Ayahuasca…Aya-what-sca?

It took me over a year to write this post.

Too raw, deeply personal and far out there to even think about sharing.  Way too vulnerable.  An emotional television host recording her journey into the Peruvian rain forest for an ayahuasca retreat?   No way.  I’m a third generation Japanese American woman- we aren’t raised to DO things like this, let alone talk about them.  No. Just no.

For those unfamiliar with ayahuasca, it is a medicinal brew made from two vines, employed by the indigenous people of the Amazon for healing purposes.  It has psychedelic properties, from its active ingredient, DMT (dimethyltryptamine), and can induce vomiting and/or an emptying of the bowels, known as purging.  Non-addictive, with no adverse side effects (aside from the purging, we’ll get to that later…) ayahuasca can elicit visions and is considered in some circles to be an effective tool for enlightenment.

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I have zero experience with recreational drugs.  I am as straight as they come.  I have been a good girl my whole life, ticking off lists and doing exactly what’s expected of me… and then some.  Going to the rain forest to have a spiritual awakening with Peruvian shamans seemed so far outside of my box, beyond my wildest dreams,  truly unbelievable…and all the more reason to stay home in my safe little life.   I’m a single mom, what if something happened to me?    What if I came back forever changed and couldn’t be the mother, sister, daughter that I am?  What then?  I couldn’t possibly.

While researching ayahuasca, I was intrigued by the access to higher spiritual dimensions, the opening of the pineal gland- the “seat of the soul”, and the opportunity to expand my consciousness.   The accounts I had read both terrified and intrigued me.  What if my years of spiritual skepticism could be contradicted?  What if I was shown something so dark and terrible, I would never be the same?  Could this foster the spiritual connection that I had always longed for, but never allowed myself?

I toyed with the idea, and once I began to investigate the possibility of going, things fell into place very easily.  Very easily.   I could actually book my plane ticket using miles. (That never happens!)  My family could watch my son for a week.   I was about to turn forty, I had just gotten out of a relationship. I was aware that I was repeating patterns but didn’t know how not to.  I was down for some profound healing.  Childhood, divorce, co-dependency, lack of self-love and self-esteem, were my own personal demons, so when I read that ayahuasca can be comparable to ten years of therapy, that clinched it.  I can fast track healing and spiritual learning to just one week away from my son?  That didn’t seem too crazy.  Efficiency speaks to me.  I’m all about results.  My pro-Peru reasons were undeniable.

One year ago, I flew to Pucallpa, Peru for 9 days.  And had the biggest experience of my life.

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#EatPeruLove Episode 2: Soul Food

 

With just a night in Lima before heading into the Amazon rainforest, I had one singular objective.  To. Eat. My. Face. Off.  I knew the upcoming retreat included fasting and vegetarianism and probably wouldn’t be much of a culinary indulgence, so with less than 24 hours to gobble up Lima, I went big and took a friend’s recommendation, booking a table for the tasting menu at Astrid Y Gastón.

Food is art.  Like great theater, or a sculpture that brings tears to my eyes, or dancing, food stirs my soul and makes me feel alive.  Pull up a chair and indulge with me!

EatPeruLove Episode 1: The Arrival

Welcome to Lima, Peru!   I had one night in Lima before heading to the rainforest for the retreat.  International travel always does the spirit good.  After checking into the hotel and a quick nap, my friend M and I set off to take in what we could with one day in Lima.

First things first, let’s eat!  We walked over to Larcomar, a giant, open air mall overlooking the bay.  Maybe I was jet-lagged and tired, maybe I expected something different, maybe we shouldn’t have started off in such a tourist draw….but to me, Larcomar felt awfully like any mall at any beach, actually a LOT like Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.   Winding past American chain restaurants blaring American pop music, we settled into a small Peruvian cafe with an ocean view for a small bite and some maté de coca.  (tea made from coca leaves, the same plant that cocaine is made from…a very mild stimulant, equivalent to coffee.  wheeee!)

I was starving for some real food and could have gone to town on this menu, but with dinner reservations at the highly recommended Astrid y Gastón only hours away, we decided on a couple small plates.

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First up: Tiradito!  Fresh, citrus-y and bright, this was the perfect first dish in Lima.  Peruvian corn, yam, aji amarillo and raw fish soaked in lime, this woke up our palate.

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Next came Causa Limeña, a cold, layered appetizer made of mashed yellow potatoes, cooked tuna, and onions garnished with avocado and boiled egg in a creamy tomato sauce.  Popular in the summer months, but still delicious on a cloudy, cool day, it was light, filling and reassured me that we were in fact in Peru, not just any old mall by the beach.  With local food in our bellies and fortified by the maté de coca, we were ready to take in the city.

*Special thanks for the lovely original musical stylings of David Woodward and Jan Melchior Maclaar.

Healing….

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This is me.  Hi.  Nice to meet you.  Most of my life I’ve been a seeker.  Someone who’s willing take a look at my personal baggage, get help and work on it.  Work, being the operative word.  I’m methodical, disciplined, result-oriented.  (A total Virgo, right?) I have always believed you could change your life if you just worked hard enough and willed it to be.

Four years ago my divorce rocked me to my core and set my course in a new direction.  I had worked so hard at my marriage, yet ultimately, it failed.   I became a single working mother, in uncharted territory.  I  was ready to roll up my sleeves and do my work to create and fight for happiness in all facets of my life: work, family, love, myself.

Traditional therapy had been my avenue of choice, and it served me well.  Until last year.  I had hit a wall.  I was repeatedly picking love relationships with unavailable men.  (I’m sure I’m the only woman guilty of this, right?) and I had had enough.

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