Entering The Void- My Experience Of Drinking Ayahuasca In Peru
At a cross-roads in my career, I decided to take the plunge to backpack solo around South America in 2013. Getting up to high jinks with other nomadic travellers, I quickly found that my savings could stretch far and wide in places like Guatemala and Honduras.
Inevitably, parties and indulging in various vices destroyed my original intention of seeing the world and getting clarity on my future work plans. Six months into the trip, I found myself in Peru where a friend from back home decided on a whim to come visit me.
We hooked up in Cusco and anticipating even further debauchery, I was surprised to hear that his motive for visiting was to try a substance called ayahuasca- native to the indigenous community that bordered the Amazon jungle. He had just endured a messy break up with his long-term girlfriend and needed the change of scenery and some therapy.
Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic brew sourced from plants in the Amazon jungle. Shamans have been dispensing the ‘medicine’ for thousands of years to cure a range of ailments ranging from depression, heartache, mental illness and even cancer.
I was more than sceptical with the claims I read online. In fact, I was terrified with what I had read: backpackers dying from taking the medicine as a result of being administered a potency too strong for them to handle, vomiting and choking to death in their sleep, drowning in shallow rivers, losing their minds. Grisly accounts I had read also mentioned cover ups by staff at these centres, renaming/branding their organisations to deal with negative publicity that had impacted on the lucrative growing market for the experience by eager tourists.
We travelled to the outskirts of Cusco to take part in the ceremony, which lasted two nights.
In summary, it was the most exhilarating, emotional, frightening experience of my life.
I received two visions- one of my grandmother passing away before November (which was true even though she was in good health), and another of my friends who would be killed within five years unless he changed his drug habits (still pending on that one!).
While in this alternative state of consciousness, I also spoke with my deceased father. He helped clarify my career aspirations, passed on messages to my family and also presented me with a vision of my possible future- the track I was headed if I continued my jack-the-lad lifestyle, or an alternative one if I cleaned up my act and began ‘connecting with the heart’.
I went into the experience as a staunch disbeliever of the spiritual aspect of life. Some may dismiss what I saw as a ‘trip’. It’s difficult to compare this to anything I’ve ever tried before, or to explain the emotions I felt during the four-hour long trances to people with a closed mind.
Ultimately, the things I saw frightened me to the core- even if you refuse to believe them. My life has changed as a result, and I have since moved to Colombia to focus on my passion of writing. I also gave up alcohol completely nine months ago, with no interest in returning to that former life of excess, which was all parties, booze, and birds.
A brutal lesson, but one that I needed to hear before I reached the point of no return.
Aidan Reid is a self-published author and freelance blogger based in Medellin, Colombia. You can find him on his website- AidanJReid. He wrote about his experience with ayahuasca in more detail in an article for the Belfast Telegraph, which you can read here.