This journey was one of the most important decisions of my life. It came out of a bad moment, when I was feeling really down. I listened to my inner voice that eventually showed me the way to the jungle. After almost a year this intense experience is still a part of my life. It’s like a seed in my body that is growing day by day…
Near the end of February 2017, I was working in my home office in Istanbul trying to figure out about my next project. As a freelancer, I need to motivate myself and also get to my creative roots to make things happen. At that time I felt so stuck. I was pushing myself to write some ideas down but somehow there was no passion, no joy. Hmm. I wanted to get out of that mood; it was really disturbing me. So I turned on the music and started dancing to the sound. Dancing helps me to clear my mind, especially shaking everything off. So after a while I felt better and sat down, closed my eyes. The music was turned off and I was sitting in stillness. A feeling rose within me which gave me the urge to go somewhere. The feeling was strong. It was more than just an adventure, it was something deeper. I got goosebumps all over my body. I felt surrounded by trees, plants, birds and something unknown but also very close. It felt kind of warm, I felt relaxed and started smiling. Then it was so clear: Peru should be my next destination.
It had been on my bucket list to backpack to South America for years. The prospect of a new adventure got me very excited. I had just come back from New York and Mexico which was a trip with friends. This was something else, something totally instinctual. And this time it had to be only me. I sat down on my chair and started to google Peru/ Nature/ Native Americans / Tribes / Culture. I didn’t know much about the country and I felt that this trip was not about sightseeing and traveling around, but connecting with nature and myself, getting to know my hidden, inner worlds. What was out there? I had to find out. It was time to face it.
After a day of research and with the help of my friend I found the place where I wanted to go – a traditional Ayahuasca Center in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. They offered different retreats. I chose a 9-day plant-medicine retreat. The retreat also included an intense Yoga program. Perfect! I had a good feeling about the trip. In the last couple of years three friends of mine kept sharing their ayahuasca experience with me, but it had never really caught my attention before. My response was more like “ah ok, interesting”. This time it was different, I felt I was ready to explore something very deep. So I signed up for the program – it was starting in just 2 weeks. I had to fill out a long form and answer a lot of questions. After 24 hours they accepted my request, I booked my flights and had to get ready for my first jungle experience. The journey had started in the moment I decided to go, I was really excited!
The Mother of all Plants
Ayahuasca is an Amazonian plant medicine that has been used for centuries by indigenous shamans across the Upper Amazon throughout Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil for mental and spiritual healing and divinatory purposes. Some indigenous people regard ayahuasca as “the mother of all medicines” and “the mother of all plants” or the “Vine of the Soul”: It is perceived as a communicating being who guides, teaches, and heals. The vine offers access to the visionary or energetic world, that we are typically unable to perceive in our ordinary state of consciousness.
It was not the hallucinogenic part that attracted me, but more the opening of channels to the hidden, spirit world. So with this information and my gut instinct I had two weeks to get ready. The biggest preparation was the strict diet – ‘la dieta’.
The food restrictions are one of the most important aspects of working with the plant. In this program you have about 2 weeks in advance to prepare and purify your body, mind and soul before starting with the first ceremony. That means NO spicy foods, ice cold or carbonated drinks, sexual activities, alcohol, sugar, red meat/pork, junk food, salt or pepper, sweets or chocolate, oils (only olive or coconut oil very sparingly), animal fats, dairy products, fermented food and no caffeine or other stimulants. Of course also no drugs at all. First it sounded easy because I eat very healthy anyways and have never taken any drugs. Eating with no spices and sweets – that was a challenge. There is salt and sugar almost in every meal. So I ate oatmeal with water and fruits in the morning, raw and cooked fresh vegetables, potatoes or rice during the day and in the evening. I drank only water and smoothies. I started to get ready mentally also with meditation, reading, reflecting and writing.
After spending a few days in Lima I took off to Iquitos by plane, “the Capital of the Peruvian Amazon” and gateway to the jungle. Scooter traffic everywhere, almost like in India, open-air street markets, rustic stilt houses and actually a dirty city. I had two days to spend in Iquitos before leaving to the jungle and was happy that it wasn’t more. My hotel room didn’t have any windows and was located in a noisy place next to a night club… I concentrated on my well-being, walked around, spent time by myself and rarely talked to other people.
