Trying to describe the magic of an Ayahuasca ceremony is like trying to describe how it feels to fall in love. Whether the experience is dark, heart-opening, or a spectrum of everything, this medicine defies the rules of language and duality.
Ayahuasca is a portal into unity, and in that space, the rules fall away. Our structured beliefs around what is actually possible get blasted to bits. We are catapulted into the reality of infinite consciousness, and drinkers receive the opportunity to view limitations as mind constructs, not truth. We get to know, experientially, how everything is connected, and how anything is possible.
Since I’ve been blessed to sit in hundreds and hundreds of ceremonies, I’ve seen so many incredible synchronicities, healings, and epically beautiful events. Whether I sit as participant, facilitate, or drink alone, I am always prepared for profundity. I always gear up to have my mind blown.
She is never boring, our beloved plant Mother, even when she’s subtle. In honor of her awesomeness, I have compiled five of my favorite Ayahuasca memories. I kept these very personal to protect revealing things about others’ journeys that are private and sacred.
Since one of my very favorite past times is hearing / reading the Ayahuasca blessings received by others, I thought I’d share a few of mine as a ploy to get you to share yours too. Please add to the conversation by commenting and giving me the gift of feeling this medicine through your lens too.
Oh, and by the way, my favorite ceremony synchronicity is not on this list because it deserves its own post. One of these days I’ll share the epic event that got me to dedicate my life to this process. But for now, these are golden. And I hope they inspire you too.
#5 The Very First Ayahuasca Journey
I first drank Ayahuasca because I followed a boy to the jungle. A rather famous boy who is one of the best special effects creators for horror films. He was my love at the time, and I would have followed him into a black hole. Which is not that dissimilar from agreeing to fly to the Amazon jungle and drink a powerful psychotropic plant brew that no one else in my life had ever heard of. But off we went.
Before the first ceremony, I had a horrifyingly intense flood of emotions. It was very clear to me this was not a drug experience (of which I had had gazillions – always seeking a space of wholeness and healing). Had I not found myself deep into the Amazon, I would have run away.
Since that wasn’t possible, I dove in and drank the brew.
What a glorious, beautiful, special night my first date with Aya was. She was very visual for me, only everything appeared in cartoon images, which I know she did to lighten the drama and pain of what I was experiencing. She showed me how toxic I was. She pulled out black tar from my belly, yanked ashen fabric from my throat, and spent most of the evening cleaning every chakra and crevice in my being-ness. It was obvious I was extremely toxic and messy, but it was equally obvious I was in good hands.
I also met my primary animal totem. She arose from my chest; a stunning and regal black jaguar who told me her name was Sacha. I would later learn this was a Quechua word that meant “forest” and “wild”. She is now tattooed on my right arm. I love her beyond words.
By far the most amazing moment of that initial ceremony was the very first thing I ever heard Ayahuasca say to me:
“You will bring thousands of people to this work.”
To which I replied, “I’m not sure I’m ever going to drink this stuff again, let alone be your marketing director, but we will see.”
1 Ayahuasca, 0 Kat. That would be a trend.
#4 Healing Bulimia with Ayahuasca
I spent my twenties and part of my thirties battling bouts of bulimia and horrible issues with self-image. Even four years into drinking the medicine, I still fell into this trap at times, and it destroyed me inside. I had healed migraine headaches, asthma, suicidal thoughts, manic-depression, chronic back pain, and a boatload of emotional trauma. But I still hadn’t addressed the issues of body image and a deep-ceded need to feel in control.
Enter an epic medicine cycle. We were drinking six nights in a row this round, so I prepared for some intense work. I was assisting and organizing, as usual, so I had a lot of responsibilities. When the first night hit, I became seriously ill. I felt stomach pain so intense I prayed for death. Every breath hurt like hell. I sat in stillness as best I could, watching the ceremony unfold, but I was in agony.
My teacher, who I also sat beside, did not do any healings for me that night. The second night was more of the same. Nightmarish physical pain, and not much else. He doctored just about everyone in the room, but not me. And I knew this was by design.
Night three repeated the pattern. To add to the awfulness, I had not been able to purge either. Something was stuck inside me.
By night four, I was beside myself with fear to drink again. Each night as the medicine wore off, my pain would subside, but I just couldn’t take another round of torture. I knew there had to be a reason for my suffering. As I drank the medicine that night, my intention was simple: Please tell me why my stomach hurts.
The pain kicked in at warp speed again. So did my desperation. I didn’t have it in me to hold space for this anymore. The room was hopping with intense healing, and people needed my support. I became frantic to heal this.
I made my way to the bathroom and tried to force myself to purge. I was good at throwing up. Bulimics are purging pros. I slammed my finger down my throat, but nothing came. I heard the medicine laugh at me.
So I returned to my seat with humility and sadness. Loads and loads of tears flowed.
I then saw myself in a vision, naked and smiling. My body was perfectly imperfect. She had her lumps and flaws, but they looked like battle scars I was insanely proud of. I saw myself as beautiful.
