‘Heaven opens inward, chasms yawn/ Vast images in glittering dawn/Half-shewn, are broken and withdrawn’.

We did the last session during the day. Traditionally ayahausca is drunk in the night, in the pregnant dark, digging and dealing with unlit world of the unconsious. After the 3 main sessions, the five of us that were remaining were allowed to drink a very small dose during the day.

We walked through the jungle down to the river that runs through the Land and waded through the shady, fast-flowing waters, following the thickly overground curves.

I had to sit down as the ayahuasca state came on suddenly.

The sound of the insects and the birds, the flow of the water, the weed moving in the current, the shimmering sunlight through the curtains of vines and ferns. It suddenly seemed almost too much.

But i am familiar with that overwhelming and sat and settled. Allowed the wonder to unfold.

To be in nature, to be with plants and water was incredible. I walked so gently back up the red earth path, past plants that seemed to reach out to me, so electric was their life.

Everything shimmered with an super-real intensity. I lay down on the soft grass by the lagoon and watched – laughing and shaking with pleasure – the antics of a little white wagtail, dancing by the waterside.

Have I ever mentioned how paradisical the Land is where we drink ayahuasca? It’s like walking through Eden.

Scarlet breasted weaver birds with lemon-yellow bills and bright blue eyes darting in and out of their long sock-shaped nests, hanging like fruit from a cashew tree by the lagoon.

Swallows and yellow-tufted jays scooping across the water surface, snatching water boatmen.

The constant, gentle rustle of palm leaves stroked by the wind.

Bright butterflies, branded with flaming orange and yellow stripes loping past the hibiscus hedges.

Coming dreamily back to my bungalow I sat in utter stillness as a female humming bird perched on a branch right in front of me, panting, staring straight at me. Me and a hummingbird in direct communion. It was astonishing. I’ve never seen a hummingbird – with its exquisite long beak and tiny piercing eyes – so close or so still. We stayed for 10 minutes or so in silent rapprochment.

To sense that mystical intensity of all life with my eyes open, moving round this field of vibrancy was very intense. It really did feel like walking in divinity. And I – who have struggled for many years with an alienated sense of what ‘divinity’ might mean – saw very simply that life is divinity. That God is that quiviering vibration underneath everything, the fundamental goodness that Christ and Buddha and all mystics have spoken about.

Later as the intensity mellowed and we all sat, gobsmacked on the pontoon of the lagoon, feasting on apples and bananas and coconut water, we felt unbelievably lucky. (I remembered that in German the word for lucky and happy is the same). And even today, two days later, when the fierce dreams that always mark the end of the session have passed, I spent the day on my own on the Land walking round almost laughing at the absurd beauty of it all.

30 Comments

  1. edwo

    October 13, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Alistair,
    I do have to wonder about beibng in an altered state. All that natural beauty is always there, we choose to “see” it or just pass by. Would the world not be in a better state if we just appreciated the wonder we are surrounded by day to day.

  2. lori

    October 14, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Alistair,
    You have a gift of transforming what some could dismisss
    as a mundane hallucinogen-induced experience
    into something extraordinary- through the power of words.
    I mean this in the best sense. Your gaseous
    writing is what keeps me coming back here to read your blog.

    I love how that you brought up the pantheistic idea of
    ‘divinity’ that exists beneath the surface of nature. I
    feel it somewhat too when I’m alone with nature, I
    feel the presence of god. Thank you for taking me on a
    journey with this piece. Beautiful, as always.

  3. Courtney

    October 14, 2008 at 8:12 am

    We get caught up in our everyday lives that we as human beings
    lose sight of the beauty of nature, even if we are surrounded
    by it at home. When we stop to look, really look, think about,
    and enjoy what is around us, we can feel that divinity.

    Just the other day, I watched a family of deer in my backyard
    and while a bit startled, I was in awe of their grace and beauty.
    They are a common sight around here, and yet, seeing them
    that close made me appreciate them all the more.

    Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective to be able
    to appreciate what we have in this world. Thanks for showing
    us that.

  4. Karyne Whalen

    October 14, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    God is the AMAZING creator! Beautiful writing and pics. I have been interested in reading your posts about this as it is something I have never heard about.