Our meeting point with the other participants and the crew was a hotel lobby at 10am. From there we took a bus to a little harbour, where a small wooden boat was waiting for us. The boat was so low that you were sitting on the same level with the water. All of the other people seemed very nice, I felt comfortable. Eight guys were from the United States, one man from Canada and one woman from Norway. I was listening to the conversations with one ear but was more excited about the boat ride through the Amazon. My eyes were wide open. The river got smaller and smaller until we were passing a very narrow route with big trees and plants coming out of the river. You started to feel the jungle atmosphere and rain forest, the sounds of the animals and birds got more intense. At some point we needed to get off the boat because the water level was too low. We started walking through the river. Local people were carrying our bags, of course walking much faster than us. I was concentrated on my steps, some points were deeper and some lower. When we arrived on land I took my boots off, they were filled with water completely. We had another 40 minutes to walk through the jungle – I decided to walk barefoot.
Deep in the Amazon
Finally we reached the camp surrounded by beautiful, wild nature. Some leaves of the trees were larger than 1 meter, plants that I have never seen in my life before. Did you know that walking palm trees exist? Their roots are coming out from the earth and they change locations by literally walking.
Then the sounds of the insects, birds and animals that I couldn’t identify. I felt like I was in Avatar, the movie. My dream had already come true 🙂 The place was amazing. We all met in a big room and got to know the crew. We learned about our schedule for every day and then they braught us to our “rooms”. That means that everyone had their own tambo like a jungle bungalow made of natural materials such as wood, bamboo and palm tree leaves. My sleeping place had a simple bed, a mosquito net, a little table, a shelf and a door out to a little balcony with a hanging mat. The toilets and showers were about 40m away from my tambo. I was satisfied with my sleeping place, filled my shelf with my stuff and got ready to enjoy my first day.
We started with a floral bath called Jain Poiti, a shamanic healing process, cleaning heavy energies and blockages, clearing negative thoughts and emotions, purifying the mind and body. We were going to have our female Shipibo bathing us every single morning, amazing! The scent of the flowers clung to the body so beautifully. Then we had our first lunch meal. It was so tasty, delicious jungle food with fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes, avocados, rice, fish and salad. I fell in love with grilled bananas and of course with the passion fruits…
There was such an amazing energy in the group, we all got along very well. And the people working there were fantastic, super nice and caring. The days went by so fast. I was not bored even one second. You had the chance to be with the others from the group but also by yourself if you wished. The daily yoga, pranayama and meditation classes, floral and steam baths were incredible, or just walking around through the area. We did a lot of self-inquiry and self-reflective work in the group led by experienced facilitators, sharing our fears, deep feelings and experiences and talking about our intentions.
On the day of the first ceremony I was excited not knowing what to expect. There was also a feeling of calmness and stillness which I needed to face my shadows and to grow. Our meditation practices and the group talk-sessions about our intentions were a perfect preparation. We had light lunch at 1pm – our last meal for the day. Everyone had the chance to talk to the female and male Shipibo, our Maestros, in person, which was great so we connected to them in a different way.
In the afternoon I prepared my pillow, blanket, notebook, headlamp and water bottle to take with me to the Maloka, which is a traditional round gathering house for indigenous ceremonies. We all met after sunset for a evening yin yoga class, we meditated and everyone shared his intention for the night. In the Maloka everyone had his own mattress and enough space, we were all sitting in a big round circle, behind us a wall to lean on. The toilets were outside, very close to the entrance. Everything was well prepared from the facility. We waited until it was dark, nobody talked, the sound from the jungle was so beautiful. I sat down, did my breathing exercises and meditated. Our two Maestros walked in with candle lights, and a plastic bottle in their hands filled with the brown brew. They sat down, took their time, smoked tobacco and started to sing.
