Now I guess I need to backtrack in the story one more time to fill in a few gaps here.  In my earlier twenties, I had spent some time before living in London living in South America.  It was in South America that I first heard of something called ayahuasca. I found out about ayahuasca, which is considered a sacred plant medicine and portal to other realities by the indigenous people of the Amazon, when I was travelling in Cusco, Peru and staying at a hostel.  One day, I was eating breakfast at the restaurant in the hostel and suddenly a young red-haired woman came into get breakfast. I had seen this woman before at the hostel but something was different about her this day: she looked absolutely, positively radiant. More radiant than just about any person I had ever seen.  Her eyes glistened with light and her face shone like a beacon. She looked like an angel incarnate on this day to me: she was exuding a certain peace and love and contentment with life that was palpable. She sat down at my table and started to talk about her experience a little from the night before. She had apparently taken something called ayahuasca.  She said “If you take it for one night, you will feel closer and more connected to Mother Nature, but if you take it for two weeks, you can find out who you really are.”


Something about that last phrase stuck deep into my mind and soul.  “I can find out who I really am? What does that even mean? I don’t know who I am?”  Without knowing it (or maybe she did know), she had planted a seed deep in me that would eventually lead me on the biggest adventure and something that would completely transform my life.  I honestly don’t even know her name but cannot forget her face, so thank you thank you thank you to that red-haired girl for your inspiration.


I was not ready yet to take ayahuasca but later that year at the end of 2010 I took ayahuasca for the first time up in the Colombian Amazon.  I describe that first night of ayahuasca like the best drunk night of my entire life. It was like all the best effects of alcohol before I started having liver issues, except the next day instead of feeling hungover I felt quite nice and indeed, as the red-haired woman had predicted, more close to nature.  Ayahuasca works in mysterious ways and will only give you what you are ready for, so in this case I guess it was her way to lure me back for a longer trip. So the next year, I made another trip in 2011, this time to Ecuador to visit a gringo Shaman living in Ecuador with his Ecuadorian wife named Ed. I took ayahuasca in Ed’s house five times in a short nine day trip.  My main goal was to clear my physical and emotional health issues at that point…the spiritual part for me was still very abstract. At Ed’s house I started to have more interesting experiences than the first time I took ayahuasca. The most notable was that after a single drinking my last night my skin, which had suffered from worse acne after the Accutane than before, had completely cleared up overnight, which was miraculous to me as anybody who has suffered from acne knows that active pimples generally tend to take days if not weeks to gradually heal and fade away…yet my face had completely cleared up literally overnight and looked even radiant after taking ayahuasca sans one very tiny insignificant pimple that was there seemingly as a reminder (after my last day taking ayahuasca I immediately flew back to New York City and started to eat meat and other foods like that again and my acne came back shortly thereafter)… On a more mystical note, different foreign yet enchanting looking green hieroglyphics would appear on my left arm that I would try to decipher (when I told Ed about it he said excitedly, “Oh, you see those!  The local Shaman talk about seeing those hieroglyphics on their left arm!”).


So the door to other realities was starting to open up, but to be honest I still had not had an experience so profound that it had really opened me up to spirituality in a full-on way, I was still just dipping my toes into the water.  I hadn’t really jumped into the pool yet so to speak. This was evident in my year living in London. I would read some about Near-Death experiences and attended some yoga classes at a couple studios close to where I lived in Angel Islington.  I also had found a book in New York CIty after missing my first flight to Ecuador to take ayahuasca at a bookstore there called The Healing Code: Six Minutes to Cure Any Illness and I had started to regularly try to do some codes for self-healing on a daily basis.  Yet, I still spent far more of my time at the casino or looking obsessively at stock prices than I did on my newly found spiritual and healing quest.  


To add even more intensity to what I was going through at my low point in London, I had this prophecy which I was not sure how it got there but that was very real in my own mind that I was going to die in 2012.  The fear of this was quite strong in me to the point where I strongly considered and almost started to write an improptu will, but I decided at the last minute not to. Finally, a few weeks after my internship in London ended, I packed my bags and flew directly to Peru to Iquitos through Lima, and then took a one hour car ride and thirty minute hike through the jungle to the Shaman’s center in the middle of the jungle.  


The first couple of times I drank ayahuasca at this center, nothing much of note happened to me.  The third time: my reality completely changed irreversibly. Some sort of angelic being or deity (which felt very feminine in nature to me so I will refer to her as a “she”) came into me in the middle of the ceremony and merged with me in my heart space.  She was exuding an unconditional love and bliss that was just far beyond anything I could have imagined existed. I have described it that if the normal love I feel in my heart is like a faucet of running water, this was like Niagra Falls. Just seemingly endless, fathomless, gushing and ecstatic Love permeated my whole being from this angel.  Infinite Love.


