More than other psychedelics, Ayahuasca breaks the rigid categories that modern culture has erected between poetry and science, medicine and magic, knowledge of the self and knowledge of the universe. That’s what it says on the Internet. Ayahuasca is brain chemistry and mysticism combined. The Indians call it "forest television.” A friend, who I will call Mona, calls it “Grandmother.”
She has just come back from an undisclosed secret hide away in the woods, about x hours away from New York City where she was guided by a shaman on a 6 hours journey. She agrees to an interview. Before we get to my questions, Mona says to me: “Isn't it weird that the word "prey" is either a quarry, a victim or the act of preying?” She recommends I watch a video called “The revolution has begun.” I do. I am struck by a question it raises: “Can personal change lead to planetary change?” On the back of a Parisian metro ticket, I wrote down these two quotes which appear at the end of the film:
That which cannot be seen…will be seen.
All you have to do is look within.
Lisa Rovner: Mona, tell me about the Grandmother experience. After a cup of foul tasting tea you…
Mona: You lose sense of your body- incapacitated. You go to the deepest places of your mind, like taking a flashlight to your brain and then throwing it out into outer space. It lasts about 5 hours and resonates. I spent most of the night floored on my stomach with my eyes closed. Each experience is different, depending on how the medicine effects your body, which in turn depends on a whole set of other factors.
LR: There is a temporary disconnection from the physical body. Did you retain a sense of self?
M: In the 4 times I have done it, yes, I am aware of who I am but I have seen people totally lose it, lose themselves.
LR: You are no longer bound to restrictions of time and the standard laws of physics. Is that scary?
M: It is beautiful - you feel infinity, which makes you happy to be here on earth at this time and not out there, in infinity. I don’t give into fear or sickness. I hold my ground. From the beginning I have only had positive effects, no fear. This one woman from the circle calls me the warrior. She said that she’s seen me transform from a woman to a man and back.
LR: Are you interacting with other people during the ceremony?
M: We are not aloud to speak to one another during the ceremony but after the ceremony, we all talk and hang out.
LR: How would you describe the people you’ve meet at these Grandmother ceremonies?
M: A lot of scientists, also channel readers, healers. The woman who calls me the warrior is a sexual healer. She heals people through sex. She‘s amazing. She used to be a performance artist in the 70s and 80s. It was through the ceremonies, that she found her true path, that she became a sexual healer. It’s an eclectic bunch of people.
LR: How many are you?
M: 25 people in a circle.
LR: What kind of visions did you have? I imagine complex geometric patters, pulsating lights with no boundaries, a vibratory field. Do sound and sight merge?
M: Yes, exactly what you said: complex geometric patters, pulsating lights with no boundaries, a vibratory field where sound and sight merge.
LR: More about sound, does the shaman chant?
M: Yes, and people play instruments that are conducive to the experience. There’s a sound healer who plays crystal bowls which sound like vast space. People play didgeridoos. A lot of the instruments that people are playing during the ceremony are very old.
LR: Are the musicians tripping too?
M: Some of them are tripping out too, but they are professional trippers. They are older people that have been doing it for ages. I am one of the youngest people in my circle, I wanted to tell you that. There are rarely people in there 20s there.
LR: You are in your 30s?
M: I‘m 33.
LR: Is Grandmother like acid?
M: It’s like acid times a thousand. You can’t talk. You are just with yourself. That’s with the lights off, when you do it at night. When you do it during the day, you see everybody getting sick and stuff. During the day people tend to lose it more, freak out. Whereas at night, it’s much calmer. With Grandmother, you go much deeper into your mind, into your body and also into outer space. You go through a lot of different dimentions. Grandmother is a deep meditation - it creates growth, knowledge, experience, strength.
LR: Many people report experiences with entities, have you had any encounters? If so, how would you describe these entities? Terence Mckenna saw elves. There are also accounts of humanoid, insectoid, reptilian, and sometimes plant-like beings.
M: I experience the entities within myself - I am trying to cleanse myself - it is after all a medicine. I know people who are visited by spirits - but never me. I am a new to the whole thing, I’ve only been doing it a year. The first time I did it, I felt as though I was swallowing a living plant. It was thick and I felt it go through my body.
LR: Did you feel more like a passive observer or an active participant?
M: An active participant in analyzing myself, my life, my family, friends, governments, the earth, the universe, G-d... A passive observer to the whole experience. A lucky soul.
LR: Let’s step back in time, how did you first hear about it?
M: I must of read about it somewhere. No, a friend first told me about it. People do it in Brooklyn. Which is way intense. I can’t imagine doing it in the city. But people do do it in the city. I started talking about it and found out that one of my friends did it Upstate, and she invited me.
LR: What inspired you to try Grandmother?
M:Curiosity, and a desire to change.
LR: Change what? What are you searching for through this experience? What were your intentions?
M: I was just fascinated. Have you read Terence McKenna? His theory was that conversation and language started because people were eating psilocybin mushrooms that were abundant in the North African planes. We started perceiving things differently.
LR: With more imagination?
M: Exactly. Mushrooms have pushed civilization to higher levels. I was curious about where it would push me.
LR: Was it partly a quest for magic?
M: Yes - I love magic, I believe in it, and I believe life is magical, so I want to experience every aspect of it. Grandmother motivates me to be a better person, work harder on myself and the people around me. Life is a magical quest and this guides me in a positive direction.
LR: How has your life changed since?
M: I am much healthier, I drink much less, have become a vegetarian, I smoke a lot less.
I care about myself more, I’m not as self-destructive. Supposedly, it cures alcoholics and drug addicts - but you must not drink or do drugs, including pharmaceuticals before, for a while or else you become very ill. Also, no fried food, meat or junk food and coffee before the meditation.
The Grandmother does not jive with toxins or foreign/unnatural elements in the blood stream.
LR: Are you somehow transformed?
M: Yes - I am a lot wiser, calmer, sensible.
LR: Many people report feeling both physically and psychically recharged after. Do you? How are you feeling today?
M: Ultra sensitive. It is hard work. It takes a few days to come together.
LR: The shamans of the Amazon say that all of their knowledge - of the plants and the spirit world - comes from Grandmother. Some people believe Ayahuasca is the mother of all healers, what’s your take on it?
M: Grandma is definitely healing me- but to fix your ills, you must diagnose your ills, and figuring out what is wrong and fixing it, is hard work, but that's only when the healing takes place.
LR: Should everyone try it? Quoting one Ayahuasca shaman, Ayahuasca can also be “the worst of liars,” leaving some users gripped by delusions. What advice would you give people who want to try it? How does one prepare for the journey?
M: Read all about it and set your intentions.
Also, eat veggie for a while, no drugs, alcohol and antidepressants, and get fit cause it is a difficult journey.