No, I am not afraid to delve into the void. I accept the gnarled shapes and twisted forms of all my shadows. I truly appreciate my darkness. It has every right to exist. The most important lesson the realm of the medicine delivered to me was never to ignore the so-called “low-vibrational” field as it may create an emotional dissonance, making suppressed, unwanted and often misunderstood, yet extremely powerful emotions, like fear, sadness or grief, difficult or even impossible to tame. As a result, a division between the inner light and the inner shadow may intensify leading to possible imbalance and even mental and physical symptoms such as bipolarity, depression, psychosis or anhedonia, to name just a few.
A brief note from the editor: This is the most complex and exhaustive entry on my blog addressing the subject of the uncomfortable emotions, approached from a plant-based medicinal work’s perspective and written as a personal retrospection in the face of a difficult period in my life, in which I have lost two close family members and faced a few other life difficulties. As a direct result, I have dealt with suppressed grief, paralytic depression and a chronic emotional and physical strain. It’s been a long time since I wanted to put those thoughts in writing and have finally found an impulse to accomplish this task. Thank you for visiting my space, now sit back, relax and enjoy a little reflection of mine about the uncomfortable.
I love my Underworld. Looking into the darkest mirror is certainly a challenging and brave task and requires a dedication but I see it as a critical and vital part of every deep healing work and any meaningful cognitive process, no matter which tools of personal expansion have been chosen in order to navigate us into the Underworld. The so-called shadow work might not be the sweetest candy out there, but it is as important as the sensation of the endless light we all carry within and the light work we perform by accessing it. Light and Darkness are the ultimate twins; two sides of the same coin. In many ways, they support each other and for this reason, I humbly declare myself to be as much ad devoted creature of the darkness as I am an entity of the light.
🌿 The Vine of the Dead
Out of many potent tools out there that allow their adepts to confront themselves with the dark side, Ayahuasca is certainly one of the most efficient portals to the inner Underworld. In the indigenous folklore and traditions, it is often referred to as the Vine of the Soul or even more intriguing and spooky, the Vine of the Dead. It carries that name for a valid reason, as it allows to lurk deep into our own landscape, beyond the veil of consciously created frames, and deeper into the land of the subconscious, from where the critical information is being extracted and where the biggest chunk of “the work” is performed.
I still find it rather difficult, even after years of working with the medicine and after having few integrative Samas (plant dietas) done, to wrap in words what really happens on the other side and how deep, otherworldly, dreamy, organic and symbolic the reality of the medicine is. The most adequate definition of “the Ayahuasca experience” that pops into my mind after years of plant-based medicinal work is “to be consciously venturing into the subconscious realm”. In other words, a big chunk of Ayahuasca experience is what I would personally describe as “being awake inside of a deep, delta-wave depth dream”, a place that one would normally access in the deepest phases of our natural sleep, only now being able to somehow actively look around, kind of like lucid dreaming. And if there is one thing I have learned from my past journeys into those sub-levels of me, it is that this place is composed both of light and darkness. Much like in the indigenous beliefs of Shipibo-Conibo or Andean Incas, there is a world above us and below, the realm of the mother has also two sides – the light and the dark.
🌿 As Above, So Below
My work with the medicine is based on a self-trust and acceptance. I trust myself to be taken to a place where I currently need to be in order to heal what needs to be healed, even if the conscious mind might not be fully aware of the existence of the need. The journey will very likely be influenced by my current psycho-emotional, physical and intellectual states, all combined and the outcome can rarely be predicted. Lesson number one – surrender. Lesson number two – trust your inner self. Setting up an intention is always helpful and heartily recommended, but doesn’t guarantee that “your intentional expectation” will be fulfilled. As a matter of fact, the land of the Mother tend not to be really fond of the word “expectation” and may just decide to highlight this statement by taking you to a place that has to be experienced, light years away from what may consciously be desired.
Yes, it may be difficult to get used to that part, but there is a wild logic in surrendering to the unknown outcome. It is a powerful plant-based medicine that encourages to perform a deep and meaningful personal work and not to be afraid to look into the darkest mirror. I know a person who gave up the medicine because the experience wasn’t blissful enough to keep that person going, and didn’t meet the expectation. There was a lot of darkness involved and a lot of painful memories and suppressed emotions to confront and be confronted by. An expectation of that person was to “not feel the pain” and feel happy and positive but the medicine inversely decided to take the unfortunate adept straight into what was declared unwanted. I understand, for many people, such experience may simply be too heavy to take. Aren’t we to heal and remove what is uncomfortable? I agree, but when it comes to Ayahuasca, there is one profound “rule” that whispers at the back of my head – you can’t heal what you reject to see.