One by one everyone walked forward to the Maestros, sat down infront of them and got a small cup of the brew and drank it like a shot. Well, it was my turn, I walked forward and sat down. I took a deep breath, remembered my intention and drank my very first Ayahuasca. I cannot really describe the taste, but it wasn’t bad for me, a little bit like a bitter protein chocolate shake. Back on my place, I sat down in a cross legged position with a straight back, hands on my knees, I closed my eyes and started breathing deeply in and out. When everyone in the group was finished the Maestros drank their brew, turned of the candles, so it was full dark, you could only see people smoking tobacco once in a while. We sat down for about 30-40 minutes in stillness. I concentrated on my breath and was more or less in a meditative state. Exactly when I started to hear the first Ikaro (the Shipibo singing the song of the plants), I felt my stomach getting warm, and suddenly it got all over my body with the bloodstream. I was literally feeling my veins. The two Maestros went to every single person, sat in front of them and sang the Ikaros. A feeling came up that I had never felt before, mostly coming from my stomach. I knew it was starting, I tried to relax myself down by concentrating on my breath constantly, eyes closed. I didn’t want my mind to get involved and wanted to accept whatever came. The Ikaros were so powerful, I felt the vibration of the songs so intense. And then it happened very fast, my body started to get heavy and I felt pain especially in my stomach, legs and hips and then all over my body. I heard some people vomiting, but then the sound was gone again. I was in my own energy field and my journey started…
Almost a year has passed since my jungle experience in Peru. It was very important for me to get to know my dark side, to go through my deep pain and face my fears, negative emotions and thoughts. I am reading a lot of spiritual books, they help me to grow and open my horizon, but experiencing your inner journey through the plant medicine made me see that I can be my own teacher, that everything is inside of me. Everything that I see is a reflection of myself. Even the things that I don’t like about other people. The ceremonies helped me to show where this side of me lies deep in my subconscious or even unconscious mind. I understood how and which experiences in my childhood affected my reactions and feelings. During the ceremonies there were moments where I wanted the visions to end, the pain was too strong, my ego and me in one empty room without doors. I was scared and shocked about myself. I realized that everything that I was judging before was lying deep inside of me or was a part of me. As soon as I started relaxing in that moment, accepting the situation and the knowledge that was given to me, the teaching went on to another room showing me something else. Today I truly believe that knowing our ego and darkest side, which is not easy, helps us to get to know our true selves, only then you don’t have to fight against it anymore. Accepting my deepest pain and letting go of whatever I was experiencing during the ceremonies opened doors to further development and other dimensions. There were moments where I was lost in structures, colours and the matrix, pictures changed every second or even faster. The whole time I trusted the medicine working inside of me, some visions made sense many months later to me.
Now, when it comes to integration, I take this experience into my everyday life to learn from unpleasant situations instead of judging myself or others and try not to make it bigger than it is. Life changes constantly, even every breath differs from the last, so we constantly get confronted with unknown situations, surprises and pain. In every situation we have a chance to make a choice as to how we react to those events, which determines our inner peace.
The combination of the yoga practice and the work with the plant medicine in the jungle showed me the immense effect of Yoga, how it helps to open our hearts, to come closer to the knowledge inside of us and to connect with everything that surrounds us. Words like self-compassion and self-love used to sound very easy to me, not really knowing the true power and meaning, especially how it interacts with the law of attraction. The more I am working on my awareness and mindfulness the more I see that there is a way to control the mind and live from the heart. Meditation is showing me that in stillness we find our true selves. I prefer to have a clear mind in a balanced life. I want to enjoy my life to the fullest. So I am working on it – every day, sometimes more, sometimes less. I have my morning rituals, my personal yoga and meditation practice, eat healthy and work on my projects to realize them. The most important, I do what I love, and if not I start loving what I do.
The plants are sacred for me and I have a lot of respect for the shamanic work. The supernatural and transformational experiences are still opening up my heart and help me understand the system of Oneness. I still have moments where I close my eyes and feel the jungle and the pure nature inside of me and I also have days, where I just want to destroy my pillow. It’s ok.
Thank You for taking your time to read. 🙂