My dream space (in my afternoon nap) was lucid. I knew I was in a dream state. I knew where I was in reality, and what I was doing.
And I knew enough to ask Papa Tua (the head ayahuasca spirit) if I should drink in that night's aya ceremony.
He sent me visual messages of the English-speaking shamanic staff (Matt, Maya, Terri, and Samer) simply shaking their heads or saying, "No."
First was Samer. Then Terri. Then Maya. And finally, Matt. (Matt was the leader.)
In the dream, I knew the answer was "no" before I even began asking them. But when I woke, I was disappointed in myself for not thinking to ask them "why" the answer was no.
"You don't need them to answer that," said the voice in my head.
I thought about how I don't tend to ask "why" much in life either. Not in recent years. I just do. I react. I activate.
I don't care about the "why" a lot of times. Which is probably a pretty cruel thing... Because it distances me from connecting from people and their thoughts and emotions.
"You've needed to not be bothered with the 'why'," said the voice. "Either you want to do what others want to do, or you don't. If you do, you do. If you don't, you don't."
"Who needs to know 'why?' That's an unimportant thing. It just leads to taking on extra thoughts that you don't need."
I sat with the question the rest of the day, up until it was time for the meditation before the ceremony.
The circular ceremony house had plenty of space for the evening's plans. People had both a rocking chair and a mat set up for them. This was a luxury, as usually you get a choice, but not both. A typical tour has too many people to have both set up.
Quietly, before the meditation began, I went up to Matt and Maya and let them know I wouldn't be drinking that evening. They nodded an acknowledgement, and didn't ask why.
As I sat down on the mat for the meditation portion, I quietly burped up some Sanango.
"Ugh, acknowledgement that something is still working inside me."
Matt's voice led us through the meditation. It was a deep sound that knocked meandering energies dawdling in my mind out the way.
"Let's go deeper," I heard in my head. But it wasn't my voice or my inner voice.
It had no flourish to it's tone. It was direct and calm. Not loud. But it wasn't approachable. It was unavoidable.
"You still have plenty in you from before," said my inner voice. "It's been residing in you this whole time."
Maestro Don Alberto and his son - also a Maetsro Shaman - came into the ceremony house after the meditation. The ayahuasca was prepped with an icaro, and divided into two serving vessels (plastic bottles), and everyone was escorted up one by one to get their dose.
Except for me.
I moved back to my rocking chair for the ceremony.
K, a quiet fellow throughout the week, sat next to my rocking chair. He'd just sat down with his dose in his hand. He leaned over to smell it and shuddered.
He made an aching sound.
"Did you smell it?" I asked. "That's the worst thing you can do before you have to drink it."
"Ugh," he said. "So bad."
Once everyone had their little plastic cup of aya in their hands, including the shamans, there was the usual "SALUT!" with raised cups, and then the tossing back of the elixir into the throats.
I shuddered, and I didn't even have any.
Many people shuddered.
So did Maestro Don Alberto.
"Oh shit!" said K. "I didn't realize we were supposed to wait for everyone to drink."
I laughed. He'd actually drank his earlier when I watched him.
"It's fine," I said. "We used to drink it as soon as we got served. But they changed that so that people weren't getting into the space before the icaros began. Or they weren't asking for a second dose because they weren't feeling it yet."
The lanterns went out. And for a few minutes, it was silent.
Except for the jungle.
Crickets. Lizards. Birds.
Then the icaros started up quietly. Always with a shaking chakapa (leaf rattle), and then the additions of quiet whistling, followed by louder whistling. followed by icaros with words. Eventually, there are multiple icaros being sung at once.
And they somehow always go together.
Even though they are different rhythms, words, keys.
"An icaro symphony" I've called it since my first ceremony over four years ago.
I moved into the medicine space quickly, even with the absence of ayahuasca being drunk. My internal dialogue was rolling. Conversations within it were happening around me. One side talking to the other. And I was sitting there listening to it unfold in my mind.
The first was about my marriage, which had hit its four-year ending anniversary just a few days prior.
Judgement was overwhelming. Exhausting. Both from him, and from you on yourself in reaction.
