Vine of the Soul: 3: The Cleanse

"Ayahuasca preparation" by Terpsichore - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Ayahuasca preparation” by Terpsichore – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

The vibrations are getting stronger, along with the ringing in my seemingly enlarged ears. I panic a little, remembering some of the tales of powerful and uncontrollable visions told by others. I remind myself that I am safe, take a breath, and try to relax. The room begins to look strange- elongated and fuzzy. Dust specs float above me in the afternoon sun, appearing so close and significant. A wave of deep nausea hits me and I hear myself moan softly. I expect to vomit at any time and I reach, shakily, for my bucket. Again I wonder why I or anyone would choose to do this. The voice in my head gets louder… louder. I hear myself complaining in a non-stop stream of negativity. At times I AM the voice, other times I am observing the voice from some place not within myself. The nausea overwhelms me and I begin to wish I could vomit.

The shaman told us that “la purga” is part of the gift of healing from La Medicina. All around me people are vomiting and moaning. Some accomplish this purging quietly and efficiently, while others vomit with screams and growls that make me shudder. Suddenly all noises are part of my experience, I am sympathetic to the purging. My stomach feels as though there is a living thing trapped there. I feel a visceral rolling and churning that makes its way through my small intestine. I come back to awareness long enough to decide I am cold. I wrap myself in a blanket and lay on my side. The shaman announces that two hours have passed and does anyone need more Medicine? I groan in disbelief. This is a 4 to 6 hour Journey I have signed up for.

I spend the majority of the following hours listening to my own inner voice. It whines, it judges, it bitches. I begin to cry, listening to this voice of mine. I hear myself, loudly and clearly. All my judgement, criticisms and complaints lay themselves out for my scrutiny. I see no major visions, no colors, am visited by no entities. Just me and my inner garbage, stewing in nausea, tears and cramps. When I believe I can walk again, I wobble weakly to the bathroom and violently empty my liquid bowels. I repeat this process every half hour or so- stumbling to and from my mat. How could I have so much inside of me, I wonder, after eating so lightly for a week and fasting for an entire day? The answer, I finally decide, is that I am simply full of shit.

As the release of garbage inside my mind and body finally begins to subside, a deep sense of peace and relaxation comes over me. The songs of the shaman no longer seemed driving and aggressive. The purging has slowed down considerably within the room. Others play music and sing. The voices and the music touch me deeply, and now my former hot tears of pain become quiet, gentle weeping. A young man sings in a soft, crystalline voice, “Gracias, gracias por la vida” and I repeat his words to myself in a heartfelt whisper…

Many Westerners are exploring a return to the simple but profound spiritual practices of shamanism and shamanic plant medicines to heal our wounded culture. Terence McKenna, ethnobotanist and self-proclaimed psychonaut, states in a recorded interview “Shamanism is not some obscure concern of cultural anthropologists: shamanism is how religion was practiced for its first million years. Up until about 12,000 years ago, there was no other form of religion on this planet; that was how people attained some kind of access to the sacred. ”

Shamanism is the belief that everything is connected, and that all things, seen and unseen, are alive and have some sort of consciousness. The practice of shamanism encourages a recognition of the sacred in all forms of life. The shaman, or medicine person, is the equivalent of today’s priest or minister. The shaman has dedicated his or her life to the practice of shamanism and is considered to be able to connect deeply with the spirits of the Earth’s flora and fauna.


[Author's Note: My purpose in these writings is to share my 
personal experiences. I am not suggesting that working with plant 
entheogens is an appropriate path for everyone. In fact, I caution anyone who wishes to work with these plants to do so only after 
great consideration. All people considering this path of 
exploration should work diligently to find authentic healers to 
work with. Persons with addiction issues, those who have been 
diagnosed with mental illness and people with deep emotional 
issues should work directly with healers who have the knowledge 
and professional background to address after-effects that may 
arise from this profound work. All photos posted are attributed to their original source(s) and are not mine.]

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