Ayahuasca’s hands appeared in front of me then, and she placed them on my throbbing belly. I felt breath flowing on the skin of my stomach, and this huge release begin to simmer up inside me. I felt overwhelmed with self-love and gratitude. And I knew in that moment what the stomach pain was all about.
I was cooking in the karma of my choice to control food in – and out. There were grave repercussions to bulimia on a physical and spiritual level (something I will talk about in depth at a later date), but Ayahuasca was allowing me the full experience of that energy.
I willingly burned through my karma that night, with honor and gratitude. I finally had a big, massive, beautiful purge, and as I did, I felt the pain I used to feel when I forced myself to throw up dissipate and release.
And that was the moment I healed bulimia. I have never again binged and purged. And it was worth every moment of the agony to move through that addiction.
#3 – The First Time I Sang an Icaro
I apprenticed for six years or so before the teacher I was working with at the time started encouraging me to sing the icaros.
I was terrified to sing in ceremony. Like, to the point of passing out. The responsibility of holding the energy of the space through song, of moving the vibrations and re-weaving the tapestries – I couldn’t fathom that I had the ability to be such a clear and grounded vessel.
Plus, I was always teased about my terrible singing voice.
I had a lot of story surrounding why it was a terrible idea that I ever sing in ceremony. But the man I was working with put it this way:
“If the medicine gives you a song to sing and you refuse, you are refusing her gift to you.”
Shit. That didn’t sound like a good idea.
That night in ceremony, of course, a song came. It came hard and fast. It was a variation of a song I adored from my teacher, but it came to me with a different melody. That’s how I knew it was given to me to sing.
I waited for my opening as the shaman ran the energies. He paused to rest at one point, and the energy of the room was intensely palpable. I asked Aya, “Is it time?” She answered by opening my mouth and pushing out the sound.
As I sang, I shook uncontrollably. But it was happening. I could see the music coming down through my head charka as a pool of pink and yellow light. When it came out my mouth, it was a full on kaleidoscope of colors. The energy would at times swoop all the way down to the tips of my toes, and as I sang it out, my voice would grow stronger. Then it swirled into my heart and come out ever so softly.
It had a life of its own, and I was the vessel it chose to dance with. I had tears rolling down my face too.
Because of my nerves, I hadn’t bothered to look at the room much during the song, but as I did, I noticed the shaman I was working with had been bowing at my feet in reverence. My voice cracked when I saw him, and I leaned in and let the energy of love from my heart and the icaro bathe him in healing light.
When it was over, he looked up at me with tears and beamed his gratitude. The whole room felt transformed – blissful, feminine, heavenly.
And the coolest thing to my mind was this: My voice isn’t too shabby on the medicine. It’s even pretty at times. I can’t duplicate that in the shower and I would still get boo-ed off American Idol, but my partnership with Ayahuasca creates harmonies even I get lost in.
It turns out singing in ceremony is one of the most incredible blessings I get to experience. Every time is an honor.
And to think I wanted to resist this delightful blessing. Fear is a funny thing.
#2 – Ayahuasca has a Message for Tori Amos
Since I was sixteen years old and a copy of Little Earthquakes landed in my piano-playing paws. I have been madly, ridiculously devoted to singer-songwriter Tori Amos. In my angsty teenage years, she made me feel normal. She spoke my language, and gave a voice to the misfits who believed in faeries and didn’t need poetry to make sense to the mind.
I followed her across the country one year, seeing over 80 shows. To date, I’ve seen her 174 times, including late night TV show appearances and talk shows. I was a full on groupie. I even met her a few times at Meet and Greets, once crying on her shoulder and telling her she keeps me alive sometimes, thank you. At which time she told me to find my spirit mother and to dismiss “god with a little g – the one you were programmed to fear.”
Eleven years after those wise words landed, I was in the jungle drinking Ayahuasca for the first time. The medicine told me she and Tori were good friends. I actually argued in my head, telling Ayahuasca I would know if Tori had done this, as I knew her well.
Once again, Aya was right, and I was wrong. Tori did know her well, but she hadn’t been very vocal about the usage.
Then came a song called Strong Black Vine. Although she’s a bit sneaky in how the song’s lyrics reference Ayahuasca, it’s hard to deny lines like, “Strong black vine / submission / is my mission…. – lay back / concentrate,” are about anything other than ceremony if you’ve been there. This live version of Strong Black Vine is a must watch too – the second half is all impromptu Tori magic, not on the record, and is the closest to a sonic re-creation of what it feels like to be deep in the medicine that I’ve ever found. “Push that evil in you…!” It’s amazing.
Anyway, I was in ceremony a few years ago when Aya told me she had a message for Tori Amos. I had long since given up following the piano maven to and fro, so I didn’t quite know what to do with Aya’s request. I listened, and set it aside. When on earth would I ever met Tori again?
