Little did I know that I would go through a hellacious resurrection and my life would be set on a new trajectory. It was in the heart of the Amazon jungle that I met Isis...
SHAMAN ON THE RIVER’S EDGE
I shifted uncomfortably from one ass cheek to the other on the wooden seat of the canoe. It was a 2 hr river ride from Puerto Maldonado to Tambopata Jungle Reserve where our 3 day Ayahuasca ceremony would take place. The hike up to Machu Picchu punished my body and depleted my stamina. Perhaps it was due to exhaustion…for the first time on that trip, I felt the foreboding of things to come.
The jungle straddled the river with shades of luscious greens. The vibrant symphony of its resident creatures accompanied us along our way. With my head resting on the railing edge of the canoe, I fell into a hypnotic trance watching the paddle go in and out of the murky water.
The sudden change in our course urged me to look up. Standing on the river’s edge stood a compact man with aged skin that hung off his bones like leather. His face was etched with deep set wrinkles that showed no expression as we pulled up. Slung over his shoulders were green wine bottles, tied by their necks with woven rope.
We had entered the community of Infierno. I subdued my imagination before it ran wild with theories of how the village came to be named after Hell. It was the chief of the pueblo, the shaman, who was waiting for our ride. A chorus of clinking glass synced with his movements. Inside the bottles the dark liquid sloshed around as he boarded our wooden vessel. He quietly took his seat with purpose. I instantly acknowledged the big spirit living inside his small body and cowered at the thought of ingesting a potion made by the Chief of Hell Village.
ENTER THE VISION VINE
We fasted for 3 days to purify our bodies in preparation for the ceremony. Ayahuasca, also known as the “Vision Vine”, is a brew made of the Caapi vine and leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub. The DMT from the leaves alone does not work by being orally ingested. However the harmaline-containing vine neutralizes this problem to deliver DMT’s powerful psychoactive properties.
The natives of the Amazon have been using Ayahuasca for over 5000 years. Shamans claim that the plants themselves revealed the secret of combining these companion plants. If humans were experiencing altered states of consciousness in the infancy of our evolution, perhaps our brains are pre-wired for it. What is there for us to gain by accessing areas of the brain that are otherwise out of reach without the use of mind altering plants?
We gathered around the fire when the sun went down. I looked around the circle, at the serious faces staring into the flames. No doubt we were all feeling the uncertainty of stepping into the unknown. None of us had experienced Ayahuasca before except Da. Da sat across from me behind the flames, next to the Shaman. Each one of us brought an object of importance to place upon the ceremonial altar. I whispered a prayer for insight as I offered the large shard of quartz crystal Mama had given me.
The Shaman blessed the altar and ignited the ceremony with an Icaro chant. The Icaros are sung to attune to the energy of the medicine and to call in spirits that may help us. The whistling, humming and vocal melodies are used to navigate uncharted territories of otherworldly realms.
The bottle was opened to release the brew into the ceramic cup that was passed around the circle. Knocking back the potion, Da’s face screwed up into the likes of a walnut. If it had that kind of effect on the toughest guy I knew, it had to be bad-really bad. My breath caught on anxious nerves as I watched each participant struggle to get it down.
When it was my turn the smell from the slimy swamp in the cup made me gag a little. I knew that if I prolonged the moment I would never get it down. I tasted the bitterness even before it hit my tongue. I opened the gate of my throat and drained the fowl brew . Ayahuasca is notoriously nicknamed La Purga, The Purge. It took all my might not to instantly projectile puke into the center of the circle. I laboured with heavy breaths and managed to keep it down… initially.
I don’t know how long I stared down the fire before I felt it. The symphony of the jungle which up until that moment was just in the backdrop suddenly came to life inside my head. I was saturated in the vibration of sound emitted from all the strange creatures of the night. Dumbstruck by the intensity of what was happening I locked eyes with Da before my body gave way and I fell back. My physicality dissipated along with my reference to reality and the visions hit full throttle.
I transformed into a dazzling, emerald serpent. Blades of grass parted before me as I powerfully weaved forward. My slinky underbelly glided on the earth unobstructed then my movement suddenly changed to rocking forward and backward giving me a vantage point altered to a higher perspective. I was riding on the back of an immense, black jaguar. It was Da. He showed me around the jungle as we conversed telepathically. I don’t remember what we talked about, only that we had full capabilities of understanding each other without speaking.
