Enlightenment in The Jungle



I had my first Ayahuasca Retreat at La Luna Del Amazonas in the jungles of Iquitos, Peru this past December in 2018. I was primarily going there in order to photograph an elopement at the retreat, but I had also been interested in doing an ayahuasca ceremony for many years. When the opportunity fell in my lap, I couldn’t say no and felt as if I was finally being called there by mother Ayahuasca. Ultimately, it was as life changing as I had hoped. I felt compelled to document this incredible experience so it does not drift away into a distant dream. I have found this very difficult to write because honestly, it’s hard to describe. This was not something I experienced with my limited human brain, but rather deep within my soul. Because if this, my brain has a difficult time putting it into words, as our vocabulary is very limited. But here is my best shot! 


Before I start, I think it is worth mentioning that prior to the retreat, I had been following the most strict recommendation of the ayahuasca ‘Dieta’ for 10 days and had cut out alcohol even longer. Simply put, you eat a mostly vegetarian diet and we added in some organic chicken as well. I primarily ate vegetables, fruits, nuts and rice. I cut out coffee, sweets, processed foods, etc. and just kept it super simple. I believe that this truly added to my experience by having really clean, open pathways in my body for the ayahuasca.  It is said that mother Ayahuasca rewards your efforts of preparation as well, so I took this step very seriously. 


After several long flights leading to Iquitos, we hopped on a boat set down the Amazon river. After an hour or so we arrived deep in the thick of the amazon jungle on a hot Monday morning and would have our first ceremony that night. On drinking nights, you fast after lunch until breakfast the next morning to keep your body as clean as possible for the ayahuasca. The retreat is tucked away about a 20-30 minute walk from the nearest tiny village. That being said, you are FULLY submersed in the Amazon, mosquitoes and all. Far far away from the distractions and temptations of home.


We each had a brief meeting with the shamans that afternoon to go over what our intentions were for the retreat. I had thought about this quit a bit before hand and categorized my intentions into 3 general sort of ‘goals’ that I wanted to work on or over come. The shaman recommended that I choose 1 each night to focus my intention on. We each had a small simple bungalow made of a wood frame and mosquito netting with a bed and desk inside, although we hardly used these rooms. We rested and lounged in hammocks in the main dining area for the rest of the afternoon. 

The sun had fallen and we made our way over to the temple around 8pm to await the Shamans. You could hear an ensemble of sounds made by the very alive jungle. The temple was lit only by candles, as there is very limited electricity in the area, keeping the setting minimal and close to nature. The temple is in a large octagonal shape with 7 mats on each side and the area for the shamans up front in the center. Each mat has a blanket, roll of toilet paper and bucket for purging. We all brought water bottles and a personal flashlights as well. 


I chose my mat carefully this first night, away from everyone else, including my partner I was there with at the time. I didn’t really know what to expect and felt like I wanted to be alone with no one right next to me. We started with 10 people drinking this first night, 8 guests and 2 volunteers from the retreat. The shamans arrived and began setting up for the ceremony as I nervously awaited. I was not scared that anything bad was going to happen, I was more just a little nervous about not knowing what to expect and not really looking forward to purging. The shamans went through a series of rituals including smoking mapacho (tobacco) and blowing it into the bottle of Ayahuasca that had been brewing all day. You can actually walk around the retreat and see where the plants and roots grow and where they brew the medicine. There are several reasons for the mapacho, including warding off evil spirits and keeping mosquitos away. 


Once the plant medicine was ready, the shaman made his way around to each person briefly. I sat cross legged at the end of my mat as Gito (our main shaman) walked up to me and first checked my pulse and put his hand on my forehead. I dont know exactly what he was doing here, but my best guess is that he is getting an idea of how you are feeling and making sure you are ok and ready to drink. He did this to everyone and then went back to the front to start pouring the ayahuasca, one person at a time. As my turn came up, he poured a very small amount in a little plastic cup and made his way over to me. He held out the cup and I held it to my forehead (as instructed) and stated my intention to myself in my head. I saluted to “meastro” and drank the ayahuasca. Just thinking about it now I can remember the foul taste, like sour tobacco spit. Gito continued this process with the rest of the guests as I laid back on my mat and began to wait. 

