Ayahuasca: Significant Lessons Learned Over the Past 10 Years
This is Zach with La Familia Ayahuasca, and I'm sitting here with my better half, Jess.
How are you doing Jess?
Great. First off, thank you for taking the time to listen to another episode of Ayahuasca Family podcasts. Ayahuasca Family is English for the name of our retreat program, called La Familia Ayahuasca.
With that said, let's jump in to today's podcast, which is on the subject of big lessons that we have learned through the ayahuasca experience.
Also, through other plant medicine experiences such as dieta, and we may even get into kambo as well. (Kambo) Which is not necessarily plant per se, animal medicine, if you will. Quite literally (animal medicine).
Okay. So Jess, why don't we have you start off. You're better at articulating and remembering these big lessons than I am. For me it's quite overwhelming, because there's so many to choose from. Can you start us off with one of your big lessons from Ayahuasca?
Yeah, well, of course, one of the most powerful experiences I ever had, was my very first experience with ayahuasca. At the same time we were actually also doing a shamanic tree dieta.
I remember laying outside, and seeing the tops of the trees. The medicine was coming on, and I could feel it very physically, then I heard this voice in my head or just had this amazing realization that, "Wow, plants are so much smarter than human beings."
It was a really deep realization, because I think a lot of people who haven't worked with plant medicine, a lot of times we get caught in this idea, that just because a tree or a plant doesn't move or doesn't talk the way that we do, that it doesn't have the same capacity for consciousness.
However, I was literally physically taken into this place of realization, that the plants are receiving all this energy that is information. It's directly from the sun, and their kind of consciousness is so much more vast; it's cosmic.
That was a huge realization for me, because I had never thought of trees or plants as being able to communicate with me, or having anything to say to me; which is exactly the opposite of what's true.
Yeah. We can go a couple of different directions with that idea.
One is, how would you describe plant consciousness and what are some aspects that the plants? Even at a very basic level, if we look at plants, what did they teach us? Or look at trees, what can they teach us?
Right. Well, stillness for one thing.
No matter what is going on around them and they, they don't really have much of a choice. They just hold their center, they hold their stillness and they react and adapt in a way that's natural. They can't really have any form of true resistance to their experience.
Yeah. stillness, which would go along with patience.
In that “stillness” is a very prevalent teaching among many spiritual teachers. Particularly, Buddha, who came out and said it very clearly, impermanence; that everything will change.
If one is able to sit in stillness and simply watch things change, and not get caught up in the current feelings of resistance, and therefore suffering, then there's liberation there. Would you agree?
Absolutely. I also feel like it called a lot of attention to my conditioning, and my concepts of reality. Because things automatically, as that medicine came on, were not as they had seemed before. It just opened my mind in so many ways to, what does the environment, what do the plants have to teach us? What the spirits of rocks and just the environment around us, the energy around us, there's a lot of sentience there. What kind of wisdom does it have to share with us?
I'm curious in your experience, and obviously you've worked with ayahuasca, and other trees and plants for some time now. What is it? Three years, four years?
Almost four years.
Almost four years, and very intensely of course.
Did you notice almost immediately after that first retreat, or maybe it took a couple of retreats ... and this is a question, notice that even when you were outside of ceremony, that you were more sensitive to sentience, more sensitive to other people's energies and so forth?
Very, very much.
That actually happened throughout that retreat, but particularly at the end of the retreat. I remember the very last day, there were a few people that were pretty agitated at the end of that particular retreat. Just agitated because they had their whole worlds shaken up, and their concepts of reality challenged. But I could feel it, I could feel it.
It was like this vibrating energy, and it was making me dizzy and pretty ungrounded. I remember coming to sit with you, and Scott and Amy. Scott handing me this Crystal, just said, "Hold onto that for a minute. You're a lot more sensitive than you were, at the beginning of this retreat." I was thinking, "Yes. I feel that."
And, yes. I think that ayahuasca can open your sensitivity up so much where, you almost have to when you go to the grocery store, prepare yourself for feeling what other people are feeling. That sounds like it would be a really great tool to have in your toolbox, but it's very overwhelming at first. Because you, sometimes you don't realize also how much people are suffering, and that you're going to feel that too.
So, powerful opening both of, of my mind and my energetic body.
Yeah, it's interesting, you use that word tool around this post-retreat, increased level of sensitivity.
Because it is ... I agree. It's a tool. Tools are very useful, and we need to learn how to use them and be careful with them. A great example would be a chainsaw. Amazing, an amazing tool, and extremely useful. It can also cause some damage, if you don't know what you're doing with it, right?
Yeah. Yeah. Cool.
So what about you Zach? When did it fully hit you how sentient the plants were? When did that one fully get embodied for you?
Oh. Yeah, I mean ... I don't know that I articulated as such.
I definitely felt from the first retreat that I went on in Peru, definitely felt the intelligence.
I remember after, I think the third ceremony out of a series of five, I was lying down at the end of ceremony.
