Meeting the Grandmother

Jacob and I had a new expierence this weekend, and I’m anxious to share it with you while it’s fresh on my mind.

If you didn’t know, I’ve been working on a book for the past year.  It’s my goal to release it in 2021.  I’m not sure yet on the title.  I keep changing my mind.  But to give you the gist, I was originally going to call it “Sex, Drugs & Yoga: Evolution of A Modern Yogi,” when I first started writing.  It was originally going to be my memoir, sharing the mystical stories and experiences that guided my spiritual awakening. 

Actually, I started writing the book when our boys were little but put it on pause as I built an online wellness coaching business.  The unfinished document sat in my computer for over a decade.

Then, while lying on the dock in July 2019, next to a pond under a star-filled sky, I confessed to my gathered sisters that it was a dream of mine to write a book.  As we watched a star shoot across the sky, I asked these strong women to hold me accountable to finally manifesting that dream.  It was the last night of my first “Remembering Your She-Power” women’s empowerment retreat.  Holding space for women and sharing my tools in this way had been a long-held goal that I had finally realized – and it seemed poignant to give voice to my next desire, energetically planting a seed of intention I knew my sisters would support me in nourishing. 

When our boys went back to school in August, I dove back into writing.

But then something happened….

I hosted my second retreat in September. 

The following weekend, Jacob and I were booked to be at Wakaan Music Festival on Mulberry Mountain in Arkansas.  Jacob had just bought me the Cadillac of wireless mics and threw it in the van just in case it was needed.  It was.  I was the only person at the festival that required a wireless mic.  My producers missed this detail, and had Jacob not been the amazingly proactive roadie he is, no one would have heard my voice. 

I was teaching yoga from the biggest platform of my life, standing on top of Hennessey speakers that were taller than me.  My voice boomed across the mountain with hundreds of people spread throughout the trees.

There wasn’t anyone booked after me the last day, and so I took a moment for self-promotion.

“See that guy over there?”  I pointed to Jacob in the crowd. 

“We’ve been married for 16 years.”  I paused as people clapped, celebrating long lasting love that is so foreign to this generation. 

“I just got back from hosting my second women’s empowerment retreat, where I shared all the tools that I’ve gathered to maintain a long-lasting relationship.”  I paused to take a deep breath. 

“We’re currently living in a mythos of divorce.  More and more children are being raised without both parents, and it makes me sad.  What I know for sure is, the better I take care of myself, the better I take care of my family.  We have two boys, and it’s my life’s mission to help empower more women with tools to help hold their families together or manifest the family they’ve always wanted.  We do things a bit differently than most, but if you’d like to be notified when my next retreat happens, come give me your email.”

I was overwhelmed by the women who approached me, who resonated with my message and yearned to learn what I’ve realized.

And then it hit me on the drive home.

Jacob and I were unpacking our expierence as I was flooded with emotion.  “I’m writing the wrong book,” I said through tears. 

“Huh?”  Jacob was confused.

“You know that master-class training I’ve been going through with Hay House?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“One of the last lectures suggested that after you’re done with your detailed outline, to set it aside and ruminate on it for a while – that you’ll probably realize that that book isn’t the first book you’re actually supposed to be writing.  And that’s exactly what happened.”

Jacob looked confused.

“I literally just finished my detailed outline the weekend before the retreat.  I was too busy getting ready for this trip that I didn’t work on my book at all last week.”  I paused to remember some of the vulnerable conversations with women the day before, with longing and hope in their eyes. 

“Jacob, I think I’ve realized that all the mystical expierence I was writing about were simply confirmation to me that I indeed have a voice and a story to tell, but I don’t think that’s what people need to hear right now.  I think I’m supposed to be writing down all the tools I share at my retreats for the women who will never make it to one.  That would be the greatest service I could offer humanity right now.  My personal story isn’t nearly as important as the tools I’ve acquired along the way.  I think I need to go home and start over.”

And so, I did.

The PowerPoint presentation from my retreat became my rough draft book outline. 

