Ayahuasca Part III: Dragons and Purging

I woke softly when the sun rose, and everyone else joined me in consciousness shortly after. We were all quiet and contemplative while we prepared a breakfast of of fruits and some plain organic oatmeal I brought (if you’re wondering how much like cardboard it tastes, the answer is “a lot”). We arranged everything in large bowls, then placed them on the alter, and returned to our mats.

Prayer circles of water and food happened. We gave gratitude for each bowl as we passed it from person to person, saying “hayllalla” as we went, which translates to “well-being.” Holy shit did food taste good. I had eaten very little in the preceding days to account for the vomiting and diarrhea portion of this experience, but I restrained myself from shoveling too much into my face because night two of ceremony loomed in the near future.

We went around the room sharing some of our experiences from the night before and the Curandero offered his interpretations. Apparently the Spirit of Ayahuasca is often interpreted as a large snake, which I didn’t consciously recall knowing. Maybe I read it somewhere, maybe I unwittingly noticed the snake on the tapestry hung on the wall, or maybe (and here’s where I landed) I really fucking saw the Spirit of Ayahuasca as she wound her way around my innards. Maybe her twisting and turning in my stomach was her way of routing out all the spiritual knots I’ve accumulated in my thirty years of life. Who knows?

After we broke off from the morning circle, I spent probably an hour or so writing in my journal (I’ve since drunkenly misplaced that journal, so there’s probably shit I’m missing in this retelling, but oh well). Then I went to the middle of the large stretch of grass and did my thirty-minute stretch routine, taking in the morning sun and accumulating a good number of new mosquito bites. Was I secretly hoping the Curandera was watching me from the window while I did those stretches? Maybe – she was quite attractive in both appearance and aura. But her love for her partner (the Curandero) was clear and I had no interest in getting in the way of that. Fun to think about, though.

Anyway, Randy wanted to go back to LA Fitness for the sake of showering, then he wanted to get an air mattress to use that night, and go to lunch. I had no real interest in doing any of that, but I was his navigation (he had me turn on the audio for Google maps, but also regularly requested updates on how far we were before the next turn), and he had really grown on me, so I was down.

In keeping with “la dieta,” I had steamed rice and steamed broccoli at the Chinese restaurant we stopped at. I went crazy and added a little salt because I like to live on the wild side. Randy had shrimp lo mein because he clearly gave zero fucks about the purging potential. Somehow, he managed to avoid purging the previous night, which he attributed to his antacids. The man’s a spiritual beast in sheep’s clothes.

We got back, meditated, napped, and chatted a bit before reconvening for Night Two of ceremony. We all knew what we were getting into, but I wouldn’t call any of our feelings “excitement.” Night One was taxing physically, mentally, and emotionally, and from what I read, the intensity was supposed to compound on the second night.

My intentions had been whittled down considerably. That night my only intention was “to ride the coils of the serpent as the surfer rides a wave.” Poetic as fuck, right? After night one, I relearned something I already knew from previous psychedelic experiences – those drugs (or Spirits) are gonna take you wherever they want anyway, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Rapé was considerably easier to deal with. It was really just about calming the fuck down and not trying to breathe through your nose at all. It involved a lot of spitting as saliva gathered in your drooped-open mouth, but it was manageable and I gagged much less. Others were not so lucky and heavy bouts of vomiting ensued around me. I was glad I figured it out, but I felt their pain when I heard the heaving and bucket splatters.

I did my best not to be inspired to throw up, closed my eyes and meditated until She was ready to take me on my next journey. My good friend The Shadow Dragon showed up to say, “Hey.” I was touched that he would visit me, then I realized that he had always been with me – he was there watching, protecting me just outside of my field of vision. I felt bad for not seeing him and thanking him sooner. He was pretty cool about it, though. He just gave me a knowing look that said, “I’m here for you,” then curled up by my side.

I was suddenly launched into a kaleidoscoping fun-house mirror universe. It was filled with creatures similar to the previous night – demons if you will – and one of those douchebags had the nerve to teabag me. I found that very funny, but still, dick move. Luckily, when any of those spirits got too costic, The Shadow Dragon would flap his wing and they’d skedaddle.

Back in the physical world, I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. My stomach was cramping and I almost continuously felt the urge to vomit. I’d sit up and dry heave for a bit, then lie back down to resume my tossing and turning on the mat. After one of those bouts, I was violently thrown into a number of memories from my childhood. One involved being so scared that I hid in a closet. I was afraid of the dark back then, but I was more afraid of what was going on outside of the closet, so I thought, “Fuck it, the dark’s not so bad.” (I was like six when this happened so I probably didn’t say it exactly like that, but you get the idea)

First I experienced the memory as if I was there, then I became an outside observer as the Me I am now. I met Young Me in the darkness where he sat huddled and alone, and I took him into my arms and held him. I gave Young Me the type of love and protection that I didn’t get in that moment. “It’s alright,” I told Him/Me, “you’re safe now.”

