Just four days ago we were strangers on the same bus. Tonight, we sat around a fire …

My children just got a call through to me on video chat, and now I completely forgot what I wanted to say. They got me through, last night, they pulled me through…

Tonight, we sat around a fire and shared our breathe, our words, our hearts – they are no longer strangers, but endeared to my soul, forever.

Second ceremony began like the first, only this time I did not sit up in anticipation, but instead before drinking my cup, was completely neutral on my bed. Laying with arms outstretched onto the Maloca wooden floor, body on the bed, palms facing up. I was ready to receive, surrender, and let the medicine take me. I was not going to go halfway and committed to the journey, open to receiving whatever was to come. When it was my turn to drink, I asked for a full cup…

It took about 40 minutes before I began to understand something different was upon me. It took that long to realize my body felt heavy, as the purges began all around me in loud, thunderous waves (senses are heightened ten-fold on the medicine so each noise was resoundingly blaring in my ears). Because I am in bed 3, Maestra Marina sings to me third in the lineup, and it was the moment she began my Icaros that I was sped off into something else entirely. It began gently, as I traveled from one childhood home to the next, going in order from my recent to my first memory of “home”, which was the house in the Heights in Vancouver, Washington. I saw the shower curtain with its ocean scene, brightly colored tropical fish. I laughed aloud that I remembered that. The memory went further back and eventually I was a small child standing in my Grandfather’s back yard, his old house in Willows, California. I saw a little girl there, she was crying, and my conscience thought surely this was me, but I quickly discovered it was not me, but my mother as a little girl.

Just as soon as I realized it was her, a hand came and covered her mouth from behind a curtain and pulled her back into darkness. I was afraid, but I said, “I am ready, take me with you”. From that moment, I was standing in a hospital room, watching my Grandmother, whom I’ve never met because she died when my mom was 13, and she was giving birth to my mother. At this point, as the visions were coming, my own hands were touching my face, wiping my brow, and I became my Grandmother, I became my mom. I became all three of us at one time, until the delivery of my mom came, and I caught her from my Grandma, and I held and rocked this tiny brand-new baby, my mom, in my arms. I could hear her crying, I could feel her skin, and all the while I was weeping, but I was unaware. When I was finally aware that I was crying so heavily, I completely surrendered to the pain. The pain was the loss of my Grandmother, the loss of my Mother, the loss of their lives, and their dreams, and eventually, the loss of every single woman that came before them. I was grieving, deeply grieving, and I began to understand with a clarity I have never known before that they pain I was given, the pain my mother passed down to me, was also passed to her, from her mother – and this cycle of generational pain given from woman to child, from mother to daughter, it was not our faults. It was just the pain of generational sin, the pain of darkness, the pain of death. And I willingly took it into myself and felt it, for each of these women.

I understood that I came from them, that they all birthed me, and I said to  them all, as I wept into my hands, that I would be strong enough to endure this, for them. That I too would die, and go through hell, but that I would survive it, when they could not. I would survive it. I vowed that I would try.

My Icaros was a powerful one, and it moved me quickly from visions that resembled real life, human life, waking life, to something else entirely.

I was moved quickly after I committed to the journey, to undertake this for my mother, for my grandma, for her mom and her mom and her mom and her mom – going back to what would be 7 generations, I was moved from that into hell.

What came first was the dissolving of my “self”. I moved into a state where I became the music Maestra was giving me, as wheels and cogs, brightly colored, all moving together. My flesh would shift and drop and slide over and contort, and I quickly lost all sense that I was a human. I lost all sense that I was… Anything at all.

The only consciousness I had as I faded deeper and deeper into this other realm was the center of my forehead, the space between my eyes, the part of me that understood even just barely – it barely clung to this “truth” that I was still “me”, and eventually that faded entirely, until I was… Nothing. Lower than nothing.

That is when it got the most intense, and I died my first death – it was quick and painful, and I only know that of the first – and just when I thought I would come back to “life” it began again. Every sound in that Maloca was taunting me, every voice was shouting, “You thought you could do this, you thought you were strong,” and it would laugh at me, poking fun at the fact that I thought anything was real at all. I began to shout, “my children are real, my kids, my children, they are real – right?” But nobody would answer me. Just laughter, maniacal, evil, taunting laughter. It was the devil, I am sure.

I was so entangled in this other dimension that God ceased to exist. The concept of the universe was lost to me, entirely, and all that was left is darkness, death, nothing, black, dying, rotting, chewing, gnashing of insects. They ate my eyes, they tore my flesh apart until I was glued to the floor, my jaw broken, my voice unable to make sound, and the vines and plants of the earth grew through my skin, and I died for the second time.

