I have a problem; I suffer from FOMO (The fear of missing out). Curiosity of the unknown; the other side; that which others do; that which your friends have warned you about and at the same time raved about… when can I try it, should I try it, take the leap? Should I choose to ignore the warning behind the use of something that people claim will “open” your mind to other dimensions; enable you to use your brain to its full capacity; something that can reveal all life’s truths to you, even cure you of addiction? A pure South American rainforest experience; one everyone should try if they really want to experience the culture and spirit of South America. What can possibly go wrong? Surely, my friend exaggerated when she said she experienced extreme paranoia attacks and severe depression for two years after she tried it?
Ayahuasca… so tempting.
Ayahuasca is a derivative of a hallucinogenic jungle vine that, usually under the supervision of a shaman, is used to achieve a trancelike state. Shaman’s take this ritual very seriously, insisting that all participants go on a very strict cleansing diet before (and for a while after the ceremony) in order prepare their mind and body for the overwhelming experience. Each shaman has his own special recipe for the potent concoction, using the extracts of at least three different plants of which one is used to assist with the absorption of the vine.
Last night the lodge manager, several of the researchers and two of the resident naturalists participated in such a ceremony. They later described it as having complete control of your thoughts allowing you to think more clearly about persistent issues in your life. It apparently also allows you to physically SEE your own thoughts, almost like a projector that is directly linked with your thoughts and emotions; projecting live images against the landscape in front of you as you think them. Some of them professed to have seen floating neon lights, curling around objects and changing colour and shape as it went. These images almost seem pleasant and enjoyable and I wondered why didn’t I try it? My thoughts did not go far in that direction especially after some of the participants claimed to have seen dead people and that they have heard voices. Imagine hearing a snake call your name over and over and over and… Somewhat freaky if you ask me! The lodge manager said she spent most of her hallucinogenic state speaking to Elisban – the medicinal garden manager that recently died on the premises. Apparently, he gave her advice on how to deal with all the issues at the lodge -hummmmm, interesting stuff! I guess seeing dead people can be beneficial sometimes.
Usually when a person participates in an Ayahuasca ceremony, they need to be chaperoned by a person not under the influence. This prevents them from doing anything crazy, like going for swim in the river with the river spirits or climbing a tall tree to fly with the wind. One of our dear creative and completely whacked friends, had no such assistance and instead wandered around outside in the rainforest, completely in awe of the magical colours and strange objects around him. He managed to find one of the researchers in his high state, where they proceeded to further enhance their experience by smoking some weed to complement the occasion – surely a very responsible thing to do. I guess the jungle does strange things to your psyche, especially if you consume some of its parts.
While this was all happening, Daniël and I, together with Kevin, Anouk and Hugo (one of the specialist tree climbers assisting the researchers), spent our evening playing cards and drinking beer. It seems that my cautious mind prevented me from being a little more adventurous (lets not fool ourselves, my sensible husband did all the convincing for me). In the end, I was not disappointed that I did not try it. I honestly feel that it should be a decision you make for yourself and this time, I made a decision not to risk it, but to rather enjoy the stories told by those that took the chance and tried it.