Updated: Apr 23
My therapist wants me to lay in a bed of pillows on her floor and do holotrophic breathwork to recreate the birth experience. This sounds so awful, that I resist it for months. I tried, but could not access my abandonment wound through traditional therapy. I was so emotionally disassociated from the pain that I had very little access to the anger or sadness it caused, and would even smile while talking about my experiences. My therapist eventually asked if I had ever considered working with plant medicine. Some of her clients had made huge progress with plant journeys. The progress someone could make on good breakthrough journey was sometimes equal to dozens of therapy sessions.
Iboga was the plant medicine that called to me. Iboga is an an indigenous medicinal root bark from Central West and is considered the stern, but loving, Grandfather spirit of the plant medicine world. In 2018, I attended a retreat to access my wound.
'I'm here because I want to feel good. No matter how many times people tell me I'm worthy, I'm beautiful, I'm nice, I'm good...I just can't accept it.'
I can't believe I just said that. My throat feels tight. I feel like I'm choking. I start to cough and gag like I'm going to throw up the truth sitting in my throat. Tears start streaming down my face as I sputter I'm sorries to the group. I look around embarrassed, but everyone's eyes are soft, and some are shining.
I am sitting in a circle of people preparing to receive Iboga. We all came here to find peace from something, addiction, heartache, pain. The rest of the group start to tell their stories in turn. Michael circles behind us, blowing tobacco into our crowns and smudging a herbal bundle from Gabon onto our heads, backs, and shoulders. The room is beautiful, walls covered in wood. The energy is peaceful and calm. He calls in the protection of the Bwiti village ancestors. It is now 9pm, a reflection of sundown in the village, time to take the medicine.
The ceremony begins and we take the medicine with water, followed by a spoon of honey. We tell more stories, then swallow another round of medicine before we lay down on our individual mats. I have a pillow under my knees and head, I'm covered with a thick blanket, and have a comfortable black eye mask with concave bumps over my eyes. There is music playing, an African mouth bow, joyful men singing, and drums. The music gets louder the longer I lay down, waiting for the something to happen. I stare at the back of my eyelids, and from that blackness, faces start to emerge, morphing, turning into random shapes, shifting with the music. It's as if I'm watching my own personal psychedelic music video.
I see neon coloured lego blocks floating across a galaxy background. When things get too intense, I open my eyes to try to come back to reality, but I still see those same shapes projecting onto the back of my eye mask. I close my eyes and completely surrender to the experience, realizing I can no longer control what has been started.
Michael comes by a few hours later, when he knows I'm ready to Journey. I stand up and walk towards him as he stares into my eyes, he checks: are they steady or dancing? I feel floaty, and peaceful, and safe. I'm smiling hard. He says I'm ready. I lay back down and put my blanket and eye mask back on. He rubs a resin powder into my third eye and taps on it hard 3 times, as if knocking on a door. The crazy music video I was seeing before now looks like a high definition movie. He directs me to my apartment, we are looking for my soul there. She is just standing in my bedroom, wearing my red pyjamas, looking just like me. We talk for a while and Michael guides me to say to her "If there is anything I have ever done or not done, or anything I have every said or not said that has ever hurt you, please forgive me. I did not know better." My soul nods and we embrace. We agree to stay connected, and she steps inside me, so that we are merged. I can now see out the back of her eyes. I feel really full, and really powerful, and really really really fucking peaceful.
Michael goes through the list of issues I wanted to address, the first and biggest thing, is my mother. I see myself flying to see her in India. She is sitting in her brown wicker chair, on the grey marble veranda in front of the house. She stands up and we speak our how are yous. I say "If there is anything I have ever done or not done, or anything I have every said or not said that has ever hurt you, please forgive me. I did not know better." I tell her all my truths about her, the stories I have held that have guided my thinking, decisions, and mistakes. I ask her all the questions she refused to answer in person.
I asked if she missed me when she left me when I was 6 months old. After a pause, she said that she did, and that every time she saw a baby crying in the street, she cried too. In talking to her, I gained so much compassion for this wounded person trying to parent. I forgave her for calling me garbage, stupid, and ugly as a child. For not ever wanting me, and for letting me know it. All the pain, and all their emotional charges dissolved as I let go of all my stories about her. She loved me in the best way she knew how, through the manic, desperate, grasping behind her own ancestral trauma, pain, and abuse.
I ask her if she left me because it was the best thing for me. She says "partly".
"What do you mean partly?"
I have to do all the cooking and cleaning and go to work and take care of this whole house all by myself. No one ever helps me!"
Michael guides me to ask again, if because of that, leaving me was the best thing she could do for me. She pauses, then finally says 'yes'. I feel peace. I know peace. In that moment, and for the first time, I do not wish things had been different. They just were.
We next journey to my sister in Michigan. She is standing in her kitchen. She is not that happy to see me. I tell her that she hurt me, she shrugs. She doesn't want to talk. Michael says some people are just like that. Still I say "If there is anything I have ever done or not done, or anything I have every said or not said that has ever hurt you, please forgive me. I did not know better."
I leave there and continue a few more hours of journeying. I see so many impossible places, and see more strange images, colors, and shapes. 6am comes too soon. Michael touches me on the shoulder and leads me to my room to sleep. It feels good to finally have my eye mask off. I can finally see.
Psychedelics worked for me because I knew how to work with the visions and had great integration after care. I have since learned how to journey to heal trauma without the use of psychedelics, and this is what I offer in sessions with you.
Image by: Devany Amber Wolfe https://www.instagram.com/serpentfire
This article has also been published on Medium here