Even more amazingly, she seemed to connect me to this place within my own heart, somewhere deep inside that I could not have fathom existed, and I felt my own sense of deep unconditional love within my own heart merge with hers, and from this ecstatic union sent energy of Love radiating out to all corners of the planet.  At one point, she started to channel through me and through me this amazingly angelic song came out with a female voice (it was not me but I had given this spirit permission to use my mouth and body to sing). Another person in the ceremony commented the next day he thought it was the woman sitting next to me, but it was this spirit that was making love with me energetically in a way that was so fulfilling I realized that this is the kind of union that people actually really want deep in their unconscious minds when engaging in sex.  


I left that ceremony with a different view of Life, of myself, and mostly of what Love actually is.  Experiencing Love at that depth and profundity was so amazing, I realized that is really what people want and need, whether they know it or not.  Nothing else could seem remotely fulfilling compared to the depths of the Love I experienced.


My bliss was short-lived.  Ayahuasca works in mysterious ways, and it shows you both the Light side of creation, and if needed, it can take you to the shadow.  After the third ceremony, while I was now convinced there was an afterlife and other realities than this physical reality, I felt that that Love I experienced was reserved for special ayahuasca trips or for the afterlife.  I did not have the motivation yet to make big changes in my actual life when I left the ayahuasca center (whenever that was going to be as it felt like I was in some sort of alternative reality while I was there). The next ceremony, as well as one other ceremony later on, were needed to serve as the kick-in-the-butt needed (to put it extremely mildly) to actually be motivated enough to make changes.  


The fourth ceremony, as well as one other ceremony, the tenth ceremony on the trip and last time I ever took ayahuasca (or will take it in this lifetime), were without a doubt the worst experiences thousands of times over to ever happen to me in this lifetime (and likely in many many lifetimes).  I went to the jungle looking on one level for healing, but on another level I was at a low point in my emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. I was not attuned to peace or Love, in fact, I was in a state where I was much more in resonance naturally with negativity and fear. I was addicted to poker (yes, winning players can be addicted, even worse than losing ones), and living a lackluster, unethused and uninspired life, and was not likely to change without a major catalyst.  The Light had not been enough.  So ayahuasca let me see the shadow.  


My goal in sharing this is only to share enough of my experience of the Darkness to motivate people to seek the Light.  So what I will share is that I was on a diet without salt in the Amazon (as salt was said to be bad for connecting with ayahuasca), but I had actually needed salt in my diet as one of the health issues I was facing was low blood pressure.  So during the fourth ceremony, my blood pressure started to plummet rapidly, and I had gone from Heaven two nights ago to a quite Hellish experience during which I channeled this information that was given to me crystal clear that I there was a very high probability I was going to die in the ceremony physically.  At first, this idea that I was going to die that night almost seemed like a fact and irreversible, which was beyond terrifying as I felt like I was going to die and go to a Hell(ish) realm…I begged for another chance to live, and a little later on, I channeled that if there was any chance I was going to live that I needed salt to live, and a lot of it.  Luckily, there was a helper there that evening to assist people in the ceremony whose job it was to help people who were in need, and so he went off to the kitchen to get salt (which thank God they had considering that there was no salt in our diets) for what felt to me like the longest late night kitchen run in eternity…meanwhile, I felt my whole soul flash in front of my eyes.  What happened over two ceremonies (the fourth and tenth) I am going to summarize and combine below:

a.) it is possible to go to certain (not all) afterlife realms under the influence of ayahuasca and still come back to your body alive.  During at least one of the two ceremonies, and possibly both, I somehow managed to end up travelling to a realm of complete darkness. In this place, the only way to describe it was there was nothing but fear, with no love, and there was no sense of there being anything else, ever.  I later spent hundreds of hours (more on this later) erasing successfully the energetic imprint from this experience completely from all levels of my being (physical, emotional, mental, and soul level) using energy healing both on myself and from several very advanced Shamans and healers as you cannot function in life well with trauma like this on any level that is left unhealed, so I cannot honestly recall the event directly, but my memory of a memory of a memory, etc. at this point remembers I was trying so hard to figure out in this place of Darkness if anything else existed other than this state of pure, unending, seemingly endless terror far beyond words.  It is impossible for us to understand what this means in this reality (Thank God), because truth be told what I realized after that ceremony is that compared to the Heavenly ceremony of virtually Infinite Love, we are like fish out of water without realizing that we are so detached from our natural “habitat” of Love…but compared to the Hell(ish) experience I underwent in this place of pure nothingness and Darkness, we are actually on this planet like fish in water (with water being Love) who take the water for granted because it is all they know. Even the most depressed or hateful or even fearful person here on Earth benefits from this the same way the Sun shines on everybody, although some of us are able to tap into the naturally good supportive energy much more than others.  But in this realm, there was no Love, and even more terrifyingly nothing else other than fear. Loneliness does not even begin to describe it.

