Sitting in ceremony with Madré Ayahuasca, I asked her what there was for me to become.
“What is next for me?”
“What is there for me to do, and be, as I go forward?”
Madré Aya gently shared with me, “Adam, you have been a medicine man for a long time. And you are ready to begin owning this part of yourself more.”
Not totally sure what to do with this wisdom I had been brought, the next night I sat down in front of Mitra, the shaman who would be holding our ceremony, and asked him if he had any medicine for me with regards to this particular learning. Mitra paused and sat thoughtfully before speaking.
“A medicine man doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be a shaman, or any other particular form of medicine. And a being a medicine man is not about healing others. It is about continuing to heal yourself. To heal your relationship to nature, to heal your soul, and to heal your lineage.
From there, the rest will unfold.”
This page, and the invitation to your spirit that I am making, is a function of taking on both of these teachings, and trusting in the path that is unfolding in front of me.
I hope it will support you in trusting your own path as well.
The Calling to Your Spirit
As I’ve deepened into my own journey, I have found that the deeper spiritual truths can only be scratched at the surface by a scientific truth. This is not a criticism of Science — simply an acknowledgment of its limitations.
Science is a beautiful thing — it is our mind’s technology to make sense of the world around us, and provides a self-correcting approach to understanding what we are presented with. The caveat is that we cannot fully get our arms around a deeper spiritual truth or experience through scientific thought alone. This is similar to how you cannot create an experience of love by analyzing and thinking about your feelings.
Your mind will have all kinds of thoughts, opinions and fears about Ayahuasca — but your spirit already knows if it is feeling called into this sacred ceremony.
As you read through this page, notice what you feel in your body (as opposed to what you think in your mind). How does this resonate with your soul?
If you feel a stirring reading what I have written, perhaps you are ready to partake in ceremony. And if not, that’s okay too — the spiritual path is not linear and there is no rush. If you feel called, relax. Your path will unfold at its own tempo, regardless of what your fear (and your mind, the device created to mitigate our fears) may have to say about it.
Ayahuasca is a plant medicine that has been brewed and used by tribes along the Amazon river for thousands of years (some of the shamen I have sat with have lineages that go back over three thousand years). The ceremonial brew commonly referred to as Ayahuasca is composed of a blend of plants, the most active ingredients coming from the vine Banisteriopsis Caapi (sometimes referred to as ayahuasco), and the bark or leaves of the Chacruna plant.
The active ingredients in Ayahuasca are DMT, and harmine. DMT taken by itself tends to metabolize very quickly. Some people describe the experience of a pure DMT trip like taking a rocket ship to the other side of the universe in about three minutes. This is not good or bad, but it can make it challenging to integrate your experience.
The ingredients in B. Caapi, are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) — these serve to slow down the absorption of DMT in your system, allowing DMT to pass through your stomach, into your bloodstream, and ultimately into your brain. This slows down the experience and allows Ayahuasca to work it’s healing with you over a longer period of time.
An Ayahuasca ceremony will typically last eight to nine hours, and you will tend to drink the medicine multiple times throughout the night.
A significant part of Ayahuasca ceremony, and the one that most people have heard about and afraid of, is the purging. We will come to this later and address it fully.
For now, let’s start by talking about what transformation is, so that you can understand how the medicine of Ayahuasca works its magic with you and your soul.
Life as Normal
In order to describe what is happening as you sit in ceremony, we need to start by getting clear on what transformation is. And in order to do that, we need to talk about how we typically address our “problems” in life.
Our problems begin when there is some aspect of ourselves, or life, that we cannot tolerate. By tolerate, I really mean, we cannot be with it. Let’s take anger, for example.
Perhaps you were raised by a parent that had poor relationship to anger. They would explode when they got angry, and as a result, you learned that anger is dangerous, bad, and to be avoided at all costs.
As you grew up, you learned to suppress, avoid, and resist anger in all its forms. And, as you did this, you slowly created this as a part of your identity.
You learned to hide your anger, or stuffed it down when you noticed it showing up, because for you, anger was not simply another human emotion. Anger was wrong, or bad. In this example we’re talking about anger, but we could just as easily be talking about poverty, having a lot of money, love, wearing the colour blue, or anything else.
