When I awoke the next morning, I was like London after a blitz. I was cratered and stunned, and walking around feeling very much like I had the debris of my entire life exploded all over me. And, I was alone, in my thoughts, in my heart, in my soul.

You see, I had asked what my purpose was, hoping it would be something other than, or more than, just being a mom. I mean, I knew that was part of my purpose. Obviously. I HAVE children, of course I’m supposed to be a mom. But, I’ve never felt fulfilled by that role. It’s just part of what I do, not who I am. Right?

No, Ayahuasca made it clear, that is my highest calling. But, I didn’t want THAT calling. And she didn’t give me ANYTHING else. I shuddered when I remember how coldly the green and gold snake had looked at me. How dare I ask for anything more than this? I had heard about “ego death” but, I didn’t think I had much ego to kill, honestly (how ridiculous, you’re so right!) But, in that moment, I felt every bit of “myself” shrivel up and turn to dust. “I” was nothing.

I laid in bed thinking about how to write everything down before the memories slipped away. How could I explain what I felt with words that would do it justice?

Mateo woke while I was writing. He noticed tears were rolling down my cheeks as I poured my thoughts out onto the journal page.

“Babe, I didn’t leave you. You were asleep when I came back in.”

“That’s not why I’m crying.”

“What’s wrong then? Don’t you feel amazing? Did you see her? Do you want to talk about it? If you need some time, I understand. Exploring the Universe with an Earth Goddess is pretty intense.”

“Yeah, I want to talk about it after I finish writing it all out. I don’t want to forget anything. Hey, what’s the name of that song that was playing so much?”, and I hummed the tune.

“I dunno. You should ask Chuck. I’m going to get breakfast. We can talk later.”

He hopped out of bed, pulled his board shorts on, and left the room. I could tell by the tension in his body and the stiff way he walked he was agitated with my response and my tears. He wouldn’t understand. The wall that had always been between us, the wall between our hearts was still fully and firmly intact. I knew he wanted me to be gushing and excited, but I was still trembling from the depth of the darkness and shame and pain and resentment I had purged from my spiritual body. Some of it I was familiar with, but other parts… where did it come from? She had given me my purpose, but she’d also opened the doors to many more questions.

At breakfast, nearly everyone was chattering and sharing their experiences. I stayed quiet and contemplative. I could not shake the coldness off of me despite the equatorial sunshine. When asked, I tried to explain what I saw and felt, but the tears started to come back and I simply said, “it was harder than I thought it would be.” Some nodded their heads in understanding, and BB suggested I speak with Chuck when he woke up. He’d stayed up to clean the temple and had only recently gone to get some sleep.

Around lunchtime, I found Chuck and we went to a more private portion of the compound. Behind the hacienda was another smaller building, a single room with a giant rainbow serpent and vines painted as a mural on one wall. Apparently, this was a familiar form of Madre Aya. Chickens pecked and clucked in the narrow alley between the two buildings. We sat in plastic lawn chairs, wrapped in serapes and sipping hot tea.

“I don’t know what to think of what happened. It doesn’t make sense to me. It didn’t feel like I hallucinated, because I knew I was here the whole time,” I started to tell Chuck. I explained the details that had stood out to me, the coldness when she said ‘how dare you ask for more’ and how there was nothing about the rest of my life, not my husband, not my job, not my school, nothing about the future. How could that be the complete answer? It couldn’t be. I thought I would see Mateo and we would share a path, but Aya seemed to erase everything connecting our future from me in the purge.

“Sometimes, we have to accept first and let understanding come to us later,” was what he said after I poured out my feelings and my fears. “Have compassion for yourself. You went through a lot last night. Be gentle with yourself today and if you need to cry, cry. Don’t be ashamed of your beautiful heart.”

“I don’t know if I can do the second ceremony.”

“Let tomorrow worry about itself. Take care of yourself today. We are going to the hot springs in a bit and it will help very much. The minerals will help your body recover from the purge.”

We hugged and walked back to the front of the compound, where I found Mateo doing yoga. He saw me and waved me over to him.

“Let’s talk about your journey.”

Talking to him was like painting graffiti on a wall. The words, the art, the description could be beautiful and fantastic and magical, but the wall absorbs none of it; the wall is unchanged beyond the superficial. That is how it always was. No matter the depth I tried to express, he took what I offered at the shallowest of levels.

“You are always so negative about everything. This is supposed to be beautiful and all you’ve done all day is cry,” he said to me with unveiled disgust, as I wiped tears away with the back of my hand. “I knew you wouldn’t get it. You didn’t even do the diet like you were supposed to or you wouldn’t have been so sick.”

The feeling of cold water poured down my spine. Alone. I’m always alone with him.

“I’m not being negative. I’m just telling you what I experienced and it was intense and the intensity is making me cry. I can’t stop it.”

“You can never stop crying. That’s all you do. That’s all you’ve ever done. I want to be with someone who wants to get out and live life, not sit and cry about it.”

I was sitting cross legged in the plastic lawn chair, but then tucked my knees up to my chin and rested my cheek there, wrapping my arms around my ankles to hold myself close.

