FIRST FLIGHT WITH AYAHUASCA
or: "Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor"
Wherein the author breaks his yage cherry, flies to a distant planet called 'Time',
demands to be eaten by a giant snake, and receives advise for all man-kind from a Smurf.
The Set: With my two sons away to the Balearics with their mother, I decided to take advantage of a week's solitude in town with a different sort of vacation: my first ayahuasca experience. A similar experiment with psilocybe cubensis in 2008 had resulted in a rather heavy trip which took months to integrate, but whose repercussions ultimately proved beneficial.
This Summer I had been in a good, upbeat mood for several weeks, and with an empty calendar and a long leave ahead, the time seemed right. A date was set for the ayahuasca experiment, and preparations began with re-reading some field literature, downloading and listening to icaros (shaman songs), and brooding over the contents and purpose of the journey.
The day before the planned trip I received some private news that brought up an unresolved problem complex which, when under the influence of a hallucinogen, could possibly trigger a downward mental spiral. So I had to devote a few hours examining the potential anxiety level of this issue, and whether any further skeletons might be hid underneath it. The timing of this news seemed unfortunate, but thanks to a piece of advise I had picked up from a Terence McKenna lecture, it became a karmic task.
McKenna suggests that prior to any serious entheogen excursion, you sit down and go over any known personal issues and conflicts, so that they won't spring a jack-in-the-box on you during the trip. By bringing them up beforehand, their charge is reduced. If this short examination creates a mood of depression or deep anxiety, then it may not be a good time for a trip. It is a balancing act, but if not too intimidating, it lowers the hazard level of the psychedelic experiment . The short version is simply: "Know Thyself".
The night before the trip I meditated for about 30 minutes, using a simple technique that relaxes and cleanses, without being overly buddhist. I also formulated a specific quest for the journey, recasting it until it was trimmed down to a short phrase. In traditional healing rituals there is usually a stated purpose for each individual, and it's a notion also used by Western psychedelicists from an early stage. Sufficient time needs to be spent on this element. The more specific, the better -- "to have a good time" or "satisfy curiosity" doesn't really cut it .
Finally, using another technique of McKenna's, I "prayed" to the unnamed power that would govern my ayahuasca trip. I asked it simply not to hurt me, and explained that I came with good intentions. It is good to go into the trip on a note of humility.
The Setting: I was prepared to venture down to a nearby park if the flow of the trip so directed, but the primary setting was my apartment, a k a the Vajrayana Lounge. I had told no one about my planned experiment, and turned off the phone as the time was getting near. I had deliberately stayed away from the internet and the TV for 24 hours to keep my mind clean from the noise of the "global village". Music had been carefully selected (Eden Ahbez, Donovan, Beethoven, Schubert) with CDs easy to reach, and some snacks for the trip was spread out on the kitchen table. As any ayahuasca student knows, the diet restrictions are very important and quite limiting, but what I had -- apples, crisps, some bread, mineral water -- was said to be safe even with DMT and an MAO inhibitor in your system. I had fasted all day after a small breakfast, but wasn't feeling terribly hungry. The weather had been dull and overcast for a few days, but an hour before embarking on the trip, the sky cleared for a beautiful Nordic summer evening.
The Entheogen: I had purchased a pack of raw plant material for making ayahuasca from a renowned internet shop some months earlier. Internet sources told me that if the plastic bags were still sealed, the plant entheogens would have lost none of their potency. Examining the package closer, I noticed they were even marked with expiration dates, which lay several months ahead. I had chosen a "Spirit Elixir" product that combined the Banesteriopsis Caapi vine as MAO inhibitor with the bush Psychotria Viridis as the DMT source. This precise combo is used among certain Amazon tribes.
First extraction cycle simmering on the stove. Banesteriopsis Caapi on the left, the DMT-
containing Psychotria Viridis on the right.
