In January 2009, I travelled to the tiny village of Pisac in Peru, to drink Ayahuasca and San Pedro.
If you’re considering travelling to Peru to try Ayahuasca and you want an easy itinerary, you can do what I did: Stay at Paz Y Luz and contact Javier to conduct your ceremonies. I was told Javier is a shaman, but he prefers to be called an ayahuascero.
Ayahuasca is called “The Purge,” and you can expect to throw up and have diarrhea – multiple times. Most people receive insightful visions that help them learn about themselves.
Javier regards ayahuasca as “medicine” and ceremony is personal, sacred work. He quipped once that, “People can do months of therapy to feel better… or they can come drink ayahuasca for the same insight.
Below, I share my visions and insights I received during the three Ayahusca ceremonies and one San Pedro ceremony I participated in. I welcome your comments/questions if you have them.
Why I Decided To Do Ayahuasca
I met my friend JenniJo for dinner one night in 2008 after she returned from Peru and multiple ayahuasca ceremonies.
Her face looked incredibly clear. Her spirit seemed peaceful.
I thought, “I want some of that,” so I asked her to put me in touch with her connections for lodging and Javier, the ayahuascero who conducted the ceremonies.
I emailed Javier about how I wanted to find my life’s work (I was out on a mid-life crisis at the time). I wanted purpose and I wanted to work through some negativity I felt I had. I think my email was several paragraphs.
His reply was short and to the point, “Well, if you want to face your negativity, come to Peru.”
For six months, I thought about whether or not I would take this trip to Peru. I make decisions like this verrrrrry slowly.
In addition to the unknown of working with ayahuasca, I was also afraid to travel abroad alone. I had never done it before.
When I finally made plans to go, I notified Javier I was coming. He advised me, “No sex or alcohol two weeks before and after your ceremonies.”
Well, I respected the alcohol request prior to leaving, but not the sex. I was dating a woman at the time and didn’t feel like abstaining for 2 weeks prior to leaving. I think I abstained for 2 days 🙂
Preparation For First Ceremony
When I got to Peru, I had a one on one meeting with Javier and he asked me why I was there.
I told him I wanted to find my next line of work. I wanted to know what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
I’d been laid off 2 years prior and had no inkling of what it was I would do to earn my next dollar. I’d blown through my savings, my mutual funds and was quickly headed toward having to start pulling from my 401k.
Needless to say, I was desperate to find my passion and get restarted earning money again.
Ceremony #1 – Ayahuasca
There were seven of us in my first Ayahuasca ceremony. We were asked not to eat on the day of the ceremony. The only thing we could have was tea.
(To this day, I can’t drink chamomile tea without remembering Peru).
The ceremony took place in Javier’s temple, an octogonal shaped space with padded benches around the perimeter. Each bench was about 7′ long, so each of us had our own space.
The pitched roof of the temple had lots of windows which made for a mystical setting, considering the ceremony began at dusk.
Javier sat at one of the benches with a table in front of him where he kept his rattling leaves (they sound like a maracas when shaken), smoke blunts, and ayahuasca.
Everyone had a bucket for vomiting and the toilet was adjacent to the main space. After all, ayahuasca is known as, “The Purge.”
Javier opened the ceremony with smoke and laid down the ground rules. As I recall, he asked us to hold our own space and respect the space of others. If we needed help, just call his name.
He reminded us to put our intention into the drink (the medicine), but also said, “She will take you where you need to go.” Ayahuasca, the medicine, it seems, is a female 🙂
One by one, Javier called each of us to drink. I focused hard on my intention: “I want to see what my passion is. I want to know what work it is I should be doing.”
With that, I drank the thick, bitter, vile liquid and returned to my seat.
When all seven of us had finished drinking, Javier himself drank with a celebratory “Mazel Tov!”
He began singing various chants and songs. He mixed in spiritual poems, blew smoke and rattled his leaves. The mood he created felt sacred to me. He has such reverance for his ceremonies.
As Javier felt guided to do so, he would visit us individually. He’d share words of wisdom or just be near us when he felt needed. He is very intuitive and selfless.
About 45 minutes into the ceremony, it was dark out and the room was quiet. Then someone threw up. “Oh boy, here we go,” I thought.
But I didn’t get sick in the first hour. I was called to drink again and that sucked. I mean, this stuff is just awful tasting. It’s hard to get down.
