Ayahuasca and the Amazon: One Woman’s Quest for Redemption
“The wholeness of who we are is the most intimate state we can experience.”
– Anand Mehrotra
It’s midnight as I lay inside of the maloka. The sacred ceremonial structure that rests upon this secluded land, nestled somewhere deep inside of the Peruvian Amazon.
The sound of Nature’s elemental orchestra and the milky-golden light of tonight’s full moon filter through the opened, screen windows. Melodic ikaros– plant- spirit medicine songs– serpently weave their way throughout my body, inviting me to join in a sacred, mystical dance.
I am transported into a dimension of reality beyond my naive concept of space and time. In this elsewhere I’m greeted by an ethereal, ineffable spiritual essence. An immediate sense of familiarity arises as if I'm meeting a forgotten, long-lost friend. A most intimate relationship that I've known since the beginning of time. It is me and I am It.
With these new eyes, I’ve been so graciously gifted, I gaze out into the jungle night sky. A star glittered, inky canvas; silhouetted with the shadows of midnight’s blackness. The towering sway of ancient, ancestral trees guard this forest and I marvel, in tear-filled gratitude, at the blessing of my existence in this vast, magical Universe.
I think to myself, "How in the world did I get here?"
I’m a different kind of child, deeply sensitive and empathic. I carry within my fragile bones a whisper of remembrance of my place of origin; the wellspring of unconditional love now disguised as the great, silent unknown surrounding me.
This seed of remembrance, buried deep within, searches to find the light of love in this new world. A love that longs to be nurtured yet is left neglected and unattended. In my tender awareness, a realization occurs that I will need to be responsible for my own safety. At a very young age, I become a fierce protector of myself and my heart.
I learn to find comfort and connection in the safety of Nature. My kinship with animals, plants, and the elementals becomes a place where I find a sense of belonging. I am mothered by Nature. The inner world I create for myself is a refuge, a magical realm, full of imagination and joy. Where I can escape from the parched landscape around me.
From my innocent perspective, it becomes evident that the children who have grown up now live in a sad, lonely place of forgetfulness. Their reality is void of the imagination, magic, and connection to Nature that I know so well.
Of the earliest memories I carry, the most vivid is a vow I take to never forget.
I will never let the magic within me die.
Fast forward a few decades and life has happened. An accumulation of traumatic events overwhelms my once beautiful spirit with sadness, anger, and grief. A stolen sense of self-worth is replaced with anxiety and depression, leaving my mental health shattered in a million pieces.
Fear of abandonment and rejection has led to the abandonment and betrayal of myself as I search for love in unhealthy relationships. Destructive behaviors and addictions become a source of escape that deposits shame in their wake. Judgment of myself in comparison to the lives of others compounds self-loathing. I'm unrecognizable.
My deepest fear has become my reality. I am now that sad and lonely, grown child. I too have been swallowed by the monster of forgetfulness.
“The hardest battle you are ever going to have to fight is the battle to be just you.”
– Leo F. Buscaglia
There is a story that is told; if one is to work with Ayahuasca you will hear the medicine call to you. This I can verify to be true.
It was intense curiosity that began the call years before I arrived in Peru. Already having experience working with plants as medicine; I'm captivated by this mysterious, psychedelic brew of the South.
I begin to notice the appearance of signs all around with peculiar synchronicity: a license plate telling me to GO2PERU.
Over time, curiosity transmutes into a profound longing to meet this ancient, sacred, Amazonian plant medicine. I can’t shake the feeling of some kind of personal, kindred, and mysterious connection between us. The time finally comes where there is no more waiting, questioning, or researching. I must go.
It is my second evening in the jungle. I step barefooted, with humble reverence, into the wooden, thatch-roofed maloka. Anticipation and the smell of burning Palo Santo linger in the humid, summer night air.
The whirr of insects begin their deafening evening choir as if to commence tonight's event. Through the candle-lit atmosphere, I find my way to my place in the sanctity of this hallowed circle.
When it is time I am beckoned to the front of the maloka to accept my medicine from our Shipibo shamans; a couple dedicated to one another and also to their paths as spiritual healers. In their eyes, I perceive generations of wisdom. Passed down through an ancient, Indigenous lineage. A culture that, for millennia, has maintained a symbiotic relationship with Nature and the wild Amazon rainforest they call home.
I kneel in front of Belmira, a kind, sweet, loving woman. With her gentle smile, she hands me a small glass, weathered from its years of use. Its contents: a thick, dark, coffee-like elixir.
I close my eyes and from a place of profound gratitude, I offer my intention to La Medicina; a silent prayer for my heart’s deepest longing. To find my way back to my truest, most authentic Self. The place where self-love and self-acceptance reside.