Even with pre-shredded plant material and plenty of vinegar added to lower the PH and speed up the process, the method for making a hot ayahuasca infusion with a DMT admixture is cumbersome and time-consuming. The two plant sources need to be kept apart throughout the preparation, and each one must go through three repeated extractions via slow simmering, rinsing, and addition of more water and vinegar. At the end of this process, the brews will still be too voluminous to drink, and so a final stage of water reduction follows. This turned out to take longer than I had anticipated, challenging the time parameters of my experiment. After more than 4 hours of simmering, I poured the brews into small tea cups and steeled myself for the notoriously foul "jungle" taste of ayahuasca.
According to the "Spirit Elixir" instructions, the Banesteriopsis Caapi brew is taken first, followed by the DMT extraction some 15 minutes later. This is a deviation from the typical aboriginal method, where the two liquids are mixed, but it seems Western science has offered a slight improvement on the ancient Amazon style, so that the MAO inhibitor from the Caapi vine is given some time to affect the metabolism before the psychoactive DMT brew is introduced. Mixing the two brews reportedly also initiates a break-down of the psychoactive alkaloids.
Now, I have a fairly robust digestive system, and foul tastes do not scare me, and with that in mind I'll declare that the two ayahuasca brews didn't taste half as bad as people have warned me. In fact, the vinegar residues were harder to get past than the earthy infusions. Volume turned out to be a bigger obstacle than taste for me, since I still had lots of excess water left in both brews. I managed two cups of each, until I felt certain that I had had enough, and that even one more sip would cause me to vomit.
Vomiting during a yage trip is common even among veteran ayahuasceros, and of course even more so among new initiates. Some believe that a visit from La Purga may in fact be healthy for you. In any event, the main thing is not to throw up during the early stages, before the psychoactive compounds have been fully absorbed into one's organism.
"Amanecer De Los Spiritus" by Pablo Amaringo; detail only, showing ayahuasca drinkers
As the trip begins I feel somewhat nauseous, primarily a sense of the stomach being "full", and there is an excess production of saliva. For a few minutes it's unpleasant enough that I station myself in the bathroom. But the nausea does not increase, although the full stomach feeling remains. After about 45 minutes I'm confident that I will not vomit, and it gladdens me that I will get a maximum effect from the ayahuasca I drank. The only problem is that nothing seems to be happening. I know that I did the extraction process 100% right, and start to wonder if the plant material was too old after all.
About 50 minutes off baseline, a change is observed. With open eyes, the objects in my room -- artificial jungle plants, psychedelic artwork on the walls, furniture -- take on a slight glow, and their contours appear sharper; it's a familiar sensation from the beginning of any LSD trip. The music on the stereo -- Donovan's marvy "For Little Ones" album -- takes on a slightly "heavenly" quality, but again it's not a great change. I close my eyes, and the inner landscape seems somewhat more vivid, but it's all murky and formless. My emotional state is entirely unchanged, I feel "normal". I go over my stated purpose for this trip, and last night's meditation, and even invoke earlier psychedelic journeys, to try and shake this so far eventless ayahuasca experience into a more active mode.
Vision - A Childhood Scene
The actual trip comes on fast, after little more than an hour. I've determined that if anything will happen, it will be in the CEV (closed eye visuals) mode. The murky forms behind my closed eyes slowly get a little brighter and a little sharper, but it's still without content. Then suddenly a clear image appears in my mind, breaking my normal train of thought. It's a scene from the past, showing my older sister running towards me and calling out my name. Behind her I see my parents and younger brother also coming towards me, and the setting is my grandmother's old house in the country, where we used to spend the summers in the 1970s.
I do not recognize the scene as a known memory, and am unsure if it's a symbol created by the ayahuasca trip, or retrieved from hidden memory banks. Based on how young my sister looks, my own age would be around 5. The scene lasts only a few seconds and seems entirely realistic, like an old home movie, shot from my point of view. It appears that I've wandered away on my own and caused my family to worry, and when I now return they are very happy to see me. I also sense my grandmother and cousins somewhere nearby.
The brief scene is charged with a feeling of pure love and caring, and the vision moves me very deeply. I dwell on it for several minutes, until an understanding is distilled into the thought "There has always been love". I feel a complex, profound mix of melancholy and joy, which is familiar to me from earlier psychedelic experiences. I observe that the ayahuasca trip is shaping up well.