It took me almost two years to understand what that place was, and then I came across in reading stuff on the great mystic Edgar Cayce and his description of various afterlife realms, I came across his description of Outer Darkness, and I knew without a doubt in my mind that is where I had been.  His description of the place and what beings experienced there was more what I felt and better than any description I could have come up with with hours of trying. From a site on near-death experiences talking about Edgar Cayce’s research I will paste a couple excerpts below on this realm of outer darkness:


This region is void of love, life, and light, void of all of those things we cast out from our lives in the earth. The region in which we find ourselves is approximately our wish come true. We are truly alone, with ourselves, within ourselves; it is pain beyond pain for us. Edgar Cayce described this region of void as “outer darkness.” The name of this dimension describes it very accurately, as we find no love, hope, friendship, kindness, benevolence, or any of what we have come to know as human qualities. Instead there is nothing but ourselves, and it is unbearable. In the absence of that which we term “fruits of the spirit” truth, love, patience, gentleness, kindness, long-suffering, and brotherly love we fill the void with an irrational and unbelievable amount of pain and fear. It is so dark in the realm of outer darkness that the dark hurts and panic grips us without our knowing why. Like our material universe, outer darkness seems endless and without any meaningful boundaries. There is nowhere we can go to escape the agony and horror which fills almost every part of our being, and the desire to flee consumes us. The farther and faster we travel through this realm the greater the feeling that it is endless. Even outer darkness has degrees, and it is darker and denser at the center than at its outer fringes. Helen Greaves describes these degrees as hells.   Likewise, this is the hell described by Emanuel Swedenborg in his classic book Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen.


“No level of outer darkness is without pain and fear, but, as we have noted, the very center is the most agonizing. In the reality we call outer darkness, we have very little memory of our earthly lives. We remember little, if anything, of our earthly relationships, and we are so absorbed in pain and fear that our suffering exacts every last ounce of our attention.”


Why did I end up in outer darkness just two nights after having this very Heavenly ceremony?  Lorraine, a Shaman I would work with extensively in my recovery who I will talk about more shortly, said at one point that “I was taken there,” almost in the sense seemingly of having been kidnapped by a malignant spirit during the ceremony while the Shaman who had been in-charge did a poor job of holding and managing a sacred space for the group.  To me that did not seem fair, and she answered that “it is possible for things like this to happen, but quite rare.” But if I am going to be truthful, I do not believe I could have been taken there if I was not at least in partial resonance at that point in my life with that place on some level. As I had said, I was entering this trip at a low point in my life (for those of you who have only met me recently, it would probably be very tough for you to think of how I would be if you had met me back in my valley at 2012).  I was living life from an increasingly lonely, emotionally cut-off, withdrawn, completely self-centered, greedy, and addicted state. The compassionate and warm aspects of my personality that had regularly shown up for me fifteen or twenty years earlier were still there but he had been deeply buried behind a lot of other stuff.

So at least in part, I was in resonance with this place of profound loneliness.  Had I not been, I do not believe I would have needed to experience such horror beyond words.  My ex-girlfriend Carolina also took ayahuasca multiple times, but always with the clear intention and belief that she would only travel through the light (even though all the elders in her ayahuasca group were trying to feed her the belief that the first few times she took ayahuasca she was going to have some rough experiences), and learn through the light and only experience darkness indirectly (through the observation of others trips there rather than getting absorbed in it herself).  To date as far as I know she has only experienced the Loving, blissful side of ayahuasca in her times drinking. So a lot of it I believe comes down to our beliefs, our self-worth, our expectations, and how in resonance or in-tune we are with ourselves. We can transcend victimhood, but it takes the right mindset and state of being to do it.


That being said, this question (why I ended up in that realm), and more importantly why a place so horrible a Loving God would even allow to exist is something I wrestled with for years (and still have not completely resolved to be honest although there is a certain level of acceptance of it now, or at least within the context of my own past, I would have deemed impossible some years ago).  