Just then I got yanked back into reality. “Wait! I’m not done hugging me!” I thought as I opened my eyes and let out a barrage of dark brown, mostly digested, very bland foods into my dog dish. I was able to recenter, close my eyes and do a little more hugging, then I felt much, much better. I felt warm and grateful that The Spirit of Ayahuasca had granted me that opportunity. I cried tears of joy and chuckled at the ridiculousness of it all. I also opted out of Round Two of the medicine because I felt pretty fulfilled in that moment, and fatigued from all the purging.

Grandmother Ayahuasca wasn’t done with me, yet, though. I settled back into Her world, and had visions of being a dragon. I saw my scaly red skin and felt my wings expanding behind me. I was sitting up, and I could feel myself stretching my limbs like a dragon just getting up after a long nap on a mound of gold in his cave. That transitioned into very vivid images of me murdering people. I was slicing throats and plunging long blades into stomachs, but somehow I was still doing it tenderly – almost lovingly.

In the same first-to-third-person perspective shift that I had with my memory, I reinhabited myself and saw a man in a black leather hood standing in a room lined with his victims. I knew immediately that he was a past self – someone I had been in another life. I also knew that he had never been loved, so I embraced him like I did with Younger Me. He collapsed in my arms and wept.

I opened my eyes and heard the Curandero chanting about dragons. Then I saw Randy flailing his arms about wildly. It looked as if he was gathering energy in front of him and then shooing something away, but he was definitely flailing in my direction. Finally he said, “Be free!”

Just then I realized that I wasn’t the dragon – I was holding onto this spirit. With that, I vomited one last time, and when I closed my eyes again the dragon (this past self that I just met) spread its wings and flew away from me. It was like having a huge weight taken off my shoulders. I felt lighter, and instantly sober.

I had every bit of mental acuity back, and I was content as fuck, so I just sat there for the remainder of the ceremony jamming out to the chanting and percussion of the Curanderos. When the circle closed, I had some more Rapé with the Curandero, then gathered my things and made my way to the tent I set up the day before, but didn’t have the energy or motivation to make it out to the previous night. I curled into the warmth of my experience and my only-slightly vomit-stained blanket, and was lulled to sleep by Mother Nature’s song.

Becoming Steve

“Steve, do you think you’ll have these reports done by the end of today?” Jarred asked, punctuating the question with a burp.

“Of course, boss.” Steve said, hunching his shoulders to brace for impact.

“Thanks, brother. You’re the man!” Jarred said as he slapped Steve on the back, dislodging his glasses from his nose.

Were Steve the type to mutter under his breath, Jarred would’ve gotten some harsh, inaudible words right then, but he wasn’t. He was a nose-to-the-grindstone, no-nonsense accountant, who – unlike many of his colleagues – was entirely satisfied with his life. His Spartan workspace was the picture of workflow perfection: each piece of paper, each pen, each post-it, all painstakingly placed for optimal efficiency.

His apartment was the same. He bought the model apartment – the one used to show potential buyers what it might look like if Pottery Barn sponsored a living space, but had a low budget. He didn’t want to have to think about where to get the faux-worldly vases or the clocks with just the right amount of quirk. Who has the time for that? – he might say, without irony, if anyone ever asked. When he was home, his TV was always on Fox News or the History Channel, and his central air always kept the room at an appropriate 71.5 degrees.

After completing his reports on time like he always did, he got in his Kia and made his way through the rush hour traffic while listening to sports highlights on his favorite AM station. He liked it because they would alternate between sports and conservative talk radio, and he didn’t even have to change the dial.

He popped his usual microwave meal into the oven and watched it spin as the timer counted down.

*BOOM*

Erland was jolted awake from a deep sleep by the crack of thunder and heavy rain pounding against his tent. He clutched his assiduously cleaned and sharpened axe and looked around at the well-organized pelts lining the interior for signs of immediate danger.

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stepped out into the rain. Today they were scheduled to raid the village, which they spent weeks reconnoitering in small groups, so as not to raise suspicion. Their camp was set up deep in the trees surrounding the village and you had to really be looking to see them in the heavy downpour. He quickly readied himself and joined his companions at the edge of the forest. Under the cover of the storm, they crept up and seeped into the village before the village roosters even opened their eyes.

