~ My Journey with Sacred Plant Medicine. ~

The Transformative Powers of Plant Medicine.

There are two types of people that are drawn to plant medicine. Those who “hear the call” will either identify as a light worker, or a light warrior. If you don’t feel the call, that’s okay, just trust that it might not be your time or you may never feel the call and that’s okay too.

About a month ago, instead of going to Burning Man, I felt the “call” to go on the journey with Mother Ayahuasca. The call grew louder and I knew the time finally arrived.

I knew I needed to break through to the next level in my spiritual growth. As a light worker for as far back as I can remember, I’ve been committed to the path of ‘waking up’ for many years. My life revolves around practices that support spiritual growth: daily yoga and meditation, dance, art, therapy, women’s circles, and my work as an intuitive eating coach.

In the past year, I’ve had several personal losses. In spite of my practices, I felt I had hit a spiritual wall so to speak. My story that my Ego kept repeating was spinning me into an exhausting loop of sadness, shame and confusion. It was time to take a quantum leap- one that would allow for greater spiritual healing and connection. That was my hope.

So what is this plant medicine called Ayahuasca? Ayahuasca (eye-ya-WAH-ska), translated from the South American Quechua language as “soul vine” or “vine of the dead,” is an ancient transformative plant medicine, grown from indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest. It’s been used for thousands of years and has developed a remarkable legacy of healing, storytelling, ritual, and song.  It is made by combining two psychoactive plants: the vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, and a species of leaf, Psychotria viridis. Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is the potent psychedelic derivation of ayahuasca. DMT is also called the ‘Spirit molecule’, which is regarded by the Amazonians as a portal to the spirit world.

What’s the purpose of Ayahuasca? The combination of these two plants opens the gates into extraordinary states of consciousness. These inner journeys facilitate an ability to access a profound perspective of one’s self as well as psychological and physical healing.

Over the past decade the use of Ayahuasca has attracted people from all over the world. Not only academic researchers have shown an increased interest, but also people seeking greater self-awareness and spiritual awakening.

According to social psychologist, Keith Rozendal, “… the trackless jungle once kept ayahuasca shamanism hidden from anyone other than indigenous Amazonians. The vision-inducing brew had shaped the jungle-dwellers’ worldview for centuries by the time Columbus stumbled upon the New World. … La purga raises a barrier that only the most driven seekers will cross. No ayahuasca drinker knows whether heaven or hell awaits them. Mother Ayahuasca may decide that they need to face demons many times before their own blissful breakthrough comes, if at all.”

It is no wonder many regard this medicine with trepidation. In all honesty, I knew it was not going to be a vacation and that it would be both physically and emotionally challenging.

No one ever knows what Mother Ayahuasca will bring you … whether heaven or hell awaits them.

Before each ceremony we had to attend ‘mandatory’ classes that schooled us on how to work with the medicine. These classes were like a psychology 101 boot camp; I found them tremdously helpful in gaining clarity with our intentions. These classes are led by Rythmia’s founder Gerry Powell.

It’s important to set specific intentions before going into the first ceremony—to know why you felt called to do this medicine, and to know what it is you are seeking. Mother Ayahuasca responds and reacts, and will heal by priority. That means her priority, not ours. What you “see” in your visions is what you’re meant to see, good or bad. You get what you need, not what you necessarily want. So, there is a tremendous act of surrender within this process. It does require a whole lotta courage to jump off the cliff, knowing that the net will appear below.  That is, the imaginary net in your mind.

In our introductory class it was suggested by Gerry, to start out by asking Mother Ayahuasca the following: 1) show me who I’ve become. 2) to merge me back with my soul and 3) to heal my heart. Gerry was told these were the three intentions that produced the optimal results for healing.

One of my main intentions was to restore my trust back with the divine. My personal losses in the past year challenged my relationship with the divine, as I knew it. I was resisting my path and I was angry with the divine. I was stuck in a victim mentality as I questioned, Why me? Over and over, instead of, why not me? I wanted help in resisting my life less, accepting that this was/is my path, and that it’s okay to be where I’m at. You know when someone says, ‘You’re exactly where you need to be.” Whenever someone said this to me, I wanted to punch their face in. Okay, no really, but you get the idea of the magnitude of my resistance.

The program at Rythmia, is lead by an amazing team of thought leaders from the spiritual, psychological and other health related fields. Graham Hancock, Gregg Braden and Michael Beckwith are on the board and are frequent guest speakers as well. Their curriculum is well organized to really assist participants so they felt confident to handle and alleviate the rigors of ayahausca. Rythmia is also the only only medically licensed facility in the world. There is a level of safety here that’s required to really facilitate deeper healing.

My First Ceremony: A Fractal Light Show.

