Peru

I’m baaaack – and in one piece. Or not, as I actually feel like a new me. Nothing has changed – but at the same time everything has changed in my world.

I definitely got shattered into a thousand pieces during my second ayahuasca ceremony  but now I know there are at least a dozen “(new) mes”  I wasn’t aware of, can you tell the difference ? 🙂

What can I say?

WOW. Peru blew me away! I wonder why it wasn’t  on my travel radar before as it is without question one ( if not THE)  the most breathtaking country I’ve been to. We travelled from the desert to the Amazon, then to the Andes and back to the desert. Peru offers such a diversity and that also shows in their cuisine ( well, I’m a foodie after all 😉 ) , most of our “superfoods” like quinoa, maca and  lucuma  originate there and it was easy to find meals that fit into our diets. Strolling over the markets and trying local dishes, fruits and veggies I never heard of and, last but not least, some of the 3000 (!!!) varieties of potatoes and 3500 (!!!!!!)  varieties of corn was definitely another highlight.

It was also the first holiday I was kind of always surrounded by puking people, during the ayahuasca ceremonies, on the tiny bumpy Cesna flight over the Nazca lines and even up in the Andes, left and right along the trail, as quite a few fellow hikers developed high altitude disease. “Pukidays” and that’s completely fine, we humans get used to everything 🙂

I didn’t know what to expect of this “healing through adventure trip” as it was all “firsts” and I had nothing to compare it to  – first time ayahuasca, first time Inca Trail, first time at a very high altitude for more than a week, first time I skipped my  evening dose of Tecfidera ( my MS drug)  on ceremony days, first time I was away from Ruby for almost 4 weeks – and the first real holiday with Mr. X, starting it right off with a rather  extreme and unusual one.

I’m back home for almost 2 weeks now and am still processing  all my impressions and new insights 24/7, integrating what I’ve learned and I’m lost for words  what has happened to me, especially in the Amazon. Going to the ayahuasca retreat was the BEST decision I’ve made in my life. It was also the scariest experience I’ve had so far but at the same time so so healing and LOVING. That loooove… There are no words to describe it, that’s why I decided not to try and write down my ayahuasca experiences, I want to  actually vlog ( video blog ) about it as I need to use my entire body language and sounds just to give you a tiny, tiny glimpse how working with this sacred plant medicine felt to me and what has changed in my life since .

Some of you might think I’ve lost it completely now but I know for a few others it makes perfect sense to travel to the Amazon for this very reason, to work with this medicine  – I even have a rather new Instagram follower who already signed up for an ayahuasca retreat in June and I wish her as much healing and love as I experienced ❤

Other highlights of this trip included Cusco, so full of history ( and fantastic (vegan/ vegetarian) restaurants ) ,  all those (pre) Inca ruins and the Inca Trail – completely fell in love with the Andes! That dramatic mountain scenery, all in bloom as it was the end of the rainy season ( luckily it only rained at night, 9 PM – 9 AM) and the hike itself  impressed me even more than our actual goal, the Machu Picchu. Luckily I didn’t have any issues with the high altitude ( Cusco sits on 3400m/ 11.150ft and parts of the Inca Trail even on 4215m/ 13.828ft) except that everything costs way more energy.

To be honest – the Inca Trail was actually a bit harder than expected as only about 2km of it’s 42km length are an actual path ( that’s really how it feels) , the other 40km are stairs, very steep and with (extremely)  high steps, up and down, up and down, that are very slippery, especially in the morning and required maximum concentration. I had a bit of a tough time on the the second day as our team decided to skip the usual camp and push on over yet another pass ( after making it over the “dead Woman’s Pass” with an altitude of 4215m in the morning – thanks to a small bottle of Coca-Cola and a pack of Skittles that gave me some much needed extra energy)   but more on that soon. I’ll never forget the faces of the other teams as we left that camp in the afternoon, lol. The second pass that day was definitely worse but we had the entire trail for ourselves.

We also spent a night at the Skylodge, sleeping in a glass pod suspended to the rock wall 400m above the magical Sacred Valley. BEST night’s rest I had on that trip, slept like a baby after a 2h vertical via ferret climb to get up there 🙂

The flight over the Nasca lines summed up the trip perfectly – wonderful, mind-blowing, mysterious – plus feeling a little nauseous 😉 .  I  found out I’m definitely NOT made to fly in tiny 4 pax Cesnas, I really didn’t enjoy the last 10 mins of that flight and only focused on the horizon, I couldn’t care less about the last 2-3 figures.

