I was confident as I sat down in a big “yurt-like” room for my first ayahuasca ceremony.
Maybe a little too confident.
I had fasted the entire day and my stomach was empty.
I had stuck to the “diet” that was given to me for the past 3 days - no sex, no red meat, healthy foods.
I had done everything I could to maximize the effect of the medicine I was about to receive.
My wife Angel and I had driven 7 hours from San Diego, California to Sedona, Arizona…
A town in the mountains adorned by red rock walls and mysterious “energy vortexes” according to the internet.
These energy vortexes are supposedly catalysts for great spiritual change.
At the time, I was already in the midst of great change.
I had been doing intensive psycho-therapy work for 2 years - sometimes for hours every day.
I had made huge, ground-breaking changes already to my finances and mental health.
And the biggest part that boosted my confidence:
I had already done dozens of therapeutic psychedelic trips - including an insane, ego-death experience off a 7 gram hero’s dose.
So in my mind, there was nothing ayahuasca could show me that I couldn’t handle.
I was wrong.
But I didn’t know that yet as I sat down on my yoga mat.
We were at a secluded wellness retreat center in the middle of the desert.
It was 7 pm - the night of my first ceremony.
Angel, my wife who was going through her own journey, sat on the other side of the room.
We had planned that on purpose - the first night, we would go on our own separate journeys…
And the second night, we would sit together.
The room was arranged in a big circle, with everyone’s yoga mats, blankets, musical instruments, and puke buckets arranged in a circle around a candle-lit altar in the middle.
I looked around - there were maybe 50 participants and 10 shamans leading the ceremony.
Peaceful looking strangers in white robes and animal tattoos milled about.
A lot of them seemed to know each other.
They hugged, laughed, and joked around as I sat in my corner, alone.
“What is taking so long?” I thought.
I felt some anger bubble up.
The program said 7 pm start.
Yet it was nearly 8:30 and NOTHING had happened.
I wanted to get on with it.
I wanted my profound spiritual experience.
Trying to distract myself from my frustration, I turned to the husband-wife couple next to me and asked…
“Is this your first ceremony?”
The wife smiled.
“I’ve been to 12 ceremonies - one or two each month since October.”
“Holy crap!” I retorted. “Isn’t that a lot?”
“Well, I got a lot of healing to do. I’m ascending.”
She made a lifting motion with her hands and I smiled. She was nice. I liked her.
“Have you seen anything crazy?” I asked. I immediately thought to myself… that was a total noob question.
“Yeah. Last time I saw a bunch of snakes crawling around me.”
My first thought?
Mushrooms, which were my main psychedelic medicine of choice, doesn’t give you actual visual hallucinations like that.
Colors may run…
Patterns may dance a little…
Your vision may get a little funky, but you’re not gonna see garden gnomes running around or dragons falling out of the sky.
But according to all the stories I heard, aya is way different.
“What the HELL is taking so long?” I thought.
My anger dialed up a few notches.
I wanted to get on with it.
I looked across the room at Angel - she seemed to be making friends with her neighbors.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to center my thoughts.
At 9:30 pm, the main shaman spoke.
He talked about the ceremony being of great spiritual importance… that it was the anniversary celebration of the Eagle Condor prophecy.
The Eagle signified the spirit of the mind - from North America.
Technology. Science. Logical, analytical thinking.
The Condor signified the spirit of the heart - from South America.
Healing. Spirit science. Inner peace and attunement to the earth.
Long ago, the people of Europe and North America systematically destroyed the people and the culture of the natives.
Yet one part of the culture lived on - medicines of the spirit like peyote, aya, psilocybin, and San pedro.
It was their gift to the world - to heal the sick souls of many from the West.
According to the Eagle-Condor prophecy, 500 years later this medicine would help heal humanity and the Eagle and the Condor would fly together again.
At this point…
The room was completely dark.
The only light came from the candlelit altar in the middle, flickering and dancing off the walls.
The ceremony would last all night, until sunrise.
The shamans began bringing out the medicine and blessing it.
Before I knew it, I was sitting on my yoga mat, with my first cup of ayahuasca in my hand.
I looked down at my journal, where I had written my intentions:
I want to make more money. And I want to let go of my desire for threesomes with Angel.
It’s been something that’s been a problem in our relationship.