No sooner does this thought cross my mind than I seem to be back at baseline normality. For several minutes nothing psychedelic seems to be going on. It is a fact that for many ayahuasca beginners, the entire experience will offer only one brief vision, or even none at all. I've read about the importance of paying attention in this entheogenic mode, where the vital material may be presented in a less ostentatious way than with psilocybin and LSD. Although grateful for the wonderful childhood vision, I begin to wonder if that was my only shot, after all those hours of preparation.
Vision Journey #1- Cactus Candles & The Planet 'Time'
The way I distinguish between a true vision and what is simply a day-dream, is that the vision interrupts. A genuine vision is not a product of a train of thought but breaks into the flow of ideas from outside and above; a vision surprises, startles, or even shocks. While I'm wondering whether my yage'd consciousness has already run out of fuel, a new vision-image suddenly pops up on my CEV screen.
In front of me is a rocky landscape bathed in sunlight, like the semi-desert of the American Southwest. Two tall saguaro cacti rise from a small hill. What startles me is that the upper part of each cactus turns into a huge green candle, burning brightly against a cloudless blue sky. The "witness" part of my consciousness observes that I have never seen anything like this before, and suggests that it's "surreal" like Dali. It is an image both eerie and amusing. Then I notice something lying on the ground between the two tall cactus-candles: a hat that someone has left behind. I associate the look of the hat with indians (meaning Native Americans); it is black, wide-brimmed, with an ornament around the lower part of the top.
Tryptamine Gate, acrylic on arches by the author 2009
As I walk up the small hill towards the cacti and the abandoned hat, a Native American man comes up the hill from the other direction. The man has archetypal indian features, weathered yet strong.
- Is it your hat, I ask him.
The man does not answer, but picks up the hat and puts it on, and turns to go back from the direction he came. However, something about his behavior suggests that he wants me to follow him.
- Why do you want me to follow, I ask.
- You must see the land, he replies.
As I walk after him, the name 'Injun Joe' (from Tom Sawyer) pops up in my head, but I push it aside. I catch up with the man as we walk down the rocky hill. In front of us a panoramic, paradisical landscape is spread out, with wide green fields and small hills.
- Why am I here, I ask the man.
- You are here to find out why you are here, he says.
I accept this. Then we are suddenly in the Native American village. A huge white tipi rises before me, then transforms into abstract geometric shapes in "indian" colors of white, orange, brown. Hundreds of similar, crude tipi-abstractions flash by until I'm suddenly at the other end of the "village".
There an old man waits upon me. He has long white hair and a droopy white moustache and golden brown skin. Despite the previous events, he doesn't look quite like a Native American. It is apparent that he wants to take me somewhere. I grab hold with my arms around his waist and we soar up through the sky, up through the layers of air and reach outer space in very short time.
- Where are we going, I ask as we fly.
- To Time, the old man replies.
- Is Time a place?
- Time is a planet.
We fly swiftly through outer space until we reach a planet far away. Standing on the planet, which seems oddly small, I ask whether this is "Time".
- From here you can see the whole universe, says the old man.
I look up and realize that he's right. The entire starry heaven slowly rotates above us, presented as an old-style illustration, like in a 19th century astronomy book. I can even make out some lettering and roman numerals around the "edges". Then it is time for us to return, despite my mild protests. The flight back to earth is fast and uneventful.
I'm back in the widestretched green landscape with the Native American I had met earlier by the cactus. Ahead of me I see a river bend with a few houses and a mill wheel, which rotates at an absurdly fast pace. As we approach, I ask:
- So this is White Man's house?
The man confirms this, and leaves me. Inside one of the houses I see a traditional spinning wheel, which again is rotating ridiculously fast. I realize that the entire river settlement is full of different types of wheels which are spinning too fast. By the spinning wheel stand a couple of middle-aged women, who seem confused and unsure.
- Why aren't you working, I ask.
- It is impossible, the wheels are spinning too fast.
I become aware of an "On/Off" switch at the back of the homestead which regulates the entire complex. I turn it off and all the wheels stop.
- You should work less, I say to the women.