Mr. X had the BEST time during each ayahuasca ceremony ( I basically ONLY had scary/ uncomfortable ones, lol) but he also meditates/ works on himself already more than a decade. He doesn’t like ( to be on) social media and I totally respect that – so in case some are wondering why there’re no pictures of him or us together, that’s why. I didn’t leave him behind in the Amazon or on a mountain top 🙂  Going on such an extreme trip after only being together for 6 months is definitely a make or brake and I can say this was a 10000% MAKE.

Ruby also survived the almost 4 weeks without me and is secretly missing her sitter ( and vice versa) and all the other dogs. It was a win – win – win situation and I try to record some videos this and next week.

x

 

Aya- WHAT?!?

A-y-a-h-u-a-s-c-a.

Not to be confused with ayurveda, these are two completely different things 😉

In case you never heard of it, ayahuasca is a  sacred plant spirit medicine and hallucinogenic brew ( containing DMT, hence classified a “drug” in many countries but that’s definitely not how I  see it) made out of a vine and other plant based ingredients. It is used in traditional spiritual ceremonies among the indigenous people of the Amazon basin for at least 5000 years to heal all kinds of disease.

Many believe it is the greatest natural healing agent there is, that’s why  thousands  of people with terminal or chronic disease, cancer,  addictions, depressions or traumas visit the Amazon each year to try out ayahuasca for some kind of relief or healing. More and more Western style “clinics” open for special ayahuasca retreats, there has been an alternative medicine tourism boom in recent years and it seems to be even a strong competition for the Machu Picchu in the years coming.

I don’t want to go too much into my own “research” details in this post ( or it’ll be the longest post in history, crashing the entire WordPress server 😉 ) but it looks as if ayahuasca might have not only a very positive influence on the CNS and inflammations BUT even play a key role in neuroregeneration.

WOW, wouldn’t it be great if a “plant” could actually fix what’s damaged in our (MS) brains?

There seem to be so many benefits it would be a shame not to try some sort of “healing” with ayahuasca. I believe that there are actually plenty of “cures”  out there in nature that are used by indigenous people for ages and we simply don’t know about it or – we’re not told as it’s not profitable for the “big players” , especially if we could all grow our own medicine. HA!

According to this fab article in the New Yorker, Ayahuasca is the drug of choice for the “age of kale” ( which made me laugh so hard as I think  it’s totally  true!)

“Ayahuasca, like kale, is no joy ride. The majority of users vomit—or, as they prefer to say, “purge.” And that’s the easy part. “Ayahuasca takes you to the swampland of your soul,” Like juicing—another Kale Age method of expedient renewal—ayahuasca is appreciated for its efficiency. Enthusiasts often say that each trip is like ten years of therapy or meditation.

The first time I heard about ayahuasca was about 3 years ago and I was stunned. First of all, why didn’t I ever hear anything about it and second of all, this might be THE “medicine” for the time being. I read everything I could find, watched a lot of documentaries and read the testimonials of people who felt way better or even “healed” from all kinds of diseases thanks to ayahuasca.

It looks like this year the first FDA approved trial to treat depression with ayahuasca will start but there are even a few more waiting for the official trial process and looking into everything from PTSD treatment to addictions.

Ayahuasca is becoming more and more knows, even Netflix has a FEW documentaries ( and a “Chelsea does…” episode)  on it and according to some articles I read there must be a real boom and ayahuasca ceremonies any given night in all major cities around the world.  It’s even possible to do it here in the Netherlands as it’s legal because of the freedom of religion. Sometimes I feel  like I’m one of the last people on this planet getting to experience it as everyone I told about it has done it or knows at least 5 people that have done it and ALL of them had a great, mostly  life changing experience once out of the dark “swampland of the soul”.

The ayahuasca brew must taste like the worst thing there is and chances are high that you’ll have a hard time, facing your worst fears, living through you worst emotions and nightmares again, not to mention the “purging” ( vomiting) and most likely even s*** your pants. The “ceremony” itself must be one of the most terrifying things there is and that’s what kept me away.

Until now.

I’ve never experienced with other “drugs” than alcohol, I guess a Jägerbomb must have been the craziest thing I  did in my life and if you know me personally or follow my blog, I can’t even handle the other plant medicine, marijuana,  without getting an anxiety attack ( blog post about that self-experiment 😉 )   as I hate the feeling of losing control. Here, I said it, I’m still a complete control freak and perfectionists and it’s soooo hard to let go of these things.

