I’ve been on a pretty serious spiritual path for 8 years now. In November 2012 I went through a life changing spiritual awakening. In the Winter of 2013 I completed a 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) in DC. In April 2014 I went to Rishikesh, India for the first time and completed a 300 HR YTT. Over the next seven years I would go back to the same Yoga Center seven more times, going through the 300 HR training a total of 3 times, 2 Master Level Trainings and numerous retreats. I’ve had a committed daily spiritual practice (meditation, kriya, asana) since early 2013. I’ve read probably over a 100 books on many different facets of spirituality. I’ve also completed dozens of online training, certifications, etc. In 2018 I started attending 12-Step meetings to help with my life-long challenge in having healthy relationships.
In the grand scheme of things none of this means shit. I’m only mentioning it to convey that with all of the work I’ve been doing, something very deep inside of me was still stuck. I had been feeling it for several years. A few months after my ex-wife and I separated in March 2016 I was catapulted into a Dark Night of the Soul period of my life. This period was feeling like it was never going to end. I did not arrive at the decision to do Ayahuasca lightly. This was a very deep calling that I feel incredibly blessed to have received. I am in no way promoting the use of this medicine for everybody. It’s incredibly hard work and one must be 100% committed to go all in. For anybody that is considering going down this road, please only do the medicine with qualified Shamans AND do all of the required preparation (diet, weaning off certain medications, consistent meditation practice, etc.) that is asked of you. Ayahuasca is only one type of “medicine”, and for those that it’s meant to assist on the path to unconditional loving acceptance of YOU, She will let you know.
As a yoga teacher, Students would often ask me my thoughts on plant medicine. My response usually went something like this, “Well, because I had a profound spiritual awakening experience already and have amazing practices to help me get back to that “place”, I don’t feel like it’s needed as part of my journey, BUT I’m open to it if I ever reach a point where I’m stuck and I think it could help me evolve.”
2020 was a very hard year for me both physically and emotionally, it was a hard year for everybody. I’m certainly not raising my hand as some sort of victim. I fully realize that most of what I was going through was self-created. I also realize that I minimize what I go through all the time and try to just solve it myself. I don’t want to go into details here, but I made two disclosures in February 2020 with two people I love very much. It ultimately ended one friendship immediately. The other disclosure didn’t end the relationship right away, but looking back I think it marked the beginning of the end.
I reaggravated a shoulder issue that’s been nagging me for years in early 2020. I finally had surgery for it last June. I attempted to fix a deviated septum with the inability to breathe through my right nostril with surgery in August. I wasn’t able to do the normal physical activities that I love doing so much for most of 2020. My Mom passed away in early September. My fears of abandonment were getting triggered. In addition to all of that, there was the isolation that we all experienced. I was in just about one of the darkest places I’ve ever been in. It got so dark that I stopped eating in the Fall. I lost about 15-20 pounds. People at work were asking me if I was sick. None of my clothes fit me anymore. I felt like I had no voice and nobody to talk to and share about what I was going through. I was in a bad place. I made an appointment at the Amen Clinic and spent over $3000 in getting SPECT Scans of my brain because I thought maybe I was experiencing early-onset Alzheimer’s or something was wrong with me. Through the scans of my brain, it was pretty apparent that the numerous concussions I’ve had from soccer, snowboarding, and mountain biking over the years took their toll. My temporal lobes and cerebellum had areas that showed up as small holes, which can indicate a lack of blood flow. In addition to Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), a psychological disorder that can develop in response to the prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance to escape, that I experienced growing up, it helped explain my lack of being able to deal with intense emotions healthily and some of the other issues I’ve dealt with my whole life, especially risky behaviors and addiction to adrenaline based activities.
Then, on Christmas, I had a life-changing experience that was the start of a new path for me. All of the energy that had been building the entire year finally came out as anger. I knew what had happened that night was so profound that I immediately dove headfirst into ME. It was one of those points in life where everything gets tuned out and you say to yourself, “Okay, enough is enough, it’s time to get really fu**ing serious about your journey.” There have been several points in my life where this occurred: In 1992 at the age of 18 when I left the entire world, I knew on the East Coast and moved to Utah, 1995 when I woke up one morning and decided to join the Air Force and 2012 when I was in a fight in NYC that resulted in my eventual spiritual awakening 3 weeks later. Christmas night was that profound of a night for me. Looking back I realize that all of these occurrences happened around the same time, the Winter solstice. To be honest, it took what happened on Christmas night for me to finally realize that what I went through growing up was even something that can be considered “trauma”.
Shortly thereafter, She (I’ll refer to Mother Ayahuasca as “She” from here on out), started visiting me in my meditations letting me know it was time to experience her through the medicine. Within 3 weeks I had reserved my stay at Rythmia, booked the flights and on Saturday, January 23rd arrived in Costa Rica. They say when you’re ready and you commit, the medicine already starts working. It all happened so effortlessly it was like she had taken over and just manifested the whole trip.