Yes. You had a good understanding of what he wanted. And you eventually found what your direction. And you realized it didn't sync with what he wanted.
It's really time you stopped feeling bad about that.
Agree. You've always been one to live outside your comfort zone. Just a little more than one usually does.
But I wouldn't even call us friends now. I've tried.
You weren't ever friends. You were a couple. You followed, until you couldn't anymore.
Yes. And you were generous when you left.
You were generous with money. You were generous with making it easy. You were generous with offering the space that was needed.
You did the right thing. It's not yours to worry about anymore.
Stop carrying that burden around.
The icaros were really strong now. I could hear the occasional vomiting, as well as the shuffling of feet to and from the bathrooms.
My stomach was turning.
It was the halfway point in the ceremony. Maya came to check on me - I think to see if I wanted some ayahuasca. A few people had decided to go up and get a second dose.
"How are you, Heather?" she quietly asked.
"I feel sick, a little," I said. "I'm in the space."
A few times I wanted to reach for the bucket at my feet. Instead, I pushed my toes along the floor board outlines till I felt the bucket's exact location. I pulled the blanket on my chair over my shoulders, and I occupied my mind with focusing on the rocking.
One foot was up on the chair with me. The other kept a rhythm, pushing up and then releasing to come back down.
Recurring shapes kept coming into my view. They looked like a transparent wall of flowers that were purple. Then they would shift to jagged-edged clouds. Then onto starbursts. Then swirling circles. Then fluffy clouds.
A lot of people see things. Fractals. Sometimes full on visions. I see shapes like these layered over what ever I am staring at in reality. And not just in an ayahuasca ceremony. I see them when I wake from dreams at night too.
The second conversation started up in my mind. But the sick feeling got overwhelming, and blocked the conversation out of my mind. I needed to purge. But despite feeling sick, I didn't feel an ache to vomit.
"I could just make myself vomit to get it over with," I said to myself.
"You don't need to vomit," the voice said. "Just breathe."
Terri came up to me a few minutes later to check on me. I let her know I was feeling sick. She offered to do a venteyada on me. I agreed.
She grabbed a chakapa and began by shaking it. It sounded like the wings of little birds flapping. Then her icaro began. I'd never heard Terri sing before, or do a a venti yada, in the almost four years that I knew her. It was a strong voice she had. Ad it was beautiful. There was energy to it. Energy that was easing an ache that had come into my legs but been overwhelmed by my stomach pains.
Breathing got easier as she sang. And even though I didn't intend to, tears - likely a releasing purge - were trailing from my eyes like sweat.
She sprayed Agua de Florida on the various cleansing points (crown, back, neck, hands, feet) when she was done. And settled back into the rest of the icaros that had been continuing throughout all of this.
A camp nearby was having a party. And in quieter moments of the icaro symphony, you could hear Peruvian dance music popping in the space.
The nausea was still around, but was much less than before Terri's shamanic work. I could at least finally sit still.
"You did some deep purging this week," said the voice.
I opened my eyes. The ceremony had ended, and the lanterns were coming back on at the front of the ceremony house.
It was time for the "landing period" portion of the ceremony. It's the 30 minutes after the ceremony ends that we stay in the ceremony house come out of the work we'd been doing.
The two ceremony assistants for the week walked around with wind chimes. I crawled onto my mat and pulled the blanket over me.
I could taste Sanango again.
Matt stopped by to check on each of us. When he got to me, he offered me a venteyada.
"Terri gave me one already," I said. "I can feel things moving around."
He looked at me with no expression.
Then he said, "You're sensitive to the medicine. A little goes a long way in you."
I think he meant the Sanango. But I wanted to tell him I could feel hints of ayahuasca in me too. Even though I hadn't drank any.
I got an image in my mind then of my liver.
When the landing period was over, I grabbed some anise tea and walked back to my bungalow.
It took forever for me to get to sleep. My legs and lower back continued to ache.
"Purging," said the voice in my head.
I had no thoughts in my head. I didn't know what I as purging.
"Just energy," said the voice.
It added, "You're thought-ed out."