Angel is an incredible woman - beautiful, kind, caring, patient.
Yet ever since I learned that she started out dating girls, I’d been pushing her for threesomes.
We even tried it out a few times - every time, Angel would tell me she wanted to do it, but she ended up drained and exhausted by the experience.
I, on the other hand, felt on top of the world - and she kept doing it to make me happy.
It was something I carried great shame over.
I had already done a lot of therapeutic work over it.
Yet the yearning wouldn’t go away.
Once everyone had a cup - all 50 participants and 10 shamans shouted “Salud!” together and drank.
I downed the whole thing in one gulp - like a shot.
It tasted strangely like a sauce from an Asian dish.
No turning back now.
The entire room sat in silence for what felt like an eternity.
Out of the 50 participants, some would shit their pants.
Many (including Angel) would vomit uncontrollably the entire night.
I had no clue what would happen to me.
After a half hour, a bizarre sound suddenly pieced the black silence.
“OOooouuuggggggghnnnn!” Someone full-force vomited about 30 feet to my right.
Immediately, someone else to my left also yakked, HARD.
Then, another equally bizarre sound...
A beautiful female voice, singing.
It sounded like the voice of an angel.
“Ayahuasca, cure my body.
Ayahuasca, heal my soul.
Ayahuasca, medicine for the spirit.
Ayahuasca, mother of the forest.”
More and more people started throwing up into their puke buckets all around me.
Yet I didn’t feel any different.
Did I just have a tolerance from all those shroom trips?
Maybe I was just a badass?
The shamans called up anyone who wanted a second cup.
I stood and walked up.
The shaman looked into my eyes and asked, “How are you doing?”
“Fine,” I answered. “I don’t feel anything.”
He nodded and handed me another cup.
Bottoms up! I downed it.
There was no way I was gonna come this far and NOT go all out.
I sat down back at my mat.
Almost immediately, I started feeling weird…
The whole world seemed to be melting around me…
And the live music suddenly became overwhelming.
I lurched to my right and collapsed on my mat.
“Oh no… what is happening?!”
I started to panic.
“This doesn’t feel like mushrooms at all. Oh God. I’m DEFINITELY not doing this again. This feels horrible.”
It felt like my mind and my soul was being torn apart.
I got up and staggered to the bathroom.
I got to the stall…
And suddenly, I couldn’t stand any more.
So I collapsed on the cold, bathroom floor, moaning.
My face was scrunched in pain as I lay there, unable to think.
One of the “guardians” of the group came in, took one look at me, and ran back out to grab someone.
Suddenly, a face appeared in front of me.
It was one of the shamans. He was tall, white, with short blonde hair and kind eyes.
“Brother, how are you?” He asked.
“I don’t know…” I managed to say. “I don’t know…”
“Can you get up? Let’s try and get up.”
Him and a Native-American looking dude tried to pick me up…
But I was dead weight - a 200 pound sack of flesh.
After a few more unsuccessful tries, I rose unsteadily to my feet.
The Native-American looking dude had a real macho vibe to him.
He gave me a chest thump with his hands like a real bro bro at a football game.
“Look at you brother. You have warrior spirit written all over you. Let’s GO man. Let’s feel the SPIRIT. Let’s be reborn.”
The tall, white shaman turned and told him, “Don’t do that.”
I just looked at the bizarre scene, unable to think.
“Can you come back to the circle?” The shaman asked.
“I… I don’t know… I don’t think so.” I stammered.
“Let’s try and go back in, okay?” He coaxed.
With the Native-American bro bro supporting me under my left arm…
And the tall, white shaman supporting me under my right arm…
I gingerly stepped towards the door back to the big yurt.
But as soon as I got close and could hear the music, I started shaking my head in a panic.
“No no no NO NO I can’t do it… the music… the music…” I struggled to explain. It felt like my brain was operating on 10% capacity.
“Okay, okay. I understand. The music is too much.” The shaman replied.
They walked me out to the waiting room outside and laid me down on a couch.
I curled into the fetal position and whispered weakly, “thank you.”
“I’m gonna go back in, but I’m going to come back out in a bit and check up on you, okay?”
With that, they left and it was just me, alone…
On the couch of pain.
No thoughts ran through my brain.
Just an empty black void.
