In the darkness time stops. The light from the moon the only illumination once the four candles are extinguished, and even so we were told to keep eyes closed as much as possible. Nature sings loudly in the surrounding trees and open, starry sky, this the only sound except for the occasional shifting of someone in their spot. You sit, and you wait. For a beautiful unknown.

Ceremony begins as Maestro and Maestra come in, beautifully adorned in bright colors and distinct patterns. The candles light their faces, and you begin to sense the energy has shifted – something is about to begin. For many minutes, I cannot be sure how long, they do nothing that I can sense, or at least nothing I am understanding. They are quietly sitting in the middle of the Maloca, smoking on the mapacho cigarettes which are the guide of the entire thing, throughout the night, and you wait to drink. Eventually the silence is broken by one voice and she calls the number 1. Bed 1, 2… My turn, bed 3. With a deep breathe I stood, nodded in silence to my neighbor returning to his seat beside me, and walked stepping lightly to sit in front of Maestra. She smiles, I bow and give thanks to her and Uni, the drink being poured in the clear glass cup in front of us both. Nervous, I take my cup, raise it to God to give me strength for what comes, and take it in. Prunes – it tastes like fermented prune juice, except slightly more bitter. Honestly I really did not mind it, and the surprise that it was not as disgusting as I had always heard was a warm welcome reprieve to help calm my nerves. I bow once more, give thanks to her, they hand me a Mapacho and I hear from one of the facilitators on either side of the Shaman, “have a great journey”.

The circle drinks, one by one, each getting a different dose. For those who’ve drank before, they were given the choice to have the entire cup, and I think they all did that. For those of us new, about 3/4ths of the circle, we got maybe slightly less than half the glass full. Each was preparing for their road ahead, each of us sitting in wait, most of us quite nervous to accept what was coming, whatever that would be.

You are told not to expect, to react, to fight it. You are told in the orientation hours before ceremony that it is different for us all, even from night to night. You are told to trust the journey: Trust the medicine, trust the healers, trust the energy, and trust yourself.

Expectations were the first thing I faced, because for what seemed like most of the night, I felt relatively normal. My vision was distorted whenever I did open my eyes – whatever light I could find was buzzing, almost as if I could see the energy in all the light around me. A vibration, really. The extent of the alterations only ever went that far for most of the night. It was not until about two hours in – what I assume is two hours maybe longer – that Maestro came to sing me my Icaros, the songs they channel to facilitate healing for each of us individually. It is said they are channeling from the medicine itself to give us what we need, and I believe his link is a powerful one. When Maestra sang for me, close to the start of ceremony (they go around the room, starting on opposite sides and ceremony concludes about 45 minutes after everyone has had their two songs sang by he and she) when she sang for me, I felt nothing. I sat up straight and listened to her beautiful voice. She was gentle with me, I sensed that, and I felt a loving presence from her which I needed, because I was rather frustrated at that point to be feeling “nothing much at all”.

When Maestro came, however, he pulled something from me. It was… pulled. That is truly the only way I can describe it. I felt this overwhelming need to cry, and before I had even realized that, I felt hot tears pouring from my eyes – I was not aware of this until the first wave came up, and it felt like my chest was being pulled out of my throat. Wave after wave came, and during the entire song that he sang to me, I was overtaken, surrendering to what was going on inside of me. The sensation of the tears themselves, the waves of energy he was reaching in with his voice and pulling out – I cannot describe it better than that, unfortunately. I think you must experience it. He was taking it from me, coaxing it out with such power, such a force, that my body was literally swaying to and from him, with each wave. I am not sure how long he sang, but eventually after blowing Mapacho to cover the song, and protect me, he moved his mat to the person to my right, and their song began.

What I saw as he sang to me… What I saw…

Myself, dead. Not dying, not fighting for life, but dead. In a casket. I was within my lifeless body, my spirit understanding that I was gone, and all I could see, all I wanted, was my children. It started with Layla, I saw her weeping eyes, and I felt the crushing intensity of her sorrow. Then from there, Jemma, her brown eyes red, her shoulders bobbing with each heavy wave of pain. I saw Delaney, and heard her voice cry out, “Mama, no, Mama… Come back!” I saw my son, my Bear, my little John… held in his daddy’s arms, completely unaware of what was happening, but leaning in, trying to get to me, trying to break free from his father’s hands to lay against my chest, but his crying dad would not let him, just held him tighter. I saw my husband, silently crying, staring down at his wife. Then, I was screaming, “No, I cannot leave them, no, please…” And just in that moment I understood that my time was over, that they could not hear me, and I could not get to them anymore. I felt the weight of that absolutely obliterate me, and in that surrender to the truth, that their mother was dead – that I … I was dead – just as quickly they turned their backs to me and walked away. And I understood in that moment that once I am gone, they will move on, and their lives will go on, but I will not. The sadness, the finality of that? Well, to say it was intense, I cannot even begin to cover just how much it hurt me.

Just as quickly as Maestro pulled this from me, pulled my tears out and I sat sobbing there for however long the vision lasted, the visions left, and I felt for a few minutes cold, nothing, empty. Nothingness. Emptiness. Nothingness. Emptiness. I was done. I was dead. And I knew they would go on but never be the same without me. It was … Sorrowfull. Very, very heavy.

Soon after a new awareness overcame me. This time it was renewal, it was purpose, it was … Happiness. Immediately I felt (but did not “see”) what I was to do. What was to come. I realized like as if coming up from holding my breathe under water that I AM still breathing. I realized, “I am still here”. My hands touched my face, where the tears had been streaming down, and wiped the tears away. My heart opened up, and I knew – I am here, still. There is still time. There is still time.