I laid down on my bench and closed my eyes and received my first vision. It was an Indian with a headress and he was smiling at me. No sooner did I see his smile, did his face begin to turn gray with decay. Then his teeth fell out and his entire face disintegrated.
“Whoa, that sucks,” I thought. “That wasn’t pleasant at all.”
Before I knew it, my next vision came. Again it was two smiling faces, side by side, like in a masquerade. The faces were smiling at me, but then they two went dark, turning ugly and black, before disintegrating.
This pattern repeated itself over and over. I kept seeing happy faces or things turn black, decay, die and fall away.
About two hours in, I was the only one in the room who hadn’t gotten sick yet, but I was in a lot of pain. My stomach wretched in pain – sort of like when I had food poisoning.
Needless to say, I was not enjoying my experience. My stomach ached and my visions were depressing.
Javier came and sat with me. He brought me more ayahuasca to drink. “Great,” I thought.
He said, “You haven’t gotten sick yet?”
I said, “No.”
He sat with me a bit. He said a couple things I recall – one of which was poignant:
“You’ve been wearing this body of armor to protect yourself. It used to serve you. It doesn’t serve you any more.”
I understood exactly what he meant. I’d built a wall around my emotions most of my life. I rarely cried. I had a tough exterior.
He put his arm around me and before I knew it, he was pressing his fingers into the side of my stomach, feeling for the spot.
He found it and I threw up hard for the first time. I heaved and got sick several times and quickly became exhausted.
But I wasn’t finished. I got sick twice more that night, each time violent and painful.
At one point, writhing in pain on my bench, I lie on my back, holding my head in my hands.
Javier came by and said, “Does your head hurt?”
“No,” I answered.
“Then why are you holding your head? Put your hands on your stomach where the pain is.”
I didn’t even realize what I was doing. But I remembered every time I’d ever gotten sick in my life, I always put my hands on my head as I prayed to God to please don’t make me be sick.
It felt so counterintuitive for me to move my hands from my head to my stomach to help ease the pain.
It didn’t help me that night, but Javier had planted a seed in me that moment. I later discovered the power of healing hands through Reiki and now every time I feel nautious, I gently put my hands on my stomach. Most of the time I heal myself.
I also use my hands on other parts of my body when I have pain and I am almost always relieved within seconds. We have a lot of power in our hands. But I digress.
Toward the end of the ceremony about 4 hours later I was still feeling horrible pain in my stomach. I remember thinking, “I came all the way down here for this?! It’s like having food poisoning.”
Nearly everyone else was done with their experience and felt fine. Javier went around the room asking each person if it was okay to close the ceremony.
When it came to me, of course I said, “Yes,” but I couldn’t move. I had no intention of leaving.
There was another woman who was pretty sick, too, and we both stayed.
Javier asked us if we needed anything else before he left and he invited us to stay in the temple as long as we needed.
I think sometime around midnight or 1am, I finally stumbled weakly back to my room and crashed for the night.
The Morning After
The next morning at 9am, the seven of us gathered in Javier’s living room to share our experiences. Javier gave us his feedback.
It was pretty interesting to hear everyone’s experience. Some were unpleasant like mine and others were euphoric.
It was really intense and super personal. You get to know a lot about people in those circumstances. I made friends there who are still friends to this day.
I don’t recall every vision I had in my first ceremony, but I do recall what I took them to mean: I always look at the negative side of things. No matter how bright something looks, I would always find the negative side of it. That’s where my attention went.
I confided in a couple friends that I’d met at ceremony that I was thinking about leaving. My first experience was so bad, I didn’t want to go through it again.
The next day, there was a knock at my door. “Javier wants to see you.”
So, I went to see him.
He asked me, “How are you doing?”
“I’m thinking about flying home,” I said.
“I heard,” he said.
Hmmm. Matt and Ana told him. You can picture me clenching my fists like Jerry Seinfeld saying “Newman.”
“Matt and Ana!” I said to myself.
I explained to Javier that my experience was horrible. I felt so sick and I got no hint of a vision even close to showing me what my purpose was.
“Yes, I thought that was a crap intention,” he said.
“What?! Why didn’t you tell me?” I thought. I guess I had to experience it for myself.
Javier then told me, “It does not matter what you do.”
Interesting. Okay. At the time, I thought it did, but okay. He had my attention.
I told him I needed his help – I had no idea what to do.
He said, “I think you should finish what you came here to do.”
