It’s been well over three months since I returned from my plant medicine retreat in Costa Rica.
The 90-day timeline is a crucial milestone in my world: Both my best friend and my bride have lamented over the years, “Pat needs a 90-day quarantine every time he goes on a new adventure.”
Along with spiritual retreats, rehabs, Outward Bound courses, golf schools, and various adventure vacations, immersing myself at Rythmia Life Advancement Center in the shamanic tradition of drinking Ayahuasca has proven itself to be no different. The intensity of the overall experience marked by 4 ceremonies where I drank a total of 9 cups of ayahuasca cannot be overstated. While the visions and insights summarized in my previous post (A Little Patience) remain vivid and powerful, there continues to be deep insights emerging for my unquestionable benefit.
But what does that mean? After the 90-day quarantine period is anything really different? Has anything really changed?
There a lot of little things, or micro-shifts which I have made and found easier to maintain as the intensity of the ayahuasca afterglow subsided. 3-5 cups of coffee per day habit has been lost. Over the past 3 ½ months I’ve had a total of maybe 10 cups of coffee (four of which were espresso milkshakes from Cornerstone Coffeehouse). I wasn’t looking to give up coffee or caffeine, I just have lost the “need”.
My cannonball into the pool of plant medicine has spawned an interest in green foods and my first ever garden. (Technically it’s “our” garden – but I’m the needy blogger..) There is something about eating the lettuce, cucumbers and peppers from my own garden that is curiously satisfying (although I wish the tomatoes would ripen already!) Other micro-shifts in diet include replacing 2% fat milk with Oat Milk, yogurt with coconut milk, and adding a daily glass of superfood-rich Organifi Green Juice.
A dedicated meditation space has kept my meditation practice more regular. Speaking of regularity, my GI tract is working in a consistently proper way it hasn’t in maybe 50 years. I’ve saved the detailed description and metrics for loved ones of course, but it is absolutely amazing!
My really big-ticket item is anxiety. The primary purpose for my exploration of plant medicine was to pursue an alternative to the Zoloft and Ativan prescriptions used to manage this condition.
For as long as I can remember I’ve experienced anxiety. I haven’t always called it that. Until about 4 years ago I gave it different monikers, “fire in the belly”, “nervous energy”, “dedicated ambition” or ‘tenaciously focused”, as examples. These tremendous attributes fueled success in many areas of my life, up until the point they didn’t.
My sad reality is from age 10 or 11 I heard the message, “You need to be better than anyone else just to be accepted”.
I have an internal drive that kicks into a higher gear that makes me run and work harder, longer, faster. All generally positive, well serving terms reaffirmed by employers and customers alike that have helped me achieve goals and a modicum of success. What I have come to learn and appreciate is that this fire, this energy, has always been fueled by an existential angst quietly whispering, “You are not good enough; do more. Be better, or beware!”
My fire was fueled by seeking survival, not success.
Then the fire started to bubble up and spit, like wakening volcanic cauldron. Already in therapy at the time, the middle of the night anxiety attack (of all things, over my dad’s taxes!) was the major flare-up and wake up call that got me on the anxiety meds. The drugs worked. I found a sense of emotional stability in managing the flare-ups, keeping my mindset in a range on a scale of 10, between 3 and 8; never too high, never too low. But I could also feel it also cut short creativity and enthusiasm. I knew I was staying between the lines, and in fact happy I was not going off the rails, but I was missing the joie de verve I thought I should have, or at least wanted, at this stage of my life.
My trip to Costa Rica proved to be fruitful.
The bubbling cauldron or burning restlessness has been replaced with a cool pool of contentment.
A cool pool of contentment. That feels so good write those words, to feel this feeling. Frankly I was not expecting such a dramatic shift in my everyday being. Contentment is my new norm. It is pretty remarkable. I know a lot of people who manage their mental health with faith alone and seemingly little effort. I’m not one of those.
But I am one of those who has also lost the need for anxiety meds.
At the end of the day the benefits of Ayahuasca therapy, which I initially gauged as possibly unreachable for a white man from North America, has been phenomenally life changing; miraculous even. Not everybody may necessarily need to hear “You are enough” or “You have done what we have asked of you”, but I did. And it feels good to feel that message deep to my core, now bathing in a cool pool of contentment. It’s been a heck of a run since my last ceremony on March 26, 2021 and I’m looking forward to more of it.
Now if I can just get those tomatoes to ripen!