This past week I was able to be apart of something so much bigger than myself. I was able to join a group of 11 veterans, a research study led by the University of Georgia, a few medical professionals, some civilians and 1 documentary film crew to dive into the depths of a sacred plant medicine known as Ayahuasca.
Many people are skeptics and many people will think of it as just "getting high" or "having a trip", but there is SO much more to this wonderful plant medicine than I can ever describe to you in words.
As a group, we prepared for this healing journey by partaking in a 2 week Dieta, which was to eliminate toxins and bad energy from the body prior to the medicine. We were to abstain from caffeine, pork, red meat, sex, adrenaline experiences, sugar, salt, inflammatory oils and keep to a whole foods plant focused diet. For some it was easier than others. Some people in the group were very strict with their dieta and wound up losing 15 lbs, others held onto their coffee as long as they could (caffeine was not served at the resort).
We ventured on a week long retreat to the beach/jungle on the Western peninsula of Costa Rica at Soltara Healing Center. I originally was thinking, jungle, huts, no AC, tons of bugs, and although I wasn't wrong on the tons of bugs part, we were astonished to see these huge 2-3 story homes. We had a beautiful suite all to ourselves, with a balcony overlooking the jungle. A road led to the dining area, pool, deck, office and a bit further down the road was the Maloca, the place where shit was about to go down.
Our days started with 9 am breakfast, full of food that was ALIVE. The food was seasoned with real spices and herbs, every color of the rainbow could be seen on a single plate. Mostly plant based with homemade food including fruits, salads, guacamole, hummus, roasted veggies, chia seed pudding, apple cinnamon oats nuts, gluten free veggie pita or pancakes with berry compote, and we sometimes had eggs, fish or chicken. The variety of fiber and food was the prebiotic haven for any gut microbiome. Needless to say my digestion at Soltara was on point.
We all partook in a Vomitivo on the morning of day 2. Essentially we were practicing how to vomit, how to purge, as well as desensitizing one another to the sound of our vomiting, and completely letting go of any discomfort or embarrassment. Vomitivo can be done with a number of different plants in the jungle, however at Soltara, Lemongrass is the primary plant utilized. The first few glasses went down easily, just like my old college days of beer pong and keg stands. I was on glass number 7 of Lemongrass water, which tasted like lemon fruit loops, when I felt the deep pain of distention in my abdomen. I wanted so badly to pull the trigger, but we were advised against it, and we were told that the water would force us to purge. It sure did. Like geysers and waterfalls we all began to purge.
We then entered the Maloca for the first time and had what felt like a knights of the round table discussion. Looking up at the ceiling, you saw huge wooden beams, intertwined with ropes, leaves and more wood. A perfect architectural display, and it was beautiful. The Maloca had an energy about it. A circle of mats were perfectly placed, and at the top of the circle were our facilitators. We sat and learned about the Shipibo (a group of indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon) traditions, the origin of Ayahuasca, the expectations, and learned about the medicine. The entire time I felt nothing but peace and calmness. I really thought I was going to be very nervous about the whole thing, or even really excited, but my heart rate was unusually low for me and I was calm.
That night was the first ceremony. There were 3 in total, back to back nights. I could sit here and write a play by play on what went down in the Maloca those 3 nights, but I learned from a very wise man who was also partaking in the retreat with me that, "the story has never mattered, only the emotions". I realized that even though I wanted so badly to be able to explain my experiences to those who asked, I simply just felt it and accepted the fact that I may never be able to explain it, and that it doesn't really matter. I simply felt it. I felt the emotions, a shift, the connectedness to nature and humanity, I felt the energy in the room, the people, I felt the weather, I felt the fear, anger, the guilt and shame of others, I felt the weight being lifted, I felt a lot those three nights, and to be honest I am still processing it all and I continue to feel them now.
Many partake in this medicine in order to achieve a goal, or with a specific intention, which is great if you have it. Unfortunately, the plant gives you what you need and not necessarily what you think you need, so if you go into it with these high expectations and wishes, you may be mistakenly wrong. The first night I had some expectations and intentions, but I mostly saw the mirror of myself. During the consultations during the next day, I was able to talk out my experience a bit with the healers and facilitators and was able to head into night 2 with a different approach. I was able to surrender a bit more to the medicine, let go of my conscious brain at times. It felt like a trance.
I gained a lot of perspective, wisdom, insight and a sense of connectedness with this entire experience. I heard so many stories and I mostly just sat in awe listening, because me being a civilian, I felt ignorant to what our veterans continuously go through. You always kind of know, but now I understand so much more and it really puts things into perspective for you. Not only about your own emotions and issues, but also societal ones.
“We are each other. The story has never mattered, only the emotions.”
The entire time, I was deeply longing for these veterans to find what they were looking for. Whether that was relief, weight lifted, acceptance, perspective shifts, permission to let go, or whatever other healing they needed. I am happy to say that I know some definitely got the healing they needed, or at least a taste of it. "It is easy to be wise on the mountain". It is easy to have all of these amazing emotions and revelations while living in a jungle for a week with some pretty amazing individuals, food, scenery, and energy. It is another obstacle to return to "normal" life and to integrate back into society with the teachings we have learned from the medicine.
Food that is alive, feeds your soul and nourishes your body.
Looking back on my experience. I have learned many tremendous lessons, and have connected to many facets of my being that I didn't know existed. It also solidified many of the things I already knew. For one, FOOD is truly medicine. Plants are MEDICINE. Lifestyle is MEDICINE. A bad diet is not just what we put into our mouths, but the thoughts we have, the relationships we have with others and OURSELVES, the toxicity in our lives, the comparisons, obsessions, beliefs, fears, what you watch, what you read, etc. We need to be mindful of the things that we are constantly putting into and near our bodies, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
I thank Ayahuasca for opening a new door for me. I thank all those involved in this plant medicine space especially the Shipibo people who maintain its sacredness and traditions and to those involved in the much needed research. I hope that one day it is available for those who seek its medicinal properties and powers.
Plants are powerful, and so are humans. This earth needs us more than ever, and we need it.