Ayahuasca Dreaming

Text by Peter Gorman
Photographs by Luca De Santis

Red magic that moves within our blood,
Green magic that moves beneath the sea and through all the firmament,
White magic that fills the sky,
Black magic that dwells within the earth,
Protect us from all evil spirits,
Guide us to the other realms,
Teach us of the things that live on the other side.
(from one of Julio’s Songs)

Excerpt from Ayahuasca in My Blood: 25 Years of Medicine Dreaming by Peter Gorman 

The medicine vine rises high above me, so broad she looks as wide as an oak or an elm tree. I look up at her and ask her to bathe me in her essence. The sap begins to flow, pouring down on me, covering me. I feel the change begin. In short order my imagining of the vine as a huge oak will be replaced by actual visions: Some of them will be remembrances of things I’ve done or things that have been done to me: Mostly bad things, hurtful things that I will get to revisit and relive, sometimes several times in the course of just a few seconds. 

They will sear me. They will frighten me with my own callousness. Why did I treat someone that way? Why did someone treat me that way? 

They are painful to relive, but the medicine is urging me to let them go, to release them. They are dead weight hanging on my heart and soul, bearing me down. Remember that I did them and don’t do them again: Perhaps I lied to a lover, knowing it would hurt her when she discovered the truth but I didn’t have the courage to tell the truth. Perhaps I was not generous with a stranger when I had ample opportunity to be generous, yet still acted selfishly. Remember the memory, commit to being a better human next time, but let the guilt go. The lover I hurt has already moved on; the stranger has no recollection of me. Relive it, then vomit it out, hurl it into the ground, allow the medicine to eliminate it, allow the medicine to make me lighter, someone who can move more freely in both the medicine world and daily reality. 

And once cleansed, the medicine, the ayahuasca lays me down, immobile, and imparts a dream. It won’t necessarily be what I want to dream, but it will certainly be what I need to dream. It might be of human suffering, horrible images of pain and anguish, shown me to steel me back to doing my best to prevent that kind of suffering in the world; it might be of dancing flowers encouraging me to share their joy with everyone I meet. It might be a glimpse of other planets, other beings, other spirits; it might even be simple answers to questions I’d never thought to ask.  

Once, while I was going through a terrible end of a marriage, terrible enough that my children, our children were being badly affected by the pain and acrimony, the medicine whispered: “More joy, less pain”, to me. I took weeks trying to reason out what that meant, how to work that into my life. And then it came to me. Every time an argument arose between my ex and myself, I was to work at creating more joy and less pain. 

If I wanted to fight and knew I could say a phrase that would set her off, I had to bite my tongue and say something completely different, something nice instead. If she wanted to fight and pushed a button that would cause me to roar back in anger, I had to bite my tongue and either ignore it or find something to disarm her instead.  It took weeks to learn how to do that, and I failed many, many times, but once I got it, that was the end of the anger, the end of the acrimony, and the beginning of the healing of my family. 

Ayahuasca didn’t solve my problems then, and she never will. But she pointed me in a direction that, if I worked hard at it, would allow me to solve my problems. 

That is ayahuasca healing, and that is ayahuasca dreaming.  

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