Now – guess who will be sitting in a ceremonial “maloca” ( ceremonial hut ), most likely “purging” all the time,  in the Peruvian Amazon with a very experienced group of Shipibo shamans in 3 weeks?

Yep. Yours truly. The control freak – and Mr. X, this will be a great relationship test, lol.

All for the sake of self-experimenting as everything I researched about ayahuasca over the past  years sounds too good to be true that even the uncomfortable part doesn’t scare me away anymore.

We will actually start our 4 week trip to Peru with a 9 day ayahuasca retreat and 4 (!!)  ceremonies – if it is true that each session is like 10 years of therapy/ meditation I should be (hopefully)  done after that ( as I’m only 38 😉 ) but I am completely aware that I also need to “work” on many issues while there and  in the future.

 

To get the most out of the ayahuasca medicine, you need to follow a special “dieta” for at least 2 weeks prior and a few days after the retreat. On top of that ( hello old overachiever 😉 )  I already started  a “Whole 30” reset 2 weeks ago, didn’t drink any alcohol for 3 weeks and will start with the real ayahuasca “dieta” next Sunday.  Luckily my normal diet is pretty close to it as the dieta allows fish and eggs but no (red) meat, no dairy, no sugar, no fried food and no gluten. On top of that is a long list of other no no’s like coffee, black pepper, avocado, spinach or pineapple to name a few.

But the dieta doesn’t only concern food – our “mind” needs to be “clean” as well so mainstream media, negative- feeling movies/ books/ posts/ people and social media need to be considered, too.  I already unfollowed people who always share negative or passive-aggressive posts on Facebook as I really can’t and won’t deal with that energy anymore as I feel it’s  pulling me down.

The last part of the dieta, a technical one, will happen during the retreat as there’s NO reception and NO wifi, we also shouldn’t use technical devices while on the retreat and just BE in the Amazon.

Just BE ourselves. Our true selves.

We’ll start our retreat at Nimea Kaya Healing Center on Feb 26 and if you’re wondering what we do there for 9 days next to “purging” , overcoming and healing there’s a whole program set up, from plant walks and helping with brewing the ayahuasca we will be using for the ceremonies, meditation, yoga, floral baths, super healthy dieta meals, visits to the local community and a school the retreat supports to integration circles and painting.

I feel I’m  in very good hands with this center and they have already treated a few MS patients. The only concern they had was my MS drug as of course – you shouldn’t take any drugs/ medications or even supplements while on the “dieta” and some ( like antidepressants, any SSRI´s and MAOI’s) are dangerous or even lethal when mixed with ayahuasca. The staff is great, they checked all ingredients of Tecfidera and although they’d rather have me not take it while there, we found a compromise that I won’t be taking the evening dosage on the 4 nights of the ayahuasca ceremony.  ( and yes, I even got it double checked so it’s save )

My main intention for the retreat is to “heal” and learn how to fully “love myself” and in my opinion, these two are one.

We cannot heal without (self) love.

I personally believe that emotional blockages and traumas make us sick, all the “stuff” that happened to us along the way and we simply pushed it away for too long. I know that a lot of pain will come up during the ceremonies and that I might have to “relive” certain  situations and memories.

I meditate a lot and learned the past 1.5 years that how I emotionally feel directly affects my health.

Autoimmune diseases are like a non stop friendly fire, I basically attack myself all the time. Next to MS I was diagnosed with  two additional chronic/ autoimmune disease without a known cause ( granuloma annulare dx 1991 and endometriosis dx 2003) that appeared after  emotional or very stressful life events. Most fellow MS patients I know have at least one more autoimmune disease.

These “friendly fires” inside my body  I  link directly to that self love issue  and I think that’s why way more woman than men suffer from autoimmune disease. It’s getting harder and harder as a woman to keep up with the “standards” and being a perfectionist doesn’t help.

All the things I “must” be.

We women “must” have the perfect career, relationships, families, looks, bodies – you name it. I’m curious to see what will happen the next decade, autoimmune disease must explode thanks to our society and especially social media.

Time to heal myself from these thoughts and social constructs and start living my life.

MY life.

Finishing this post with some of my favourite ayahuasca videos, from science to the real experience if you got curious.