The two flights down to Costa Rica were pretty uneventful. The airports weren’t too crowded and nobody was sitting next to me on both flights, which was nice. When we landed I made it through Customs pretty seamlessly, grabbed my bags, and made my way outside. I quickly spotted the Rythmia driver and introduced myself. He was extremely kind and welcoming. Shortly after getting myself situated with the driver, I met a couple who just got off the same plane, also from Virginia. I wasn’t aware of it at that moment, but I would bond with these two beautiful Souls over the next week as we ate most meals together, shared intimate details about our lives, and had the shared experience of doing plant medicine together. We waited for one more person and then made our way to Rythmia.
Once we arrived at Rythmia we took our COVID tests and made our way down to the Medical intake for approval to partake in the ceremonies. After the medical reviews were done we made our way back to the front desk, received our keys and I made my way to the room.
On Saturday and Sunday evenings they have Breathwork classes in the Maloka. I had profound experiences on both nights. We laid on the floor for about an hour and did a specific breathing technique. There’s music and a guide taking us through the journey. Whenever we felt the need we could hit the floor with our feet & hands and/or make an AHHHHHHHHHHH sound through the mouth to help release any energy that was arising. The breathing technique along with the music and the guide’s words created a really deep experience. After class, we were given the opportunity to share our experiences. I shared the first night about my experience on Christmas with my anger and issues dealing with my sexual energy throughout life and the devastating effects it has caused people in my life that I love very much. I talked about the calling I received in meditation from Mother Aya that it was time to heal through plant medicine. It was really beautiful hearing others share about their journeys that brought them to Rythmia. This was a great way to start the week.
On Monday we went to a few classes where we got to meet the owner of Rythmia, Gerry, and members of the team including the Shamans. We also met Meg. She was our unofficial guide for the week. Meg is this powerful and light-filled Soul that you can’t help but just smile when you’re around her. I instantly felt like Meg was my cosmic soul sister. She shared her story of transformation and what led her to Rythmia. She started as the Chef and created the amazing menu at the Center. She now runs the yoga program and does the plant integration talks throughout the week. She also assisted the Shamans with several of the ceremonies. I recall numerous times in several ceremonies where she would magically appear at just the right moment, and bring me back to my heart when I really needed it. Her yoga classes in the mornings were so beautiful and just the right energy after a night of medicine. Having her as our guide for the week really helped weave the whole experience together.
Everyone was buzzing from the excitement of the week and all 70+ of us were getting to know each other talking at meals, around the pool, and sharing in our various group sessions throughout the day. I was quickly establishing some great connections that would continue to deepen throughout the week.
The day went by so fast, before I knew it, the time to make my way up to the Maloka had come. A line had already started to form outside when I arrived. We all waited patiently while the space was being prepared. Once they let us in I walked around the large space and tuned in energetically to where I should set up shop for the night. Even though this was the same space where we had done the breathwork and yoga classes something about it felt new and different. You can feel the love and energy that the Shamans and all of the assistants put into preparing the space.
I gravitated towards the front of the room near the Shamans. I was the third person from the front against the right sidewall. I set up my tarot cards, stones, mala, Mother’s ashes and nervously sat and waited for the ceremony to begin. Once everyone got settled and the Shamans and helpers were all set they called everyone to the front of the room. The energy of the Shamans for Monday’s ceremony (man and woman) was very calming. The main Shaman spent about 20 minutes talking to the group and then we were sent back to our beds for them to bless the medicine. Once they were ready they called everyone to get in line. I was one of the first people to receive the medicine. My intentions for Monday night were to ‘Show me who I’ve become’ and ‘Merge me with my Soul, at all costs’. I was approaching the medicine from an immense reverence, respect, and love knowing that She would do whatever was necessary to liberate me. I walked up to the Shaman, handed over my cup, and waited for him to bless it. I softly spoke my intention out loud and then drank the medicine. It was a strange combination of bitter, pungent, sweet, and botanical all wrapped into one mystifying sensation. I walked back to my bed and started to meditate.
I started to feel the effects of the medicine within about 30 minutes. I initially started to feel waves of energy over my body. Then out of nowhere, I started crying. I’m not even sure where the tears were coming from, my body just started releasing tears. Then the energy became so intense that I had to lay back. I closed my eyes and that’s when I really started to feel the medicine. Although I didn’t go anywhere I was instantly transported into the Spiritual dimension. I could see and feel these abstract spiritual entities reaching out and touching me, welcoming me. I could feel a sense of love that they were now able to interact with me. They were living, breathing entities, my ancestors letting me know they were here and have been here guiding me my whole life. After some time of sitting with the energy of these entities, I then became aware of Mother Ayahuasca. She was this living, breathing energy that was a kaleidoscope of colors with Serpent eyes. It was as if she took over my breath and her breath became mine. It was the most potent energy I’ve ever felt. She then took me on a beautiful ride of shifting colors and shapes. She was showing me how she is the creator and destroyer of everything. I then started to have very visceral images of different dimensions of time and space. I would see the most horrific images of war and destruction and then that field would collapse and fold into beautiful images of mountains and oceans, that field would collapse into specific scenes from childhood. She was showing me that she is the creator of space and time.
