My Inner Worlds
Matt’s and my final destination in Peru was the Etnikas Retreat Center in the Sacred Valley. When we first planned our trip, I had no intention of participating in an ayahuasca ceremony. While it is a revered and vital part of their shamanic religion, I don’t like psychedelic drugs or anything that causes hallucinations. However, I felt led to change my mind and signed up for the experience alongside Matt.
The Etnikas staff are wonderful and incredibly loving people. Matt and I prepared for two weeks before our first ceremony by eliminating quite a few things from our diet (alcohol, sugar, red meat, coffee—this was the hardest for me!). Not only is a medical doctor, a nurse, and a psychologist on staff for each ceremony, a Shipibo shaman and an Andean priest also guide us through the process.
We were asked to hold an intent prior to the ceremony. What did we want healed? Why were we there? I opened myself up to what was for my highest good, and also asked to have the need for control to be healed. I had no idea what to expect, so I figured this would be good enough.
The first night we drank the ayahuasca in a darkened hut where six of us participated with the shaman. The medical staff and the priest held the space as we traveled to our own personal place to heal. Nine years ago I ate magic mushrooms and had a bad trip that took me six years to process and integrate (one of the reasons I don’t do drugs). When Mother Ayahuasca hit me, I started right back at that bad trip. Panic squeezed my chest, but I breathed through it and tried to hold love. At that moment, I regretted my decision to take ayahuasca.
Chaotic colors and patterns danced in my vision for what felt like hours. An “evil” presence came in and tempted me like it did in my mushroom trip. This time I held my ground better than I did nine years prior. At one point Matt, who was in reality across the room from me, knelt in front of my body. He smiled and pointed to my heart, reminding me to focus on love. I’d gotten lost in the machinations of the story my mind created, pitting me against someone who was not a good person. After “Matt” helped me and I refocused myself, the trip shifted and I no longer felt the struggle.
The experience lasted for hours. I didn’t enjoy it. Not only do I hate hallucinating, I highly dislike throwing up, which is a guarantee with this plant medicine. The tripping eventually decreased, and I sat up. For some reason I was allowed to sit upright for what felt like a long time. The staff didn’t allow this the second night, so I either couldn’t tell how much time passed or they were busy with others. The most amazing vision opened in front of me.
Someone in the room, but not in the room, called me Inti. It was my name and it felt right. I’ve always desired to know what my true name is, knowing it isn’t Sarah. Over and over, Inti was reinforced in my being until I knew that was me. I watched candlelight flickering in the hut, aware of the others around me, but having my own experience. The light turned into a dancing alien fairy-like being. My son. He was beautiful and tainted. Twisted, no longer serving the purpose he was born for. Inti Son was the name that reverberated in my heart, and I, his mother, wanted to kill him. To end the taint I brought to this world. He and those he rules live behind a wall where they watch our human existence, but we can’t see them. However, I saw how they moved between realms and knew I could find my way to their dimension. I reached out to consume this son of mine, intending to take back into me what originally came from my energy. But something stopped me. He still served a purpose. A destroyer was still needed in this world. Because I knew how to find him behind the wall separating our worlds, I was content to wait. I’d kill him when his purpose was done, and then mine would also be finished.
That was all great. Since my mushroom trip in 2010, I’ve felt connected to a mother energy who had a twisted son. In some lives, she kills him and goes mad. In others, she searches for him and wants to consume his energy, ridding the worlds of his taint. This vision lined up perfectly with what I already knew, adding the element of how to find Inti Son. It actually felt good to know how to get to that alternate world, where I could finally end his destructive existence.
But then it shifted. A mirror warped between the beautiful, dancing, twisted light of Inti Son and my awareness. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure of my identity. I was no longer Inti, but Inti Son. Horror filled my heart and mind, and my world began to shatter. How was I that twisted, awful, almost-evil, beautiful creation?
I came out of that vision with dread, knowing I was a destroyer and a killer. To add an even deeper layer of despair, Mother Ayahuasca helped me with something I’ve tried to do for years. When I was a very young child, I experienced trauma and was raised in an environment that demonized my natural psychic abilities. I’ve been working to remove the protective barriers I built around myself at an age where I didn’t even understand what I was doing. It’s hard to lean into one’s psychic gifts when she has denied them most of her life. So Mother Ayahuasca gifted me with complete removal of my walls. All of them. Down.
I was the last person remaining in the hut. Everyone else had gone to the kitchen to enjoy a warm bowl of soup. I sobbed uncontrollably and couldn’t get my core body temperature to a normal level. The doctor finally helped me leave the hut, and it felt like razor blades sliced into my awareness with each step. As the doctor led me through the kitchen towards my room, Matt left his meal and the group conversation to help me, to hold me, and to keep me warm as I cried. My sobbing lasted for hours. Seriously, I may have slept for twenty minutes that night. I felt devastated and so vulnerable. I was an evil being and NOW all my psychic gifts opened??
My blog posts are usually short and sweet, but this one needs more words for what came next.
During our morning evaluation of everyone’s experiences, I waited until the end to share. I intellectually know that destruction leads to rebirth and a Kali-like death god isn’t evil. It’s a necessary part of natural force. However, when I opened my mouth to talk, I burst into horrible sobbing…again. Two very sweet, compassionate Croatian ladies sat next to me, and I regretted the traumatized expressions I saw when I was done.
