I recently had the opportunity to partake in a 4 day Shamanic retreat, where I tried Kambo, discovered my spirit animal, drank Ayahuasca and Sao Pedro, and then finished it off with a 4 hour Temazcal ceremony.
This isn’t my first rodeo with experiences like this either – I’ve done Ayahuasca three times and been on three 10-day silent meditation retreats. I’ve felt this sort of “lighthearted calm” feeling before.
This is on a different level. I feel empty. Reset. Cleaned out with the ability to rebuild. Sensitive. Open. Receptive. Vulnerable.
I am going to attempt to document this wild ride of a journey, in hopes that others can learn from my experience, and open their minds to the powers of plant medicines.
As a disclaimer some of the things that I’m about to dive into might sound a bit “out there”. I get into some paranormal/spiritual/religious blurry areas where I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you think of it. I’m simply recounting my experience as I witnessed it.
Much of this deals with questions of things like plant medicines and energy healing, the spiritual world, reincarnation, afterlife…and implications that we truly have no idea what the fuck is going on in this world we’re inhabiting.
Believe what you want, strap in for a fun journey.
I recently journeyed to Rio De Janeiro Brazil for one month. 2018 was a tough year for me, and one of the primary intentions for going there was to take Ayahuasca again.
I’ve previously had very positive experiences with Ayahuasca, and knew that, at this point in my life, it would be able to help me sort through some of the confusion that I was feeling.
I was also going there for my Birthday (July 28th). I was turning 29 years old, which marked the end of the previous 7 year cycle of my life. I’d been in a generally pensive and introspective mood, thinking a lot about the previous 7 years of my life, the lessons learned, and how to best enter into this new cycle of life.
Given my birthday and the struggles I was dealing with in life (work, relationships, health), it seemed like the perfect time to dive into the world of Ayahuasca again and get the clarity that I was searching for.
As I was thinking all of this, one day my friend comes into the kitchen (I was living at a Co-Living Space for Digital Nomads), and informs me of an event taking place with a well known spiritual leader by the name of Apolo Quetzal and his group of comrades known as Nação Tutumbaiê.
The group that we normally take Ayahuasca with, called “Comunindios”, whom I immensely respect and appreciate for their work with plant medicines, would be co-hosting the event with Apolo and opening up their space for him and his group to do what they do best.
Not only did it have a part with Ayahuasca, but it also had Kambo, a workshop for discovering your spirit animal, a night of Ayahuasca WITH Sao Pedro, and then topped off with a Temazcal ceremony.
Sign. Me. Up.
My friend and I signed up and began mentally and physically preparing for the events that would be coming in the coming weeks.
Part 1 – Taking Frog Poison – Kambo:
Kambo is a venomous secretion that comes from a frog native to Brazil and other parts of the Amazon. It is called the “Giant Leaf” or “Monkey Frog”. The frog and it’s secretions are often called “Sapo” which means “toad”.
Put simply, taking Kambo means to ingest frog poison, typically administered via skin burns.
Why on earth would someone want to intentionally take frog poison?
Because it has a variety of health benefits and is believed to have a detoxifying or “cleansing” effect on your body, mind, and spirit. The indigenous tribes of the amazon have been using it for centuries and believe it to be a powerful medicine with great power to heal.
Not for the lighthearted though, the effects of Kambo are very intense. It causes puking, intense heat and swelling in the body, pain or headaches…it’s not a very comfortable experience.
It doesn’t have much of a psychedelic effect either, if that’s what you’re wondering. No visions or hallucinations or shifts in thinking…just a bunch of puking and feeling like your body swelled into a balloon like the girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Afterwards though, you feel a lot better (at least that’s what I thought going in).
I’m a curious person, so I wanted to give it a try. Take it for myself and see what I have to say about it after.
But before I did, I did some research into the pharmacology of Kambo – what the hell is in it and does it really have the power to heal?
When you look into the science of it all, it really is a fascinating substance.
Kambo has around 12 different active peptides with medicinal effects, most notably including phyllocaerulein, phyllomedusin, phyllokinin, sauvagine, dermaseptin B2, adenoregulin, deltorphins, and dermorphin.
Let’s break these down one by one to get an idea of what we’re working with.
Phyllocaerulein is a hypotensive neuropeptide that stimulates the adrenal cortex and pituitary gland. Present in kambo at around 32 micrograms per milligram, it has a role in the medicine’s analgesic and satiety effects.
Translation: Phyllocaerulein causes a loss of appetite and reduces pain and inflammation in the body.
Phyllomedusin interacts with tachykinin receptors—shown to regulate the functions of dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters—while phyllokinin targets the bradykinin receptors. Phyllomedusin contracts smooth muscles while phyllokinin relaxes them. Both are potent vasodilators, increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. They are present in kambo at around 22 and 18 micrograms per milligram, respectively.
Translation: Phyllomedusin and phyllokinin work synergistically to dilate your blood vessels and relax your muscles, while simultaneously triggering the feel good chemicals of dopamine and serotonin.
Sauvagine, present at 3 micrograms per milligram, functions like a hormone. It interacts with the pituitary-adrenal axis and corticotropin-releasing receptors—involved in stress, anxiety, depression, and addictive behavior.
Translation: Sauvagine targets the part of your brain that is involved in stress, anxiety, depression, and addictive behavior.
Deltorphins and dermorphin are both powerful opioid receptor agonists. Deltorphins in particular have among the highest binding affinity and selectivity to delta opioid receptors of any natural compound. Dermorphin is highly selective for mu opioid receptors. Present at 5.2 and 0.25-0.33 micrograms per milligram, respectively, these peptides are many times more potent than endogenous beta-endorphin.
Translation: Deltorphins and dermorphin replicate the effects of traditional opiod based prescription pain killers – and are very powerful at that.
Scientific jargon aside, Kambo has compounds that dilate your blood vessels to increase circulation, then other compounds that create anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxing, and pain relieving effects. It’s a powerful pain relieving cocktail of compounds.
(all of this credit to https://thethirdwave.co/psychedelics/kambo)
Let’s dive a bit deeper now into the documented health benefits we’ve found so far.
“One of kambo’s most exciting potential medical applications is the treatment of cancer. Dermaseptin B2 has been shown to inhibit cancer cell (human prostatic adenocarcinoma) growth by more than 90%. This peptide penetrates cells and works by necrosis (active destruction) and not apoptosis (normal or programmed cell death).
Dermaseptins, including adenoregulin, are powerful antibiotics. Found to be rapidly and irreversibly effective against a range of parasitic microorganisms, they’re also entirely non-toxic to mammalian cells.
Combined with their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, peptides in kambo are especially promising for conditions like Cryptococcal meningitis in patients with late-stage HIV. Among the pathogens killed by dermaseptin B2 are the filamentous fungi that opportunistically infect AIDS patients.
Since adenoregulin affects the binding of agonists to adenosine receptors—instrumental in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier—it may be useful in the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and strokes.
There’s also compelling anecdotal evidence for kambo’s effectiveness in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). According to one sufferer, the secretion completely eliminates CFS symptoms when taken regularly.
The deltorphins and dermorphin present in kambo are stronger than morphine without the same level of respiratory depression, tolerance potential, and withdrawal symptoms.
Phyllokinin may be useful in the treatment of hypertension, having been shown to lower blood pressure more effectively than other polypeptides.
Most interestingly, Kambo is believed to remove a “cloud of negative energy” called “Panema” that accumulates in all of us throughout the course of our lives.
“Panema—an Arawak term used by the Ashaninka and others—describes a negative energy that gathers over time. Traditionally visualized as a kind of dense grey cloud or aura, panema is blamed for bad luck, depression, laziness, irritation, and other adverse states.
Outside of traditional contexts, the dissipation of panema is framed in terms of “clearing the pain body,” “realigning the chakras,” or reorganizing personal psychology. The purge itself may be felt as an expulsion of bad thoughts, habits, negative personality traits, or persistent life problems.
A profoundly transformational tool, kambo is known to increase compassion, courage, emotional stability, and personal sovereignty.Some users feel more “real” or “solid” after kambo application—less in their heads and more in their bodies. Frustration, anger, and anxiety also tend to clear. These positive changes may last several days or several months, depending on the application and the person receiving it.”
Having said this, do your research before taking a substance like Kambo, and make sure especially that you have a healthy heart and no pre-existing medical conditions that could put you at risk. Safety is always the top priority. Make sure that you are doing this with someone whom you trust with verifiably safe sources of the medicines you are consuming.
I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one on the internet, and I would never recommend that anyone take a powerful substance such as this without reading more and researching on their own.
Little is known about the long-term safety of kambo, but evidence suggests that deltorphin and dermorphin has the potential to cause respiratory depression and lead to heavy reliance with frequent use. Kambo-related deaths have also been linked to the secretion’s depressive effects on the central nervous system. Toxins present in kambo may affect the cardiovascular system, kidneys, pancreas, and liver. (https://thethirdwave.co/psychedelics/kambo)
Having said this, there are no known reported deaths or severe illnesses as a direct result of the use of Kambo, all have been linked to previously existing health conditions. It is largely considered safe to administer and is widely used for the health benefits that it promotes.
“The immediate effects of kambo are intense and unpleasant but short-lived, usually lasting no more than 30-40 minutes. They include a feverish rise in temperature, sweating, shivers, and dizziness as the heart rate becomes rapid—possibly reaching more than 190 beats per minute.
The blood pressure may rise or fall dramatically, accompanied by an increased awareness of the veins and arteries. Many people report a tingling or burning sensation like electricity that starts from the points and spreads through the body. Some may also feel a dissociative or drunken high.
Overwhelming nausea is generally unavoidable with kambo and purging is likely—either by vomiting, defecation, or both. Other effects include a feeling of pressure in the head, neck, and torso, stomach pain, inflammation of the throat, dry mouth, blurred vision (or temporary blindness), difficulty moving, and numb, swollen lips and tongue.
Your experience may feel enhanced following the kambo purge. You may feel great physical strength, sharpened senses, and heightened mental alertness. Desirable after-effects like these may take a day to materialize or they could be immediate. They also tend to include a consistently elevated mood, increased physical and mental energy, decreased stress, and enhanced focus.