After ceremony, for those of you who know, you're still oftentimes feeling the medicine, albeit, not necessarily at the peak of it. If you're lucky, you're still peaking.
We like to say enjoy that, the “second feature”, or continued, “extended feature”, if you will.
But, I was sitting there and it hit me. I was like, "Wow, we as human beings, particularly in our culture and society, have really forgotten how to live." That is, relate to other people, relate to the natural world; connect into that and really feel that.
The realization was that Ayahuasca teaches us how to live again. How to live in harmony, how to live with an understanding that we are connected. That with that feeling of connection, we can feel into and understand the "other". Those people around us, those things around us. The things including the plant, and animal, and even mineral world, if you will.
So the second major lesson that I ever learned from ayahuasca, was the second night. I certainly use the lessons from the first one, but this is one that I actually, I use it every single day of my life now.
The second ceremony was really difficult for me. During the second ceremony I had had some anger that was just ricocheting around in my body. I did not know how to release it, because intellectually I had completely let go of the situation. But I knew that I still had this energy in my body, that was just angry. I had no idea how to let it go.
That second night, as the medicine was coming on, I started having all of these really awful thoughts about everyone in the circle, like really angry for no good reason. I was just thinking as I was going on, like, "That is so weird. I don’t normally think things like this, what's going on?"
But yeah, as the medicine came on, there was this incredibly beautiful machine that came and floated over my body. It looked like a very ornate, dangling earring, and also had this spinning colorful disks on it.
It came, and it floated over my body and it stopped right over my heart.
Then I felt this pressure. It wasn't painful, but it definitely wasn't comfortable either. I felt this pressure on my heart, and it literally opened. Then all the little dangling pieces of the machine went down into my heart, and they're were these sucking sounds, and all kinds of things. Then, just all this horrible stuff just came flooding out of my heart, out of my body.
It was, it was anger, it was disgust, it was rage, it was pain; I was really resistant to it at first. Then I heard ayahuasca tell me, that to release that energy that had been in my body, I would have to really feel it. Really feel it physically, and really be vulnerable with it. That was really difficult, because the pain was very intense.
It was not a physical pain, I felt like I had been hurt to the very core of my being. The anger that I was holding in my body prior to that, was a resistance against feeling that hurt and that vulnerability.
When I felt that, just these inner dimensional sobs just started pouring out of me. It was really hard, but it was such an amazing release and I could feel it in my body tissues.
I struggled that whole night, and Zach really, really helped me out with that one. But I was in this state until the sun came up the next morning. Then as I was taking a shower after not having slept, and my heart just burst completely open.
I think all I felt for an entire week after that was love.
But the lesson there, the really important lesson there, is that when you resist feeling your feelings in the moment, even if it's very painful, and when you resist being open and naked and vulnerable to your human experience, it gets stored in your body. Until you open your body, and your energy in your heart up to feeling these things, they are there. They are stuck there. That's just a super important part of my everyday practice, now.
This is a very, very important point to bring forth… about when one goes through a difficult experience in ayahuasca.
It can be quite confusing for people, particularly in the beginning, because there are oftentimes expectations of this big light show and healing.
However, people in the West in particular, have a different sense of what healing is.
I think there's an association with healing as taking a pill, and feeling good.
Whereas, ayahuasca often, particularly in the beginning, there's a cleaning process that it is a releasing of these stored experiences, that have not been fully experienced.
They're having to be fully experience, and that does not feel good as they're being released. Yet, there is this ecstatic component to them, if one fully experiences them.
The trick is, if they fight it, they resist it, they want to avoid that, that's going to cause suffering. Right?
I have two analogies to compare this to.
It's like when you're feeling really, really nauseous and you don't want to throw up. You just continue to feel nauseous, and if you hold it in, you're just going to continue to feel really bad, really nauseous. But, there's this cathartic experience, when you finally throw up, and you're like, "Oh God, I feel so much better."
Then also, it's a little bit like yoga too. When you're pushing into those postures, where it starts to get uncomfortable. When you're pushing beyond where you could normally go, and you're breathing into that space. If you tighten up all your muscles, it's going to hurt or you're going to get injured. But if you just breathe into those spaces where it's uncomfortable, and push a little bit farther, it opens up into energy that just floods your entire body.
That's sort of similar to how it feels to me in the medicine. When I'm working with something challenging.
So yeah, that's another point there, is meeting the medicine halfway. You've got to work with those challenging experiences. It's important not to just tighten up everywhere and resist the healing that's happening, you have to meet the medicine halfway. You've got to open up, and allow the medicine to come in and clean.
It's such a simple concept. Open up, let go, be vulnerable, surrender.
These are simple concepts that are easy to say, oftentimes challenging to do. Because in our culture, we're certainly not taught to do these things. In fact, we're oftentimes taught to do the opposite.
Which brings me to another point, on this subject. That is, sometimes people are confused about, "Well, I had this experience of ..." There's a recent situation where a person had an experience of, feeling very vulnerable and being upset about the vulnerability, and being confused about that.