I then became aware that she was presenting me with a question. She opened up a dark passageway and asked me if I wanted to go into my Shadow. Without hesitation, I energetically said YES. She did not immediately take me down the dark passageway of my Shadow. She continued to play with me and show me all of her beauty. The music the Shaman was playing was absolutely out of this world. Sometimes the music was intense, other times it was soft and melodic, sometimes it would just suddenly stop and you weren’t sure if the power went out or what was going on. I had been completely transported into a completely different world, although I hadn’t gone anywhere.
I then heard the Shaman call for the second serving. I immediately got up and got in line. I was the third person. This time I was receiving the medicine from Raven. I stepped up to her and she asked me if I was feeling the medicine. I responded, “I feel like I’ve become the medicine”. She got a big smile and asked if I would like to go deeper. I said yes and received the medicine. For some reason, an intention did not come to me so I just drank the medicine. They say you should always have an intention when you drink. I remember feeling a bit worried that I did not have one. I walked back to my bed, sat down in a meditation pose, and was enjoying the sights and sounds of the Maloka with the music. Shortly after taking the second serving, I felt another intense wave of energy and I had to lay back down. I closed my eyes and was immediately back into the beautiful arrays of colors with Mother Ayahuasca. This lasted for a short period of time and then she started to take me down into my Shadow.
The beautiful visions of colors, shapes, and different dimensions of space & time started to change. As the imagery started to change and become darker I started feeling sick. This wasn’t like, oh I have an upset stomach my entire body started to feel sick, almost as if I was starting to die. My body felt so heavy. I then started visualizing these entities that were trying to work their way into my body. They were scary to me so I was really resisting them. The more that I resisted the more intense it became and my body at this point felt so weak as if I couldn’t move. It was as if my body was starting to turn to dust. I gathered up enough energy to low crawl my way towards my bucket. I couldn’t resist anymore, these entities had worked their way into my body and started to do the work they needed to do. I then reached the point where the purge was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not. I sat up enough to be able to grab my bucket, get it in front of me and this green object about the size of the palm of my hand shot out of my body into the bucket. I don’t like throwing up so some part of me was trying to resist throwing up again but I no longer had the energy to resist the work She was doing through these entities and I purged 3-4 more times. Each time it was this thick green karmic sludge that I could feel was lifetimes of physical and energetic dis-ease coming out of my body. This was like no throwing up I’ve ever experienced. This was a very deep Soulful release that was finally getting what has been stuck in me my whole life out. During this intense experience, I kept holding my Mother’s ashes in one hand and a Rose Quartz stone that my former partner had picked out for me in the other. I was using their energy to keep coming back into my heart even though what I was going through was so dark, painful, and terrifying. I kept seeing visions of both of them dancing around letting me know that I was going to be okay and they were there with me.
After several purges, I started to slowly come back into my body and at some point, the most beautiful song came on and I started weeping with such gratitude for what had just happened. Even though it was incredibly terrifying because it felt like death I also knew that something really deep had just been released out of the cells of my body. It was as if my ancestors that greeted me, in the beginning, were holding me in so much love & light because I was also releasing this for them. My work was their work.
Throughout the rest of the night, I was completely enveloped in the experience that the Shamans and musicians were providing. It’s like being completely immersed in another world. Sometimes I was laying down, other times sitting up. My arms were doing their own dance with the breath and music. I had numerous experiences where I would become aware that someone in a particular area of the room was going to purge and then it would happen. It was almost as if I was connected to some energetic portal that I had tapped into and was able to see everything as energy outside of time and space. When someone started purging it was as if I was purging with them, sending them so much love and grace. A total recognition of all the pain and suffering they’ve been through, what their ancestors went through, and at that moment physically releasing the karmic dis-ease through their body. Sometimes the connection with that person resulted in tears coming out of my own body. A very deep and profound experience that we are all connected. We’re all on this journey together. The Ego is the ultimate illusion that we are separate from nature and one another.
The ceremony ended around 1 AM. Everyone was invited to sit up by the Shamans so whoever wanted to, could share about their night. I was already up by the front of the room so I stayed on my bed laying down. A few minutes into the sharing I started to feel panicky. My heart started feeling like it was going to jump out of my chest, my body was sweating profusely, I wasn’t sure what was going on. I remember trying to call out for help but nothing came out of my mouth. It was as if the ability to use my voice had been taken away and I was about to die all alone without anybody knowing, even though everyone was right by me. Then, out of nowhere, I took in a huge gasp of air and then realized that I had the power to get out of it myself, I just had to breathe. I then focused on taking the deepest breaths I could take. After a few minutes, I was able to bring this overwhelming energy down to a simmer. I then felt completely exhausted as if something very deep had left my body. After the sharing ended one of my brothers came over to me and said that he saw a black energetic thing with wings hovering over me as I was having that experience. I believe whatever that entity was, it had been inside of me for a long time and that night it left. I slowly gathered up my things, went back to my room and much to my surprise fell into a peaceful sleep for a few hours.