Fast forward a few weeks to my 39th birthday party. This dynamic, fiery woman I adored from the medicine circle came to my party. We all played Celebrity – a game where you put famous and infamous names into a bowl and mime them out, scoring points for each correct guess. Of course, I threw in Tori’s name. And so did this awesome dynamo of a woman. We had NO idea we were mutual fans. So we gossiped and gabbed up a storm when the party ended.
About a week later, she called with amazing news – she had won back stage tickets to Tori’s show in Denver, and would I like to go with her?
Once again, my mind bowed to the magic of the medicine.
Of course I attended. I brought a piece of the vine and gave it to Tori when we went backstage. I delivered Aya’s message, which she received with both amusement and shock. It was an utterly amazing experience. This is a photo from the event and I look like I’m not even in my body. Because I wasn’t. Tori and Ayahuasca are my goddess guides, and I got to play a role in their connection.
#1 – In Search of Soul Cat
When you’re wholly dedicated to a path the requires tremendous sacrifice, there are days when the next layer of what you’re letting go reveals itself. For the human side, those days suck.
One of my most painful days was the one where my husband and teacher/shaman had a massive fall-out, and it became abundantly clear to me I was going to have to choose between my marriage and my devotion to Aya. Not because my husband didn’t get along with my teacher, but because his way of living was not in alignment with what I was called to do. It wasn’t fair to ask him to be inauthentic, and I knew I couldn’t play the old role anymore either. As his partner, as the woman completely entangled in his energies, that left me no choice but to make a choice. And I was destroyed.
We had a ceremony that night, and I have never entered that space with more of a breakdown. It was obvious to everyone I had been crying all day, but I pulled it together, gave love to every participant, and considered what my intention would be for the evening. Normally I ask to be shown things about being of service, worked on being more present to my process and the room – work stuff.
This night I decided it was OK to be selfish. My request: To reconnect with my deceased kitty, a being everyone knew was my soul cat. This creature who broke my heart more than anyone else will ever be able to. His name was Mr. Boo.
As much as I am an afterlife communicator, Boo had alluded me since his death two years before. I had yet to feel him near me on the other side, so I decided to travel through the cosmos and find him.
I had a good deal of medicine that night; my mission required it. The room was solid and strong for a spell, so I made good on my intention. I felt like I was traveling through dimensions, turning up every stone in the multi-verse, looking for the soul of my beloved cat.
Nothing. I found nothing.
My pain and panic started to build. What if he wasn’t out there? That would shatter my foundation. It would hurt worse than it did when he died in my arms. If Boo wasn’t out there somewhere looking for me too, then I didn’t have anything to trust or believe in.
I had to find him.
So I kept looking. For two hours or more. Diving into the kaleidoscopic energies, swirling into black holes and unfamiliar spaces.
But no Boo. I became wholly convinced he was gone; sucked back into the void and beyond my reach.
My heart broke. I silently sobbed as purging raged through the room. The grief was so intense I thought I might collapse and give up. I had lost my soul cat, and was losing my husband and soulmate too. Where was the exit? I wanted out.
I hung my head and closed my eyes and felt the avalanche of tears. Then I felt…something. Subtle, but strong. It almost felt like something cleared its throat to get my attention.
Aya whispered, “Look down.”
I opened my eyes and there he was. My favorite creature in the whole world. Those big glowing green eyes, a mess of black fur, and a booty so big I always teased him, “You put the Boo in Boo-tay.”
He had emerged from my heart. He had been there all along, hanging with my black jaguar totem. I could feel him tell me, “What, you thought I had wandered off into the cosmos without you? Silly, silly girl.”
I cried and giggled and energetically hugged my cat. Seriously, I thought, it doesn’t get any cheesier or more epic than this. Of COURSE he’s right here with me. And I had to wonder the galaxy for a soulmate who had never even left my side.
Yes, he’s still with me. He told me he’ll be the first being to greet me when I crossover, and I believe him. That’s yet another reason why I don’t fear death. The Boo is waiting for me, and Aya made that reunion possible.
So there you have it. Five magical memories that could each be a book they were so rich with meaning and deliciousness. There are hundreds more, and an infinite amount to be experienced.
But make no mistake, this plant brings the magic. If you want to step into the portal of conscious synchronicity, she delivers. It’s nothing a mere human could ever get used to. Not that we’d want to.
What a gift it is to stay in the space of awe.
OK, your turn – if you’ve had a magical moment or two or twenty with this magnificent plant spirit, I want to hear about it. Leave it in a comment below – I promise to read and respond to every one.
Blessings and love to each of you <3
About the Author
Tina “Kat” Courtney, The AfterLife Coach, is a traditionally trained Ayahuasquera and a vocal advocate for all sacred psychedelic spaces. Kat is an experienced Ayahuasca coach and guide, helping anyone called to work with her prepare for and integrate this amazing medicine. Kat also works with people confronting issues around death and shadow, and anyone looking to be more deeply connected to soul. She is a bona fide soul coach and lover-of-death. Her calling is to be a light as we walk through our darkness, and to remind us that everyone is always OK.