Back to the experience:
For the week leading up to Kambo followed a strict diet of the following:
- No meat (chicken, beef, pork)
- Low salt/sugar
- No alcohol
- No smoking (tobacco and cannabis both)
- 2 liters of water a day minimum
- High veggies
For the 24 hours leading up to Kambo I refrained from sexual activity, and fasted for 8 hours leading up to the ceremony. It was also recommended to drink as much water as humanly possible beforehand.
I arrived at the location ready to cleanse.
Upon my arrival I was instructed to begin chugging down water. I was given a 1.5 liter water bottle and encouraged to drink the entire thing before the application of Kambo was to begin.
Once I was finished drinking the water, a woman came over to me with an incense stick and asked where I would prefer to have my burn marks made.
She then proceeded to burn 5 small circles into the top of my left shoulder.
Shortly after this, she came over to me and began applying the Kambo directly into the burns that she had just made. Upon application I could feel a bit of stinging/tingling where the burns were made, but nothing too intense.
After applying they stressed the importance of the mental aspect of this “cleanse”. They told me to use my intention and direct my thoughts towards the cleansing process. To trust that the medicine is doing the work that it needs to. To surrender to the power of the medicine and not question it’s efficacy. In short, the way that you think about the experience will have an effect on how your body reacts to it.
Within a few short minutes I could feel my face begin to warm up. I could feel pressure near my temples. I could feel the nausea begin.
I started to vomit.
Each time slightly different than the next. In the beginning it tasted like I was merely vomiting up the water I recently consumed. As I continued to purge, I could taste the bile coming up along with it.
The interesting part was that I could literally taste different flavors of bile. Each more disgusting than the next. Some slightly sweet. Others more bitter. Different textures as well. Some foamier and others more watery.
Over the course of the initial 10 minutes I probably vomited around 5-10 times. Each wave of “purging” caused me to vomit 2-3 times, and then I would drink some more water.
After each “wave” I could still feel that there was more nausea within me. I would drink more water, and then within a minute or two BAM, another wave of vomiting.
While all of this was going on they were playing music in the background. Guitars, drums, rattles, and flutes. The lyrics of the music were about the appreciation of Kambo. The cleansing process and effects of the medicine. The trust and appreciation for the medicine.
This music both intensified the experience and reinforced the intention to “clean” and “trust the medicine”
In my mind I was chanting “vamos limpar” (let’s clean), or “Por favor o Kambo me deixe limpa” (Please, Kambo, Leave me clean), over and over again to the beat of the music. I was nodding my head up and down, chanting with all of the energy in my body. Never allowing my thoughts to deviate to skepticism or being cynical of the effects I was feeling.
This first “wave” of purging lasted for what felt like around 10-15 minutes. Once they could see that I calmed down, they came over to me to administer some Rapé (medicinal tobacco they shoot up your nose).
To set some context, rapé feels like lighting fireworks off in your head. It’s an instant blast into the present moment. It’s very intense.
BUT it leaves you in a very meditative state. Sets your body buzzing with feelings. Clears your mind of any thought loops you’ve been in.
Having said that, my nose is historically awful at having anything go up in it. I was already congested and couldn’t breathe through my nose, so the idea of doing rapé was not one that excited me tremendously.
While looking at the dude preparing the rapé, I could see that he put an entire palmful of rapé into the applicator. To set a baseline for comparison, the size of the dose I have done in the past is about the size of a quarter. This was an ENTIRE PALMFUL.
He was also using an applicator that must have been 15 inches long. This thing was MASSIVE. Not your normal rapé applicator – this thing was a bazooka of rapé.
He walked over to me with authority and didn’t allow me to ask any questions. It was a matter of a fact. I was taking this rapé whether I liked it or not…it’s a part of the cleansing process.
Not only did he use an absurdly high dose of the rapé, he also blew it into my nose with all of the force he could muster (normally they do it a bit slow and steady).
It literally felt like an energetic slap to the face. My head and body started to vibrate with intensity. I could feel my body heat up with tingling energy (the normal effects of rapé) and then….
More vomiting. More water, more vomiting, blow my nose from the rapé, repeat.
More of the same for the next 10 minutes or so. Vomiting, water, listening to the music, chanting in my mind to trust the medicine and heal me of my energetic and physical ailments.
Once this calmed down came the worst part of the experience…liquid tobacco.
I was still vomiting and highly nauseous when the shaman came over to me with a glass of liquid tobacco and told me to drink it all in one shot.
I took a swig and immediately started vomiting. I took another swig, more vomiting. He persisted and told me that I needed to get it all down.
The next swig I was able to get it all down.
It was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. It burned going down and burned even worse coming up.
The vomiting intensified. It became violent. Like I could feel my entire body vomiting. Like I was letting go of energy. I could feel more than vomit leaving my body, I could feel everything in my body relax more deeply with each subsequent purge.
I would later find out that the liquid tobacco is used for “emotional cleansing”. I found it interesting that this was the hardest part of the ceremony for me, as this has been a very emotional year for me. Tears were flowing down my face as I was vomiting, as if I was crying while vomiting at the same time.
Once this cleared, I could feel that the worst of it was over. I could still feel some nausea, so I drank some more water. I threw up a few more times, and could feel that the nausea had more or less passed.
I could feel my body start to calm down. Could feel the cold air from outside again. Could feel my heart-rate calming back down.
I started to drink some water. I was able to keep it down. Within 10 minutes I had drank almost half a liter, and all of it was staying down. I could still feel some nausea, but it felt that the cleansing was over.
I sat there in meditation for the next 10-15 minutes, feeling myself return back to normal.
In all honesty, I didn’t really feel all that different. I felt like I had just puked a lot, but energetically or physically didn’t feel that much of a difference.
The skeptic in my mind was trying to return but I didn’t allow him to. I reinforced my intention in my mind and said to myself, “whether I feel it or not, this medicine did what it needed to and cleaned me out.”
I relaxed there at the center for another hour or so before I returned home. They gave me some soup and I continued to drink some water. I could feel more nausea within me, but it wasn’t coming up.
Eventually we got into the car and made our way back home. My body felt very sensitive to movement. Like I was a bit dizzy/drunk. I could feel every slight maneuver of the car. As I looked out the window, colors seemed brighter. I felt sensitive, like I could feel every part of my body and the movement of the car all at once. It made me nauseous again.
I got out of the car and dry heaved a bit before getting into our next cab. I was able to make it home with equal sensitivity but less nausea. I was starting to feel better.
When I got home I ate some beans and rice with some chamomile tea and ginger and then passed out like a baby and slept soundly through the entire night.
Post Kambo reflection:
The next morning I awoke with crazy energy. I felt light and bursting with energy, but at the same time calm. My girlfriend told me that my skin felt softer and my heart was beating more slowly than normal.
Interestingly, I also slept clean through the night without using my inhaler (a rarity for me). There wasn’t a trace of a wheeze anywhere in my lungs.
My nose also opened up. I was no longer congested.
While working that day I had fantastic focus. I am normally touching my beard or hair when I’m thinking, and many of my anxious habits, while not completely eliminated, were severely reduced.
Other than this, I didn’t feel any significant difference in the way that I felt. Nothing earth shattering. But I think that this is also the way that the mind is designed to think – we want some revelatory feeling, when in reality the medicine did what it needed to do – cleaned me out and left me with a subtle sense of peace and well being.
I didn’t experience many of the common feelings that people experience while on Kambo, such as intense heat, feelings like your body is on fire/full of electricity, swollen face, difficulty breathing, or anything like this.
I later found out that, because it was my first time, they gave me a smaller dose. They do this intentionally with first timers as it is safer and prevents against potential adverse reactions. This could be a potential explanation of why I didn’t feel the intensity of feelings both during or after the experience.
The friend I went with however received a full dose, as it was his 2nd time. His first experience was similar to mine – didn’t feel a lot other than the purging effects.
This time however, he experienced the full spectrum of feelings. He said it felt like his insides were being lit on fire, and he had the swollen face/difficulty breathing.
The next day he was also a firecracker of energy, bursting through his work with all of the intensity of the world. He said that he felt incredible. I could see an energetic difference in him as well. He looked brighter, like he had the glow of a pregnant woman.
The rest of the day I relaxed, got in a workout on the slackline, and prepared myself mentally for the upcoming events of the night….discovering my spirit animal
Part 2 – Discovering my spirit animal
Still riding the waves of my Kambo experience, two friends and I embarked on another journey with the same Shaman at the same place – one that would help us to discover our spirit animals.
This is something that I have always been fascinated by. I have heard reports of people who took things like Ayahuasca and experienced a special connection with a specific animal who, “guided” them throughout the experience. I’ve always been slightly envious of this.
I’ve always loved animals, but I’ve never honestly had one animal in specific that called to me. I had some theories about what animals I could potentially be, but if I were honest with myself, none of them really stood out in any meaningful way.
Going into the experience I had a few animals on my mind.
- Lion – My astrological symbol is a Leo, and because of this people have always referred to me as the lion. One friend in particular also calls me “leaozinho” (little lion), and it’s a name I’ve become fond of. I’m also considered to be an intense person, which is why the lion seemed to particularly resonate. HOWEVER, I’ve never really felt a strong connection with felines in general, and other than the intensity aspect, never felt like the lion was my type of animal.
- Monkey – As a child I was teased and called monkey boy. I’m also always bursting with energy, I’m loud, and my mind jumps from place to place like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. Energetically, I can see the connection with monkeys. Again though, never felt a particular connection to this animal.
- Dogs – If there’s any animal I feel represents my personality best, it’s definitely a dog. For one, dogs have no shame in walking up to another dog and saying hello. I’ve always been the same way – I can connect with any human from any walk of life and immediately establish rapport. Secondly, dogs have this “SQUIRREL!” effect, where they can be focused on one thing, and BOOM, distraction arises and the dog starts chasing it. I’ve been very similar where I can be very focused on one topic, but it’s also very easy to distract me and get me off on a new tangent. For this reason when people always asked me “what is your spirit animal” I’ve normally answered dog and given this justification.
Interestingly enough…none of these animals became the animal that I connected with 🙂
We arrived at the center around 7pm for the festivities to begin. Before we got started, they offered Rapé to those who wanted to indulge. My nose was still clogged from the previous day, so I declined and waited patiently for the ceremony to begin.