From this judgment about anger, you lose the capacity to be with it (yours or other people’s) — instead, your life becomes about avoiding anger. As you get better and better at cutting anger out of your life, you become more and more justified (and entrenched) in your relationship to it.
The more you push down your anger, the more your capacity to be with someone when they are angry will atrophy, like an unused muscle. When you are confronted by an angry person, it’s going to leave a greater mark on you than it would for someone that has a greater capacity to be with anger.
That greater impact caused by your reduced capacity justifies your belief that anger is wrong, bad and damaging, and you double-down on your efforts to eliminate this in yourself and avoid it in others. The cycle repeats.
While there may have been a point in your life when this stuff was consciously chosen, it pretty quickly becomes unconscious and automatic. You don’t realize you are actively avoiding anger. Instead, you just say things like “Oh, I just don’t get angry” — unable to see that you have anger just like the rest of us. You simply repress it and have learned to live your life over top of it.
This is a bit like smoothly paving over top of the toxic waste you have buried deep underground, and then building on top of the pavement. It looks pretty nice and everything seems to function alright. But inevitably, that toxicity leaks out over time, poisoning everything around and above it.
Our lives, and the changes we attempt to make, then become about managing the impact of all of this toxicity we have innocently and obliviously created. Because we feel so horrible being around people that are angry, we put in exhausting amounts of work trying to create a life and a career that is devoid of anger.
Because we have such vicious judgment about our own anger, we berate ourselves and make promise after promise to not get angry, only to then feel even worse when it inevitably breaks through to the surface, like a volcano blowing its top from the built up pressure.
What I have described above is life as normal.
Life as normal isn’t bad, in the sense that nothing is really bad — it just is.
Life as normal is the reason that everything we’ve tried up to this point hasn’t really worked. It may get us short-term, incremental changes, but it never seems to create the drastic shift in our life that we are hoping for.
If you spend enough time operating in Life as normal, you will start to become resigned. Resigned that things can’t really be that different. Resigned that things can’t really shift the way you’re hoping they will. Resigned that you just need to learn to be happy with your life the way it is. (Being happy with your life isn’t a bad thing, except when that happiness is actually resignation that things will never be any different.)
Most of our attempts to create change in our lives are some function of managing the toxic waste I described above, and consequently, are doomed to fail. If the real problem is that you have buried toxicity deep in your soul, no amount of cleaning efforts will really succeed until you excavate the root cause.
All your efforts will appear to create short-term change, and while inevitably leading back to the same old issues.
While the obvious solution here is “Well, just deal with the root cause, dummy”. (At least, that’s how my mind and ego can tend to talk to me when threatened or frustrated.) However, the solution is only obvious from an intellectual understanding, and transformational work never exists in the realm of the intellect.
When you’re in the throes of trying to overcome your own toxicity, you cannot see the root cause. You are only present to the impact on the surface, as well as your ego’s desperate need to remove this from your life. Remember, because you have such a diminished capacity to be with what is toxic to you, you lack the spaciousness to really sit and discover the root cause. Instead, you rush to resolve the problem you perceive, innocently plunking yourself right back into the same old pattern.
Welcome to Life as normal.
Now that I’ve described Life as normal, we can distinguish it from Transformation.
Transformation is the act of addressing the root cause that ails us, rather than managing its impact on the surface.
Again, intellectually speaking, this is obviously what you should do, and clearly sounds like the right move. Ask anyone whether they want to create transformation or surface-level change, and they will tell you transformation.
The trouble is that creating transformation is much harder work.
As a starting point, transformation requires that you sit with the very thing you have spent your life avoiding, and setting down all of the strategies and approaches you have developed in your life to avoid this thing.
To your intellect, this sounds obvious and great. To your body and your visceral experience, this will often feel terrible.
If you have spent your life avoiding anger, then you will find sitting in its presence causes you dis-ease. You may experience frustration, anger of your own, fear, violent thoughts, hopelessness, terror, or whatever other energetic shape your fear takes.
Remember, the strategies you designed to ensure you never had to be with anger were all set up to protect you from what you are afraid of. If we take away those strategies, you then have no option but to sit with anger (yours, and that of other people), and so you are going to be confronting your fear.
When confronted like this, we naturally rush to what there is to do, because this is the mechanism by which our ego and shadow keep us safe. This anger is terrible — let’s do something about it!
