My first 18 Ayahuasca ceremonies

Intro | Physical arrangements | Subjective experience | My experiences in detail | The Ayahuasqueros


I spent three months in Peru from mid-January to mid-April 2005 taking part in various Ayahuasca ceremonies. My initial intention was to attend one jungle seminar with Ayahuasca-Wasi to see how I liked the experience and to see whether I felt it was helpful and beneficial to me. In the end I attended three jungle seminars with Ayahuasca-Wasi, a number of individual ceremonies with the same group in Pisac (near Cusco in the Peruvian highlands) and also two other Ayahuasca ceremonies with other healers -- a total of 18 ceremonies! So, as you may guess, I did find these ceremonies to be very beneficial to me, to say the least ...

For those who know little about Ayahuasca and want a brief introduction, it is a medicine plant, a plant whose name may be translated from Quechua as "Vine of the Soul". It is taken as a brown liquid 'brew', which has a fairly unpleasant bitter taste. The brew is made up of two plant constituents, one of which is the vine. The other constituent plant is required to stop the body disabling the active ingredients in the vine, as I understand it. Some curanderos add other additional medicine plants to the mix, but not the people I worked with.

  [ See also: "More jungle medicine: three medicine plant diets" and "Further jungle diets: 2011-2012" ]

Physical arrangements

Ayahuasca is traditionally taken in a ceremonial setting, with native-American style prayers made by the Ayahuasquero/a, using a pipe and tobacco. ("Ayahuasquero" refers to someone skilled in leading an Ayahuasca ceremony, whilst "curandero" refers to someone skilled in curing in traditional ways; Amazonian curanderos are often also ayahuasqueros, since Ayahuasca is used widely.) The Ayahuasquero will often use songs to aid the participants during their experiences. These might take the form of Icaros sung with a kind of shaker, or Medicine Songs sung with accompaniment, or whatever.

A session of Ayahuasca might last from 4-5 hours up to maybe 9 hours. All the ceremonies I attended occurred at night, in darkness, although I have read that some other traditions do work in the daylight. The procedure for most of the ceremonies I attended was to fast after lunchtime on the day of the ceremony, leaving a gap of about 6 hours without eating before taking the brew, although one curandera requested that we eat only fruit for breakfast and not eat anything else during that day. Certain foods were to be avoided: Pork/bacon/ham were to be avoided for as long as possible before the ceremony, two days at least, or ideally two weeks; apparently there is an enzyme in pork which changes the effect somehow. Excessive salt, sugar and chillies were also to be avoided in the days before the ceremony. Chillies are too 'hot' and give a disturbed experience. Some people also avoid papaya and meat, but I had no problem with eating chicken at lunch before ceremonies. Sex, alcohol, and other drugs were to be avoided coming up to the ceremony.

The vital personal items required during a ceremony were a bottle of water to drink if necessary, a bucket (for throwing up), and a blanket and/or other warm clothing. This was for the style of ceremony I attended. The blanket or warm clothing are required because people can often feel cold during the ceremony, whatever the ambient temperature. Throwing up during the ceremony seems to happen more often than not, but it is not like normal throwing up -- it seems to happen as a strong involuntary purging of liquid from the stomach accompanied by a purging of bad energy and emotional material from the body. At least, it is really clear to me that what is coming out of the body is not just the physical liquid. Other people additionally bring all kinds of ceremonial materials, such as rolling tobacco to smoke during the ceremony (for prayers/etc), sacred objects, ceremonial clothes or whatever, but all of this is the individuals' preference. I had very strong experiences with nothing more than the minimum physical gear.

Subjective experience

Well, that is the external perspective. More subjectively, there is a huge amount going on in an Ayahuasca ceremony. People have a huge variety of experiences with Ayahuasca. Despite this variety, the experiences do seem to have a common theme -- that of healing the individual, and helping them move forwards in their life with greater purpose and clarity. In spiritual terms, the plant is referred to as "Mother Ayahuasca". Some people find that they can interact with her as a spirit, through dialogue or in other ways. Others find the feeling of the experience to be feminine, caring and helpful even if they are not aware of the presence of a spirit.

More specifically, what happens seems to depend a huge amount on different factors: on the individual, on the Ayahuasquero/a leading the ceremony, and on the brew itself:

Firstly, individuals will have hugely differing experiences even from the same Ayahuasquero/a and brew. I saw this constantly. Some people will have a constant dialogue with "Mother Ayahuasca" during the night, receiving a huge amount of information. Others will have very high visions, "Light Language", silent teachings from the cosmos and so on. Others will be in worlds of spirits or gods or other beings (from a variety of traditions), maybe being helped, or maybe dealing with unpleasant things they need to understand or face. Others will be seeing scenes out of their life, maybe from the past, or maybe the future. Others may be feeling themselves becoming other beings or creatures, and those creatures somehow helping them change from the inside. Others may be purging emotions, trauma and so on, maybe with understanding, or perhaps without knowing exactly what they are purging. Others will have experiences of physical sensations in their bodies, perhaps related with a physical purging (throwing up). Others find that they get very little in the way of visions/etc, but find that they can work very consciously on issues of their choice, calling people and situations into their consciousness to resolve things. In short, given the wide variety of experiences people have, it is best not to fix your hopes on any particular experience, because it is hard to say in advance what will happen, especially if you have no experience of Ayahuasca before -- your experience could be any of the above or perhaps something quite different.

Secondly, the experience depends on the Ayahuasquero/a leading the ceremony. The person leading the ceremony holds the space and keeps an eye on everyone in the room, often intuitively. In some way they can control or direct the experiences of the individuals present through singing different Icaros or Medicine Songs, or more subtly through their direct energetic influence, or the prayers they made for the ceremony, or through the higher spirits that they have called. I have attended ceremonies with four different people leading. It was very clear that my experience of Ayahuasca changed depending on who was leading the ceremony. The most obvious case was working with Felipe, a Shapibo curandero, where the healing work was physical and very strong and powerful in that realm, but where the higher potentials of Ayahuasca were completely untapped. This was a clear difference to the ceremonies with Diego Palma, where the sky is the limit. When choosing a group to work with, please do not underestimate the importance of the influence of the Ayahuasquero or Curandero leading the ceremony.

Thirdly, there is the type and quality of the brew itself. Diego of Ayahuasca-Wasi gets all his Ayahuasca from a brew-maker in the jungle, a friend of his that he trusts well. Some other ayahuasqueros or curanderos make their own. I don't know much about preparation methods or about the qualities of the ingredients, but it is clear that there are different qualities of ayahuasca brew around. Quite possibly the intention of the brew-maker also has an influence. The brew of Felipe was thick and dense, and I think he had mixed it with chocolate and honey to make it more palatable. Diego's brew was liquid, with the bitterness varying from batch to batch, but with no added ingredients. Eleana's brew was also liquid, similar to Diego's. Diego also had a trial batch from another curandero which we tried in the 18th ceremony I attended. It was much less bitter, with other added plants (many 'special ingredients'), but unfortunately it turned out to be very weak, and we would all have had to have drunk perhaps 6 cups or more to have had a noticeable or worthwhile effect from it. Some Ayahuasqueros will give you one dose and if that doesn't do the job, then sorry. I prefer Diego's approach -- he says that if, after an hour or so, you are still not sure whether it is working or not, then it is NOT working, and you should come up and ask for an additional dose. This is the great thing with Diego -- he doesn't seem afraid to allow people in the group to have strong experiences, i.e. he has the confidence that these experiences can be dealt with if/when they occur. If you really want to have a strong experience, he will most likely allow you to have it.

Regarding managing the experience, when people see things during Ayahuasca ceremonies, they generally see them in their mind's eye (i.e. in dreaming) rather than hallucinating them in the room itself. This means that the room and the group is a safe place to try and come back to if the experience gets too strong. Diego of Ayahuasca-Wasi recommends that people focus on the Medicine Songs and try to join in the singing in any way that they can if they are finding the experience too strong. This brings them back to the room and to the ceremonial group. However, it seems that some people do occasionally hallucinate things in the room itself. Diego describes all kinds of spirits which turn up to watch the ceremonies, most of which stay respectfully outside the ceremonial circle, watching -- although sometimes they come inside and become a distraction and have to be sent away with some tobacco smoke. However, mostly everything happens in your head, i.e. in your dreaming vision.

Apart from joining the singing, Diego also recommends keeping a good sitting posture and also giving help to others as ways of making the experience easier if it is too hard. Sitting is supposed to be better than lying down because lying down the blood goes to the head, making the experience stronger. To make it really strong, the "child posture" can be used, kneeling down, forehead on the ground, arms laid out in front, although I didn't try that. So sitting up in a good posture, like a warrior, helps a lot. I used the warrior approach a lot, the feeling of being a warrior. I was also doing a lot of 'power breathing' at certain times during my first few sessions to help manage the experience, i.e. breathing slowly, deeply, and with force to bring fresh energy into my body and to focus strongly on my centre, to remain solidly present in the experience.

The idea of giving as a means of helping yourself is, to my mind, based around the fact that if you are going to send good feelings to someone else, you have to first change your own internal feelings to be good feelings. So, it is an indirect way of approaching changing your own state. The 'others' you can help may be family members or people in the room or whatever. I didn't use this as a technique to help myself, but still I did try to give things back to the group whenever it felt okay to do so, or when I had found some particularly strong or positive energy I wanted to share.

My experiences in detail

Please, before you read my experiences below, remember that I am a spiritually ambitious person, that I like things to be challenging, and also that I'm not afraid to enter hard processes. So, the medicine gave me exactly what I was looking for -- strong and challenging experiences! If this all seems too much for you, then bear in mind that you can take the whole thing much more gently if you like. If you ask for small or medium doses, you probably won't get such extreme experiences. However, Mother Ayahuasca can be a hard teacher when that is required, and that was certainly what I was looking for in her when I started attending the ceremonies. Also, as I mentioned above, everyone has completely different experiences with Ayahuasca, so your experience will very likely be completely different from mine. However, despite all that, maybe my accounts can give you a little more feeling for some of the possibilities.

Also, I have included below a few experiences with Wachuma (San Pedro) and visits to local Apus (mountain spirits) as these also seemed to be connected with my process of healing and change over those three months. There were a lot of other things happening in that time additionally, but I can't possibly write everything down.

So, these are all the ceremonies that I attended in Peru in early 2005:

22-Jan-2005, Ayahuasca #1, Puerto Maldonado, with Diego Palma

[Very strong, very far away from human concerns, only brief moments of consciousness, Ganesh's whole court visited me.]