Eventually they brought everyone inside and we gathered around a couch, where the Shaman and his crew were seated. Before discovering our spirit animals, he wanted to give a discourse on a variety of information that is necessary to the appreciation of the process and the ancient traditions we were about to embark on.
I won’t lie – I was very tired going into this session and had a hard time paying attention. The entire discourse was also in Portuguese, and while my skills are (what I like to believe), pretty damn good, some parts were difficult to follow along.
Having said that, there were two primary themes he discussed that I believe are very important. These aren’t necessarily related to discovering your spirit animal, but were moreso an important context-setter for the days yet to come (Ayahuasca, Sao Pedro, Temascal, plant medicines in general).
If you’re not interested in this part, feel free to skip ahead to the sections related to discovering your spirit animal.
The first part he discussed was the use of tobacco in all of the ceremonies, in its varying forms.
Unlike the polluted, carcinogen filled tobacco that most of the world is smoking in cigarettes, they have organic tobacco straight from the amazon in it’s pure, naturally occurring state. They use tobacco in nearly every ceremony because it is the most sacred and ancient of all plant medicines. It was the first plant medicine they discovered for spiritual usage, and has a variety of uses depending on how one needs it.
The first form of tobacco discussed was smoked in a pipe – NOT to be inhaled. We were instructed to smoke the tobacco, and upon exhale, pass the smoke over your head using your hand, and then over your heart. This was meant to symbolize cleansing of the mind, and the opening of the heart. Someone then also came around and blew smoke over our heads and said some chants to go along with it.
This form of tobacco is used for it’s energetic cleansing properties. It’s like taking a spiritual bath. It cleans you of the clouds or blockages that you might have floating around you. It casts the negative energy and spirits away from you. It protects you and forms a “forcefield” for lack of a better term, around your physical body.
Next they discussed the use of Rapé – probably the most important form of tobacco that we would be using throughout the next few days. These guys used Rapé, for quite literally, every ceremony, so it was important to understand it’s usage and context.
Rapé is a form of powdered tobacco that is shot up your nose via a pipe. It’s effects are….intense. It feels like your head explodes with a punch to the face internally. You can feel your whole head light on fire, and then it travels down to the rest of your body. For the minutes after it is shot in your nose, you can feel your body start to vibrate all over.
While all of this is going on you must also breathe through your mouth and not swallow. If you swallow any of the tobacco, you will start to vomit. Many people who are unfamiliar with how to use Rapé vomit their first time.
Eventually you will feel your nose clog up and feel an urge to blow your nose (for me it’s usually about 5-10 minutes later). Once you blow your nose, the feelings will gradually subside. Overall the effects last about 10-15 minutes or so.
Whenever I take Rapé I feel very grounded afterwards. Like it immediately calmed me down and recalibrated my energy. I feel very light as well, often like my body is light as a feather and I’m floating when I walk.
To them, Rapé was the first form of “Limpeza” or “cleaning”. Rapé is meant to be a grounding tool, a stabilizing tool. Something to bring you back down to earth, which in doing so, simultaneously helps you to blast off.
Most importantly though, it is thought of as the “thought cleanser”. They believe that Rapé, quite literally, wipes your mind clean. It erases whatever thought spirals you were previously thinking of. Knocks out the negativity floating around in your brain. Bitch-slaps you into presence and allows you to experience a state where your mind is free from your previous preoccupations and worries.
When dealing with plan medicines, this is a very important part of the process. The mind is looked at as a temple – it is important what thoughts, intentions, and desires we bring with us into these ceremonies – both wanted and unwanted.
Rapé gives us the ability to wipe the slate clean and refresh our intentions before entering into the volatile world of plant medicines – where a single thought has the ability to manifest itself and take you on a spiral the likes of which we can barely begin to comprehend.
Overall, similar to Kambo, it highlights the importance of the thoughts that we carry around with us, and the effect that those thoughts can have on our experiences. Thoughts are much more powerful than we realize, and a tool such as Rapé helps us to keep them in check so that they don’t derail the experience.
This is why, for them, Rapé is used before, during, and after most ceremonies.
After discussing rapé for some time, Apolo then discussed the use of other forms of tobacco as well.
He mentioned that, for people who have respiratory or nasal issues, it’s usually due to bacteria or toxins stored up in the upper respiratory system/intestines. Tobacco can act as a cure for this.
Have a stuffy nose? You can use liquid tobacco medi-pot style into your nose and have it come out the other side.
Have asthma? There is a liquid tobacco diet where you drink a half shot of liquid tobacco every day for about a month and it will apparently clear you up of your problems.
What is the mechanism behind why this works?
(Supposedly) Introducing tobacco into your system teaches your body how to fight off infections in small doses. It’s the same principle behind most vaccines – inject a small amount of the disease into your body so that your body can develop the antibodies to fight it off. With tobacco it’s no different. By ingesting small amounts of tobacco we can teach our bodies how to ward of sickness. It helps our bodies to become stronger at fighting off infections and diseases.
Lastly, and most importantly, Tobacco is also used in ceremonies such as Ayahuasca to bring people back to reality if they are struggling. If someone is having a hard time, the Shaman will often come over to them and blow smoke in their face, or ask that they do Rapé. It serves as a balancing mechanism when you are lost off the deep end and need a life-saver to anchor you back into the shores of reality.
In summation, Tobacco is the mother of all plant medicines. It is the first and the last. Without tobacco, it would be irresponsible to take the other plant medicines. It is a necessary part of the process and it is sacred.
For this I must say, thank you sacred tobacco. Thank you for the ways in which you have helped me. Thank you for clearing my thoughts and emotions and helping me to be stronger and more stable. Tabacco Sagrado 🙌
The effects vs. the power
The next part Apolo discussed is what I believe to be the most important aspect of all of his teachings – effects of plant medicines vs. their medicinal power.
He referred to the effects as the “psychedelic” aspects of things like Ayahuasca. These are what we would commonly refer to as “tripping” – The distortion of the five senses. We might have strange visions, see geometric patterns, feel strange sensations, or gain enhanced clarity of thought and creativity.
On the other side of the coin, the “power” is the healing aspects of these plant medicines. The things going on behind the scenes. While you might not see it going to work, or feel it’s effects, it is still doing what it needs to do in order to heal you of your ailments – be it mental, physical, spiritual, or all three.
He discussed how the “white indian” or western mind is (usually) obsessed with the effects. Many people take plant medicines like Ayahuasca simply because they want to trip out and have some funky visions.
He believes that the “effects” are mere distractions without much importance. He explained how, while we might have beneficial visions or gain clarity in thought – this is merely your conscious mind piecing together things that you already knew in a new way. It’s a self-confirming bias of sorts where you’re affirming things you have already known all along.
(see my first post on my Ayahuasca experience and this makes all the more sense).
He explained that most people place far too much importance on the effects – and because of this – if there are no “effects” (which can often happen with Ayahuasca and other plant medicines), people get discouraged and think “this isn’t working”….thus ignoring the “power”.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In the same way you take an antibiotic or medicine, although you’re not tripping out from it, it’s doing the work it needs to behind the scenes. It is healing you even if you don’t know what is going on at a conscious level.
Similarly, although you might not be having visions from Ayahuasca or feeling the “effects” – that doesn’t mean it’s not doing its job. Ayahuasca (and other plant medicines), work in a variety of ways through a variety of mechanisms. This is why every time you take it, you will have a different experience. Sometimes you might have visions, other times you might be throwing up the whole time, and other times you might want to move and dance.
Ayahuasca gives you what you need, not what you want, and it operates differently every time depending on where you need the most assistance.
When I reflect back on my own experiences with Ayahuasca, this makes a lot of sense to me. One time I had beautiful visions and reaffirmed a lot of what I already believed about meditation. Another time was an emotional trip where I thought about my mother and got clarity on family dynamics. Another time was with a girl I love and the two of us intertwined into one and I experienced the world of love.
Every time was a different experience. Different visions. Felt like a different drug entirely.
Similarly, I’ve had moments (especially in my first experience), where I felt stone cold sober…and because of this I was frustrated. I thought that the medicine wasn’t working and I wasn’t getting the effects that I desired.
In reality I was merely distracted and chasing after the effects of Ayahuasca, instead of keeping my mind focused on the power and trusting that it is doing the work it needs to.
When we search for the effects, we undermine it’s true power. When we don’t feel the effects and get frustrated, we violate our trust of the medicine.
The shamans believe that your thoughts have power. Your intentions have power. How you think about the experience has an effect on its ability to properly heal.
When we question the power of the plant medicine, we don’t allow ourselves to receive the full benefit. We fight and resist it.
Interestingly, when speaking to a friend about their experience after the ceremony, they echoed a similar sentiment.
She said to me, “At one point I was stuck in my head, questioning everything. ‘This isn’t working. Why am I here? I’m going to have to sit here all night. My back hurts. I feel nauseous.’ All of my doubts, worries, and concerns, distracting me from the present moment. But then I remembered his talk on effects vs. power and I tried to let go of my thoughts and put my faith in the medicine. As I did that, visions started to occur. I began to puke. And the cry. And then dance. And then more visions.”
When the skeptical part of the mind goes to work, and we’re distracted from the present moment searching for experiences that aren’t there, creating expectations about what we think should be happening, we don’t allow the medicine to do what it needs to do.
When we chase after “effects” we can create delusional beliefs or egomaniacal senses of grandiosity instead of receiving the fat dose of humility and groundedness that we need.
When we surrender to the medicine, let go of expectations, and trust that it is doing what it needs to, we open ourselves up to the vulnerability we need to allow the medicine to do what it does best.
Let me reiterate these words again, because I believe that they are very important.
Surrender. Trust. Belief. Vulnerability.
These are what most of us struggle with to begin with. To let go of our clenching to life and merely float along the river to wherever we need to be taken to.
When you take Ayahuasca you must surrender to the experience, trust the medicine, believe in the power of healing, and be vulnerable enough to allow it to give you the warm hug or harsh bitch slap that you need.
