LONG TEDIOUS RAMBLING POST ALERT
It’s so hard to know if something has helped you when you’ve put so much expectation into it. I don’t think I’ve stuffed any more expectation into those 12 days than anything in my life. I didn’t know what to expect and so I expected. I told myself not to expect and told myself I wasn’t expecting. I said to myself I was moderate and balanced.
I’ve been in talking therapy for years (I’m 42 now) and I’d felt I’d never made any progress, resigned to a hopelessness that I’d befriended, a sprinkling of friends, a cynicism, doing a job I disliked, feeling everything was always wrong all of the time. For a few years I’d got the idea that Ayahuasca was the only thing that was going to make a difference and that I had to do it. But I was too scared. Another year went by. I kept watching the video testimonials. I couldn’t pull the trigger. And then one day, I watched one of a guy from London which I don’t think I’d watched before and something convinced me. I booked. It was a relief. I might still not book the flight and/or not turn up, so I was still not fully committed.
The time was approaching. I was shitting myself, start of the dieta, my flight to Lima, I was overcome with anxiety. Then I looked at the introductory materials just after new year which I’d somehow overlooked. There were obvious things about preparation, things about what to expect with Ayahuasca, practical matters, medical contraindications etc, and book recommendations.
Here was the important thing for me. The Temple recommends a book called ‘The Presence Process’ by Michael Brown, in which Michael sets out a ten week sort of meditation/healing process which tries to yet you to be more present with your emotions in each moment, and then feel them and then move beyond them. I bought it and read it and followed it diligently, despite my misgivings. I meditated every day for 15 minutes twice. I did what I was told. I think I was doing it so that if the Ayahuasca went sour or I didn’t turn up, I had something to fall back on. I think I was doing it so I could cope with each anxious moment before the trip, so that I could realise that everything is always just as it is, it’s ok, NOTHING is in the future. Just be. I was kidding myself of course. I was listening to a hell of a lot of Eckhart Tolle. We always need hope.
When I got to the Temple, I was on about week 3 of this Presence Process. I had my safety net, I was there, I was ok. In truth, I didn’t know where I was emotionally, I never had done, but I was starting to open up to all my repressed anger, but I only really know this as I write now.
I don’t want to say all that much about the banalities of the Temple. The room was fine, the food was good, but none of that would have made any difference. Not a jot.
What made a difference was my facilitators. There was a non-intrusiveness about their overarching caring which was a blessing. There was no high-handedness, or knowing-better. There was no condescension. They saw who we were and they were there to help in all aspects whether in ceremony or at any other time. I had 20 minutes with one facilitator which was more than I ever got from hours of therapy. I don’t know whether this had anything to do with the medicine, I cannot know. Perhaps it did, perhaps it was to do with the Presence Process, perhaps a combination of the two.
What also made it was the 21 other people. Just to be in a place without my phone and usual crutches, just sitting in my hammock, processing, finally getting close to the root of all that had troubled me for the past 38 years. Being able to chat when needed. Not being able to escape your interiority, your inner feeling. If I felt shit at the dinner table, I felt shit.
I didn’t drink in 5 ceremonies, and it didn’t really matter. I got scared. I’d read a review on here in Lima about 5 days before getting to the Temple in which the reviewer stressed how torrid every single one of his 7 ceremonies was. I was almost not going to go, In truth, I drank but I always left something back in the cup, as if to say I was rebelling and I wasn’t going to trust. Perhaps I missed out.
And then in the seventh ceremony, the maestra again poured out more than I’d asked for, and Scott said ‘Just trust the maestra’. I drank it all. Nothing happened for three ikaros, and then something did. I don’t know how, but all the insights I’d come up with in the fifth were cemented. I felt part of it, part of everyone in the group. I felt I had licence to move on.
But here’s the grand conclusion. As I sit here and type, and I’ve just been back from another session of therapy, I have never felt more in control of myself. I have never felt more that I am the master and that I can choose to be how I want to be in each moment. I am not overwhelmed by my crap, I am not so distracted. I am not happy, far from it –I don’t feel myself to be in any way a different person to the one that went –what I feel is that I’m closer to myself, I am closer to the joy and the carefreeness that I perhaps experienced in brief respites when I was very young or when I was at university. I don’t feel dutibound to be morose or depressed like I always felt I had to.
I cannot make up your mind which centre to choose. Really, I don’t think it matters. Go with your gut. Know though, that if you come to this place, and if the facilitators are anything like the ones I had, you shall be totally taken care of in every way. That’s to say that if you know you have shit to deal with, this is a brilliant place to deal with that shit. This is a place where you can help yourself. Don’t expect to come out bright and shiny — you might well do — realise that you’re not lost, you never have been, realise that you might just see this more clearly some time after you come out of your retreat.
I really wish everyone well.