Mothers, Monsters and Music


Preface

I haven’t found, online, many women (or mothers) writing on their Ayahuasca experiences. Here’s mine. It will be colored by an artist’s perspective and archetypes from the Tarot. And some mythological references. (I mean, if you’re going to be brainf*cked, age-old symbols from mythology and spirituality lend useful shapes for processing the experience.) 

I had never done psychedelics (or any mind-altering drugs) before and since Ayahuasca. I’ve years of experience in meditation and lucid dreaming; altered states of consciousness are familiar and generally don’t require substances for me. I have tried brain-entrainment devices and work in a singing bowl shop (I regard sound bowls as brain-entrainment tools). The Ajna Light and (to a lesser extent) Pandora Star may provide a weaker and more easily-exited experience that’s comparable to the geometrical overlay of the Ayahuasca journey.

I also paint in watercolours, which involves layering washes of colour. This needs to be mentioned because, as mind-bending experiences go, this has been my way of organising, understanding and experiencing the literal, and figurative, different dimensions that Ayahuasca can open to one’s perception. It’s easier to organise, as on layers on paper, the different dimensions along one axis, as if they are stacked (think World Tree). But if one has strong 3D or multidimensional visualisation skills, the experience is a lot like walking both the edges and internal axes of a dodecahedron. For me, the nausea of the Ayahuasca journey was as much a physical gut response as one due to the confusion of perception—no longer knowing which way was up. (The MC Escher-ish scene in Labyrinth where Jareth could walk the walls? Something like that, but in more directions.)

Escher’s Convex and Concave

Grounding & Earthing

These protective activities take on extra importance during the journey. The shamanistic concept of soul loss is a risk that can come up, particularly if one’s experience with Ayahuasca turns traumatic. You don’t lose touch with “reality” during Ayahuasca. But the physical discomfort/pain and confusion can be traumatic. Focusing on something in the real world—sound, like a drumbeat; or touch, with an object—can be invaluable, and it was for me. 

As it happened, I had lately found crochet a quiet, grounding and meditative exercise, and had brought my crochet project to the Ayahuasca session. (WHO DOES THIS? APPARENTLY ME. But now I have an “Ayahuasca scarf” and I bet you’re jealous.)

Working with a shifting-colour yarn and a hook, making slip-knots over and over, the repetitive exercise that required hand-eye coordination and simple focus was the perfect way for me to walk, still grounded, into Ayahuasca time-space. In crochet and knitting, loops on the single string create the object—undoing the slipknots yields the same unbroken string back. So crochet yarn was my ball of Ariadne’s thread for walking into the Labyrinth, and for coming out again. (Also note: The crochet was regularly overpowered by the compulsion to barf.)

Indra’s Net

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net’s every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite.

—The Avatamsaka Sutra
Francis H. Cook: Hua-yen Buddhism : The Jewel Net Of Indra 1977 (Source)

Descent, Ascent, Descant

Left-brained skeptics may wanna stay as abstract and/or materialistic reductionist as they want, but Man remains a storytelling animal, and some linearity of time is demanded in the Ayahuasca experience if only to maintain sanity and memory, amidst the many things that a journeyer will perceive on many layers at once. 

So at the risk of sounding dramatic (but again, the storytelling tool is useful and necessary for reality organisation), I will stress that Ayahuasca demands reverence and respect. It provides a doorway beyond which you’ll need all the help you can get. Fears and powerlessness are faced here. Egos and preconceptions die here. Surrender and humility is absolutely necessary; gratitude priceless. Think Hero’s Journey into your personal psyche, or for that matter, Dante entering your Hell and Purgatory—Heaven and Virgil are optional.

Mama Aya (Ayahuasca) Copyright of Janet Chui.

Mama Aya, 2018: My painting of her overworld aspect

Mama Ayahuasca is better as your guide and friend than as your foe, and she is absolutely a Mother and a Goddess. I’d never felt grateful knowing how to do the Buddhist full-body prostration until Ayahuasca. I couldn’t do this in my physical body, but in the self that existed in Ayahuasca time-space, I found it useful as a recovery pose, and as much for protection as it was for expressing gratitude. And for overcoming, even if it sounds contradictory. (Up is down, down is up.)

