Photo: Josh Willink
While I have an immense amount of love and respect for ayahuasca, I’ve been hesitant in the past to write about my experiences with the sacred plant. For one, I’m the single mother of three kids, so I automatically open myself up to heavy criticism for not being a ‘responsible’ parent, or for teaching my kids that drugs are okay. Secondly, the plant has become downright trendy in the last decade and I didn’t want to come off as one more in a long line of ‘holy shit, I went into the jungle and I saw my soul, man, and all my problems were instantly solved’ spiritual seekers. I don’t want to help promote an ugly, tainted commercialism of the plant to tourists who want to use the experience just as one more travel experience to check off their bucket list, so they can then go brag to their friends back home over beers how they were trippin’ balls back in the jungle.
But I do want to share my experience with the plant. And I will refer to it as a plant here and not a drug, because to me it is just that. It is a medicinal, sacred plant that is used to lessen the ego and to expand clarity and consciousness. To me, a drug is what my brother who works for a big corporate pharmaceutical company sells. A drug is meth. A drug is crack. A drug would help me to escape myself instead of find and heal myself.
I took ayahuasca multiple times a few years back and here is how I feel it has helped me to become a better mother:
It helped me to see my fears clearly so I would not project them onto my kids.
Personally I think I adopted a lot of fears that my own parents had and just took it as normal that these were ‘normal’ things to be afraid of. Snakes, death, change – almost anything could be reason to be afraid. I don’t want to pass that thinking down to my own kids. Oftentimes in the past I would live with a vague anxiety, not even fully realizing what exactly it was that I was afraid of, and that tension inherently got picked up by the kids. Ayahuasca helped me to clarify and confront my own fears of snakes, of being alone, of not feeling in control, and in doing so I liberated my kids from taking those fears on as their own without realizing it.
It helped me to heal childhood wounds so I can be more present in my adult self.
Every adult that I know has some lingering shit from childhood that they need to deal with. I’m no exception. I had a brother who killed himself when I was nine. My dad was super controlling and my mom was co-dependant with a victim mentality – both extremes drove me crazy even after I moved out of their house. But staying with old pain only kept me from being able to be fully present in my adult self. My kids deserve a strong, present mom instead of basically a grown woman stuck in the past, never having moved past things that happened 30 years ago.
It showed me it’s okay to need a support network.
I tried to rock the whole ultra-supermom thing for a bit. I’ve since learned that while I had good intentions, that was a pretty ignorant move on my part. I’m a single mother of three spunky kids and I thought I could work as travel writer, move us across the world to a place where I knew no one nor spoke the language, try to start a farm in the middle of nowhere in the Andes, build a house with no clue how to actually build a house, etc, all by myself. Because that somehow made me feel as though I was capable and strong. I’ve learned that strength can also come in the form of knowing when to ask for help, and how to graciously accept it.
Ayahuasca trips showed me the beauty in community, the humility of asking to be voluntarily led by a shaman, the contention of being supported by both other people and nature, the wisdom in asking for what I needed and in staying open to actually receiving it. It has helped me to realize that I am not alone and I don’t have to feel alone. It’s opened me up to not being afraid to ask the neighbor to watch my kids for a bit, to contract out parts of the house I have no time or know-how to do, to reach out and call a friend if I really need to talk instead of thinking I should buck up and figure everything out on my own. My kids now get to see and feel a support network not just around me, but around all of us.
It helped me to embrace and celebrate my femininity.
In raising my kids as a single mom, I’ve found myself taking the role of both mom and dad at times. I didn’t have the luxury, I thought, of feeling soft and receptive. There was stuff to get done and the only way for me to do it was to toughen up. Ayahuasca helped me to see the massive strength I could access that was held in my femininity, and helped me to not shy away from it, but to cultivate a more feminine energy. It’s not my responsibility to try to be both mom and dad. I can only be mom the best that I can. And to do so I need to take my feminine role, go deep and hold it as well as I can, providing an example for my two daughters and my son that femininity is as fierce as it is soft and nurturing.