The coordinator was fascinated that Inti came into my vision. I didn’t know it at the time, but Inti is the Incan Sun God, the creator of everything. (That is, according to the coordinator. I’ve since read elsewhere that Inti had his own creator, but religion gets complicated.) That day was one of confusion and processing, especially because I’ve always felt like the Mother, not a Father/Son type of entity. I didn’t know what to ask for during the upcoming evening’s ayahuasca ceremony, so I left my intent as “what I needed most, but with a gentle and kind delivery.”
That night as I drank my second dose of ayahuasca, I felt Pachamama (the Incan Mother Earth), Mother Ayahuasca, and Inti come into my awareness and surround me in their love. The plant medicine dance began and seemed to last for an hour or so. I learned during our earlier group session that the weird colors, patterns, and chaotic movement is just energy that our brains can’t process. Knowing that helped me to allow it and then move beyond it.
After the plant (and vomiting) ended its intense phase, my vision opened to a mountain top filled with golden sunlight. Inti, my Father, was on top of the mountain and held his arms out for me. I rose up the mountainside and hugged him, forgiving myself for I don’t even know what. It felt as though in a very ancient time I’d done something I thought horrific and atrocious, and I wouldn’t forgive myself for it. Father Inti didn’t feel that way, and his joy at my reunification with him filled my heart. As we hugged, I felt myself (Inti Son) merge into my Father, becoming Inti, yet not exactly. After merging, Inti blended with an energy above him, one I could barely see or comprehend. It was as though Inti could now leave his duties to his Son and ascend to something above the Incan Cosmology.
As you might imagine, this felt incredible. A fracture that has always been a part of me filled and healed in that moment. I felt complete, and I still do. While I haven’t practiced anorexia (self-starvation) in a very long time, I’ve struggled with emotional cutting my entire teenaged and adult life. Last year after Matt and I did intensive personal integration workshops together, the cutting eased to where I could see how I continually hurt myself. I now hope to see zero desire to harm myself in any way.
Mother Ayahuasca also gave me a couple of steps to take to begin integrating my psychic gifts into my life. The first step is to quit denying my abilities, to stop living separate lives so others won’t see the aspects I feel unsafe showing to the world. How will that work out for me? Who knows. I don’t have to “control” my life, trusting that only beautiful, kind, and loving experiences will find me and hold me as I allow the light within to shine brightly.
I love you, my friends and family.
The Lost City of the Incas, which really wasn’t so lost back when it was “found” in 1911, is the reason we planned our trip to Peru. By the time we got there, I was still excited to visit the site, but our upcoming shamanic retreat held my attention. More to come on that in a separate post.
While Matt's altitude sickness went away at Machu Picchu's elevation of 7,970 feet above sea level, mine only took a partial rest. My heart palpitations almost knocked my sunglasses off my chest in the pose on the left. Also, I'm pretty sure it was my overworked heart that caused me to lose my balance and almost tip over a stone stair (not my incredibly heavy backpack and innate clumsiness). Thankfully, Matt and our guide Paul were ahead of me and didn't notice the danger. I'd rather keep my dignity than have a helping hand or a chastising husband to remind me to watch my footing.
I have a plethora of pictures that all seem to show the same lush and terraced mountain, but from slightly different angles. In an effort to spare you from my photo album, I’ve narrowed my selection down to 23, and further into sections that contain Matt and me (for family who care to see us in epic poses) and into shots that are just gorgeous scenery that can never be found in North Carolina.
The Incan cosmology is one of duality. Here is my experience of that concept at the sacred site of Machu Picchu.
One final shot showing the clouds that moved in at the end of our time on this awe-inspiring mountain. We experienced a light sprinkling of raindrops and incredible thunder that shook our eardrums.
Machu Picchu has been on my travel to-do list for many years. Last August I knew I needed to go by June, 2019. Matt and I then began planning a ten-day trip, from which we returned yesterday.
This first of three posts chronicles the days we spent in Cusco acclimating to the high elevation. Matt’s reaction to being almost 12,000 feet above sea level is to not breathe while sleeping. Thus he stayed awake for three nights. I had a headache the first day and experienced heart palpitations during physical exertion, like slowly walking up the hotel stairs. Unlike Matt's symptoms, mine lasted the entire trip.
We spent five nights at the Palacio del Inka next to the Temple of the Sun. Our room truly was palatial, and the staff were amazing. A street artist named Valentine seemed to live outside our hotel and showed us his wares every time we left sanctuary. Matt wound up buying several canvases to go in his new office, and honestly, they're pretty good.
On our third day in Cusco, we traveled next door to Coricancha—the Temple of the Sun. We then toured each of the four sacred sites in Cusco. My favorite was Saqsaywaman. I love stonework and fondly remembered my eighth-grade fantasy of growing up to be an archaeologist.
The next post in this three-part series will share our amazing adventure at Machu Picchu.
Years you’ve held my hand, balancing the steps on my chosen rocky path
Years you’ve seen the beauty inside, as blindness shackled me in self-made chains
Years you’ve believed in the woman hidden within
Thank you for spending twenty-six years as my husband. Happy anniversary, Matt.