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  • Writer's pictureAnna Lauri

Fear and Heading into the Jungle Pt. 1

It’s been a weird few weeks for me. Waves of emotions, crippling anxiety at times, frustration quickly escalating (mostly unnecessarily) to anger, feeling completely lost and worst of all alone. In a recent Facebook post, I expressed how I was feeling scared and anxious about this new chapter and life I thought I wanted. Someone responded with something like, “What are you scared of? Fear only gets in the way of living. Keep going.”

While I know the message was meant to be one of encouragement, I immediately got defensive. What do you actually KNOW about me, what I’m grappling with, what I’m facing (and what I have faced)... and why are you chiming in now?

What follows is my story of how I came to understand my relationship fear.

The last year or so, I’ve done some deep personal work. I wasn't happy. And I saw cycles repeating in my life. I was reading just about every self-help book I could. I was journaling. I was enrolled in personal development courses. I had coaches and a hypnotherapist. I saw my therapist weekly. There was progress made, sure. But I was ready to see the breakthrough.

In a coaching call, I told Jeff, look… “I don’t want to talk about business today. I want to talk about your experience in Peru. I want to know if you think this is something I can or should do? Can I do it alone… as in, is this blond, mid-west girl, able to go to Peru alone? And what will happen when I get there? Will I be safe? Will I be cared for? What if I freak out?’

He reminded me I’d gone to Cuba alone. I reminded myself, I navigated a banking embargo there that I didn’t know about, and successfully borrowed money from a stranger to be able to get back to the airport for my flight. I reminded myself I’ve moved several times across country alone (with an ATLAS!...long before smart phones and google maps). I’ve done things that have scared me, and I’ve made it. What more could ayahuasca provide? Was I actually going to die, no (or at least not likely).

My intention in going to Peru was to put myself in an environment to actually have the breakthrough, to do the deep work, to face the shadows and hopefully come out having achieved some personal and generational healing. I was ready for the very best version of myself to come forward. I was ready to release the stories, the traumas (whether mine, or inherited) and really start LIVING.

I checked the website - they were booked out for months… less “a few spots available” for the upcoming retreat. I called my friend, Dustin. He and I had a recent conversation about ayahuasca and I thought, maybe he might join me. We’d gone through other personal growth and development courses years ago, and I knew I’d be safe with him.

“Anna, the 13th is next week,” he said.

“I know. I know it’s crazy, but I just feel like I should do it now.”

We both agreed we’d think and meditate on this and circle up the following day.

That morning, I woke up, meditated… and asked for a clear sign. Not a symbol. Not a feather on the ground, or a coin… or some obscure lyrics to a song I’ve heard hundreds of times but a clear fucking sign.

I opened my email, the Temple had emailed me back regarding an inquiry I’d sent and said they had one spot available for the next session and provided a link to the application.

I feverishly completed the application, thinking… well, you asked for a fucking clear sign, and this seems like a really fucking clear sign.

They replied that it typically takes 3-4 days to review participant applications.

“So, what you’re saying is I’ll find out on Monday, if I’m leaving the country that Thursday. Cool,” I thought.

I went for my morning walk and upon my return, they’d emailed me saying they’d expedited my application review and I was approved to register and book my flight. By 11a on Thursday, I was registered and was booking a flight to Iquitos the following Friday. I downloaded info from their website, about the “dieta” and all of the things I needed to do to prepare. Most people plan for months for something like this… if not years. But here I was 8 short days out.

For two weeks prior:

  • No meat. Check, I’m a vegetarian (mostly)

  • No alcohol. Check, I went on a bit of a wine bender last week and hadn’t drank since Saturday

  • No street drugs or marijuana. Shit, I took a gummy to sleep last night.

  • No dairy. Well, this isn’t going to be fun… I love cheese.

  • No sex. Check (and I can’t even blame the pandemic on this)

Sunday rolled around and I started looking at what the one week prior elimination entailed, hoping like hell it didn’t require an elimination of cold brew. Annnnd… there it was. No sugar, no seasonings or hot sauce, no coffee. FML, this is gonna be intense.

In retrospect, it was probably better for me to jump in. I didn’t have time to overthink it or question myself. I didn’t have time to even engage in fear. I was too busy getting my lists checked off to be off the grid for 12 days… while having active listings, buyers and renovations.

I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off, honestly. I didn’t have time to think about how I felt or how I was feeling, I just kept checking things off on my list. I just kept going.

“Just keep going,” she had said.

Fear and I have been having a pretty intense love affair through the years, it seems - but I didn’t realize that until I took a flight to Peru, boarded a bus with strangers, transferred to one of the most sketchy looking boats I’ve ever boarded and exited… where I would put on rain boots, and make the hour hike into the jungle to the Temple.

They say ayahuasca might not give you what you want, but it will always give you what you need.

They told us briefly what to “expect” in our first ceremony. They gave us the run down of how the night would go. How we should come in with an intention. That the healers would prepare themselves for the ceremony, they’d sing, bless the ayahuasca and then one-by-one we’d sit with the Maestra delivering the medicine, who would read our energy to give us a dose suitable to our needs and our intention.

In the beginning I felt like I was in some weird cult, all of us sitting in a circle in the dark - the healers singing their ichiros. Then each of us would quietly wait our turn to drink the medicine.

My intention that ceremony was to be shown what’s holding me back. Seemed pretty innocuous and safe, honestly.

The ayahuasca is served in a shot glass of sorts, and the amount I was given was miniscule. Like… tiny. I doubted it would work. I cringed and my body shook at the taste (safe to say, tastes worse than Jägermeister on a hangover). I walked back to my mat and sat. I decided I needed to meditate, thoughts were racing and I was anxious and nervous.

Soon, I started seeing colors and patterns. It was exactly how Hollywood would portray a psychedelic trip.

I felt dizzy. Like I couldn’t sit up straight - I felt like my head and everything else was heavy. Firmly planted on the mat, but also floating. The yawns set in. Jeff had told me your body will do all it can to release things - yawn, cry, vomit, physically shake, your nose might run and you might find yourself quickly making an escape to the toilet.

As I sat there in what I can only describe a deeply meditative, trancelike state but fully aware of what was happening around me, I felt this pain in my lower right back. Pain there is totally normal for me, constant honestly. But it was piercing, like I was being stabbed.

I started quietly puking (as I do) into my little bowl. It felt as if someone was reaching down my shoulder and was pulling at this spot in my back. As the night wore on, the pain was moving up my back. I continued to puke, nose running, tears streaming down my face and just wished and hoped that it could just be one of these things. I thought that would be more manageable. But the pain in my back continued to wear on and I continued to puke.

I started trying to maneuver my arm and shoulder… something kept saying, “let me take it, you don’t need this. Let it go.” So I was doing what I could to help it along.

The ceremony closed. I basically popped up, packed up my things and headed to Tambo #4 to my little piece of real estate in the jungle…wondering what the hell that was all about? What was it that I pushed down there? What was it trying to leave me?

Then I panicked. The next day was a silent day. How was I going to process this alone?

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Arthur Lauri
Arthur Lauri
Aug 05, 2022

Looking forward to part two.

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