The overwhelming force of the ayahuasca experience presents us with a pretty simple choice. On the one hand, we can surrender to it, opening ourselves up to the full meaning of the word "entheogen" - having Divine Presence enter every level of our being and remove every obstacle to its path in the process. On the other, we can learn to manage it.
"You shall know the tree by its fruit."
It's pretty obvious when we meet people who've chosen the former path - they have a sweetness and a light that is unmistakable. The word gets thrown about in a trite and abominable way, but in this case it's true - they are childlike. They are innocent of the crimes of this world. They are beautiful on the inside, whatever their outsides look like.
The second category can be a bit trickier. The managers of the ayahuasca experience often have a pretty good rap. It's a part of their management. They can sound good. But their actions are another story - behavior does not match rhetoric, in alarming ways. Inevitably one finds significant holes in their spiritual development.
Were they to examine these holes, they would experience profound discomfort. The avoidance of this discomfort is the reason people choose to manage the ayahuasca experience.
This management can occur at every level - physical (purging, not purging), mental (allowing or refusing to admit difficult teachings), emotional (allowing or resisting tears or other expression), spiritual (limiting or not the amount of God we allow in). We can choose not to drink at all. We can choose to smoke marijuana to mitigate the full impact of the experience.
Hah! You see where I'm going with this, don't you?
This is what makes the second category the trickiest of all - almost all of us fall into it, in one way or another. Who among us can indefinitely sustain the full force of ayahuasca dismantling? People crack up from such stuff.
The vast majority of us, particularly those of us with serious trauma in our past, have to manage our relationship to ayahuasca. To do otherwise is suicidal, and in some cases homicidal. I recently visited an ayahuasca community that had its leader murdered a few years ago - they let a young man drink with them who never should have done it, and he snapped. His was a case in which management was neglected, with terrible consequences.
For the committed medicine drinker, then, management is a necessary evil. Perhaps the crucial distinction lies between the strategic and the tactical. At the strategic level we must abandon ourselves to God as expressed through this Holy Sacrament. We must strive to have our tiny individual wills utterly supplanted by His and Hers. We must completely let go of any attempt to manage the ultimate outcome - union with the Divine.
We must also recognize that this is a very long and difficult process. This brings us to the level of the tactical, at which management is not only forgivable but necessary. We must eat this meal in bites. All the nutrition in the world won't do us any good if we choke to death taking it in.
And the entire time we are using our various tricks and tools to manage this essentially unmanageable experience, we must remember that nothing can or should stop our ultimate total surrender. That's the real trick. Never to confuse form and essence.
Perhaps that first group I mentioned, the ones who have been so utterly cleaned and purified by the medicine, were simply very adept at their management of the ayahuasca experience. Perhaps they had a keen, persistent grasp of the difference between the strategic and the tactical. Perhaps they said a prayer something like this:
"God, please bring me to you in a way that I can manage."
God bless you, whoever you are.