At the end of the tenth ceremony, my particularly nightmarish experience had become the focal point of our small group (which is not the norm in ayahuasca ceremonies which are generally quite individual).  So normally the night of ayahuasca ceremonies people are very introspective and do not talk a lot with each other during or after, but on this night two Swedish men and my Mom (more on that on a second) had entered a deep conversation after I came back from taking a late night bath in the river with the assistance of the helper.  I had been puking for hours and had blanketed myself in my own vomit and likely urine while coming and going from Outer Darkness in between. When I finally came back there was a moment I realized “I am back.” and it was a relief beyond relief.

So after going to the bathroom and getting bathed in the river and getting on some clean clothes, I joined the group in the middle of a conversation.  At one point in the conversation, one of the quite nice and well-intentioned Swedish guys brought up Hitler and said something like “I hope he is still there [in Hell].”  Having just come back from Outer Darkness literally an hour before here on Earth time, and having that “memory” (if you can call it that) firmly and freshly imprinted on my mind and being, I retorted very compassionately and almost with a tinge of desperation on behalf of Hitler something along the lines of, “No, don’t say that…you don’t understand what that place is like…Sixty five years there, that’s almost inconceivable…Two hours felt like an eternity.  Hitler, you are forgiven. Please God, let him move on and get another chance to become a better being. Or let him start over as a fly or an ant. But nobody deserves that sort of suffering indefinitely. Not even Hitler.”


Now, it is very important to say here, that if you read Edgar Cayce’s works, or much of the research on near-death experiences, and also the information that i received or somehow channeled during the ceremony itself when I felt like I was on the verge of getting banished to Hell for eternity, is that Outer Darkness, or any Hellish realm or existence, actually is not permanent, it is not eternal.  There is only one eternity, where God resides, in a state of undifferentiated bliss and peace and Love. So Outer Darkness or any realm like that is like a temporary time out in the scope of eternity, and after some time (with time being a relative word here as it does not exist the same way in all these other realms) any soul that ends up in one of these realms eventually will get to leave and get another shot in a better realm.  Eventually, all beings return to the Light but this could take Eeons by our standards here, and when you are in that state of almost total fear it feels like an eternity…so while Hell is not eternal there is a kernel of truth in that saying…But that it is still an infinitely better scenario than being permanently stuck there as there is at least an end to it…


I also later read a couple years after the experience after I had already done a lot of profound healing on it that the vast majority of people who go to that place “unprepared” either die from the terror of it or they go crazy shortly thereafter from the level of fear it imprints into the mind and soul (and to be honest the only way I can imagine being prepared to go there is being so connected to your own inner “Light” and Love, the way that angelic being in the third ceremony was, that you have at least partial or total immunity from the fear in the realm as you are not tuned into it, because I do not believe anybody or any being who experienced the level of fear and complete isolation in totality the way I had would be able to somehow handle or process it).  So my pretty miraculous recovery was something of an anomaly or at least very rare.

b.)  In-between (or maybe simultaneously as my consciousness was split but I processed it later on as in-between) these seemingly eternal journies to this place of darkness and total fear, I would have episodes of being launched back into a body that was seemingly on the verge of actually dying…all the while having enormous amounts of fear from the Hellish experience I was undergoing at the same time.  “I need SALTTT! Salt to live! Salt and water!” I would yell out…I would then get spoon fed some sort of saline solution that the helper had developed and then chug copious amounts of water to the point where the Shaman cut me off multiple times because he worried I was drinking dangerously high amounts of it.


c.) In the few moments when I came back to the room and was able to focus on more than basically surviving, I realized my whole world as I knew it if I ever managed to survive was over.  I would come back with the knowledge that the only thing that really mattered in life was Love and developing ourselves to open to it and become more and more loving people. “Love! Love!  That’s all that matters. It’s important! Soooooo important!” At one point I basically made a soul promise as I felt I was on death’s door out loud in front of the whole group, “God, Jesus, I know you exist.  I am soooo sorry. Please let me live. I’l l change. I promise.” According to Lorraine, that prayer/agreement actually is what allowed me to survive the experience believe it or not, or I would have not made it through it.

I was not Christian, so why did I call out to Jesus as well?  Well, that is going to depend on your beliefs, haha…My personal beliefs now are there are various ascended masters, and Jesus is one of them…many people believe he is the ascended or king shall we say of the ascended masters.  I am not going to argue with that. What I firmly do not believe however is that allegiance to any one person or religion or belief system by affiliation only (i.e. saying you are Christian but not living a loving, peaceful life) is an automatic ticket to Heaven.  There are near-death experiences of atheists who go to Heaven, and believers who have some rough experiences. What matters is how much Love you grow in your heart, how many lives you touch in a positive way, and how authentically you express yourself in a way that your deeper soul really wants you to.  Beliefs or affiliations with certain religions or figures or teachers or gurus can be very useful if they resonate with you as they serve as a portal to higher Truths, or they can put us in narrow, confined boxes and dogmas that shroud our reality and keep us more separated. The key here is to actually embody the positive teachings, not just preach and condemn others.  