This was my first experience with Ayahuasca. Somehow everything had been building towards this for several days/weeks before. I was in quite a vulnerable-feeling state, having been violently robbed in Lima just four days before. Somehow I saw this all as a form of preparation -- there was big stuff coming to the surface, and I felt that I did not have the resources to protect myself as I usually would. I was also quite determined to have a strong and positive experience with Ayahuasca -- my intention for the ceremony was quite ambitious: to leave behind suffering and struggle.

Diego gave me something like 3/4 of a cup. Normally he starts by giving half a cup to people on their first session, but I was very keen to have a strong experience. Little did I know at this time that I am about twice as sensitive to Ayahuasca as everyone else, i.e. I generally need half the amount to get the same effect. So, this was a pretty strong dose for me. I was a little uncertain about letting go of control to the plant at this stage -- for example, I was a little concerned about having diarrhoea and not being able to make it to the toilet, or about doing something inappropriate in the room during the experience. These concerns were dealt with over my next three sessions with Ayahuasca as I got to trust the plant. In brief, what I understood was that if I made some rules for myself before the ceremony, then Mother Ayahuasca would respect those rules during the ceremony, even if I lost full conscious control. So, I decided that I didn't want to have to deal with diarrhoea, and so I didn't ever have it during a ceremony. I also decided that I wanted to always stay seated in my place during the ceremony, unless I made a conscious decision to make a journey outside to pee, or empty my bucket, or whatever, so that is also what happened.

My experience in this ceremony was very strong. As the wave of effects started, I had a moment of feeling something like a small child crying as control was taken by the plant, like some part of me didn't want to let go. Some time after that, I felt that I had become some kind of a curving, writhing elephant-creature. I was kind of seeing the trunks, these creatures all around. I felt like these creatures were taking me over in some way, like they were coming into me and acting through me, making me move in twisting curving moving shapes as I sat in my place. They were also making strange little whooping noises at times (i.e. I was also doing that physically in the room, since I was expressing one of them). I was kind of aware of the room, but I was aware of it more as one of them not so much as myself. The feeling from them was that they were happy to be living like this through me. They were mostly celebrating it with their movements, and they were also making movements as if enhancing their beauty, like dancing or preening themselves. I suppose it is strange to imagine humanoid female elephant creatures being beautiful, but to themselves they were certainly beautiful.

Apart from all this celebration, I had the feeling that at times they would find something energetically in my body that they didn't like, as if to say "What's this?", and they would energetically throw it out. I guess this was the healing. They were so alien to me and my life that my issues were meaningless to them, so I guess it was easy for them to clear stuff for me.

I felt that I was expressing several different individuals one by one, until eventually I got one who I called the "Elephant Queen". She really was the Queen -- she was so proud, and so beautiful, and so sure of her beauty... At times she was making preening movements with her forefeet (hands?), something like wiping lotion off her cheeks with cotton wool. She was also curling her lips and raising her head, taking for granted that everyone would take care of her. She was SO beautiful and proud.

I was really exceptionally far away from human affairs and human understanding at this point, like I was on another planet or something. I vaguely remembered things like the fact that I had travelled a huge distance from the UK to Peru, and that here in Peru they spoke Spanish not English and so on, but these facts were really completely incomprehensible to me in this state. I simply could not understand these concepts. To me the earth was like a ball of energy in my consciousness, and distance or language were meaningless. Actually, I was expressing the Queen Elephant, and like any Queen this proud, she did not concern herself with any detail she considered irrelevant or beneath her. The concepts of language and distance were obviously irrelevant to her.

In the early part of the 'wave' of Ayahuasca, the effects were really a bit too strong. I have the memory of Diego sitting in front of me at one point, helping me in some way, singing or something. I was also aware of buzzing in my legs, apart from the breathing and movements that I was doing sitting in my place. I did also remember having a physical purge into my bucket later in the experience.

Well, the next day after the experience had finished I really did not know what to think about the whole thing. As far as I was concerned, it seemed like a crowd of humanoid elephant creatures had arrived and had had a party through me, but whilst it was not unpleasant, it was not clear how exactly this had benefitted me. However, I slowly understood that their alienness allowed them to energetically move issues that I would not have been able to move if I had been in full conscious control. Diego also suggested that what I had encountered was Ganesh (from Hindu tradition), the "remover of obstacles". This made me feel a lot better about things. If Ganesh (and all her court) had arrived to help me get through some obstacles, then I was very grateful for their help.

So, that is how I have been understanding it since then. I have no connection with Hindu tradition, but Diego always invites all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the ceremonies, so maybe Ganesh arrived courtesy of them somehow. Others have pointed out that according to legends Ganesh is male, but I can say that mine was definitely female, and I have the advantage over others who have only read books of actually having met her. If Ganesh can only be male, then we will have to compromise and agree that I have met the "Elephant Queen" instead.

24-Jan-2005, Ayahuasca #2, Puerto Maldonado, with Diego Palma

[Lizards-creatures, strong intent, Ayahuasca beings helping me lift stuff out, my distrust]

In this ceremony Diego gave me a little less. Again I had a brief moment of anguish as the wave of Ayahuasca came and took control over me; some part of me was still not trusting. However, once everything was underway, I felt that I was being cared for, even if I didn't have full conscious control. I did try to keep repeating to myself that I did trust the process and whatever creatures were coming to help me, to counter some of the fears that were coming up. This being a lower dose, I felt that I had more conscious control, i.e. that there was room for negotiation with the Ayahuasca creatures when I had any concerns about what was going on.

I was working with a very strong intent related to childhood issues in this session. I was still having creatures coming in and out of me like last time, but it was more voluntary. They were lizard creatures this time, pulling back the lips, flicking the tongue, crooking the head back, and at times going "haaaaa" as if to indicate approval of something happening in the room. The feeling of them was like something from the traditions of ancient Mexico.

I was shaking a lot, and this seemed to be connected with stuff clearing out from me, as if whatever shaking was happening in some part of my body was working to release something from there. I went outside to the jungle to pee at one point, very much still a lizard, holding my upper arms vertical, and forearms horizontal, hands/wrists pointing down, feeling quite massive as I walked moving one leg forward at a time. Peeing in the greenery whilst going "haaa" was not as alien as being the Elephant Queen, but it was still very different from being human. Somehow my experience made a lot more sense of all the various lizard deities that are present in Mexican and other traditions. The next day I was still flicking my tongue at times, although it faded soon after that.

I think I was also aware of other Ayahuasca beings helping me somehow to lift out things, ones with less lizard-like characteristics. I felt that they were there to help me, but I was somehow lacking in trust because I didn't know what their motivation was. Why were they helping me? What was in it for them? This was kind of bothering me. Still, these creatures were helping me a lot, and I was trying to be properly grateful to them.

26-Jan-2005, Ayahuasca #3, Puerto Maldonado, with Diego Palma

[Cathartic experience, breathing, receiving lots of help]

This was a very strong experience for me. Due to connecting with someone in some state of shock at some personal news earlier in the day, I felt out of balance. I couldn't clear this feeling, and the day was overcast and very humid, and I felt pushed down and trapped by the clouds. They cleared as the night came, but still I felt all wrong, and when the Ayahuasca wave started in the ceremony, I felt that there were some kind of restraints in place upon me, as if I was being restrained from using my own strength to resist the experience that was coming.

In this session, the Ayahuasca world and Ayahuasca beings came again, but it was not pleasant for me. I was afraid and disgusted by them. I recognised that these creatures were there to help, and I tried to trust, but I understood later on that what I kept on perceiving in them was really a reflection of the issues that I was working with. As I struggled with my fears and disgust, the experience escalated into a kind of cathartic expression of the issue. I have only brief memories of the experience, but I know that I was screaming and shouting and moving backwards and forwards in wave-like movements as I sat in my place. I was banging my head against the wooden wall of the temple behind me and slapping my hand down on the floor in front of me, but I also had the sense that I was being cared for (by Mother Ayahuasca, or by other spirits) and that I was not hurting myself, despite the apparent force of my movements. At some point I was aware of Diego sitting in front of me, holding my foot or leg to give some support. My feelings at the time were split. There was the disgust and fear and revulsion which I was feeling, and which I was somehow expressing with the physical movement, but there was also a sense of detachment which allowed me to recognise that what was happening was positive.

Afterwards I learned that this went on for quite some time (hours?), and that Diego was sitting in front of me and singing songs -- not to pacify me, but to make the experience stronger!! He was helping me get it all out, to get the whole issue out. He also said that he felt that it was safe for him to approach quite close to me because my catharsis was a pure expression of bad energy upwards, and that I was not trying to pull anyone else into my process.

Also, at some point later in the experience, I suddenly had the feeling that I hadn't breathed for a number of seconds, and that I urgently needed to breath. I then took a number of slow deep powerful breaths to refill my lungs with oxygen. Each time it happened, I thought, "I must remember to breath", but then I would get lost again and the same thing would happen some time later. I now wonder whether I was clearing some experience related to stopping breathing -- but it is very hard to say.

At one point I purged physically, and fortunately Diego was there to put a bucket in front of me to catch it all. I guess this demonstrates how strong the experience was for me, that I was not aware enough to realize that I was going to vomit, to find the bucket for myself. Diego closed the session in the early hours, but the effect of the medicine carried on until about 6am for me, at which point I could sleep a little. I was feeling discomfort in my lower belly later in the night, and I was trying using "the bridge" stretch to clear it, which helped a little.

Also, later in the night, at some point when I was fully conscious, I saw Sirius the dog in the middle of the Maloka, staring at the ground and looking incredibly depressed. I went over and gave him some support until he came out of it -- who knows where he had picked that up from. (If you ever go to the jungle to do a seminar with Diego, chances are you will find Sirius taking an unofficial supporting role in the ceremonies -- a friendly supporting paw on your knee ... you will see.)

After this ceremony, I had to make the choice of whether to continue attending ceremonies of Ayahuasca in Peru or to do something else. I was in a terrible state. I was facing three big options, each of which had huge fears attached: my fear of getting robbed again if I went off travelling as a tourist in Peru and/or Chile, my fear of going back to the UK and getting trapped in some hellish job for a few more years, and my fear of facing more terrible emotional material with Mother Ayahuasca. I joked with the group that I had three hells to choose between, only one of which had any chance of progressing and improving. Obviously, continuing the process with Ayahuasca was the only choice that made any real sense.