As I leaned into this new framework, I realized my outline needed expanding.  My retreat was very PG-13, and although it felt appropriate for my first rodeo, if I was going to do this, I needed to be completely transparent.  I couldn’t just share my PG toolbox; I needed to share it ALL – even my X rated “Spice Kit.”

Although it’s pushed me far outside my comfort zone to share our sex-capades and illustrate how we’ve explored kink and my bisexuality; it’s taking me tremendous courage to share how we mindfully use substances and plant medicines to assist in our communication, deepen our relationship and expanded our spiritual perspectives.

When I stepped up to become a yoga teacher of teachers, something happened.  It’s like the Universe said, “Oh yeah?  You think you know enough about this stuff to teach it to future teachers, huh?  Well, I’m going to give you an opportunity to practice what you preach.”  And like clockwork, before every teacher training weekend, something happens in my personal life that does just that – makes me put into practice at home the philosophical lessons I am teaching at the studio. 

The same has happed to me with the book-writing process.

It’s like the Universe said, “You think you know enough to write a book about this shit?  Then prove it!” 

This year has provided more opportunities to lean deeper into every subject I considered sharing, making me practice what I preach, expanding my knowledge and faith in myself, our relationship, and this creative process.

Although psychedelics had been a valuable tool throughout our journey, I got a case of writer’s block when it was time to put it into words.

“I think you should read, ‘How to Change Your Mind,’ by Michael Pollan,” a friend suggested.

And so, I did.

The book was written by a journalist in his 50s who had never tried psychedelics before.  He did a ton of research and then found guides to facilitate experiences for him.  For anyone curious about psychedelics, I strongly suggest this book!

Historically and traditionally, psychedelics have been used ceremoniously in ritual.  The plants were used as a sacrament for spiritual awakening and healing within indigenous tribal societies.  Although I already knew “set and setting” were an important factor to consider before approaching a psychedelic journey, one thing became loud and clear while reading this book.  I realized I had only experienced hallucinogens recreationally.  Although I had many spiritual realizations while tripping, I had never approached the journey ceremoniously. 

Maybe that’s why I’m blocked.  If I’m writing a book about spiritual awakening within ones self and through relationship, and if I’m writing about how I use substances to do that, I sure as hell better have experienced these tools the way they’ve historically been used. 

And so, one day after the boys went to school and while Jacob was upstairs working, I sat in front of my alter, said a prayer, and took a hit of LSD by myself.  It was profound and beautiful.  My writer’s block lifted.  I poured my expierence onto the page.  You can read about it in my book.  😉

In “How to Change Your Mind,” the author has a guide on each of his experiences, someone holding space for him, helping him feel supported along his journey.  Before the War on Drugs, psychotherapists were using psychedelics within therapy sessions to help the patient move deeper into the subconscious faster.  This enables the patient to unlock and uncover more within a shorter amount of time than traditional talk-therapy sessions.  Although each of the psychedelic journeys I had ever been on were therapeutic on some level, the idea of doing it intentionally with a guide sounded amazing.

Fast forward……

While I was being pushed to embody the lessons of my book, Covid19 and everything that came along with it was also happening.  We, along with everyone else, went through personal tests and trials, stretching us to our utmost capacity. 

We recognized the needed to blow off some steam, but how and where?  Festivals are typically our space for that – but when festivals aren’t happening, where’s a safe space to give us the power-punch release that we were craving?

Being a part of the modern counterculture, yogi, hippie-scene, I’ve met and learned about people and groups who facilitate Ayahuasca ceremonies locally.  One group specializes in 3-day camping retreats, while one gentleman hosts a single-evening sit in his home.  A few dear sister-friends of mine regularly assisted the solo server, and because of trusting them so intently, I naturally trusted him, too. 

Jacob and I booked our ceremony in October.

We were supposed to follow a particular diet for several weeks leading up, but we honestly did that half-assed.  We were supposed to completely clean up our diet and be plant-based by the ceremony week.  Kaleif’s birthday was days before, and our family isn’t traditionally vegetarian.  Although Jacob and I passed on birthday cake, I wasn’t going to subjugate our kids to being affected by our journey.  We were plant-based only 48 hours pre-ceremony.