Anyhow, eventually the two Hell(ish) ceremonies ended as I foreshadowed with me coming back to a somewhat normal state in a blink of an eye, each time with a sense of relief that gave a whole new meaning to the words “That’s a big relief.”


After the fourth ceremony, I made a courageous choice to keep taking ayahuasca, which looking back was extremely brave.  I felt it had more to show me, and I was right. So I drank six more times (this time much smaller quantities until the ninth and tenth ceremonies where I think the Shaman had slowly been reupping my dosage and giving me similar amounts to the third and fourth ceremonies again).  The smaller doses of ayahuasca still led to some pretty profound experiences, both good and bad, though nothing even remotely as tough as the fourth or tenth ceremonies. The negative experiences these times around were more in-line with the tough experiences lots of people have taking ayahuasca.  In the fifth ceremony, I had this deep realization and desire and need to heal my relationship with my Mom…it had been quite strained and unsupportive on both ends since I hit my teenage years, although it had never been an ideal relationship.


So the next day after the ceremony, I decided I needed to call my Mom and made the thirty minute walk through the Amazon Jungle on a tiny dirt path and one hour bus ride on a two lane road back to Iquitos where I took all the Peruvian change I had with me and inserted one coin after another to call on an old-fashioned  pay phone first my Mom, and then my Dad, where I broke down and desperately pleaded for my Mom to come to the Amazon, even offering to pay in full her air ticket. My parents did not like the idea and had a lot of resistance, but I was so desperate sounding to them, and they were very concerned. They didn’t accept my offer of me paying a plane ticket, but they said they would look into the prices and get back to me if they were reasonable.  I went back to the retreat center feeling I would need a mini-miracle for her to come as I was sure the plane tickets to Iquitos from Washington D.C. were going to be crazy expensive and they had turned down my offer of me buying tickets for her, so how much were they really going to be willing to spend…But I had done my best and been more authentic than just about any other point in my life with her on the phone (albeit with a lot of fear in my system) so I went back to the jungle at least with a clear conscience on it.


Meanwhile, back in the jungle, my crazy experiences from actually taking ayahuasca were starting to spill over to the other nights when I was not drinking (we drank ayahuasca three times weekly).  I started to have spontaneous out-of-body experiences in the middle of the night. This sounds cool but it was happening without any control and at the time was actually quite scary to me. When I would have these my senses would get magnified many times over (especially hearing) so that everything would become very very intense and loud.  These were occurring because taking all this ayahuasca had blown open my energy more than I was ready for and I was not really grounded into my body, so I easily left it. This is not the ideal way to start having out-of-body experiences if you are going to have them at all.


Also, my dreams at night started to get extremely vivid, way more vivid than anything I was used to.  Before long, it also was clear I was getting visited by spirits in these dreams, some of which were nice and quite angelic and some whose main goal it seemed was to increase fear.  The first dream I had that went on to be a dream that I would remember and reference many times was a memorable dream after a long night of seeming not-so-great sleep filled with various nightmares.  In the the dream I was on the ground and looking up and there was a very saintly looking figure walking by. I took it to be Jesus at the time but it honestly could have been any loving and noble spiritual figure.  He turned to me and said “You need to learn to tune.” I did not in the dream understand that last word, so I replied, “To-to?”…He then put his hands on my head in a very fatherly way and that felt so real to me that it felt like it could not possibly be a dream, and said “To tttttttuuuunnnneee.  Then use your mind.” He then took his hands away and started to walk off before turning one last time, smiling, and adding almost as an afterthought “And do it soon too,”


The dream, along with numerous other dreams that came from sources that felt trustworthy (and where I could not sense any negative ulterior motive), began to occur regularly from that point forward, as if my dream world was reflecting my newfound spiritual openness to guidance.  For the next years of my life, that word “tune”, which previously I had only associated with a musical instrument, showed up over and over again in my spiritual journey of healing in various forms.  I generally took it when it did as as a sign I was on the right track.


At the same time, not as I had mentioned, not all my experiences in dreamworld were super positive.  I seemed to also be getting by various ghosts and other spirits with less positive intentions, and some of my dreams were quite scary and antagonistic.  Other times I would be given advice that in dreams that was aimed to manipulate me in ways that would cause fear. At the beginning it was quite difficult to sort out which was which (thus the dream telling me I needed to learn to tune, as in tune to more peace, loving energies), but as I have progressed this has become less and less of an issue (both due to having less run-ins with much dark dreams in general as my mind has much less fear that attunes it to those realities, but also due to being to discern better and better what dream guidance is legitimately coming from “enlightened” sources versus static).  