The first ceremony I asked Mother Aya to ‘show me who I’ve become.’ The visions that came to me are hard to encapsulate using words. But I can tell you I saw a light show of fractals and sparkly glowing orbs. This glowing light came from my womb and morphed and undulated blue hues much like an underwater sea anemone. While I didn’t hear any voices, I felt deeply at peace watching this beautiful light show. While the music played outside of me, I felt like I was swimming in an underwater ocean party.  It was blissfully peaceful. Of course, I wanted more, so I moved towards this light, and as soon as I did, I lost it. In an instant, the visions in my minds eye catapulted me into a deep and dark underworld. I was now watching a carnival show on myself. My trickster Self had made an appearance and she was showing me all the shadowy parts of myself that I didn’t really want to look at or face or feel. We all have our blind spots. We all have our shadows. Jungian based psychology defines the shadow self as unconscious aspects of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify with; it’s the unconscious.

I saw disturbing images of death and haunting flashbacks of scenes from my past that I did not ask for. There were at some point a million snakes crawling all over, around and within me. I saw clowns with distorted melting faces laughing at me, until I realized that the joke was on me. I began laughing at myself and realized that all those disturbing faces were myself. There were some images that were so hard to look at, I wanted to open my eyes and end the trip. I saw parts of myself that I didn’t like, or wasn’t ‘proud’ of. I was reminded of the practice of, “what’s coming is going.” (This was discussed in our pre-ceremony class). When the medicine shows you something that’s scary or difficult, the best way to work with this is to breath into it, because as soon as you face this difficult moment, it loses its grip over you. You don’t get to ‘control’ this process, (although some might argue you can!). What is coming, is going.  What you resist persists.

The magic of this medicine is that it shows you the rejected parts of yourself so that you can begin to accept and heal these unidentified or rejected parts of the Self.  This is a small miracle indeed. When I think back on the glowing blue orb in my womb, my interpretation is that this light was my divine source, the place where my intuition and wisdom and soul Self originates. Mother Ayahuasca was forging in me a deeper connection back to the feminine. Back to love, to kindness, to acceptance. I was beginning to trust my path again because there was no doubt in my mind that the visions and downloads I received were sent from another dimension of divine consciousness.

Can the wisdom of plant medicine help with eating disorder recovery?

My journey with Aya also parallels my work with eating disorders. In coaching clients to change difficult behavior patterns, we use some of the same methods in working with the medicine. When the medicine shows you something uncomfortable, you breathe into it and accept its arrival. Knowing that what’s coming is going. I teach my clients to ‘lean into the discomfort’ when they feel the urge to binge, restrict or purge. Instead of being hard on ourselves for doing x, y, and z, we get curious about what the hidden meanings are embedded in the behaviors. We learn to identify and accept all parts of ourselves- both the positives and the negatives. We begin to love all those parts so there is an acceptance of our shared humanity. Acceptance that the path is not paved with perfectionism. The path is paved with the messiness of being a perfectly imperfect human being.

The Second Ceremony: A Sweet Release.

The second ceremony was for me a cathartic release of all of the grief I have been carrying for the past year, and possibly even a lifetime. It felt bigger than that. All of my ancestor’s grief also came up for me to feel and let go of. I drank the medicine and spent much of the night in waves of tears, release upon release. My tears never really stopped, they just came in waves and I was exhausted from all the crying. I was tired and irritable. I wanted the sparkly fractals to come back from the night before. I realized how powerfully cathartic this night was as it allowed me to go deeper into my grief so I could begin to let go of this sadness that I was so loyal to hanging onto. The medicine brought me to my inner 5 year old. I saw her sitting at my Aunt’s table and I knew I had to go to her and ask her for forgiveness. I stretched out my arms and found myself embracing my 5-year-old Self. I held and rocked her and I told her she was doing the best she could have done. I told her that she was okay and then I forgave her for being so hard on herself. There were many others in our group this week that also were able to connect with their younger selves. This younger self was identified as the age at which they split off from their soul of their truth of who they are. Sometimes it was a trauma that occurred or perhaps just a critical parent or kids that were bullied at this age. They learn that it isn’t safe to be themselves and so the split Self forms as protection. The medicine helps with this healing so powerfully by healing this split Self. Re-connecting with the child self allows for the voice of self-compassion to step forward and begin to replace the story of victimhood, self- blame and judgments.  

The Third Ceremony: A Rebirth!

The third ceremony was also filled with visions of my rebirth. Again, hard to describe with words, and also more of a feeling state. I felt the same peaceful stillness and saw the glow coming from my womb. I felt that I could fall back on her- on myself- or on Aya- to be safe and to trust whatever happens next on my journey is okay. I relaxed into this knowing and began to feel a deep sense of trust. A new song started to play and all of a sudden I saw another glowing orb filled with a growing embryo. I moved towards the orb and noticed the embryo was swirling around and growing with each turn and swirl. I moved towards the light to see more, and realized I was looking back at myself as a child again. While I didn’t recognize this as a ‘re-birth’ I do think that resonates. I wanted more of this image and as soon as I clinged, the image vanished and I was back to my meditation. Another lesson learned. Be satisfied with what you have. Enjoy the moment. Be. Here. Now. And, to relax into the next moment without resistance.

