People sometimes ask me, “What was the most remarkable vision you ever had while drinking ayahuasca for so many years? Or what is the most powerful thing you’ve taken away from all the times you drank ayahuasca?”
Understandably, people ask this question because they know I drank a lot of ayahuasca and because they know that it’s a very powerful visionary experience. However, my answer is, I think, pretty simple and I imagine pretty common among those who have taken ayahuasca regularly over a long period of time.
I had the privilege of seeing literally hundreds of people over the years get their ego broken open. All different kinds of egos, including of course my own. I got to see so many different stories return to the basics: envy, lust, jealousy, fear, sadness, rage, resentment, confusion, loneliness, and hurt.
I got to see people from all different walks of life get leveled. And I got leveled. And that was really the only “vision” that mattered. The only visions I can see over and over, still so vivid today, are those of “well-intending” people, again including myself, finally reduced to a pool of darkness, at last relieved by the opportunity to be fully honest about what is inside. These were not visions littered by shamanic costumes or decor, geometric shapes, and other-worldly encounters, etc. They were visions of people fully losing their grip on reality, their control, their sanity.
That’s what has stuck with me. It sometimes feels like a great secret. Because actually, very few people among us have really lost their sanity and come back from it. Very few of us have had the privilege, and it is indeed a privilege no matter what anyone may say. Of course, we all fall on tough times and some way more than others, but losing your sanity all-together and then coming back to reflect upon it is different (and all the more in real life compared to an ayahuasca ceremony). Because when you see the festering pool of illusions that rest beneath the stories, the body, and this particular drop in the bucket incarnation, frothing out of someone, out of yourself, you end up “going there” with just about everyone else you meet. At some point, if their ego or your own starts asserting itself in a way that’s obnoxious, you have a level of compassion and patience available to you because you know where it all leads…maybe not today, and you certainly don’t wish it upon anyone, but you know very well where it all leads in the end.
And yeah, sometimes, that feels dark and heavy. But most of the time it’s refreshingly honest. It’s clear, and it inspires love and patience, mostly with ourselves. Because if you’ve been there, then you know that ultimately nothing was ever born and nothing ever dies…nothing except these egos and our endless stories. The ones we spend so much time protecting, so much time invested in.
The madness beneath us is always already here, it’s just not fully visible. The hell we try to hide is not presenting itself fully and so it stretches out over time. It requires slow-moving gods orbiting us like planets. We get peeks and glimpses of the madness within only every so often, whenever the constellations are cracked apart and our patterns change, when abrupt life events occur, or when we are worn down by pain and suffering.
The poorest among us are often closest to the madness beneath. We think that the greatest service we can do is to protect everyone from this kind of loss, from pain, from suffering, from disaster, or unfairness, and yet we forget that it is right on the edge of loss and want and great need where we must all go if we want to learn how to love. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
For as much as we try to protect our kingdoms, eventually there comes a season or even an unexpected moment, ripping through the ethers like lightning, and it devastates us, or it devastates something or someone we love. Like the shootings that we see in the news over and over and over and over again.
Our reaction is to shake our fist at the sky and utter prayers of defiant positivity. We demand change. We blame the darkness. We blame the enemy.
But that darkness is our destiny, it has been before, and it will be again, so long as we think of ourselves as the controllers.
At some point during the years I spent drinking ayahuasca, the opportunity presented itself to work, for a short time as a social worker with adult schizophrenics (I wasn’t much of a social worker). I remember one client I worked with regularly. His decompensations were awful. One day he said to me, “Adam, you know what most people don’t realize? They don’t realize it could happen to them at any time. I never thought it would happen to me. People are walking on eggshells and they don’t realize it.”
Similarly, in the Srimad Bhagavatam, the little saintly boy, Prahlad Mahajara, when confronted by the ferocious half-man, half-lion incarnation of Visnu, Lord Narasimhadeva, said to him, “Lord, I’m not afraid of you. I’m only afraid of your Maya.”
We think that the fear of God is incompatible with a God of love, but that’s not true. God’s love is unfathomable, and its infinite potential, for each of us, includes its fierceness. It includes the terrible forces that consume us when we exercise our right to go it alone, forces that are also always cajoling us to just give it a try…just try…coming back to love.
When we respect love, when we respect divinity, and when we stay open to love, constantly, it goes hand in hand with a healthy and delicate sense of fear. The fear of the madness that so easily consumes us, the madness so clearly consuming the world. Without a healthy respect for this, we don’t realize the stakes involved with our decision to love.
There are prophets riding across the high plains of our minds, and they are always watching the skies, watching the cloud covers, and watching for the approaching strikes of lightning. They help us to keep love real, to keep our desire for divinity exactly where it belongs, on the edge between absolute union and separation, ever-present, which is the only place love can ever be.
Just that slight tinge of fear…”I could lose it here. Everything could fall apart, at any time,” is precisely what pushes us closer to staying home in our love and devotion to divinity, and by extension to each other.
Most days I wouldn’t choose to dwell on or encourage any reveling in the destructive or the fearful, on the madness or even its close proximity to divine love and surrender. I am certainly not an expert on any of these subjects, and it can be a seductive place, or at least it’s a real Moon in Scorpio opposite Uranus place to hang out! But as I’ve been taking in these latest mass shootings, and this evening have had time to meditate on these events in light of this first quarter Moon and its opposition to Uranus, it felt appropriate to share these sentiments.
Also because a reader asked me again today about my ayahuasca experiences.
So I hope that these reflections are helpful for those of you who are also dealing with the darkness within and without. I also know that I am not alone or unique in any of the insights I’ve presented here. So please excuse me if I’m just preaching to the choir! 🙂 Have a blessed first quarter Moon!