  5. Jeff

    October 15, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Sigh… I’ve GOT to try this sometime! I have had a similar experience (feeling at one with everything) that just came upon me out of the blue, but it was very fleeting… I do recall, though, the very awesome inter-connectedness of everything and the vibrations.

  6. alistair

    October 16, 2008 at 12:27 am

    It’s true that the beauty is always there.

    That’s the nut of spiritual practice. We’re all perfect and the Universe is perfect but it just doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t smell that way and – day to day – it certainly doesn’t look that way.
    Even if we’re given fleeting access to those asphodel fields where everything is effortless, connected and full of love, often our conditioned personalities take those enlightened experiences and turn them into ash. We reject them as just banal or ‘unrealistic’ or castigate ourselves for ‘escapism’.

    I was told the story of a beautiful white tigress that was kept in a 12x12ft cage at Washington zoo for years and paced up and down ceaselessly, staring past the bars.
    Then the zoo keepers built a massive, natural reserve for her and – with great anticipation – freed her into her new habitat.
    The tigress walked to a corner of the reserve and began pacing a 12 ft path. And she continued pacing it untill she died eight years later.

  7. DanielK

    October 20, 2008 at 10:07 am

    What must one do to experience ayahausca as you have? If I have enough cash, I’d certainly do it.

  8. Nick

    October 21, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    I must confess I can’t quite understand why you need to take drugs in order to appreciate the world in the way you describe. How does that tie in with the precepts of Buddhism – particularly the one that urges us to refrain from the use of intoxicants?

  9. Nick

    October 22, 2008 at 6:35 am

    How do you reconcile the taking of drugs such as ayahausca
    with the Buddhist precepts to which you (I presume) subscribe, particularly the precept that urges rstraint from taking intoxicants?

  10. alistair

    October 22, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    It’s a very interesting question about the precepts.

    The answer is, of course, very simple. Ayahuasca is not an intoxicant.

    But the question raises lots of interesting side issues.

    I struggled for many years with a precept-riven understaning of Dharma. I felt that I shouldn’t do this, shouldn’t feel this, and shouldn’t say that. I was desperate seeking every benchmark and finding myself wanting.

    Gradually, through good teachers, therapy and my experiences in Brazil, I saw that that grasping after prohibition and retraint came from a place of fear. Fear of myself.

    In a much quoted Sutra, the Buddha speaks to the Kalamas who ask him which of the thousands of passing teachers that came trhough their village they should trust. He outlines a whole load of reasons why you should *not* believe things: tradition, books, ‘common’ sense, because a teacher told them to. And then he goes on to say: Test everything in your own heart. If it leads to suffering, refrain. If it leads to liberation, continue. Stay alert at all time to change.

    Ayahuasca, without a shred of doubt, has led to enormous liberation from shame, guilt, denial and unhappiness for me. This is why I continue happily to work with it. This has not been without difficulties. My knee-jerk reactions as a ‘good’ Buddhist was to unconsciously demonize it, I was fearful that the teachers I admire would ostracize me for it. Of course, the opposite occurred.
    Good teachers are sensitive to expansion in their students and they have all notice that in me. So that fear of being a naughty schoolboy has also gone the way of much else. Vanished into the air.

  11. Nick

    October 24, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for your answer Alistair (and I’m sorry 2 different versions of my original message appeared hhere, due to my technical incompetence). I think to claim that ayahuasca is not an intoxicant is a little disingenuous – but let it pass. An interesting quote from the Buddha too, but if you had taken your drug and died as a result, would that not have caused suffering to those around you who love you? And should that not be taken into consideration too?. But whatever, yours is an interesting viewpoint, if perhaps a little unorthodox. My thanks for letting me take up your time and space.

  12. John Mc.

    October 25, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    How many of us walk our 12 foot path….unconsciously…daily.

    Thank you, Alistair, for sharing your remarkable experiences and observations.