A purge is a part of the Ayahuasca journey.  I was told that anything we ingest (physically or psychically) would “come up” during the ceremony, so I was nervous.  How much is our lack of following the “rules” going to backfire on us? 

FYI – it didn’t – at least as far as we can tell.  Did we purge?  Yes, but it wasn’t horrible.

Because of trusting my friends who assisted our facilitator, I didn’t push for many details.  We went in pretty blind.  Although I knew this was going to be a ceremony and a ritual, I didn’t realize exactly what that meant.

Side bar, funny story….

When I was a little girl my mom used to say, “when Aubrey’s eyes open, her mouth starts running.”  Last year I started questioning if my lack of mindfulness with my words ever backfired on me.  If words create magic, could I be diluting or debunking my magic because of my tendency to voice my self-doubt and inadequacies? 

And so, at the beginning of 2020, I was researching silent retreats.  Maybe forcing myself to be in quiet contemplation for a few days would help me change this habit and make me more mindful with my words. 

And then Covid19 hit and retreats were canceled. 

Little did I know that this Ayahuasca ceremony would give me the same opportunity in one intense night.

We were instructed to bring anything we wanted for our comfort, so we brought stuff to create a pallet on the floor.  However, I took it a step farther.  After reading “How to Change Your Mind,” I started doing my own mini-rituals before every private psychedelic journey (aka, at-home-date-night) Jacob and I would take together.  Taking time to intentionally connect with the Divine beforehand, profoundly improved my experiences.  When I call upon the Goddess, she shows up.  Brilliant!  And so, I created a mini alter next to my pallet to help energetically support this new expierence.

A scarf from a sister-friend served as my altar’s foundation.  Upon it, I sat a bronze statue of two fat, laughing Buddhas with their arms around each other.  Jacob and I got that as a symbol of our relationship to sit on the first alter we ever created before getting Reiki trained more than a decade ago while healing from the loss of our first miscarriage.  One of my intentions for this journey was relationship healing, as we aren’t the same people, and our relationship looks slightly different than it did before Covid.  This statue was to remind me of that intention.  I also brought some of my favorite crystals and Oracle decs, because they always bring me comfort. 

As we sat in opening circle on Saturday night, our facilitator explained how the ceremony would flow.  He would serve us all a cup of his brew and then we were to sit in silence until the medicine started to kick in.  Upon that time, he would start a carefully crafted musical journey to help facilitate the expierence.  He reminded us that we were all gathered to do deep spiritual work, and to make it the most affective, it needs to be an internal process.  This is how they do it in Peru – in the dark and in silence. 

Our facilitator asked us to each bow individually in acknowledgement to group agreement of silence.  He went around the room making eye contact with all five participants.  I was the last one.  I bowed, but then it hit me – what the fuck did I just agree to?

I immediately raised my hand, eyes wide and expression dumbfounded.

“Are you saying, this whole ceremony includes no talking?”

Jacob starts laughing loud and smiles at me, “Yes, that’s what you just agreed to.”

The facilitator nods and smiles.

“Holy shit, what did I just get myself into?” I said way too loud.  Everyone laughed.  I started to have a mini-internal panic attack, but then I heard a voice from deep within.  Isn’t this exactly what you were asking for?  Instead of several days, you’re getting it done in one night on psychedelics.  I took a deep breath and smiled to myself.  “Alrighty then.  Let’s do this.”

Not only were the participants refrained from talking, but the whole journey also happened in the dark.  There was nothing to distract us from what rose within. 

Like I share in my book, psychedelics are like a time machine.  They help me process and uncover more within myself than I can sober.  They activate different neuropathways than our conscious mind regularly utilizes.  Dots are connected and realizations arise that assist in my unfolding and self-discovery. 

After several years of exploring psychedelics, eventually I was confronted with my shadow.  Facing your shadow is hard.  It’s not fun.  And so, I avoided psychedelics for many years, because I was afraid to look at what kept arising.  But here’s the thing about our shadow – the more we avoid looking at it, the scarier it seems. 