The first thought when you wake up the next day is, “how the hell am I going to do that again?”. I made my way over to the Maloka for yoga. Today’s class was with Sarah, one of the Shaman. Sarah is a thin and fit spiritual light warrior. Her hair is shaved on the sides, long on top and she has a plethora of tattoos. Her presence is commanding yet unobtrusive, fierce yet compassionate. The best way I can describe Sarah that comes to mind is Durga. Durga rides on a lion in the forest and is the ultimate archetype of the Divine feminine that is completely united with herSelf that she doesn’t need anybody’s approval. She rides through the forest on a lion and when she shows up she says, “what is needed here?”. That’s Sarah.
Her class was soft but also deceptively challenging in a beautiful way. I remember thinking, “I hope she has a microphone because I’m not sure if we’ll be able to hear her voice throughout this big space”. As soon as she spoke I realized that a microphone was not needed. She spoke with such strength and power that her voice resonated throughout the large space as if she was sitting right next to you. It was the perfect class for the morning after our first medicine ceremony.
After class, we made our way down to the cafe for breakfast. The energy of the whole group and the space was so different than the day before. I had this overwhelming feeling of gratitude to be alive. To be in my body and eating this amazing food and sharing space with all of these beautiful fellow human beings. The other spiritual seekers going through this experience, the workers, teachers...everyone just looked so beautiful and I was so happy to know that I’m not alone. I got my food, sat down and tears were just coming out. It was as if I had died and was given the opportunity to live again. Slowly others started to make their way into the cafe. I sat with my little Tribe and we slowly began to share our experiences, as much as we could make sense of it, a few hours after. We finished breakfast and had some time to relax by the pool or do whatever for a few hours until our first workshop with Michael Beckwith.
Before we knew it the day had passed and the evening was starting to come upon us, which means one thing, ceremony time. I was feeling a bit nervous for the second ceremony but then as the day progressed an overwhelming sense of calm and surrender started to overcome me. Instead of fearing Mother Ayahuasca, I went in trusting that she would be gentle with me and give me what I needed. My intention was centered around love, compassion, and trust. Tonight Brad and Sarah were the Shamans with Brad being the lead. The time had come, I made my way to the Maloka and got in line.
I stayed pretty quiet tuning into my intention. Once they opened up the doors I made my way in and decided to set up shop near the center of the room on the left side. Once everyone got settled and the room was prepped by the Shaman and helpers Brad called everyone to the front of the room. Brad gave a really beautiful wisdom talk centered around love. He also talked about the intention and love he puts into the medicine that he brews. He did an amazing job of setting an energy of love & light for the ceremony. Once he was done we went back to our beds and waited for them to bless the medicine and call everyone up. When they were ready I got in line, handed Brad my cup, he blessed the medicine, I said my intention softly out loud, drank, and went back to my bed. I sat in meditation and waited for the medicine to kick in. Tonight’s journey was so beautiful from start to finish. The second a dark thought or energy started to creep in I took my arm and with a deep blowing breath, blew it away. She was showing me that I have complete mastery of my energy and thoughts. I decided to lay back and close my eyes and once again my ancestors were there to greet me. She took me on a beautiful journey through all dimensions of reality, full of colors and a kaleidoscope of shapes & images. My former partner appeared again and she was this dancing entity of love & light. I kept saying to myself, “I’m sorry, I love you”. It was as if we were dancing together in this other dimension of reality, the realm of Spirit. I was in this beautiful space riding the wave of LOVE and then all of the sudden I became aware of Mother Ayahuasca front and center. I then felt this energetic portal begin to hover over the right side of my body a few feet up. The portal started to open wider and move close to my body and came directly over my heart. My body then started to do a backbend as I was laying down lifting my heart up towards the sky. This portal completely opened up the center of my chest and injected my heart with new life and energy. In that instant, I felt this overwhelming energy of warmth and love completely flood my entire body. Mother Ayahuasca performed heart surgery on me. During one of the workshops that day they talked about different entities that can perform spiritual surgery on you and sometimes Mother Ayahuasca herself will do it. I stayed laying down for a while longer and noticed that my right hand started rubbing the back of my neck. I’ve had recurring neck issues for years and in the months leading up to arriving at Rythmia, I had another episode of disc issues going on. I then started doing these big blowing breaths and flicking my hand and arm off my neck. It was as if She was working through me to help heal my neck.