After this seminar, I was feeling quite down, with some diarrhoea and a cough, to which I added altitude sickness and head pains when I arrived in Pisac. I spent a few days in and out of bed, in and out of dreaming, seriously considering descending to a lower altitude to try and get better quicker, when it all eventually cleared. To me this was the tail-end of the energetic material from the previous ceremony still working its way through. I didn't have diarrhoea or altitude sickness after visiting the jungle the two following times, so it must have just been what I was working with at that time.

2-Feb-2005, Ayahuasca #4, Pisac (Cusco), with Diego Palma

['Gentle' catharsis, giving something back, warrior energy]

For this session, one of my intents was the feeling that I wanted to give something back, to say thankyou for the help I had received in the previous three sessions. Since I had only just recovered from the previous ceremony, Diego gave me a relatively low dose. Still, I went into another cathartic experience, only this time it did not seem so strong to me, and I was much more detached. Still, Diego came to support me several times.

After the ceremony, several people said that in my cathartic expression during the ceremony, I was purging emotional material for them. Actually, Diego said that I was purging for everyone, and that no-one else needed to purge because I was doing it all. Well, maybe this was my way of giving something back. I was kind of also aware that there were some issues around in the group that were only going to come out that way.

One big difference between this and the previous ceremony was that I was no longer afraid to trust the process, to trust the medicine and the Ayahuasca beings that came to help me. I really felt part of the family of beings associated with Ayahuasca. Still, I was not really happy about starting to get into a pattern of always having cathartic experiences in the ceremonies. I mean, I would much rather be a quiet participant and not require so much attention.

Towards the end, I found myself bringing in a very strong Inca-warrior kind of energy. I was finding myself stacking up layers of packed energy inside my torso using my breath, from the bottom of my belly upwards, until I was like a tower full of energy and power. As a warrior in this state, I realized that I would be very powerful. However, obviously there was no need for all that power in the ceremonial situation, so after stacking up the energy each time, I released it to the room. However, this was a very interesting lesson to me.

6-Feb-2005, Wachuma #1, Pisac (Cusco)

[Too much, pushing very hard, forcing issues to surface]

This was a Wachuma experience, not Ayahuasca. Wachuma is also known as San Pedro, and it is a cactus that is found in Chile and Peru. It is regarded as a masculine medicine plant: "Grandfather Wachuma". We prepared our own powder from the fresh cactuses to ensure quality (i.e. using no white from the cactus, only the green), and in some way to put our own energy and purpose into it. In contrast to Ayahuasca, Wachuma is taken in the day. In small doses, you can continue your daily activities, only with a slightly altered perception, somehow more focussed. I really don't know what it would be like to take it ceremonially at night, Ayahuasca-style.

As usual (and obviously in retrospect), it turns out I only need a half-dose of powder compared to everyone else, so I had a very hard experience with Wachuma this first time. Along with the rest of the group, I took 3 teaspoonfuls of powder. My feeling with Wachuma is that it is much less forgiving than Ayahuasca. Mother Ayahuasca can push you very hard at times, but she also helps you in equal measure. Wachuma just pushes you, and it is up to you to find your own help. Well, that is how it seemed to me -- from my experience.

So, in this experience, Wachuma was pushing bad stuff out of me, but I was not able to clear that much bad energy in the time available, and so instead I got blocked up. I don't remember most of the experience, but later in the experience I do remember going up and down the outside stairs at Diego's place several times. I was conscious, but in quite an altered state, and in that moment I was not completely confident that I was not dreaming. Somehow, though, going up and down those stairs was giving me more confidence in the reality that I was perceiving.

We had taken the powder at 9:30am, and the experience was expected to last 10-12 hours. However, my experience lasted more like 20-22 hours. Later on in the day, they were trying to get me to eat potatoes/etc to bring the effect down, but I wasn't really much interested. Eventually they took me back to my hotel. I wasn't feeling too good, and I didn't feel okay to sleep, so I drank water and stood over the basin and waited. I looked ghastly in the mirror, but this is apparently just some kind of a visual distortion due to the cactus. Eventually by 4am I was able to sleep a little, and by 8am I was able to go out and eat breakfast, although things were still a little strange.

Well, I wouldn't mention this experience, except that it was very much part of the healing process with Ayahuasca for me. Because Wachuma had pushed me so hard, I developed a physical symptom (no details), which I used as a measure of my progress for the next 5-6 Ayahuasca sessions. Also, the day after the Wachuma experience I was reliving feelings of fear and vulnerability, with impulses to run away somewhere safe, to find a mothering energy. The next night I had a dream in which I was feeling like I was having an Ayahuasca experience, even hearing the Ayahuasca songs. So perhaps Mother Ayahuasca came to help me that night? I woke up feeling the peace just like at the end of an Ayahuasca session.

Whether I would have made the same progress with Ayahuasca without this strong experience with Wachuma, we will never know, but this is how the story unfolded for me, so I feel I must include it in my account.

10-Feb-2005, Ayahuasca #5, Pisac (Cusco), Diego Palma:

[Relatively unbalanced, consciously looking for help, clearing loads, connecting with the Apus]

My intention for this session was to see, understand and release the first instance of the childhood issue I was working with (thanks to Marie for forcing me to become aware of the need to address this issue). I went into a world of Ayahuasca creatures which I had started to become familiar with in the last couple of ceremonies. This world is black, with subtly coloured mildly translucent creatures in various forms coming to help me or work on me or whatever. Often on visiting this world, I found myself in a place with separate rooms, sometimes appearing a bit like some kind of a spaceship that had come down to float just above us in the ceremonial space. Other times, I found myself in a wider open space in this world, sometimes recognising the same individual creatures from other sessions -- there was one 'family' that I recognised on maybe 3-4 occasions. I kept getting this "Ayahuasca world" for every Ayahuasca session until about the 13th. I was just starting to take it for granted as a standard features of my Ayahuasca experiences, and then suddenly it stopped coming, much to my disappointment. Maybe this world was just some special help that came to me for a limited time only. But who knows?

Anyway, at this stage I was still finding this "Ayahuasca world". The creatures were coming to help me, but I was still scared of them. A couple of female creatures wanted sexual contact, which I definitely didn't want. Later I understood that this wasn't really sex, it was just that they wanted to take away some bad sexual energy, but at this moment I was still reacting fearfully.

I was still a little unbalanced in this session, imagining that I had to give away huge amounts of good energy and/or gratitude as payment to have my bad energy taken away. I was bringing in huge amounts of energy through breathing to replace the energy I was expending. Whilst looking for more help to clear material, I found myself connecting with the nearby mountain peaks of Apu Linle, where I found three spirits who felt like brothers to me. At one point I invited all the nearby Apus down to dance and be honoured during one of the songs that Diego sang. I also connected strongly with the jungle and its rich natural energy, at one point feeling the Amazon flowing through me like a snake. I also tried working with the Pachamama (Mother Earth), and I also found some kind of being that if you sent love to it, it multiplied the love many times and sent it back. All of this was very consciously done -- these things were not just happening to me, I was going out and looking for them. However, it was quite unbalanced in the sense that I really was looking everywhere for help, working like crazy.

The next day, some time after the ceremony had finished, I was still feeling very much in the middle of the issues I was working on. I was feeling "under attack" as I lay in my hotel bed, with strangers banging on the door and all sorts of things happening. But I was conscious that this was just part of the process. My emotions were disturbed for several days around this time, but I found that using Tensegrity (the Series for Intent and the Westwood Series) helped smooth things out a great deal and make everything a lot more manageable. (I had learned Tensegrity some time previously from the book and videos.)

15-Feb-2005, visit to Apu Ventana-Chayau:

[Mountain spirits, challenging the altitude]

I climbed up to the Ventana, a window-like hole in the rock towards the top of one of the mountains visible from Pisac. Not knowing the paths, I made may way straight up the mountain using whatever animal tracks were available. This was fairly challenging given that I was still adapting to the altitude. As I came over a lip towards the top third of the mountain, I felt that I was being pushed back, as if pushed to make me fall. I quickly connected to the spirit of the mountain to ask permission, and everything was fine after that. Coming back down, the paths were not terribly easy, and I was spiked by many cactuses. Somehow or other I arrived back full of some crazy buzzing energy from the mountain. The next morning I found that I was crashing emotionally, but some Tensegrity sorted things out pretty well. I was having memory flashbacks from my life ... more progress ... more clearing ...

19-Feb-2005, Ayahuasca #6, Puerto Maldonado, Diego Palma:

[Gentle ceremony, Sun Lion turns up and shines, feeling of Pisac in jungle]

This ceremony was very light for me. Diego decided either last ceremony or the one before that it would be best if I tried to maintain full consciousness as a warrior throughout the ceremonies from then onwards, having already blasted through a load of blocks with my previous several ceremonies. To help me with this, he dropped my dose, with the intention to build it up gradually each ceremony after that. I fully agreed with this idea. I didn't want to be having endless cathartic experiences.

In this ceremony I felt that I had a constant choice of whether to go into the Ayahuasca experience or not. So, I was consciously choosing to enter the world of Ayahuasca beings, or to work on more issues, or whatever. Each time I wanted to do more work, I would look upwards and say "Thankyou for the medicine", and try to connect to Mother Ayahuasca with gratitude, and more things would start to happen.

I also had a creature come through me that I have called the "Sun Lion". It seemed to be some kind of a guardian creature, some kind of very special Sun creature, something like a guardian to a Sun God. It had a very nice warrior energy to it that I really liked. Somehow I connected this with Mexican traditions, but I don't really know where it came from. It seemed to bare its teeth a lot in a way that might be seen as threatening, but this actually seemed to express the power and even joy of the creature. It really loved some of the songs that Diego sang, 'smiling' a lot, and I had this creature turn up in several other ceremonies just for those songs. However, I never felt the presence of this creature in me so strong as I did in this one particular ceremony.

This Sun Lion creature was teaching me various things -- or at least it was doing these things through me, and I was watching so I knew how to do them for myself later on. One thing it was doing was holding a lot of tension in my body for periods of a few seconds or more, holding it really hard in my centre, as a way of getting me strongly into the room and working through emotional material. The other was grabbing a load of emotional material energetically (with my energetic 'hand'), and holding it there with a great deal of tension for a few seconds, before shooting it upwards vertically with a sudden out-breath, to be disposed of elsewhere. I did this on myself, on my own emotional material, several times, and also on someone else in the room who was struggling during a very strong purge. For anyone who knows Tensegrity, the flavour of all of this is probably quite familiar.

Later in the ceremony, the Sun Lion was really starting to shine. Well, I was the Sun Lion, so I was shining, giving energy into the room very strongly from this creature, feeling like making a gift to everyone. At the end of this ceremony I was not tired in the least. Often my energy is down, but not this time. I was full of energy from this creature. This creature feels like a friend to me now -- the feeling is that we enjoy one another's presence.