- How will we get food to eat if we do not work, they answer.
- Grow the food yourselves. And think less about time.
I leave the river settlement and move up a grassy slope, and suddenly find myself in Tibet, with snowcovered mountains in the background. Somewhat further up the mountain I see a man sitting crosslegged in a red buddhist garment. At first the man looks like the Dalai Lama, but then his features become mixed with those of Ram Dass. As I approach him, the man looks annoyed and yells out:
- Why are you here?
Remembering the Native American's words earlier, I reply:
- I am here to find out why I am here.
- Correct answer, the Lama shouts to me.
As I get near, I see that the Lama is sitting and drinking from a small cup.
- Some tea? he asks.
Still feeling full in the stomach from the ayahuasca (in reality as well as in the vision), I answer:
- No, I think I've drunk enough for today.
The Lama bursts into laughter and suddenly starts rising straight up into the air.
- Never lose your sense of humor, he calls out to me before he disappears into the sky.
And on that note ended the first vision journey.
I remain in closed eye mode to see if anything else presents itself, but the CEV screen is back to the "no channel" mode. I've changed the music to Beethoven (his delightfully upbeat piano concerto #1), which plays pleasantly and unobtrusively in the background. Looking around, I feel slightly "trippy", but not more than what you may do from a marijuana joint. I move into the kitchen and start cleaning up after the ayahuasca brewing, and have my head together enough to even fill the dishwasher. Then I return to the living room and the music. At least 20 minutes has passed since the last vision; I'm about 2 hours into the trip. I close my eyes a few times, trying to summon up something more. Once again, when it comes on, it's of a different nature than a 'thought' or 'daydream'.
"Callampa Yachay" by Pablo Amaringo, the original painting
hangs in my living room.
Vision Journey #2 -- The Snake, The Bikers & The Smurf
The second vision-journey begins with the image of a small waterfall, seen from below and up close, the water cascading around me down into a calmer lagoon. I'm very near it, perhaps sitting right at its edge. Inside the green and white water, I notice colorful fishes swimming and jumping. They don't look quite like real fish, but have a cartoonish, Nemo-like quality; striped large in white and pastel colors. - What kind of fish live in a waterfall, I think.
- Come with us, the fish say.
I notice a canoe on the bank where the lagoon turns into a stream, and climb inside it. With the fish swimming around me, I begin to paddle down the stream.
- You don't need the canoe, a fish says. Swim with us.
I leave the canoe and float in the water down the stream, until we reach a somewhat sizable lake where the stream empties. The landscape around the lake is vaguely tropical, rain forest-like.
- Oops, here comes the snake, the fishes say and disappear.
Indeed it does, although at first more sensed than seen. The "witness" part of my mind is well aware of the importance of snakes in ayahuasca visions [more on this below]. Favored perhaps by the fact that I consider snakes "cool" and have no real fear of them, I try to bring the ayahuasca snake nearer to me. It glides through the water with poorly outlined features, except for being dark and very large. As it comes near and gives me a look, its yellow eye and the skin around it fills my entire field of vision. The snake moves away through the water, apparently uninterested in me. I try to tap it on a giant snake's equivalent of a 'shoulder', and call out:
- Aren't you going to eat me?
I insist on this. In a motion that is somehow both bored and very powerful, the snake mouth opens around me, and I'm swallowed down. As I'm 'inside' the snake, the flow of the vision blurs in the same way as when I reached the Native American village earlier. For a few split seconds, there is no clarity, just a vague chaos, like tumbling around inside the snake's belly.
The next thing I see clearly is a spinning wheel from a roaring motorcycle, viewed from below at a close range. The loud noise and machine motion jar strongly with the calm scene in the tropical lake. My perspective changes, like in a movie, and I find myself in a stoney desert landscape, looking down on a flat, barren patch where a group of motorcyclists drive round and round, stirring up dust and revving their engines. In the center is a pole to which two people, perhaps two women, are tied, apparently waiting to be tormented by the circling bikers.
- Machismo, I think to myself. Violence.
