The first time I experienced ayahuasca was in 2014 and my mind was completely blown by the things I learned. The mother spirit revealed things so eloquently, simply, and beautifully. More than 7 years later, as I continue to sit in ayahuasca ceremonies and continue to grow, here are a few of the lessons that continue to come up time and time again.
1. Everything is connected – The first thing ayahuasca taught me is that everything, literally EVERYTHING – is connected. From the tiniest bug, a blade of grass, the mighty ancient trees growing for 100s of years to every human on earth, we all share a cosmic connection. What affects one will undoubtedly affect all others, even if that effect is unconscious. We must become aware, be kind to each other and respect the earth and all life on it. Nothing is insignificant. Every action toward each other and this earth has consequences that ripple and domino through time. We must honor and celebrate our connectedness through our actions – with compassion and love.
2. Time is meaningless – Time is only a construct that serves to limit us. We are spiritual beings existing infinitely. On a practical note, time keeps up from embracing and truly living in the present moment. Often, we project forward or backward. Planning for what might come next or reflecting on the past, wondering ‘what if’. It's natural to do these things, and it’s a requirement of being a responsible adult to be somewhat prepared and planned for the future but it’s important that we don’t get caught up in these plans or reflections to the extent that they keep up from appreciating what is NOW. If we spend all our time putting energy into believing that our life will be better ‘when…’ or we will find happiness ‘when…’(when I get the new job, when I find a partner, when I take that vacation, when I loose 10 lbs etc.) or obsessing over what has happened in the past, we will never really find happiness. We must embrace and live in each moment.
3. Self-love – Oh boy, was this a huge one for me. For all of my life, self-love (and self-respect) had been elusive. I only found value in myself through the validation of others. I had no idea what it meant or how it felt to love myself fully and completely. Ayahuasca showed me my true potential, my true value in a way that I had been blind to for so many years. Not in a narcissistic ‘oh I’m so awesome’ kind of way, but in a way that conveyed that I am worthy and deserving of my own self-respect, self-care, and self-love. As a lifelong people-pleaser, I learned that it's okay to have boundaries, I do not always have to yes to satisfy others while sacrificing myself nor do I need to seek approval to know that I am enough just the way I am. It has been a hard road and I still feel a twinge of pain whenever I have to say no or disappoint, but I have learned to be patient with myself and listen to my intuition about what best serves me.
4. Forgiveness – I had become attached to my anger and resentment. I felt defined by it because if I let it go, then I was only left with me and that was too scary. I couldn’t take the responsibility of any it myself. Ayahuasca taught me that it is okay to forgive, in fact, forgiveness can be the most liberating process in the world. To release the burden that has been holding you delivers you lightness and peace. To know that the actions others have taken against us are the result of problems that they are suffering themselves. That it isn’t personal (despite it often feeling deeply so) it’s a reflection of their own suffering. Sometimes, forgiveness needs to be directed at ourselves, the most profound act of self-love. To become whole, we must release and forgive.
5. Gratitude – By human nature, we take things for granted. Society teaches us that what we have is never enough, we constantly strive for more, consume more, acquire more, and seek happiness in things outside of ourselves. Ayahuasca showed me that I will never be happy this way because I will always be seeking, never fulfilled. If I keep my focus on the things that I have, things I am grateful for then happiness and peace come easily. Ayahuasca taught me what it meant to be really grateful. I thought I had known gratitude before, but I never really experienced the depth of the emotion until ayahuasca showed me in such elegant simplicity all the things that I had and why I was lucky and fortunate to have them. Again, such simplicity but such overwhelming truth and beauty.
6. You’re never done growing – My last lesson from Ayahuasca is that while I can accept who I am at the moment and love the woman I've grown into, my learning is never complete. I will never reach a place in life where I say, "okay, that is it, I’m healed." As life continues there will always be new challenges, new obstacles, and opportunities. We learn more, integrate the lessons, and receive new ones, the cycle continues. Although now I am far from the lost and broken addict I was when I first drank ayahuasca, I still feel humbled and learn valuable lessons every time I drink again. I know that she will continue to guide me toward my highest purpose, and that work can always be done to be a better, fuller, and more serene version of myself.