And somehow, the void was filled with pain…
So much pain that my face was scrunched up like I was crying - yet no tears flowed.
I laid there for… I don’t know how long.
Time ceased to make sense.
I couldn’t THINK about anything.
The tall white shaman guy appeared in front of me.
“How are you doing, brother?” He whispered.
“I’m… existing.” I replied.
“Do you want to come back in? I think you should come back in. Inside is where all the healing, the music, is.”
“No…” I whispered.
“Okay, then let me get you a blanket.”
I existed on the same blank void couch-of-pain some more.
Then, the Native American bro bro came into my field of view.
“YES, brother. Do you FEEL it? I feel so much POWER. From the top of the tallest mountain down to the river… FLYING… STRONG… It feels like the wind!”
He demonstrated with his hands.
I struggled to understand him.
I think it just took more computing power than I had at the moment…
And trying to make sense of his words felt like my brain was trying to run a marathon.
So I just nodded.
After his demonstration of how much power he was feeling, Native American bro bro left.
Back to the couch of pain.
The blank void.
A while later, another man appeared - I didn’t recognize him, but he appeared to be another shaman.
He sat down on the couch across from me with a musical instrument I’d never seen before…
It looked like a bizarre knee-harp.
He played a few notes.
They rattled my reality.
“That’s so weird…” I managed to say.
“I’m gonna play some music for you,” the knee-harp guy said.
Somewhere far, far in the back of my brain I understood:
Music = healing.
He began playing a melody that sounded strangely Indian to me.
I just lay there, listening.
After a while, he stopped.
“Well, if you want any more of that, you’re going to have to come inside,” he said.
Then, he stood up and left.
Couch of pain again.
Looking back now, I have no clue how long I was on that couch for.
It might’ve been maybe… 3 hours?
I think I missed like half the ceremony.
Finally… the pain eased up a little bit.
Tall white guy and two other shamans came in and asked me if I wanted to try and go back in.
I took a deep breath.
“Okay, I can try,” I answered.
With two men supporting me under both my arms, I wobbled back to my mat…
And then laid flat on my back.
The ceiling of the yurt was illuminated like the night sky - with glittering lights that looked like stars.
The sounds of the ceremony rang throughout the room: people throwing up…
The shamans sang song after healing song.
At one point, a huge circle of people chanted:
Aya! Aya! Aya-huasca…
Aya! Aya! Aya-huasca…
It felt tribal and primitive.
Inside, my soul tried desperately to hang on to the one part of my ego I clung on to…
David Sinick is paying me lots of money to be a copywriter for PaleoHacks…
Stefan Georgi is paying me lots of money to be a coach for Copy Accelerator…
I’m making $15K a month…
Two multi-millionaires are fighting over me…
The harder I tried to cling on to these facts, the further they seemed in my mind.
Mother Aya was ripping away the one thing I was holding on to the hardest… my status.
Soon, I forgot…
I didn’t remember who I was.
Totally forgot everything about my life.
I didn’t remember who David Sinick and Stefan Georgi were.
Didn’t remember what they looked like.
I was just a single point of existence…
And that’s all I was.
I got up and made it to the bathroom to pee.
At the urinal, I turned to the man next to me and told him, “I don’t know where I am.”
He looked at me and answered, “... the bathroom?”
Before I knew it…
The ceremony ended.
I tried to stagger back to my mat… but collapsed on the floor halfway there.
One thought ran through my mind…
“Where’s Angel? Where’s Angel? Where’s Angel”
Suddenly, she appeared in front of me.
“Oh thank God you’re here. Thank God. Thank God,” I stammered.
“Are you okay?” She asked, “Do you know where you are? Looks like Mother Aya kicked your ass.
“I don’t remember anything.”
“Do you remember surfing? How about SHEEEEEEESH… do you remember that?” She asked about one of our inside jokes.
Somehow that was funny and I laughed - but I still couldn’t get off the floor.
Everyone had piled out of the room at that point…
But I couldn’t walk.
Angel managed to convince two guys to carry me back to our room.
With one of them under each arm, I wobbled the 10 minute walk back to our room…
And collapsed on the bed.
“He’ll sleep it off.”
The last thought before I blacked out?
“There’s absolutely no way I can do the second night - I’m gonna have to leave the ceremony early.”
End of Part 1. To be continued…
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