Remember when you were a kid and saw Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time?  Freddy Kruger was scary AF!  But when you got older and looked closer at his face, you realized how fake it was.  Eventually Freddy wasn’t scary at all anymore, because you realized it wasn’t real.  Actually, the closer you looked, the funnier being scared of him seemed. 

And that’s what I’ve found with psychedelics, too.  The more I lean in and look at those unknown aspects within myself with curiosity, the more I realize I don’t have to be afraid. 

Now I approach all psychedelic experiences with reverence and humility.  I say a prayer, asking my angles and spirit guides to be with me, shining a light on my heart and asking them to help me remember to ground in my breath anytime the expierence gets overwhelming.  My breath is always my path back home.

Ayahuasca is a brew made by boiling torn leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub and stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine in water.  Both ingredients have psychedelic properties.  The Banisteriopsis caapi vine is cleaned and smashed before being boiled to increase the extraction of its medicinal compounds.  The water is eventually removed and reserved, leaving behind the plant material. This process is repeated until a highly concentrated liquid is produced. Once cooled, the brew is strained to remove impurities. 

Psychotria viridis contains N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a psychedelic substance that occurs naturally in the plant.  DMT is a powerful hallucinogenic chemical.  However, it has low bioavailability, as it gets rapidly broken down by enzymes called monoamine oxidases (MAOs) in your liver and gastrointestinal tract.  For this reason, DMT must be combined with something containing MAO inhibitors (MAOIs), which allow DMT to take effect.  Banisteriopsis caapi contains potent MAOIs called β-carbolines, which also have psychoactive effects of their own.  When combined, these two plants form a powerful psychedelic brew that affects the central nervous system, leading to an altered state of consciousness that can include hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and euphoria.

Everyone I know who has had several ayahuasca experiences refer to the plant, or spirit of the plant, as “The Grandmother.”

Many spiritual traditions aside from western religion, refer to the Divine, or the Great Spirit that connects us all, as “The Mother.”  Over the past several years, I have been opening to and growing my relationship with The Mother.  This conscious practice has helped me awaken and know my inner Goddess, so the idea of “sitting with The Grandmother” turned me on!

But I was still scared.

People talk about getting their asses handed to them by The Grandmother, and so I prayed to her, asking for her gentleness.  But I already knew I was in good hands. 

“Just in case you feel the need for fresh air anytime throughout the night, I strongly suggest you go take a walk around my back yard now to get your bearings,” our facilitator advised before we got settled. 

I anticipated wandering outside eventually, so I went to check it out.  As soon as I saw her, tears streamed my face.  My heart yearned for The Grandmother to connect me with my past ancestors.  And there she was, speaking to me before the medicine was even in my system.  In the middle of our facilitators back yard, stood a Mother Mary statue almost identical to what my Granny used to have in her garden.  That’s all I needed.  Confirmation.  I was safe.  She was already here.  This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Before the ceremony started, our facilitator conversed with each of us regarding our sensitivity to help him discern our needed serving size.  We were then reminded that if our serving isn’t strong enough, not to worry, that “the bar” would open later in the ceremony and we could request more.  He also suggested that if we find ourselves wondering, should I take more? that we should.   

Our facilitator started by serving himself and his beautiful female assistant.  They were both dressed all in white.  Then, we each took our turn sitting in front of him and receiving our cups.  We were instructed to first sit with our intentions before taking the bitter shot of brown liquid.

My first cup went down easy.

As we all sat in silence waiting for the medicine to kick in, I did the specific breath practice I’ve been doing daily that balances the right and left sides of the brain.  The rest of the night was a big, beautiful blur.

Here’s what I can relay….