To continue, and to borrow more from Buddhism, the treatises on Dependent Arising may be the oldest texts which describe in detail how reality is created in the brain with six kinds of sensory consciousness. 

With Ayahuasca, that number goes up. And one layer of perception is what I call the kaleidoscopic sacred geometry layer. (This layer isn’t exclusive to the Ayahuasca experience. You can experience this with the Ajna Light and some dreams. I suspect DMT would yield this too.) Add the infamous nausea that comes with Ayahuasca, and the beginning effects of Ayahuasca can include extreme regret. 

Like,

Because the only way out of Hell is through it.

Tarot

The Fool (Card 0) and the Magician (Card I) as archetypes imposed themselves during my journey as one and the same, with only elected amnesia separating them. The Magician was there to remind me that I was ultimately responsible for creating everything I saw within this space, and that in the First Creation, being bored of being God I had shattered Myself into countless mirrors so I could experience the delight in discovering others like Me. 

The Fool, stripped of memory and imbued with innocence, could then go forth and keep discovering, and creating stories, dramas, and journeys to know Self.

Ayahuasca can bring up strong emotions because of this. Physical Janet was curled in foetal position alternately weeping and laughing (when not throwing up) because the Magician inspired weeping, while the Fool made me laugh. If I stayed closer to the Fool, Ayahuasca space was awe-inspiring and seemed like an infinite playground. If the coin turned and the Magician came forth, the view was more sober.

There is no card in the Tarot for the Mother. The Empress (Card III) comes closest, depicting fecundity as an expectant woman in a wheat field. There are other symbols in it but in the end, the image shows nothing of the pain, messiness, and even violence of birth and separation. After First Creation, Union of the masculine (fire, hardness, heat) and the feminine (darkness, softness, receptivity) replays over and over through time to create the Universe that the Fool plays in.

So Birthing demands separation of one Self from another. This I already knew, along with the extremes of fear, grief, paranoia and anxiety that motherhood can bring. An expectant mother, like the Empress, is close to perfect—her body is built as the perfect vessel to keep a child safe, warm, nourished. Once birthed, the child is less known to her, and a lack of a strong bond, abundant resources, and safety can pull up a mother’s deepest fears of responsibility, inadequacy, and loss of autonomy. And if the mother wishes for the child to thrive, an inner struggle begins over her power and powerlessness over that child’s safety, well being, and future. The Mother surrenders many, many times: her Self to the role of Mother, her peace of mind to her fears, her child to a fickle and unknowable universe.

Due to this, I felt practiced at surrendering. I had no choice. Crochet forgotten once Ayahuasca took hold, my body weak as a baby’s from hurling, I was conscious of myself laying on my side with both hands open, wanting relief from the vertigo, nausea and overwhelming influx of information. I wanted Mother, but not my own. I wanted the Mother who had birthed me here. I received a stupendous awareness of all the Mothers of various forms and bodies (human, animal, spiritual) through time, Birthing and Separating, Birthing and Separating. I finally felt my fears and pain as a mother understood, just as I understood Them all. Mama Aya held us, at the same time I was in the crowd that held other mothers. (Splitting of perspectives was possible and easy in this space.)

And during the typing of this, two spiders (one white, one black, the second on my desk) showed themselves, and only disappeared after I looked up the spiritual meaning of spiders. They are, of course, connected to webs and creating; they have multiple pairs of eyes, and they are also feminine and symbol of grandmothers. More from this page on spiders: ‘The term Maya comes from the Sanskrit root “Ma” which means no form or limit. The term Maya describes the illusory nature of appearances. Spider association with Maya brings about the understanding that not all things are as they appear to be.’ Ayahuasca–Mama Aya–and Maya; The experience did bring me a new appreciation for mothers and motherhood, Creation, and the nature of reality and illusion.

Healing and Forgiveness

For these reasons and more, Ayahuasca lends itself to parent-child and ancestral healing. Viewing and experiencing from many perspectives the relationships, unions and separations that lead to one’s existence, an understanding grows that lends itself to forgiving and releasing one’s grudges against one’s ancestors. (I said “lends itself”—later on in my Ayahuasca journey, I still spent a considerable amount of time railing at my highly abusive maternal grandfather and holding him accountable for the run-on effects of his abuse on my family and upbringing.) 

