La Medicina: My Lesson From Ayahuasca

la medicina

“Let go of your expectations,” the Shaman’s partner’s eyes rose up from the waiver form to meet mine and she gave a little laugh. I could see that she was warning me of a lesson that had once hit her like a freight train.

My expectations had been to “purge” my childhood, and then find my way back to the last tree that was marked as for-sure the way I wanted to go with my life. But, in spite of the warning, that same freight train hit me hard, and then to add insult to injury, reversed over my smashed up soul.

“You have only two jobs,” the Shaman informed our circle, “Breath, and surrender.”

That sounded simple enough but I knew it was going to be one of the toughest experiences of my life so far and, indeed, not everyone made it for the second day. I almost quit myself but I was there to extract a demon and knew that it would continue to sit quietly under the surface, pulling my strings without my permission, until I did the work. So I bit the bullet and stayed the course.

Over two agonising days where day became night and night became day, Mother Ayahuasca gripped and squeezed the excruciating sadness in the pit of my stomach that I’d been swallowing down over the decades. 

Relationships I had believed to be dead and buried rose up like dull brown flowers with faces popping out of the middle, blooming in time-lapse photography, to illustrate what I hadn’t even recognized let alone dealt with.

“You don’t know how to receive love; you don’t know how to receive anything. This is why you feel alone and unsupported.”

The medicine forced this out of me with sudden and violent dry retching into the infinite kaleidoscope abyss of a plastic bucket, accompanied by dark and haunting melodies from the guitar and voices of the Shaman and his partner, while the wood-burning stove crackled in the corner, keeping our circle of truthseeking warriors in a warm, cave-like, smoky sage soup.

As I sat there, silently traumatised, my body skewed from discomfort and my head a world of horrors, I heard the Shaman’s partner sing about “La Medicina” and I reminded myself that this isn’t meant to be fun, it’s medicine, and the worse your medicine tastes, the more good it’s doing.

What followed were wails and sobs and cries for help from the depths of my despairing loneliness into the gravel of the outside courtyard as my upper body hung over my knees and tears poured up my face into my hairline.

The Shaman’s partner swooped like an eagle to envelop my shivering body with her soft blanket wings and rest my wet face onto her shoulder.

“You are never alone, and you are never a victim.”
“I need to feel love,”  I told her through my sobs, “I need to feel it, why can’t I feel it?”
“Open your chest,” she instructed. She pushed my chest upward and forward and pulled out my arms and uplifted my palms. “Just breath.” And the beautiful eagle breathed with me until I was calm.

I slumped onto a garden chair and looked at the moon and stars in the clear night sky behind the silhouette of a large cactus tree. It was stunning but I felt nothing but desperation.

Just breath, and surrender.
I am loved, I am love.
Breath and surrender.
I am loved, I am love.

I felt completely broken and knew that this was the very base I needed to reach.

The Shaman appeared and swirled magic around me. “I love you,” he told me but, of course, I couldn’t feel it although the presence of those with so much more knowledge felt reassuring. He understood. His partner understood. No judgment, only love. Their work is to support us in finding and releasing our demons so that we may drop into love and our souls can be free.

“I know I’m not alone so why do I feel alone?”
“We all do. And this is your question and you’ll come through the other side with your answer.”
“I hope so.”
“Just do your job, just do the work: breath and surrender.”

I rejoined the circle and did as I was instructed: I opened my chest, I lifted my palms and I breathed, and I surrendered.

And the words of the music gave me all my answers to as to why I felt alone and unsupported, and where my path had disappeared to. It gave me all the solutions I’d been begging for, as the Shaman sang,

“When you let go of fear
The truth will appear
So simple and clear.”

I breathed into the answers. I surrendered to the solutions. It all became so obvious.

I thought about Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability.

I remembered how my own work used to be all about teaching people to live an authentic and simple life and how I’d allowed myself to be steered away from that path.

I realised I don’t want to be that “successful business woman” in power clothes. She’s not me and it’s no wonder my soul had been screaming. So in that circle, I let her die, and I allowed the real me to resurface, the me that simply wants to help people to be themselves.

If they want to build a business out of it, that’s wonderful but that’s not my work and somehow I’d allowed myself to get railroaded into it. I just want to help people to spend their days doing the things that make them happy, whatever that is, and so Authentic Life Coaching was reborn.

But, so much more than that: I realised I don’t want my business to be the centre of my Universe, I want it to have a supporting role while I pursue a balanced life that makes me deep-down happy. And I want to sing again: when I was a small child I used to walk around the green, singing to myself, and the neighbours called me The Happy Wanderer. When I’m in nature, I write songs – I need to be in nature again.

And in order for me to make it through this transition phase, I must reach out for help from those who love me and that will mean that I will have to be vulnerable, to learn to receive, and to allow myself to be supported.

And there lies my lesson from La Medicina.

Aho.