From our perspective, while we don't try to interpret people's experiences, if one has repressed an emotion or has been taught that, say in this case, vulnerability is a not a good thing, particularly for men. If the emotion has been repressed throughout life, it has been pushed to the side.
There may be an idea learned that “You have to be a strong man”, or “boys don't cry”, all these things. ayahuasca is going to bring it to the surface. Because once again, it is an experience that has not fully been felt.
The other thing to talk about, or another point to bring up around this whole subject of an unlived or unexperienced energies, or emotions and so forth, is the idea of generational trauma, generational Karma, or epigenetics; we can get into that.
Do you want to comment first, on the suppressed emotions that we learn, and how that can come into an ayahuasca experience, and then move into the generational stuff?
Actually, I think you did spectacular jobs in describing the suppressed emotion, and how that gets held in the body tissues. As far as the intergenerational stuff and epigenetics, I can definitely comment on that.
We have our genes, and our genetic material is the same. It's fixed, right? What we receive from our parents in terms of experience, and our parents' experiences, and their parents' experiences actually affect how our genes are expressed. This is called epigenetics.
You receive a lot of information from your ancestors. The traditional (indigenous) concept or idea is we carry information from our ancestors seven generations back.
Throughout your life, through conditioning and learning, you receive information or stimuli about what genes get turned on, what genes get turned off via epigenetics. How much a gene is expressed or not expressed.
That's scientific, that's not “woo woo” stuff; that's for real.
When we are doing this work, when we're going into our body tissues, and releasing and healing this stuff, that's actually working at a genetic level.
When you do healing work on yourself, you are doing that healing work for the seven generations that preceded you, and seven generations forward. Because that epigenetic information will get carried forward, to your offspring, to your family.
Actually I can comment a little bit on kambo, on this point. Because, I had a really powerful experience with my Father just yesterday.
Yeah. Can we make an aside on kambo?
For those who don't know. Kambo is using the excretions of the waxy tree frog, from the Amazon basin.
It is actually the venom that has a bunch of, bio peptides, neuro peptides.
It is really amazing medicine from a physical standpoint, but also because it's going in and releasing a lot of tension in the body. It also can be very helpful for trauma, PTSD, and depression, anxiety and so forth.
If you want to learn more about kambo and are not familiar with kambo, it is very different from ayahuasca, and also Amazonian based medicine. Although it is an animal based medicine versus a plant medicine.
We do work with kambo as well. One can add kambo treatments to their Ayahuasca retreat, if they want to come work with us down here in Guatemala, we offer that as well.
I just wanted to explain that kambo is a different type of medicine than ayahuasca, for those who are not familiar as of yet.
Actually just yesterday, I gave my dad a kambo treatment.
My parents are down here living with us in Guatemala, which makes it even more of a family, which is wonderful. But anyhow…
I gave him the last of a set of three treatments yesterday. He had such a powerful release in his heart. It was really powerful to be there facilitating the medicine for him.
Then, actually, throughout the day and later on in the day, I felt it working in my own body. It was reorganizing my cells even though I didn’t take any of the medicine. I had to sleep for an hour or so in the afternoon.
I was feeling the work that he had done by taking Kambo benefiting me. I needed to sleep, and rest and integrate all of that. But, I definitely feel that his work, as my father, had a big impact on me.
Yeah. I wanted to put a frame on what you've been talking about consistently the last 15, 20 minutes. That is, this idea that, while we can intellectually understand the concepts of letting go, the concepts of releasing and surrendering and so forth, we oftentimes forget that there's a physical component. There's a somatic component, which is what we talk about a lot.
The somatic component is oftentimes the most difficult, because we are not taught how to release things somatically.
We can even look in the animal kingdom, wherein a giraffe are gazelle gets attacked by a lion, or it goes through some sort of a stressful thing. Immediately after, if they escape ... if they escape, they do this big shake. There's [inaudible 00:25:20] they let it all out.
We (humans) may have had that ability in the past, but we don't currently, as far as I know… Not many people anyway, some people understand that. But I would say they're in the far minority.
What the plant medicines do, is they help us somatically release.
With other psychedelics, yes, there is a intellectual perspective change that happens.
This is what can be done with say, psilocybin, and MDMA, and LSD to a certain extent. But a lot of those substances don't have this intense, somatic release that ayahuasca, or as you just mentioned, kambo has.
This is something that, I think is a big lesson for both of us as we worked with ayahuasca, is the somatic side. This is what makes ayahuasca in and kambo so special, is the somatic release, or the physical releases.
Yeah. Often, anyone who's a sitting with ayahuasca may have a lot of physical vibrations and shaking that's going on. That is a somatic release, that is ayahuasca going through the physical body, and the energetic body helping to shake things loose. To shake these things free, that have been caught up in our body tissues. Which are also our subconscious, they're the same thing. The tissues of the body and the subconscious are equivalent. So releasing from the body, is releasing from your subconscious mind.
I would like to share a big lesson in my ayahuasca past.
This was a lesson learned, I would say about four years into my "career" working with ayahuasca. At this point I was very much already leading ceremony, and so forth.