Dear Ayahuasca: Thank You for Taking Me to Hell


This is a pop-a-vein and bleed kind of post. I feel almost as vulnerable writing all of this as I do when I drink the medicine.

But if she has taught me anything, it's that fear born from resistance is a beacon of light that can guide one to a massive breakthrough.

OK then, let's do this.

Before I dive into all things hellish, let me first add a qualifier: Ayahuasca is a limitless, magical medicine that does not take us to hell; rather, she shows us how we define things as hellish, and gives us the opportunity to change our perspective. To expand into a more universal definition of love.

Sometimes she does this by providing a gorgeous and beautiful trip to happy-land. She knows how to be subtle and heart-opening and playful. Her sense of humor is off the charts. She has shown me so much love, so much gentleness, so much tender, motherly nurturing, it’s hard to even begin to describe it.

Part of her expression of love, however, is finding the blockages we hold in our psyche that cling to the story of fear and darkness. She does not heal those places, she blasts them open. Sometimes that feels amazing and healing and restorative.

Sometimes it feels like a journey so outrageously, mind-blowingly terrifying, it makes our worst nightmare feel like cuddling a puppy.

Hell Does not Exist. It is a Just a State of Mind.

What is hell, exactly? A place full of fiery brimstones and devils that requires an extra dose of courage and antiperspirant?

Not exactly. What we define as hell is deeply personal. It changes and shifts as we transform in our lives too. Hell is whatever we fear and resist. Whatever we haven’t expanded into and understood. And that’s different for all of us.

In the context of Ayahuasca, some people fear the onslaught of demonic visuals. I’ve seen snakes eating disemboweled babies, been chewed on by a horrifying alien, watched all manner of dark sexual images writhing behind my eyes – and grinned my way through it. I’ve watched enough Faces of Death type films in my goth days that imagery alone can’t phase me. That is not hell to me. It’s just a dog and pony show. But to others, it's just straight up devil-driven.

Some find the purge hellish. I was never one of them. Maybe because I’m a recovered bulimic, the idea of vomiting out my toxic impurities has always been a blessing; an easy and welcomed release, even when my insides were turning outside. I still have the internal cheerleader voice saying thank you and yes please, help me let this go!

Emotions are another stickler. Revisiting past traumas, sitting in a pool of rage or sadness, these are very un-fun moments. I’ve helped many folks navigate this space, and many would definitely call them hell. I understand that. But my definition is different. Less tangible. Hard to talk about without going into fits of shaking.

The First Trip to Hell is the Easiest

Ayahuasca loves me. I know this because she wasted no time taking me to the underworld.

It was ceremony number two that started the dark-side journey. I knew it before I even drank that night. Despite the fact that the first ceremony was absolutely gorgeous and gentle and insanely beautiful, I could feel the energies on night two. I was absolutely terrified. But I wanted to know what this was…

That ceremony, and many others in the near future, would prove to be intensely difficult dark nights of the soul.

Each time they unfolded, I thought and espoused – that was the worst night of my life.

And the best. Because the lessons were priceless. Always so on target. Always so transformative, and so I was willing to risk another wild ride in order to learn the secrets of the universe.

Every time, of course, I figured – it can’t get worse than that.

Every time, of course, I was wrong.

Surrender is the True Place of Terror

There was a night someone asked me, before ceremony, this innocent question:

“Kat, does it every get easier?” I laughed and said, “Yes. Until it doesn’t.”

Ever have those moments where something you said earlier in the day comes back to haunt you in ceremony?

Yes, that.

Every single night I do this process, I have an intention. That night, I asked her to show me more of who she is. Show me the parts of consciousness I hadn’t yet explored.

And to help me completely surrender.

This night,  I was spinning before I even drank the medicine. 30 minutes in, I wasn’t in this universe anymore – I was in a centrifuge of terror. Everything had spun into overdrive. I couldn’t see straight – my eyes were trembling, making everything look like it was attacking me. My body shook like it was plugged in to a power plant. I became the thunder.

I emerged into the darkest of energies. The space where hatred is born. Where fear takes root. She showed me the energy of murder and rape. The force that causes all chaos, insanity, and violence.

Death would have been a gift in those hours. I was certain this was too much for me.

I’m normally a rock in ceremony, but that night, I could barely hold on. I moved manically at times, trying to find a space that was comfortable. At least manageable. Something to lessen this horrible, wretched, awful, terrifying state.

Nothing helped. This was my version of hell. It came, she told me, because I asked about surrender. I asked about that which I did not know.

When my teacher brought me up to doctor, he knew I was in trouble. He handled a lot of the most precarious situations we navigated with humor, so he leaned in and said: “Kitty kat, you asked for this. Don’t forget to breathe. It is just energy.”

Just energy. Yes. Just. Energy.

That didn't help at all. The doctoring made it worse too. More energy to push me into the vortex of awfulness. I WANTED OUT.

Hours later, I was still in the grip of insanity. Internally, I begged for mercy. I tried to hide my tears so the circle didn’t feel vulnerable because the attendant was losing her shit. It was obvious I was in my personal hell, however – the first time in nine years, I was That Girl. To say it was humbling is like saying donuts taste OK. Understatement. There are no words.

The Ultimate Darkness is the Ultimate Love

And in the thick of it, I had the clarity. I knew what was happening.

This, too, was love.

Yes, I was face first into the molecular madness of death and destruction. I felt completely out of control because when you surrender, there is nothing left to hold onto. All attachments fall away. And the abyss feels so vast and dangerous and frightening.

But there was some other essence there, some other truth.

I turned to all my tools and guides for help. Agua de Florida. Sage. Lavender. All the amazing plants that supported me in tangible and intangible ways. As I let them in, I felt that space of OK-ness.

The madness didn’t lift, but something else entered. Something else gave me contrast and clarity.

That something was a force of love so strong and undeniable, I knew it had to be from the center of the center of the center of the All. This was God-love. Source sparks. The essence of Prana.

This was life-force.

And even in that space, my mind kept looking for an escape. Minds don't fit in there. It's the proverbial eye of the needle. They can't control it. Can't contain it. So it literally feels like you've gone past the edge of crazy.

Maybe I could drink Drano to make this better. Maybe I could go running through the streets screaming for help. These were very, very real desires.

Or maybe I could just let it be. Love it to pieces. So yes to this madness. Trust that is was indeed all love. Recognize that this unattached, free fall into the abyss was actually heaven, once I got used to it. Once I trusted that there wasn’t anything here that could harm me.

Let go. Surrender. For real this time. Not with my fingers crossed behind my back. That was the challenge.

I managed to fall into the energies with my whole heart that night, just as the shaman was singing the closing Icaro. It was the one and only night he sang the closing song to me.

Hell became heaven.

Strike that. I realized there is no hell.

Hell is only the dark side of heaven.

In fact, heaven doesn’t exist.

Everything just is.

Either we embrace that as truth, and walk in trust and love, or we fight and beg for something to hold on to.

The things we hold on to are attachments.

Attachments cause suffering.

So to un-suffer, we let go into pure terror. And if we’re really really really lucky, we realize it’s just the fear of the unknown.

That we are and always were OK.

That we are loved beyond words.

That we are love. And nothing but.

I know there’s an endless amount of ways to reach this place. With all my heart, I thank Ayahuasca for being the tour guide. The most horrific night of torture turned out to be the most genuine act of love I will ever know.