A few years ago I posted a report on my first ayahuasca experiences. Now it is time to report on my first peyote experience. There was a marked difference in the experiences using these psychoactive entheogens (substances). These differences have been well documented by different spiritual practitioners and this article will not go into the theory behind the different effects of these substances. However, I will note that the difference of physical-social context (as well as set and setting of my mind) likely plays a huge role in the differences. I will give here a few of the important distinctions that may be relevant to the narrative that follows:
- Event took place in a circular tent situated in an open field, rural area
- Event was mediated by Shamans and experienced spiritual practitioners
- Music, singing and dancing was influenced from Spanish, Mexican and general “Western” cultural influences
- Medicine was administered in a powder form every 30min-1hour with water-juices
- The ceremony commenced late at night (10-11pm) and the work continued well into the morning (5-6am)
- I entered the event having spent several months-year moving through many contradictions related the meaning of intellect/mind and physical embodiment
- I entered the event having just finished an intensely intellectual doctoral program and struggling to connect my work to meaning in the world
When I arrived at the camp site in the middle of a natural landscape-farm land the weather/atmosphere was wet and cold. The camp site was structured in a big circle with people organised in little areas with sleeping bags and personal items. There was a central fire which kept some internal warmth and a sense of comfort. Some participants were talking quietly with friendly reflections on the meaning of their journey and purpose for the night; others were resting or sleeping in their sleeping bags, preparing for the long night ahead.
As the evening became night, the sky became dark and the central shaman and spiritual organisers called our attention for the first round-serving of the peyote (what they referred to as “medicine”). Those who were attending for the first time were given a phallic shaped stick and a rope. We were told to tie knots into the rope for every sexual partner we had had while vocalising their names and visualising them before tossing the rope into the fire. Then we were also served a first round of medicine. After this serving several of the organisers started to play music and sing, other organisers started to tend to the fire.
The music and dance was light, joyful, hopeful and even humorous at times. After a second serving of medicine I started to experience what I would call “light visions” that included geometrical patterns, shapes and colours. The deeper I closed my eyes and went into my mind the more clearly I could see these patterns, shapes and colours. When my eyes were open there was more a gradual shift in perception of my surroundings that was connected to a “high” feeling. This feeling coincided with some dizziness and disorientation vis-a-vis spacetime, and also some bodily sensations connected with queasiness in the stomach (although nothing too severe).
After 5-6 medicine rounds I moved away from my sleeping bag and sat closer to the fire where others were dancing and singing. In this space my mind started to whirl and my perception of everything around me was “powerful”, even “overwhelming”. I felt like an “infinite spirit-soul on fire” and what this “infinite spirit-soul on fire” was, as far as I could discern, was all the difficult decisions and contradictions of life, all of the difficult emotions, all of the impossible decisions, all of the weight and consequences of past actions and future actions to come (which I perceived as “cuts”). By far the most powerful feeling was the feeling of loss (of having something special or precious and losing it forever in the erosion of time) and the burdens of sacrifice and destiny, of decisions that were “irreconcilable” or “between two worse options” or “two different stings”. I felt also that the spirit-soul had a power that would have far reaching consequences that ripple out for decades and centuries. I felt that there was no avoiding that real life required accepting and confronting the pain of such weight and burden, that it was required for true liberation and ownership of one’s path.
My mind did not play host to too many visions or “hallucinations” beyond the effect that my perception itself was a “soul fire” (a blurred mixture between my internal emotional states and the environment around me). In this state I could sense an increased qualitatively transformation of my perception of self and world or higher reflectivity. Also my attention was brought to the pain of the “lower body” (stomach and groin) as “intelligences” or “forces” pressing against my “intellectual mind” that received less attention then they deserved and needed for self integration. The stomach in particular was “knotted” and “heavy” with “blockages” (almost like a “big stone” in the middle of my body).
I fell asleep for 1-2 hours between 4:30-6:30am. When I woke up I was still incredibly high and my sense, perception and consciousness felt fragmented and disoriented and fuzzy (almost primal). I felt a very strong type of “anger” or “animal instinct” on the level of consciousness that felt “caged” or “imprisoned”. It was on the surface making “animal noises”. The expressions were certainly “primal” and directed towards “reality” in terms of “the world and social circumstances” as a “trap” or a “complex webbing” that I was “entangled with”. I felt deeply a lack or a difficulty of freedom. The aggressive animal noises were an anger expressing “lack of knowledge” for a way to “get out”.
When I stood up I felt “primal” and in a sense “where I should be” in nature as an animal. I had some fruits and it felt “clean and good”. I was then (still in a very fuzzy and disoriented consciousness) invited to a “sweat lodge” (or “mud sauna”). The sweat lodge was a dome earthen structure with a low roof. There were hot stones in the middle and many people crammed in body to body in the darkness. Heat rose to the roof and I had to duck down to the ground for cooler air. Everyone in the dark vocalised their name, where they were from, and the closest family members that had passed away in their life. The point was to pay homage to our ancestors and their memories. I recall thinking that this gave deep meaning to life and connection to the continuity of the chain of being that I was a part of. I recall thinking that this was deeply missing from my general life and it was source of meaninglessness.
Then there was primal singing and chanting. One particular chant that was the most powerful was a cry to “remember” why we were here and why we chose to come to the Earth to continue life and open the space for future generations of humans. As the temperature rose I was forced down closer to the ground in the mud on my hands and knees. The deeper the primal chanting and the hotter the lodge the closer to the ground I moved my self until I was laying on the ground itself on my belly covering myself in mud.
My mind was pushed closer and closer to primal intelligence and consciousness. It felt like my ego or normal consciousness was falling totally away. It felt like I was returning to my original consciousness. The original consciousness was following or being pulled by the voices that had called me back to the first breathe and the first sound and the first vision or perception. I could feel my body reuniting with the Earth. I could see all the pain that was reflected in my egos style, heroes, stories, choices, and that all of them reflected separation from the “Mother” and my self as the “Father-Son”. For a moment I felt as though I was channeling my Father or I was my Father or that my Father’s consciousness was with me being filtered through me. My body and in particular my “belly button region” felt “glued” and “stuck” to the mud-Earth. This motion in particular took away all “sexual urge” and “pain from separation” and my body felt “plugged in” and “glued in”, closing the primal wound of birth itself. I felt that my consciousness was becoming “pre-Fall” in the “original oneness”.
My body and mind “convulsed” for a while until I became still on the ground with the Earth. My body and mind felt rest and “turned off” here just becoming a passive recipient to the sounds and sensations around me. There was a feeling of perception or rejuvenation or return. When I exited the sweat lodge I felt like I was crawling out of the womb. It felt like I was “fresh”. My perception and consciousness was just “primal” and “clear” and “like it used to be”. I walked almost naked (just in underwear) though the grass/camp grounds and felt much closer to “how I should be” with all of the “markers of separation” fallen away.