It might be a challenging quest to dive into the depths of oneself and it simply might not be a path for everyone. After all, Ayahuasca is a potent natural entheogen, but it is not a miracle cure and it is certainly not a panacea. It is a powerful tool of self-acceptance, that may or may not be compatible with you. Always listen to your heart and follow your instincts when you’re in “her” realm. To those who are willingly coming back into her arms and consequently receiving a bouquet of subliminal slaps, trust me – I know this feeling quite well. It’s an indispensable part of the landscape. I remember going through a set of six consecutive nights of pure darkness and endless nightmares, physical and emotional purging and overall heaviness, only to find myself in a complete fusion with my grief, and finally allowed to rest profoundly on the seventh night. The medicine, and I, we took our time to reach to that point, but I have never ever again in my life felt or witnessed this exceptional heaviness associated with that particular emotion and that particular life event that has triggered it. It has been accepted, re-felt and, in conclusion, resolved. It didn’t disappear as such, instead, it has been integrated. The state of lightness and the sensation of good work performed were simply the most beautiful, humanely uplifting, restorative and extremely soul-warming awards for all the hard work that have willingly performed on me.
There is a fascinating, yet surreal “logic” in the land of the medicine as if an invisible force knows exactly where you ought to be taken and just takes you there. “Would you?” doesn’t really exist in Aya’s syllabus, instead “I will take you where you have to be but know that there is no turning back” applies. You decide to go in, you’re in, head to toes, body to mind to soul. There is no point in fighting back, as this will only amplify the worries of the mind, so I’d recommend to fully surrender to the medicine and, as important, to yourself. Dive in and be ready to be surprised. This is what I personally refer to as “the great lottery of the medicine”. I might find myself transported to a blissful space of self-love, colourful visions made of perfect geometry but it can as well be the darkest place composed of fears and broken dreams. I wish I could say the chances are 50/50, but my reality is a little bit less gracious and I probably end up on the dark side 9 out of 10 ceremonies that I happen to enter. And you know what, It’s completely fine. I accept this. It is from that dark place where another level of honest self-reflection is applied and, in my case, the most effective and profoundly beneficial work is performed.
Please allow me to take you to one of my medicinal crossings, a deep vision of the healing process in the Underworld, as it is remembered. The experience happened in the Ucayali region in the district of Pucallpa in Peru, while performing a dieta with the Shipibo Elder, Maestra Curandera Juana Silvano Teco (also see The Motherland of The Mother).
🌿 The Darkest Dream
The medicine is very strong tonight. I close my eyes and allow myself to venture into the valley of darkness. The light slowly fades into the shadow. The colourful, joyful patterns on a floating fractal portal that led me into this place, are left far away behind and seen no more. Instead of them, dark and twisted fragments, the constructs of the subconscious goo appear meandering on the walls of the endless, vast and sticky dark web. Black snakes fly around me both above and below. There is no sense of direction. This is the deepest trench of the Underworld, the land of everlasting shadows, the kingdom of fears. I am in the void. I spot endless eyes in the darkness looking at me, blinking, observing. These are the eyes of the shadows of my fears. I stand still in front of them and wait for them to come out. Soon enough they detach from the void, their shadowy skin slowly unsticks from the gluey, black gunge as they approach me from all the angles and take various forms.
Fret not shadows, come closer, I am here to know you. You will be understood. You will be allowed to exist. You will be accepted. We are one.
As my permission is humbly given, one of the darkest shadows – the essence of my pain represented by a shape of a twisted snake-like creature begins to scream in rage. It writhes on the ground in ache much like a wounded animal, like a skinless reptile and growls at me in the most terrifying mixture of grief, hate and anger. It wants to be looked at. It begs not to be ignored. It had been told it was not important, not as important as the joy, or the bliss, or the passion always were. It has barely ever been really looked at. I owe it to it.
Look at me! – it hisses… Look what I am… Look how hurt I am… Look at my suffering… Look at my torment… Don’t cover me up… Please allow me to be felt.
So I look at it. So I feel it.
Not like I have any other option really, but even if I could turn my head away I know I wouldn’t. I am here to surrender to the act of self-reflection and to touch the darkest core. I look at it from many angles as it pulsates on the ground. I see the angle of the cause. I see the angle the connection. I see how it’s linked to my past, to my relatives, to myself, to my actions and my choices. I look at it carefully and profoundly. I am here to accept my pain, and not to suppress it any longer. To feel it with all my cells and let it out off the void. At least as much as it’s ready to go. I bow down to it and wraps my arms around it. I comfort my pain. I see it. I touch it. I feel it.
Suddenly, the pain starts to disintegrate into numerous pieces. With each scream, a piece is torn off and starts to levitate above. The chunks seem to be four-dimensional, like tesseracts they change shape and do not follow the 3-dimensional rotation. I silently let it hiss all it’s suppressed fragments out. Those fragments now move slowly above us, other shadows observe this with curiosity, and ascend outward. in every possible direction, released through my throat, that happens to be far, far away, outside of this place, in the realm in between.
The pain disassembles. I gladly let it show me, piece by piece, what it’s made of. I take all the time. You are allowed to be seen. Here is what happened in the past, here is the link I carried, here is the cause, here is the effect. It is transparent. I see through it.
