There I was thinking….This is the point of no return. And this could go in any direction—heaven help us!
It was a perfect Costa Rican night, a slight breeze, and still quite warm — the recently set sun would offer us counted on relief from the day’s intense heat. My mother and I were waiting patiently near the temple, in a makeshift area just outside of where we would be embarking on a familial healing journey in a few short moments. I sensed that my mother was a bit nervous, I could feel her trepidation — she waited patiently like an anxious prisoner pending an execution, not fully knowing what was to come.
The day prior we picked up Nicole from the airport and would have the lengthly drive from San Jose to San Isidro where we would lodge for her short stay and visit, in her first trip to Costa Rica. Both my mother and Nicole arrived to Costa Rica around the same time, this made it convenient for us to ride share — Nicole returning to her homeland from a visit to see her aging mother in South Africa. It would be special opportunity for my mother to be acquainted with Nicole, the medicine woman and healer that has been so unbelievably instrumental in my personal transformation, the one whom would be facilitating our ceremony in the days to come. During the drive we all would chat and have further preliminary conversations about what to expect with our upcoming ayahuasca ceremony. In the course of a near 5 hour drive there would be time for organic interaction to happen between my mother and Nicole, they could get to know and become more comfortable with one another. All bases that could be covered, would be covered, I held this pending sacred appointment in the most highest of regards. I was insistent on making sure all of the “I’s” were dotted and “T’s” crossed.
My mother would ask many questions in hours leading up to this long anticipated evening. “What time is this going to start?” “Is she going to be here?” “Didn’t she say 7pm?” Her inquiry was to be expected. How was she to know how things operate in this exotic foreign land? Although not an island, many operate on island time, which is always a couple hours later that expected. You can blame this on the heat and the tropical weather or the fact that our “go-go-go!” Ideals are often incongruent those outside of the US.
“I really hope I don’t get sick, I hate throwing up!” I listened as if the parental roles had been reversed. “Throwing up is part of this experience, purging years of toxic build up. Build up that we often are unaware even exists. Not everyone does throw up so I wouldn’t give it any more worry at this point.” She listened and nodded, still not in agreement. Much silence and reflection would occupy this time. “Mom, remember your intention, why are you here? Why are you doing this?” You can’t be reminded enough of your “what” and “why’s” when drinking this medicine. I have noticed a significant discrepancy in the desired result being attained from those that hold sacred their intentions.
She had no idea what she was getting herself into. While I had explained and given the same instruction I would have given to anyone, this experience again, is one in which words do very little justice. Maybe she did her own research too, as I encouraged her to formulate and glean as much knowledge as she could, I am not really sure. I am sure, however, that there was a level of trust. She trusted me and knew that I had her best interests in mind and I would be there by her side to offer my full support.
Our waiting would end as Nicole showed up. She greeted us with a warm smile and loving embrace, happy to see us in strong spirits. Nicole was prepared and ready to be of service, she knew how important this night was to me and my mother and it would be a great honor for her. Nicole was concerned about my mother’s age and the fact that she had previously never done any drugs, not even the token puff of weed. We agreed that we would proceed with caution and monitor the dosage closely, with the “less is more” and “we can always have more” mindset. In her older age there were most apparent risks that we took into account, taking precaution, you can’t be too careful with this powerful healing medicine. I was grateful for the honest hesitation, and would discuss potential risks with my mother.
It was finally, now, time. I watched my mother hold up the small shot glass of ayahuasca. She was dressed in all white and ready for this bold leap into the unknown — into the deepest depths of her mind and psyche. We originally broached the subject of her drinking the sacred plant medicine, the summer prior while I returned from my first round of international travels. My mother whom has been a supportive advocate of my healing journey could not deny my transformation. My health, my disposition and attitude, my renewed zest and joy for life had been obvious and undeniable. As someone who has struggled her whole life, off and on with depression, the changes in my life had perked a sense of curiosity. I have held steadfast to an approach of attraction over promotion, that is the most prudent approach to being of service to others, by leading by example and having others make decisions on their own volition and free-will. On my journey, always steering clear of those that have a “salesy” orientation and disposition — those that insist that their way is “the way” have always put me on notice. This medicine and experience could be very dangerous for those that don’t have earnest intentions.