To all of the people out there who want to take Ayahuasca, please keep this in mind: Stop chasing after the effects. They might be fun or educational, but they are a distraction from the larger truths that exist. If you feel nothing, don’t worry, trust that the Ayahuasca is doing what it needs to. Open yourself up to the experience and let go of what you want, in order to allow the medicine to give you what you need.
Act in harmony with the Universe
The next thing that Apolo discussed is the effect that the external universe has on us.
They believe that there is a universe inside of us, and the moon, sun, stars and planets all have an effect on the stirrings of the universe…and therefore have an effect on you too.
In the same way that the moon affects the waves of oceans all around the world, the moon has an effect on our internal waves as well.
More or less, they believe that astrology is real. Depending on what your sign is, the currents of the universe will affect you differently. Depending on what your dominating planets are, what cycle the moon is in, how old you are, etc, the universe is having an effect on the way our lives move.
We can use this to our advantage if we study it closely. We can act in accordance with the cycles of the moon and planets. For example, if we know that a particularly dangerous cycle is upon us, we can take preventative measures. Or if we know what a certain cycle of abundance is upon us, we can try our new experiments.
We can use these to shape our intentions and thoughts during these cycles. If we shape our intentions and thoughts properly, these precede positive actions that we take. Thus, whether you believe in these things or not, if you place your intentions in the right areas and use those intentions to reinforce positive action, you’re moving in a positive direction regardless.
Moreover, they believe that all of us have spiritual “guides”, and these guides are helping to steer us in the paths that we need to, while simultaneously avoiding others that might harm us. When we take things like Kambo, rapé, ayahuasca, and other plant medicines, we clear the pathways and allow these guides to act without resistance.
Over time many of us have become disconnected from these energies. We’re not as sensitive to them, and thus we can’t feel properly when the universe is trying to send us the message that it needs to.
Taking plant medicines are meant to reconnect us back to the cycles of the universe and allow our guides to do their work properly. To remove the energetic clouds surrounding us and allow us to act in harmony with the universe and reap its full benefits….without resistance.
People can feel this disconnect as well, which is why plant medicines like ayahuasca, mushrooms, and others are making such a resurgence in recent times. More and more people are meditating, doing yoga, and exploring spiritual practices without a connection to religion. We’re learning to reconnect with the ancient techniques and medicines already at our disposal but that have been neglected for some time.
The collective consciousness of the planet is shifting. As more of us do, it becomes all the more important to reconnect with the ancient traditions that have served us in the past, to learn from them and help us act in harmony with the universe once again. To get back to the basics of harmony, peace, love, and sustenance, to experience the breadth and depth of abundance that already exists and is sitting underneath our noses.
/end of discourse
Guided meditations – discovering my spirit animal
When the discourse was finally finished, it was time to dive into the world of spirit animals
Only problem is after nearly an hour of trying to listen, I was already nearly falling asleep.
The lights were turned down. The drumming and chanting began. Apolo began to guide us through the meditation….And I began to pass out
I don’t really remember much of the first guided meditation, but there were two specific parts that I remembered.
At one point in the guided meditation he said that we walked up to a tree and were supposed to ask it something.
I remember that when I walked up to the tree, there was a giant hole in the center, with an owl sitting in the middle, staring at me with its eyes wide open.
I wanted him to walk with me when it was time to leave, but he wouldn’t come with me. He told me I needed to walk alone for now.
Then it went black.
The next thing I remember was coming out of the meditation (sleep). I could see a bird of some kind flying by my side, but I couldn’t tell what type of bird it was.
I awoke a bit frustrated that I fell asleep. Some other people seemed to have distinct visions, and I felt like it didn’t work for me.
Interestingly, as people began to discuss their experiences, some curious things happened.
For one, the whole guided meditation was about birds, and I had no idea that this was the case. The fact that I had two separate visions of birds, with no previous knowledge the meditation was about birds, was something that made me scratch my head. Especially because he never used the word “birds”, and only used species of birds, none of which I knew the words for in Portuguese.
I asked about the birds used, but I didn’t have a vision of any of them.
And then he mentioned owls – Apparently, Owls represented confusion, mystery, uncertainty.
Despite my lack of connection with the four birds we were meant to see, I had a connection with one of the more mysterious ones. I decided to dive deeper.
When he finished speaking I asked his English speaking assistant to elaborate on what the owl meant. He explained to me that the Owl is known as the “guide to the unknown sides of ourselves.”
In the spiritual world, owls are meant to guide us to where we can’t see. They can guide us to the dark sides of ourselves and help us to understand our fears, insecurities, weaknesses, pain, etc. When an owl shows up, it’s time to dive into the unknown, the parts of yourself left undiscovered.
This blew my mind – On the way to the workshop my friend and I were discussing our intentions for the upcoming Ayahuasca ceremony. I said to him that I wanted to cast out the dark side of myself. I want to find my fears and weaknesses, confront them, overcome them, and befriend them.
I was inspired by the Aubrey Marcus image he posted – https://www.instagram.com/p/BlLxXQLDmK9/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1lpb8hic74df1
This was the intention I wanted to bring with me into my ayahuasca ceremony. To accept myself fully, both light and dark, after having seen the darkness come out of me and be brought into the light.
Now here I am doing a guided meditation where I fall asleep, and the only clear memory I have is of an owl, an animal meant to help guide us in seeing our dark sides?
C’mon mr owl let’s dive down the rabbit hole!!!
I’ll Leave it at that for now and chalk it up to a mere coincidence.
Guided meditation #2 – the main event
Now it was time for meditation number two. This time I was determined not to fall asleep.
The meditation began as if you were walking through a tunnel. A dark cave where you can’t see anything. You are walking and walking, maybe even flowing through the tunnel like water, moving quickly. Whatever it is, follow the feeling of moving through the cave at whatever speed.
Then suddenly you emerge.
You’re in a new place.
Where are you?
When I emerged I was in the middle of the desert.
I was walking aimlessly until I saw an oasis. I continued to walk towards it and it got closer and closer.
He explained that now is when you might see an animal.
However, just because you see an animal doesn’t mean it’s the animal you need.
You must first receive its recognition, it’s approval.
If you see an animal approach it, gauge its reaction, and ask if it is your animal.
As I approached the oasis, the first animal I saw was a giraffe.
I asked the giraffe, “are you my animal?” and suddenly he swung his neck at me aggressively. I jumped back and thought, “no, this is not my animal.”
Next I saw an elephant, I approached him too.
“Are you my animal?”
He let out a long “(how the hell do you explain the sound an elephant makes)”, but was more gentle about in than the giraffe was with me.
I could tell this wasn’t my animal, so I continued moving.
Then suddenly I saw a Rhinoceros drinking water from the lake.
“A rhinoceros?! Really? No way this is my animal”
I approached him with resignation and confusion.
“Rhino? Are you my animal?”
“Really? You’re my animal? A rhino?”
“I guess so”
“Cool! What do you want to do?!”
“Ummm ok. I could use some water too actually…
Do you mind if I climb on top of you?”
“Sweet!” (Climbed on top of him)
“What do you want to do?”
And so we sat there, me and the rhino, doing nothing for a few minutes. Just sitting there, breathing, existing.
Around this time the guided meditation kicked back in. Apolo directed us to think about the qualities that this animal embodies. More importantly, when taking to the animal, what qualities did it exude?
I thought about how a rhino is unshakeable. Unmoveable. Stable, grounded, balanced.
I thought about how succinct he was with me. One or two word answers. No elaborate conversations.
I thought about how content he was doing nothing. How calm he was. The energy of a thousand animals simply sitting still, but if you pissed him off he could explode with the intensity of the world. To have all of that power under the hood, but to sit with it calmly and intently.
Then Apolo directed us to integrate those qualities into ourselves. To become one with the animal. To imagine that you embody all of the same qualities as that animal.
Then he slowly guided us back to reality. We slowly returned back to the room we were in. They stopped playing the music. The lights turned back on…
Reflection and Examination
When the meditation was over, Apolo discussed how the most important aspect was to think about the qualities that animal represented to you. This animal, and these qualities, are the animal you must learn to embody in this next chapter of your life.
Our “spirit animal” Is not always the same. It changes depending on where we are in life, what is happening to us, and what we need at this moment. This animal is a representation not of who you currently are, but what qualities you need most right now in this moment.
It was true as well. When I looked at my life from an objective perspective, this is the animal that I need right now. I was also genuinely surprised that this animal came up as mine, which made me like it even more.
If you told me to list out 100 animals at the beginning of this exercise, I don’t think a rhinoceros would have been anywhere on that list. It’s an animal I’ve never had any connection to. Never thought about or identified with. Never had any curiosity about.
I like that the animal came out of left field. Something unexpected. It made me feel like it was authentic, instead of an animal I was already thinking about and a potential self-confirmation bias. I wasn’t projecting an animal I wanted to connect with or was hoping I was, it felt like an animal that came to me.
On top of this, the qualities it made me think about were things that really resonated with me at this current juncture in my life.
Balance and Stability
The first quality of the rhino that resonated with me is balance. This is an animal that is stable. Grounded.
A big passion of mine that has evolved over the last year is the slackline. I think about balance constantly. Balance is a representation of how you react to the challenges that life throws you. Your center of gravity is akin to your internal true north.
The rhino is a very stable and balanced animal. It’s hard to move. It knows it’s center of gravity.
At this next stage in my life, I am striving for balance. A stable foundation. A center of gravity. This could mean geographically (I am a very nomadic person), and it can also mean internally (less emotional volatility, a better ability to handle when life throws me off balance).
It’s hard to throw a rhino off balance. It’s hard to lead a rhino off it’s path. This is what I need in this next stage of my life. I need a path I can’t be thrown off of. The stable foundation inside of me guiding me on the road.
Unshakeable, Unf*ckwithable, Firm and Resolute
Not only stability though, the rhino is an animal that is unshakeable, unmoveable.
For a lot of my life I was easily swayed in different directions. I call it my “squirrel” moments. It’s easy to show me something shiny and distract me.
I have ADHD to a T, but I’ve learned how to manage it over the years. Nonetheless, I’ve always felt a bit scattered, like I have a lot of ideas but I don’t make enough meaningful progress in any of them individually.
This scatteredness has created feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. I question myself more frequently. I gut check myself more often (which I do also believe is a good habit – like above, balance is always necessary).