But there’s nothing to do, and in fact, all of your attempts to do something actually just continue to keep you in resistance to what you are trying to avoid.
At this stage in the transformational journey, we are often terrified that we will forever be stuck in this experience. What if the anger never goes away? Look at all the places I can now see I have caused the same harm from my own anger, that I hated other people for. Etc.
Only in surrendering can we really release all of the judgment, righteousness, stories, and everything else that we have constructed to try and keep anger out of our lives.
And upon reaching that surrender — giving up that there can ever be a world without anger, or greed, or blue shirts — can we finally find peace.
On the other side of this experience, people often feel like nothing has actually changed, and yet everything is different.
All of the strategies in their lives that they had created to ensure they never had to be with anger no longer make sense. It’s not that they have to “stop doing something”. (Ever heard yourself saying that?) It’s that all of the effort spent avoiding anger is no longer relevant. Those strategies simply dissolve into the deeper, more fully-expressed way of being this person now has access to in their life.
This is the nature of transformation.
Transformation is inherently healing. As you increase your ability to be more fully-expressed and drop the need to avoid parts of life, you are brought more into alignment and harmony with your soul, your essence and Nature.
As you heal in this way, you discover there’s less need for your reactive-mind — you learn to trust yourself in any situation, and find that your need to pre-emptively manage how things play out is no longer necessary. Life becomes a journey of continual unfolding, and releasing control.
In essence, you live life the same way a flower opens to the sun: effortlessly and continually moving towards the light, and as an expression of beauty and goodness.
So What IS Happening?
In this section, I’ll talk about some of what happens in an Ayahuasca ceremony, why it’s happening, and what it has to offer you.
Transformational coaching and Ayahuasca ceremony are both vehicles that support you in your own transformation.
In coaching, we bring you to this moment of confrontation by having you get clear on the results you’d like to create in your life that lie beyond your fears. And then, as you get supported to take action in alignment with creating those results, you are naturally brought into confrontation with what stands in the way. (This is often the point where people want to go back on the courageous results they declared, and decide things like “Life’s fine just the way it is, so maybe I won’t do this scary stuff actually”.)
In Ayahuasca ceremony, the medicine brings you to this moment of confrontation through visions, physical, body-based experiences, and direct communion with the spirits.
Our mind wants to make sense of everything that is happening, because if I can make sense of what is happening, then I can control and plan for it, and then I won’t be at risk. Remember, the reactive mind is a tool to protect us from our fear, and consequently, will get in the way of the transformation we are yearning for.
The medicine is always striving to have us face and feel what we are otherwise trying to avoid. By showing you these kinds of images, or giving you a particular feeling in your body, Madré Aya is bringing you to a moment of confrontation. The medicine does not provide us what we want — she provides us whatever is required in order for us to confront what we have spent our lives avoiding. As a result, the visions we get don’t always make sense (in fact, they are often confusing).
We may be shown pictures of our entire family, burning in a pyre, and think that means our family is going to die. Instead, we want to ask ourselves how what we are being shown is making us feel, and then simply sit with those feelings.
Watching photos of your family dying may force you to confront your own fears about death, about losing what you love, and perhaps address the fact that you have spent your life protecting yourself from heartbreak (and in doing so, also made it impossible for you to ever truly feel love.)
When people talk about a night in ceremony being challenging, hard, or even excruciating, they are often referring to moments like this. No amount of intellectual preparation can make this any easier. In fact, trying to strategize intellectually can actually make it worse, as it leaves you more resistant and causes you to have a harder time surrendering.
Let’s talk about purging now, because that is something that people are often nervous about prior to sitting in sacred ceremony.
You are probably most of aware of what you are confronting inside the space of your mind. However, the divine intelligence you are is far greater than simply your mind. While what we have learned to clamp down on and resist (out of fear) is held in check in our minds, it is also held the same way in our physical bodies.
Our muscles, our soft tissues, our tendons, our everything, all hold on to the energy that we have learned is wrong and must be resisted. If you learned to resist and avoid anger because your mother yelled at you to “shut up!” whenever you started to get angry, you may have learned to clench your jaw and surrounding muscles so as to trap your voice and avoid expressing the anger that was there for you.