My mother would drink and choke down the bitter, molasses like healing potion. For the first hour or so we would listen to Nicole play music and sing angelic tunes for us both. This was the first time I had been in a small ceremony, it was just the three of us that would be embarking on this journey together.
It was time for the second cup, my mother would drink and I was half way thinking that this may be an uneventful night, where nothing out of the ordinary may occur. Sometimes, with all the build up and anticipation, nothing happens which usually means a night of deep sleep. The medicine does its work whether awake or asleep.
Then, like the flip of switch, we were fully in a deep psychedelic journey, our minds manifesting and traveling through our unconscious like colonial explorers setting out to disprove the world was flat. Psychedelic which means “mind manifesting” was just that this particular eventing. I had been here many times before and was adept at the almost always inevitable “shock and awe” storm that hits early and often. A storm that is always filled with deep doubt and insecurity, an objective lens to see yourself, from outside of yourself. This night wasn’t about me, it was about my mother and after a short while I would properly orientate my attention in her direction.
Seeing my mother go into a state of shock and then bewilderment would awaken every ounce of focus. Shit just go real! I thought, as my fight or flight response was activated and I become hyper aware — it became very clear that this night was about my mom and giving her all the attention and love I could. Not long after the second cup she would be engulfed in her first psychedelic experience and witness the full spectrum of vibrant color in her mind’s eye and imagination. She was broadcasting her experience like a sportscaster would, not adhering to the typical rules of ceremony, which would be no talking and everyone keeping to themselves to allow for each to do his or her own healing. There was nothing typical about this night, I knew that from the get go, we would have to adjust to ensure a safe return back to our space and time-bound bodies.
In an ordinary ceremony I would have focused on my intention, paying little attention to what others are going through with the knowing, that there are guides in place and proper planning and safety measure in place. This is what makes the experience so different from other psychedelic experiences, you have the space and container to go within, only concerning yourself with your intention and healing work. You can break completely with a knowing that tomorrow the pieces can be put back together, as you see fit.
My mother was stationed about ten feet from me, we both had our separate spaces to do our own work. Once the medicine came on, my mother got really sick — she would violently purge for what felt like nearly an hour, it wasn’t a pretty sight to see, but was honest. She was unburdening herself of a lifetime of toxic build up, heavy energies: physical, emotional and psychic energies would be releases and let go. This was to be expected, I can sense all of the heavy emotions that she carries, this would be an extremely cathartic evening of healing.
After settling in to this reality, I couldn’t help but comfort her. Watching her flail in a fearful state all alone, completely disorientated was not in the cards for this night. With any other person struggling, I would say that they needed to go through and experience whatever they are experiencing. No one ever said this holistic way of healing was supposed to be pretty. Often, it can be quite ugly as it bring forth all of the repressed, dirty, and ugly emotions that underly our addictions and malaise for life.
I would hold her close with assurance, “This will pass mother, breathe, remember to breathe.” She would nod, and ask repeatedly, “where are we, what is happening?” In a calm and completely non-reactive manner I would respond, “We are in Costa Rica, we are healing, the medicine is strong, you are safe. We are healing…. Breathe” This was super intense for me and all of my mind training over these past few years would be challenged and put to the test, with the stakes being as high as they could be.
At one point she appeared to be completely dissociated, as if in a catatonic state. This was scary and would test my resolve, how much did I believe in this healing medicine? Can you hold space for you mother? I had been here many times before, this was the time to wait it out, trusting that the medicine was doing its work. Trusting that the sun would rise and all would be better for this tomorrow, and the days and months to come.
We came through and were supported by the medicine and the loving supportive hands of Nicole, who took care of my mother as if she were her own mom.
Once the storm had passed, we would laugh about the experience and feel a deep sense of relief. While still on the medicine my mother would give Nicole and I a play by play of exactly what she had just experienced. We assured her, that everything that happened was part of this process and that she was loved and supported.