Forgiveness should not be a goal, though. Forgiveness is a symptom, the bonus effect of one’s own healing. You cannot force forgiveness without first making sure that the person who was wounded has healed to the point they can grant that forgiveness. And that the choice to forgive should be left entirely within their control; else, to revoke that right is to traumatise them again. (I fucking hate New Age claptrap that tries to force forgiveness by laying on negative and manipulative emotions like guilt or shame.) 

So, in my journey, I had a new understanding of the weight and triumph of Motherhood, that I could release my own traumatic experiences of giving birth, becoming a new mother, and being an imperfect mother. In that release, I could also release my anger at the imperfect jobs that had been played by the mothers “up the line”. Many of us, particularly the most wounded ones, arrested in our emotional development, had really just stayed as children.

Descant

noun

/ˈdɛskant/

1. MUSIC

an independent treble melody sung or played above a basic melody.

Mama Aya was ever-present as my guide, and my Higher Self felt close. There were others too. There was always a supporting voice to provide answers and the knowing I sought. So even though I had entered this space warned that everything I saw  here was my own creation, I needed to trust that I had support and help in this space, and I did. I had to trust that it was a higher octave of me: Me with the capital ‘M’.

How Did We Get Here? Strings and Keys

The sacred geometric layer of reality was married closely, as I understood it, to the reality of strings. “Walking” that space, I kept mostly to the lines I saw between the different shifting and unfolding shapes and colours, wondering how these abstract things created the flesh-and-blood gravity-bound consensus reality I knew. And I wondered how I had even gotten here into this space where anything in time and space felt possible to access. And how had I gotten to THIS point in space and time?

“Keys” is one of those power words in our language related to both doorways and sound. I was told I had unlocked this point by vibrating at different, needed yet natural frequencies at different opportunities to pull this experience to myself. It was a team effort, at that: I’d vibrated in a way to connect with certain people, who had vibrated in their own way to connect to the others that made the Ayahuasca session possible for me that day. A sequence keys played by myself, some sustained, others changing, had brought me to this place and point in time. 

Samantabhadra thangka image

A depiction of Samantabhadra in union with Shakti. Honestly, why shouldn’t I put this picture up whenever I can?

Again, a realisation while writing this: I wonder if the phrase “oceans of sound” from Samantabhadra’s Extraordinary Aspiration had always captivated me from the first time I read it because something in it captured me and would lend itself to this moment and understanding of reality. More from the relevant verses:

On every atom are Buddhas numberless as atoms,
Each amidst a host of bodhisattvas,
And I am confident the sphere of all phenomena
Is entirely filled with Buddhas in this way.

With infinite oceans of praise for you,
And oceans of sound from the aspects of my voice,
I sing the breathtaking excellence of Buddhas,
And celebrate all of you Gone to Bliss.

—The Extraordinary Aspiration of the Practice of Samantabhadra
(“The King of Prayers” from the Avatamsaka sutra)

The idea of keys for unlocking experiences and manifestations stays with me, and there were several dream-time lessons prior to and following Ayahuasca that confirmed this. It has made concepts about integration, integrity, and phenomena such as “tuning in” even more important in how I move through life. I view my body as my instrument, and my natal astrological chart as a part of my “score”. What I manifest and pull to me depends on how I play what I’ve been given. The integrity I maintain determines the power with which I can play.

Mother of Monsters

In one of the last parts of my journeying, the nausea was mostly gone, and it felt like I had lost half my body weight in sweat, though I kept hydrating. I remember that my skin being cold from this, though I did not feel cold. I had passed the last 24 hours before the Ayahuasca journey without food, and at this point in time, I felt utterly empty/emptied, and good.

I suspect that if I had chosen to “opt out” of anything further, I could have, but in a room where two of my friends were journeying, and one of them having a really shitty time from the sound of it, I, ever the productive Virgo, wondered if I was making full use of the experience. Didn’t everyone talk about confronting their shadow on their Ayahuasca journey? 

