Oh-Ya-Ha Yagé

Nov 5, 2022 | 0 comments

Putting our experience with sacred medicine into words and writing it down is an important part of the ceremony, and is a way to retain knowledge and through writing it out, gain even deeper insight. No piece of detail is irrelevant.

Having thoroughly recorded our sacred medicine experience, such personal writings can serve as energetic beacons to which we can reallign and return to over time. They reconnect us with the clarity, courage, freedom, resolve, will power, sense of self-appreciation, self love and personal responsibility experienced viscerally and spiritually during our communion with the medicine. They help us to remember how to live through the heart, follow our intuition and be graceful with ourselves and others.

One of the participants in our October ceremony, Brennan, took the time to write a blog post about his experience and we are very happy to have Brennan’s agreement to us sharing it with you.

You can read the full article below:

Oh-Ya-Ha Yagé

By Brennon Martin, Traveller and Writer


Yagé (jah-hey).

Whatever you call it, I knew it was nothing to be trifled with. Nevertheless, I’ve been curious about it since I first heard of it and have had it in the back of my mind as an experience I wanted to have ever since watching episode 4 of Chelsea Does. The idea of a life-transforming experience from a single dose of this ancient hallucinogen was appealing.

It was also not to be my first trip. After moving to Colorado in the early 1990s, I began occasionally using psilocybin mushrooms under the stars with my friends and, less frequently, LSD at music festivals. Man, did we have a blast at Jazz Fest that year. More recently, I’ve enjoyed micro-dosing mushrooms on an average night out in Denver, taking just enough to feel a euphoric tingle. I’ve recently learned more about the therapeutic uses of hallucinogens after watching How to Change Your Mind on Netflix, but my experiences have all been recreational.

I’ve learned enough about ayahuasca, however, to know that a night under its influence is no party. It would be an inward dive into my subconscious to look my demons in the eye, to understand what holds me back, to face fears that I’d rather pretend aren’t there than to acknowledge. Or at least that’s what I thought.

When I came to Colombia, I hadn’t planned to take ayahuasca. I didn’t really even know it was an option here, and it certainly came as a surprise when I found myself signing up for an overnight retreat with Colibri Garden that would occur less than two weeks after I arrived in country. After seeing a post on Facebook in one of the digital nomad groups I’ve joined, though, I immediately reached out for information. After a few days, I heard back from Ivaylo (“eve-eye-lo”), the trip guide/facilitator. We scheduled a time to discuss why I was interested in taking ayahuasca and what I knew about it already. He needed to make sure I had some idea of what I would be getting myself into and what he would be getting himself into by taking me along.

Having passed the initial screening, I met Ivaylo and my fellow psychonauts on a Monday evening at an apartment near where I’m staying in the Poblado neighborhood of Medellín for a preparatory meeting. In addition to receiving information about the logistics of the event that coming Friday, we also each shared our motivation and intentions for participating. What caught me most by surprise was the number of people taking part who had previously “sat with ayahuasca” multiple times. And not just two or three. Several had done it a dozen or more times. Of the 12 people there, only three of us were newbies. I didn’t know that doing it more than once was even a thing. The fact that Ivaylo had taken ayahuasca 50+ times blew my mind. Having now done it once, I’m even more blown away by that number.

Individual reasons for joining the ceremony ranged from addressing childhood shame to dealing with family issues to exploring personal sexuality, finding a writers’s lost voice, and more. My own intentions for participating were multiple and connected to why I am in Colombia in the first place. After spending a week at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja California in June, I’ve been focused on developing a growth mindset and embracing a beginner’s mind in all aspects of my life. I’m also working on getting over a lifetime of seeking external validation, of attaching my self-worth to my achievements, and of being disappointed with myself when things haven’t worked out the way I imagined they would when I was young. I’m in Colombia pursuing dreams of living outside the US and writing about my travels as part of that personal work. Combine that with other thoughts about how I can best serve mankind with the more than 1/2 of my adult life that I have remaining while being content with not climbing the career ladder – well, let’s just say I was going into this experience with lots of things on my mind.

So, with some trepidation resulting from what I knew of the gastrointestinal side effects that are an inevitable part of an ayahuasca experience, I met Ivaylo and the group outside the Museum of Modern Art Medellín to begin the journey to the Maloca Inkal Awá, the indigenous retreat where we would take part in the ceremony. Meeting at the art museum was significant for me. I love art and make it a priority to visit museums and galleries when I travel. Since I’d not yet had the opportunity to visit MOMM, I arrived early so I could start the night with an activity I find centering.

I’m so glad I did. There were a number of interesting exhibitions, but one work of art in particular caught my attention: Rendering by John Mario Ortiz. It consists of a set of fragmented mirrors that reflect light onto the wall to form geometric “paintings” made of light. I found the way the imperfect, separate pieces of glass came together to project a beautiful whole mesmerizing. To me, this artwork was the perfect metaphor for many of the things on my mind that evening. When other’s shine a light on me, what do they see? How can I embrace my imperfections, my multiple talents and skills, my ability to assemble pieces into a whole to project something beautiful?

