It took me a while to connect with my ayahuasca medicine family, largely because my intention was to sit up in a circle of genuine practitioners, and not experience ayahuasca as a tourist in Peru. What made me even more intrigued about experiencing this plant medicine was meeting a 16-year-old girl in Cuzco, who shared with me her experiences living with a curandero in the jungle. She had run away from her family because her father was really aggressive and abusive. She was taken in by a shaman in Pucallpa who she studied with for sometime, alongside his foreign students.
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She shared with me some beautiful visions she had. I was amazed that she would sleep by herself in the forest without fear. The most importantly she had a level of emotional maturity that I found absent in a lot of the long-term community members in the Tibetan meditation center where I had lived.
Traditional Spiritual Practice Left Me With Inner Conflict Between My Pure & Impure Self
I had left the Tibetan meditation center after three years because it was trying to feel too cult-like. I was weary of the emotional power plays and personal boundary violations that long-term members of the community engaged in based on their interpretation of Buddhist morality and their judgements on “how compassionate you were.” I was weary of trying to constantly improve myself and purify my mind, and the feeling of “never being good enough.” There was an obsession of around becoming so advanced in your practice that you would achieve rainbow body when you died. I felt a divisive split inside me between this rainbow body spiritual goal and the imperfect, impure human that I was.
I left, got a job, and went to graduate school. During the during to summer break I traveled to South America.
The 16-year old girl I met in Cuzco seemed so grounded and connected to herself and most importantly to the living planet, that it was immediately perceptible in her presence. Even though immersion in Tibetan Buddhist practice cured my self-hatred and took me out of the self-destruction danger zone, I did not have yet self-acceptance, let alone, self-love. I still had insecurities about who I was, exacerbated by the spiritual divide of who I was in the present moment – an impure human being – and that spiritually-evolved enlightened person that I was striving to become. Whatever that 16-year old Peruvian girl had, that sense of inner-connectedness, I really wanted that for myself.
So put ayahuasca on my bucket list.
I Found My Medicine Family
It took a few more years before I had the opportunity to drink ayahuasca. I was invited into a small group of people that had the intention to drink as a closed circle each month for a year.
In retrospect, after many years of ayahuasca experience, I see how the people organizing this group had no idea what they were doing. For our first ceremony, we were served a non-traditional brew of ayahuasca, chacruna, mimosa and Syrian rue, which was wildly visionary, much more so than a traditional ayahuasca brew.
On top of that, they overdosed everybody on the second round and the room was in utter pandemonium for hours.
So in my first ayahuasca experience I was overdosed, and I died in the second round. Even though it was terrifying, I am profoundly grateful for the experience of ego-death that every serious ayahuasca drinker will have. From a practical standpoint it showed me what my absolute limit was, so that I know how to gage myself so I don’t drink more medicine I can handle…and how to ride it out if the tea is stronger than expected. Thankfully, my first serving of ayahuasca lasted for hours, and was the most beautiful and detailed visionary journey I had every experienced.
AYAHUASCA VISIONS A Procession of Divine Beings Celebrating My Existence
My First Serving of Ayahuasca Showed Me My True Divinity
This first experience with Madre Ayahuasca completely changed the way I felt about myself. Buddhist teachings tell you that everyone has pure Buddha nature. While I experienced this in meditation, it was something that I felt when I was “on the cushion” more so than in my day-to-day life.
I had fully expected to see Tibetan deities after 10 years of serious Vajrayana practice. I had surrounded my spot in the room with Tibetan ritual objects. Interestingly, the Divine Beings I saw in my wildly detailed ayahuasca visions that lasted hours and hours, were most definitely not Tibetan, and many of the scenes were surprisingly out of Ancient Egypt.
AYAHUASCA VISIONS The Wolf Medicine Woman Who Was Me 10,000 Years Ago
The most profound takeaway I had from this series of visions was that my Spirit was beautiful and intrinsically divine. That certainly much of that spiritual beauty was refined by a decade of Buddhist practice, but most importantly I was perfect exactly the way I was, in every moment.
During this round I saw a seemingly endless procession of Divine Beings, visited other dimensions, the past and the future, saw a past life from over 10,000 years ago, shape-shifted into a large feline and soaring bird of prey.
AYAHUASCA VISIONS Transforming into a Lion of Fire
My Second Serving of Ayahuasca Killed Me
Eventually, the epic visionary journey began to fade away. The facilitator announced a second round. Not knowing where my limits were, I decided to go for round 2. Soon afterwards, total pandemonium broke out.
Half the room seemed massively overdosed. I urgently needed water but couldn’t see anything, because the room had dissolved. Everytime I opened my eyes the room would melt. Every time I closed my eyes, I found myself lost in time and space.
I lost all comprehension of the reality that I knew. It’s comforting to know that the ground is beneath you, that a door is a door, that time is linear and what your name is. I lost all of that, and it was terrifying.
Some of the most interesting things I perceived in that seemingly endless, timeless experience of ego-death was time wasn’t linear, it was spherical. I perceived what looked like a glowing sun in space, and knew this to be Cosmic Consciousness. I was Cosmic Consciousness and I was able to see into any moment in time simply by focusing my fiery glare of my attention there.
AYAHUASCA VISIONS A 6-Armed Goddess, Golden Chalice, & the Sweet Nectar of Mercy
I was having such a difficult time, flailing around and losing track of where my body ended and my surroundings began, that I finally had to be brought into a separate room. There I spent the rest of the time becoming one with the furry blankets on the bed they put me in, with another overdosed member of the circle who was babbling incoherently, as my consciousness floated adrift in the time space continuum.
The Cultivation of Consciousness Is the Highest Spiritual Endeavor
Eventually, that experience faded and I heard a Tibetan mantra being played through the sound system. It was like a healing balm to my fractured mind, and I felt a profound appreciation for all the masters of meditation who have dedicated their lives to helping us navigate our confusing human experience. I perceived the contrast of having an untamed, chaotic mind, and the harmony and refinement that meditation practice brings to one’s consciousness and Cosmic Consciousness.
The Universe is consciousness. In it, there is chaos and order, arising and dissolving in the vast, eternal space of Existence. It’s up to us to chose which current of awareness to ride. And when you have an opportunity to connect with a profound, holistic spiritual lineage that includes consciousness training as its foundational practice, it’s like grabbing a life ring out of the vast ocean of confusion and suffering.
I Stepped through the Ayahuasca Portal and Never Turned Back
That was when the door to the world of ayahuasca officially opened for me. I continued to sit with this group of people once a month for the next 9 months until I decided I needed to go to the Amazon and experience the living culture of this plant medicine tradition. My first trip took me to the Brazilian Amazon, in 2004. I spent 4 months there, during which I was invited to participate in the Festival of the Royal Hawk in the Kaxinawá (Huni Kui) Indigenous Territory of Upper Jordão. I stayed for a few weeks with the Huni Kui tribe (“Huni Kui” means “the True People”, which is what the Kaxinawás call themselves). I also visited the Santo Daime community of Ceu do Mapiá where I lived for 2 months.
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During this time, as my consciousness expanded, I began to receive a message from the Forest around me. That message was this:
“Lorna, your mission, should you choose to accept is To leverage emerging technologies to preserve indigenous traditions, so that ancient wisdom can benefit the modern world, and technology can empower indigenous people.”
The gift of ayahuasca was not just the shift from self acceptance, to self-celebration, it was the gift of a meaningful mission that has turned my human experience into the adventure of a lifetime.
Thank you for joining me on this journey!