In the last fragment, I see it. A bulb of dark goo inside, pulsating, absorbing every light, hidden deep in the core of my pain. I found it well hidden. Here is my current grief. You really thought it was gone? Look, it’s here. A rather big chunk of grief, I must admit, but we can let some of its fragments go. Not sure if it’s me talking to my pain, or my pain encouraging me to perform a final task on this quest.
I hear a distant echo of a healing Icaros and a distant, intense, familiar, earthy smell of a Mapacho stick. This brings comfort and a sound of anticipated final release from far, far away concludes this work. The work is simultaneously performed in many dimensions. I smile.
I am here for you. You are seen, allowed, accepted.
As I wait patiently, the pain finally pauses exhausted and looks at me deeply confused. It is the very first time the Shadow of the Pain is allowed to taste the sweetest Fruit of Stillness. For now, it is done. It looks at me gratefully.
This is the moment of a massive breakthrough for the whole network of the constructs of me, those from above and from below. To learn to observe, to learn to accept, to learn to allow.
Why.. are you.. here? –The exhausted pain asks.
I open my hand slowly and show it a seed made of light. I am here to provide my darkness with understanding, acceptance and humane support. But first, I will always listen and offer my whole attention, my whole intellectual, healing capacities to understand what caused my shadows to exist and what is this Underworld of mine made of.
I am here to help.
🌿 My Beautiful Darkness
Once accepted and loved, the act of descending into the void becomes a lot easier, making previously masochistic journeys into the realm of primal instincts and inter-generational traumas, ruled by the inner demons of the unfortunate past, surrounded by spectres of numerous fears, just simple acts of honest and humble perceptual self-exploration and self-observation.
It thrills me to realise this place is endless, just like the light world above, there is no end to it. I look around in both awe and admiration. It is vast and dark, but also peacefully beautiful. It has all the right to exist and will always be there.
As I delve deep into its lightless realm, once again the creatures of the night come closer, curious about my presence, getting used to my conscious fragments. I understand them, they aren’t used to those fragments, they know the subconscious reflections of them, that paid them numerous visits in dreams, hence their great curiosity. You’re not supposed to be here – they address those words to my consciousness. Yet, I am here.
Surprisingly, now they walk by my side as we descend into the corridors of the endless underworld maze together.
Has he not come here to suffer, as he used to? Is he not deep dreaming? Why he resists nightmares? – they wonder. Look at him, he is different. His skin, his matter is not from here. He carries something from above with him… What is the purpose of this? What shall we do? What is he doing in our realm? – they whisper nodding their shady heads, to each other.
Shadows want me to see around, they are eager to show me the darkest corners, proud of their cosy dens made of the darkest emotions and desires, filled with grief and melancholy. The darkest, emptiest voids and the neverending wells of pure blackness. Here is the Hall of Pain, the Garden of Sadness, the Fields of Anger. I recognise those places from my dreams. I realise I come here more often then I remember.
Finally, we reach the deepest core. There, on the Hill of Emptiness grows the Tree of Darkness, majestic, gigantic, astronomical core of the darkness, with its pitch-black leaves, each being a tiny black hole and absorbing any form of light. Its branches are endless and sagged with bitter Fruits of Loss. Snakes and insects crawl around its bark and roots, shadows live in the nests on its crown. They want me to see it all and they watch me interestedly as I plant little seeds of light in those forgotten places. From each seed, a small lantern will grow so I will be able to find my way back to those places next time I come here.
I let the darkness be, you are safe within me, my darkness. All I want is to introduce you to your twin sister from the above, the light. Miracles happen when you two are allowed to co-exist and support each other.
I look at shadows and talk to them gently, taming their suppressed, wild nature with light from above. I sometimes can even pet their heads gracefully and they seem to even enjoy it. Maybe, I am not sure, but they let me do this. We venture together around looking into the fabric of the dark matter, admiring colourless fractals and lightless patterns in awe. My darkness is very beautiful.
And then, suddenly, the cheering of early bird draws me out of the darkness into the light of the awakening day and, as I unwrap myself from the cocoon of the darkest voids, I essentially find myself in a perfect alignment and much lighter and much stronger at my core then I was just a couple of hours ago. I am tired but elevated. I brought something with me to the realm of In-Between, a deep, humane appreciation for the full spectrum of our emotions.
Life is beautiful the way it is. There is no light without darkness. The emotion of joy cannot exist with the lack of the experience of grief. They complement each other greatly, making every single aspect of our experiences equally meaningful.
So here I am, on my next expedition into the land of the medicine. I close my eyes and I am instantly greeted by the cascade of colours, birds and entities singing their cheerful songs and crystal cities floating majestically on the clouds made of pure light, morphing into surreal shapes and awarding my eyes with a cascade of perfect geometrical patterns. Hello, Lightness, my old friend. – I shout as I enter the endless place of light. I am in the void. I take a step forward… but that is a story for another time.
I love my darkness, for no matter how fast the light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, waiting for it with open arms.
Text and Images, by Karol Liver / Pangean Path