So what started out as a journey to regain my physical and emotional health had quickly morphed into this huge spiritual awakening: but one I had not anticipated into this dualistic landscape that as I delved into it was more beautiful and uplifting and  loving and simultaneously at times more horrific and fearful than anything I could have imagined. It felt like I had left the Planet Earth I knew had entered through some wormhole into an alternative reality. “The energy here is three times stronger than in the city,” my Swedish friend Parham exclaimed at the center.  I did not really have a full understanding of what that meant at the time but there was clearly something very different about this place.


The seventh ceremony I had another profound experience, this time on the Light side.  I channeled a lot of super deep information about God, the Universe, my own experiences, and my own future.  I forgot many of these insights I was given upon returning to normal consciousness, but one of the things that stuck was ayahuasca had invited me to become a vegetarian.  Now this was at a time in my life where at the retreat center I did not really like the diet very much or find it very nourishing, and I spent a lot of days in my hut without electricity fantasizing about getting a nice big plate of fish in Iquitos (one of the culinary things it was known for).  And it was not a change I had been truly considering making. So it was a surprise, but when I asked “Why?” ayahuasca said something along the lines of, “If you want to stop suffering yourself you should do what you can to stop partaking in the unnecessary suffering of other beings.” Well, if a plant was telling me it was time to eat more plants, how could I really argue with that?  It took six months but by early 2013 I became full vegetarian and have not looked back. It has actually been one of the easiest (and most yummy) parts of the transition to my new lifestyle and it has helped me significantly in the process of regaining my health.


I stayed up all night the seventh ceremony (as is not uncommon with ayahuasca).  The next morning, I had what was the second most positively profound experience, and in some ways just as significant to me, that I have had my entire life.  The more acute effects of ayahuasca generally are said to last around four to six hours, and I had drank ayahuasca the night before around eight or nine in the evening.  So while ayahuasca was still in my system, the experience I am about to describe was not due to acute psychedelic effects of it the same way my magnificent experience in the third ceremony had been.  I had come down hours before and was very much back in this physical, 3D reality. While I had not slept the night before, I was also not particularly tired as ayahuasca has a way of providing you with energy.  It was broad daylight, maybe nine or ten in the morning, and I was sitting outside on the ground, and I just remember everything looking so vividly alive and colorful. I was in a state of deep forgiveness of my own past and entered into this state of total acceptance and openness of the present moment.  I felt many times more joyful and peaceful than any other time in my life (not counting the third ceremony which was a very different, other worldly state of consciousness under the immediate acute influence of ayahuasca). But what was most extraordinary (at least in retrospect) about this state of consciousness I had entered, was that it was simultaneously very down-to-earth and felt like normal.  There was just this inner knowing like, “Yea, this is how life is supposed to be.  This is normal. There is no reason I cannot always be this happy.” This last thought, as well as other similar ones, continued to come up into my mind.  


Now this is obviously from the point of view of from the state of consciousness most people are in an extremely strange thing to say.  If I won the lottery, I might be super thrilled, but I would not think the thought “There’s no reason I cannot win the lottery tomorrow…and the next day…and everyday of my life!”  My rational brain would kick in and know better.

But this was different, it felt like the natural state…like the state of consciousness I had lived in for the first twenty five years of my life was what had been abnormal and this just seemed very down-to-earth but exquisitely natural.   But what was more marked than those type of positive thoughts was what there was not: for a short period of time I seemed to be incapable of having any negative thoughts. Negativity just did not seem natural to me in this state. The trees, the sky, everything around me seemed so full of life, so full of love and peace and joy.  I was so full of joy, and it felt so natural, and there seemed to be no reason to me that this state would not continue for the rest of my life. I felt I had made it. This state was not as extraordinary as the cosmic, expansive, love shooting out of my heart and from the spirit I made energetic love with in the third ceremony, but that in some ways made it more remarkable, as I knew that the third ceremony state was not sustainable while in the physical 3D world (or at least highly doubted it), but this state felt to me like it definitely was.  It was in broad daylight and I had not taken any ayahuasca in twelve hours or so, well past the acute effects stage of it.


It would not be until a couple years later, when I had gotten a lot into non-dual spirituality and the teachings of a well-known spiritual teacher named Adyashanti.  Adyashanti wrote about various types of spiritual awakenings, and in the book The End of Your World, he talks about one of the hallmarks of what he calls a true spiritutal awakening (and for him a true spiritual awakening means a non-dual awakening), is that it feels like a natural, permanent state that is never going to end.  When I read that, it was like a huge “A-Ha” moment for me as to what I had experienced.


