Ayahuasca Diaries: The Medicine Calls. The Universe Guides.

"Who would be interested in doing another tobacco ceremony this evening?" asked Malcolm.

It was the final morning of the retreat. The following morning we would be packed up and driving back to chaotic Iquitos.

Two-thirds of the group raised their hands, in favor of the ceremony.

Malcolm and Matt (an apprentice shaman) were giving us the "going home prep talk."

  • No sex or sexual release until Monday. (Three Days)
  • No sugar till Monday. (Three Days)
  • No cannabis or alcohol until Friday. (Seven Days)
  • No pork until mid-August. (30 Days)

My appetite was still gone. I'd forced down some soda crackers and some black tea. I was craving dry chicken, and hoped the lunch meal would bring some.

The rest of the afternoon I spent in the hammock inside of the ceremony hut. Rocking back and forth, reading. I'd burned my way through Cheryl Strayed's book, as well as one Harry Potter novel. I made it halfway through the next book in the series that afternoon.

I spent 15 minutes packing my backpack up, determining which clothes were too infected with "Jungle Mold" (a damp smelly aura) to bring back to the states. I had exactly one pair of clean underwear left in my pile, which meant as soon as I got home, I'd have to do laundry. No exception.

I found my way back to the ceremony hut an hour and a half before the tobacco ceremony was to begin. There were a few people hanging out and talking. Smoking.

I had taken to smoking mapachos at the start of the ceremony, and would bum the occasional cigarette from someone... Dabbing the filtered end with peppermint oil.

"Tobacco isn't bad for the body," a voice said in my head. "It has healing properties. What is bad about cigarettes are the chemicals used to manufacture them. But tobacco is good for you."

This made sense. And I didn't know from where my subconscious had picked it up.

Many people picked up smoking while at camp. And then didn't touch it once they left. The medicine liked dancing with it.

I went and took my place between Hill (my friend there with me) and May (an assistant for Blue Morpho who I initially met in February on the Cusco trip) on our row of rocking chairs. May asked how my week had gone.

"Very well. This has been the most transformational week I've had in the 18 months that I have been coming here."

May wasn't surprised. I asked her about how many times she had done ayahuasca, and how her week had been.

"I've done it almost 30 times with this retreat," she said. "And for me, the work from the medicine begins after the ceremony."

Because she was an assistant, in ceremony she would help those of us who needed it. So she - like the shamans - had trained to deal with the effects of the medicine and help others.

I asked her about her first ceremony, which had happened a few years earlier.

She told me how her first few ceremonies were mostly pleasant during the ceremony space. But when she got up to walk to the door to go back to her bungalow, she'd felt off. She said that she needed to go back to her mat.

I knew that feeling.

In a ceremony during that first week for her, an extraction had been done on her. An energy was attached to her, and had been affecting her since childhood. When Malcolm released it from her, it swore at him in a foreign language.

After that, she felt more empowered. Calmer. Focused.

We talked about how the medicine had changed her path a little. I talked about how I was opening up to the medicine changing my path... But that I was still slightly unclear.

I was still working on surrendering to the Universe. Letting things flow however they were going to flow, without trying to push myself into anything.

The voice quietly told me what to do. Actually, it didn't tell me what to do. It said it more "matter of fact."

I laughed. Eventually I would surrender to it. But not yet.

More people had started to file into the hut. Malcolm walked in with a bowl of spicy brown liquid made from the mapachos.  Those of us game for the experience grabbed a bucket and toilet paper. He squeezed juice into our cupped hands.

I inhaled it up both nostrils as the same time, tilting the head back. It burned my throat. My head was buzzing. The Throat chakra and Crown chakra heated up.

Soon it was time to take the ayahuasca.  First served. I took an eighth. My magical number. Enough to get me into the Medicine World... And to work hard in it.

"Salute!" we all said, and then tossed it back.

"The Medicine World is a beautiful place," I thought to myself, as it began it's work 45 minutes later.

It was hidden in each of us. And for most, it's a substantial journey just to find it. Soon we realize how close it always is, even without the need to take a plant medicine.

But the journey wasn't as much about finding the Medicine World as it was about learning how to explore it. It's a continuous journey. You never know all there is to know. And the most important thing I learned that week was really a message I learned the first time I was there a year and a half earlier.

"Love from within nourishes you and provides all that you need. If you can find and accept this as a foundation, you become possible. The you that already exists in the life that you want."

Soon, the ceremony had ended. Hill had gone and laid on a mat across the room.  The shamans came around to do the venteadas for each person.

Maestro Don Alberto giving a venteada.

Maestro gave me mine. He blew mapacho smoke on my crown, chest, back, hands, feet at the end of it.

I was sealed up. The openness from the week's activities was directly shielded now. I was ready to head back into the chaos of the cities and everyday life.

I walked back to my bungalow in the dark, admiring the stars in the Southern Hemisphere. When I got back to my space, Bea came into the bungalow too.

"Heather? You here?"

I crawled out from the zipped opening on my mosquito net.

She wanted to thank me for convincing her to come on the trip. It was nearly 16 months earlier when she had visited me in Boston and I told her all about the experience while I forced roast beef and a homemade blueberry pie down her throat.

She said she wanted to come sometime.

"Then you will," I had told her. "The medicine will call you."

And it had.

The medicine calls you. The Universe guides you.  Everything you need is right here in this very moment.

Everything.