The experience of Tania Ahsan – www.taniaahsan.com
I have only communed with Ayahuasca once and I don’t intend to again. The reason being is that I’m emetophobia (fear of throwing up).
I went to Shamanic healer Ross Heaven’s workshop in France because he told me that he had never thrown up on Ayahuasca and that it wasn’t a given. So I took the chance. I’m really glad that I did because, although it was a really tough experience for me, I feel I learnt more in that workshop than I had previously in months and months of spiritual work.
My first Ayahuasca ceremony was actually really lovely because I saw a warrior goddess in a battle scene and it resonated with me very much as the deity who has claimed me from birth is the goddess Kali and so it all sort of fit together. It was a scene like a moving stonework mural, almost like a cartoon. However, I remembered that Ross had said not to get too caught up in the pyrotechnics and that it was important to get the message from Ayahuasca rather than get off on having a trip. So I asked Ayahuasca to show me what I needed to know in a concrete way that I would understand. Almost immediately I felt intense sadness because the thought of Tony Benn came to me. Yes, that’s Tony Benn the politician. I realised that I thought his son, some sort of politician in Europe, is not even half the man that Tony Benn is and I wondered what would happen when Tony Benn died. Who would be able to articulate the leftist argument adequately? Initially I did wonder why I was in streams of tears over Tony Benn but then I realised that this was a great parallel to my own life. I could never live up to the legacy of my father, a very famous and accomplished Pakistani journalist and, while I hope the Divine gives my father a long and healthy life, I do wonder about what will happen when he dies. Will all that knowledge and poetry and skill die with him because I am not talented enough to carry on his line? It was a painful thought and I think Ayahuasca was telling me very strongly to forge my own path and not worry so much about legacies or following in the footsteps of my father, as that would be impossible anyway.
The second ceremony was the one that caused me most pain. I prayed to Ayahuasca at the start, in the same way as I had for the first ceremony, to ask that I be spared the throwing up. The first time round it worked fine and, much to my relief, I did not throw up. The second ceremony I spent mostly lying in the foetal position sucking my thumb. I remembered that my hand used to be slapped away from my mouth as a child because my cousin had got buckteeth by sucking her teeth all the while. It used to upset me a lot but Ayahuasca gave me permission to lie there all night sucking my thumb and it was very comforting. At the end of the ceremony when Ross said it was okay to get up and go back to our rooms, I felt a little smug. I felt like I was the chosen one because Ayahuasca had kindly agreed to save me from the throwing up. I got up and staggered back to bed. Within a second of lying down I realised, in a blind panic that I was going to throw up. I ran to get my boots on and made it out to the garden before I retched. It was only water that came up because of the fast that we keep when doing Ayahuasca but nevertheless it was terrifying for me.
In the past whenever I throw up, my mother comforts me by giving me a list of all of humanity who have thrown up in the past. When you hear the litany of everyone from pregnant women to Nelson Mandela having thrown up at least once in their lives, you realise that it is somewhat pompous to think that you are above the human condition and that it is normal and you have to accept it. It calms me down. But my mother wasn’t there at the workshop and so I panicked. I sat on a bench in the garden, rocking back and forth, too scared to go to bed in case I wanted to throw up again and too scared to stand in case that also made me sick again. Eventually I saw Howard Charing, one of the co-facilitator’s of the workshop, in the garden and went up to him to ask if there was something I could take to avoid the throwing up aspect. He was confused by my predicament and told me that throwing up was part of the process of releasing and healing. I don’t think he got the phobia aspect of it all. I was inconsolable by this stage and managed to get out that ‘people understand fear of spiders or snakes but they don’t get fear of throwing up because it’s part of the human condition. It’s such a lonely phobia.’ I supposed that pretty much summed up what my whole problem in life has been; one of loneliness and a sense that nobody really understands me or has even been close enough to make an attempt at it.
It seems strange but this notion formed the crux of my Ayahuasca experience and was probably the most valuable aspect of it. Once I accepted that nobody could step inside my skin and experience what I experience – be it fear, loneliness or happier emotions like joy – then I became more able to take responsibility for all my emotions. They were mine and nobody else’s. Also there was no magic pill to make my fears go away and while that was scary, it also showed me that I am capable of sitting with my fear till it subsides. I purposely avoided getting too serious in relationships because I was scared that we’d end up getting married and having children and that would mean morning sickness. I would have given up having a child because of my phobia but after the Ayahuasca experience I believe I would now be able to have a child.
I still wouldn’t do it again, despite the things that I have learned, because I am still very scared of throwing up and would only purposely put myself in that position for something dramatic like conception. The great thing is though that I no longer see myself as a coward for having this fear. We all have raw parts of us that we don’t want to touch or have touched but Ayahuasca lays those parts of us open and, while it is scary and painful at the time, the airing of those parts often means that we can finally heal.