But Adyashanti then goes on to detail that for a few lucky people, this state of awakening does go on and continue indefinitely (he calls this an abiding awakening).  But he says for other people (the majority) what initially happens is they have this initial awakening, and it is like a shuttle taking off towards space…but if the person’s vasanas and karmic load (i.e. negative tendencies) are too strong and the shuttle does not have enough fuel, then the person’s karmic load serves as the gravity and crashes the space shuttle before it reaches outer space.  So the person feels like it is going to last forever but then gravity (i.e. karma) in the person’s mind and soul comes in and brings the shuttle crashing unceremoniously back down to earth. Adyashanti calls this type of awakening a legitimate awakening in his eyes, but categorizes it as a “non-abiding awakening” (i.e. not permanent). He says every non-abiding awakening burns up a certain amount of negative karma until eventually a person has enough fuel in the shuttle to reach outer space and have an abiding (i.e. permanent) awakening.  This process can take very little time or decades or maybe even lifetimes, depending on the person.


So anyways, I was in this deep state of complete joy and flow with the present moment void of negativity, but I had decided before the ceremony the previous night that I was going to go in that day back to town to see what the situation was with my Mom and whether she would actually come or not.  I was not particularly tired but felt like it would be a good idea to give my body a rest before making the journey into Iquitos, so I went and laid down for a short nap. When I woke up, I was still in a very good state of being, but not quite the same as before I went to sleep. I noticed a few slightly negative thoughts had started to creep back.  My shuttle fuel was getting low and gravity was already starting to set in.


I packed a small bag and walked the thirty minutes through the jungle on a tiny dirt path still in what on any other day of my life would have been a fantastic state of mind (but what was clearly not quite the same state of immunity from negativity I had before the nap).  I then got on a bus towards Iquitos when a local man came and sat down facing towards me. He immediately started talking to me and telling stories designed to make me fearful of taking ayahuasca with other local shaman (including the shaman I was with). He talked about Westerners dying or going crazy from taking ayahuasca with poorly trained Shaman, and he tried to solicit me to come to a center that he was associated with (he was not the main Shaman but he had a clear cut in this other Shaman’s business, that was evident).  


Snakeoil salesman was the immediate vibe I got from this guy, and I did not enjoy talking to him at all.  He was trying to use fear to manipulate me, and that fear that came up from having just had a Hellish ceremony a little over a week prior began to reemerge.  He had not succeeded in getting me to follow him to his center, I could sense this guy had very manipulative intentions from the start, but he had definitely succeeded in crashing down my shuttle fully to the Earth (it was already crashing before that but much more gently and slowly, this pulled me down with a thud).  By the time I got to Iquitos, the “I will always be this happy.” consciousness of just several hours before already seemed quite distant.


I went to a place with a phone booth this time and sat down and gave my Mom a call to see what she had decided.  As fate would have it Iquitos just had become an international airport a few weeks earlier (before you could only get there connecting all the way down through Lima which makes it a much longer trip), and one of the few routes they were featuring and had on a huge discount promotion was a flight with one-stop in Panama City from Washington D.C. to Iquitos for less than $450 or so round-trip.  This is a third of what I was expecting and probably around the top of what my parents would have been willing to pay. Today there are no more direct flights from outside of Peru into Iquitos it would seem , so it almost feels like Iquitos became a temporary international airport just to get my Mom down there, haha….  It was one of those synchronized, deeply fated events the universe organizes when something is destined to happen.

So a few days later, I made my way back into town, this time to pick up my Mom from the airport.  My Mom had absolutely no clue what she was getting herself into. But thanks for coming down to the jungle and supporting me Mom.  

We had some honest and open conversations about feelings that had been pent up for years.  My relationship with her had been OK when I was a young child but ever since I had gone through my angry, rebellious teenage years my Mom and I’s relationship had been strained.  I had made the assumption that if my Mom took ayahuasca with me that somehow the plant would help us to work out our relationship issues together and heal them. It did not end up working out this way while we were in the Jungle at all, but it was very well-intentioned at the least.  


I convinced my Mom to take ayahuasca with the group (truthfully, there was nothing much else to do in the middle of the jungle other than a bit of hiking during the day (and even that was not that easy at this place as it was very hot and muggy and there were not exactly lots of hiking paths to readily try out).  This led to her being right by my side as I was coming in and out of Outer Darkness in the tenth ceremony. It had to have been very traumatic for her to witness her son in the extreme duress I was in, even if she could not fathom what was actually happening to me. Luckily, my Mom had only taken a small amount of ayahuasca and her own personal experiences were relatively very calm.  