I was crazy-happy I set up my alter, because it became my touchstone.  When you’ve been with someone as long as Jacob and I have, your energies are stupid-entangled.  We feel everything the other goes through.  When one of us hurts, we both do.  Before the ceremony started, another couple who had sat with The Grandmother before warned us that witnessing each other’s purge might be challenging.  It was.  When your beloved is sick, you want to make it better.  But knowing a purge is part of the process, getting involved would only stiffer the effectiveness and movement of the medicine.  Every time Jacob would purge, and I would feel my heart yearn to help, I reached in the dark for my alter.  I outstretched my arm, gliding my hand across the scratchy fabric until I felt the coldness of our statue.  I rested my hand on the laughing Buddhas and sent Jacob love from my heart through the statue.  It was all I was supposed to do, all I really could do, and it was enough.  I felt satisfied as I energetically was present and supportive to his process without getting involved. 

That was a HUGE lesson. 

We often think that our expierence or our input will help make things better for those we love.  But we all must go on our own journeys to learn what it is we are here to learn.  Often, the best thing we can do is simply give others the space they need to do the work themselves, while offering our ever-flowing loving support and presence. 

I was also crazy-grateful that I had my first Kambo session the week prior.  Kambo is a healing ritual used mainly in South America. It’s named after the poisonous secretions of the giant monkey frog, or Phyllomedusa bicolor.  The frog secretes the substance as a defense mechanism to kill or subdue animals that try to eat it.  Indigenous people have used kambo for centuries to heal and cleanse the body by strengthening its natural defenses.  This medicine is applied topically.  First, my medicine woman took a lighter to the end of a small wooden stick.  When it was hot enough, she pushed the fiery stick onto my skin, opening the gates, and created 4 small burns on my ankle.  She wiped the burns with a wet cloth, cleaning them before applying the medicine.  As she applied it, I drank two huge glasses of water. 

My purge was intense.  Yes, I puked, but for me, it was more an emotional cleansing.  I had a flood of memories from my childhood, that brought a Tsunami of tears.  I haven’t sobbed like that in I don’t know how long.  Had that sorrow and grief arose in the dark with my husband next to me, it would have been bad.  It would have tortured Jacob.  I don’t know if I would have been able to release as deeply as I did if I was worrying how my emotion was affecting him. 

My purge with Aya wasn’t emotional, it was empowering. 

Self-doubt is what needed to go.      

As my stomach emptied into the sacred bucket next to my pallet, I could feel The Grandmother encouraging me to let it go.  She whispered to me.  Dear one, I know you’ve been scared to release your voice into the world.  I know you’ve been afraid to speak your truth.  I know you’ve been scared to let yourself be seen fully.  But that is the child in you that’s holding on to all of that, and you, my dear are a Goddess rising!  You don’t need any of that anymore.  It’s toxic.  Here it comes.  Feel it all.  Let it go! 

It was the best puke of my life!    

When the bar opened, Jacob was the first one ready for his second cup.  No surprise.  My wizard is deffinately a psychonaught (someone who likes to explore his mind like an astronaut explores space).

Should I take more? 

I could sense others moving to receive their second, but I avoided my urge to follow suite.  I could feel an instinct to follow the crowed, but something deep inside said, Sit here a bit longer.  Don’t just follow what everyone else is doing.  Check in.  How are you feeling?  Do you really need more or are you good right here right now?  

Feeling became a lesson of the night for me.

I finally decided I had questioned my need for more enough times that it was time for another dose. 

“What’s on your wrist?  Something keeps flashing?  Can you take it off?” my facilitator whispered in my ear after serving me my second dose. 

It was my watch.  I took it off and slid it under my makeshift alter, doing my best to hide any future flashes of light from it’s face. 

The next time I found myself wondering, I wonder if I should take more?  My next thought was, I wonder what time it is?

Damn it, no watch.  Why does the time matter?  If I know what time it is, I’ll know if it’s appropriate to take more.  What if we’re close to being done?  I’m tired.  Aubrey, you can rest, but don’t tap out before it’s over.  I know you’re tired, but we came here for a reason – to expierence something new.  Don’t rely on anything outside of you to tell you if you should or shouldn’t.  Trust yourself!  What do you feel?  How do you feel?  Stop thinking about it and just check in with yourself! 

Well, hello unconscious pattern!

