Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ayahuasca and Intention, Part 2

I stated that my own intentions surrounding ayahuasca have been clean. I think that's a fair assessment. Unfortunately, until pretty recently they were also unrealistic and unsustainable.

I conceived of my present journey as being equivalent to draining a vast pool of trauma and the negative emotion surrounding it. In that process, my own experience of growing re-traumatization was to be ignored. It was the price demanded by this nebulous and ill-defined concept, "healing". I needed to be a dauntless spiritual warrior, limitless in my capacity to absorb pain.

This approach stopped working. A few months ago, as the intensity of my experience began to reach an unbearable level, I started considering the possibility that drinking ayahuasca was just too much for me. I considered stopping.

I talked with some very wise and trusted friends in my community about this. They were unanimous: they told me to take a break. They told me to rest and take care of myself and assimilate the vast amount of material I'd already been given to work with.

They also told me to ask the spirit of Ayahuasca for what I want. To set an intention.

This is the crucial point for me. In my life I have been an addict and alcoholic. I have gotten used to viewing substances as just that - substances; objects that I use to achieve a particular result. The notion of entering into a dialogue with the spirit contained within these plants has been a new one for me. At first it seemed strained, even false.

As it turns out, my friends were right on both counts. Taking a two-month break from drinking ayahuasca was absolutely crucial, allowing me to absorb, process, and integrate the information I had already received. Setting a clear intention for what I wanted to get out of my next ceremony was also vital to my continuing on this path.

"What I wanted" isn't even the correct phrase. I had asked for help with that before - "Give me guidance on this or that particular issue." What was different this last time was that I made requests regarding the "how" of it. Specifically, I asked that my next ceremony be as gentle as possible. That it not leave me broken afterwards. That it show me that this path I've chosen truly is manageable and sustainable in my life.

I was delighted to find that I got my request. I've now had 3 ceremonies in a row that have been gentle and nurturing in a way I didn't know the medicine could be. This experience has been hugely illuminating for me.

Growing up in an abusive home conditioned me to think of myself as powerless - an object at the mercy of the whims of crazy people. 12 years in 12-step programs, though helpful in many ways, reenforced this notion of powerlessness drastically. More and more, I am coming to see it as incompatible with medicine work.

This idea of real, meaningful agency in my own life is a new one for me. Assimilating it is both exhilarating and scary. It forces me to examine the payoff I've always gotten from my distress - if I'm a victim, I don't have to take responsibility for my own life. If I'm a victim, it doesn't matter what intention I set - the result will always be me getting hurt.

This fundamental lesson I learned as a child was a lie. Recovering from it is the central part of my healing at this point. The medicine will accept nothing less from me.

What then is my intention for working with ayahuasca? Today it sounds a little like the following prayer:

"Please gently clean and illuminate me so that I may live to my fullest potential and help show others how to do the same."

God bless you, whoever you are.

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