I also had a sense of how the Sun Lion could act as a guardian. There was a faint outline of a doorway projected onto the roof of the Maloka by a paraffin lamp burning outside. At one point, I felt like the gods were coming down to visit, and as the Sun Lion I stood guard over the space, projecting my energy to all corners to hold the space sacred and protected. Then the door in the roof opened and some weird shapes came down in my vision. Well, I don't know if the gods really came down or if this was just a practice run, but anyway from this experience I understood better the Sun Lion's role as some kind of a sacred warrior-guardian creature.

Another interesting thing is that for large parts of the ceremony towards the beginning, I really felt that I was in Pisac. By this I mean that I felt that I was in Diego's temple room in Pisac, with those paintings on the walls, with the bakery outside, with the peaks of the Apus all around above us. I wasn't hallucinating, just feeling it. It was a strange experience to feel this and yet know that I was sitting in the middle of the jungle in the Maloka of Corto Maltes Lodge, the Madre de Dios river flowing by only a few hundred metres away. Later, in Pisac, I found that for short periods (a few minutes) I could do the reverse, i.e. dream the jungle all around us. But this time in the jungle, Pisac seemed to be coming all by itself.

21-Feb-2005, Ayahuasca #7, Puerto Maldonado, Diego Palma:

[Self-importance, sitting by Antonio, successfully riding the wave!]

In this ceremony I was working on self-importance and my need to feel powerful. We had taken a trip to Lake Sandoval earlier in the day, and I had spoken enthusiastically to Diego about my Sun Lion creature. He responded neutrally to my enthusiasm, which made me suspicious. I started thinking, "Maybe there is something I've missed". It occurred to me that perhaps I was finding powerful creatures to compensate for the feelings of fearfulness and powerlessness that I was finding within these issues that I was working with. I started to have a huge confidence crash. This was no good!! With my realities crashing around me, I decided to work on the root issues instead.

For some reason this time Diego or Kuitzi put me right at the front, right next to the core group -- sitting next to Antonio, one place away from Diego, with Andrea (another very experienced attendee of Ayahuasca ceremonies) on my other side. What had I done to deserve this? Perfect for working on self-importance issues. My position also meant that I was the last to receive Ayahuasca, and guess what -- Diego forgot that I was coming and he had almost packed up everything and blown out his candle. Perfect yet again for my self-importance issues ... yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I have enough detachment to see the humourous side.

Actually, before the ceremony, I was already aware of how big the issues were that I was dealing with this time, and I was working like crazy to clear as much as I possibly could before the ceremony started. The medicine was strong, but thanks to my preparation I actually managed to maintain conscious direction (even if not full uninterrupted consciousness) throughout the whole of the initial wave. In this ceremony I was able to work with the Ayahuasca creatures as friends and with trust, which helped a lot. There was some form of sexual contact with them in this and the previous ceremony, but as I mentioned previously, this was not really sex, just a form of contact to remove bad sexual energy. They seemed to leave my good sexual energy and other resources well alone, thankfully -- unlike various women in my life, which is where I guess all my fears were coming from.

Sitting next to Antonio was amazing. I could feel how much power was coming through him when he was singing some of the songs. Sitting in this position, I also found myself doing a few things such as holding strong tensions and intents for the group, making gifts of energy and so on, but I can't really take credit for this because these things were just coming through me.

23-Feb-2005, Ayahuasca #8, Puerto Maldonado, Antonio Fernandini:

[Torture for me, a lot of anger, putting things straight]

Well, I had bad feelings about this ceremony from the start. I felt that there were lots of crossing over intentions amongst the attendees of the ceremony, much too entangled and complicated. It was also a very big group, almost too many to fit in the Maloka. Well, let's just say that I was not feeling at all comfortable in the run up to this ceremony, and my intuition was not incorrect.

Half-way through the start of the wave, I started smelling Agua de Florida incredibly strongly, almost to the point that I couldn't breathe. I had to pull right out of my process and push the bad energy carried by it back across the room. This happened several times, and I was really angry (not just me, but also a lizard creature that was with me). As the ceremony went on, things got worse not better. I couldn't continue my process, I didn't purge physically, the whole thing seemed broken. I could feel the bad, sick energy in the room building up and building up to the point where I couldn't handle it any more and I had to go outside to the jungle.

Out with the jungle, the nature energy was clean and fresh, and I could do some slow 'power breathing' to clean myself, but there was still the problem of the Maloka full of terrible energy -- from my perspective at least. Well, no-one else seemed to be noticing it, but it was still a huge problem for me. I did as much work as I could from outside to try and lift the bad energy out of the space. I still didn't want to return, but eventually Diego started singing one of the songs that really pulls the group together, and I returned. The rest of the ceremony was still torture, but I was working from within the group instead of outside of it. I did everything I could to try and lift the energy, but whatever I did I could not get back on my process, and I could not shift the angry mood either. Eventually at the end, to try and reduce my suffering a little, I psychically offered to everyone to put their sick energy in the middle of the room so that I could dispose of it for them, and I had various contributions from various sides, and then I got rid of it all for them, and very soon after Antonio called a close to the ceremony.

Well, what a disaster -- from my perspective -- but no-one else seemed to have noticed it at all, and they seemed very happy with the ceremony. I felt a long long way apart from everyone else, rejecting the whole thing. I was very grateful that Diego and Kuitzi individually made contact after the ceremony, which helped to bring me back a little.

Still I couldn't shift the anger at all. Some of it was dissipated by a big rain/thunder storm the next morning, but in the evening of the next day at the integration meeting, I let them have the rest of the anger. I said exactly what I thought about what had been going on with certain people (there were some apprentice healers working with the group), particularly about not disposing of bad energy properly, using Agua de Florida excessively and other stuff. It was pretty straight, and I was thanked later on for the wake-up call I had given, so it seems that my expression of anger was part of the process of learning for these people, so I guess I must have been doing a job for Mother Ayahuasca in some way. I can't really feel better about it, but if this was a required part of my journey, I can accept it.

Still, I don't fully understand why I was so much more sensitive to what was going on than everyone else was, except that maybe the bad energy that was around was touching my own half-cleared issues in a way that was impossible for me to deal with at that time. Ideally if the bad energy had been disposed of better by those clearing it out of others, I wouldn't have had this problem. Still, there is probably much more to this story than I am aware of, but for whatever reasons, this ceremony was not the best for me.

Apart from the little complication that I was involved in, there were also various other stories going on in the room, much more positive stories, so it was not all bad by any means. It was Antonio's first ceremony leading such a large group, and there were various little sub-stories involving him that did really work out very nicely, and the group as a whole did feel positively about the experience. JUST NOT ME!   ;-(

25-Feb-2005, Ayahuasca #9, Puerto Maldonado, Felipe:

[Very different Ayahuasca experience, very long but very complete]

Kuitze had arranged this additional ceremony at Corto Maltes with Felipe, a Shapibo curandero, to give various people more experience with other modes of healing. Kuitze had worked with Felipe extensively before, and she knows him very well. I joined the group pretty much at the last minute. Somehow I felt that this was part of the resolution of the 'complication' that I experienced in the previous ceremony.

Diego had warned us that Felipe's ceremonies usually only last 3 hours or so, and that his medicine was relatively light, but he couldn't be more wrong regarding this particular ceremony! For whatever reason, it was a 9 hour experience for me, right up until dawn, and although I felt that Felipe 'capped' the experience and didn't allow us to follow the natural Ayahuasca 'wave', the medicine was still strong for me.

Felipe ran the ceremony very much more informally from a physical point of view, but from a spiritual/energetic point of view, he kept a very much firmer control than Diego. For example, there was not the same strict ceremonial formalities -- we just kind of sat down and he got started. However, from an energetic point of view, I really felt that he kept us completely under control, moderating every aspect of our experience with Ayahuasca. In that sense he is a very strong curandero, strong enough to exert that much control over a group of maybe 10 people.

Spiritually/energetically, I felt that he used Ayahuasca as a tool only, and he did not allow her free reign in any sense. He limited our experience so that we did not follow the 'wave' that comes naturally with Ayahuasca. He also monitored us all with his own energy, and also fed us all the energy that we needed as part of the healing process. In short, all the healing came through him. I also felt that he was uncomfortable when anyone spent too long outside -- he wanted them back inside the circle where he could keep an eye on them.

This is all very positive in many ways -- you are completely taken care of by Felipe during the ceremony -- but in comparison to Diego's ceremonies, it is a very very different approach. Also different was the medicine. Felipe's medicine is much thicker/denser, which was a shock for me as I tried to gulp it down. He serves it in a very small metal goblet. It also seems that he adds honey and/or chocolate to make it more palatable, which didn't improve things at all for me! He also strongly discouraged people from drinking much water, again quite different from Diego's approach.

Felipe does not use Ayahuasca in the same way as Diego. Felipe is much more focussed on physical-level and emotional/energetic healing, and it seems that he does not really work much above those levels. However, the work that he does do on those levels is very very strong. Several people in the ceremony experienced deep healing of traumatic or parasitic/draining experiences with full knowledge in the moment of healing of what was being healed. Felipe also showed a great deal of awareness of everyone in the group at all times. For example, sometimes when working physically on one person, he would tell some other person in the room to lie on their belly to protect themselves.

Whilst he did not work on me physically, I did feel that he was singing a lot of Icaros directed at me. For example, at the end of the Icaros the shaman traditionally makes a kind of hissing noise as he/she blows healing energy out into the room. With Felipe this was really strong. Whilst I am used to channelling my own energy to maintain the healing process within ceremonies, it was clear that Felipe was able to provide all the energy required by everyone in the group to complete their healing. Several times after an Icaro, I had strong releases of bad energy (e.g. in the form of burping gas, or whatever).

The other incredible thing for me was that despite the fact that my experience was going on a very long time (and the experiences of a couple of others), Felipe did not give up. He kept on singing Icaros right through to dawn at 6am. This was very surprising to me. Diego usually intentionally ends the ceremony whilst people are still under the effects of Ayahuasca, so that the sharing time immediately after the ceremony is still in that space. However, this means that often for me there is still the tail-end of some process working through. With Felipe that was not at all the case. After Diego's ceremonies, I always find it useful to make notes, to understand and resolve more of whatever I was working on during the night, but after Felipe's ceremony, I felt no need for that -- the process really was complete when the ceremony had ended. Everything that Mother Ayahuasca had turned over had been dealt with -- that was the second big surprise for me.