I questioned if anything I knew before I drank was real, and even the moment of taking the drink, the two facilitators and Maestra who poured the Uni (Ayahuasca) for me, they were taunting me, and I knew that even that was not real, that it was all an elaborate hoax to get me to hell. And it worked. Every lesson I took into ceremony with me, to breath and center, to stay with it even when you have fear, to keep going and find what grounds me, it all was a part of the psychological torment that was pulling me deeper and deeper into the abyss of hell. I would call out to Jesus and the voice would yell out from every direction, sometimes one word would come from the right and the next word from the left, up down, every which way, but it said to me, “Jesus is not real, you are alone, and you will not make it”. I died for the third time, this time facing a huge mountain.

At point, my skin, my bones, the very physical matter that makes up my human self was dissolved, nothing. I would try and be “conscious” and open my eyes, but when I looked around, when I saw my self, I was nothing. I was the visions themselves, but worse than that, I was nothing. My physical being ceased to matter, ceased to BE entirely. And that in itself was TERRIFYING.

I began to seriously question if I would be stuck this way, if this meant I would never emerge back into the reality I knew before, because it was no longer there. I … was no longer there. I was somewhere I can confidently call hell, and it knew it, and kept me there. Whatever consciousness I could muster was entirely focused on breathing, and I felt myself pawing at the floor, screaming out for help.

Help came, Josalyn came, one of the facilitators, and she asked me, “what is your name”, and I said Christina, and she said, “Yes, you are Christina. Use your power, Christina, you’re doing this, do not give up, you’re almost there, just breathe, Christina, focus on your breathe”. Her voice was surreal, and I almost was convinced it too was imagined, and part of the elaborate game that was torturing me, but eventually she placed her hand on my back and my “self” sensed that, and it grounded me.

I said to her, “Are you real?” And she said, yes, and so are you.

I said, “Is anything real?” And she asked me to find my heart, anything I could hold onto to be grounded, to understand what was real at all. And my children came, into my mind, into the field of vision, but just as quickly hell sucked me back in, and I had to die again.

This cycle, this push and pull between real and another dimension, this fear, this darkness, it was consuming, and then I would catch a moment of clarity. It would be pull me back in, and I would fight it, and then I would have to surrender and let myself die again. This continued for the entire ceremony, and it wasn’t until this morning that I could count it – I died 7 times, and each time was another death of one of my maternal ancestors – the women whom came before me from my mother and far back 7 generations. I am not sure what that means, and I do not know their stories, but I know that what Aya gave me was hell, 7 times.

Eventually Maestro came and sang his Icaros to me, and I was saying to him, begging him, to stop it, to save me, but he couldn’t. I knew that I had to do this myself, and I kept saying, “I trust you, I trust you, please help me”. He blew the sacred Mapacho smoke on me, he blew the flower water over me, and I could feel his love for me, and his lack of fear for what I was experiencing. I could sense that he was not concerned, he was not afraid, and that was my first moment of realizing, okay, I am coming out of this, slowly. It was about ¾ of the way through ceremony at this point, I know that gauging from the first night, the first ceremony, about how long after Maestro sings to me that the ceremony concludes. So I knew, I began to realize, okay, this is almost over.

My visions were not over, but my conscious was finally starting to get bearings into what “reality” was again. I would sway back and forth, and eventually got up enough strength to fully sit upright again, still heavily in the vision state, and I finally opened my eyes. It is darkness, it is night time, when we sit and drink, so you really cannot see much, only in this state, I saw the energy of every single person around me, and I felt held, I felt safe for the first time since it began.

The worst part of the night came, however, right then, right when I started to feel safe. I became an insect, and I became the sounds of nature all around me, and it was TERRIFYING. I was yelling for John from deep inside myself, screaming for him to come and save me but I knew that he couldn’t, and eventually I found my wedding ring on my finger, and this was one of the first physical sensations I experienced that felt even at all “real”. I felt the stones, I felt the circle band, and I felt that it mattered to me, but I could not feel my flesh around it, I could not understand how it was stuck to me, but I knew that it was important, and that was a big deal to have something on my skin ground me so deeply. I saw my first love, his face came to my mind, and I drew strength from that, and in that moment I had a peace that I could love him and that it was okay – it was a brief pause, a brief gift, and an answer to a question I’ve had for many years, and it was indeed a gift in the middle of the storm, yet still my instincts were not formed, and the hell would continue. From there, I became Sheba, the Jaguar – my totem – and I was pawing at the ground, back arched, ready to attack. I was wild, I was ready to fight, and I was not aware of my humanity at all. From there, I began to be me again, only I was getting ready to birth, and from me came the very Universe itself. I felt the pain of labor, I felt the heaviness of the world inside of me, and I birthed the stars, the heavens, the earth, and all the planets. I birthed it and held the white, radiant light in my hands, like a glowing orb of pure energy, and I then sent it up into the sky, and things started to settle down, the visions began to subside a great deal, and I knew that hell was behind me now.

