Have you ever had a period in your life where you felt stuck and overcome by your habitual patterns unable to break free? That has been my life over the last few months and it seemed like no matter what I tried to do it would not work out. Either I was too confused to know where to direct my energy or when I did have a direction no matter how much effort I put forth it would still be unsuccessful. I felt a deepening frustration and an increasing darkness overtaking me and nothing was working to break free of it despite much effort. I have a pretty strong spiritual practice but it did not seem to be able to penetrate whatever it was I was struggling with. So as I do when I’m feeling confused or lost I asked for guidance from the universe, from my guides. Usually that involves putting out a request for help and then opening to receiving the guidance in whatever form it might take. In this instance I received a response immediately as if it had been right there waiting all along. The response was Daime, a form of Ayahausca from the Santo Daime tradition originating of Brazil.

I’ve worked with mushrooms as a tool for healing in the past with positive results and experimented with various hallucinogens. Although I knew about Daime I never felt a calling to work with it until this request for help. A friend of mine involved with the church facilitated my connection and I inquired into the local Santo Daime group and arranged to attend a ceremony. In the time leading up to the ceremony I felt more and more anxious and found that I was distancing myself from others including my own community. I didn’t really have the capacity to maintain any connections and felt more and more isolated and lost as if things were really spiraling out of control. It was at the height of this that I connected with the Daime and I had no idea of the powerful process I was about to engage.

I was fortunate to have a couple of people I know present who are involved in the church and so I arrived with the intention of healing and finding some clarity in all the confusion. When I drank the first cup of Daime I was struck by the powerful taste and the intensity of it in my system. It took about 30 minutes before I felt any effect but when it came on I had the experience of my reality begin to get less and less real almost as if it were melting. This reached a climax where I experienced sheer terror as I felt I was losing touch with everything around me including my body and my identity. It felt like I would completely loss myself and might not ever come back if I let go into it. I touched this place briefly which I can only describe as feeling like death and then I was pulled back into a place of raw emotion. I cried and cried and let out an immense wave of feeling as sweat poured out of my body. I’ve had an ongoing process of getting to my emotions and letting them flow freely but the Daime got me to them immediately. This went on for about an hour and then subsided and it was time for the second cup of Daime.

When I drank the second cup the effect came on almost immediately as I was still in a tender state. This time I felt as if I wanted to throw up but I resisted that with everything I had. I had the sense there was something in my belly which needed to be released but I simply could not get myself to let go and release it. I suffered with that and struggled with it for the better part of the next 2 hours agonizing over a small plastic lined pale then laying down in exhaustion while the ceremony continued with singing and dancing. I felt leveled by my resistance and the fight of the part of me that did not want to let go. Another person at the ceremony had an intense experience of purging what sounded like a demon and it deeply effected me triggering my fear at what might be wanting to come through me. I could not move and the guardians (helpers) of the ceremony compassionately checked in on me and gave me suggestions from time to time but allowed me to be where I was, I felt supported but not pressured. As I lay there I listened to the hymns being sung in Portuguese by the group, the hymns of the Santo Daime are beautiful and I felt held by the positive loving energy of the group. Every once in a while the singing would move into English and the words seemed to speak right to where I was and my personal struggle. Later a friend of mine came over and held space for me and suggested I try to get up and join the group which I eventually did. Moving back into the energy field of the ceremony helped me free myself a bit and I felt bathed in light, love and devotion. When the ceremony finally ended I found myself wishing it had continued longer because the energy and the people were so powerfully positive and healing.

The next day I did not feel myself and my gut felt incredibly agitated which at first I thought was due to the effects of the Daime on my digestive system. However as the day went on I sensed more and more that the process was far from over. It felt like there was ‘something’ in my gut. I met with a friend and we spoke of the experience and as the evening went on I felt a draw to do meditation, practice specifically a Tibetan practice I do known as Feeding your Demons (see my article Feeding your Demons for a description of the practice). As I sat down to do the practice I felt into my stomach and let the intense feeling there take shape in front of me where it manifested as a demon that wanted to destroy me. I let myself embody this demon and acted out its anger and rage which was terrifying but liberating at the same time. Underneath the intense anger of the demon was fear and what it really wanted was comfort. As I accepted and acknowledged and comforted this figure another wave of intense emotion flowed out and I could finally get in touch with compassion for this cut off part of myself, this part of me that represented a very old unhealed wound. It transformed into an infant which I was able hold and protect. This was a profoundly healing practice.

After this I went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night feeling like demons were pulling me out of bed. The room felt dark and ominous when I awoke but rather than giving into fear I got up to do another round of practice. I did the Feeding your Demons practice again allowing the intense energy in my gut to manifest and this time it was an even darker figure, the Devil himself. This was very unsettling and challenging to deal with as you might imagine and the Devil reminded me that I had toyed with the dark arts in the past as an ignorant and desperate teenager and that despite my moving away from that and walking the spiritual path he was still here within me. Despite all my work I had never had the courage to go back and deal with this dark energy. Well now I had no choice and even felt relieved to finally be getting to it because I knew then that this is what had been blocking me. The Devil said he wanted to own my soul but when pressed deeper he said he really wanted to be accepted as a part of me and to be loved. With the realization that this figure was not something separate but actually was a part of me I allowed myself to embrace him and accept him offering him the love and attention he wanted. At this point he transformed into the figure of a Native American Warrior and this figure said that he represented the power and strength that I had buried in the darkness so long ago, power that I would need to walk my path from here. It is interesting to note that the Daime ceremony took place at a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) hall and at the end of the ceremony a member offered a Native American chant to honor the fallen warriors. This chant stayed with me in working with my warrior figure as a way to call on that power and heal the warrior energy (see Becoming the Peaceful Warrior).

The figure of the Devil represents for me some of my deepest darkest fears and the Daime helped to bring that to the surface so I could work with it and heal and integrate it. I imagine we all have our own versions of inner darkness and demons we must face and ultimately heal although everyone’s may not be as dramatic as mine. Coming through this process I have felt far more empowered and at peace and although I know there is still much work to do with this inner darkness, I now feel like its moving and I’m able to access it. I have incredible gratitude for the gift of the Santo Daime and will undoubtedly do much more work with them. The Daime is a powerful medicine which has manifested in the world at a time when deep healing is essential to the larger transformation we are all going through.