Well, as you can see, I was impressed. But the question is who is it best to work with? For me, I prefer to work with Diego, because with Diego there is a lot more freedom for me to find my own power and my own approaches, and it is important for me to be developing my own strengths and building upwards. However, a no-nonsense Russian-American friend (who I won't name, because I didn't ask permission) who attended that ceremony with Felipe decided to carry on working with him on physical issues, and seeing her a few sessions later, she seemed very happy with the progress she had been making. She was benefitting from a combination approach -- attending Felipe for the deep/heavy/physical work, and then onto Diego to continue working with some higher stuff -- at least this is how it appeared to me.

So, to me this was a very important ceremony to have attended, to see and understand from the inside a very different approach to the medicine.

Regarding the resolution to the previous ceremony, I realised that one way or another I had taken on a lot of crap belonging to some other people in the group, and I gave all that back to them. I also found a whole lifetime of crap that I had picked up from other people in the past, and it being much too much to give back, I took it down towards the centre of the earth and let it burn to ash in the heat there. Resolved? I hope so.

1-Mar-2005, Ayahuasca #10, Pisac (Cusco), Diego Palma:

[Gentle session, great warrior visitor]

This Ayahuasca session was very gentle for me, feeling almost like a celebration, although I was left with a load of sexual crap to deal with by the end.

I had been talking to someone in Pisac about Ayahuasca and during this ceremony she kind of turned up next to me, presumably in dreaming (mine or hers, I don't know). I tried to support her experience, just in case it was for real (i.e. not my imagination). I have no way of knowing if this was a real dreaming connection, but still I saw some interesting things as she became at one point a strange bird creature with hollow eyes, with the bird face like a skull.

The Sun Lion creature turned up for a couple of the songs, and I also felt a Lizard/Dragon energy coming through at times to help some people in the group centre and focus themselves.

I also caught a glimpse of someone who I can only describe as a great warrior. I only saw his sleeve, a traditional-style patterned fabric -- the rest of him was in shadow. Every time I thought of him, I had a mixture of great happiness and a feeling of being incredibly lucky and fortunate to have encountered him, to the extent that it brought tears to my eyes. I don't understand why I was getting this reaction, but it was just happening. Who is this warrior that I feel so honoured to have encountered? There was a feeling of a lot of warmth and knowledge coming from him. At some level I must have recognised him.

3-Mar-2005, visit to Apu Pachatusan:

[Spiritual adventure]

This was a spiritual adventure all right. A Peruvian friend called Paloma from the Ayahuasca session offered to join me for a walk up Apu Pachatusan, so we made preparations and went. Actually, we didn't know that we were climbing Pachatusan. I was planning to climb Mama Ñusta, but Mama Ñusta had other ideas about that.

Well, anyway, we set off, a little later than ideal, and headed around to Mama Ñusta and then up. I was leading as I had studied the mountain before to find all the potential paths. We headed up to what I thought was a path but turned out to be an old irrigation ditch, difficult to follow because of the plant growth. We improvised our way across the mountain towards a much bigger path I had seen. At one point this meant crossing through several cactus-filled gullies. Coming out the other side, I suddenly realized that I was walking very slowly, feeling quite dizzy. It occurred to me that maybe there were spirits in those gullies that I should have been more respectful towards, so I sent some apologies, and the feeling cleared, and we went on.

Going up the main path, Paloma was behind, but we were both pushing quite hard up the mountain. The altitude meant that my breathing rate and heart were both going like crazy. I was going through waves of emotional confusion, alternately building up and then lifting out, leaving my head clear before more material surfaced. It was like a form of purging, feeling in several ways like another Ayahuasca session. I was in an altered state of sorts, especially as the feeling of the natural energy changed as we went along the path. At some places, the energy was hard, and at other places, the place felt like a garden, with rich blooms and smells and warm energy all around.

Eventually we got to a place where I thought we could climb further up Mama Ñusta, but arriving there the route seemed a lot less promising. I really felt like the Apu didn't want to be climbed in this way -- there were complications in all directions. I wasn't making much progress this way, but then in discussion with Paloma, I had the intuition to head around the mountain, and Paloma agreed. We headed around, and eventually came to a spring and to an overgrown area of cactuses and thorn-bushes in a valley that separated this mountain from the next.

We passed through this cactus/thorn area, and then I suggested that Paloma started leading. We didn't realize that we had passed onto Pachatusan at this point -- Paloma thought that Pachatusan was further around. Interesting that we had moved from a female Apu onto a male Apu, and at the same time switched the leader to the opposite. Paloma decided straight away that she wanted to head straight up instead of looking for paths. This seemed fair enough as we were on farmed land -- there were a few houses up there where people lived. She went ahead as I followed behind, struggling more and more with the altitude the higher we got. She was very much better adjusted to the altitude than I was -- obviously, because she was soon way ahead up the mountain. Every now and then I would see her look back to check how I was doing, before going on up even higher.

I was finding this climb more than a little challenging, to be honest. If I was alone, I would have turned around and gone back, especially as the afternoon was getting late. But I had no choice but to keep going to catch up with Paloma. I realized that it wasn't so much that I was weak, but that I was being weighed down by emotional baggage. As it got harder, I started alternating clearing emotional rubbish (as best I could) with making challenges for myself such as walking up to a cactus or bush a few more meters up the mountain. My energy level was getting very low -- not so much chemical energy, but chi-style energy. I was trying to pull more chi from the environment, or even to create it, anything to give me the strength to keep going forward. It felt like I was having to find resources within me that I hadn't had to find before. Paloma was completely out of sight, but I had seen which way she had gone. At one point I was humourously wondering if she had really existed, or whether she was just some 'siren' sent to lead me to my doom. It was getting much too late -- it had gone beyond all reasonable limits for turning around, and I was left with nothing else to do but keep going and simply trust that everything was going to work out.

It didn't get any easier as I got higher, but little by little I climbed up to where I had seen Paloma go. In the final stages, I found the tune of one of Diego's Medicine Songs coming to me. I was humming this to myself as some kind of a support. Eventually I got up to the top, and not finding Paloma, feeling a little concerned about where she might have gone, started heading up towards the pass between the mountains. The land here was rising less steeply and the walking was much easier. Eventually I found her, running from one peak and another, very happy. We met up and had a brief hug -- all was well. However, it was obvious that our time was very limited up here, as it was getting very close to sundown.

I told her about the song that had come to me, and hummed it to her, and she knew the words: it was "El Viejo Caminante". She started reciting the words to me, and then she sang it from start to finish. This really was perfect, like a genuine sacred offering to the Apus in that moment.

Very soon after this we had to start to head down. We had food to eat, but I hadn't wanted to eat much whilst coming up, because starting to digest food really would have completely knocked me out. However, before eating we agreed to descend as far as we could whilst there was still some light. We got maybe three-quarters of the way down the main stretch between the top and the path, and stopped in the darkness to eat. Paloma smoked some tobacco to make prayers to aid our return. (She had also been making prayers on the way up, I learned later -- she seemed very well-connected with spiritual things like this).

We continued down the mountain in the dark. It was just about possible to see where it was too steep, because of parallax movement in the vague shapes that could be made out. Somehow I could also find a sense of which was the best way to head down. We proceeded down the mountain in this way. We knew we had to pass a group of trees and then try and find the path. This was the only way we would be able to cross the area of cactuses and thorn-bushes.

At some point Paloma started calling out to see if any of the locals was still awake to give us somewhere to sleep until daybreak, but no-one responded. All we did was start lots of dogs barking higher up the mountain on the other side. I was confident we could get down the mountain, though. We kept on heading down, but I started to feel that we had gone too far down. It was getting much too steep. I convinced Paloma to trust me and to return back up the mountain a little. I remembered a certain rock that was on the path that I thought I would recognise if I found it again. Sure enough I found it, and we were on the path!

We pushed our way through the cactuses and thorns at the point where the path lead through them, and then started following the path down the mountain, basically by touch. I could kind of vaguely make out the path, but I was also feeling the ground on all sides with my boots. When I got confused, Paloma would go ahead and feel it out on all fours. We did pretty well with this system. However, at some point I was expecting to find a switchback turn down to the right. We must have missed it, because at one point I noticed that the path had become a lot more rocky, and I was starting to feel uncomfortable.

However, Paloma was confident in our new path, and I reluctantly went along with it. This wasn't the way I was hoping to go down the mountain, but I didn't have the certainty to argue for climbing all the way back up to find the turn. So we followed the path until we eventually lost it, and then started heading straight down the mountain. To me our challenge was first to get down the mountain safely, and second not to argue too much between ourselves in the process. We did pretty well with the second part, really, although there were some frustrations.

At this point we discovered that my digital camara could be used as a torch of sorts, at least good enough to avoid walking into cactuses (I already had three large spines buried deep in my finger and thumb from an earlier encounter). Eventually we ended up at one place which felt to me like the edge of a large hole or drop, where I really didn't feel okay about continuing down or to the left. I really wanted to go up to the right, but we had some disagreement about this. Eventually a car came along, and we realized that we were right at the bottom of the mountain, on the top of the cutting made for the road. After some more time and argument, another car came along, and Paloma spotted that towards the right there was a path down to the road, and finally we were down. It was 1:30am, time for another brief hug to celebrate making it through the challenge together. We had taken 6:30 hours to go up the mountain, and 7:30 hours to come down. After another half-hour walking around on the level, we were back home.

Well, this was a spiritual adventure all right, but I couldn't have had it with a better person -- Paloma took a completely straightforward approach to every difficulty and discomfort that came up. Okay, we made mistakes, but we also solved them without too much unnecessary emotion. I'd certainly be willing to share a crisis with her again sometime.

Needless to say there were some people concerned about us, despite my attempts to send them reassuring psychic messages, but the worried people did not include Paloma's friends! They trusted her better than that! They had made moonlit trips up to the mountains together before now, so for them, no big deal ... no worries ...

9-Mar-2005, Ayahuasca #11, Pisac (Cusco), Diego Palma:

[Forceful determination, giving energetic support, head-buzzing device]

This was a fantastic session for me. In the informal meeting before the ceremony, I realized that Diego's energy level was lower than normal (unusually), and that if I wanted to have a really good session I was going to have to make it happen myself. I had been feeling good energy building in me for a day or two, so why not use it? So, for most of the session that I was conscious, I was consciously putting in my own energy to support the group process. (Looking at it from the outside now, one possible interpretation is that Mother Ayahuasca coordinated the whole thing so that I had the energy ready for this.)

