puke pouring out of me. Huge purging.
As this is happening to me I’m saying to myself “Don’t avoid the pain. Sit there. Feel this. Feel this. Feel this.”
My body is shaking and trembling. My head has a heartbeat. My hands feel like they are giant orbs of vibrating energy. And I’m just throwing up violently. Violently. But all the same I was trying to feel it. Be present with it. I was like “this is a preview of what you’re about to go through. You’re about to feel some fucking pain dealing with this story. It’s gonna suck dealing with him. I know that it will be in a good adventure and getting that story will be good for both of us, but it’s not gonna be pleasant. This is not gonna be a fun journey. There are gonna be a lot of difficult moments. A lot of really trying times where I’m gonna want to quit. I’m gonna want to say no. Fuck that, we push on.”
After a while of sitting there focusing on the pain of puking I’m finally calmer but energetically drained. Tapped out of energy. I literally couldn’t even stand up. I was lying on the floor with the world moving and shifting and changing in front of my eyes. I was gone in La La land.
I think to myself, “all I have to do is get back to my seat. We gotta get enough strength just to get over here. We can’t lie in our puke like this.”
Sitting to my left, where I have been puking this whole time, was a massively old tree. I put my left hand on it and said to it “please give me some of your energy.”
Within seconds my left hand starts to vibrate. I can feel a ball of energy growing inside of it. Literally buzzing. Then it spreads to my right hand. Both of my hands begin buzzing and vibrating and generating balls of energy. It became a pulsating bowling ball of energy.
Then I take a deep breath in and wvoooop! All of the energy rushes into my body. I pop up onto my feel in one motion, and with a similar out of body feeling to before, I start walking back to my spot. It’s like my body was in autopilot and I was a witness to the robot moving everything for me taking me to where I need to go. I wasn’t in conscious control.
I arrive at my spot, plop down, and surrender into exhaustion and relaxation. Now mind calm and at peace, body calm and at peace, lying there relaxing in the positive feelings of the journey that had occurred so far.
And shortly after this they make an announcement for dose #3
I was still pretty out of it at this point and felt happy with my experience up to this point. I had gotten my minimum effective dose. I was content with the lessons I had learned.
Before your dose they always ask you if you want to go deeper or maintain. I decided to go with maintain. A little more to keep the vibe flowing and continue to process everything.
After taking my dose I laid back down in my spot, wrapped myself in my blanket, and laid on my back with my eyes closed. I did a round of Vipassana body scans, which is more or less my ritual after I take a dose at this point. It’s also what I like to do to get out of my head and into my body.
I remember that I had a really deep scan. It felt like I was falling into the earth. That every muscle of my body was more relaxed than it had ever been before. Completely motionless and still.
Sometime shortly after the full body scan I began to focus on the music around me. Again, it brought me on a journey. Again, some of the remnants of the second dose memories around my brother came back to mind.
I thought about the phrase “you sound like Ross”
It’s a phrase that people would say to me when I would go on rants like him. Get crazy or make weird noises like him.
It’s a phrase that always made me self conscious. People were saying that like it was a bad thing. Like it’s not good to be like Ross. Like, you sound or are acting crazy kind of feedback.
I realised how this is a part of myself that I have rejected. That I have not really owned up to this point in my life. It’s a force inside of me that I can tap into at any point in time. My “inner Ross” so to speak.
But if I think about that inner Ross – it’s FUCKING FUN!!!
I sound like him when I am at my most passionate. When I’m excited about something. When I’m being my wackiest goofiest self.
He taught me how to be crazy, how to have fun – but most importantly how to love oneself. How to KNOW THYSELF.
(Even as I type those capitals, I know that is a writing style that came from seeing his writing).
The quote “the most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself. If you’re always fighting with the voice in your head, you’re not going to have a very pleasant life.”
In that moment I realised that I have been fighting myself in trying to not be like him. The times when I hold myself back are when I am resisting being like him.
He’s great at putting himself out there. Being in the spotlight. He feeds off of it. The funny thing is – I know that I do too! But I resist putting myself out there because I’m afraid of being compared to him. Being told that I will sound like him. Being afraid that I’m not unique and original but actually just trying to be like him.
But I realized that I can’t “be like him”, because I’m me. I can’t be anyone else, because I can only be me. I am the collection of everyone I have met in my life, and all of them have had an influence on making me who I am. Some, like him, have had a larger influence than others. But nonetheless, I’m still me. I’m my own unique spin in my own unique way. I can’t reject that influence, and if I do, I’m not actually being my most authentic self. To be my most authentic self I need to embrace all parts of myself and put them on display to the world.
If I want to grow to my next level of evolution as an individual, I need to embrace that inner Ross. Put it out there to the world. Love myself and get weird and be loud and proud about it. Flaunt how much I love myself if anything.
Part of this journey into the cave is extracting the story of my brother, but the other part is also embracing that side of my personality. Not being afraid of it. Letting it out there for the world to see.
Around this time, the music was pumping in the background. Very fast paced tribal song.
Someone let out a loud “Yeeeeeheeee!!!”
So did I. I let out that inner Ross and made some crazy noise. “Ayaaaaayayayayayay!!!!”
The group responded.
In the next round when the chorus hit again there was another opportunity and I let out a fatass “AYAYAYYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAYAYAYAYAYAYA” – and then the rest of the circle of participants slowly let out their own battle cries as well. It was electric. The energy of the circle was palpable.
I was flooded with positive emotion and started to laugh and cry. I let out that inner Ross as authentically as I could and it had a beautiful positive effect on everyone else at the ceremony. That moment of letting it out of myself brought joy to to others. A real life example right in front of me that I need to get this out of myself and into the world to benefit others.
