I remember the first time I returned back to the States after being away for an extended period of time.
I had been gone for 2 years before I came back to try to settle back into a “normal” work and home life.
It was excruciating.
In the two years that I was gone, I’d lived in both Kenya and Indonesia.
Wifi was’t readily available in that era, so other than the once a week trip to the shoddy internet cafe in town (which was 45 minutes away, mind you)- I had also been disconnected virtually, as well.
As you can imagine, my inner world changed immensely during this time.
And, when I came back to the States and saw that everyone and everything was more or less the same- I felt completely isolated and had a really hard time adjusting back to a pace and way of life that I’d since forgotten.
Integrating back into “real” life post Ayahuasca is kind of like this.
Although I can say without a doubt that my Aya retreat at Nimea Kaya has changed my life for the better- I also think it’s important to paint the entire picture of the experience, rather than romanticizing it into something it’s not.
My ceremonies untangled deep traumas, and offered an abundance of wisdom, truth, and downloads- which was insanely liberating.
However, integrating these new realizations into my regular, 3D human experience was another task altogethe
I’ve met a lot of people who are nervous to try Aya, not because of the trip or purge- but because of the aftermath.
I’ve had friends tell me they were afraid that they’d find out their partner wasn’t the right one for them, their job wasn’t a good fit, or that they weren’t living into their purpose.
All in all, most people who confided in me told me they were simply afraid to KNOW- and that they were quite content in their unknowing state, instead.
To be honest, this wasn’t something I put a ton of thought into myself.
Which makes sense given my personality.
I’d much rather know the truth, even if it’s painful.
Plus, I WANTED change.
I WANTED understanding.
I didn’t think these things would complicate my life, but rather compliment it.
Boy, was I wrong.
I mean, c’mon, there’s a reason for the saying: “ignorance is bliss.”
Here’s the thing, when you’re in the altered state- everything is coming to you at lightening speed.
What you receive is often described as a “download,” because that’s truly how it feels.
It’s like someone just plugged a hard drive into your heart, and all of the sudden you just KNOW all these grand, universal concepts on a cellular level.
Which is why, when you’re no longer in that altered state- you can’t really just go and UNKNOW all that was revealed.
So, suddenly you’re walking around with what feels like the golden ticket- the meaning of life, human existence, purpose- it’s all clear, and seems to OBVIOUS.
But guess what?
Everyone else is still existing in their forgotten state- that mindset of unknowing, disconnection, and distraction.
I was lucky that I had a few weeks of breathing room after my retreat.
I stayed in Peru, marinating in the Sacred Valley at the most healing center I’ve ever stumbled upon.
Although it was beautiful to remain immersed in nature with like-minded people, it essentially kept me in a protective bubble, as well.
And, when I finally left the country to go on and teach my own retreat- it was jarring to say the least.
When I arrived in Morocco, I stayed at a riad which (apparently) is quite well known in the blogging world.
It was beautiful, no doubt.
But, it was also full of people living through their screens, rather than real time.
My friend and I would sit on the rooftop during meals, soaking up the rich desert sunshine, watching the world go by in the bustling city beneath us, while enjoying conversation and delicious food, alike.
Then, we’d look around, and see that everyone around us was taking photos of their food instead of eating it.
They weren’t talking to each other without a phone or a camera in front of their faces.
My insides were screaming, “None of this shit matters!”
But on the outside, I was silent.
After all, I was (and still am) just as active of a participant in this way of life.
Hell, I was staying at this hotel for free in exchange for posting a few photos about it.
I was a major player in this Twilight Zone episode, but I also felt completely removed from it, as well.
The next few weeks, I continued to spiral down that rabbit hole of “none of this shit matters.”
I didn’t see the point of perfectly curated captures anymore, which was somewhat startling given that a good chunk of my income relied on platform I suddenly despised.
Fortunately, a good friend I’d made at my Aya retreat served as a sounding board for me through this process.
I vented to him about feeling fraudulent for participating in something I so strongly disagreed with.
I questioned my purpose.
Was I unaligned?
