This will be the last post regarding my Aya experience. I plan to include this in my book, but with more detail and hopefully illustration. I’ve been working on some storyboards and ideas. I have an amazing editor as well, so my terrible tendency to never let a thought or sentence have a natural end should be remedied. Here’s hoping she can survive. Now, on to the last 24 hours at the Ayahuasca Costa Rica retreat.

Wednesday was set to be the last full day at the retreat, with the second and final ceremony set for 4 pm. The day passed much like Monday, with yoga and talking, hot tea and cold water drinking (which I didn’t do enough of), and napping. I called my kids to check in and they were happy and having fun with my best friend and her family. My brother was due to pick them up on Thursday and take them to his house for a long weekend before I returned. I missed them terribly and questioned why I was even at this retreat and why I would leave them for a week to do this.

Mateo and I were distant with each other. I tried to talk to him again but it was no use, until Chuck took him aside and told him that my experience was my own and he shouldn’t be judging me for his perception of it. Good ol’ Chuck. It was nice that Mateo listened to him, although I still wished he would hear and see me.

All day I was unsure if I would do the second ceremony, until just after lunch. Then, I just decided that I had to. I didn’t die the first time, despite my discomfort, and I had more questions now. How can I be the best mom to my kids? What does my future look like? Should I quit my career and focus on my school? If there is a God, what is it? Where do we come from and why are we all here? Oh, and btw, Madre Aya, what was all that nastiness I spiritually puked up?

You would think that “finding your purpose” would remove any further questions, but it just freed me to dig deeper into how to learn about my self. I had a healthy respect for Aya, but was resolved to ask more of her. As dusk started to fall, we again went to the temple. This time though, Mateo and Sunni left just before the ceremony started. Sunni was still feeling a bit ill from the previous ceremony (so was I, but I wasn’t aware at the time this was of concern) and Mateo said that Madre Aya told him not to come back until he had worked on the things she already told him to do. He seemed both relieved and frustrated, but everyone seemed understanding of his experience. I felt like he was behind a mask and didn’t trust what he was saying. It felt too practiced.

This evening, a young Tico couple were helping facilitate the ceremony and Cano was to be the primary ayahuascero. Chuck was assisting him along with a lovely woman from the Yukon Territory, who had arrived late in the afternoon, Susanna. Everyone took their same spots from the previous evening and we sat cross legged at the ends of our mats. The tobacco didn’t feel and smell as stifling as the first ceremony, and I started to relax. I knew what to expect so I wasn’t as scared.

I was the second to drink and as I took the cup in my hand and Cano began to pour I said “half as much this time, please” and he poured less than before. Again, I raised the cup to my lips and breathed in the scent of the medicine. My eyes flickered down into the yellow syrup and I opened my mouth. I took one mouthful and nearly spit it out. My body instantly remembered this stuff and all but refused to allow me to drink it. I choked that one mouthful down, handed the cup, with liquid still in the bottom, back to Cano, and said I couldn’t drink anymore. He nodded, cupped my cheek, and then rubbed his thumb on my forehead.

I didn’t lay down right away this time. I sat, eyes closed, with my back against the wall, hugging my pillow in my lap. What was I going to ask this time? I was still searching my mind for the right entreaty.

“Please show me whatever I need to know.”

Oh, did she show me. I could describe the trip for you, but this time, it wasn’t about what I saw. It wasn’t about how fantastic and alive it made me feel, although that was part of it. What it was about was confronting my fear. The biggest fear.

After the fantastic voyage, after the soaring heights and mystical revelations, afterwards, I saw my body laying in the temple and she said to me, “what are you most afraid of?”

“Dying. Leaving my babies before they are ready to be on their own.”

“So, let go.”

And I died.

It was not a tunnel of light to move towards. It was not all encompassing darkness. It was peace. The most peaceful, restful, easy moment I have ever experienced. My consciousness wasn’t afraid. It knew exactly what was happening, what to do, and what would happen afterwards, and let go of my body without fear. Imagine being so exhausted that you hurt all over and laying down into the softest bed you can imagine and falling to sleep instantly. It was like that, times a thousand. I could sense everything in the universe, but could feel nothing. It was pure awareness without physical sensation. I have meditated a lot, and gotten close to that point, but there is a barrier that I haven’t been able to cross since.