I become aware of giant masses of water approaching from the west, like a biblical flood, drowning the desert landscape mountain by mountain. At the same time, huge storm clouds gather in an impossibly rapid fashion from the same direction as the flood. Flood water and rain water wipe out the entire scene with the motorcyclists in the desert landscape. I'm thrown about in the water, which is everywhere.
- Now one can live here, a voice somewhere says.
- But there is only water, I object.
But in a matter of seconds the water level drops and the ocean dries out, replaced by a rich, fertile ground. Grass and bushes spring up from the soil, and the area turns into a beautiful glen. Through this landscape, happily strolling in my direction, comes a Smurf.
- You see? the smurf asks me. Now one can live here.
- But what do you live on, I ask.
- Food grows everywhere, he says. And then there's sarsaparilla, of course.
We are approaching Smurf Village, where I see a huge cauldron boiling. The development of this vision is troubling me.
- But... you are a smurf, I say. It's hard for me to take what you say seriously.
Briefly halting on the path, the smurf asks:
- Do you prefer me like this?
He goes through a rapid sequence of transformations, becoming various forms of traditional gnomes and elfs, some of which are slightly terrifying. Apparently, his smurf form is simply a modern variant on the classic 'little people' of old European myths and Mexican and Amazon plant shamanism.
- OK I get it, I hurry to say.
He becomes a smurf again. Indicating his Village as well as the natural surroundings, the smurf says:
- This is a way to live.
- But what about engineering, culture, development? I ask.
- None of that is important, says the smurf.
We enter Smurf Village. Running out of topics for discussion, and not really knowing too much about the smurf lifestyle, I ask for the Village elder:
- Is Papa Smurf around?
- You've met him already. It was on his back that you flew to the planet 'Time'.
- Well I'll be damned, I say.
And on that note, the second and final vision journey faded out.
There were no more 'journey'-type visions after this. A tripped-out mood remained for another hour or two, and reviewing what I had seen, a few quick images and phrases flashed by that helped flesh things out. In addition to what is described here, I had a couple more very brief visions which in a gentle but effective way pointed out areas where I needed to change my attitude or behavior. The condensed, intelligent way that these lessons were presented reminded me of certain LSD and psilocybin trips, but the manner of teaching on ayahuasca seemed more caring and less abrasive. The ayahuasca offered me two final observations: 1) Love is a gift -- an ability to give. 2) I spend very little time thinking about death. The latter was said with a slight tone of reproach, and seemed like a memento for the future.
With the trip energy slowly ebbing, I sat up and made notes before things started to fade from memory; these notes went into what you've read above. I went to bed about 5 hours after drinking the ayahuasca, spent another hour or so awake in a pleasant, slightly stoned mood, and slept a normal night's sleep. As has been pointed out by others, ayahuasca is a rare drug in that it makes you feel better the next day than if you hadn't taken a drug at all. I spent the entire next day in a slightly blissed-out state, marvelling over the beauty of my local surroundings. The evening and subsequent night did however have a certain 'hangover' quality to it.
A popular description of an ayahuasca trip is that is like 'dreaming while awake', or that it feels like "watching a movie". These are fairly accurate descriptions, which set the experience apart from things like LSD or psilocybin, where the spectrum of effects is broader. On ayahuasca, my cerebral instincts and reflexes seemed almost unaffected. This instilled a feeling of calm and common sense, even as the most absurd visions were presented. There was a sense of balance, of gentle precision. For the duration of the trip, a substantial part of my consciousness felt 'normal' -- yet when looking back on how the visions unfolded, the trip seems more bizarre to me for each passing day.
This was not a high-dose ayahuasca experience, which I believe takes on a different form, with pronounced open eye visuals, synesthesia, ego-loss and dramatic emotional shifts. Still, the duration and nature of the closed eye visuals were more than I had hoped for, and possibly more than a first-time yage drinker should hope for. The wave-like nature of the trip energy was even more pronounced than on psilocybin, and the advise to pay close attention, and try to work with and stimulate the trip, proved highly useful.