So I sensed that what I would do was to love them while I am here, while I have the chance. I felt like what I would do is sit down and build domino tracks with Jemma (I got her a huge fun domino set for Christmas), I would get on the ground with Bear and Laney, and play with them (I could almost feel Delaney’s arms around me neck, and the sensation made me smile so wide). I would talk with Layla and paint her nails and get them in the kitchen with me to make Christmas dinner. I was smiling, thinking, knowing, believing that I am still here. I am still here, and I have the chance to do this right, it is NOT too late. I had the sense that I did not WANT them to go on without me, I did not WANT them to experience losing their mother, the way I lost my own. I did not WANT to be without them, and that joy I’ve been missing, the happiness I’ve been longing for, it comes from them, my children. And I realized I missed that, I did not understand that, because the joy and happiness I’ve craved and searched for was always supposed to come from something, from someone, else.

It was beautiful to see so clearly the stark contrast between life, for them, without me, and life WITH me being fully present. I did not ask for this vision, I did not ask for these truths, and I did not ask for this lesson, but it needed to find me, it needed to come, and so Maestro pulled it out of me, completely and totally, because prior to him sitting right in front of me, hours after ceremony began and I drank, I basically had felt NOTHING.

Ceremony concluded and I admit I was frustrated at that point, again, because it seemed the only thing I would get for the duration of my first experience with Uni (Ayahuasca) was disappointment that I felt “nothing”, frustration that my mind was getting in the way (I was trying to force it, I think) and then that one clear, very sad but then beautiful “vision” or really just a knowing, towards the end, once the sadness wore off and I knew it was about being with my children. By the end of ceremony I was frustrated, disappointed, and I thought, ‘that was it?! This is so not what I signed up for…’

We each walked back to our rooms, it was about 1230 by the time we got into our room. John had basically the same “lack of experience” as me, but turns out I did get the gift from Maestro for that one vision I did have; he had nothing, he said, and too felt quite frustrated. It was hard to fall asleep, I wanted to so bad but my mind would not stop chattering.

Eventually morning came and it is now 12:30. Today we each had our individual consulta with the Shaman, Maestra Teo and Maestro Merina (I need to check spelling for their names, I apologize if I’ve gotten it wrong). This time is used to discuss with them briefly why each of us was called here, what our intentions are for ceremony space, and any thing we want to specifically address during the medicine process.

Prior to that, my time was at 10:20am, we had breakfast together. It was during breakfast it hit me out of nowhere, a vision I was up until then unaware that I had during ceremony. There is no way for me to know when this happened, at what space of time it occurred, but I know that it did.

A mirror, my “self” (the me I know, the me I recognize) and behind me, pressed against my back, was my other me. The mirror reflected us both, but I could not see ‘her’ face. I knew instinctively that this must be the part of myself I repress, the part of me I cannot understand – the part of me I am perhaps unaware of most of the time. What is funny is as I was remembering this vision, and the fear it caused me to face that unknown part of myself seemingly always with me, the song “Shadows” by Amy Grant began to play in my mind, during the vision, and again at breakfast:

There are two of me, one does the right thing one cannot see
Standing back to back, who is the strong one in the last act
Every path I take, roads I go down, choices I make
Take me right between patches of light and darkness in me
Oh we have to keep a watch on our shadows
Every move we secretly make
We try to be so close to heaven
But then our shadows, they pull us away
Pull us away

I cannot even write these lyrics, I cannot even hear the melody in my head, without crying, and I am deeply taken aback…
I knew this song when I was just a little, small girl, and I could not have known what it truly meant, but I definitely learned last night.

The shadow in me. The part I Cannot Face. The part I did not want to even look it, because it scares me so much to accept that is a part of me, but there she was. At the breakfast table my face must have gone blank and I audibly said, “Whoa….” As the memory of this vision hit me all at once. I began to cry, in front of everyone at our table, and each looked on at me, open, accepting. I told them what I had just remembered, and that I was afraid to face my shadow… One man then said, you know I read this thing about Buffalos. When there is a big storm coming, most animals run, take shelter, and wait for it to come and then pass, but buffalos, as a group, they literally run head on into the storm, until they reach the other side. It passes more quickly to face your storm, head on, run into it, and do not be afraid. That stuck with me, deeply, and I think I will carry that with me to ceremony tonight.

So, going into the consultation I told the Shaman what happened before, my new revelation, and what my intentions were for ceremony to come. I told them a bit about my “trauma”, that I was literally born with a broken heart and have never really felt truly connected to my “self”, but always have been tied down by a sense of sadness, longing, and darkness inside of me. I told them about my mother and one specific trauma tied to her, and losing great love. I told them that I want to know true joy, and stop being taken over by this darkness inside of me. That I wanted to understand it, and finally be at peace with all aspects of myself – and I wanted to understand my shadow. I wanted to merge with it, and finally be whole again.

They were very sweet to me, and what they said is for me alone, but I am going into ceremony tonight renewed and ready. I’ve been praying to God all day today, to give me strength and peace. And yes, even though I know I’ve stepped into a new realm and put my trust in these healers, I do still absolutely believe God understands, and He is with me still. I am grateful for that faith, and for the freedom to choose this path…

I am ready for whatever comes. Right now, though, what comes is lunch, and I must be prompt at 1pm. More to come later. Love you all, from the sunny shores of Costa Rica. Thanks for following along.

Please, I welcome your thoughts, perspective, and new ideas on anything I have written here!

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