The initial wave was strong, but I maintained awareness and conscious direction. Somehow it felt like I was in a mountainous region -- I was digging down into the deep crevices to bring out the deeply buried bad energy, using a strong warrior intent and warrior breathing. Moments of anger were also coming to help me get through the stuff that was coming out, the mood being, "I'm not going to take any more of this nonsense" -- that kind of forceful determination to make it through.

Diego had given me more than previously, and I had a strong purge towards the start. I was in the Ayahuasca world again. I was uncertain what the Ayahuasca beings were up to much of the time, but I said, "Okay, so long as it is for healing". Later they were using some kind of device on me that made a strong buzzing sensation in my head and filled my head with light. It felt like I might lose consciousness, and I really wasn't sure that I liked it. They had tried to use this on me in one of the previous ceremonies (I can't remember when), but I hadn't liked it then either and they had stopped when I asked.

Later when I was more conscious, I started working with Mother Ayahuasca directly. I didn't see her, but I was connecting upwards to her and allowing changes to come down via that connection, allowing (encouraging!) her to make modifications to my body and mind. Also at one point I saw some huge bright green thing mounted on huge legs on the top of some mountain-like place, giving off a lot of energy. This was connected with one of the songs that Diego sang and something he said, although I can't remember details. Also, when Nitze was singing, I was connecting with his ancestors and guardian spirits, and I saw a whole load of them, including that stylised Inca puma thing with a headdress that appears on all the tourist tapestries. Interesting ...

At some point late in the ceremony I felt it was time to stop leading energetically and to quieten down, and I did that, but even after that when the ceremony finished I was still feeling fantastic, still full of energy to give. Amazing.

Afterwards I was concerned about this incident with the head-buzzing device, and I asked the I-Ching about it. The I-Ching was very enthusiastic, talking about radical change. It also seemed to be pointing out that it was fine for me to set the limits/rules for the experience beforehand, i.e. to make it my experience, not just whatever the Ayahuasca beings wanted to give me. Well, based on this I started preparing for the next opportunity when I might meet these Ayahuasca beings again, when I might encourage them to use that device to cause a radical positive change in me. It didn't actually work out that way, though ...

10-Mar-2005, walk up towards Apu Linle:

[Picked up depressive energy]

I took a reconnaissance walk up to find a good path for the first part of the climb up to Apu Linle. I climbed up the lower hills the hard way, and on the way back found the good path, a very strong path used by the communities higher in the mountains to come to/from Pisac by foot (a 2-3 hour walk). However, coming down the mountain somehow I picked up some depressive energy, really strong -- stronger than any depression I've had to deal with, that I can remember. Well, this was surprising because I normally feel great after climbing mountains, but I found I could sort it out with some dreaming/Reiki/etc, and I spent the whole night continuing this kind of process, sorting a bunch of other things out.

14-Mar-2005, visit to Apu Linle:

[Interacting with mountain, absorbing Chi during descent]

I made the full walk up Apu Linle today, up the fast path to the communities high in the mountains then trying to cut across to climb Apu Linle. Some large birds were flying high above one part of the mountain, and I used this as an indication to climb up there instead of the more obvious peaks. This was good, as the real top of the mountain isn't the part that is visible from the valley floor. I found the feeling of Apu Linle to be friendly. There is a lot of life up there -- farmland and communities close by. Even with the few farmers on Pachatusan, that mountain still felt really hard and severe to me -- although maybe I need to climb it again sometime to check if it still seems like that.

Anyway, Apu Linle felt comfortable. I was expecting several spirits up there, as I had seen three up there in a previous Ayahuasca ceremony. It felt like each separate peak (which were like separate immense rocks) were different in feeling. I was climbing all over them, trying to find different viewpoints. Whilst doing this, I found one who didn't seem to like me. I sat quietly for a while at the base of this peak trying to learn whatever I could from this. One of the Medicine Songs came, and I sang the few words I could remember from it and hummed the rest.

I spent quite a while up there, walking around and taking a lot of photos before heading back with some urgency, not knowing how long it would take to descend (a rough rule that emerged was to allow 4 hours up, 2 hours down). On the way down it felt that as the atmospheric pressure increased (if you doubt the significance of the change, you should have seen the effect on the empty water bottles), natural energy was being forced into me, as if the density of Chi in the body was also varying with altitude. I was coming down fast, very happy, but I had a wake-up when I realised that I did need to pay some good attention to my energetic state and not be so care-free. It was as if I was filling up with mixed or unknown energies, and I had to keep cleaning myself all the way down to avoid getting into trouble. So this is what I did all the way down. I think this must have been my mistake the previous time. This is a very well-used path, so I guess there are a lot of different human energies around.

15-Mar-2005, Ayahuasca #12, Pisac (Cusco), Diego Palma:

[Supporting someone else's healing, frustration of not taking enough, determination to push further]

For this ceremony, I had the intuition to offer to support the process of someone else who had a lot of stuff she needed to sort out in this ceremony. Diego agreed, and the person in question was also very happy to be supported like this, so we sat together. Diego gave me a low dose so that I could remain fully conscious. He said that I should come for more Ayahuasca later on to stay 'just on the edge'. This is how he maintains his own state during the ceremony in order to be most connected with Ayahuasca/etc, whilst at the same time still being able to play the guitar and sing.

My intention was to connect with this person and take her through everything that she needed to sort out, to take her much more quickly through her process than she might achieve on her own. In particular, I ended up taking her through a whole load of demon-traps, clearing out the root causes that were used to trap her. The process worked out very well. I went into the Ayahuasca world riding her wave with her, and I was working through issues that were recognisably hers instead of my own, working with all the tricks and confusions of her world. I was going into her stuff, getting confused, then resolving the confusion, completely living through it to clear it. It was okay that I was getting lost in it at times, because I had a strong intent to carry me through the whole experience. At times I also felt that I was acting as a bridge between her and Diego, who was singing and leading the ceremony.

Later on when I was more conscious, I worked strongly on her to bring out all the rubbish related to various things, lifting out all the crap, especially the root causes. There was so much material to process from her that I could not handle it all myself. I had to ask for special help and an Eagle came. The arrangement was this -- I would lift all the bad material out of her and bundle it all up, and lift it up a few meters to a platform that had appeared there, and then the Eagle would come and pick it up and take it away to be disposed of. Actually, to start with I only saw the talons snatching the material away, but later I was able to see the whole bird. This system worked very well. I have made use of this in ceremonies since then. The Eagle seems to know where the stuff can best be handled. Also, the Eagle won't take stuff that it knows you can deal with yourself. I am very grateful to this Eagle for its help.

Well, after a certain point, I had done all that I could do and I could leave her to her own process, using her own resources. The Ayahuasca effect wasn't very strong at this point, but unfortunately I didn't have the courage to go up and drink some more. I thought perhaps it was too late or some nonsense like that. I really should have gone to drink more, but I didn't. The rest of the ceremony was like slow torture. The songs did not sound the same without as much Ayahuasca in my system, and I was always wanting to connect more strongly with Ayahuasca than what was available from my bloodstream. I was finding ways to bring the Ayahuasca trance state stronger, but it was very strange because as soon as I lost concentration, I returned to being almost completely sober again. Also, I could find the Ayahuasca state of consciousness through concentration, but still my ears were sober ears, so the sounds weren't right. I became more and more determined to take a stronger dose in the next ceremony, and not to be such a coward, and to never make this same mistake again! It was a very frustrating experience, and I had no-one to blame except myself.

I was also beginning to feel the urgency to work very strongly on my own material. I only had another month before returning to the UK and whatever future lay before me. I still had so much work to do! And I was wasting a ceremony like this! Very frustrating. I was absolutely determined to push the limits a whole lot further the next time.

18-Mar-2005, visit to Apu Chajtacaca:

[Breaking stones, strange energies]

This is one Apu I hadn't had any strong feelings towards, but I climbed it because Diego suggested it. This is the mountain the other side of Taray from Pisac. The Quechua name means something like "breaking stones". I started climbing, and on the way up, just after crossing an irrigation canal, I found an area where I was feeling a lot of pain in my balls, a kind of pain which I associate with bad sexual energy. I couldn't shift it. I knew that if I kept on walking it would clear by itself, but still I couldn't understand why this had happened. Cynically I was wondering if the mountain's name should have been translated as "ball breaker". The strangest thing was that on the way back, coming back down the mountain, I had exactly the same discomfort at the same place on the mountain. Really I need to climb that mountain again to check what was going on there.

Climbing higher I felt occasional bad feelings around, like a few bad things had happened up there. Not spooky or scary or anything like that. Just bad stuff. I'm not 100% sure about my interpretations about these, so I won't write them down, but I was trying to clear it all from the mountain, and everything related to it from myself. Well, there definitely seemed to be a theme of bad sexual energy around, anyway. After some time wandering around up there, I made my way back down.

All in all, very strange, and for me very different compared to the other mountains. Worth climbing again to learn more.

19-Mar-2005, Wachuma #2, Pisac (Cusco):

[Dose just right, clearing material]

For this Wachuma experience I had learnt my lesson, and I asked for just half the amount that everyone else was having (half a teaspoon instead of one teaspoon). They were taking a lower dose anyway, to have the kind of experience in which you can continue to go about your everyday life, just with a slightly different perspective on things. It was good. We were on a mountainside in the sun, very gentle. The effect never got too strong -- enough to increase the focus of everything, but without any significant modification to reality. Well, if you really concentrated, it was possible to see the mountains breathing, but apart from that, reality was mostly behaving itself.

I was feeling some restlessness. There was some gentle discomfort in my belly that I was trying to clear through breathing the bad energy out. As the effect increased, I realized that I was going to have to walk or do some exercises to clear this discomfort, so I went up the mountain a little and started doing some Tensegrity. Wow, Tensegrity really works well in this state. I was working very strongly on this for an hour or more. This was clearing all the discomfort. I came back down to sit with the others who were reading or doing other static things, but again I was getting restless and needed to do some more exercises.

Even though this was gentle, I could recognise how it is possible to use a Wachuma experience to force material out to be cleared. A slightly larger dose would also have been manageable with Tensegrity, but not a lot more than that. The way forward is obvious -- keep increasing the dose until I can handle larger doses without discomfort. Then maybe I can access some of the other stuff that people experience at higher doses, such as seeing pure energy matrices under the skin of everything, and so on. One day.

We finished the session by going down to the house and eating cooked potatoes and cheese. I'm not yet totally convinced that eating really brings the effect down, but maybe it does. Anyway I was pretty hungry from eating nothing all day, so it was all welcome.

