Last year, I did something that changed my life completely. No, it wasn’t a new haircut, or a new job. No. I went to Peru in search of relief for the pain I was suffering…and I found it.
For many years I have had crippling back pain. Most of my friend with back pain know what caused it: weight loss or weight gain, injuries, dancing, a fall etc. But my back pain was insidious – I had no idea how I’d gotten it and nothing seemed to work. On top of that, I was a cancer survivor. I’d had stage three breast cancer and had a double mastectomy in 2012. I was in pain physically, but also mentally. I had depression since I was a young woman and have been admitted to hospital several times for it. I’d struggled with it over my life but couldn’t seem to shake the black dog off.
My journey to Peru started when my son told me about a jungle medicine that could be found in the Amazon. I initially didn’t want to hear about it. I was never a drug taker, nor did I enjoy drinking, and I was vehemently against anything that altered my state of consciousness. But when he played me video after video of people saying that this medicine had changed their lives, something went off in my head. It seemed like what I had been looking for my entire life, but was it too good to be true? (No) What were the risks? (Very few, if any). The medicine in question was ayahuasca, a vine-based hallucinogenic brew that has been used for thousands of years throughout the Amazon jungle. It has powerful healing qualities not limited to the eradication of mental illnesses and physical ailments. In a fantastic article by Fox News, they perfectly summed up ayahuasca’s benefits: “Powerfully psychedelic, ayahuasca is proving surprisingly effective at helping people with what are known as “idiopathic” health disorders, those of unknown origin. Chronic fatigue, recurring headaches, post traumatic stress and various complications arising from physical and sexual abuse are among the persistent health problems that are often greatly aided – and sometimes completely resolved – by drinking ayahuasca under the supervision of a highly trained shaman”.
This story is quite a long one, so I will condense it, but if you have any interest in the simply incredible work that ayahuasca does, then you can research it online. Otherwise, I could do a follow up article if enough people were interested.
So, I boarded a plane to Los Angeles to embark on single most important journey of my life. I arrive in LA, jetlagged, and was immediately boarded onto a plane to Lima, Peru. I found the centre I wanted to go to online, and read many reviews before I settled on it. It was set deep in the Peruvian Amazon, and was run by Canadians in conjunction with native Shipibo shaman who administered the medicine. From Lima, I took a small chartered flight to the jungle city of Iquitos, which is now a popular tourist destination for people all over the world who have come to reap the benefits of ayahuasca, sometimes as a last resort. A man I spoke to on the plane explained to me that if this didn’t work, he was going to kill himself. It was a harrowing conversation, but when you arrive and speak to more people, you see how desperate they are to try anything to get better.
Iquitos was hot, sticky and filled with ‘gringos’ i.e. white tourists. I was taken from the airport to a port where a boat was waiting for me and about 8 other people. We travelled down the Amazon river for about an hour before arriving at a muddy shore. We walked for 45 minutes and finally arrived to our home for 28 days.
Fast forward to my first ayahuasca ceremony – it was held in a huge bamboo and wood structure called a maloka, in complete darkness – and I was sh*tting myself. I was so worried. I was a 62-year-old amongst a room full of 20 and 30 year olds and I had never “tripped” before. Everyone in the ceremony drinks a small amount of the plant-based brew and, after 45 minutes to an hour, it kicks in. The medicines takes you on a journey, sometimes scary, sometimes beautiful. The best way to describe it is like being awake in a dream. You can open your eyes and not see anything but close them and be immersed in a story of your life. I saw my children, my husband, and then I saw lives I’d lived before this one. It’s too hard to describe what I saw in full but it was absolutely life changing. To quote Fox News again so that I don’t ramble on: “People may experience lavish visions, may go on journeys of the mind, and very often find themselves re-living or recalling events or circumstances that have caused problems in their lives. Through the ayahuasca ceremony, grief and trauma may be resolved in a night or two. This rapid and seemingly unlikely resolution has modern psychiatrists worldwide looking closely at ayahuasca”.
I had to participate in 8 ceremonies all up, with a 3 day space between each. Each one was different, but each time I was less nervous. I wanted to work through the things that had caused me pain…and each day after a ceremony, I felt lighter and more wonderful. Yes, there is one downside to taking the medicine – you “purge”. Purging is not to be confused with vomiting, as vomiting has negative connotations. Purging is seen as more of a cleanse, and truly feels different to a normal throw-up. Black liquid expels itself from your mouth and tastes horrid, but it feels brilliant. It’s like getting rid of all the badness you’ve had within; a true cleanse of the body.
I could go on for days about what happened in that jungle, but the thing I repeat over and over is that it changed my life and rescued me. I recommend it to absolutely anyone who has suffered for far too long. I no longer have back pain and my depression has completely vanished. I am also in remission too. I feel no fear to do anything.
The scientific research into ayahuasca is growing every day as more and more people realise just how transformative this jungle brew is. I implore you to read about it. It has an unheard of ability to rewire your brain and naturally help you to produce serotonin, something that antidepressants and other SSRIs inhibit over time.
It’s a marvellous breakthrough that it is now accessible to Westerners…but would you be game to try it? Tell us your thoughts below.