My journey to Peru; my journey into Ayahuasca; my journey into myself
Is seems these days every guru, teacher, and psychology expert is talking about this concept of self-love, this idea of loving yourself above and beyond anyone or anything else. But what does that mean? What does it actually look like? What does it feel like?
For years, I’ve read every book and taken every course I could get my hands on in an effort to understand this concept. To understand what my “self” even is and how the hell I go about loving it. Who is they mystical person dwelling deep inside me, desperately longing to be loved?
In my mind, where I’m expert at intellectualizing, this self- love made perfect sense. But the more books I read and the more courses I took, not much seemed to actually change in how I felt about myself.
Here’s the thing…
I thought self-love meant going out into the world and becoming the type of person that I saw as lovable, the type of person that I saw as perfection, all the qualities in another that I observed, thought they wore well, and decided I too wanted to wear these qualities. I could love myself enough to become the things I understood to be lovable. That much I was confident in!
For the past two years, I pushed forward with strength and force to master this “self-love” concept.
What I didn’t realize is that forcing the self that I actually am into the self I saw as lovable, isn’t self-love at all. It’s actually quite the opposite. By trying to become the perfect version of myself, I denied to the very core who I actually am, demonstrating that I had to fit into certain boxes before I could be accepted by myself, creating an endless pursuit of self-hatred, of never being good enough, and of the actual self-love I desired always being out of reach, one step ahead of me on the horizon.
And then, two weeks ago I traveled to Peru where I sat in Ayahuasca ceremony and looked face to face with everything I was running from… everything I was too afraid to see…
I sit here, back home in Edmonton, a different person than who I was sitting in this exact same spot two weeks ago. I look the same on the outside, but there is a different light shining through my eyes now, a brighter light, a light far less blocked than just a couple short weeks ago.
I sit here a calmer person. A more peaceful person. A person who has a deeper understanding of myself, the love I was seeking, of life on Earth, and what it actually means to be here in a physical body. Not the mere concept of it but what it actually means through the experiencing of it.
I sit here with a new friend, a new teacher, and a new allay… Mother Ayahuasca. I see now that our relationship was long before I traveled to Peru to drink her brew and long before she was even in my conscious awareness. There she was guiding and leading me to her, where ultimately, she would lead me back to myself, and teach me what self-love actually means.
But, not before taking me through everything that was the complete opposite of just that first. Not before taking me through every fear and glimpse of self-hatred I’d ever harbored towards myself in this entire lifetime.
She came to me. Hard. Relentless. Forcing me to look at every aspect of myself I’d denied in my apparent search for “self-love”. Not to punish and torture me but merely to magnify the way I’d been treating myself so I could clearly see and feel just that.
When I allowed Mother Aya into my veins, she showed me myself.
All of myself.
Every part I’d run from. Every fault and flaw I saw. Everything I had ever rejected in myself, in my body, my mind, and in my life.
There it was.
All staring me in the face.
There was nowhere to run because what I had been running from was myself.
I searched for anything to save me in that moment, I looked around, and everyone in ceremony was either gone or asleep. Here I was, alone with myself. Alone with the fear. Alone with everything I didn’t want to look at. So I turned to the one thing I have relied on my entire life to save me. The one thing that can always makes sense of even the most difficult challenges I’ve faced.
I turned to my mind.
My ability to make sense of and rationalize what I was feeling, what I was going through in that moment.
I thought, in the agony I was feeling as the ayahuasca pumped through my veins, that if I could just figure out what was happening and what I needed to “do” to get myself out of this place, out of the feeling, that I could be free.
And then… I lost the one thing that was maintaining my sanity. The one thing I had relied on not only through the ceremony but the thing I had relied on my entire life to keep me safe, especially when my heart was exposed. The one thing that was certain to bail me out of every pain and heartache.
I lost my mind.
As all rational slipped from me, I lost my ability to control. I lost my ability to make sense of what was going on.
In my desperation, I grasped for anything to save me, finding my voice, I called out for help.
Facilitator, maestra (shaman), and apprentice coming to my side. The experienced maestra woman singing icaros into my soul, attempting to release the emotional energy body seemingly stuck in the center of my being. Facilitator, talking, trying to bring me back to my own body.
“You’re going to be okay.” They kept telling me. “This is part of the process.” They assured.
I could hear their words but I couldn’t understand them. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Hours passed by of laying down fighting what can only be described as an intense emotional pain in my body that consumed me, every drop of sadness, fear, and anxiety bubbling and boiling over into that very moment of time. A lifetime of stuffed down emotions coming to the surface and taking over my body.
