The Great Mother Aya

I chose to do an ayahuasca ceremony last week in an effort to reach under my ego and to connect with something greater than the “I” we all labour under. I arrived at a farm in Noordhoek at 5:00pm, clutching bedding and a bucket which I had been instructed to bring. The bucket was for the “purge” that often accompanies an ayahuasca experience. The thought of purging in front of a room of strangers while ‘off my trolley’ didn’t exactly fill me with joy. I introduced myself and settled down next to a 67 year old silver haired woman who smiled at me warmly and shared that she was going on this journey to explore herself. I saluted her on her courage and internally scolded and coaxed my own out from where it was hiding, after all, I was sure I was going to need it.

The group was a diverse cross section, ranging from an impossibly good looking Aston Martin driving couple, to a pair of seasoned ‘psychonauts’, who had evidently formed a close relationship with our guide Jacques. I was dressed in virginal white, perhaps in an attempt to hide the stains I have gathered through a lifetime of engaging robustly with the world.

The introductions were brief and Jacques used carefully aimed words sparingly, “If you get lost in there, remember that you will come out and the experience will eventually end…if you get yourself into a knot, come back to my voice, it will guide you back”.

The first serving was offered two by two, I felt trepidation as the strangely familiar earthy brew found its way into my empty stomach. We were encouraged to set an intention for our journey, I listened to the others and was soothed that many were working with similar issues and injuries, I chose rather to be receptive to whatever the experience had to offer.

I could write pages about what happened next (and my journal carries the full weight of those 5 pregnant hours), but this is an exercise in précis, so here goes.

After about 45 minutes I started to feel strangely open, enlivened, slowly the light of the day was beginning to fade which mirrored a feeling of descending into myself. As i dropped deeper, I became aware of my ego based fear walking next to me, like a clucking mother muttering inane, neurotic concerns. I chose to ignore her red herrings and rather connect with the soft tissue of my soul, my wild, tenacious, sometimes wise, gloriously juicy soul that has unflinchingly sustained me throughout this lifetime.

Ayahuasca is a fiercely compassionate teacher. At first she soothed me, asked if I was ready…then she gripped me firmly by the collar and moved me to the precipice of my ego, there, securely terrified, she hung me over the edge and made me look into the chasm where I witnessed parts of myself that words would only strangle. She expertly laid bare my poorly concealed heart wounds and asked me to surrender to the pain beneath, to accept that my defenses were puerile and ineffective and no longer needed if I was to become a creative expression of something greater than myself. If I struggled and pulled away in an effort to avoid the pain, she would hold me fiercely until I surrendered. I surrendered… again and again.

I’m a quick study and soon learned what was required and was able to move through the lessons rapidly. At times the lessons were too intense and I’d have to swim slowly to the surface to find Jacque’s chanting, beautifully containing voice in the tumult, to reconnect and release. I soon realized that the consciousness guiding me through my inner space had a fantastic sense of humor and at times I laughed loudly through my tears which didn’t stop flowing for hours. The Great Mother Aya is not reassuring to the ego, but she certainly supports the soul.

When the purge finally moved through me, it did so with an exquisite ferocity. I emptied the darkness I carried (both mine and my clients) unceremoniously into my woefully small bucket. It kept coming. It was messy, it was grueling, it was liberating. And finally, after what felt like eternity, I was empty, leaving space for clear soothing breaths. The storm subsided and I was left feeling like I’d just given birth. Lying there covered in snot, vomit and tears, I’d never felt so clean. I laughed again at the sheer absurd beauty of it all.

One of the great insights I still carry, is the realization of how we have all suffered from being separated from the Universal Mother from our first disorientating breath, a collective separation anxiety. The story of our expulsion from an Edenic state seems to be much older than our recent recollection of it. I became supremely aware that we are not, nor have we ever been alone.

All our addictions, whether it be to a person, a narrative, money, power, or a substance, are mere attempts at merging again with the Infinite. We become obsessed with the minutiae and forget the bigger picture.

Many of us have been so wounded by religion, that we forget that we have a spiritual dimension and this disconnection is making us sick. I could carry on about this for hours but it would sound like proselytizing, so I’ll step away from the pulpit.

Only now, almost a week later have I begun to find poorly fitting words for such a numinous experience. I am humbled to my core. I am grateful that I have what is left of this precious life to be a midwife to healing.

I realize that as a therapist I can no longer in good faith work only with mind, to the exclusion of the spirit.

Perhaps ayahuasca is actually from the tree of knowledge, for it connects one to the Source in a way that I have never before encountered.

Confronting ones Shadow, dropping into the boneyard is difficult work, but once you can just stay in it and feel the intensity which you have defended against your whole life, then the fear dissipates and healing can begin.

There are so many roads to healing the wounds we all carry, but only if we are prepared to do the work.

Jamie Elkon

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