After I started to come back into my body I heard them call for the second serving. She let me know that I did not need to take any more medicine that night and I was to use my breath as the medicine. I sat up in a meditation pose and began doing various breath practices that I had learned in India. I was amazed to see that the breath was making me feel as if I had done another serving.
My arms started doing these eccentric movements with the music and the breath. It was like I had merged with everything around me and had become one with the unified field of consciousness. I was in this state for some time and then my breathing naturally started becoming deeper and heavier. Then out of nowhere, I put my head in my hands and just wept. It wasn’t a painful, loud dramatic type of crying. They were just tears of gratitude flowing out of my body. My spine then got really straight and I started taking these really deep breaths and my right arm was making sweeping movements up towards the sky. I started to visualize this beautiful orb of light hovering in the air above me, my breathing was getting deeper, my head started to lean back and then this light entered into my Soul. Tears of joy were pouring out of me. I had just merged with my Soul.
The music that night with Brad and Sarah was absolutely mind-blowing. They each had these instrument things around their legs and arms and when they moved their body it would make sounds. They would dance and chant and make music with these instruments, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. Once the ceremony was over Brad called everyone up to the room and people shared about their experience. I was in so much bliss I couldn’t even speak. Afterward, I went and jumped in the pool. The water felt amazing. After some time in the pool, I went to my room and fell into a peaceful sleep for a few hours.
After a few hours of sleep, I got up and made my way to yoga. It was a nice relaxing class, which was all my body was able to do. I made my way down to breakfast and was excited again to hear how everybody’s experience was. I wasn’t able to eat much, just enough to put some nutrients into my body. I made my way over to the pool to chill out for a bit before another day of workshops.
I went into the third ceremony not quite sure what to expect. The first night was really rough and last night was so incredibly beautiful. I had all 3 intentions (show me who I’ve become, merge me with my soul at all costs, and heal my heart) in just the first two ceremonies so I wasn’t sure what this ceremony was going to bring.
Tonight was “Ladies Night”. As we all started to gather in line for the ceremony they had everyone go into silence and Shakti, Meg and some of the other amazing, divine female helpers came around and started to bless everyone, waving smoke around all of us and chanting. The “ceremony” had already started outside. They were all wearing white dresses and looked so full of radiant light.
When the Maloka opened we made our way in and I grabbed the same bed I had last night. I loved this spot. It was in the center of the room off to the side. I felt really comfortable here and felt like I was part of everything that was happening. Sarah was the lead Shaman and Brad was assisting along with all of the other amazing helpers for the night.
Once everyone was in place and the Shamans were ready Sarah called us up to the front of the room. She is such an incredible force of Light. To be in her presence is quite magical. If I had any fears going into the ceremony knowing that she was guiding all of us brought a sense of deep trust in her and the medicine, whatever it was going to bring. At the end of her talk, she protected the whole space by calling out dark forces and bringing in the light. After she was done we headed back to our beds and waited for them to bless the medicine and begin serving. My intention for this ceremony was all about calling in greater depths of LOVE into my being. I got in line, handed my cup to Sarah, she blessed the medicine, I softly spoke my intention out loud, drank, and went back to my bed.
Within 30 minutes of drinking the medicine, my heart started beating really fast. Within 45 minutes or so I started to feel like I was going to have a panic attack. I had my mother’s ashes in one hand and my rose quartz in another. I was breathing as deeply as I could, employing all of the tools at my disposal to prevent me from losing my shit. I was right at that edge of being able to handle it but at any moment it was about to become too overwhelming and I was going to need some help. In addition to what I was going through, the person about 10 feet away from me was going through something incredibly deep. The purge that was coming out of this human being was so humbling. I felt so much love for her and was doing my best to hold loving space for her and also myself. At one point I looked over and all the Shamans were by her working their magic and I literally saw a black energetic “thing” come out of her body and leave.
I started to feel a purge coming but for some reason, I was fighting it with everything I had. I do not like the feeling of throwing up at all. I was breathing as deeply as I could but the sensation that I was not going to be able to stop it was quickly increasing. All of a sudden I became aware that one way or another the energy was going to have to be released and in that moment on the other side of the room about 40 feet away someone started to purge and I was viscerally aware that they were purging for me. Tears started streaming down my face and I was saying THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to myself over and over. They say this can happen and until you experience it I can see how it would seem completely ridiculous.
I still felt panicky and right when I was about to cross that threshold of calling out for help I became aware of two energetic beings that were hovering over me. I then realized that these two beings were souls that never made it to birth and were there to help me. I then felt their energy go into my heart. Once they went into my heart my energy started to shift. I began to feel the energetic presence of a Lion. As I was breathing, this Lion was less of something I was “seeing” and I was slowly starting to become the Lion. I realized that I was meant to leave the Maloka and go outside. Other people had shared how they had amazing experiences on the medicine going outside but the two previous nights I just wasn’t able to get myself up and go. Slowly this Lion started enveloping my heart & body, I was becoming Daniel the Lion. After a few minutes, I pulled myself up off the bed and slowly started walking towards the back of the room to go outside. Sitting right beside the large doorway out the back of the Maloka was the Shaman from the first night, who happens to look somewhat like a lion. At that moment I felt that he had somehow channeled what I was going through and helped me to get up. I looked at him and said “thank you”, bowed to him, and walked outside.