The way he spoke to me – there was no arguing. After all, I did come here to do work. To bail, would’ve been to quit on myself.
“Okay,” I said, “But I have no idea where to go from here. I need help with my next intention.”
He said, “Well, usually the best place to start is with your parents.”
“Even better!” he exclaimed.
Then he gave me one of the best self-help books I’ve ever read: Heal Your Wounds And Find Your True Self by Lise Bourbeau.
That day and the next, I devoured that book. I got so much insight into my life that no therapist had ever mentioned before.
The next night my intention was clear: “To heal my relationship with all four of my parents.”
Ceremony #2 – Ayahuasca
My second ayahuasca ceremony was the exact opposite of my first.
In this ceremony, I only had to drink the vile liquid one time. And when I got sick, there was no drama, no fighting it. I felt a sudden urge and I puked effortlessly, easier than I ever had in my life.
My visions were incredible. They centered around both my birth mother and my adopted mother. I recall two visions vividly.
Vision #1 – My Birth Mother
My birth mother sitting in a rocking chair rubbing her stomach with joy. She was 5-6 months pregnant.
I saw it as, “She did love me before she gave me up.” (Although this vision runs counter to my interpretation of what my birth mother told the adoption agency).
Vision #2 – My Mom
I sa myself at about 19-20 years old downstairs in my bedroom playing guitar. My Mom stomped on the floor to get me to stop.
I got so angry, I took my guitar and stormed out of the house and into my car. (This really happened, multiple times when I was younger). I’d speed away and drive to a quiet area by a brook where I could sit outside on the trunk of my car in the dark and play until I got tired.
But in this instance, my older self appeared behind me in the back seat and put his hand on my shoulder saying, “She doesn’t understand.”
This meant to me that she didn’t understand music and it’s creative importance to me. To her it was just noise.
And then my older self said, “Don’t speed away. It scares her when you drive fast.” Even to this day, this vision brings tears to my eyes.
In the same instant, I saw my Mother upstairs, smoking a cigarette, tears in her eyes. My Dad came into the room and asked her what was wrong.
“He’s speeding again,” she said. (I never saw or knew of this scene in real life, but it makes a lot of sense and helps me see how my anger and actions effected my Mother.)
My Mom had died 3 years earlier, so we never got a chance to talk about this stuff.
In this second ceremony, I went back and forth from crying to laughter multiple times. The visions were so loving and powerful – Javier knew I was having a great experience.
So much so that at one point during the ceremony, he joked, “Another shot of ayahuasca, Mike?”
In my final vision of the ceremony, I was taken around the world and shown different cultures, each of them welcoming me in. I’d been afraid of travelling abroad and had been raised with the notion that the world was a scary place.
My final vision helped me see it another way.
Ceremony #3 – Ayahuasca
In my third and final ayahuasca ceremony, my intention was to be shown my insecurities.
Looking back, this was kind of a weak intention, but I couldn’t come up with anything better at the time.
My experience was simple and thematic.
I had three visions, in the first, I saw this short Peruvian woman walking up stairs. When I thought she’d gotten to the top, the stairs would go at a ninety degree angle in a different direction.
When I thought she’d reach the top, they’d continue in another direction – all the while going higher and higher. She just kept climbing and I kept watching her. I grew frustrated that she never reached a destination.
Next, I saw this man walking through the desert, over rolling hills and dunes. He kept walking and walking, over the hills and onward. I asked him, “Where are you going?”
He half-turned, shrugged and continued walking.
My third vision featured the giant Paul Bunyan statue that stands in Kenton, near where I live in North Portland.
The statue stands 31 feet tall and in my vision, it was walking through the neighborhood, aimlessly. I asked it, “You don’t know where you’re going, do you?”
Paul Bunyan shook his big head, “No.”
Hmmm. “Shocker,” I thought. I hate not knowing where I’m going. I hate not knowing what the goal is or how things might turn out.
This “not knowing” still trips me up to this day. Sometimes, I fail to take any action at all because I don’t have an idea how it’s going to go. In 2017, I’m getting better and very aware that this is something I need to be careful of.
I only got sick once during the ceremony. I probably could’ve had more ayahuasca and was a bit scared that Javier was going to call me to drink more.
Honestly, I was done. I was sick of getting sick and I was ready for a break from the “medicine.” Three ceremonies in 7 days is pretty intense.
