An Ayahuasca Story Part 3 – Facing my demons in Iquitos

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An Ayahuasca Story Part 3 – Facing my demons in Iquitos

DAS Ayahuasca retreat Iquitos
Wed May 8th 2013
Today will be ceremony number 2. I view my first ceremony as a failure so I’m determined to make this one a success. I’m now very specific with what I want out of it and will be focusing and meditating on that objective throughout the ceremony.

This week’s blog is very confessional – I was left alone for a week in the jungle with very little food and no stimulation at all and at this point I was going a little stir crazy. This setting was designed for self reflection and one of the main effects of Ayahuasca is an ‘emotional defrag’. Things get very reflective. You have been warned!

I find it difficult to connect with people. Sitting at a table with my family, I’m the odd one out. I am short tempered and impatient with my wife. I find people so annoying yet I crave a connection. My childhood was rocky, cold and overbearingly religious. I’ve always been the ‘new kid’ and the outsider. Now approaching 40, all the people in my life have kids and families of their own, once again I feel like the odd one out. I find it hard to relate to anyone. I try way too hard to ‘be somebody’. This is the baggage I bring to the ceremony tonight.

DAS Ayahuasca retreat Iquitos

Time has slowed down to a crawl. Boredom is always just on the edge of my mind threatening to crush me. Worst of all, the food portions are so small that they simply seem to keep me on the edge of hunger. My stomach is constantly wanting food. I have been here 4 days and my clothes are starting to hang off me. To add insult to injury, Shane a regular here said we can have coconuts and coconut water but we have to get it ourselves from the locals in the area. Why the hell isn’t that provided?! The number one thing that pisses me off here is the complete lack of communication. When I arrived, I was led to my hut and that’s it. No further communication at all. Someone comes to clean our rooms around 10am and we are given three small meals a day or only two meals on ceremony days – we fast after lunch. Percy arrives in the afternoon to briefly speak with us about our intentions for the ceremony and again the next morning for a short debrief, but that’s it. The rest of the time it is just us left to our own devices. Going for a walk in the jungle is out of the question as I’m so weak from the restrictive diet… but I guess that’s part of it.

DAS Ayahuasca retreat - Iquitos

Thursday 9th May 2013
The ceremony started the same as before but this time there was a lot of energy in the room. There were eight people plus Percy and Jose and those of us who didn’t experience anything at the first session were really focused this time. I sat up in a meditative posture, concentrated on slow, deep breathing and quietened my mind to single, focused thoughts. I was ready.

Time seemed to pass quickly this time or maybe I was more familiar with the ceremony now. It seemed in no time at all it was my turn to drink. Six mouthfuls this time! It tasted stronger but maybe that was simply because there was more of it to get down. I sat down and resumed meditating. They say the best time to puke is after 15-20 minutes and sure enough, after about 20 minutes they guy next to me started to purge which instantly made me start my own purge. The last thing I felt was my body folding over at the waist with my head resting on my knee, my hands were tangled in my hair and I was pouring sweat, large drops were dripping off my face onto the floor. A few seconds after that I was gone.

I could no longer feel my body at all, it was simply gone. I was on a roller coaster, strapped in tight and it was going at the speed of light.

DAS Ayahuasca retreat Iquitos

At first the feelings/shapes/visions (I still have a hard time explaining exactly what it was I was experiencing) were quite aggressive with lots of dark shadows and sharp movements. It was uncomfortable, scary and completely overwhelming. The force and speed in which it took me over was incredibly disorienting. It was like slamming a door. One second I was sitting in a dark room in Iquitos and the next second my mind was completely cut off from my body and thrown into the unknown. I wanted to pull away but there was nowhere to go. I could say I decided to keep going and see what was next but really, I had no control. I was on this ride into the deep dark unknown, whether I liked it or not. <Talking to the guys the next morning and processing it all, I believe I was seeing all the negative traits of myself. My ego, my negativity, my impatience.>

There were three things that kept me grounded through this overwhelming experience; the smell of the flower perfume that was poured on my hands at the start of the ceremony, the sound of my wedding ring clinking on the spew bucket and the sound of moaning every time I exhaled. Speaking to people the next morning they said I was mumbling things throughout the ceremony ‘What the hell..’ and I mumbled some names but they weren’t sure what (They did confirm it wasn’t ‘Mummy’ though).

Percy would sing his tune and shake his rattle. In the first ceremony I found his Icaros very soothing and while it was still pleasant, its effect on me this time was much more profound. He seemed to be steering my experience with each verse. Every time his song would change it would pull me out of whatever environment I had settled into and teleported me into a new scene. Then just as I settle into the new scene/experience/emotion, his song would change and I’d be dragged unwillingly into the next unknown. I remember distinct times where I’d think to myself “No, not again. I’m comfortable here now”

DAS Malorca

At one point I found myself back in the ceremony room with my face pressed close to the purge bucket, mid-spew. Then I was gone again. It certainly wasn’t a pleasant time.

Throughout all of this, the only real picture I can paint to make any sense of it all is all the information in my life was laid out in front of me like millions of Youtube clips all playing at once layered over each other. Each scene was being rearranged, refiled in neat organized piles. I was around this time that Jose came over to me to check up on me. Apparently I was making quite a bit of noise with my moaning and mumbling in the dark and quiet room. I could hear his voice almost like he was talking to me through a long tube “Ben. Ben, are you alright? What are you feeling?” I had honestly lost the ability to form words. I could hear what he was saying but I couldn’t process an answer. He asked me two or three times before I was able to form some kind of sentence. The only words I could come up with were “Deep. I’m in deep.” I was still folded over and I desperately wanted to sit up or lie back but I had no control over my body at all beyond the occasional twitching and fidgeting that would come when Percy changed his Icaros, dragging me into a new scene.

Towards the end of the session (I had no concept of time) Percy would go around and do a personal healing on us one by one. When he got to me, I was still folded over on my lap. He started to sing over me and I began to come back to reality. I felt him sprinkling water over me, singing his song and brushing around my head with the dried leaves. I was being drawn back into my body. I was a baby again. I felt happy, comfortable, safe and for the first time in this ceremony with Percy doing his personal healing over me, I was smiling and felt a fantastic sense of peace.

The ceremony came to an end. People were getting up and heading back to their rooms. I still couldn’t get my body to move properly. Carl came over to check on me and helped me to my feet. We were both very unsteady, like we were completely wasted and drunk. We stumbled back to our rooms with Javier dancing around us laughing and having a jolly old time. He clearly had a different experience than me tonight.

DAS Ayahuasca retreat Iquitos

Back in my room I managed to destroy the toilet before climbing into bed fully clothed. My body was so weak but my mind was racing, replaying all the fragments of the night over and over and trying to process it all. I slept maybe one or two hours total. I had just gone through the single most intense and unique experience in my life and I can’t make any sense of it at all.

Shortly after breakfast Percy came over for a debrief. He explained that what I experienced was all the uncertainty in my life. All the confusion and conflict in myself. I told him I didn’t want to do the last session as I don’t think I can handle going that deep again, especially so soon after just having my mind blown. Percy assured me he’d only give me a small drink and I really need to do the third session to finish the healing. I am determined to finish what I started but I’m also worried about what the last session will bring.


This is a video I found of Percy’s ceremony from 2009. It looks very similar to my experience and the Icaros is the same. Watching this makes my stomach tighten in memory of the drink.

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