  13. Colin

    October 28, 2008 at 8:18 am

    This is my personal opinion, the precepts were given reluctantly by the Buddha as he saw that men would mire themselves in them, and there is no dogma as I understand with in Buddhism. The Dhammapada records that the Buddha said “Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, or who said it (even if I have said it) unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” An old friend that is a teacher at Same Ling said that Rinpoche said to her regarding drugs that the mind is in a state of delusion already and that the drugs usually add to the confusion and are not beneficial. I have no opinion on drugs or there use (medical or recreational) but have found that meditation is an experiential, evanescent practice that is inexplicably, as language in itself in rooted in delusion. I have heard the practice described as akin to holding a bar of soap in your hand and squeezing very hard, eventually it will be forced out, this is the mind and all our concepts of being if you squeeze it hard enough at some point you will albeit briefly gain insight.
    On mane pame hung

  14. lorna

    November 1, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Alistair, I am not a Buddhist but I do love Escape to the Country with you in it. Your use of language and tolerance of exasperating people is quite incredible. Please carry on with it!
    No other presenter uses phrases such as ‘post-glacial escarpment’! Good luck to you
    Lorna

  15. lori

    November 6, 2008 at 3:52 am

    Troll in the dungeon! Kidding.. but really,
    I don’t know if ‘nick’ is someone who wanted to crack down
    on the use of ayahuasca, or merely a sceptic, but we know that
    the author of this blog has the most benevolent interpretations Buddhism. We know the
    transparency of his beliefs. Can we NOT disrupt the read through repeated comments like
    these?

  16. Colin

    November 7, 2008 at 8:10 am

    This is my personal opinion, the precepts were given reluctantly by the Buddha as he saw that men would mire themselves in them and they have, and there is no dogma as I understand within Buddhism. The Dhammapada records that the Buddha said “Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, or who said it (even if I have said it) unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” An old friend that is a teacher at Same Ling said that Rinpoche said to her regarding drugs that the mind is in a state of delusion already and that the drugs usually add to the confusion and are not beneficial. I have no opinion on drugs or there use (medical or recreational) but have found that meditation is an experiential, evanescent practice that is inexplicably, as language in itself in rooted in delusion and a blunt tool. I have heard the practice described as akin to holding a bar of soap in your hand and squeezing very hard, eventually it will be forced to spring out of your grasp, this is the mind and all our concepts of being if you squeeze it hard enough at some point you will albeit briefly gain insight in to the nature of being.

  17. Peter

    November 7, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Alistair,

    I am from Houston, I think you are beautiful… I met the Dali in
    Bloomington Indiana last year.. I also am a yoga fanatic.. I can
    also throw down some goa India cuisine..

    Maybe we are a match if not taken already…

    I am also an ex Armani model …:)

    I am a catch same as you…

    email me..

  18. Nick

    November 16, 2008 at 8:47 am

    I’m merely a sceptic Iorli, as per the Alan Watts quote re such drugs: “When you get the message, put down the telephone”. But I mean no harm or disruption to what goes on here.

  19. jennie

    November 28, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    i was under the impression that aya is not so much a drug as another consciousness? “divine” or not.

  20. Barry

    December 1, 2008 at 4:32 am

    Alistair,

    I’ve become aware of your website only recently, but in the short time, I’m very fascinated by your experiences with Ayahuasca. It’s interesting to notice the resistance some people have regarding the use of “intoxicants” or drugs, but in the purely indigenous sense, ayahuasca is a medicine. It tells the truth about reality, which can be darker than we’re prepared to admit at times, and more divine than anything we’ve imagined.

    Thanks for writing.

  21. Lynn

    December 2, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    I am one of those endlessly blessed souls who came of age in the late sixties, with spirit-expanding substances a part of my journey. Real life, later, excluded, by choice, said substances, but I have always wondered how the present me – wiser, happier, more secure – would react to an experience as transcentental as you describe. It was just fun back then. 🙂
    I may never know, but thank you for sharing YOUR experiences.

  22. alina

    January 4, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Alistair, is the effect of ayahuasca similar to the effect
    of psilocybine or LSD?

    *please excuse my language mistakes if any,
    english is not my first language 🙂

  23. Yamuna

    March 5, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    This is an amazing story.
    I am Budhist by birth. I started to do meditation when I was 9 years old.
    I had a very happy childhood so much of love from parents and family members.
    My parents died in a car crash when I was 19. That incident stopped my life.
    Meditation helped me to continue my day to day work.

    When I lost love from my child hood sweetheart. I cried for a while. Then I made my mind strong.