Rendering, by John Mario Ortiz. Photo: Brennon Martin

Feeling energized by the museum, I joined the group in a large van for the drive up out of Medellín toward Santa Elena. After a couple of hours, we were dropped off at the end of a dirt road for a short walk to a gated property, where we picked our way via flashlight through the forest to the ceremonial building where we would spend the night. As we entered the large circular structure with a tall, conical, thatched roof, a fire was blazing in the center surrounded by small wooden stools and a few plastic chairs. Camping mats were placed edge to edge outside of the inner ring, piled with blankets for each of us.

The ceremonial building, Maloka Inkal Awa. Photo: Brennon Martin

After we settled in, the evening started with sitting around the fire, either smoking cigars provided to us by Ivaylo or breaking them up and putting the tobacco – but not the paper ring – into the flames. We were told that tobacco is considered the most sacred of plants so smoking a cigar is a form or prayer before the ceremony. We all also had a second one to give to the taita (shaman) as a gift of thanks for sharing the sacred medicine of Yagé.

After about an hour, the taita began chanting and blessing the medicine and administering the doses for each of us, one by one. The mixture was approximately the color and consistency of tomato sauce with a bitter taste. It hit each of us on a different schedule. For me, a kaleidoscope of color and light erupted behind my eyelids after about 15 minutes. Others didn’t feel much until after their third dose up to two hours later.

Skipping a lot of details, my communion with Yagé was an almost indescribable mixture of agony, joy, and a feeling of profound connectedness with those who joined me in the experience that evening. There were times when I felt so much distress I wasn’t sure I could go on and times when I felt calm but unable to function physically. At one point after returning to awareness of the world around me, I realized someone was singing and playing guitar, resulting in me “dancing” on my mat even though I couldn’t stand.

We were all incredibly well cared for. The taita was joined by a staff of aides whose job it was to look after us, keep us safe, and tend to our needs while under the influence. They provided tissue to clean spittle from our lips, a fresh bucket after purging, and someone to lean on to make it from our mat to the bathroom or to a stool by the fire once motor functions started to return. The following morning, after a few slept and many of us simply rested, unable to coax ourselves to slumber once the effects of the medicine had completely abated, the staff returned with bread and aguapanela, a warm drink made from hardened sugar cane. After a sharing circle in which we all spoke briefly about our experience the night before, we made our way back to Medellín.

The final gathering of the group occurred two nights later, in the same apartment where we had our prep meeting. The differences in the connections we all now felt with one another were tangible. Whereas the first meeting was characterized by somewhat reserved interactions, the final meeting was full of hugs, laughter, and a feeling of love that can only come through emotional bonding. We had all “done battle” together and communally bared our souls through the night. An experience like that doesn’t leave much room for timidity or lingering awkwardness.

The experience was liberating for me. Here’s what I wrote in my journal on Saturday afternoon after returning to Medellín and getting some food in my belly:

“I just have to say, you’re a fuckin’ badass, man,” Scott said on our way back into town.

I’m really proud of the fact that my response to this unexpected compliment was, “Damn right I am,” even though it was somewhat under by breath. I couldn’t help but wonder if my pride was part of my approval-seeking tendencies, though.

On further reflection, it may be part of that, but I think it has more to do with appreciating that I am reflecting what is truly inside of me. “My playing small does not serve the world.” Badasses don’t play small. They fucking show up. Ready to do their best.

I did my best. Was it perfect? No. That’s OK because I’m not perfect either. Doesn’t mean I’m not a badass.

I have a wealth of tools and resources at my disposal to continue growing in the ways that I want and need to. Yagé showed me that I can fucking do this using the tools I already have.

I can find my power beyond measure.

I can shine my light.

I can play big.

I can liberate myself from my own fear.

My presence can liberate others.

I can leave my legacy.

I can stand for something.

I can help others.

I can plant seeds.

I can be remembered.

I can let go of my ego.

I can focus on my natural curiosity.

I can be unafraid.

I. Am. A. Badass.

Ivaylo was careful to advise each of us that ayahuasca is simply a tool. No one’s life changes simply by drinking the sacred medicine. Yagé can show you the way, but you have to do the work if you want to reap the benefit.

I have a lot more work to do, and I have tools and a support network available to do the work I need to do. I am incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity to sit with ayahuasca. Unlike most of those I joined in the experience, however, I don’t see the medicine being one of those tools I continue to use. It was an incredibly challenging experience for which I’m thankful. At this point, however, I think I’m one and done.

Thank you, Yagé. Let it out.

Author: Ivaylo Govedarov

Ivaylo is an experienced sacred medicine retreat facilitator, integration coach, and founder of Colibri Garden.

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