My mother was done and exhausted, she would go to sleep. At that moment, I would ask for a third cup and take time to ponder the most beautiful of night skies in solitude. Florestral, which means “Astral-Forest,” was in full effect; stars bursting with vibrancy with my elevated sensory and sight—staring out in infinite—with enormous gratitude for such this special night. I would take a couple of hours for myself, to look with. Florestral was a magical place, that once I departed from, I would not know when I would return again. I felt such a strong calling back to the US, to get back to work, to put into action all of the insight and growth from this long break on my life’s journey. Not knowing how these experiences would fit into my life after my travels. During 2016 and the first half of 2017 I would go deep into my mind, I had the space, time, security to do this.
The next morning we awoke, as expected, we made it through the ceremony. I was very impressed with the resiliency of my mother. She did it. She went two full rounds with “Mother Ayahuasca”, toe to toe, with no fear she stepped into the fire of life. To look within after all these years required a great deal of courage. Her childhood was challenged with two alcoholic parents that used to beat the shit out of each other, and at times would lash out at the children. While my mother was never beaten, her older sister couldn’t avoid the heavy hand of their ofter drunk and unstable father. On multiple occasions my mother having to call the police on her own dad for fear that the beating would turn deadly. This most certainly was a heavy weight that my mother has carried her entire life, and part of the karma that I have inherited. My grandpa, whom had long past by the time I was born was indeed a very loving man when sober. Likely he suffered from bipolar — who knows what demons he was fighting and hiding from? My grandfather’s underlying trauma that would serve as an unruly puppeteer, causing uncontrolled bouts of mania and rage on himself and all those that he loved so dear.
Our pasts can be healed, anything can be let go, so we can experience wholeness. A sense of peace and closure would be made available to my mother, honest perspective as to her role in the childhood abuse evil that would pervade and poison her home. This night was about letting go, clearing space for anew to come forth.
I’ll be forever grateful for the unconditional love and care that Nicole showed us both that evening. In the many years as a facilitator she has seen it all, there wasn’t one flinch of doubt the entire evening. All she knows how to do is love and serve, I am continually inspired by Nicole and her devotion to making our world a better place. Doing the dirty work, cleaning up after and providing healing refuge for those looking to heal from our overly judgmental and sick western ways and broken mental health paradigm.
Nicole gave much care and attention for my dear old mother who had what was likely the most challenging night of her life. Never wincing, for a second when offering care that left us both maintaining our human dignity in an experience that could have been scarring and traumatic. A means of healing that seems unconventional, but it is natural and honest once you move past our cultural biases and conditioning and the nonsense societal program that has too many duped into the “take daily pills” marketing scheme.
While SSRI’s do work for some people. The reality is they barely beat the placebo and come with it a whole host of awful side effects. And when people stop their regiment, they go back to where they were when they began treatment: classic bandaid approach for PROZAC Nation.
Having an evening with “The Mother” and my mother, was one of the more meaningful experiences of my life. Healing and forgiveness, sharing a special gift of insight, a sneak peak into all that is possible when traveling with a lighter load.
Will my mother ever drink ayahuasca again? Probably not, I don’t see it. It was a rough night and I would doubt that she would willingly subject herself to that again. Like motherly love, the medicine doesn’t give you what you but always gives you what you need. She has no regrets and insists that she feels lighter and more in touch with her intuition after our healing ceremony. The familial healing experience has brought us closer by healing old wounds all of this about a year before Michael Pollan released HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. The smash hit NY Times Bestseller that has every 50s/60s something white person in America rethinking psychedelics as viable medicine to our broken mental health paradigm.
Thank you for reading this account of my mother’s showdown with “Mother Ayahuasca.” This is the most important chapter that didn’t make it into WORTH THE FIGHT: Acting for a Better World, A Guide to Spirituality, Psychedelic Medicines, and Overcoming Trauma. I condensed this 5-7 pager into a few paragraphs but feel these important details ought to be shared.
If anyone is looking to heal with the sacred plant medicine ayahuasca I highly recommend Flostral. The work that Nicole and Vismay and family are doing is the perfect antidote for one overfed on the gospel of Bullshit, Inc.
With a grateful heart,
Image used belongs to Ann Winn