"Chacruna" by Pablo Amaringo; this is the DMT-
containing Psychotria Viridis
Visions - Basic Themes
The closed eye visions formed the entire content of this experience, and I am deeply impressed by whatever force it is that arranges and presents these things for the psychedelic traveller. There was structure, meaning, precision, internal logic, and even meta-perspectives and humor. Everything presented to me had a part to fill in the play. There was none of the noise and nonsense that creep into regular night dreams. The visions weren't really like watching a movie either, because there was an interaction between my presence and the people and objects I encountered. Questions were asked to which correct answers needed to be given; choices were offered; conclusions were to be drawn; each such moment marked a fork in the vision road, and my response determined where I would go next. As such it was a bit like one of those first-person point-of-view computer games, except that the action was non-violent and exploratory.
The first snapshot vision -- the childhood scene -- differed markedly from the rest, and seems to me a response to the purpose I had formulated before drinking the ayahuasca. This was entirely personal, and profoundly emotional. I received a few more private vision "messages" like that, of even shorter duration. After these images had been decrypted and integrated, the longer journeys followed, with no major bearing on me as an individual; anyone who drank ayahuasca could have had them.
The appearance of Native Americans, rather than Amazon Indians, may seem odd in an ayahuasca vision, but probably derive from my recent reading of Weston La Barre's classic "The Peyote Cult". The Southwest landscape and the burning cacti probably came from the same source; the "cactus candles" image may in fact be a reference to the recently reported shortage of peyote cactus (although they look nothing like saguaros) in the USA, causing problems for the Native American Church. The burning cacti also seemed to have a more general and metaphysical meaning, indicating the theme of time that recurred through the trip.
I haven't read enough Einstein to easily interpret the significance of travelling to a planet called 'Time', from which one can see the entire universe. Factoring in other parts of the visions, the meaning seems to be that 'time' is a separate entity that need not interfere with all aspects of existence. Time is one thing; it's not everything. Again and again, the vision characters (even myself) urge "not to think so much about time".
This exaggerated fixation upon time echoes in the many instances of the wheel found in the White Man settlement by the river. Here one sees the absurd consequences of Western development; where the machines run so fast that they can no longer be used. As this point is being made, a third theme -- that of pastoral living -- is introduced, when my role in the vision encourages the women to grow their own food, instead of trying to earn food by controlling inhumanly fast machines. Apparently inspired by my flight to the planet 'Time', I shut down all the spinning wheels.
While still in the open, green landscape where I had come upon the Native American village and White Man, the first vision journey closes with an encounter with a representative of Eastern-Vedic wisdom. I pass the Lama's first test ("Why are you here?"), and am allowed to come closer. Although I didn't realize it until after the journey, the cup of tea I am then offered is yet another fork in the road: the option to drink more ayahuasca (which is indeed a tea). It is a curious meta-comment, elegantly integrated into the flow of the vision. When I decline, the vision abruptly ends, on a somewhat humorous note. If I had instead accepted the 'tea', would it have triggered a new wave of tryptamine energy to my vision? Or was I supposed to take a break and drink the last cup of ayahuasca I had in the kitchen? This road remained unexplored, but the theme of ayahuasca itself would return in the next vision.
As I will discuss below, the second vision journey consisted in parts of a recycling and variation upon the themes from the first journey. What was new was a pronounced concern with water, and a new theme of aggression. The water is presented as a medium of transformation, and a return to a more natural style of living (floating down the stream; flooding the hostile desert scene). The aggression is presented in both sound, motion, and outer appearance, via the motorcyclists circling their victims. It was present for a curiously short time, barely having time to manifest itself before being drowned by water.
Visions - Parallels
One of the most striking things about these two vision journeys is the degree of internal correspondence not only within them, but also between them. In actual time they occurred upwards 30 minutes apart, and at first seemed vastly different. Yet the parallels were everywhere:
- The furiously spinning wheels of White Man's house (journey #1) becomes the zoomed-in motorcycle wheel of Journey #2.
- The Southwestern desert/rock landscape of the burning cacti (#1) is near identical to that of the motorcycle scene.
- The vast green landscape of the Native American village (#1) is telescoped into the lush glen of the Smurf village (#2).
- Both journeys had me being led to someone's village.