When I look back on a lot of points in my life, I felt swayable. I was able to create exceptions and justifications to myself too much. I swayed in whatever directions I chose and felt at the moment, seemingly at random.
I also felt like I needed to constantly justify myself to others (from no actual need other than my own insecurities most likely). That need to justify, I believe, is part self-rationalization to explain my own uncertainty or think out loud to others.
The words that come to mind about how I felt are indecisive, scattered, uncertain, swayable.
When I look at the rhino, it’s an animal that is unshakeable, unmoveable. This is an animal that is not easily swayed in one direction or the other.
To become the rhino means to be unshakeable, immovable in my resolve to get where I want. Firm in my journey to stay on the same path.
I truly believe that I know exactly what I want in life, I’m just too easily thrown off track.
This is especially the case in decisions and negotiations. Don’t settle. Ask for what I want, express my intentions clearly, and stand my ground.
I don’t want to say stubborn or closed minded (although at times I need to be a bit more of that), I like the words decisive and resolute. Be decisive and hold my ground on the decisions I’ve made. Don’t settle.
He didn’t talk
The best quality of the rhino? He didn’t talk much.
I would get one word answers. “Sure. Ok. Drink water. Do nothing”.
He wasn’t very talkative.
This connected to a separate, but related, incident that I recently had.
I met a Jiu Jitsu Black Belt while I was in Brazil, and he was a source of a lot of inspiration for me.
I felt that he had a similar personality to me. A similar “energy”. He was intense.
One thing that I noticed about him was that throughout the day he was quiet. When he did talk, he was succinct. He never gave you a lecture or talked your head off, he got to the point quickly and stated it clearly.
Perhaps it was my subconscious projecting this quality onto the rhino, but it was something that resonated with me.
I never shut the fuck up. As evidenced by this overly long story about my shamanic journey, I always have too much to say.
This is something I’ve been wanting to change in life for a while. It’s something that my family is horrible about. We constantly lecture and go on long drawn out rants. We always have advice where we shouldn’t be giving it.
I don’t like these qualities. They often create more friction in my life than they do help me. While I express myself best through verbal communication, this over-communication pushes people away more than it does attract.
This animal inspired a segment of rules that I have since implemented for myself
- Speak less, listen more
- Be succinct, get to the point
- Don’t give advice unless someone asks for it
- Let the energy out upon request
- People do love to hear me talk and go on rants, but do it upon their request, with their permission and embrace.
Controlling all of that energy under the hood
I’ve always joked that my engine is too big for my frame. I have an abundance of energy. I’m always bursting with excitement and energy.
Think cracked out dog always running around barking all the time. That’s kinda accurate of how I’ve been.
This has hurt me both physically and emotionally in life. Physically, I push my body too hard and I get injured. Emotionally, my intensity pushes others away and my words hurt the people I love.
Being hyper all the time isn’t a good use of my energy. It’s not an effective usage of my energy in a positive direction. It’s like a battery running on 50% all the time because I expend too much energy at once and don’t use it in a sustainable manner.
A rhino is an animal that can’t afford to waste energy. I look at it like a battery that is constantly charging, saving its energy for when needed only.
A rhino is an animal that sits with a fully charged battery at all times. It only explodes when necessary. And when it does, it knows exactly how much to use so that he doesn’t burn himself out.
For a rhino to survive, it must conserve energy. When it DOES use its energy, it needs to carefully. Deliberately. Intentionally.
At this point in my life I need to learn how to conserve my energy energy, store it, learn how to sit with it and manage it.
Then when I DO have to let my energy out, don’t overextend myself. Be deliberate in how much energy I use. Intentional in the way that I use it.
In order to gain control of the horse one must first tame it. I need to learn how to tame my inner flame. Turn it into burning coals instead of a raging messy fire. Let out rare bursts of lightning instead of frequent sparks.
Content doing nothing
I liked that he didn’t need to do anything. All he wanted to do was drink water, enjoy the scenery. Didn’t need to move or do anything to keep himself entertained.
He could sit still and manage all of his energy peacefully.
I’m someone who likes to be occupied all of the time. I’m always doing SOMETHING. Whether it be meditating, slacklining, reading…I’m always trying to do things to spend my time wisely.
While there are many good habits embedded into this, I like the simplicity of doing nothing. Being content where I am right now, in this moment, with nothing more than my breath and a smile.
I’ve been meditating for the last few years and it’s become a regular part of my daily routine. It reinforces keeping the practice simple. Breathe. Feel. Spread some positive intentions.
No need to overcomplicate it with a variety of techniques. No need to analyze and judge it.
Simply sit, breathe, and be.
This is in the context of my life also. I know that boring times are ahead. Lonely times are ahead. Embrace those. Learn to be content doing nothing. Resist the urge to do things all of the time, and spend more time immersed in the simple beauties life has to offer.
Integration and Implementation
Like all of the previous ceremonies, we ended the “Discovering your Spirit Animal” session with another round of Rapé.
The three of us left feeling energized and introspective We all felt very connected to the animals we had experiences with. For each of us, the animal we arrived at made sense. Animals we wanted to pull back the layers from, study and understand to help us in our respective journeys.
For one of my friends, like me, an animal he never expected was what popped up. A mountain goat. It made a lot of sense to him, and he felt it was a good animal for him at this point in his life.
My other friend was a Lion. This is an animal he was initially thinking about, that came to life for him in that meditation. He was transported to being a part of the tribe. It also would become his guide during his Ayahuasca journey to come in the following days.
For me – it was time to embody the rhino.
There were some conversations I had been avoiding with my (more or less) girlfriend. We had broken up earlier this year, and then with my return to Brazil fell back into our old habits. I could see that expectations were starting to run wild, and I knew that we needed to have a talk. (We both knew we needed it in reality, we were avoiding reality).
The next morning we woke up and she mentioned that she had been thinking about things between us. I felt like now was the time, so I opened up the conversation and told her that we needed space from each other. That we had no future together, and it was a reality we’ve both been avoiding.
It was difficult but it had to happen. We cried. We hugged. She left not knowing if she would talk to me again.
I knew inside it was the right thing to do. With the rhino in mind I remained firm, unshaken, balanced in my decision. Decisive…yet still allowing myself to feel the pain within and not avoid it.
I was relieved in a way as well, because I didn’t want to have the conversation hanging over my head during the Ayahuasca ceremony. There were larger, bigger picture, things that I needed to deal with, and ending the relationship was an important part of going into the ceremony ready to tackle my fears head on.
Part 3 – Ayahuasca and Sao Pedro with a side of Exorcism
After a day of Kambo followed by another day of discovering your spirit animal, it was time to drop into the world of Ayahuasca and let the real work begin.
To set some context, that night we would be taking a combination of Ayahuasca and Sao Pedro. This was to be my 5th time taking Ayahuasca, and I have never taken Sao Pedro before.
If you’re not familiar with Ayahuasca, it’s a liquid form of DMT, usually in the form of a thick earthy tobasco tasting tea. When drank it will produce effects for about 3-8 hours depending on how much you take of it.
Typical effects include intense visualizations, distortion of sounds, increased sensitivity to feelings, potential nausea and vomiting, thought distortions and new insights/realizations.
If I’m honest though I don’t really know how to describe Ayahuasca, because every time I have taken it has been a completely different experience. I wrote about one of those experiences here.
It’s in a class of it’s own. In the world of psychedelics, this is the grandmother of them all. I would say it’s the most powerful, most intense, and most rewarding as well.
If you’re curious about Ayahuasca and DMT you can read more here.
Sao Pedro was the next plant medicine up on the list. I didn’t know much about it beforehand. In my head I compared it to mescaline or peyote, both of which I had never previously tried. They all come from the same family, more or less.
Sao Pedro was described to me as a more mellowing and soothing experience. It helped to balance out the intensity of Ayahuasca, keep you grounded and keep you at ease.
In times like these I like to believe that the Shaman is a chef of sorts, and he has a specific recipe. His recipe and formula has Ayahuasca and Sao Pedro, and in order to experience the full flavor of the dish, one must properly eat the meal without excluding any ingredients.
Apolo seemed like a world class chef, and I wanted to try his recipe.
I was ready to get in the kitchen and get cooking.
Some important themes and intentions were with me when starting that day.
- My primary intention was to cast out my shadow self. To confront my fears and discomforts head on. To watch them rise to the surface and out of my system.
- The power vs the effects – Don’t be concerned with the psychedelic aspects of ayahuasca a la visions, stay focused on the intention to heal and get shit out of your system.
- It was a “curing moon” which meant that today was a good day for healing. I also focused a lot of my thinking around healing the parts of me I don’t know are broken or damaged. The sides of myself that have been left neglected or unappreciated.
During the day leading up to the ceremony I like to try and clear my mind and get into a meditative state. Given the recent breakup I felt like I needed to let out some energy, so I spent the afternoon on the beach slacklining and meditating.
By the time I came back I ate a quick tapioca, showered, packed, and was on my way to the ceremony.
I arrived around 830pm and there were already a handful of people there. It was a very serious mood. Everyone looked ready to go to work.
To set the scene, the ceremony took place in the middle of a forest campgrounds that lies near Barra de Tijuca in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. It was in a buddhist cave/house that I can only describe as a house for hobbits.
It was a dome carved out of a mountain with low ceilings and a narrow walkway where you had enough room to lie down. It was a cramped space for around 25 people or so, but enough for everyone to have their own place to sit or lie down.
Try to imagine a congregation style setup, where the Shaman and his posse are up in the front of the room, with everyone then grouped together with enough space to lie down moving back throughout the rest of the room, while keeping a common pathway for everyone to walk down the middle.
I walked into the cave and immediately noticed that the same spot I sat in last year was still open 🙂 I walked towards the back right corner of the cave and took my seat next to a small fountain tucked into the rockface.
I laid down my pillows and blankets and got myself organized. Once I was settled in I began to meditate, practicing anapana and following my breath. I felt calm. Ready. Didn’t have a lot circling my mind or anything bothering me.
Slowly more and more people flowed into the cave and picked their spots. Things became gradually more cramped, but everyone had their own space neatly carved out. I was able to lie down from head to toe comfortably, but I was also touching bodies with people on my right and left, so it was a bit tight.