Once I was outside my energy completely opened up to the cosmos. Any feeling of panic was gone. The light of the Moon was like a huge light bulb in the sky. I went and sat in the dirt, put my right hand over my heart, and just began saying “thank you” over and over. I couldn’t take my hand off my heart. It was glued to my chest for the next 2 hours or so outside. I sat in several different places outside in immense gratitude for Mother Earth. I was completely merged with Nature. I realized how small “Daniel” really is and in the grand scheme of the Universe “I” am just this infinitely small speck and yet, I am also the Universe. It’s a matter of how small I want to play in life.
At one point Brad had come out to walk around and check on the people outside and I asked him if I could talk to him. He smiled and said something to the effect of, “Sure but I have a lot going on so if you can keep it concise that would be great.” I asked him where he was from. He said he was from Indiana. I said, “cool” and then got quiet and at that moment I had this deep realization that I wasn’t to drink any more medicine that week. I got a big smile on my face and told him that I just got really clear on what I needed, even though I never really asked nor did I share it with him. He just smiled and said, “good, follow your heart” and off he went. Shortly thereafter, maybe a few minutes, one of the helpers came by letting people know they were calling for the second serving. I told him I was good.
I went and sat on a bench right outside the rear of the Maloka just absorbing all of the love of Nature. I was about to make my way back into the Maloka and one of the helper Shaman, a younger guy dressed in feathers and traditional clothing came over and said “how are you doing”, I replied, “all love Brother”. He smiled and then gave me a beautiful blessing with traditional chanting, various hand placements on my body, and blowing their spray over me. Then we embraced and he said, “God bless you, brother”. It was one of the most beautiful divine masculine connections I’ve ever felt. To know that my journey is his journey. My pain is his pain and we’re all in this together.
I knew there was only one thing to do at this point, go back into the Maloka and dance. I made my way back into the Maloka, at this point, it had probably been at least two hours, and proceeded to dance around the altar with the Shamans and the other spiritual light warriors for the rest of the night.
Whew, we made it to the last ceremony. Throughout the day on Thursday, I was really tuning into my heart and checking in to see where I was at in terms of drinking any Ayahuasca tonight. I had a really good talk with the owner of Rythmia, Jerry. I mentioned briefly my experience so far that week and what my intentions were for this last ceremony, in terms of going but not drinking any medicine. I won’t share our conversation here as it’s not important but I will just say that I really like Jerry. I believe he has a good heart and what they are doing with Rythmia is pretty extraordinary. The conversation with Jerry solidified my intention not to do any medicine tonight and I felt a huge sense of love and compassion for myself to be clear on what my heart desired and to follow through with it. My work with the Ayahuasca was done for the week and my job for tonight was to go through the whole ceremony and to use my breath as the medicine.
The group discussion later in the day was with Leo, who was the Shaman leading the ceremony tonight. I liked Leo’s energy. He spoke for about an hour and mentioned that at the ceremony he wanted to speak with each person individually before serving the medicine so he could check-in and see what our intention was for the ceremony. Tonight’s medicine would be yage which comes from Columbia. It’s a bit different in that it’s a purgative (more so than “regular” Ayahuasca) so it’s designed to get “stuff” out of you.
I made my way to the Maloka and waited in line for the doors to open. I decided to sit in a different area tonight so I went to the back wall against the corner. Since I was not taking any medicine I wanted to be a bit out of the center of the room so I could participate from the side. Once everyone got settled Leo called everyone to form a line. Since there are around 70+ people, this took a while. I decided to go last. I walked up to Leo and told him very briefly that I had gotten all 3 intentions in the first 3 nights (Show me who I’ve become, Merge me with my Soul at all costs, and Heal my heart) and that She (medicine) had let me know that I did not need to take any medicine tonight and my intention was to go through the whole ceremony using my breath as the medicine. I mentioned that I’ve traveled to Rishikesh numerous times and was going to be using breath practices I had learned there. He got a huge smile and mentioned that he is also a yogi and has been to Rishikesh numerous times as well. He said to just be mindful of how loud the practices I was planning to do would be so as not to disturb the others and if at any point I wanted to come up and just do half, I was welcome to do so. I went back to my bed and got my things set up for the ceremony.