- Both journeys contain admonishments towards a pastoral, self-sufficient lifestyle.
- Both journeys contain urgings to be less concerned with time.
- Both journeys refer to ayahuasca drinking; via the Lama tea (#1) and the cauldron of 'sarsaparilla' (#2). Interestingly, the smurf's favored sarsaparilla originates from a bush in Central America.
And perhaps most remarkable:
- The Smurf at the end of Journey #2 makes a verbal and very surprising connection to the space flight to planet 'Time' in #1. This was somehow already prefigured in #1, where the old man who led the flight did not look quite like a Native American, although from the context he 'should'.
Who Is Running This Show?
These two narrative arches were presented to me from 'above'. The only time I felt as though I was directing the flow of the vision journeys was in my insistence upon being eaten by the snake -- which in turn wouldn't have happened if I hadn't read certain accounts of hallucinogenic shamanism. According to several sources, an encounter with a giant snake is a key event in the journey, where the tripper needs to ignore any fears he may have, and preferrably either allows the snake to eat him, or lets the snake enter his mouth. Knowing this, I wanted there to be a snake, and I wanted it to eat me, and so it happened. Everything else that occurred was like being a character in a surreal adventure story someone else was writing.
The appearance of the Smurf took me by complete surprise. I've never cared much for the smurf comic books, which I consider bland and one-dimensional. So much did it bother me that I questioned the Smurf's appearance in "my" vision. The visual demonstration of the Smurf's raison d'etre and true nature surprised me again, and I immediately accepted its elegant logic -- the elfs and gnomes of older hallucinogenic folklore need to be updated to a modern day incarnation, when the year is 2009. With the benevolent tone of this entire ayahuasca experience, the harmless smurfs fit right in, even if I never cared much for them.
There was indeed a slightly cartoonish quality to these journeys, the second one in particular. The fish in the stream looked less like real fish than something from Disney. The smurf is all cartoon, of course, and the newly-grown landscape in which he lived was almost parodically pleasant and lush. The mode of representation in the first journey was substantially more realistic (despite the absurd elements), the only exception being the antique image of the revolving starry sky above planet 'Time'. The aggression-charged scene with the motorcyclists in #2 had a realistic, strongly negative tone, but was dissolved in water the moment I interpreted its message (machismo ignites violence) correctly.
How is it possible that the trip space can sense that I need to drink more ayahuasca to reach certain levels in the journey, and then convert this situation to perfectly appropriate symbols (the cup of tea, the cauldron of sarsaparilla) inside the journey? I have no idea. The more I think about these things, the more inexplicable they seem.
I don't know who produces this show, but it knows a lot more and it thinks a lot faster than I do. There were two moments when I believe the seams of the production briefly showed; the chaotic pauses that happened mid-way through each journey. In #1, there was a brief second or two after reaching the Native American village; in #2 it was inside the giant snake's belly. There, the narrative flow halted and was replaced by meaningless colors and shapes, with a brief sense of disorder. It felt as a hiatus while someone is rapidly looking through index cards, or while a master magician has ended one card trick and quickly prepares the next one. In retrospect, these pauses only enhanced the sense of a production being set up from somewhere else, with me as spectator and participant.
Looking at ayahuasca trip reports on the internet, the number of difficult or negative experiences is remarkably large. Some of these can be readily explained by inaccurate preparation in terms of set & setting, dietary restrictions, reckless drug combinations & so forth, but beyond that there remains a substantial body of yage "bummers". As is my habit nowadays, I researched and read the warning label carefully before embarking on my journey, a small investment which not only reduces the general hazard, but removes any personal anxiety connected to the preparation.
Even so, the delightfully friendly mood with which the ayahuasca spirit greeted me was a surprise, and in combination with its trickster humor and marked intelligence (wherever it comes from) , it made for a pleasant and highly memorable experience. I have to go back to my earliest lysergic daze to find such a frictionless, upbeat visit to the trip space. Future journeys, perhaps with increased doses, are likely to offer greater challenges.
PS Love is a gift: an ability to give.
© Patrick The Lama 2009
The Lama Workshop