One friend was diagonal across from me, and another was tucked in right next to me on my right. Then his girlfriend was to the right.
Then another person came in and sat between myself and my friend on my right. Now we’re all cramped in nice and tight together. A nice warm happy family feeling.
In between my feet and the person across from me, buckets were placed in between so that if you needed to throw up, you could do it there.
(Throwing up or “limpeza” aka cleaning, is a very common part of the Ayahuasca process”)
So I have three people to my right, and three people in front of me. Then there’s a corner in the diagonal to my right that is open, and isn’t really a great place to sit to begin with.
After calmly sitting there settled in for about 15 minutes, the Shaman and his crew announced that it’s time to do some Rapé.
I’m not the biggest fan of it, but as I mentioned before, the Shaman has a recipe and a sequence designed to get you on board for the journey. If this was a part of the prescription, so it was time to do some rapé.
We walked outside and there was a fire to our left, with a small set up to do rapé to our right. I was one of the first people to jump in.
If you’re not familiar with how to do Rapé, it’s a fairly complicated process. If you do it wrong, you’re likely to throw up or not feel very good for some time after.
First, you need to try and close off the back of your throat. Like you’re using your tongue to choke yourself.
You do this so that the Rapé doesn’t get down the back of your throat, as you don’t want to inhale this stuff.
So you inhale, block off your throat, they shoot the rapé up your nose, and then you breathe out while an energetic explosion goes off in your head.
After that you don’t want to swallow for some time, so you need a clean place to spit if needed.
Then, you wait for about 5-10 minutes and breathe through your mouth while the rapé does it’s work. You don’t want to breathe through your nose at all during this time.
After a few minutes you’ll feel the need to blow your nose, and you’ll notice the effects aren’t as strong anymore as well. Then just blow out all the crap inside of there. It will take you a few tries before you’re clean and you can breathe through your nose again.
And that’s what I did!
I got a shot up each nose like a champ and then sat down on the sidewalk and meditated to the vibrations exploding throughout my body then blew my nose and sat back down ready for action.
We all settle gradually settle and take our seats, and wait for the ceremony to begin
….when one last person flows in rushed and late.
He walks all the way to the back of the cave where my group and I are seated, and takes the last open space. But instead of lying down and taking a mat like everyone else, he simply says that he’s going to sit on this raised rock in the middle of the ground.
We all ask him if he’s sure he wants to sit there, but he insists it’s ok. We try to give him a mat and a place to lie down but he rejects it. I get the vibe that he isn’t too worried, so I back off. I didn’t think much of it.
….I would soon see this manifest in the worst way possible
Now there’s about 6 of us all tucked into back of the room, but we’re comfortable. It’s time for the ceremony to begin
Imagine that all of the people made a giant snake of a U throughout the room. The door to walk in/out was all the way to the right of the cave, and then starting from there people wrapped all around the cave one by one.
To get up and out of the cave, I had to stand up, turn to my left, walk straight for about 10-15 steps and then exit the cave all the way on the right hand side (all while dodging over other people’s feet).
This U is how the Ayahuasca ceremony began. Starting with the people at the beginning of the right side of the room, looping around one by one as we took our potions for the day.
To start off with we took one dose of Ayahuasca alone. The Sao Pedro would be for later.
When it was my turn I walked up to the front of the cave and received my Ayahuasca from Apolo. I said a prayer of gratitude to Apolo and his team. Another for all of the people here with me. Another for myself for taking this medicine, and a last one for the medicine itself.
Down the hatch. It tasted like jaegermeister with tobasco tomato sauce. Like a bloody mary with jager.
It’s not that horrible but definitely wasn’t tasty.
After I took it I went back to my spot , sat down crossed legged, and began to meditate.
This time I decided to do a Vipassana body scan – in this form of meditation you try to feel each part of your body as you focus on it. So close your eyes and feel your face, and now your neck>chest>abs>hands and arms>shoulders and back>legs>feet> and then from toe to head again.
It normally takes me about 10-15 minutes to get from head to toe once. I remember that by the time I was coming back up from my toes and got to my lower back I started to have visions. So figure we’re about 20 minutes in at this point.
The hallucinations were difficult to describe. When my eyes were closed it was mostly black with visual shooting stars of rainbows. Zigzagging across each other some rigid others fluid, flowing in and out of each other.
As I continued to scan my body and meditate, by the time I got to my head I could feel it coming on faster and faster. It felt like I was being sucked down a tunnel that was gradually becoming faster and more intense.
It was becoming uncomfortable to sit so I tried to lay down. When I hit the pavement my world EXPLODED with visual intensity. Just overwhelming and immeasurable.
I felt like the roller coaster was moving a bit too fast, and I suddenly felt the urge to puke. I shot up out of the fetal position and puked into the bucket in front of me.
I wasn’t the only one who was ready to puke either. Shortly after I did, the guy next to me did as well. And then the guy in the corner who came in late starts throwing up as well.
After I get some purging out of me I lie back down and instantly blast back off into Ayahuascaland. It’s gorgeously beautiful but immeasurably intense.
I feel the urge to puke again, so I do.
As I’m sitting there puking I can feel the tension in my body. I feel tight. Shaky.
There’s some music playing, so I try to shake off some of the tension and shakiness in my body. I start swaying from side to side. Start flowing my arms. Dancing a bit.
I open my eyes and look up at the stage where Apolo and his group are playing music, and it looks like white ghosts of smoke are flowing all around them, dancing to the beat. It’s like each of them had a ghost like extension above them, flowing like smoke to the rhythm of the music.
I can feel their flow. I begin to flow to the beat. I begin to move my arms as if I’m doing the “pop n’ lock” and my arms are wavy. Then my hips get into it. Then my whole body. I’m literally sitting there just “flowing” with my body.
As I flow, my nausea dissipates, and I begin having more visual hallucinations. I think to myself “I know this dance” and I merely dance to the beat as a means of handling the intensity of the Ayahuasca.
I danced this way until the remainder of the song that they were playing. By the end I felt that I was bursting with happiness and good energy and was flowing nicely.
They begin playing the next song, and this one is more intense. More tribal. More in your face with loud drums beating quickly. The type to pump you up before you get into a fight. Like the drumming in the original Jumanji.
As this happens, the guy in the corner who came in late begins to start making some uncomfortable noises. It sounds like he’s struggling.
The song continues alongside his moans. The intensity of the song picks up.
He starts slamming his fists into the floor. Hard. To the point where sitting three people away from him you can feel the reverberations of his fists hitting the floor.
He’s not throwing up anymore, but you can see that he is struggling. Bad.
As the song continues on, he continues to get progressively worse. The moans get louder and more frequent. He continues to slam his fists on the floor.
Now he’s yelling out loud, “que e isso?!?!?” (what the hell is this?!) while moaning and slamming his fists against the floor.
When he’s not slamming his fists against the floor he’s scratching himself and sitting crouched over with his head in his lap.
At this point it’s beginning to look violent. Violent to the point where he might seriously hurt himself or the other people around us.
I pop up and feel compelled to help him. So does my friend and so does the guy next to me.
First my friend tries to tell him to stop banging his fists on the floor, as it’s disrupting the other people around him. He says that he can’t control it.
He tries to help him for a while but it doesn’t seem to have any effect. The three of us sit up together, more or less praying for this man and sending good vibes his way. I sent every ounce of energy I could his way in hoping that he could handle the demons that he was facing.
His symptoms only continued to worsen. At this point he’s nearly screaming at the top of his lungs in agony, banging on the floor, throwing up…it’s not looking pretty.
My friend gets up and goes to get the help of the Shaman and his group. He replies that he is aware of the situation and waiting to take proper action, but he needs to let things run their course.
While my friend is talking to the shaman, I grab the guy by the wrist and try to help him control himself. He reaches out to me like he’s desperate for help and clutches to my hand. Two seconds later he’s trying to bash it into the floor.
It was like I could feel two competing forces inside of him. One was reaching out to me clutching for dear life, begging me for help, while the other would rip control away from him and try to hurt himself.
I sat with him trying to wrestle these energies inside of him for about 5-10 minutes, but it was beginning to take an effect on me.
I could feel that I had the right intention to help, I tried to do my best, but if I continued I was going to get hurt. It was irresponsible to keep trying. I had to accept my limitations.
It was time for the professionals to step in. For the black-belts of shamanism to come in and do spiritual jiu jitsu with the demons possessing this man.
But before they stepped in things got worse…a lot worse.
Over the course of the next thirty minutes or so things escalated quite rapidly. He started rolling around on the floor convulsing and puking. Was screaming in languages that were neither Portuguese, English, or any other language I’ve ever heard. He was prostrated over the rock slamming his feet into the floor crying out in agony. Banging his fists into the floor and punching himself in the head. It wasn’t pretty.
30 Minutes ago I was tripping out in Ayahuascaland learning how to dance with spirits and now I’m watching what feels like a literal demonic possession in front of my eyes. It was like watching the exorcist on Ayahuasca.
When Apolo and his crew stepped in, myself and a few other people moved our spots to get ourselves into a healthier environment. It was just too distracting to be around and was sucking me into a negative energy. I felt tired and weak. Like I overexerted myself trying to help.
For now I would have to leave him behind to focus on my own journey. I’ll come back to our friend later…
I moved into a spot next to a girl and the two people who were previously next to me flowed by my side to form a small circle of us. I was now facing the band and had music blasting so I couldn’t hear the exorcism going on behind me any longer.
At this point the music was flowing, and I remembered my lessons from before, so I merely closed my eyes and began to dance. Not really dance so much as just sway. Flow.
I could see all of the people around me glowing. They all had auras all around them. Everyone’s different but equally beautiful.
Our energies were flowing in and out of one another. Some people releasing excess of one color and another person sucking in that color to replenish their deficiency.
It was like watching “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” in spiritual action. I could see the energies of the room rearranging themselves, and helping everyone to restore their individual balance. My excess helps your deficiency and vice versa.
Every person I looked at inspired me in some way. Had some quality I admired. Something I wanted to embody in my own life. I could see the ways that we all influence each other without realizing it. In the ways that we carry around “moods” with us. Our moods are our energies, and those energies are contagious. We’re all soaking in each other’s energies all of the time whether we realize it or not.