Rage. i used to feel such deep rage when he would say things like this to me. But now, it was like a drop of water hitting a still lake in my mind. I didn’t feel rage, I felt the shifting from then, from before last night, to now. Now, I didn’t feel rage. I felt pity, for him. He still couldn’t see me. His third eye has been opened over and over and he still sees me the way he wants to see me. A mirror of himself.

Wait, does that mean I see him as a mirror of myself? Shit. My thoughts stopped when I reached that conclusion. I tried to see him as he saw himself. Adventurous, brave, trying to live life to the extreme edge. I wanted to believe that he saw himself as loving. I knew he saw himself as passionate. I am loving, I thought, except to myself.

“If you’re just going to sit here and cry, I’m leaving.”

“Go, then,” I said, staring at the bright, blue sky.

I was tense on the ride to the hot springs. Mateo was trying to be nice in front of everyone else and put his arm loosely around my shoulders. I was uncomfortable. My stomach was still unsettled from the ayahuasca and I was worried about getting carsick. Luckily, the drive was not too long and we rolled up to the hot springs and cafe. The cafe was all organic and vegan, as nearly everything seemed to be in Costa Rica so far. It was attached to a small organic farm, and I walked up the slight hill and picked fresh pink coffee cherries and chewed them, spitting out the green coffee bean into my hand.

The cafe had two pools connected to the volcanic springs. One was hot and the other was hotter. I settled on the less hot one and took my sundress and sandals off. I hadn’t worn a bikini for several years and felt self conscious of my paleness and soft, curvy body. Climbing the ladder into the pool I was shocked at just how hot the water was. It felt almost scalding and my skin instantly flushed deep pink. “I’ll look like a cooked pig,” I thought. That is definitely not what Chuck meant by being compassionate with yourself, I scolded myself. I held onto the edge of the pool and tried to relax into the heat. Cano swam over to me, his long black hair following him like Medusa’s snakes.

He has such a kind, untroubled face, I thought, as I looked at him.

“You did a lot of work last night.”

“I know but now I can’t stop crying. I don’t even feel like crying, it’s just.. the tears won’t stop no matter what I’m thinking of.” I told him about the negative energy I felt leave my body and how I didn’t understand why I didn’t feel happy to be rid of it.

He nodded. “Let the tears fall. You are still letting go. Letting go of that much takes time.” He held my hand in the water and looked at my palm, then squeezed my fingers in his. “You are strong. You will be able to let it all go.”

I asked about the oil he rubbed on my forehead.

“It helps bring you back. It’s very… grounding. Pulls you to Earth, back to the body.”

I nodded. It had done that and allowed me to sleep. My doubts about oils were a little diminished. We swam to the ladder and climbed out. There was a metal tub filled with cool water between the two hot pools, just big enough for 3 or 4 people to sit on a small ledge inside it, water up to their chests. BB and Mateo were sitting in it talking. Cano and I climbed in, all of us touching knees. The water was so cool it took my breath away for a moment. I looked at my hands on my legs and watched the pinkness of my skin turn pale again. I noticed how white my legs were against Mateo and BB’s tans and laughed to myself. I would never fit in here, with my redhair and freckles.

We all decided to walk to the river, where the hot springs originated, and gathered our things. Once at the river, we spread out. The river itself was icy cold, but there was a small cave where someone had made a wall of river stones to trap the hot spring into a muddy pool that could hold a handful of folks at a time. I wandered and took some quick photos. When I came back to the group, Mateo called me to the muddy spring. Everyone had started covering themselves in the green mineral rich mud. I sat down in the water in front of him and he smoothed his hands over my shoulders, coating my skin. The mud was hot, almost uncomfortable, and I kept one hand swirling in the cold river beside us. Daiya and Valeri were laughing and lovingly painting each other’s faces. For the first time all day, I felt light and that existence was suddenly easier than it had been. We spent a bit of time caking in the mud, then washing it off in the cold water, shocking our skin, then back into the warm mud. It was revitalizing beyond words. By the time were were ready to leave, we were all tired but restored.

Dinner at the retreat was the best meal I’d ever tasted, vegetable soup with thick pieces of carrot and root vegetables I didn’t quite recognize, and chewy hand made bread, more fresh fruit, and icy cold water. It sounds spartan, and it was, but after the previous 24 hours it was also manna.

I went to my room earlier than most, my body and mind thoroughly exhausted but refreshed. I wrote in my journal this note to myself:

What is the insulation between myself and my experience? Fear. Pain.
Why is fear “necessary”? To survive? No, I will survive with or without the fear. The fear doesn’t stop the inevitable, the things I fear (death, loss, loneliness.)
What destroys fear? I don’t know. Do I? What am I afraid of? Being alone. But, Allison, you are ALWAYS alone. Your soul is both singularly unique and infinitely connected. You only feel alone when you choose to live without connecting to others on a spiritual level. Don’t be afraid to be real with people. Don’t be afraid to be real with yourself. So, what destroys fear? Love. Authenticity.
Be brave, you know what you have to do to be real. You know what you are afraid of doing to be your truest self. I love you.