After this, the ceremony officially began. The last candle was blown out and the darkness of the night sank in with only the moonlight giving a glimmer of the surrounding tree tops. This first night they gave us only a small ‘warm-up’ dose. This is to let everyone get a small taste and feel for the medicine, and they say most people don’t feel much this night and just get a good nights rest after traveling such a long ways. This was the case for me, as I only slightly felt anything that I would maybe compare to a small amount of shrooms. I did hear the name ‘Santi’ over and over and got slight visions of a beautiful Native American looking women with red faceprint. She was wild and free and greatly intrigued me. Then I drifted off into sleep. 


I woke up in the temple the next morning with the first glimmer of the morning sun.  I saw my partner and asked him about his night. Even with the warm-up dose, he had actually had a full blown intense night full of purging and powerful messages. I felt starving by the time 9am breakfast came around, after 20 hours of fasting. I eat a lot normally, and often, so the fasting part was really challenging for me! We had a sharing circle that afternoon in the temple and it seemed like my partner was really the only one who had a significant night with the small dose. Although, this isn’t to say the Ayahuasca was not doing anything. They say the plant medicine is working in your body even when you do not feel it, and long after the ceremonies as well. It is a process and your body will get what it needs from it, when it needs it. We fasted again after lunch and had our second ceremony that night.


This night was our first ‘full dose’ and I decided to lay right next to my partner this time. This night there was 6 people drinking, 2 guys had gone home who had been there the week before and the 2 volunteers did not participate this time. I had a lot of expectations and had a strong idea in my head of what I thought the experience would be like, based on hearing other peoples stories. After about 15-30 minutes, it felt as though a pair of trippy goggles had fallen over my eyes and everything looked very colorful and geometric. If you have done LSD or a good amount of shrooms, it was a similar visual experience to this. When I had my eyes closed, I saw fun, elaborate, and colorful moving patterns that I could easily drift off into. When my eyes were open, whatever I was looking at around me looked more geometric and fun. Mind you, it was night time so I could just barely make out my hand or the moonlit tree tops. 


As I started to compare this to my visual experiences I had with hallucinogenics previously, I started to feel disappointed. I thought “ Oh, this is just like those. I have already done that before, I was hoping this would be different.” Then my first lesson came to me. I realized that I was wanting SOMETHING to change me and was feeling sad that I did not think that was going to happen. I suddenly understood that only I could change me. I realized that no magic little pill, or plant, or anything outside of me was going to do the work. These would be guiding tools, but ultimately I had to do the work myself. With this, I also came to my next lesson, which was that I needed to let go of expectations in order to be open to receiving. When I was hanging on to this strong idea of what I thought the experience was supposed to be like, I was not able to experience it for what it was. As soon as I stopped thinking “hey this should be this way”, I could actually see which way it WAS, and that was beautiful. I think that can be applied in everyday life as well; just surrendering to what IS instead of fighting for things to look the way you expect them to be. It is difficult to explain, but the lessons seem to be transmitted telepathically almost. It is not like I heard a voice or anything, you suddenly just get it, and understand. 

Then the lessons started flowing in, in an almost melodic fashion. I heard a little song being sung, repeating over and over “nothing ever matters, nothing ever matters”. It was a very happy tune and it was telling me ultimately not to take life so seriously. That all the worries and problems that we have here in our life’s don’t actually matter. I could see visual examples of situations where there was no problem, and then the human mind would create a problem. I could see from this that problems were just a creation of the human mind, and not actually real. 

I heard the sound of the insects and frogs loud all around me from the jungle. Sounds seemed to be intensified and beautiful. The frogs sounded like they were laughing and it started to make me laugh. I thought to myself “the animals have it figured out, they know that life is just for fun and not to take it so seriously.” I think my eyes may have even started watering a little bit at this point and it felt like instant relief and tears of joy. My stomach felt a little uneasy, but I never did end up purging. I sat up a few times to drink water and walk to the bathroom. I say that to note that I COULD tell where I was, what was going on, and could perform simple tasks, etc. even while the ayahuasca was in effect. 


I looked over to my partner and could just barely make out the shape of his body laying on the mat next to me. In previous points in our relationship, I had struggled with the idea that we were so different. We have different interests and like doing things in different ways, etc. But at this moment, it occurred to me that we weren’t so different after all. We were both two souls, living human experiences, on a wild journey to do ayahuasca together deep in the amazon jungle. Working on knowing ourselves, and diving deep into love and consciousness. How different could we be?! I realized this all mattered WAY more then us having a different interests and hobbies.

