I am sitting in a circle of strangers.
In the center, a burning fire shines light on the faces of three shamans from the Kamayura tribe of Brazil. About 20 people from all around the world are gathered to experience the plant medicine called yopo.
The so-called “seeds of the gods” come from a perennial tree that is native to the Caribbean and South America. The beans contain DMT, 5-MEO-DMT, and 5-OH-DMT, substances that are known to lead to deep visions about yourself and the universe. They are ground into a powder and blown up the nose.
One of the shamans explains that it is the medicine for the mind. That is why I am here. I want to let go of my mind’s control and learn how to surrender to the medicine—and also to life.
For more than an hour they talk about the plant, its history, and its modern use. I learn that the medicine will first break open patterns going on in the mind before we can go deeper to discover the mysteries of the universe. I hear them talk, but have a hard time concentrating. My chest fills with panic, my heart is beating fast. Why am I doing this? I feel so much resistance. I begin to wonder if I should stand up and leave.
The shaman starts giving the yopo powder to the first person in the circle. The closer he comes to me, the more I want to run away. “You still have a few minutes to make up your mind and escape,” I think.
Earlier that day, somebody had told me that yopo was the strongest substance he had ever tried. Not comfortable at all, yet beneficial. My anxiety feels unbearable. I know that if I stay, it is going to be a difficult journey.
The shaman is really close now. Shall I run? But then I will always run for the rest of my life. Escape has always been my friend. I know it so well. I do not want to keep on escaping. Now, the shaman is in front of me and holds the pipe filled with powder ready to blow it up my nose. I am frightened, but it is too late to escape.
First nostril. He blows. Second nostril. It burns. My body relaxes. My mind calms down for a moment.
I see patterns. They look like frequencies. They are moving and making me dizzy. The shaman had asked us to sit still. But I want to move. I can feel that my mind is starting to fight the effects of the plant.
“Let me out of here. I want my control back.”
I can taste the powder in my mouth. I swallow it like the shaman has advised. Its bitter flavor tastes absolutely horrible.
It makes me nauseated. I stand up, go outside, and vomit. One more time. I feel so dizzy. I need to lie down. So I go back inside and lay on my back. I feel overwhelmed with sensations that keep me from thinking or moving normally. I experience isolation and restriction.
Other people have such amazing experiences with these plants and I get stuck in resistance each time. I f*cking hate it. Why can’t I surrender?
I feel terrible. My body aches. I want it to stop. There is nothing pleasant in this experience. It feels like torture, as though a war is going on between the spirit of the plant and my mind. I am done with this. My constant need to control makes me angry and exhausted.
I try to surrender one more time. Impossible.
I feel powerless.
But then, a thought: “Who has said that I need to surrender? Who made control wrong? Why do I need to let go? What will happen if I just let my mind control the medicine?”
I am done with trying to surrender. I am just going to let myself control and see what happens.
A few minutes later, I feel amazing. I actually feel powerful. I realize that I can control the medicine. I experience that I am not powerless. I sit up and smile. I realize how I was resistant to my own resistance. I wanted to control my control. My ego wanted to get rid of the ego.
How funny. I start laughing. All these mind constructs are so complex and confusing. But, right now, I see them clearly. I can see my mind. It is not me. I go closer and offer my friendship to my mind.
“Let’s work together instead of against each other from now on,” I tell her. She smiles back at me, shakes my hand, and agrees. I say that she can resist whatever she wants to resist for as long she needs. She has full permission to do so.
I wait for more resistance to come up, but there is not much left. I grin.
I feel the need to give my mind a gift. It is the gift of the word “no.” For as long as I can remember, this word has made me feel guilty. Boundaries meant limitations. Limitation meant pain. I didn’t want to hurt the others, so I hurt myself instead.
From now on this is going to change. I realize that without embracing the “no,” I will never be able to fully embrace the “yes.” I see the power of the “no,” its beauty, dignity, and strength. I celebrate its existence.
I release the guilt. Yes to “no.” Yes to boundaries.
I can feel the effect of the yopo lessening. What a journey!
The shaman comes around for the second round. When he comes near me, I say, “no,” and smile. I feel good. I have learned the lesson.
I think back to the time when I first started my journey on the spiritual path of life. It was a magic mushroom experience that first opened my eyes to the mysteries of our existence several years ago. I have stayed loyal to teacher plants and substances ever since. In all of those journeys, my mind rarely wanted to let go. It wished to control the experience and drove me mad.
Being exposed to a lot of spiritual teachings, I had started to glorify the concept of surrender. To access the state of non-resistance became my new goal. So, I kept exposing myself to plant medicine with the intention to break out of my mind and to let go of my desire to control.
The yopo experience finally taught me that I needed to surrender to my own wish to control first before I was able to surrender to the universe at large. My being needs to experience a sense of self before it can truly sense and understand that we are all one.
I was trying to skip a step. I did not allow myself to say “no,” or set boundaries, so I was not able to truly say “yes,” either.
In this moment, I choose to learn how to get to know and love myself, the “I,” the “no,” my boundaries, and all states of resistance. I promise myself to stop trying to forcefully reach a state of non-resistance.
My freedom is in the “no” because it defines me.
My power is in the “no.”
Author: Alice Dea
Editor: Lieselle Davidson