I received several life-changing insights and messages from Mother Ayahuasca in the seven shamanic ayahuasca ceremonies I experienced in Pisaq, Peru. It was the first one that led to the greatest transformation in my life overall.
If you’ve ever experienced ayahuasca, you’re familiar with the purging, including vomiting and sometimes diarrhea that comes along with it. For some, the purging starts at the beginning of the ceremony and doesn’t end for as many as five to six hours or more. If you’re not familiar, then let me just say that it’s an unforgettable experience.
My second and fifth ceremonies were non-stop purge-fests, including spending the past two hours of each puking in a bucket while sitting on the toilet with diarrhea. I clearly remember the cadence of puking, shitting, puking, shitting I was experiencing as the staff at Etnikas Integrative Healing Clinic checked on me every few minutes to make sure I was ok. “I’m good, thank you,” I’d respond, wondering if I was being honest.
My first ceremony, on the other hand, was much different. It was May 2016, and I was traveling to Peru for my first time with my friend Adam. He and I were about to join a five-day shamanic ayahuasca retreat with seven other people we’d never met before.
In the two years before, I’d used a handful of other psychedelics including psilocybin mushrooms and DMT (dimethyltryptamine) several dozen times. I’d heard that ayahuasca, sometimes referred to the “most powerful psychedelic on the planet,” was significantly more intense than either of the above. I expected to experience something that was going to blow my mind.
There was a two-week cleansing period before the ceremony that meant I had to restrict myself from chocolate, coffee, red meat, pork, alcohol, cannabis, sex and masturbation. Substances like coffee, chocolate and alcohol interacted negatively with ayahuasca, while the others were avoided for spiritual reasons. The day before the first ceremony, I was required to participate in an additional cleanse where I drank eight to 12 glasses of volcanic mineral water on an empty stomach until I defecated clear water.
When I finally arrived at Etnikas Integrative Healing Clinic in Pisaq, about an hour from Cusco, I was ready to get to work. My intention was to experience a deep level of healing and to let go of the anger I seemed to be carrying since I was a child. Anger was a valuable tool in my mixed martial arts fighting career, but as a business coach and entrepreneur it just wasn’t serving me anymore. I’d heard that ayahuasca was a powerful plant medicine that could help me heal anger and become a happier person.
Before the actual ayahuasca ceremony we took part in a forgiveness ritual and a cleansing ritual. We were encouraged to repeat the phrase, “I ask for forgiveness from myself, from those I have harmed and for those who have harmed me,” while Angel, the organizer of the retreat, clacked two rocks together and repeated prayers in Quechua, the native language of the indigenous people in Peru.
After the rituals, we were brought into the “Moloka,” a straw hut where the ayahuasca ceremonies would take place. The nurse came around with Agua de Florida, a flower essence used to protect our aura, as well as a small amount of dirt and water to mix and run through our hair. This was used to create a sort of helmet that we were told would protect us throughout the experience.
Next, the shaman poured small amounts of ayahuasca into each cup then whistled and blew tobacco smoke over top of them before handing them out to each of us. Once everyone had their cups, the shaman held his up and said, “Salut!” before drinking his and nodding for us to drink ours. The ayahuasca tasted like a combination of prune juice, teriyaki sauce and molasses, with dirt mixed in.
“It’s not as bad as I thought,” I said to myself. I’d soon learn that it’s not how it tastes going down, but coming up, that makes it so notorious.
I held the ayahuasca in for at least 30 minutes, then felt the urge to purge. I drank water, as I was encouraged to do by Angel, the organizer, then lay back in my spot. Minutes went by, then an hour, and I started to wonder if it was working. Was I supposed to be feeling something? Weren’t there supposed to be visions?
I’d heard a lot about ayahuasca before coming to Peru: stories about intense visions, life-changing insights and unforgettable experiences that made it so popular among thrill seekers like myself. However, what I was experience was nothing like what I’d heard.
After a couple of hours of just lying there with my eyes closed, listening to the shaman sing, I started to get frustrated. Where are the visions and insights? Why is nothing happening? Suddenly, as if there were a neon sign in my mind’s eye, the words, “nurture the roots” came to me.
Nurture the roots? What’s that supposed to mean? There were no other messages, no extraordinary insights and no blinding clarity. Just “nurture the roots.”
I spent the rest of the ceremony lying with my eyes closed, feeling frustrated that I didn’t get what I came for. I was thinking to myself, “Did I get ripped off? Is this retreat center the real deal? Is this really what I came all the way to Peru for?”
After about six hours the ceremony ended, and we all went to our rooms to sleep until the next morning.
In the following ceremonies over the next two years I’d certainly get what I was looking for, including extraordinary visions, intense purging and insights that have shifted me as a human being. Still, nothing compares in insight to “nurture the roots.” What I didn’t know at the time, but what I’d learn in the years to come, is that the shamanic path, or the path of transformation and healing, is about just that: nurturing our roots.
The shamans believe that the pain we experience in our lives, particularly in our childhoods and younger years, is responsible for most if not all of the pain we experience as adults. They believe, and psychology has confirmed, that we form the majority of our core beliefs in our childhood, between the ages of zero and 12.
As many as 75% of our core beliefs are formed in those years, the result of the situations we experience and relationships we have with our parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers and other influential people. That means that our core beliefs about relationships, finances, health and happiness were all originally formed in our childhood as a result of the people and situations we were in at that time.
Furthermore, between 40% and 95% of the decisions we make are unconscious and inspired by those core beliefs. In other words, almost every decision we make is unconscious and rooted in our core beliefs, most of which we created as children.
These key beliefs are all rooted in the first 12 years of our lives, and for those of us who have experienced neglect, abuse, criticism or trauma, that can be a scary thing. If the experiences we had as children are unhealed, unprocessed or unresolved, the pain they caused can negatively affect our beliefs and decisions as adults.
If you’ve ever been triggered by something a romantic partner has said, or if you’ve held yourself back from taking action on goals that are important to you, there’s a chance that you’re living from programming that was formed all the way back in your childhood.
Between May 2016 and October 2019, I experienced more than 300 shamanic healing ceremonies and hundreds of hours of deep and powerful coaching to help me understand how my childhood experiences have affected me as an adult. In that time, I discovered dozens of childhood traumas I’d forgotten about, ranging from near death experiences to sexual abuse and more.
These traumas, along with many other experiences in my life, created an intense level of mental programming that was sabotaging my relationships, my health, my career and my perspective on life. For most of my life I was living from this unconscious programming, totally unaware of how it was affecting me day to day.
After all of this work, not only have I been able to free myself from the mental bondage that my past experiences created for me, but I’ve also found forgiveness for all those who have hurt me. I’ve also forgiven myself for the pain I’ve created in my own life and the lives of others. I’ve reached a level of self-love, self-forgiveness and self-acceptance that I never imagined possible, and my life has become a reflection of my hard work.
I thought I was being sold short by Mother Ayahuasca in my first ceremony, but what I didn’t realize was that the insight she was giving me was all I needed. It may have taken hundreds of ceremonies and countless hours of coaching to understand, but I now I know that the freedom, liberation and happiness we all seek can be found on the other side — nurturing our roots.
I’m a manifestation of the Divine Intelligence behind the universe playing the roles of teacher, coach, shaman, martial artist and musician. Join my online community “The Tribe,” of heretics, rebels, outcasts and misfits absolutely free by clicking here.