Over the years, your muscles have tightened further and further on this energy, working harder and harder to keep in check whatever it is you have learned must not be allowed out into the real world.
You can imagine this is like using your arms to hold a beach ball under the water (and then go one step further and imagine you’ve been holding that beach ball under water for the last forty years).
As you confront the very thing you have spent your life avoiding, the strategies you created to protect and repress parts of yourself start to dissolve. In this dissolution, you will be releasing the years (and decades) of energy that has been tied up in your body.
This energy needs to be purged from you system (otherwise it will just get caught up and trapped in a different part of your body). Consequently, your body, in its divine wisdom and in partnership with the medicine, will expel this constriction from within you. This happens through purging.
Purging can look many ways.
I have purged by burping, yawning, breathing, crying, shaking, shouting, laughing, pooing, peeing, farting, and dancing. There are many other ways for your body to express energy, and one of the most common ways this happens is through vomiting.
The more aggressive and hateful we feel towards the part of ourselves that we are purging, the more aggressive and hateful the form of the purge tends to take.
If you have long held judgment that you are a worthless human being because of your arrogance, then it’s likely you will have a violent form of purging as you are releasing this judgment.
On the other hand, if you feel tender and loving towards your fear of crying, then your purging may occur like soft, gentle crying.
What is important is that there is no right way to purge, and the act of purging is a crucial part of your healing.
Purging, and specifically our fear about it, is a beautiful metaphor for why we struggle to release that which would set us free. Because we are afraid of what it will cost us to let go of something, we hold on to it, resisting the purge and resisting the surrender. In our resistance, we end up trading in our freedom for the safety of what we know.
Medicine vs. Drug
You may notice that ayahuasceros refer to Ayahuasca as medicine, rather than a drug. We do this with great intention (as opposed to simply saying it because it makes us feel better about our commitment to healing through the medicine).
Some of the characteristics of drugs include:
Over time, a greater dose, either in terms of frequency or quantity is required to achieve thesame effect; and
There is a period of withdrawal from stepping away from the drug
Ayahuasca is distinctly different from traditional drugs in both of these regards.
Over time, the more medicine you drink, the more potent it becomes, and the less you require. As we continue to drink the medicine, we become softer with ourselves, and more open energetically.
By open energetically, I mean we’re less resistant, less constricted, less contorted around ourselves. We are protecting ourselves from life less, and consequently, there is less medicine required to begin to take on the work.
When a client first starts working with a coach, they tend to be protected, afraid, and resistant to the relationship. They may show up in their coaching conversations trying to perform, get everything right, or be the person they think their coach wants them to be.
All of these strategies get in the way of you simply showing up and being, and consequently, slow down the progress you might otherwise be able to make.
Your work with Madré Aya is no different. At first, you will be resistant to what she brings you. You may be certain that you want a light show, with all the visuals. And instead, she may bring you nothing at all. Just you, sitting in a dark room, with your own thoughts.
What perfect medicine for someone who has spent their whole life chasing after something shiny, instead of appreciating the gift of the present moment. But it takes time to meet the medicine in what she is bringing you.
And so instead, you go and ask for more medicine. You earnestly believe you are “doing the work”, and attempt to hammer the visuals and the light show home so that you can get what you need to heal. Drinking more medicine, of course, is only going to bring you more of what Madré Aya is clear you will best be served by: the profundity available for you in simply being with this moment as it is.
As you sit in ceremony more, you release this need for Ayahuasca to look or occur a certain way, and you simply trust the medicine and whatever she brings you. And as a result, you require less of it to deepen and to heal.
If you stop drinking Ayahuasca, you will not suffer withdrawal. The work the medicine supports you to do exists in your body, your soul, and your being. Taking away the drug will not take away the transformation you have undergone, just like ending your work with a coach will not undo the transformation you created in partnership with them.
The other beauty of Ayahuasca is the natural intelligence it meets you with. Ayahuasca will naturally regulate itself with your body. If you drink too much of the medicine, then it will cause you to purge, releasing some of the medicine from your body so that you can work with the dose that is appropriate to your current capacity.
Trusting the Medicine
In coaching, one of the hardest parts of the journey is trusting the coach and the experience you are having. Let’s say that the way you sabotage your own progress is that you dream big, and then never take action towards your dreams.