It became quite evident how often I do things based on a proverbial timeline.  When you’ve been taught that success comes when you do things a certain way, in a particular order or after you’ve checked all the boxes, it can be easy to stop trusting your own inner guidance system. 

But that’s the thing – that story isn’t real – it’s an illusion that we’re all waking up to in our own way.  Time and space are bendy and stretchy.  It’s our attachment to these things that makes them stressors in our lives.  Sure, there are things we need clock-time to monitor – like being on time for work or school.  However, do I really need a watch to tell me when it’s time to eat?  Doesn’t my body send me signals when it’s hungry? 

Yes.  Trust your body.  It knows more than your mind!

The last aspect I want to touch on was our favorite part of the night.  Our guides did a masterful job at architecting a musical journey to drive our expierence.  They weaved recorded performances by our facilitator’s teachers during ceremony in Peru along with their own voices in song.  There were times when I didn’t know if the music was coming from the speakers on the wall or the bodies in the room.  The energy went up and down, giving opportunity to feel and expierence different waves of emotional and psychic energy.  They unlocked and rattled what was gripping, while soothing and cradling what needed nurtured.  They paused in all the right places, creating spaces to check in with our breath and land deeper within ourselves.  The container was safe, sacred, and intentional. 

The desire of our guides to create a positive expierence was palpable and appreciated.

Our ceremony ended before dawn.  Candles were lit, so we could share food and stories.  By the time the sun rose, the medicine had dissipated. We said our good-byes and went our separate ways. 

It’s hard to articulate everything you expierence on a psychedelic journey, so it always takes time to unpack it together.  Jacob and I have spent the past 48 hours sharing perspectives and insights.  We’ve come to a couple conclusions…

It’s taken us this long to try Ayahuasca, because it’s always put on a platform higher than LSD or mushrooms, like it’s a bigger deal and we were a bit intimidated.  We really thought we would expierence a different dimension or plane of reality that we hadn’t reached before, and we didn’t.  Did we have a beautiful mind-expanding, expierence?  Yes!  But we always do with psychedelics. 

Maybe we didn’t reach that next plane because we approached the pre-diet half-assed.  Had our systems been cleaner, would we have experienced more?  I just thought having a cleaner system reduced your physical purge.  But what do I know?  I’m still a newbie. 

We’ve heard stories of people “breaking through” and “dissolving” during trips that include DMT.  Jacob said there were a few times when he could sense something calling him deeper, but every time he leaned in that direction, his body, the knot in his stomach, would pull him back into present time.  Although a one-nighter was enough for our first expierence, now we can’t help but wonder if “breaking through” would be more likely on a 3-day journey. 

Time will tell, I’m sure.  We will sit with The Grandmother again. 

Many people say Ayahuasca changed their lives.  We can’t say that.  Psychedelics, in general, changed our lives for sure, though.  Each journey we’ve ever taken, no matter the sacrament, has shifted our perspectives, open our hearts and brought us closer to Spirit.   

However, I can say that where your medicine comes from, who makes it and the energetic intention they put into the substance matters!  That’s why I strongly suggest any psychedelic virgins start with Ayahuasca if they don’t know any conscious, well-intended chemists or botanists cultivating their own strands of LSD or magic mushrooms.  Each hand that touches what you put in your body will energetically affect your expierence; and since Ayahuasca is part of a sacred lineage and tradition, there is a higher probability that good vibes are put into that which you ingest.  You don’t hear about people doing Ayahuasca recreationally.  Although we’ve had some great LSD & mushrooms, if you don’t know where it’s coming from, you just can’t anticipate if there’s going to be any negative juju that will cause some unwelcomed shadows within your sphere.  Most likely, your chosen plant guide will have hand-crafted the brew himself with a loving intention.  When you’re crazy-mindful about set and setting, the probability of you having a great expierence becomes more likely.

Thank you to our guides.  We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated our expierence and will refer friends your way.

Thank you to the Grandmother.  It was lovely meeting you.  We appreciate you sharing your wisdom and being gentle with us.  Should you have more to teach us, we look forward to when we meet again. 

Until next time….

Remember, if you want to know when my book is released, I need your email address.

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