Into the Jungle (Part 3) – The Journey Continues

So over two days of travel, a combination of rough roads and a long trip on the river, we settled into our rather surprisingly comfortable accommodations in the Amazon Basin. We were in the part of the jungle that was Machiguenga territory; where there was a Traditional Medicine Lodge constructed a couple of years ago.

The intention in being there was not only to enjoy the adventure of living in the jungle, albeit in relatively cushy surroundings—flush toilets and showers—but also to experience three nights of journeying with the aid of the plant medicine Ayuahasca, used for shamanic purposes by several tribes in the Amazon basin.

I’d heard so many reports of amazing insights and healing experiences that were gained from ingesting this brew that I was eager to find out for myself. Although I’d heard of a few people offering these kinds of journeys in the states, it felt important to try this plant medicine in its native territory, the Amazon basin, and now here I was.

We gathered that first night in the lodge that had been especially prepared for such excursions. The anticipation was palpable as all twelve of us set up our mats and blankets and sat awaiting Tomas, who was the designated Ayuahascero. He entered the lodge with an entourage of four others from the community, sat down with the brew, then invited us to approach one at a time.

I was slightly nervous, but very willing to experience whatever happened. Go with the flow. After receiving a cupful of the brew, went back to my mat next to Jesseca, lay down and waited. After everyone had partaken, all was quiet. I was waiting for the sound of the purging that is quite common after intake, and anticipating that I would be doing the same, but nothing. Not even an upset stomach.

It continued to be very quiet, with only the occasional grunts and throat clearing. After an hour of waiting and nothing happened, we were invited to take a second cup, which most others and me did. Still nothing after another hour, so Jesseca and I packed up and went back to our lodging for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we discussed our disappointment in the “Ahuayasca Light” journey. Alan, our guide for the Peru portion of the trip, explained that Tomas was not an experienced Ayuahascero and had not made the brew properly. Disappointing, but we still had two more evenings of journeying, so we were assured it would be corrected.

Evening of the second planned journeying fell upon us. Tito, an Ayuahascero from a nearby tribe who had apprenticed with a shaman familiar to Alan, came to prepare the brew. He took what was left from the previous night’s batch and bolstered it with a number of leaves that was to bring the brew into proper balance.

Okay, we will see what happens. As we sat on our mats that evening, Tito, dressed in what appeared to be ceremonial white, came in with the brew and his entourage, including Tomas. We approached him one at a time; he blew tobacco smoke on our hearts and the tops of our heads, and then offered each of us a cup of the brew.

Then the fun began.

I lay with my eyes closed and a few visions and feelings came forth. I felt my love for Jesseca, which then spread forth to a broader field of people I know. Snake appeared as Anaconda, which is frequently a vision that people get when under the influence of the plant medicine. She’s considered to be the spirit of Ahuayasca or the spirit of Pachamama (Earth Mother).

The spirit was very gentle, reminding me from time to time to quiet my mind. She would say, “Shh! Now just watch,” whenever I was thinking too much. I was shown fleeting images of fairies, ancestors, and plant spirits parading across my field of vision. At one point she said, “Mmm! Can’t wait to have your yummy body for my children! Thanks for sharing with them now.” She was referring to how Pachamama would receive my remains once I died, but also thanking me now for whatever I give to the earth that is from my body, such as what to us is waste but is nourishment for Pachamama and her “children.”

Then the strangest thing happened. To my left where Tito and his entourage were stationed, someone kept saying quite loudly, “Blah, blah, blah!” It was very distracting such that I got up and walked around the grounds, enjoying the scenery as this blathering continued on. When I returned, Alan had apparently talked with Tito and asked him to quiet down the individual who was talking so loudly. I looked at him and gave him the thumbs up as a means of thanking him for attending to this.

Jesseca leaned over and whispered in my ear, “When Alan went to ask Tito to take care of this person who was so distracting, he found out it was actually Tito saying ‘blah, blah, blah’ over and over!” I almost couldn’t stifle my laughter at this absurd irony! We found out later that he had basically taken too much of the brew, an extra cup, his ego thinking that as shaman he could handle it. It seriously backfired on him.

A couple of the men carried him out to his lodging and for a while longer we all continued our journeys. By then, the effects were dissipating, so Jesseca and I eventually returned to our room, giggling about the turn of events for that evening. In retrospect, Tito’s babbling may have been a reflection of all the mind chatter that we as participants were hearing in our own heads!

Though somewhat discouraged with this second night’s ceremony, we still had one more journey to go the next evening. So it was with anticipation that we awakened the next day, prepared for yet a further adventure, one that hopefully more precisely fulfilled the promise of the spirit of Ahuayasca. Alan assured us that he had spoken with Tito, that Tito had learned a very humbling lesson about ego, and was going to prepare a fresh brew the proper way.

So with this assurance we relaxed throughout the day, fully prepared to face whatever the spirit had to teach us that evening. The hours slowly passed and then as the daylight started to wane . . . (to be continued)

(Next Issue-Part IV: Gentle lessons from Earth Mother)


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