This all flowed in and around the room as I watched everyone dance and fall into and out of their individual zones.
At one point a huge dance party erupted. Everyone started to get up from their seats and dance around the room. Spin. Wave their arms. The traditional border of “keep to yourself and mind your own experience” suddenly shattered as the group dynamic erupted into one ball of collective energy.
…and I was going apeshit. I was moving my body in ways I’ve never moved before. I was jumping and stomping and fucking the air and the floor, pounding on my chest and laughing like a madman.
It was beautiful.
But all while this was going on, every now and then you could hear the exorcism going on in the background.
I would keep hearing them scream at him, “what is your name?” – and he would scream back to them “Elvis!!!!”. And this would repeat over and over.
I would hear them smacking him with giant leaves or hitting him on the back. They were being rough with him in order to try and restrain him from hurting himself.
I could hear them blowing Rapé or tobacco in his face to try and wake him up. I could hear the struggle actively going on.
It was strange, it was like you could almost hear the “Elvis” rise up from under the water every now and then. It was like someone who is drowning who gets their head out of the water for a breath and they yell out for help. He would emerge from the water, scream for help, and then whatever he was dealing with would take back over again and he would start freaking out again.
As much as I had my moments where I was in the music and feeling the connectedness of everything, the exorcism going on behind me was a constant presence. It was hard to shake.
Luckily, shortly after the enormous dance party, around 1-2 songs later, they took a pause and instructed everyone to take their places again.
They took Elvis outside and separated him from the group. They told us that round one was over, we are taking a quick pause, and we will take another dose of Ayahuasca shortly.
All of this was just round one?!?!!?
I lied down, excited to finally relax after a tumultuous first dose. I fell into a tunnel of geometry. My friend would later tell me that around this time I was laughing my head off like a childish lunatic. I have no recollection of this.
I awoke out of my trance shortly after to get ready for….
Dose # 2 + Sao Pedro 🙂
Before we started dose #2, it was time to bring Elvis back into the room.
They sat him directly next to me.
I was uncomfortable with it, I’ll be honest. He already had a huge impact on the first dose, and I felt like I needed some space.
I asked if I could change my seat, and they gave me a new one right in front by the band. I was happy.
It was a small request, but if I’ve learned anything throughout my psychedelic trips, it’s that the setting of where you are makes a big difference. And having some space felt like exactly what I needed.
And so, it was time to take the 2nd dose with the Sao Pedro.
Similar to the first time, I went up, said a small prayer to everyone involved, took it down the hatch, and then returned back to my seat.
As I sat there I could feel the nausea brewing again. I could feel my stomach turning.
I practiced deep breathing and tried to fight it as best as I could, but by the time we were halfway through the first song I was vomiting my head off.
And so was the next 1-2 hours or so. I ping ponged back and forth from a half dreamlike state filled with visions geometrical beauty and puking my brains out. It felt like every 15 minutes for about an hour and a half I would throw up.
I didn’t mind though. I put my faith into the plant. If that’s what it needed to do, I knew it was doing it’s work on me.
If throwing up and limpeza is what I need right now, than so be it. I know it’s working it’s magic on my subconscious in the background.
I put my trust in the power, and let the effects fade into the background while the medicine went to work.
This was also an important spiritual lesson about non-resistance. It didn’t matter if I fought it, I was going to throw up either way.
Resistance only makes the effects worse. Resistance just means that I’m fighting the reality of the present moment. It adds unneeded stress.
I had to surrender to the Ayahuasca. And In surrender is where I allowed it to go to work on me. I might not know what happened, but I don’t need to. I can feel the difference.
So I surrendered into the ping ponging of rebalancing my energetic hygiene and enjoyed the ride with a smile on my face, knowing that Ayahuasca had my back and was doing what it needed to.
After about 1.5-2 hours of this, I slowly began to spend more time sitting upright and feeling awake. Groggy, but awake.
I had light visuals but nothing too intense. My mind felt calm. My body felt drained.
Around this time Apolo made an announcement – it’s time for some more rapé.
I stand up and walk towards the door. As I do this, Apolo looks at me and smiles. He says “The time has come for the Rhino to wake!” and lets out a laugh.
I could feel it in my bones. I immediately felt energized. It was time to wake up and realize my full energy. There was more work to do.
I took a lap outside, took some deep breaths, and then walked back inside. As I did, I sat down in front of the man who would give me rapé.
When I sat down I asked him to only give me a little, because I was still out of it. I didn’t look, but when he gave it to me I could tell he didn’t listen. Thank god he didn’t listen.
The Rapé instantly blasted me back off into Ayahuascaland. I felt energized. Reinvigorated. Alive!!!
I could feel electricity flowing through my body. I picked up my things from my spot where I had been throwing up, and I moved back to my original seat.
I felt good again, and it was time to go back to work.
After settling back into my seat and feeling comfortable, I began to meditate once again.
At this time I started to have visions of fire. My astrological symbol is a Leo, which also has the symbol of fire. I recently did an astrology test and found out my ascendant signs are double fire and air, which makes my fire all the more potent as well.
So I thought of myself as a fire. I saw the potential for both good and bad that lies within a fire of that size.
I thought about the dual nature of fire. How it can be both good and bad yet it remains the same fire nonetheless.
I thought about (and had visualizations of) how a fire can be used to light an unlimited number of candles. How it has the ability to multiply. Ignite. Inspire. Energize. Warm.
But I also saw how a fire can be dangerous. How it can burn, destroy. How it can become out of control.
It all depends on how it’s used. It all depends on its application. Playing with fire is dangerous, and I have a responsibility to deliberately do what is in my power to keep that fire under my control.
Then I started having visions of water. I thought about how my ex-girlfriend is a Pisces, which is the symbol of water.
Is that why we were good together? Does her water balance out my fire? Does she need double water if I’m double fire? Was she a double fire? Did I fuck up by letting her go?!
Only time will tell, don’t resist the present moment, relax…..
And I took deep breaths as I fell into a world of visions of fire and water dancing together. Fire represented by a strong masculine energy and water playing a dance of femininity. In perfect harmony. In perfect balance.
I sat there for a while like this just enjoying the visuals. Eventually I opened my eyes and noticed that in the middle there were a variety of people gathered. It looked like the ceremony of the fire (how ironic) was about to begin.
In this ceremony people brought food items with them that would be added into the fire outside as a sacrifice of sorts, a releasing of energy.
All of this food was gathered in the middle of the floor, while everyone else was spread out in a circle either sitting or standing and moving to the music.
This was my favorite part of the ceremony.
For the next hour I stood in the middle of the floor and slowly moved into a deep trance of dancing. I moved my body like I have never moved before.
Similar to before, I was moving my body as if I am liquid. I am flowy. Wavy. Loose. Fluid.
As I move my body, I can feel energy knots or kinks throughout my body, as I dance through them I can feel them release and flow out of me.
I begin searching my body for kinks of energy. I’m rubbing and touching and dancing with myself sensually as I search for energetic knots in my body.
As I “move” through each kink, I can feel myself release emotions attached to them. Ill find a kink in my shoulder and start crying, or a kink in my hips and start laughing, or a knot in my feet and feel angry – all of these disconnected to any actual thought.
It was as if every kink had a random emotion or reaction to it. I took myself through a dance routine of an emotional rollercoaster, oscillating between crying that turns into laughter that turns into rage that turns into laughter all over again.
It felt like I was releasing emotion from my body every time. Like I was unloading years of stored up emotional energy.
And again – the most fascinating part about all of this was that for a span of what felt like an hour, I didn’t have any conscious thoughts going through my head. I was experiencing emotions completely detached from any thought or particular memory.
I was immersed into my body wholly. I lived in my energy. My feelings were all that existed. It was like an inner-body experience, where I could feel every part of my body individually and as a whole at the same time.
I danced around like this and let energy pour out of me in every form imaginable kink by kink, moment by moment. It was one of the most therapéutic experiences of my life. Like I took a giant dump of energy. I felt relieved like I couldn’t believe.
Eventually it was time to go outside by the fire and begin the ceremony. We all slowly filed out of the cave and took our spots around the fire, and watched as the music began.
At this point I felt a little bit tired. Weak. Cold and shaky. I was behind some people and didn’t have direct access to the fire, so I needed to get my energy up a bit.
I began to do deep breathing to wake and warm myself up. I did a few rounds and before I knew it, the first song was over.
The next song was immediately more upbeat. It got me going a bit. More tribal. More intense. I started to sway from side to side and feel my head nod back and forth.
As I did this I thought of the fire again. I thought that the fire inside of me has been nearly extinguished. I let out so much in the previous few hours, I cleaned the energetic pipes so to speak.
…but now it was time to rebuild the energy inside of me.
It was time to rebuild my fire. To feel my own power.
I began to breathe harder. I put my hands in the air. Started to stomp. And gradually I got faster and faster as I got more into the music. I began grunting and making noises to the music.
The next few songs all blended into each other into another flow filled dance trance, where I gradually pumped myself up to the point that I was sweating.
I just remember stomping and banging on my chest and pretending my arms were banging on drums and throwing my sweatshirt off and hip thrusting and gyrating and jumping up and down.
I remember feeling the heat inside of me gradually build. Like I could feel the energy being built up. Feeling my ability to generate my own energy. The power that I hold inside of me even when I’m empty.
Energy started at my head and shoulders, fingers, toes/feet, and hips, and gradually filled my body with heat until I felt like my body was a cup of hot liquid.
(by the way while all of this was going on my eyes are closed and I’m experiencing intense visualizations and kaleidescopic tunnels taking me through a visual representation of the music playing)
Pretty mind-blowing stuff to be honest. It was like my emotions, feelings, visual and audio were all synced into one unified experience flowing into and out of me while I felt it all pass by.
At one point they began to play a slower song, and it was in Hebrew! I recognized it as a Jewish prayer.
Knowing that my buddy was jewish, I looked around the fire for him. Our eyes met. We shared a moment of jewish happiness as two american jews at an ayahuasca ceremony in Brazil. Beautiful moment.
I remember that the next song after that the music slowed down again. Everyone was gathered closely by the fire.