    I never live in a past. I live present and I lookforward my future.

    Meditation helped me to adjust my KARMA.

    My only advise to you is Please don’t live in a Past.

    * English is not my first language.
    Sorry for the Mistakes of my writting.

    I never live in a past. I hav

  24. Yamuna

    March 5, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Alistai,

    This amazing story made me write this comment.
    Thank you very much for sharing this.

    I have learnt many things thru Buddhism and meditation.
    I started to do meditation when I was 9 years old.
    My mother forced me to do it to make my mind calm, Bcause
    I was been naughty when I was a KID.
    My parents died ina car crsh, when I was 19. That incident
    made my life unbalanced. But My meditation helped me to
    come out from that dark hole. When I lost love from my
    childhood sweetheart I cried, and cried and cried,but I
    managed to come out from that illution.
    I never live in a past.

    My only advise to you is Please don’t live in a past.
    I live in the present and lookforward to see my future.

    My only advise to you is Pls. don’t live in the past.

    * English is not my first language.
    Sorry for the grammar mistakes.

  25. TOSHI SCHOETERS

    April 20, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    hey alistair
    just saw your experience
    the funny thing is, the moment you drank the tea i hadto stop the video-i got a small but urgent attack of diarea-i had to laugh on the toilet
    so you have felt the dark night of the soul first and then the second time you felt the immense joy of the universe
    i m really glad to see this different aspect of you-your meditation and spirituality
    i only knew you from bbc
    and most of the time i watched your programs both because they are really nice to see and second-but also important because i thought you are yummie to see on tv
    whet i liked themost of your video was what you expressed abouth guilt and love and the realisation that everything is ok because everything ispart of this immense sometimes sas sometimes extatic sometimes content universal play we are all part of
    everything has Buddhanature everything is made of light and darkness both
    isn t it a joy to realise weare all Buddhas Alistair
    i give you a looooooooooooong hug right now
    from toshi

  26. Phil Cullen

    May 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I have just returned from Brazil where I took part in
    a 10 day ayahuasca seminar with Silvia and wanted to
    thank you for your film & blog, both of which really
    helped me to take the plunge and head half way round
    tne world in the hope of finding my way out of a
    sticky hole. Amazing experience – thank you.

  27. Allen Warren

    July 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I am truly interested in attending a seminar. I live in the states and am seeking advice on how to arrange the trip. Not sure where to even start..can anyone help with the logistics?

    1. alistair

      July 6, 2009 at 11:14 pm

      hi allen,
      we’re running a seminar in December in Brazil. My friend Gary and I will be facilitating and it promises to be a friendly group.
      The first thing you need to do is write to Silvia so she can check if it’s OK for you to be doing ayahuasca – her address is on the ayahuasca-healing.org website.
      Then you need to book a flight to Ilheus in Bahia. The central flying hub in Brazil is Sao Paulo but if you can fly to Salvador that’s even closer. From those two major airports you need to get a smaller 45 minute flight to Ilheus. It’s an hour’s drive to the fazenda where we drink – but usually Silvia will organize a car to pick us up from the airport. The seminar will be starting most likely on the 10th December and finishing a week later. It’s a nice time to hang out in BRazil if you can find time after the seminar.
      if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

      Alistair

  28. ann

    September 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Alister, after reading your many posts and logs I’ve decided i
    would like to try Ayahuasca for first time. I asked friends about
    this who already tried it and they warned me about how
    vulnerable you can be afterwards and you have to trust
    shaman. They told me there are places where shaman
    tries to exploit you body or money. This is different?

    Ann

    1. alistair

      September 15, 2009 at 7:42 pm

      Dear Ann,
      It is absolutely crucial that you feel safe and supported during and after the ayahausca sessions. There is tremendous power in the Plant and you can often feel very afraid. The seminars in Bahia with Silvia are held in pleasant surroundings with a very strong group dynamic for that purpose. And afterwards the group sharing is crucial for beginning to integrate your experience. Silvia is not a shaman – she trained with the shamans in Peru and Mexico – but she rejects the whole power structure around some forms of shamanism. She would call herself a facilitator. Ultimately the only person responsible for the healing experience is yourself.
      I hope that answers some of your questions…

      A

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