The attack began, not with a warcry, but with the muffled sounds of blades sinking into the unconscious, extending their slumber indefinitely. Finally, someone in the village sounded an alarm and the fighting commenced in earnest.

“It’s hard to explain,” Erland said to his closest and only friend, Sture, “The settings all seem foreign and overly bright, the people all seem so… clean, and that’s not to mention the magical carriages and glowing parchments I told you about the other day,” he continued as he plunged his axe into a farmer charging at him with a pitchfork. Careful not to get too much blood on himself, he put his foot on the farmer’s shoulder and shoved the body away from the embedded axe.

“Odin is testing you,” Sture said. “Now, more than ever, you mustn’t let that old trickster distract you.” Sture swung his sword through a wooden door, fortuitously striking down a man cowering behind it. “See, brother, the gods reward focus!”

“You’re probably right,” Erland conceded, but he couldn’t shake how much he actually enjoyed the dreams. Was he born in the wrong time? Did the dreams take place in the past? Was he among the gods in his sleep? Or was it the future? Had man managed to master the ways of the gods? Why do “accountants” kill so few people? What kind of a name was “Steve?” By Odin’s hammer, what was a Kia?!

These thoughts plagued his waking hours. He inexplicably yearned for “oatmeal,” which he knew bore a striking resemblance to gruel, but was considerably sweeter. For the time being, he shrugged it off as best he could, assuring himself that setting fire to the small structures he had cleared of living inhabitants and their valuables would provide sufficient comfort and, he thought with a sigh, distraction.

Erland was tired after a long day of murder and pillaging and asleep before his head even landed on his furs.

*BEEP**BEEP**BEEP*

The oatmeal Steve always ate for breakfast was done. He took it out of the microwave after the requisite one-minute cool-down suggested by the box, then stirred in some sliced banana. He sat down at his designer table and watched the morning news while he ate, sipping half-caf (the fully caffeinated stuff made him jittery).

When he got to work, there was a sign hung over his desk that read, “Happy Birthday Steve!” Honestly, he had forgotten that it was his birthday, and he was deeply troubled that the sign ruined his cubicle’s functional aesthetic.

Gary leaned out of the cubicle next to him, “Hey man! Happy Birthday!” Steve found a way to appreciate that, as he considered Gary to be one of his closest friends. Steve didn’t know if Gary was married or if he had children, if Gary had grown up in the area or moved there, or anything at all, really, except that he liked his coffee black, he preferred the double Windsor knot for his ties, and he also kept mostly to himself. They never talked outside of work, and they didn’t talk that much at work either, but that’s exactly what Steve wanted from a friend.

Steve did not appreciate the Happy Birthday song lead by Jarred at lunch. Most of his coworkers were off key and Steve didn’t like all the attention. He hoped that taking down the sign would stop this nonsense before it started, but no luck. Thankfully, he made it through the rest of the day largely unbothered and went home with a small piece of leftover cake, that he took solely to appease Janet – the habitually disheveled receptionist who bought the cake. He promptly threw it in the trash as soon as he got home and popped his usual evening meal into the microwave.

* * *

Erland was shaken awake by Sture. “The Christians have found us!” He ran from Erland’s tent, sword in hand, followed closely by Erland. His fellow Norsemen were falling all around him as the heavily-armored Christians went from tent to tent, slashing at anything that moved with glinting longswords.

Erland swiveled around and caught one of the knights in the neck with his blade just before the knight caught him. He tried hefting the axe away from the collapsing Christian, but it had lodged itself in the mangled metal of the chestpiece, and he knew if he pulled too hard he’d be spattered with the Christian’s blood. Heavy footsteps came up quickly behind him and they were upon him before he could loosen his axe. He turned in time to see the longsword enter his abdomen to the hilt, then slide back out again, bringing with it a torrent of his own innards.

He collapsed to the floor and stared up at the sky. As the clouds cleared for a moment, he expected to see his life flash before his eyes as the Valkyries came down to carry him to Valhalla. Instead he saw only the sliver of blue sky as it faded into darkness, and for whatever reason, it was the events of Steve’s life that flooded his consciousness. He remembered growing up in the suburbs of Nebraska. He remembered being bullied in high school. He remembered his quiet, study-intensive college career. He remembered the sense of pride he felt when he earned his CPA credential.

*BEEP**BEEP**BEEP*

Steve’s 5:45am alarm woke him from a restless sleep. “What a weird dream…” he said to no one in particular, then he started his daily routine, just as he always did, contented in his clean and orderly existence.