The Last Ceremony: Le Grande Purgatory.

The last ceremony was probably the hardest for me. I joke that I basically got my ass handed to me on a silver tray. Kidding. Not kidding. I went into the ceremony with a splitting headache from not having slept well the previous night. I was tired, irritated, and just wanted to sleep. But, the last ceremony was powerful. I really didn’t have any visions much at all other than my blue glowing orb made her appearance once again. The noises from the other participants around me were very distracting and disturbing. One woman jumped up, screamed something loudly in Spanish and ran outside. I’m really glad my Spanish sucks so I couldn’t understand what she was so frightened about. The shamans had to physically restrain her. There were men loudly retching all around me. People were laughing and crying. It was difficult for me to keep coming back to my own meditation. I could only send out the light towards them because I knew that the collective was healing all around me. The entire group seemed to be healing each other. It was powerful beyond words. And then I fell asleep. I did manage to wake up to the final closing ceremony at sunrise.

One of the shamans who guided the ceremonies told us that the sacred medicine allows us to shed our ‘conditioned reality’ and restores our true connection with nature. The medicine opens a doorway of perception, an inner journey, healing wounds and misperceptions so we can once again align with our soul and our heart. The medicine helps to dissolve the Ego, so that we can experience the truth of who we are, that we are all connected and we are all one with nature and the universe. As cliché as that sounds, this is one of the many miracles that Aya provides is this realization that we are all connected and that our Ego exists to create separation and suffering.

A story I read recently reminded me how ayahuasca itself couldn’t solve one’s problems. “Only you have the ability to do that,” the author wrote. “What [the medicine] does is take you to a level of consciousness you’ve never reached before so that you can understand how to help yourself. It’s work.” And when the ceremonies are over, it’s important to maintain a daily practice of self-care and of self-awareness. Meditation, even if for 5 minutes a day is a powerful practice to cultivate these higher states of consciousness.

One of the lessons I have learned from my week at Rythmia is that Ayahuasa has a sacred purpose. Its purpose is to reconnect us with the truth of who we are, to reconnect us with our Soul Self. When we are reconnected with this wise self, from there, love and peace flow freely and effortlessly. This medicine is a sacred gift from the peoples of the Amazon, and, what a blessing it was to experience this gift from our divine Mother Nature.

People come to Rythmia seeking healing. During the one week program, I personally witnessed people resolving PTSD, abuse, addictions, emotional traumas, and physical illnesses. People shared with me that they were able to connect with the people who abused them as children and they were able to forgive them and felt release in ways traditional psychotherapy had never provided. One woman saw ticks crawling out of her body while she was in ceremony and now is Lyme disease free. Some people gained new insights and clarity on which career path to take, which relationship they need to end, which city they needed to move to, and so on. The miracles were numerous.

Everything is a miracle. You are THE Miracle.

My belief is that everything is a miracle. The fact that I was privileged enough to go on this journey, privileged to own a passport and fly to Costa Rica, and privileged enough to have the time and resources to devote to my own self-development. I am humbled beyond words for this experience. I feel a renewed sense of trust in my path, less resistance, more peace. I also feel that my third eye chakra got a serious re-boot as well!

The spirit of Ayahuasca is now travelling all over the world assisting in the global awakening of consciousness. If you are feeling called but are also afraid, that is a perfectly normal response.

It is only natural for people to have reservations when considering this journey. It is after all illegal in the US and is registered as a schedule 1 controlled substance. (With more research, this will eventually change. Colorado is the first state to decriminalize magic mushrooms, so there is hope!)

Stepping into the unknown is scary and not without risks. In fact, plant medicine is contraindicated and inappropriate for some people, e.g., those with a history of mental illness such as schizophrenia, and also those taking multiple psych meds.

But for those of you who are hearing the call, and its getting louder, I would encourage you to trust this call and move beyond the fears you may have. This medicine has the power to clear the illusions that hide us from our souls and from our truths.

It’s also important to note that psychotherapy, yoga and meditation also have tremendous value in helping clear these illusions as well, but the process is generally much slower than how the plant medicine works.

As far as its appropriateness with healing eating disorders, I do think it can be of value. However, it’s my opinion that if someone is active in their disorder, and or, they are new to therapy and or any introspective practices, it might overwhelm and potentially cause harm if not done with supervision from a trained licensed therapist. I do not recommend it for most of my clients that are struggling actively in their disorder. They need to get some good ol’ fashioned therapy under their belt before they are ready to embark on a deeper level of plant medicine healing. However, those that are further along in their journey might hear this call and for them, it may be just what they need to break through to the other side, or next level. Wherever you are, remember that’s it okay to be there, and you are exactly where you need to be.

Please send me a message if you have further questions or concerns about this medicine. And, if you have done this, please share your experience. We need more voices to step out and come out about all the ways we can heal ourselves and in doing so, we can heal the world.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” ~ Albert Einstein~

Disclaimer: All material provided on this page is for informational or educational purposes only, and should not be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health practitioner regarding matters of personal wellbeing.

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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