After all have consumed their medicine, the candlelight is extinguished. Now it is only me, shadows, and Ayahuasca coursing through my veins. I wait.
Out of the silence emerge the songs of the plant spirits, sung by our master healers. The vibrational energy of sound weaves its way throughout the maloka in colorful, rhythmic, geometric patterns of light.
The plant spirits begin to dance inside of my body. Commencing a transmission of intelligence within every cell and crevice of my being.
My consciousness, flooded with an all too familiar recognition, becomes aware of a presence that exudes the feeling of a divine feminine, Mother. As if knowing the innermost depths of my being, She offers me an experience that will resonate on a soul level.
I don’t wait long before my perception guides me into a heavenly garden. Where blooming hills are overflowing with radiant, otherworldly blossoms.
I’m completely safe in this dreamland, soaked in unearthly serenity and peace. “This is your consciousness”, I’m told.
I watch as the inflorescence of my mystical garden slowly gather together, creating an exquisite, divinely arranged bouquet. Every unique, individual flower represents a particular facet of my being. Each is chosen for a very specific purpose. Perfectly placed to create the divine bouquet that is me.
The message I receive: “Love and accept yourself just as the Creator has made you.”— How can I see myself with such hatred if I am this impeccable, divine creation?
I then experience everyone around me as their own individually arranged bouquet of beauty and uniqueness. Not one soul alike. “You are all perfectly imperfect,” She tells me.
An undeniable moment of recognizing my true Self occurs. The child within begins to awaken from her decades-long slumber. And then…I experience what genuine love for myself feels like, for the very first time.
The Heart Portal
My time in the Amazon is nearing its end. It’s the final ceremony of this magical, mysterious, soul expedition. The evening comes to a close with the sweet lullaby of the last plant medicine song fading into the ethers, from where it came. All is silent inside of the maloka.
I lay my hands on my heart and offer my infinite gratitude to this sacred medicine and the divine gift of healing I have received.
In an instant, the torrential emotion of gratitude rushes through me and bursts the dam in my heart wide open. In comes rushing the divine nectar of Love. My heart fills to the brim & overflows. Fills to the brim and overflows. A continuous rapture of exquisite, orgasmic bliss. An experience of pure, unconditional, ever-flowing, Love.
This experience is so intoxicating, so supremely blissful, that I see and feel nothing but perfection in everyone and everything around me. It all makes perfect sense. Everything is exactly as it should be.
As tears stream down my face, I weep from a place of ineffable happiness and unbounded joy. My heart has never felt so full. I am being reminded once again of my purest essence. This is who I truly am! This is the place of magic where I resided as a child! This is what pure Joy feels like!
My heart, the precious jewel in the middle of my chest, reawakens.
I now understand I was never lost in life. I had only forgotten. My heart, the epicenter of my truest Self and connection to spirit, is the magical portal where I find my way back home. To the place where unconditional Love and all-encompassing Joy reside.
“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there then I never really lost it.”
– Dorothy, Wizard of Oz
Ayahuasca is and will forever remain one of my greatest teachers. My ally, the greatest of plant spirits, is always with me, guiding me, continuing my education outside of the maloka. I have learned what feels like a lifetime's worth of lessons in these last few years. And out of eternal respect and reverence for Ayahuasca, I hold myself accountable to integrate each lesson as best I can, into my daily life.
Since my time in the Amazon, I have never felt more me. It’s now impossible to be anyone other than my most authentic self. For the first time, I know what it feels like to truly love who I am and to be my own best friend.
Healing is not linear, it ebbs, flows, and returns to show me different perspectives. There is always more to learn and there are still moments of forgetfulness. But, instead of feeling lost, all I have to do is look inside for my north star, my compass, and I am guided back home.
Ayahuasca has freed me from the heaviest of burdens. She has guided me out of the depths of my darkness. This holy sacrament of the Amazon has given me the priceless gift of self-love and self-acceptance. To just be me is enough. I am uniquely beautiful, cherished, and joy is my birthright. Home is always with me, waiting patiently for me to remember; sitting in the middle of my chest.
“Knowing that you love the earth, changes you, activates you to defend, protect and celebrate but when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms your relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Jaroch currently resides in Montana with her brood of “angels in fur suits”. She's a passionate herbalist, yogini and writer, who aspires to continue her education among the plant spirits of the Amazon.
Her intention in sharing this story is to convey the life-changing potential of plant-spirit medicine in an effort to help de-stigmatize its use as a healing tool.
And also to be an inspiration for others along their healing journey.