Ceremony #4 – San Pedro
A couple days later, a few of us drank San Pedro in Javier’s living room.
San Pedro is a cactus. The drink is green and doesn’t taste nearly as bad as ayahuasca. Javier said San Pedro is “the heart opener.”
Unlike the ayahuasca ceremonies, we drank San Pedro during the day, around noon. We weren’t urged to have an intention, although you could if you wanted. I didn’t.
San Pedro is meant to open your heart, perhaps bringing you in touch with Mother Earth – Pachamama, as the shamen of the region call it.
My first few hours after drinking San Pedro were euphoric. I went outside and laid in a corn field for a long time, admiring the strength of the stalks. I felt at one with the corn as I literally laid in amongst the stalks, my head on the Earth.
Looking back now, it’s no suprise that I developed a primal urge to grow a lot food that summer. I didn’t know what it was – I just knew I was meant to have a big space to garden, which I found with the help of my neighbor, Joe Purkey.
After I was done with the corn, I decided I wanted to walk to the river, about a quarter mile away. Somebody told Javier and he hurried up to come with me. He cared for each of us and I think he was afraid I was going to jump in.
I arrived at the river before Javier and as I looked up at the sky, the drizzling rain stopped and clouds parted into beautiful sunshine. I thought, “Why do I always look at the negative side of things? Light is just on the other side.”
After that revelation, Javier arrived.
I was still pretty high from the San Pedro. There was this huge rock I stood on and I said with authority, “This is my rock!”
Javier smiled. He knew what was happening with me.
We talked for a bit and I learned I’m a month older than him. Both of us 43, he asked me, “Are you ready for the second half of your life?”
Of course I was. Especially if it felt like this!
We chatted for a little while and after he got me to assure him I wasn’t going to jump in the river, he left to return to the others.
I sat on the rock near the river for a long time. Then my experience started to go bad.
I tried spitting, I urinated, I cried a few tears. I wanted it out. I tried to get sick and couldn’t. I wanted to have diarhhea. Whatever was in or on me, I wanted it out.
I walked back to Javier’s house and by this time, everyone else’s experience was ending. Mine was nowhere near over.
I was comforted by U2 on the stereo – I’d mentioned loving the band when Javier and I talked at the rock. For a while, I got a reprieve from the madness and felt good again.
Someone went out to get dinner for the group. I went to the temple and laid on the floor, following ants with my eyes, waiting for my trip to end.
The food arrived and everyone ate, but I remained in the temple. It was dark now and the feeling “I want to get ‘it’ off me,” returned.
I felt sick and body ached. I walked into the house and asked Javier if he’d come help me get sick.
He got up from dinner, so selflessly and joined me back in the temple.
I sat rocking in pain all through my lower back up into my shoulders. My entire back was sore, tense, and aching.
I told Javier, “I feel like there are these 2 sides of me trying to fight it out.”
He rared his head back, and said, “Oh my God, you are such a drama queen!”
That was funny. It was also harsh. And it was real. I was being a drama queen. There weren’t two sides of anything – there was only me.
Then he said words I’ve repeated to others who try to pull that bullshit on themselves: “YOU – are creating ALL of this.”
Man, was he right. I was manufacturing shit, right there in the temple. I was creating a whirlwind drama full of self-imposed bull shit.
Then I confessed, “I have a daughter.”
“Ahhh,” he said, like we’d just discovered the New World.
I hadn’t met my daughter, Gavrielle yet, and wouldn’t for a couple more years.
So, I talked about some of that stuff, maybe including being adopted, too. I never got sick. I never got rid of the “it” I wanted to get rid of. Whatever this, “it” is, I still feel burdened by it today and I’m eager to be free.
I don’t know what the feeling is, it’s likely tied up in being adopted, and as I write this in April 2017, I’m investing more time and money once again into finding my birth Father, in hopes that it might lead to my birth Mother.
Eventually, I went inside and nibbled at some food. The feeling fell away and I went to sleep.
That was the last of my four ceremonies in Peru. As a reward, I went to Machu Picchu and climbed to the top of Wayna Picchu. I love to hike and what a great payoff at the summit – even though it was cloudy the day I went.
If you’re interested in getting a deeper knowledge of yourself or perhaps have an issue you want to work on, ayahuasca could help.
Do your research and if you decide to drink, I recommend treating it as sacred healing medicine, just like the shaman of the Andes.