“This might not be enjoyable,” Nic cautioned. “Ayahuasca isn’t a trip. It’s medicine that forces you to perform deep spiritual work. You may seem some dark images.”
“The medicine” is what shamans and experienced users like Nic Gabriel call ayahuasca, a powerful entheogen derived from a vine found in the Amazon. The medicine is spoken of with only the highest reverence.
“The medicine will show you whatever you need to see. It will bring out whatever you need to work on the most. But you will leave the experience a better person.”
The medicine showed me my fears.
Before taking ayahuasca, you must begin cleansing your body and mind. You’re not supposed to ingest any caffeine or eat any dairy. You want your stomach to be empty when you take the medicine.
More than that, you must prepare your mind for the medicine. I spent several hours alone hiking while thinking about whether my life is where it needs to be. I focused on my goals, and more deeply, my shortcomings and inadequacies and insecurities – and yes, my fears.
“Who are you running from?”
During an intense hike at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, I stopped to rest and drink some water. A man was there with his wife and children. Seeing me sit down exhausted, he said, “Who are you running from?”
Myself, I responded. He gave me a knowing smirk.
Focus your intent.
“What is your intent when taking the medicine,” the shaman asked as we gathered around a fire. “You may answer silently, but you must focus your intent.”
My intent when taking the medicine was to face my fear of taking ayahuasca.
My biggest fear is losing control of my mind. We all identify ourselves in various ways, and while I may be handsome to some, I don’t think of myself as a big guy or cool guy. I think of myself as a smart guy with a strong self of mental fortitude.
The medicine strips away the illusion of control. I wrote the book on How to Control Your Thoughts and Emotions. Fighting a medicine far more power than a human’s free will scared me.
Facing my fears.
Fear occurs when we leave the present moment, as fear is based on our perception that a bad outcome with occur.
As fear set in, I performed more and more sets of Wim Hof breathing exercises. Fear occurs when you lose control of your breath, and by controlling your breath you maintain control of your fear.
The day of the ceremony, Nic and I both stretched. He did a bunch of Yoga and I did 10 Wim Hof breaths while holding stretches.
We were ready.
The ayahuasca ceremony.
The shaman holding the ceremony was sensible and didn’t ruin it with woo-woo nonsense. By possessing ayahuasca, many men for the first time in their lives have power. They use this power to create lengthy, silly rituals.
Our shaman was different. His ceremony was simple. We sat around the fire, stated our intent, and then went inside the temple to take the medicine.
He gave us each one shot of the medicine. After around 30 minutes, nothing had happened. He asked me if I’d like another.
The fear set in. I could walk away with my ego intact. “You showed up. It doesn’t work.” That was my way out.
Looking for a way out emerged as a theme during the night. I was looking for a way out, and had to overcome that fear-based mindset before taking my third shot as well.
My two mantras – Be Open, Embrace Pain.
While facing the fear, I controlled my breath and repeated my two mantras: “I open myself up to the universe and all of its possibilities.” That is my statement of acceptance. I also reminded myself, “Growth is painful,” which is a way to reframe a painful experience as a positive, powerful one.
The Smiling Monkey.
The medicine hit everyone before it hit me, and it hit them harder. From where I was laying Nic appeared to the shaman, “This is some strong medicine.” Nic’s face was outlined by the luminance of a lamp. His expression was one of pure joy, and he looked like a smiling monkey.
Facing my fear eliminated the fear.
My ayahuasca journey was a positive one. While seeing fractals and chakras while meditating, no dark images appeared from my unconscious.
Instead, the medicine brought out issues I had overcome and showed me ways to improve my life.
Yes, it’s true that I’m a fearful person. Few realize this, as I face those fears. There’s a rule to follow, “If this makes you afraid, do it.”
I wrote an entire book on fear in my head while on Ayahuasca. I pictured the book cover and outlined every chapter. Maybe I’ll write a book on fear after my next couple of books come out.
Our fears never leave, but they lose power once we face them.
Some of our fears are real. If we see a rattlesnake about to bite us, we can and should fell feel.
Yet most of our fears are artificial. They are socially derived.
We feel rejection, which is a fear that others will view us as being beneath them. This fear prevents us from taking action. But what happens when you face the fear? Will being rejected harm you in the way a snake bite would? Only if you let it.
When you see a path leading two ways, always remember that danger is play.
I left the ceremony feeling stronger.
The secret to my success is that I don’t think as highly of myself as you do of me. Compliments still leave me shaking my head. “Why would anyone listen to me?”
Confronting my fears and life obstacles one-by-one, I realized that feeling feel is nothing to be ashamed of, and that fear is not a weak emotion.
Fear gives us the opportunity to push through limits. We aren’t afraid of the known. We are afraid of the dangerous and unknown.
How do you face your fears? Become open to the world and its possibilities, and when life hurts, as it invariably will, remind yourself, “Growth is painful.”
The best views will always be at the top.
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I just completed a 9 day ayahuasca retreat in Peru. Everything you’ve shared is true. It was far better and far worse than I expected, but I’m planning to go back again in a year because I got so damn much out of it. It’s not for everyone. I do believe it is for those who are willing to do the work, face themselves, and face their fears! It will be the best and worst thing you ever do. One’s life will not be the same after.