Over time you become frustrated with yourself, deciding that you’re just a worthless dreamer and never take action towards what you say you want to do.
Now you go and hire a coach. You’re excited at first, because you really want to make something big happen, and you’re convinced that with the help of this person, you will finally break through.
Initially you work with this coach and create some big visions for some results you really want to create. Things seem awesome. But, over time, your familiar pattern starts to settle in. You notice that you aren’t taking action, even though you have these big visions set up, and what’s worse, you’re not showing up and sharing with your coach that you’re not doing the stuff you said you want to do.
You feel worse and worse showing up to your coaching conversations. You feel like a failure. And you feel like your coaching is now about getting on the phone with someone and sitting in the feeling of being a failure. You can’t remember why you thought it would be a good idea to pay a bunch of money for this service, but you’re pretty certain that it’s time to end. It’s not helping you — it’s making you feel worse!
This is the hardest part of transformation. It’s the point where you need to trust the medicine of the coach and their coaching, but instead your fear and your shadow/ego is pointing to the fact that this is just making things worse.
The gift of coaching is not that things go differently, but that they instead go exactly the same way they always do, and you then get to show up and distinguish how that’s happening — to actually address your ways of being and stories that continually have life go the way it does, right as they’re happening, and then to do something different.
Trusting Ayahuasca is no different.
When I first sat down in ceremony, Madré Aya brought me nothing. Just me, sitting peacefully in a room of people laughing, purging, wailing, crying. “This fucking sucks”, I thought to myself. I felt left out. Alone. Like everyone else was taking off, and I was getting left behind.
What absolutely perfect medicine for me to be given. The opportunity to really address my fears of being left out and not belonging.
These moments are hard, because we have a belief that we know what kind of medicine we need, rather than trusting that what is happening, whether through coaching, Ayahuasca, or some other form of medicine, is exactly what we need.
When you are invited to trust the medicine, this is what we are referring to. Madré Ayahuasca is not showing you something because she is spiteful — she is showing you something to support your healing, and to bring you back into harmony with yourself, nature, and your soul.
If you’ve read all the way through this, then hopefully I’ve grabbed your interest.
Each time I’ve sat in ceremony, Madré Ayahuasca has brought me visions and invitations to go deeper into this sacred ceremonial work. Not only to take on my own healing, but to lead, in whatever capacity there is for me to lead it.
When I first got this message, I freaked out, and immediately started to do things like Google “Shaman training”. How innocent (and silly) of me, but also how earnest.
Each time I sit and drink more medicine, she helps me see the opportunity in simply slowing down, and letting my life unfold. My need to “get there sooner” is simply a fear that I’m going to be left out if I don’t hurry up.
But I don’t need to fear that, and as I continue to deepen in my own transformation, I trust more and more in my own tempo. I trust that things are unfolding exactly at the pace they should, and there’s nothing I need to worry about.
Ayahuasca and transformational coaching meet us on the spiritual level. They can work with our intellect as well, but that is not where they call to us from.
Perhaps you’ve been feeling called to Ayahuasca for some time. You may, like I did, have been hearing about this medicine for some time, but never really found the right circumstances to say “Yes”. Or maybe this is the first time you’ve heard about this sacred ceremony, but notice the stirring in your chest and back behind your intellect.
However it occurs for you, I am making an invitation here, from my spirit to your own.
Every couple of months, I head to Costa Rica to sit in ceremony and to further the transformational work that I already do with my coach each week. Each time I travel to sit in ceremony, I bring a select few people with me.
In ceremony, we discover who we are, merge back with our souls, and heal our hearts. When you come to ceremony with me, we will get to sit in our work together, and I will support you in the weeks leading up to our ceremony, during our time together with the medicine, and in the weeks afterwards.
Leading up to your ceremony, we will get you clear on your intentions, and what there may be to clear out of the way. During our time in ceremony and on retreat, I will support you to trust the medicine, to make sense of what you are being shown, and to continue to choose into your transformation. And after the ceremony, I will support you to integrate and design your life around the shift you have created.
Together, we will create a profound relationship that will remain with us for the rest of our lives. The spots I have available for each ceremony are limited (usually no more than three people at a time), so that we can make the work as powerful, and intimate, as possible.