When I finally had my “I am back and am going to live.” sigh of relief moment at the end of the tenth ceremony, my Mom immediately asked in a very concerned voice if I would come home with her.  Now, after the fourth ceremony, which had also been Hell(ish), I amazingly had the reaction right after I “got back” from the ceremony that I could and should take ayahuasca again, just in small doses.  That looking back considering what I had just been through was a very brave reaction, but my soul and possibly the plant were guiding me and I felt there were more things I could learn from taking it longer.  But after the tenth ceremony, my reaction was different. I had had enough. The tenth had been absolutely beyond horrific as I had described, and I felt grateful and relieved I was alive. I could feel the ceremony had taken a massive toll on me physically just with the pure effort I had needed to make to stay alive, and I honestly did not think I would be able to survive another one.  


But more than that, I felt I had received the insights I needed.  I had seen the Light and experienced Infinite Love and had a temporary awakening, and had experienced the darkest of the dark.  I had been given many insights by ayahuasca into life, spirituality, Love, fear, and this thing we call reality. But it had been a trip far more brutal than anything I could imagine and I did not feel I was physically getting better.  If anything, I was feeling weaker and more fear than ever (though I managed to suppress the latter to some extent for some time). So I immediately agreed to go home with her the next week, which the Shaman heard and was not very happy about.  


By the way, at this point it is probably a good time to talk a little about the Shaman at the center.  He was a well-intentioned and loving Shaman, during the good ceremonies I could feel subtle energies and felt how he was pouring love and blessings into me and the group.  Ayahuasca can be extremely insightful, but it would also rate as one of those most dangerous ventures into sincere spirituality (by far) a person can embark on. Holding space for an entire group of people as they are launched into the spiritual world with all the normal barriers removed, is an extremely difficult job as far as any sort of healer or spiritual guide job goes.  It really requires a PhD level (or better) of understanding and development spiritually from many talks I have had with other Shamans since that trip. So based on experience and future talks I would have, the Shaman I drank with, despite being a native and having drank ayahuasca many many times for many years, was not really being responsible or able to hold the space needed for myself and others in a way that best facilitated our journeys.  In fact, in one ceremony he even walked out and left us there alone before the end of it, which is a huge no-no. I often hear here in Mexico where I now live of people taking ayahuasca on a whim, sometimes by themselves or with other people who are not really properly trained to lead groups of people down the interdimensional wormhole that ayahuasca is. For some of them it seems to go well enough, but it is not something I can honestly recommend.  I will talk a little more about this at the Q & A in Part 5.


A few days after the last time drinking ayahuasca, my mind was starting to impart doubts.  “I had said I was coming down here to get better or die trying, I’m not totally better yet, am I wussing out?  Maybe I should stay…” While I had received insights from ayahuasca far greater than anything I could have imagined  on the positive side, I also physically did not feel well yet and was also cogniscient of the fact I had picked up a lot of fear from the negative experiences (I actually was repressing and not acknowledging the degree to which this was true at the time, it was too much for me to process, but I still knew I needed healing from it).  Emotionally, also, I felt I had a lot to heal as well, so I definitely had not achieved my goal yet. I mentioned the idea to my Mom I was reconsidering leaving with her the next day which she was less than thrilled to hear. Right after having that discussion, I decided to go visit my friend Parham in his cabin at the center. Immediately as I come in, Parham goes, with a look of some fear on his face, “Look!” and he points at the ground in the middle of his small cabin at a small looking flattened dead spider.  “It just came down from the ceiling like this and I stomped it with the boot…It’s a black widow!”


For those of you who don’t know, black widow spiders are the most poisonous spiders on Earth.  If you get bitten you are dead in thirty minutes without an antidote. We were at least an hour and a half away from a place with an antidote for them, so getting bit would be a death sentence.  A few minutes later the Shaman came and confirmed it was a black widow. He looked perplexed and not-so-happy. He had said they were way out in the jungle, but that they never came into the center.  Clearly he was wrong, and I was spooked enough that I decided to continue with my plans to leave the center. “Staying in this place is a death sentence with the prophecy I have going around in my head of dying this year.  I need to get out of here.” It was time to abort the mission in the Amazon Jungle and restart it in Poolesville, Maryland.


A couple days later, after having gone back to Iquitos for a night and having bought myself a last-minute  plane ticket on my Mom’s flight back to Washington, I was looking at the Amazon from the air completely unsure about where my life was heading but knowing one thing for sure: it was never going back to the way it had been.  I had taken the red pill and there was no way to turn back now.