While I was “dead” she asked me what I wanted. She wasn’t tempting me to stay although it was tempting. It was so easy being there. I no longer felt afraid for my children. I knew they would be alright. I knew that the love that surrounds them would continue to surround them. I knew that everyone and everything would eventually be wherever, or whatever, “I” was now; a part of everything, rather than apart from everything. No matter how they got there, they would arrive and that was all that mattered. But, I had to go back. I had to see them again. I didn’t want things to be harder for them than they already had been. I didn’t want to cause suffering. I knew my purpose now, so it as time to go do it.

As easy as dying was, coming back to my body was exactly as difficult. There was a barrier that was both physical and metaphysical that had to be crossed. My body was cold when I went back to it, but not extremely cold. Breathing took so much energy. I gasped. Susanna came and sat beside me and held my hand, stroking my forearm.

“I think I died,” I whispered to her.

“Maybe you did. You were very still,” she said. “Welcome back.”

I closed my eyes and tried to remember how to breathe, focusing on the feeling of her hand in mine, solid and steady, while her other hand moved back and forth over my skin, using friction to warm me back up. I realized I was crying and my tears felt like streams of fire across the chill of my cheek. I tried talking to Susanna again, but kept getting confused.

Chuck came to the other side of my mat and I rolled onto my back to look at him. Earlier, he had been glowing with golden light and a large diamond glinted from his forehead, but now he was just his regular self again.

“Drink some water. Do you want more of the medicine?”

“No, I don’t want to feel this any more. I want to go to sleep.”

“I could give you something that won’t make you high, but will help you purge. You’ll start to feel better then.”

I realized that I had not thrown up yet. It had been hours since we drank.

“No, I think if I drink some water I’ll be ok.”

I slowly sat up and sipped from my thermos. What happened over the next few hours was a repeat of the previous ceremony of being violently ill coupled with becoming dehydrated. My heart beat was erratic and I felt panicked. I’d already died once and came back, I didn’t think I’d get to come back if I died again. Susanna stayed by my side most of the night, occasionally helping others but coming back to me, helping me drink water, and singing softly to me. I thought she was an angel.

Around 3 am, I realized I was no longer dizzy, no longer hallucinating about birds, or spirit animals, or jungle goddesses, and ready to go to my room. Chuck helped me up the stairs again and when I got to my room, the bed was empty. Mateo was in the bathroom getting sick, but not from ayahuasca. He came to bed shaky and chilled. We both fell into a deep sleep.

In the morning, he didn’t wake up when the sun rose, as I did. Despite having only a handful of hours of sleep, I felt alert and relaxed at the same time, as though my joints had all had a tune up and my brain was completely clear and ready to go.

I took some photos of the sunrise and did few yoga asanas to feel all my body after sleeping so hard. Then, I went down to breakfast alone. This morning was completely different for me than Tuesday had been. I grinned at everyone eating fresh papaya and mango.

“You had quite a journey last night!”, Valeri winked at me.

“I think…. I think I died. But, I came back. It was… absolutely blissful.”

We started telling each other our adventures and discussing the day ahead. We would be packing up to go to the Envision Festival in Uvita, on the southern Pacific coast later in the day. There was a lot to do to get packed and ready and we were all buzzing with excitement. Someone asked about Mateo and I explained how he’d been sick when I came to bed last night and was still sleeping. I grabbed a young coconut, sloshing with juice, from the fridge to help him rehydrate, along with some fruit and toast to help settle his stomach. When I got back to our room he was awake but had been sick again and waved the food away.

I let him rest and began packing all our bags, including the camping gear, for the bus ride to Uvita. Yesterday, I had been questioning why I’d even come to this place and now I began to feel sad to leave. I’m not good with change and it takes me time to settle in to new things. I picked up my journal and flipped to today’s Zen quote.

How apropos, as usual. I was tumbling my memories from the night before around and around, questioning myself as to how “real” they were. The clear bright morning made the mystical night before evaporate like mist. If I really died, I was alive now. How absolutely alive I felt! Mateo groaned from the bed.

“Can you see if Chuck has any anti nausea meds?”

Questioning the Universe would have to wait, I thought, as I walked to Chuck’s room. He was packing up his things as well and apologized that there were no conventional medicines in the hacienda. I walked to where the others were to see if anyone had anti acids but came back to our room empty handed. I finished packing up our things and started carrying them out to the waiting van with everyone else. We loaded up and as we drove down the steep driveway, I looked over my shoulder at the hacienda and greenhouse, so appreciative of the time I’d spent there and not realizing how differently I would feel about everything when I returned in 4 days.