I closed my eyes and I had enough room to sway from side to side before touching anyone. As the song continued, I could feel vibrations flowing up through my body. Like a cold electricity.
Shortly after this I began to cry. Hard. Bawling. I kept my eyes closed and said fuck it. I don’t care if I cry my eyes out in front of everyone here, I’m going for it. Let that shit flow and let it out.
And so I did. I cried my heart out. I had rivers of tears flowing through my eyes. Difficulty breathing. Shuddering. There might have been a few wails of agony in there too.
Eventually the song comes to a gradual close, and I’m feeling a bit more leveled out. I open my eyes and notice that EVERY SINGLE PERSON AROUND THE FIRE WAS CRYING ALSO.
Face to face, each and every person with swollen eyes and streaks of tears down their faces.
Somehow, everyone at the fire all just had a shared crying experience together where we all let it out. Orchestrated through the music and the power of Ayahuasca operating at once? You decide.
All I know is that it was a beautiful shared moment with other humans where you realize we all have our shit that we’re going through, and that’s actually what bonds us together.
These feelings we have. We’re all human. We all feel. We all laugh and cry and dance and sing. We all are the same and we’re connected to and influencing each other at all times.
In that moment I felt very spiritually connected to humanity. Like I could see myself in everyone else and everyone else in me.
Everyone began to flow inside after this song. It was time for the next part of the ceremony.
For some additional context, before the ceremony we were encouraged to bring a personal item of ours that we wanted to throw into the fire. It had to be something that was special to you. Something that is a one of a kind that you can’t get another of.
My item was a keychain that I bought for my ex-girlfriend that she gave back to me when I broke up with her. It had a picture of a cute cat and my name carved in the back of it.
I brought it for myself as a symbol of moving on. Of letting go of our relationship. Of putting my faith in that decision and not second guessing myself.
It was also a symbol of all the other relationships I’ve been through as well. It was a symbol of letting go of my previous way of recklessly diving into relationships. A vow to myself not to hurt someone again like I have the other women in my life. To operate with deeper values from here and hold true to my integrity.
From here on, a new Troy. A more mature Troy. One who is ready for a real relationship. Who is willing to wait for the right person to enter into my life, no matter how long it takes.
I threw the keychain into the fire and walked back into the cave. Let the journey begin.
I went back in and took my seat. At this point it was almost morning and I was feeling drowsy.
I lied down with thoughts and visions swirling through my mind, reflecting on what I had just been through.
For the next hour or so I lied on the floor drifting in and out of lucid dreamlike states resting and relaxing. The major effects were over, and I was feeling the slow return back to reality.
I laid there with a smile. Reflecting and appreciating. Feeling good about my past and excited to rebuild for the future. I had gotten exactly what I needed out of the experience.
Part 4 – Shuffle
An hour or two later they woke everyone up and started the debrief of the night’s events. Everyone told their respective stories of what they had experienced, we took more rapé, and we cleaned up the cave and got ready to leave.
At this point there was only one more event on the list – the Temazcal ceremony.
This was scheduled to begin around 2pm, and it was currently 8 in the morning.
Everyone cleaned up and headed back to a house where some simple breakfast was being served. Fruits, nuts, some crackers and cheese, juices, coffee.
It was some of the best tasting food I’d ever eaten. Every flavor felt like a flavor on steroids. Like it was feeding me with life.
When we finished eating it was time to rest up until Temazcal. And I felt like I needed the rest desperately. I felt like I had no energy left in the tank whatsoever.
I grabbed a yoga mat and a pillow, lied down and passed out for a few hours.
I woke up, drank a ton of water, ate some more food, found a hammock, and then passed out again.
When I woke it seemed like people were beginning to arrive for the ceremony. It was around 1pm in the afternoon.
I did some yoga and stretched out, did some yoga, ate a little more fruits, and continued to drink as much water as I could.
I knew we would be going into a giant sauna for up to 4 hours, so I needed to make sure to hydrate.
For the next few hours nothing special happened so I’ll fast forward from here…
Part 5 – Temazcal
Finally around 6pm (4 hours late in typical Brazilian fashion), it was time to begin the Temazcal Ceremony.
For those of you who don’t know, Temazcal is a man made sauna where participants will sit inside for 4-5 hours, alternating between dry heat and vapour. They will also use various herbs, flowers, spices, and ayurvedic plants such as mint, lavender, chamomile, and others that have health benefits. Think an all natural sauna with fresh herbs and spices for additional effect.
How does it work?
First they build a massive fire and throw giant stones in the middle of it. Throughout the ceremony they take these massive stones from the fire and drop them into a hole in the middle of the sauna. This is what generates the heat needed for the sauna.
Throughout the course of the ceremony they periodically add more stones, with the sauna progressively getting hotter over the course of the four hours.
Before we could all file into the medicinal sauna, like all things with the Apolo crew, we started off with some Rapé.
This is when something trippy happened.
After I did my dose of Rapé I sat down in front of the fire. Apolo began to play some music and say the prayers intended for the Tobacco gods. The lines of the music literally just say “sacred tobacco” over and over. He had sang that song all weekend so it was familiar at this point, I began to sing along a little.
But this time I noticed something strange.
As he started playing the music and saying “sacred tobacco” I noticed that the FIRE TURNED GREEN.
WHAT. THE FUCK.
Am I hallucinating? Is this still an after effect of the Ayahuasca?
The guy sitting next to me turns to me and says “you see that too? The fire looks green!”
For the extent that Apolo played this song, you could clearly see green streaks in the fire. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had someone else sitting next to me who clearly saw it as well.
After this weekend I’m pretty sure that I believe in anything and everything.
He didn’t put anything into the fire, there was nothing special burning in there, and the green was perfectly timed with the music.
You decide for yourself if you want to believe me.
Shortly after this, once everyone had finished their rounds of Rapé, we slowly started to make our way into the cave on by one.
For the next four hours, we sat in that man-made sauna alternating between first dry heat then vapor. We did about 4 rounds of this, each round felt like it lasted between 45-1 hour.
Throughout this time they continued to play music and talk about certain themes.
Overall though we just sat there and sweat, nothing too complicated. Breathe, sweat. Repeat.
At some point they also had us do some breathing exercises as well to amplify the effects.
To be honest, a lot of this part is a blur because….I couldn’t breathe.
I have asthma, and this sauna was brutal on me. Within the first 30 minutes I had to puff my inhaler, which is not something I normally need to do.
By the time the ceremony was finished I had puffed my inhaler around 4 more times. This is a lot. I was worried I was going to overdose. I felt like I couldn’t breathe no matter how much I puffed it. Nothing was working.
On top of this, we were all crowded into this tight space, and my legs and back were a nightmare after getting no sleep and rolling around on the floor.
My back was tight, my legs were cramping, I couldn’t breathe, and I had sweat pouring from every orifice of my body.
But still, part of me wanted to finish strong wouldn’t leave. I would not allow myself to get out of the sauna. Call it silly, but it was a foolish determination not to leave the group.
So I did. I struggled through every minute of that until they finally let us out.
When they did finally let us out, it was quite possibly one of the greatest feelings of relief I had ever experienced.
We all got out, got in line, and hugged each other one by one. Everyone a giant sweaty mess hugging each other.
And just like that, it was all finally over.
From there we all gathered our things, changed our clothes, said goodbye to everyone, and were on our merry way.
Part 6 – Reflections
This experience felt like an energetic whitewashing of my system. Like it simply emptied me out.
I felt drained after the experience. Empty. Calm, but I didn’t have my same energy levels.
It felt like it was time to rebuild gradually.
My fire had been reduced to kindle, and now it was my job to decide how I want to reconstruct that energy again. What fuel I want to put into that fire, and how that fuel might have an effect of burning bright quickly, or adding to it’s longevity.
When building the fires of our energy we don’t want to feed it with gasoline – to me these are the things that burn bright quickly – the immediate gratitications – drugs, food, alcohol, etc.
Instead we want to feed our fires with logs, wood, true substance. Things that will make my fire burn longer and stronger over time. Eating healthy, exercising, meditating.
The logs of life are boring, but they are essential to building the fire.
The gasolines of life are exciting but temporary. While they might cause an initial flash, on their own it’s unsustainable.
This is how I’ve looked at re-building my own fire ever since this experience. It’s given me the chance to sit back and reflect on what I want to put into my body and how I can build a fire for the long run.
This experience also taught me alot about what I now refer to as “Energetic Empathy.” That we’re all sponges that are giving and receiving energy from each other at all times of day. That we need to be conscious of the energy we create for other people, and the energies that we allow into our lives.
In the same way that I’m building a fire and need to be conscious of what goes into it, I believe that a big part of that is the people that you surround yourself with.
Do those people build your fire up or make it weaker? Do these people ignite your fire with gasoline, or do they help you to add more logs?
While we can control our own energy, our own habits, our own routines, it’s much harder to control the people around us and how we react to them.
So in the same ways that we can cultivate a positive atmosphere for ourselves individually via what we eat and how we train, it’s equally important to cultivate the people around you as well.
Lastly, reflecting on this experience has really given me a profound appreciation for plant medicines like Ayahuasca.
I don’t know what happened to Elvis, the reality is I probably never will. All I know is that what I saw that day was the closest thing to a possession I’ve ever seen. It was like watching someone be a guest in their own body while someone else took over. I’ll never forget it.
After this experience I accept that I know nothing. I accept the potential of the spirit world. I respect it and it’s power.
It’s funny – when I learned Metta Meditation there is a part that says “may all beings, visible or invisible, alive or dead, be free from anger anxiety resentment and ill will. May all beings, visible or invisible, alive or dead be happy, be loved, be compassionate.”
I never used to say this part in my personal practice, but now I 10000% do, just in case there are some evil spirits lurking around.
This experience emptied me and gave me a chance to start afresh. To watch my mind more carefully. To cultivate my energy with more intention. To surround myself with great people who want to see me improve. To respect the connection I have with nature and the larger spiritual world. To take these lessons and implement them to become a better me.
Thank you, as always, Ayahuasca. Thank you to all these beautiful plant medicines. Thank you to everyone who was a part of this experience with me. Thank you to me, for putting myself through this. Gratidao ao todos.