As many people know, I have been in recovery for 16 years. A particularly painful relationship in 2017, revealed that I don't need drugs or alcohol to get high. Of course I knew that, as a yoga teacher with a daily meditation practice, I knew that peaceful healthy connected high was always available.
I'm talking about the rush, the spike of adrenaline, the dopamine daze, the endorphine drizzle , the oxytocin overload that is more intoxicating than anything I have ever experienced.
I wanted out, but the more I wanted out, the more I was compelled to drag myself back in. I made this man responsible for my healing. The relationship had been playing out in my head for 10 years after we first met, an undercover infatuation that had built up to such epic proportions that I could no longer manage the feelings. I had fallen in deep. I made the decision to tell him how I felt. And so it began, the affair. The one thing I swore I would never do. A dangerous line had been crossed and the path was set.
A year and a half later it ended. I was devastated, broken and on the edge of relapse. My father had died unexpectedly of a stroke, and my unhealthy attachment to this man was not only destroying my self esteem, my personal power and my integrity, but also delaying the grief I needed to process around my father's death.
This is my dad. It's my favourite picture of him in Africa, before I was born. He died on October 12th 2017, although having had resolute confirmation from my experience at Rythmia, I know he did not die, his body wore out...he is still very much alive. My need for more self healing began with the journey into Shamanism, with Don Oscar Miro-Quesada, a teacher of the cross cultural Pachakuti Mesa Shamanic practice. He reminded me of my father, it was a comfort.
I started researching documentaries on plant medicine experience and came across 'The Reality of Truth'. I was so moved by Gerard Powell's story, not only because it was similar to mine (the grandfather bit) but also because he got to speak to his grandfather and make peace with what happened. I have now become aware that he invented this story as a marketing ploy and although I will not return to that particular retreat now, I had some unforgettable experiences. I was well aware of what my grandfather had been doing, it was my first childhood memory and it continued for 7 years, my mother knew. I told her when I was 4, she told me not to tell my father. I have made peace with her, she is still living and our relationship is healing. It was the 70's, no-one knew how to handle it and so the family secret continued. My grandfather died when I was 11, leaving me with the unanswered questions. I became obsessed with dying or flat lining (coined from the movie Flatliners) when I was a teenager ( I wanted to come back, a part of me wanted to live, but I also wanted the answer and didn't want to live with so much self hatred and shame) I had a daughter when I was 30. It saved me from self destruction and my road to self healing began. The dysfunctional patterns of my relationships with men were revealed but not resolved. I began to see them played out in my daughter's life which compelled me to seek further. I discovered that Ayahausca could perhaps, give me the answers, so I booked myself on a trip to Costa Rica to take part in 4 Ayahausca ceremonies at Rythmia, a life advancement centre. The only facility in the world to date, that has a medical license to use plant medicine for healing purposes.
I took a flight from the UK to San Jose... nearly missed the tiny plane to Tamarindo.. on my 48th birthday, Saturday the 12th January 2019..it is a trip I will never forget. Here is a bit about it.
I arrived at the resort by taxi along with the 2 female shamans that were to be taking two of the ceremonies. They had been travelling for days and one of them laughed, saying she would look 10 years younger when I saw her again, she was THAT tired. When I did see her again, she was right.
A beautiful soulful woman greeted and welcomed me into the schedule for the next 7 days. She presented me with a workbook, a bag, a water bottle, a delicious snack, a pen and tied a beaded bracelet around my wrist. The workbook explained a lot. It was a fundamental part of my experience. It listed and named different areas of healing, different workshops and treatments and had plenty of space to write notes.
The Labrynth, above, is a place where intentions can be set, to put aside any concerns, worries, ruminations or mind loops. You pick a large stone from the bucket, (mine needed to be large) and put the energy of these worries into the stone, thus allowing your mind some space, to discover new insights. Once you have walked to the centre of the Labrynth, you set down your stone, symbolic of setting down your worries, mind loops etc. The beads on the bracelet, symbolise the energy of the awareness or insight you will receive during your stay. Right up my street, I love an energy holding insight bracelet.
The Breathwork. I was hot and tired from travelling and had a belter of a migraine coming on, but felt it best to get stuck in right away so I headed over to the breathwork session. My intention was to heal my head pain. It did ease up a little but I went to bed very early with my eye pillow. Julie, my lovely roommate introduced herself mid migraine and was very mindful and quiet. (Thanks Julie)
Breathwork was not new to me. What was new, were the beautiful surroundings. A clean, well equipped glass clad building set in the centre of the resort, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. It was called the Enclosed Flying Deck, I soon discovered why..get ready for take off..The resort also came with its own helipad, for flying in quick.. to fly off long. (about 6 to 8 hours per ceremony, with a longer one at the end)
The toning was also new to me, as was the mouth piece and the breath holding. An excellent way of relieving stuck tension and releasing trauma held in the cells of the body. I shed tears for a dear friend, who had died on my birthday, that day, 3 years earlier.
Sunday 13th January.
7am Yoga practice on the Open Flying Deck, was designed 'to help liberate energy, create more space and awareness in the body so that one can better integrate and embody all the changes one will be experiencing.' It did. I was aware of stuck energy in my right heart space and shoulder that eased up, along with my lingering headache. I went to see the doctor and nurse for a health check and chat, and paid for the ceremonies, a separate charge, in case the tests were not successful. The decision to take part in ceremony was a big one. In Narcotics Anonymous circles, Ayahausca is seen as a drug and I would be consciously deciding to relapse and lose my clean time, along with my 3 sponsees. Sponsorship is very important to me. Losing my clean time would mean I would have to give up sponsoring and supporting recovering drug addicts. I had discussed this with them before my trip, along with my sponsor who was not in agreement with my decision at the time. She was concerned for my welfare. I felt it was the right decision.
I went for a swim afterwards..the pool was stunning, surrounded by palm trees, exotic birds swooping down into the water to cool down and an awesome sound system rippling out beautiful music. As a baby in Zambia, I was thrown into a pool my dad built. I learnt to swim before I could walk so it felt comforting to be in the water and remember him.
The Plant Integration talk was given by Gerry Powell himself..and it was very very funny. I was laughing and crying at the same time as his experiences are comedy gold and also deeply profound and moving. I have since become aware that the account filmed in 'The reality of Truth' documentary of the moon giving Gerry a new heart was invented.
2nd Breathwork - I laughed, I cried, I toned, I screamed. The laughter and screaming were infectious, passed on by others that allowed me to do the same. It was also around thinking about what the f**k had I got myself into this time. The tears were for Vincent, the friend I mentioned earlier. He appeared on the Labrynth, larking about with a grin on his face, he was loving it there, I knew he would. He was a yogi, sweat lodge, landscaping soul brother. The lady next to me said it wasn't a good idea to roll into fetal position in the Aya ceremonies because the medicine wouldn't work. I took note. I had rolled into fetal position and someone came to press their fingers into the soles of my feet. A grounding technique. This space cadet has always needed grounding.
Dinner was next. The food was divine, the headache was leaving, my bed was calling and what a super bed it was too. I was settling in and being as sociable as any english introvert can be.