Ayahuasca has a funny way of giving you perfectly timed moments like that. Moments that, in an instant, give you an example/confirmation of what you were pondering – and then afterwards you are left with a deep feeling of inner stillness and peace. Quiet of the mind.
From that point on, it felt like my mind went to rest. The body too. I was done thinking.
I laid there for an indefinite period of time in a half dream state listening to the music, feeling the sounds of the forest, and tripping out on some pretty visuals and fractals. It was really calming, peaceful, blissful in fact. I felt very calm and at ease.
I remember that I could see what the forest looked like with my eyes closed. It was like I had sonar vision. I could see the sounds of the various insects and birds vibrating off of the plants and trees of the forest, creating an image in my mind. It was like I could see the sounds of the forest.
Eventually the sun came up and the ceremony was over. I stood up and did some stretching. Some breathing exercises to get back to normal. A quick meditation and body scan.
We gathered around the fire, told our stories, and then officially closed the ceremony and had breakfast.
Just as fast as it started, it was over and it was time to go home and process everything.
Immediately after I left that ceremony, I texted my brother and said that I was ready to talk to him again. We decided though that it would be best to talk it all through face to face the next time that we got the opportunity to see each other.
This experience happened in around February, and I was able to see him the following April. It was a short visit together, but it was magical. It was like there was a fundamental energetic shift. There was just a completely different feeling being around him. It was as if all of the tension and anxiety I normally felt when I was with him had evaporated.
I remember we sat down at dinner and had a conversation about everything I saw. He was floored. His favorite quote is “A wise man proportions his beliefs to the evidence” – he said “I don’t know how all of this happened but I can’t deny the evidence. And I also know that we know nothing about this universe, so it’s entirely possible. If this is the message you received from the Ayahuasca gods, I’m down. Let’s do it.”
And from that point on our relationship has never been better. In the last year I’ve now seen him two other times and the energy was still there in a positive way. We talk to each other over the phone at least 2x a week. We’ve continued to have emotional breakthroughs together as we work through a lifetime of narratives we have built around our relationship.
Our relationship is a lot more supportive as well. He’s my biggest fan. He reads everything I write and is the first to give feedback and commentary when he really resonated with something. He loves what I am doing with my life but is also still a firm feedback buddy who will call me out on what I’m doing improperly. We have a lot of love and understanding.
In terms of writing his story, we haven’t taken any tangible concrete steps, but to be honest, I don’t care. While sitting and talking with each other more of the story is coming out on its own. It’s naturally unfolding. The tale is being released bit by bit, piece by piece, as he is ready to share and express it. It will come out over time and can take as long as it needs to. We have a lifetime of healing to go through, and it will take as long as it needs to.
We also have more of a shared mentality together. He loved the article “E Nois” – the philosophy of sharing, of ours, that has come from my time in Brazil. He’s seeing that it’s OUR story – all of ours, him and I, our family, the larger world. We are all one in this journey together, sharing the journey and experiences along the way. Embracing each other and trying to reach a place of mutual understanding. Of compassionate understanding.
This applies to all of us as well. We all have a story to tell. We all have a story lying dormant inside of us. A story that we hold to ourselves.
I’m not talking about the positive story either, that’s the story that you already tell to the world. That the world knows about you. The exterior you put to the world in an attempt to create an image of who you are and what you’ve done. Our masks and costumes.
I’m talking about the stories we hide. Our secrets. Our pain. Our vulnerabilities and failures. These are the stories that eat away at us inside. The tumors that slowly eat away at our truest form of self expression.
We can all own our pain and put it out to the world. SHARE it. And not share it in the sense of the larger world of social media or having a blog, but sharing it with the people who are close to you, the people in your immediate circle. Sharing your story so that people can come from a deeper place of understanding of who you are and what you are dealing with.
It all comes down to context. The more context you give, the more help you can get in return. The more context you seek to understand in someone else, the more you will deeply understand that person.
This journey was a lesson that if you have someone in your life you are struggling to connect with, come at it from a place of understanding. Try to understand their point of view. Their pain, their struggle. Their inner turmoil. Put your own feelings aside and try to help them feel like they are understood.
It was also a lesson that if you’re in pain yourself, you don’t have to shoulder the burden on your own. No one deserves to shoulder the burden of their pains on their own. We all deserve help. Offload the burden. Share your story and seek the help you need. Find someone who is willing to try and understand you at a deep level.
With this we come full circle to the end of the Hero’s journey. The final stage, “The Return”. To refresh your memory…
“11. A GIFT FOR THE PEOPLE The hero returns to the place from which he originally set forth. But he does not come home empty-handed. He brings a transforming wisdom, an “elixir,” that he donates to the wider community, to save it and bring it peace.”
After we walk into the cave and slay our inner dragons and heal the relationships we need to, we come back with lessons learned that we can share with the world. In sharing your story you unload the pain from yourself and give a gift to the people for your hard earned struggle.
This is all of our Hero’s Journey, may you walk into the cave, slay the dragon, and come back with a similar tale of love and understanding and healing.
And with that’ my mind feels at peace on this story and I am ready to put this one to rest. I hope you enjoyed reading, and I hope this inspires you to attack the relationships that are causing you pain in your life with love and understanding.
May you have a beautiful day and week ahead full of love and understanding in your relationships and may you enjoy the path on your Hero’s Journey 🙂
2 thoughts on “How Ayahuasca Healed my Relationship with my Older Brother”
What a beautiful story!
This was the most incredible read. You are so right in saying that “hurt people hurt people” I have heard that too and that ‘the most difficult people are the ones that need love the most’. I have a similar challenge with my family and I hope I can heal those relationships too. Thank you for sharing your story Troy, it has inspired me immensely.