From there, I collapsed into my mat, and I finally started to get an awareness again, a sense, that this was real. That the mat under me was indeed the mat under me, and it was indeed in my flesh again, touching it, feeling it, sensing my breathe, sensing my skin. I slowly, very gradually understood that I was real again, and I would not be stuck in this tormenting hell indefinitely.

I had to go pee really badly, and eventually found my way to my feet. At this point most of the Maloca was sleeping, most of the chaos of my own storm had passed, and I was able to walk myself in the darkness to the bathroom. Shaky, unsteady, unsure, but I managed it. I found my way back to the mat, thanks to the help of the two facilitators, and I collapsed there again. I wanted so much to sleep, I was exhausted, completely spent with zero energy, and no desire at all to even move. My breathe got very still, very quiet, and I wanted to stay there in that spot, on that bed, in that Maloca, forever, because I couldn’t fathom the long walk back to my room.

That quickly passed, though, and I soon found myself sitting up, smoking my Mapacho, which was incredibly grounding. It helped me understand that I was there, in that room, with those people, and it wasn’t all a big elaborate joke, and I was not indefinitely crazy, stuck in this hell. The concept of God came back to me, the concept of Jesus. It was then that I began to understand that Jesus did this very same thing, only he did it for every death that would ever occur, past, present, and future, and I wept for that gift. I wept for that sacrifice, and I knew I would never have the strength to save humanity. I am grateful for that part, because sometimes it can be easy to doubt that it was real, that God gave us redemption from our sins, from hell that we deserve. But He loves us that much that He chose to die for us, and that was a great thought to emerge into.

I know for some, if you know me, if you are radiating skepticism or judgment of this experience that I’ve detailed here, just keep that to yourself. I do not share to scare you, and I have not abandoned my faith, nor do I trust dark magic to save the world. I very much believe in God, in His Creation… I just knew that I needed to heal from some dark shit I’ve faced, and I chose to go a route that is nonconventional, to say the least.

But. But… I chose this freely, and I understood only one thing going into it: I cannot expect, I cannot force, I cannot even predict what will come once I ingest this medicine and the work begins, but I knew, I know, that I had to try. I had to come here, I had to see it for myself.

What I got, this time, was literal hell. Literal. Hell.

I heard recently the 7 layers of hell, well, interesting, because I experienced it last night, and it is not for the weak. Had I not been so strong. Had I not had the help that came right when I was ready to succumb to basically psychosis. Had I not drawn strength from my children, primarily my oldest daughter. Had I not sought out John, and held onto my wedding ring. Had I felt unsafe, untrusting, of the process, and all whove come here before me… Had I not trusted every single person in that room to see me lose my mind, completely, and go into another dimension far beyond what I can ever fully rationalize or explain – I might not be here now, but instead strapped to a bed sedated, because it was THAT hard. It was THAT painful. It was THAT tormenting.

It took everything I knew, every thought, every memory, every purpose, every passion, every love I’ve ever known, every dream I’ve ever remembered – every dogma, every law of nature, every truth about God and the Universe, it took my own breathe away – and it sent me to HELL. I battled with the devil, I battled with the death of my ancestors and suffered their death, their pain, their trauma. I did that.

I knew when I came here that I might face difficult ceremonies, that I might go through “some shit”. But this? This.

I could never have imagined, think of the worst dream you ever, ever had, and throw it into a pile of kiddie stories, because it will not even come close.

I survived that. I survived it.

For my Mother. For my Grandmother. For the 5 generations of women that came before them. I did that. And I am grateful to be sitting here writing this now, and yes, I will do this again, two more times.

They say every ceremony, every experience with the medicine is different, and I have to have hope in that, because I am honestly not sure if I can go through that hell again. But I have to trust, myself, God, and everyone here – everyone who walked this journey before me, because they are some of the most caring, compassionate, and loving people I’ve ever met. They “get” it, and today I was told, “You did it, Christina! You are so brave, you did it”. And I just couldn’t help but smile, because, yes I did.

I will write more after Ceremony 3… Tomorrow night. If you think of me, send me love. I might need it more than I can say.