(The full procedure we used for Wachuma was as follows: In the morning we would eat a meal of fruit an hour before taking the medicine. The medicine was taken in powder form, mixed with a little water, with more water to wash it down. You can also take the powder directly into your mouth, but some people find that very unpleasant. Diego uses a little ceremony for taking the medicine, with tobacco to make some prayers and then each of us putting our individual intention/prayers for the session into our dose before taking it with a toast of "Causaypaj" ("for life" in Quechua), just like we do with the cup with Ayahuasca. During the main eight or so hours of the experience we ate nothing, except perhaps oranges or other acid fruit, but not too much. The peak comes at somewhere between 2-4 hours. The experience was officially closed by eating lots of heavy food like potatoes, bread, cheese, etc. With luck that reduces any remaining effects, and ends the experience. Really, considering my first meeting with Wachuma, I think it would be best to approach the medicine cautiously to start with, especially if you are sensitive like me -- you can always take more later on if it seems too weak.)

21-Mar-2005, Ayahuasca #13, Puerto Maldonado, Diego Palma:

[Different brew, different experience, no more "Ayahuasca World", having to adapt]

This ceremony was quite strange, and disappointing in some ways. The main thing was that the experience from the Ayahuasca brew was quite different. I think it was a different batch of Ayahuasca from the brew-maker. I was especially disappointed because I had great plans to meet up with those Ayahuasca beings with the head-buzzing device and ask them to radically transform me. Well, I didn't get my Ayahuasca world at all in this ceremony, nor in any of the ceremonies following it. Why not? I don't know. Maybe it was the different brew, or maybe all those creatures that I had been calling "Ayahuasca beings" weren't really so strongly connected with Ayahuasca and were just helping out temporarily. Maybe they had finished their work on me and had packed up and left?

Well, for whatever reason, I was not prepared for this change. The Ayahuasca experience was different -- the effect came on slightly more gradually, and even at the strongest part, it seemed to be easier to connect with the room and 'normal' consciousness. From the previous ceremony, I still had the determination to go back for more, no matter what, to have a really strong session this time, so I did. It wasn't really that strong though -- there was not the same sense of being launched forcefully into outer space (or should that be inner space?) like with the previous brew. There were some things happening, some changes happening, but in a different way to what I was accustomed to.

So, I was a little disappointed -- but with some thought, I decided that I just needed to work out how to make best use of this new medicine, rather than give up all hope. In other words I needed to adapt my hopes and expectations, and be less fixed. The new people taking Ayahuasca for the first time didn't have the same problem that I did with my expectations. I'm still not entirely clear what had changed, though -- the medicine was still strong in its own way, but I had definitely lost all the Ayahuasca world and beings that I had become accustomed to meeting each time.

23-Mar-2005, Ayahuasca #14, Puerto Maldonado, Diego Palma:

[Deep deep purge, very successful ceremony]

Okay, I was even more determined this time to work effectively and strongly with the new brew. My main Intent was for "radical change towards my truth". This was a short enough Intent that I could remember it and repeat it to myself during the ceremony, even when the effect was strong. This ceremony was much much stronger than the previous one. The 'wave' was not the same at all, a completely different "flavour" of experience, but still there was some really strong clearing happening.

For one long period I was purging a lot (energetically) not for myself, but for someone else in the room -- apparently. (Two people told me that afterwards.) I was almost getting lost in that stuff, only just holding on. Antonio offered support at one point, which I was very glad to accept. He was like an anchor for me during that period. After purging all this stuff for this other person, I suddenly started purging my own stuff, and it was really deep stuff, really deep and horrible stuff. It was stuff I had suspected but feared, and it was worse than I expected. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I was sending it all up as best I could, accepting help from the Eagle again. I didn't have any trouble managing my own process in this part, but it was not pleasant. I was using my Intent every time I regained conscious control, using it to guide me through the next wave of confusion. At the end of the ceremony, I was still feeling "Yuck", and I didn't want to touch anyone else really, but still Kuitzi came to visit to communicate a few things. I spent the rest of the night using Reiki and visualisation and so on to clear all the threads as far back as I could trace them. I really wanted to be done with this whole thing for good, as completely as I could.

Afterwards, Diego told me that this deep purge of mine in this session was the second part, the conclusion, of my cathartic experience in ceremony #3. Well, I was very glad to be getting this stuff out. Thankyou, Mother Ayahuasca.

25-Mar-2005, Ayahuasca #15, Puerto Maldonado, Diego Palma:

[Deep strong purging almost all night, processes complete]

This was an incredibly strong session. Right from the start it was a strong process for me. I must have spent hours in deep energetic work. However, I did have control -- I seemed like I could have backed off at any point. I purged physically early on. Vera (another participant) came over at one point and emptied my bucket and give me a strange chinese coin to hold (thanks, Vera), and she also suggested that I go outside, thinking I was in trouble, not realizing quite how much the process was actually in control. It was my Intent that was making it strong, and I was working right on the border of consciousness the whole time, with waves of semi-consciousness energetic purging between moments of clearer consciousness. I didn't need to go outside.

However, I really didn't realize how long I had been in this state of deep work. It really must have been hours. Eventually the effect wore off and I was left with the feeling that nothing much had really happened in the ceremony. It was such a strange ceremony -- Diego had only sung about 4-5 songs, and they had all been mantras. Most of the ceremony had been in silence. However, there didn't seem to be a problem with that. It seemed strange, but during the night I remember thinking that everyone did seem to be in productive processes, not really needing a lot of support from songs. When the end of the ceremony came, which I felt was really early, it was actually something like 5am. We had had an incredibly long ceremony, mostly in silence. What an amazing and unusual night.

At some point in the night, I had gone outside. At this point I noticed another difference with this Ayahuasca brew -- it felt like all the plants were individually pulling on me, calling for attention. It felt too much, too many distractions. It didn't feel quite so safe to be outside with this Ayahuasca as it had with the previous one. Previously on going outside I had only experienced nature as a whole, and as a source of natural energy. I'm assuming that the difference was due to the Ayahuasca, but I suppose it is also possible that my own perception and attention is changing -- who can say?

I was full of energy at the end of the ceremony which was another very good sign for me. To me, this means that the processes completed. I had really done a huge amount of good work during this ceremony, very positive. Antonio told me that I had been like a piece of iron-wood for the whole time. I was also able to give some support to others afterwards, sitting with the girl from India until dawn.

Several people seemed to have the feeling after this ceremony, at the end of this seminar, that their process was complete in some sense -- for the time being. I felt this too, but I wasn't going to turn down any further opportunities to attend Ayahuasca ceremonies given that I still had very little clue as to what I should be doing next with my life.

28-Mar-2005, visit to Kinsa Ccocha:

[Pushing altitude further, trust, eagles]

This is a mountain behind Apu Linle, much higher, which has three lakes on it. Well, there are two obvious lakes, and I couldn't find the third one, unless it refers to one of the lakes on the other side. I climbed up the same path as I used for Apu Linle, but then carried on up through the communities to the higher lands leading up to the mountain. I found another nice Apu to climb to the left of Kinsa Ccocha whose name I don't know, and continued around to the lakes. The altitude was making me weaker, but after finding the second lake I slowly continued climbing, looking for the third one. It was getting towards turning around time, but then I realized how close I was to the top of the mountain, and the inevitability of having to continue to the top struck me; somehow I had to do it. Some part of me reacted with, "Please, no!", but despite this resistance, I did carry on, having to trust (again) that everything would work out okay despite the additional time it would take. Climbing against the altitude like that is challenging for me, like another form of purging. Well, the mountain seemed friendly, and I got to the top, enjoyed all the views, and started looking for ways down, eventually finding a safe way down from the peak.

Instead of heading back the same route, though, I followed a broad ridge down around to another lower peak which is visible from the valley (the Kinsa Ccocha mountain itself is not visible). Whilst walking across these very high flatlands I saw several large eagles, and also some strange black-and-white birds with orange bills, of similar size to the eagles. I was more interested in the eagles, really. Later I saw the black-and-white birds mobbing an eagle to chase it away.

My plan for getting down to the valley at a reasonable hour was to head for the ruins and hopefully get a taxi, or else follow the main ruins road down, which at least would be safe and feasible to walk along in the dark. From the peak, I could see a promising way down, joining a vehicle track that came down from the high communities, and that worked out fine. On the way down, I could see people coming back from their work on the ruins, flute-players who were still playing their flutes. I reached the main ruins road in the dusk, unfortunately too late to catch a taxi there, but I walked for a while and caught one further down. Everything worked out fine -- with trust, intuition and patience. I only wish the rest of my life was as easy as climbing mountains.

1-Apr-2005, Ayahuasca #16, Urubamba, Eleana Molina:

[Very different experience, mother earth, abundance, issues related to female help]

I had the opportunity to attend this ceremony through a friend who had worked with Eleana previously. I was initially uncertain, but when I understood that part of my resistance was because the whole ceremony was going to have a much more feminine feeling, I decided to go ahead with it. Eleana works quite differently to Diego or Felipe. She handles only individuals or small groups, and for the group sessions, she does not take Ayahuasca with the participants. Instead she sits outside her temple room and meditates, monitoring everything from there. She only comes in if specific help is needed.

She works strongly with the Pachamama. It seems that the two main spirits she is working with in the ceremonies are Mother Earth (Pachamama) and Mother Ayahuasca. This, connected with her also feminine influence, gives a very feminine-feeling ceremony! At the start of the ceremony, the participants come into the temple room individually to receive the medicine. At this point, she also makes some prayers to connect the participant with Mother Earth, and does an energetic cleansing using bells, rattles and feathers. Also, at this stage, the payment for the ceremony is made as an offering onto her altar, and other requests to Mother Earth can be made at this point. As normal, intentions for the ceremony itself are made with the cup before drinking the Ayahuasca brew.

Also different is that she does not sing or play any instruments. Instead she selects and plays CDs throughout the night. When we were talking before the ceremony she had a very strange CD on of shamanic noises and so forth, which was having quite a strange effect of me. I don't remember much of the music from the night, though. She said that most of the music was selected to keep the possibilities open. She said that singing specific Icaros cause the possibilities to be narrowed down, so she only includes 3-4 Icaros during the night, ones that are related to physical and emotional cleansing.

One of the issues that afterwards I realized that I had been working on during the night was the issue of receiving help from women -- I have received a lot of 'poisoned' female help in the past. I lay down early on, and she came in and arranged the blankets, and I really had to concentrate on accepting female help in this way. I fell asleep and went through several healing dream-waves, similar to my own experiences of giving myself deep Reiki healing.