Was I straying from my path by being a part of all this noise?
Should I just delete everything and hide in a cave?
Luckily, he talked me off the edge, helped put all of my angst into perspective.
He reminded me that social media is just another tool we’ve been given, and how we use it is up to us.
If I want to use it for good- for fundraising, connection, and growth- then I can.
No one is stopping me.
It’s up to me to check in, to be intentional, to remain aware, rather than numb.
It was an uncomfortable few weeks as my relationship with social media changed.
However, I will say that since then- I’ve come out the other side with a healthier outlook and use of a tool that allows me to live my life in such a way that it is aligned with my greater purpose.
Perspective is everything.
Intention is key.
And support along the way is imperative.
The thing is, a social media crisis is hardly the end of the world, right?
But, a large part of why I’m using this example is because it isn’t super personal.
As I don’t think it would be respectful to share the deeper wedges of disconnect I’ve experienced with both friends and family- but I can tell you that they’re there.
Another one was about 2 months post retreat.
I was walking back to my room in the tail end of an acid trip, and watching all of the people around me.
It was summer in Europe, and the beach was packed.
The walk was about 40 minutes, so I saw A LOT in that time.
I felt like I wasn’t just watching people, but like I could really SEE them, if you know what I mean.
It broke my heart to notice the light extinguished behind so many adult eyes.
It seemed like most people were merely existing, rather than actually LIVING.
Like they were moving on autopilot in an eerie, almost zombie-like fashion.
I wanted to wave my arms and shout, “WAKE UP!” to startle them back into presence.
But then I’d see the sparkle of knowing in just one passer-byer’s eyes, and be reminded that everyone’s process is their own, not mine to speed up.
The most I can do is my best.
To live so authentically and lovingly that I become magnetic simply by being me.
That magnetism will undoubtedly evoke curiosity in others.
And I believe that curiosity is the entry point for a pathway of change.
This journey can be isolating, difficult, and is nowhere near linear.
And, in some ways, I’ve found the gifts from the ceremonies to be both a blessing and a curse.
Liberation seems to come at a cost of alienation.
As I prepare to enter into my second retreat, I can’t ignore the sadness I have in understanding the gap between myself and loved ones will inevitably broaden.
I’m not saying that I’m one step closer to enlightenment, and everyone else is stuck in some measly human mindset.
All I’m saying is that there’s a level of inevitability here.
After all, an Aya retreat is no different to any other life-altering experience, which completely broadens or shifts one’s perspective.
The question you need to ask yourself before entering this voyage is not so much about being ready- because are we ever really ready for anything?
No, the questions you need to ask yourself is: are you willing?
Willing to be uncomfortable, to feel lonely sometimes, and most of all- willing to change.
Because the thing is that this is where the real work is.
Although sitting in ceremony isn’t exactly easy, it’s still not the hardest part.
Applying all that you learn in this alternative universe is the point.
It would be easy to live in an altered state conversing with aliens, and flying through different dimensions of time.
It would be easy to run away, hide in a cave, and meditate the pain away.
But, then Aya becomes the same as any other substance- one that encourages escapism, avoidance, or numbing- rather than connection, introspection, and understanding.
This plant is used to dive into our problems, traumas, and wounds- rather than to run from them.
We take what we learn during these deep dives, and sprinkle that knowing into our every day lives.
We’ll start to notice how even the smallest, seemingly mundane moments have lessons hidden beneath the surface, and with the new tools we accumulated in the altered state- everything has more meaning.
It’s the same as any healing practice- talk therapy, meditation, energy work, etc- you can go until your blue in the face.
But just going to the sessions simply isn’t enough for real change to occur.
Integrating what you learn is how growth actually happens.
As I continue to navigate through what feels like a new life post-Ayahuasca, I’ve realized that even when I feel totally alone in this process, I never really am.
After all, one of the greatest takeaways from any of my psychedelic experiences has been the notion of oneness.
Our innate connection to Source ensures that even if we feel lonely, we’re never actually alone.
We’re in this together.
And, as the beloved, late Ram Dass said:
“We’re all just walking each other home.”