It’s hard to describe how exactly this was all happening in my head, but it was like having a dream, but while I was awake, laying down on my mat with my eyes closed (most of the time). This first night was very jumbled and the “dream” jumped through a lot of different scenes and brought me a handful of great life advice. It was all happy and joyful messages and I did not experience any anxiety, fear or purging. 

When I woke up the next morning, I was pleased with my experience but to be honest, a little disappointed. It was beautiful and pleasant, but it didn’t feel EPIC, it didn’t feel life changing. I tried to tell myself not to be disappointed or have expectations, but the reality was that I did. I knew I wasn’t done yet and that my journey was not over. 


It was now Wednesday and this was an off night, so we would not be drinking. This was the day of the elopement wedding ceremony and the retreat also threw them a surprise Peruvian jungle wedding ceremony in the temple. The whole little village came and we danced and laughed in the temple over the course of the beautiful ceremony. 


Thursday the newlyweds left early to start their honeymoon and my partner and I would be staying for one more night. The retreat technically went on until Sunday, but we needed to make our way to Cusco for a trek. Although I will say, the length you stay doesn’t really matter. The plant medicine will let you know when you are done. For some people this happens sooner and others are compelled to stay longer. I would advice to just listen to what you are feeling. We had lunch and then began our fasting again to prepare for the evening. My partner, after having two super intense ceremonies already, decided to sit the last one out. He felt like he had already got what he needed and wanted now just to begin processing everything. He still joined us that evening in the temple and laid next to me for my final ceremony. 


At this point there was only 4 of us left, My partner and I and two other guys who had joined the same day we did. So only 3 of us would be drinking that night. Enrique, an owner of the retreat, asked how we felt about our previous doses and if we wanted to increase the amount we drank or stay the same. Being that I had not purged yet or felt any discomfort or fear, I felt that I could handle a bit more. Another guy and myself both asked for a larger dose. 

I had thrown my previously set intentions out the window earlier that day, and decided to focus on NOTHING. Not wanting or hoping or expecting anything. All day, any time I started to wonder about what that night would bring, I would quickly push the thoughts away and just tell myself “we’ll see!” When Gito gave me my cup that night, I set my intention as being a blank slate, open to anything or nothing at all, whatever the medicine wanted to give me. I drank my cup and laid back and just tried to focus on falling asleep. I told myself I would be fine if I just got a good nights rest and nothing else. After about 15-30 minutes of a calm, sleepy mind, something incredible happened. 

There were no visuals this night, no fading in and out of different scenarios and lessons. I just shot straight up. There is not a word for this place, but some have called it  Nirvana, or Heaven, or that magical place where our higher-selves exist for eternity in the present moment… what ever you want to call it! I will call it HOME because it is where our souls come from. 


That was my first thought. I was NOT expecting that, and couldn’t believe that I was there. In an instant, EVERYTHING made sense. Life on earth, the Truth, my purpose, all of it. I could see with a higher understanding and clarity beyond my human brain’s capacity to understand or grasp. It was as though my daily clutter of incessant thoughts had been blocking me  from all of this glorious higher knowledge, and the ayahuasca had helped me turn that off momentarily. This allowed the Truth and consciousness to FLOOD into me. 


  I had read about this “place” in various books before and thought that I understood it. But I had NO idea what it was actually going to be like. The closest feeling I can think to describe this would be: imagine that you woke up one day and realized your whole life since birth had been a game show. All for fun, essentially not real, and with no real problems, just a big game. Imagine that you had been taking this game really seriously and letting it destroy you sometimes and now you realized that you never had to let that happen again because it was just for fun. Imagine how shook you would be, how upside down your whole life would turn realizing that nothing you thought was true, was actually true. How liberated and relieved you would feel. This begins to describe how I felt. 

I could see from a higher perspective that our human life here on Earth was just for fun. Just temporary. That we are not actually these human bodies that we currently live in. We are something much greater than that, just borrowing these bodies for the time being, like a car that you drive for now but not forever. Or a temple that our divine higher consciousness lives through to experience life through the human senses. I could see that all problems in life were simply made up by the fault of the human brain, or the Ego. I  could see that in this Higher Place, there was no thought, no Ego. Because the true higher self, or God, or the force of Life does not “think”, it simple IS. It does not dwell on the past, it does not worry about the future. It just simple exists.

