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.

What the hell? Why not?: Keto Day 1

Many healthy eating experts recommend going through your kitchen, and getting rid of all the enticing, bad-for-you foods. Luckily, having just moved, and being a single male who doesn’t often go to the grocery store, my fridge and my cupboards were already barren. I figured that Whole Foods was the place most likely to have everything that I was looking for on my shopping list, so I headed north to Evanston this afternoon.

Pretty much everything I purchased goes in the fridge, or at least that’s where I staged it for the sake of the photo. Looks nice, right? Thanks. As you can see if you look closely, I forgot grass-fed butter, which is a staple of any keto diet. Also, I don’t have a frying pan, so there will be a second trip in the near future. I’ll probably also invest in the Bulletproof brand collagen protein powder sometime next week, but that shit’s like $50, so it’ll have to wait.

I’m reluctant to call this Day 1 for a few reasons. First, although I will be eating foods that are strictly within the bounds of the classifier “keto,” I’m not tracking any of my macronutrients today to be sure that I’m getting the percentages that I’m supposed to. Second, I totally railed on a lack of creativity in just titling something Day 1 yesterday. But, ya know… Fuck it.

If you’re at all interested, I put my shopping list (and a couple keto breakfasts I jotted down) at the bottom of this post. I didn’t get everything on it because I felt like I had gotten most of what I was looking for, plus what I did get came out to about $170, which I thought was enough. What I also did was spend a fair amount of time standing in people’s way while I read the nutrition labels of different brands looking for fat content, protein content, carbohydrate content, sugar content, and calories to a lesser extent.

I’m a pretty fit guy and I maintain fairly active lifestyle (walking my dog 3-5 times a day [includes going down and back up 8 flights of stairs], an hour of exercise 4-5 days a week, and I’m on my feet for 8-15 hours 4 days a week at work), so I could pretty reasonably consume 2,900 calories a day, but I don’t wanna, so I’m not gonna. I’ll do closer to 2,000 a day if I can manage it while still hitting all my other markers.

Alright, then! Let’s do this nonsense!

Keto Pregaming

Let me start off by saying that I am not a fan of fad diets. Actually, I’m not even a fan of the word “diet” as it’s used most commonly because I think healthy eating is a lifestyle choice, not a temporary solution to a longstanding problem. That said, I’ve seen a lot of people whose opinions I respect advocate the keto diet, so I thought, “What the hell? Why not?” I’ve even taken “before” photos in the hopes that the “after” photos merit posting here. We’ll see.

So why is this post called “Keto Pregaming” and not “Day 1” or some equally uninspired drivel like that? Well, today I’m cramming as many carbs into my diet as I possibly can. I had a huge slice of lemon bread for breakfast, a thick slice of pizza for lunch, pasta after that, and for dinner I’ll be having the fried bologna sandwich at work, which is on delicious, delicious white bread. My thinking was that I’d really miss all these foods over the next 30 days, but what it’s actually done is show me that I really dislike eating like this – I feel bloated and sluggish. Now I have the added benefit of being excited about this shift in my eating patterns, as opposed to wary.

Also, I felt like it was important to go into this with as much information as possible. I’ve been doing some light studying in the days and weeks leading up to this, but I spent a few concentrated hours looking into the what and the how and some of the science behind this high fat diet.

Keto-deniers (they don’t feel that strongly in most cases, but let’s use divisive language for the fuck of it, shall we?) say that much of the initial weight loss is from water weight. Switching to a significantly lower-carb diet causes your body to use its stores of glycogen, which can cause some pretty serious dehydration, and lead to “Keto Flu,” where you feel overarchingly shitty (nausea, headache, drowsiness, etc). Additionally, increases in endotoxins can cause some pretty serious diarrhea. Finally, some studies suggest that you can lose muscle mass if you eat this way long-term.

If you’re doing it right, there are ways to avoid all of these potential pitfalls. First, make sure that you’re consuming appropriate amounts of magnesium, sodium, and potassium. My methods of choice for doing this includes things like adding some Himalayan rock salt to my water, and eating plenty of avocados (as a someone born and raised in California, this will be a nice return to my roots for me). Taking these steps in addition to drinking a fuck ton of water will make sure your body is able to combat how often you’re peeing and ensure that you’re absorbing as much water as you can in spite of the shift in foodstuffs.

Not a fan of diarrhea? What a coincidence! Neither am I! The solution in this case? Bone broth and collagen protein supplements. These will help to ensure that the mucous membranes in your digestive track are well-maintained, and the endotoxins will be less likely to enter your blood stream, where they become problematic. Plus, who doesn’t love bone broth? It’s delicious.

Finally, I won’t be excluding carbohydrates from my diet completely, and I’ll be making sure to get approximately 0.64 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This will give my body plenty of the building blocks necessary to not only maintain, but continue to grow muscle. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna slow down my exercising at this stage.

One more note on all of this: use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your calories and macronutrients throughout the day. This app allows me to make sure I’m getting each of those 108.8 grams of protein per day, and maintaining a ratio of 80% fat – 15% protein – 5% carbs with easy-to-read graphics and pretty pie charts because let’s face it, I’m not doing shit unless pretty pie charts are involved.

Does some of this stuff confuse you? Do you wish I had put links to all of the sources I used to come up with this plan? Too fucking bad! Look it up on your own. As a result of the hours/days/weeks of research I’ve done, I’m going into this thing well informed and with a plan I know will work for me. I’m purposefully excluding all kinds of shit from this little review of my reasoning. If you want to make a lifestyle change like this, know why you’re doing it, and make sure it’s right for you. Or ya know… Just ask me things. That would be fine, too.