They called everyone up for their serving of medicine and I set myself up in a comfortable meditation position and started to go inward. Once everyone had been served and the Shamans served themselves they turned off all the lights, there was no music, just dead silence for the next 3-4 hours. For the first two hours or so I was meditating, doing various kriya practices and at different times my body felt like getting up and doing free-flowing movements with my breath in a way that wasn’t distracting for anybody. At one point when I was standing up, my arms began moving in sync with my breath. I started to notice that when my breath increased along with the movement of my arms the wind outside started to pick up. I started to feel this chill along my spine as if something was taking over my body and I was becoming one with the wind (I know this sounds crazy). I started to do a few experiments and as the wind started to die down I would increase my breath and arm movements and the wind would pick back up again. I did this a few times and tears started flowing down my cheeks and at the same time I was laughing. She was allowing me to see that the breath is Her way of always being with us. Yes, Ayahuasca is a medicine that we can drink to allow her to do the work that She needs to do but the breath is also medicine and is available to us ALWAYS. I felt this immense ecstasy moving through me as she completely took over my body and my breath and was showing me that we are a part of nature. Our breath and her breath, the wind, are one. I became aware of my spiritual name Nataraj and felt fully embodied as Nataraj, the Dancer that has transcended time & space and dances in ecstasy as he realizes that he is not confined in his physical body as he fully emerges with Shakti as One. It came to me at that moment - BREATH MEDICINE. I am meant to travel the world and teach the breath as medicine.
After a few hours, I started to get a little tired. It was still completely dark and silent in the Maloka. Everyone seemed to be really deep in their yage experience. I wasn’t sure how long the silence was going to go on and if people were just going to be deep in their experience all night, so I thought I would head back to my room, maybe for a few hours or the rest of the night, I wasn’t sure. I gathered my things and got about 10-15 feet out of the back of the Maloka and then Leo appeared out of nowhere. He called me and asked me to come back in. He said that my energy was needed and the healing circles would be coming soon. Of course, I said “okay” and made my way back to my bed. I laid down and fell into the most beautiful sleep. By the time I woke up the Women’s healing circle was coming to an end. After a short while, they started to call the Men up for our healing circle.
I’m not sure why but as I was starting to make my way to the healing circle I started to feel a bit of panic & anxiety, some part of me did not want to go into the circle. It was similar to the panic/anxious feeling I had the previous night. Some memories of my past started coming up, people that I had hurt. The energy of the effects of those actions (karma) was swirling up inside me. I sat down in the circle and waited for them to gather up the rest of the men. I was doing my best to just breathe through the energy that was arising. So many thoughts from my past were coming up. I remember turning around and looking at the back door and I was so close to getting up and going outside but something was telling me to just sit with it and not to run.
Once the men were in place the Shamans started doing their magic. There was Leo and several others including Brad & Sarah. It took them a while to go around to each person. They were kind of like a little train, the first Shaman would chant sitting directly in front of you and do some blowing over your body and put their hands on various parts of the shoulders, chest, and arms. When that Shaman was done the next one in line sat in front and did their thing. I believe there were about 4 or 5 total. When Leo got to me there was also a Shaman behind me. A beautiful Angel looking woman with long blonde hair and feathers that seemed to somehow just be a part of her head. What Leo did to me was quite magical. Through the course of his chanting, blowing, touching various parts of my upper body, the other Shaman behind me pressing different parts of my back and hips singing, something very deep in my cells started to heal. All of the trauma that was stored in my heart & body from my biological father leaving me before I even came out of my Mother’s womb, all the hurt that I’ve inflicted onto others because of my deep-rooted lack of self-love, released and I had a complete and total merger with the Divine Masculine. I felt at one with “the Father”. It was almost as if I had been catapulted from “boy” to “man”. Some sort of rite of passage that shed the skin of trying to be somebody and realizing that I am everything that I seek. Once Leo was done, tears were streaming down my face, and Leo and I were soul gazing into each other’s eyes and I said OM NAMAH SHIVAYA and we both smiled and laughed with joy. Sarah went last and she blessed me with her LOVE. She is just pure white magic. When she was done we looked into each other's eyes and she said, “Om Shanti Brother”. Tears of love were continuing to roll down my face and we both silently acknowledged each other’s respective paths with a laugh and smile.
After the healing circle ended it was time to just celebrate. We had made it. All 70+ of us had our own individual experiences, BUT we realized, more so than ever, that we can’t do it alone nor do we have to. We also have a collective experience and humans are meant to help each other. Those that had the energy got up and danced the rest of the night until the ceremony was over. Leo gave a beautiful talk at the end and answered questions. WE MADE IT!
In between all of the workshops throughout the week I had some of the most amazing conversations. Sharing these incredible experiences we were all having with others was so inspiring. Just to hear what someone was going through in their life that led them to the medicine and how quickly She was going to work and doing such incredibly deep healing on all of us was truly humbling. I’ve experienced this same thing in India at my teacher trainings so I know there are other ways to heal. Ayahuasca is just one type of “medicine” but it blows my mind that what can take years, can happen in just a few hours with Mother Ayahuasca. It truly is a medicine, a bridge that allows the formless (Spirit) to interact and heal us (form) in the most beautiful way. I’m so thankful for everyone that was there that week to be a part of this incredible journey.