WADING THROUGH HELL
If there is a Hell it must be personalized because that is what I experienced next. After a violent puke session wrestling my insides, I found myself wading through a sea of dead bodies. The horrific landscape was formed out of countless carcasses and severed appendages. It was dark, endless, bloody, and terrifying. I slogged through hell frantically looking for a way out. I was utterly alone in a silent world, imprisoned amongst the dead.
While writing about this experience, an old memory surfaced from the depths of my psyche. I now know exactly when the seed of my personal Hell was planted.
When I was 8, we went on a trip to Shirahama- a resort town on the South Coast of Wakayama Prefecture in Japan. We stayed in my grandparents’ luxurious condo by the beach. One night, my parents turned on the TV to watch the breaking news. A plane from Japan Airlines had crashed in Gunma Prefecture and killed 520 people. It was to become known as one of the deadliest plane crashes in history.
My parents didn’t have the chance to warn me before I saw the image that shattered my reality. Up until that moment there was no reason to question the ending of things. There I saw mounds of lifeless people in the rubble of a monumental disaster. Embedded in the scattered plane parts, I saw a torn-off arm laying next to a leg poking out at an unnatural angle. Personal belongings lay in disarray, no longer belonging to anyone.
I hung suspended in shock, understanding that life could end abruptly and violently. Life didn’t always progress, it could be taken away without warning. I was paralyzed in fear, unable to undo what I had seen even after I shut my eyes.
I felt like I was in Hell for eternity. My determination to escape was eventually overwhelmed by despair. I finally stopped pushing against the corpses. Kneeling down, lifting my arms and looking up, I declared “I accept!”. I genuinely accepted that there was nowhere to go. I stopped fighting against the harrowing reality I was in.
It was as if I had said the magic word. The moment I stopped looking for a way out, it happened. Golden wings broke free out of my shoulder blades. I lit up the world of the dead as I flew right out of Hell.
My enormous wings enveloped me in the most heartfelt embrace. I was held in a cocoon of light in an exalted state. I don’t know how the name came to me. It just did. ISIS. She came as consciousness rather than a separate entity. Her powerful voice declared, “Do not forget who you are!”
It was a resurrection of Source that was long lost to me. In some kind of revelation, I opened my mouth and spilled out otherworldly melodies in a strange tongue. I became the vessel in which my song tethered me to all that is. Ecstatic moans from our circle beckoned my voice to stay…
“Suddenly Maasa began to sing in a totally mesmerizing language that clearly was out of this world. Any attempt to try to describe its profoundly spiritual beauty is just not possible. It was not just a song. It was a presence that arrived through sound…like an Angel was sitting amongst us and healing us with it. I have never since experienced anything of that sublime beauty and benevolence in any other ceremony. Isis had come to us using Maasa as a vessel-as the purest way to reach us by sound.” – John
THE MERGING POINT
I layed in my hut, still between worlds as the medicine seeped out of me. I felt my predictable self merge with an awakened being. The message was clear. I AM all that IS. I am made up of what has been, what is and what will become. The song that came through me was a primordial call of remembrance echoing across all of time and space. My wings are omnipresent, always accessible and deeply aligned with truth.
The message was powerful but so is the human condition to fall back on old, familiar ways. It is so easy to forget. Perhaps we were initially intact but life experiences can break us into pieces like deep ravines separating us from the original landmass from whence we came. I was determined to stay awake with Isis.
The adventure in Peru had come to a close. Each one of us received gifts of great importance. As the group dispersed homeward bound, we all felt the daunting task of holding onto our insights. On my way home I made a commitment to engrave the message into me. I would etch my awakening into a tattoo as a daily reminder of my remembrance.
The symbol that came to me represented my experience. The scarab, in Egyptian mythology, is a token of resurrection and transformation. The scarab beetle’s life cycle moves from dung to life. It is a perfect metaphor for the quest to rise out of the shit and align with the truth. These shiny insects roll manure from East to West in the same direction as the moving sun. The ancient Egyptians revered these tiny creatures as representations of the immortal cycle of creation. On my left forearm now is a constant reminder of that: I AM, I AM, I AM.
LESSON: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE