I returned to the States from Peru on May 2nd, 2018 after 307 days of travel. In this post, I will attempt to share my incredible experience working with plant medicine in the Peruvian Amazon and where I am off to next.
I believe working with Ayahuasca was and is a part of my path. Although I started my journey in Asia not having a clue what Ayahuasca was, within a couple months I started meeting travelers who had worked with the medicine. I was captivated by their stories of growth and more importantly with the quality of their characters and real life experiences. Almost all of these people had made significant changes in their lives and were living their truths. I remember in Thailand listening to a friend of a friend share with me intimate details of his “shadow side” so openly and honestly with no shame. Sharing with me details that most would never have the courage to share with friends let alone a stranger. He told me about how he used to steal frequently throughout his life, that it was an addiction.That he would take things big and small from both loved ones and strangers. He told me about a profound and petrifying journey with Ayahuasca that had him confront this part of himself. He spoke of how he faced himself, forgave himself, and never stole again. He is now a teacher in Thailand giving back to local communities. After meeting him, I knew I had to learn more about Ayahuasca and that I would someday work with that medicine. After Thailand, I went to India and I was shocked to learn that a huge percentage of my yoga teacher training class had worked with Ayahuasca. One by one, I heard about my friends experiences. I was surprised that many of them, although never having experimented with drugs, had worked with this medicine.
It was so bizarre – once I discovered what Ayahuasca was, I kept meeting person after person who had worked with it. I met a woman in India who told me about her experience at The Temple of the Way of Light in the Peruvian Amazon and how she had worked with women Shaman from the Shipibo tribe. At the time I listened intently not knowing that four months later I would be at that very Temple. After meeting this woman, the coincidences continued… I was invited by two women I became friends with to Colombia to work on the opening of a yoga retreat center and to work with Ayahuasca in the jungle. Then another friend I met, asked me if I wanted to travel with her in 2018 to Peru to do Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca was popping up incessantly! When I got to Australia I met even more people who had worked with Ayahuasca and was invited to attend a ceremony there. Financially and geographically it made a lot of sense for me to do Ayahuasca in Australia. I was already there, could save money, and end my trip in New Zealand, as I had planned. However something was pulling me to consider Peru, a place where indigenous tribes have working with the medicine for centuries. It was a feeling I cannot explain logically but I knew I had to go. I should pause and also share that after spending 6 months on the road, I started developing some anxiety about “coming home.” I didn’t want to go back because I was having trouble integrating all of my experiences and new priorities/beliefs into “me.” It was easy to be whoever I wanted to be while traveling but the real work was in returning to old environments and dynamics. I didn’t know how to show up differently in a “whole” and authentic way and I needed help. From the conversations I had about Ayahuasca and the online reading I did, I had a feeling it could help me. I remembered the woman in India who told me about the place she had recommended in Peru and reached out to her. Once I looked the website I was hooked and knew I had to go to the Temple in Peru. In January I signed up for the 3 week deep immersion program in March. As if I didn’t have enough signs already, when I passed through CA on my way to Peru I volunteered at a Vipassana Center in Northern CA. To get to the Center I ended up getting a ride with a guy who happened to grow up the town over from mine in Florida. On the way back he told me is was moving so I offered to help him. As a thank you he gave me a necklace made of Ayahuasca vine – I couldn’t believe it!
- It doesn’t matter – This was a theme of many of my ceremonies. A deep knowing that most things I worry about really don’t matter. I experienced deep shame in one of my ceremonies. In my day to day life, I typically deal with shame by bringing out my inner critic and channeling my astrological ascending sign, my masculine and controlling Aires. I “push” through feelings of shame or embarrassment by taking on the archetype of a drill sargent or sports coach with myself. In this particular instance in ceremony, I was creating a story that I was disgusting and being judged by the woman next to me. Instead of using the typical negative self talk of “Jenna you’re being ridiculous” “Keep it together” “Nobody cares about you” “Pull yourself together” etc. etc…. I spoke to myself with compassion and unconditional love… “yes Jenna, the woman next to you might think you’re disgusting but that’s okay…It doesn’t matter…I’ve got you…I accept you as you are, all of you…the disgust too.” This was a huge shift for me and I had this knowing that it didn’t matter. As I went deeper into the rabbit hole, I had the knowing that it also didn’t matter where I lived or even what I did for a “job,” just as long I was showing up as my authentic self everyday. My actions, the motivation/intention behind my actions, my behaviors, thoughts, and choices matter but not much else matters. I was anxious before the retreat about where I was going to “settle” and going back to Boston but I left the Temple at peace because I knew it actually didn’t matter and that wherever I end up is exactly where I need to be at that moment.
- Everything that has happened in my life (and lives before) has prepared me for THIS moment and every moment to come – I have a deep trust in myself and the universe. I experienced in ceremony that I have all the tools and past experience to show up as I need to in any given moment. In one ceremony, I experienced a flash of multiple past events that had prepared me for that exact moment…an exert from a book I was reading, the fever I had 2 days prior that had caused me to sleep all day and get the rest I needed, past conversations, the crystal one of my best friends had given me a year prior that for some reason I had decided to carry with me for the past year, the workshop I attended in Australia at Rainbow Serpent…. these specifics will only make sense to me but the point is, each of these conversations, events, situations did not appear to have much meaning at the time- they were simply enjoyable experiences or things that happened to me but they all came together to give me the wisdom I needed to feel safe and dive into my first deep Ayahuasca journey. We often like to think we understand everything that is going on and want to be “in control” of our lives but I am finding that limits me. When present Jenna tries to control, I limit the possibilities of life and miss the bigger picture. I know that no matter what, I am going to be okay and that I have everything I need in any moment. When I give up control and surrender to things as they come, there is so much more richness to be had. This does not mean that there isn’t space for visions and goals, because there absolutely is but I know that I need to pay attention and let go of attachments as things change.
- Humility is a way back to the self: I was shown my arrogance/superiority complex in a couple of my ceremonies and it was really scary. I saw the glass house I have built that others can see right through, just at I can see through theirs. Most of us have either a superiority or inferiority complex, which is normal. It is simply a coping mechanism to protect us. However, it no longer serves me. In fact it creates a separation from my authentic self. Seeds of humility were planted in me and in every subsequent ceremony there was some lesson and experience of humility. I saw my power in multiple ceremonies and the importance of nourishing the humility inside me so that I can take responsibility for my power. It is very hard to explain but I kept “finding myself” in multiple ceremonies with gratitude. Prayer and bowing your head, is literally a way back to the self. A tool to check in and find the stillness within.
It is interesting because some of my friends got what they were looking for after working with Ayahuasca and have no interest or working with the medicine again. Many experienced past life regressions, reliving a childhood trauma (but this time with the lessons along the way), or had profound life realizations. Others got what they were looking for but could see a possibility for them to work with the plant again. I had a knowing in my 6th ceremony that I was not done working with the medicine. I had such a profound experience at the Temple that I applied to their volunteer based residency program. I feel so grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to work with the medicine. It is truly soul healing. I want to witness and support other through their healing journeys. I want to continue to work with the medicine and learn from the healers onsite.
I am very excited to share that after applying to the Temple’s residency program, I was offered a job as a per-ceremony yoga instructor and will be moving to the Temple in the Peruvian Amazon in early July! I am confident that my partner will be working for the Temple as well, creating a podcast series onsite among other things. I have officially registered my coaching business and bought a domain name! JSB Coaching will be fully operational post my time in the Amazon. For now, I am committed to the yoga teacher role through mid-October.
As far as this blog goes, I am not sure what is on the horizon (aside from a couple posts I have in the pipeline). I could see myself writing as I continue to travel, maybe this could somehow feed into my coaching practice. I’m not sure yet 🙂 But regardless I am so grateful to you for following me during my adventures and for supporting me throughout my journey. It has filled my heart reading your comments and emails along the way. It made me feel like I was not alone. I felt seen and heard. Thank you so much!
May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful and liberated from suffering. May all beings walk their paths with love and compassion. May all find their way. Sending so much love. I am so excited for the coming months to unfold. Deal me in universe. I’m paying attention!