Picture I took the morning after the last ceremony. I literally felt like a Lion.
The Rythmia pledge.
As I’m writing this, it has been almost 4 months since my experience in Costa Rica. Something very deep in my heart healed at Rythmia and I am forever grateful for the work that they are doing. The real measure of how transformational something is isn’t the ability to eloquently talk about it. What really matters is how much it has truly impacted your heart and what lasting changes have resulted from it. As the Shamans say, the real medicine is the integration that takes place when you get home.
Since getting back from Costa Rica I reached out to my biological father, who I had never met or talked to. For the first time, I told my “Dad”, who legally adopted me when I was around 4 and raised me, that I love him. I decided it was time to quietly separate myself from the yoga community I’ve been a part of for 8 years. I had already committed myself to no sex, pornography, alcohol, marijuana, or dating for all of 2021. My consumption alcohol and marijuana were already very limited but I realized they were gateways at times to slipping with pornography. For someone that has issues in dealing with their sexual energy, and is a Love Avoidant, pornography is a black hole to nowhere that serverly limits deep spiritual progress. The experiences with the medicine just reconfirmed my commitment to that. My diet is the best it has ever been. It’s not perfect but I try to look at food as medicine now. I’ve realized with total conviction that so much of my fluctuations in energy I’ve experienced most of my life were primarily from what I was eating. The medicine helps you “see” on a very deep visceral level that everything is energy. We have to look at our life from all angles and not be afraid to have the courage to follow our Truth.
I’m continuing with the (mostly) daily online SLAA meetings. I’ve started to create some really beautiful relationships with some of the other men in the fellowship. It’s amazing there are men out there doing the work and are learning how to talk about the stuff we just don’t talk about in a very raw, authentic, and vulnerable way. It’s so healing and a great practice to learn how to be able to communicate in this way if I’m ever in another relationship. Some other fellows and I are meeting every Wednesday night to go through A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps. I’m also participating in a book club on Monday nights with some of the men from the fellowship for King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine. For the first time in my life, I’m truly learning what it means to be a divine masculine man. A man that lives in his Truth without fear, total integrity with his words and actions, and most importantly isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and loving. The divine union of power and love.
Some amazing teachers are coming into my life. I just finished the River Course with Dr. Tafur, where I got to learn more about his journey and the scientific & medical research going on with plant medicine. He had guests throughout the course: Shamini Jain, Paul Mills, Rael Cahn, and some other amazing healers. I started a 12-week course with Tiffany Barsotti and her husband Paul Mills that is all about Personal Self Integration. Each week we are led through a meditation where we meet different parts of our Self. I’ve had some really profound experiences in just the first 3 sessions. I’ve been able to connect the dots of some deeply ingrained patterns that have been showing up in relationships my whole life. I’m so excited to be shedding the light of awareness on these shadow aspects of mySelf. Maybe this sounds weird but nothing gets me more excited than doing this work and exposing the deep wounds that need to be healed. In addition to all of that, I started working with an amazing therapist & healer. We just had our first session and I look forward to our work together. I just finished her book Loveseed: The Template For Birthing A New World, which is one of those special books that come into your life at the right moment and has a profound impact on you.
My physical body, from an injury perspective, feels the best it has felt in years. I’m back to running about 30-40 miles a week and biking around 100. I’m lifting weights again BUT am doing so very mindfully. In the same way that I had to completely rethink how I workout my lower body from two back surgeries, I'm doing the same with my upper body to keep my shoulders healthy. I’m as committed to my daily meditation and yoga practice as I’ve ever been.
For the first time, I feel like all “parts” of me are in Union with each other. Little Daniel no longer needs to hide behind his fear of abandonment. Big Daniel no longer needs to think that he’s not worthy of love. I feel the best I’ve felt since before the trauma started when I was around 8 years old. I literally feel like a kid again. I feel a deep resounding vibrational peace in my heart that I haven’t experienced before. Because of the work I’m doing in SLAA, I’m living in 100% absolute integrity and the side effect of that is the ability to just BE LOVE. Of course, more challenges and lessons are on the horizon. That process never ends. Sure, I get lonely sometimes but if this temporary aloneness is the price for living in 100% integrity, truth, and love that’s okay. For the first time in my life, I feel ready to wholeheartedly give my heart and soul to someone special that I know is out there. I had to go on this 46-year journey to bring me to this “place”, which is nowhere at all. As I continue on this spiritual path, I’m experiencing more and more that all of the work we’re doing is simply removing the layers that prevent us from realizing who we already are, and who we are is LOVE. We’re not doing anything to get something or go somewhere. We’re simply realizing that everything we’re seeking is already in us, inside this little beating heart. For the first time in my life, I truly love Daniel Joseph Steiniger, unconditionally.
And the journey continues…