Right here. Right NOW. Period.


It was the most peaceful, calm feeling I ever felt. To have no worry or stress but to simple just BE. I was home. I had made it. I realized in this moment that my whole life had been a journey to find my way home, back to this real place that we all come from. I could finally understand the reason for that human longing to know our life purpose, that constant feeling of needing to get somewhere, or complete something, yet never knowing what or where that something is. That feeling of being empty or incomplete. Our human brains often don’t understand where this feeling comes from, but I now understood that it was our souls desire to find its way back Home to this place.

It felt like a welcoming party for me when I arrived and there were many familiar souls there to greet me. I didn’t see anyones faces, because we are not our bodies. But my soul recognized familiar souls, such as Jordans and one of my very influential yoga teachers. After understanding that my partner was there, I realized why he did not drink this night, because he had already made it to this place. 

I recall “looking down” in a sense and seeing the shamans, as they stood between the two “worlds”, half in the physical earth and half in the higher present space with the souls. It looked as though they were holding open the portal between the 2 places for me. I could see how strenuous this was on them and realized why they never stopped the icaros that night. I felt very thankful to have them there to help guide me to this place. I could also open my eyes and see that I was laying, physically, in the temple still yet my soul was still in the place above, separate from my body. 


I suddenly realized that perhaps I should ask some questions while I was there to see what answers I could get. I asked what the purpose of having kids was, if this life down on earth was seemingly just for fun. The answers came to me instantly, clearly and telepathically. No one was there talking back to me, knowledge was just being exchanged. I received the response that each baby born was a new chance for another soul to find its way Home  and to be a guiding light for others. I also asked what my purpose was, or what job I should do in this life time. The answer was that it didn’t matter. It only mattered that it be something I was passionate about. My true purpose was to find my way Home, then REMEMBER Home and not forget where I come from, and then most importantly: to help be a guiding light for others to find their way home. Therefor, in order to be the best guiding light or example, I should be doing something I love and enjoy. It was also made clear to me that in guiding others home, I could not do this with force or just with words, but only through love by example. 

Lastly, I started realizing how difficult it was going to be to remember this place when I “returned back”. Because it is beyond the understanding of the limited human brain, it was very difficult to REALLY grasp the whole experience once I left. So I told myself while I was there not to forget Home, and to come back more often and visit and remember the Truth about life and what is really going on. I realized it would not only be hard for myself to remember, but it would be difficult to explain to others. I would have to speak to their souls, not their minds. My previous ayahuasca night made a lot more sense after this as well. All the lessons I learned on my second night tied into the bigger picture. I realized that these lessons would be my guiding principles for my life here on Earth in this body and that I would use them to remind myself of Home and the Truth. 

I think I may have fallen asleep for a short time after this, but I was too in awe to really sleep that much. As the sun started to rise, I got up from the temple and walked around to find my partner. I didn’t even know how to begin to describe to him what happened. I was still in shock! My whole world had flipped upside down, in the most beautiful way possible. Unfortunately we had to leave fairly early that morning and we did not get the chance to attend the sharing circle. I really wanted to hear how the other guys nights went! 


Now, since a few months have gone by, I am seeing that this experience was only the beginning. It took me many weeks afterwards to process everything that happened and I am constantly reminding myself of what I now know to be the Truth. I use my lessons from night 2 as a constant reminder that this life is just for fun and nothing ever matters. Every time I start to feel frustrated at work or I get caught up day dreaming of the future, I have those lessons close by to bring me back to the truth and the present moment.  I dont know exactly which direction to take everything now, but I have some ideas brewing and I know I want to help others find this same place of peace and Truth. I feel change happening inside me still daily and I know that this will continue. Life has been extremely well for my partner and I since we got home. I feel that our relationship is better than ever and that we are both growing and motivated and continuing down this path of light and love. It also feels like the Universe is working in our favor as we both work on plans of action to happily fulfill our life purpose. Most importantly, I have immense faith and peace in my Truth. With this, there is no real fear, no worry, no problems. I just have to remind myself of the Truth, and all of these quickly melt away as a smile appears on my face.


If I did not make something clear or you want to ask me any questions about the experience, please feel free to reach out and email me at amandamarie333@gmail.com