I felt helpless.
The facilitator, Carolina, helped me undress and step into the shower.
“I’m so scared to be naked.” I whispered to her. “Is this what vulnerability feels like?” I asked with the purest innocence of a child as I held onto her arm.
“Yes, Katherine”, she smiled, “this is what vulnerability feels like.”
I thought I always knew. Understood. I had understood everything but known nothing. And in that moment my knowing, my living through it, was coming to life.
“I’m like a helpless little infant right now, relying on you to guide me.” I continued.
“That’s okay, Katherine.” She replied. “It’s all absolutely perfect and beautiful. You’re exactly where you need to be.”
I didn’t fully believe her but I felt I had run out of options but to let go, surrender, and trust.
And that’s when everything changed. It all shifted…
As the water ran over me in the shower, I felt like I was falling. I was falling fast, but not into a spacey nothingness, a feeling I’d been well acquainted with in the past, but rather a feeling as through I was falling into something concrete and tangible. Something solid and hard.
I was falling into my body. My adult body. I looked down at myself, at this flesh vehicle, as if I was looking at it for the first time ever.
As I peered down at myself in this body, it looked foreign and ugly, every imperfection magnified to the core.
I wanted to look away but somehow knew that wasn’t the answer.
As I stared at myself in rejection, the insight came. Like a bag of bricks to the side of my skull.
What I was experiencing in this moment was what I’d been experiencing my entire life. Refusal to look at myself, refusal to look at my body, refusal to be a part of my body. Refusal to even want to be in a body. An entire life time I’d spent living in my head, using my mind to escape the life, body and flesh, in front of me.
The word with all its meaning and feeling, stared me directly in the eyes, piercing through my soul.
“Why am I rejecting myself?” I asked out loud to myself. In that moment, speaking to myself, for myself but also for every other woman in times to pass and times to come that has ever and will ever reject her body.
“Why are we rejecting ourselves?” I continued out loud.
I can only describe this dialogue to have felt like two alternate personalities in my mind, one challenging the other to leave its zone of comfort.
The comfort zone of self-rejection.
In that moment, the voice asking all the questions won and a wave of understanding flooded my awareness.
An awareness that in that very moment, I was healing myself. I was healing my mind to accept my body. I was being reborn into my body, becoming one with it, accepting it. Loving it. Ahhhh… loving it.
Was this self-love?!? Could it possibly be?!?
For the first time ever I let my heart be in the driver’s seat while my mind accepted the position of co-pilot.
The next hour unfolded in the shower under the warmth of water washing over my previously alien-to-me body. As I was born again into this body, I unraveled all the conditioning that had been so tightly wound up. The conditioning that told me I had to be a certain way to be accepted. A certain way to be loved. All of it unraveling right there in the shower. The tangled web of lies somehow etched into my psyche of what it meant to be a woman.
It’s okay to be a woman. It’s okay to be in a body. It’s okay to be sexual. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s never been anything wrong with you. You’re so fucking perfect and beautiful and divine.
All these thoughts and words flooded my mouth.
I ran my hands and eyes all over my body, touching and groping every inch of flesh, reclaiming all denied feminine parts of my body for myself and for all of femininity.
Layer after layer after layer of “should-be’s” being peeled away.
Mother Ayahuasca, didn’t show up for me in the realm of dancing fairies and psychedelic imagery…
She showed up for me in a way that I understood. I had to live through the experience to come out on the other side. She showed me what I needed to heal by taking me into the heart of it, allowing me to feel it fully for it to be released.
It’s as if she knew what I was able to handle, stretching me further than I would have thought I was able to stretch without breaking. But I didn’t. And I now see my capacity to face life in a new light. Not the life I think I have nicely laid out for myself, controlling every breakthrough and challenge along the way. But, the life I am meant to live, full of self-love.
I have been led to the place within myself that is stronger than any physical wall that has ever been built. I brought forth from within myself a newfound understanding that life doesn’t have to be a struggle to get where I want to go.
It is the gentle and consistent voice that is my own, dwelling inside of me, where my strength lies. It’s a voice that no other can hear and requires absolutely no justification. It’s a voice that cannot be encapsulated in mere words, much like the experience of my ayahuasca journey.
This voice is the voice of truth.
It cannot be changed. It does not falter.
I journeyed into myself to be shown the blocks that are holding me back from the state of peace I so desperately seek. I journeyed through it and came out on the other side, born again into a new body, but more importantly a new mindset and consciousness of my entire being, body, mind and soul combined.
For the first time in 26 years, I made friends with myself and learned what self-love really means…