Later on, I felt that one of the other participants was struggling a little, and the second time I connected to her to give energetic help, I had a strong physical purge come which was pretty hard work. It wasn't physically hard so much, but it felt like the emotional energy being purged was quite difficult to get out. Then, immediately after I purged, the person I was helping also purged, a huge long purge, quite hard work for her also.

I slept a lot in the night, and I woke early, long before the other two participants, which gave me a lot of time to think about my issue with female help and about my connection with Pachamama, and to work very hard on these issues consciously with Reiki and in dreaming.

My impression of Eleana's ceremony was that it did have a kind of subtle, strong power, but one that I can't really nail down and analyse or understand in any familiar way. I don't feel any immediate need to attend another ceremony with her, but I would certainly go back if I received the intuition to do so. My conscious gains from this ceremony were a greater understanding of my issues with connecting with Mother Earth and with receiving help from women, and some ideas about abundance for me to work on. I worked hard on clearing the related issues, so I hope there has been progress on a subtle level also.

5-Apr-2005, Wachuma #3, Arin yoga retreat, Sacred Valley:

[Light effect, worked on energy-body perception, climbing mountains]

This was my third Wachuma experience, and it was with a new batch of powder made from different cactuses. We went up to a Yoga retreat centre in Arin that belongs to Mama Kia. (Mama Kia runs the local orphanage of 30 kids, amongst 1001 other things that she does or has done in her incredible life.) The retreat centre was still incomplete at this time -- the buildings were there, but the grounds and services were still being worked on. Above the centre is the majestic and powerful-feeling Apu Pitusiray at 5000m, and an impressive waterfall.

This batch of Wachuma turned out to be not so strong, and we all ended up taking second doses. I took maybe 1.5 or 2 teaspoonfuls. I felt that I needed the second dose to make it feel challenging. After that, I did some physical exercises (Merilyn's Fire Breathing, some Capoeira stretches and Tensegrity), and then I tried Ken Eagle-Feather's energy-body perception exercises. I was getting bursts of healing from these, so these definitely seem like things I can work more on from this state. Towards the end of the day I decided to go walking up the nearby ridge to find the top of the waterfall. Wachuma really helped with this -- for walking and climbing it was great. Traversing the ground seemed much easier somehow. When I came down the mountain, I had the feeling to run at times, and it was very flowing -- my feet were naturally going in all the right places as I followed the mountain path down. So that is something else that Wachuma is good for.

7-Apr-2005, Ayahuasca #17, Pisac (Cusco), Diego Palma:

[Some gentle work]

Diego has commented previously how the experiences of Ayahuasca are different in the jungle to the highlands. He says that the ceremonies in the highlands are consistently shorter than in the jungle (maybe an hour shorter), and that the effects of the Ayahuasca are more abrupt somehow. I hadn't really noticed this too much, but in this ceremony, it was quite obvious. Nothing really happened for quite a long time at the beginning of the ceremony, to the point where I was considering going up for another dose, and then suddenly it all arrived. I wasn't quite launched into outer space, but there was a medium-sized wave and after that a consistent buzzing Ayahuasca state right until morning. This was even more surprising considering the relatively small dose that Diego had given me. It turns out that this is exactly the same batch that we were taking in the jungle, so the difference can only really be due to the change of location.

I was working on "radical change towards my truth", and various other things. I was finding it slightly harder to get fully grounded, but the effect of this medicine was still more grounded (in a way) than the previous batch. As part of my 'radical change', I was sending up and releasing layers and layers of material and then bringing the energy I'd shed back down again, grasping it tightly with my hands to process and reduce it and then sending the remaining energetic debris off into the jungle to fertilise the tree roots. (This is a variation on the technique that I'd learnt from the Sun Lion.)

12-Apr-2005, Ayahuasca #18, Pisac (Cusco), Diego Palma:

[Experimentally trying a different 'brew', much too weak]

This ceremony was a complete surprise to me. Since I was travelling on the 14th, I thought that I would miss Diego's next ceremony, but he decided to arrange a special ceremony for a small group of more experienced participants on the 12th. The reason for the small group was because he had a batch of Ayahuasca from another curandero that he wanted to try, but obviously he couldn't test this in a normal ceremony as he didn't know how strong it would be. I was certainly interested in trying a slightly different brew, maybe one giving me a stronger or more visual Ayahuasca experience -- I still had some secret hope of having some kind of a vision to give some more clarity to my future, or maybe even of finding that "Ayahuasca World" again.

Well, things didn't work out as hoped. The new Ayahuasca brew turned out to be very weak. We took one dose, waited an hour, then another dose and waited another hour, and still nothing much was happening. There were some visual effects I noticed when I went to the bathroom, but not much else. Perhaps with 6 cups we would have got a better effect. Anyway, as Diego says: "If you're not sure if it is working or not, then it ISN'T", and that was certainly the status of this brew after two doses. So, after the 2nd hour, Diego gave up with it and gave us doses from his normal Ayahuasca supply.

What a shame that the new medicine didn't do anything interesting. Personally, I hadn't noticed any effects at all from the other plants that had supposedly been included in this brew, but Leif (another participant) seemed to have received some understandings related to the other plants, so maybe they were there, just very weak.

The effect was also strange because normally with Diego's Ayahuasca, even if I am a little tired, as soon as the Ayahuasca effect starts, I am wide awake. However, for the first two hours, I was having to fight off extreme tiredness. Apparently I was even snoring, and the others had a joke amongst themselves at my expense. However, as soon as I had taken the 3rd dose, I was suddenly wide awake again. I suppose this just makes it even clearer that Diego is getting his supplies from exactly the right person.

We took the 3rd dose around 11:30 and for me it kicked in late, at around 12:40. I had a strong purge later in the night, and a gentle Ayahuasca effect continued until morning. Well, this was something like going out more with a whimper than a bang, but as I mentioned, all the hard work had really been done in the jungle 3 ceremonies ago.

I really feel that my next step with medicine plants will be to go the jungle to do a 'diet', i.e. a medicine plant fast. This involves being put on your own in a jungle hut for a week or more, giving up everything that has flavour (including toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant), and eating only bland foods like white rice. In addition to the rice, a medicine plant is also taken daily. There are different medicine plants for different purposes. The experiences from these diets are pretty strong, and I really feel that this approach would suit me very well. So, that is next!

The Ayahuasqueros

Diego Palma, Ayahuasca-Wasi:

Diego has about 7 years experience working with Ayahuasca. He initially studied with an Ayahuasquero called Alonzo who now lives in Taray, Cusco. He learnt many of the Medicine Songs sung with the guitar from Alonzo. Since going his own way, Diego has gathered his own group around him, including Antonio, an Ayahuasquero who works with him in the jungle, Kuitzi, a healer who supports in the ceremonies (using Pranic Healing, Reiki, etc), and various others. Diego has a strong connection with the indigenous roots of Ayahuasca and he uses tobacco and prayers in a way that would be familiar to anyone who has attended a Lakota ceremony, but he also has a very strong connection with Tibetan Buddism and related traditions. He seems to feel that it is important to have a strong upwards path like this available to guide the expansion of consciousness. Since Diego has routes to very high places open when he leads a ceremony, the experiences are very open, and very high if you are capable of getting to those states. For those like me who can't yet get that high, the experience is still beneficial because it feels like the ceremony is open to all experiences, that Mother Ayahuasca has a lot of freedom to give you whatever experience you are needing right now, and that Diego is happy to allow that to happen, and to support it.

Contact: Ayahuasca-Wasi website

Antonio Fernandini, Ayahuasca-Wasi:

Antonio is a great guy, gentle but powerful, quiet yet strong, with a very warm energy, with a feeling a bit like a bear. Normally for the Ayahuasca-Wasi jungle seminars, Diego leads the ceremony and Antonio is by his side supporting. Antonio sings his own Icaros at times, and dances at times, but Diego leads (i.e. makes the main prayers, gives out the medicine, and so on). I have sat next to Antonio in the ceremony on one occasion, and I was impressed by the power in him when he sang the songs. I have also attended one ceremony where Antonio lead the whole ceremony and Diego supported. This was one crazy ceremony for me, but that was not due to Antonio -- there were a very large number of people visiting, and some big issues being dealt with, and still everything worked out fine. I think Antonio does lead occasional smaller ceremonies in Puerto Maldonado, so I guess he is something like a trainee Ayahuasquero, certainly capable of leading a ceremony, but not quite so practiced in the role right now (Feb-2005) as Diego and some of the others.

Contact: Ayahuasca-Wasi website

Felipe, Puerto Maldonado, Peru:

Felipe is a native Shapibo curandero who works with Ayahuasca to give strong physical and emotional healing. From what I have heard, he is capable of very strong physical healing, i.e. changing things physically and not just at an emotional/energetic level. He sings Icaros with a shaker during the ceremonies, and sends huge amounts of healing energy into the room. He also uses sucking and spitting techniques, i.e. drawing bad energy out of a person's body by sucking it from them (leaving red marks on the skin!) and then expelling it by spitting it into a bucket. Beyond that I know very little about what other techniques that he has available to him as I have only attended one ceremony with him, and heard about someone else's experiences working one-to-one with him for physical problems. Kuitzi (who helps in Diego's ceremonies) also has a strong connection with him. I think Felipe is definitely worth investigating if you need some physical miracles.

Contact: probably best to get in contact through Kuitzi of Ayahuasca-Wasi or maybe through the Corto Maltes Amazonia lodge where Felipe holds some ceremonies. I don't have direct contact details.

Eleana, Urubamba, Peru:

I don't know too much about Eleana. I think that she was married to a curandero for some period (this information was not from her, but from others). She is also apparently related to someone who works at the Corto Maltes Amazonian lodge. She seems to do several different types of ceremonies. Group "free-form" sessions have a maximum of about 4 people, and take place at night in the temple room at her house. She does not take Ayahuasca for these, but stays in meditation outside the open door of the room monitoring the process; she comes in if there is help needed. She plays different CDs during the night to guide the ceremony. She also does one-on-one healing sessions for specific ailments, such as cancer, in which she does take Ayahuasca along with the person she is working on. She also seems to work with past-life regression at times, and has lots of interesting stories about Peru's Inca past derived from these. She also talks about the 4th/5th dimensions and stuff like that, things that sound interesting, but which are beyond my ability to validate!

Contact: Eleana Molina Mostajo (Faciladora), "Mistica Nativa", misticanativa(arroba)yahoo(punto)com, tel: Urubamba 9751691 or 9633171

[ Further reading: "More jungle medicine: three medicine plant diets" and "Further jungle diets: 2011-2012" ]

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