At this point I had literally embraced enough of my shadow aspects in dreams that I’m quite certain that at this point in time that there was no pressing business with my shadow self. But I thought anyway: What do monsters in this space look like? 

So I looked in the direction of Mama Aya, who obliged by presenting a series of monsters  reminiscent of Dormammu from “Doctor Strange” (though I had not watched the movie). To look upon them was to have twinges of Trypophobia; and yet, I found myself able to shift my viewpoint from my “normal” size to that of a microscopic or larger being, and this ability decreased my fear. Instead, there was only awe, curiosity, compassion and gratitude at these meetings, extraordinary as they were.

Again, putting myself in the role of Mother (both light and dark forms), I complimented, thanked, and apologized to them; Surely, as we have created God in our own image, we must have created monsters to become the faces of the darkness we disown in ourselves. I didn’t feel that these were all my monsters, but they had been created nonetheless. This opportunity to acknowledge them and love them in a safe space seemed priceless. Doing so, I also learned to forgive myself for my fears.

Tidying Loose Ends

The last hour of Ayahuasca was a mixed bag. I could sit up, I felt good and empty, and I could more easily switch between Ayahuasca space and consensus reality without vertigo. In fact, knowledge pulled from Ayahuasca space kept intruding into reality. I brought out my notebook and pencil. Sometimes I wrote down what came to me. Sometimes I crocheted. I started keeping my ears and eyes open, and at one point, kept staring at my left, absolutely certain that a younger version of my mother was seated there—my mother without dementia. Once I stopped resisting, an emotional and psychic conversation took place without anything said aloud. (My real, physical mother was, at this point, in a nursing home with the mental age of a 3-year-old.) 

There were several “invisible” conversations with different people of this type, with different orientations to my physical body. Ancestors were literally behind me. I didn’t feel particularly reverential—I figured we were all equals, but I had been given opportunities they had not had, at the same time I had knowingly and unknowingly carried their burdens and hated them for it. I was able to bring my emotional dial towards them to neutrality.

(And because every one of my blog posts should repeat this: Fuck Confucius.)

Some point later, feeling normal but absolutely famished, it was decided that our group of friends would walk out to look for food (we were near Chinatown). The venture took more out of me than I expected; by the time we were seated somewhere, I had broken out in cold sweat and my head was spinning again. I was also carrying quite a bit: a head pillow, my scarf/blanket, my rose quartz crystal skull, stationery and crochet project (so typically Virgo). I had to put my head down on my arms and hang onto consciousness while the sound of my heartbeat and blood filled my ears. 

This was an old problem since my teens, and it annoyed me, coming as it did right after the healing I had felt done in the Ayahuasca session. These spells could be due to my part-time chronic anemia/low blood pressure, and in these moments I am required to put everything down, and just breathe. But Ayahuasca space was still close and accessible, and I found it was possible to enter it again like the eye of a storm if I just breathed and focused. And in that space, I declared “This Will be Healed”, and came out of the space back to normal. (Yes, I can throw rather entitled tantrums.) I immediately raised my head and told my friend what had happened. (Note: It was only this one time. I’ve had dizzy spells since then, but my recovery is much quicker than before.) 

Sacred geometry perceived by third eye and heart chakras

The Puzzle Box. Copyright Janet Chui. All rights reserved.

After Effects

Mostly for those who lucid-dream or have developed clairvoyance: These happened to me months after the journey:

  • Intermittent sacred geometry overlays over my real sight
  • Finding myself back in, or close to, Ayahuasca time-space while lucid dreaming and “between words”, including meeting people in the space
  • Dreaming of being given a big bag of “Rubik’s Rainbow Cubes” that reminded me of sacred geometry space, but I could disassemble and assemble these. This came around the time of my 7-day bout with Dengue Fever in July 2019, two years after Ayahuasca.

(I may add to this list as time passes.)

The lotus in Vesica Pisces

Opening and Unfolding, 2018. Copyright of Janet Chui. All rights reserved.

Epilogue

I wouldn’t recommend this journey for people who haven’t done shadow-work. I wouldn’t recommend this to people who are just looking to try another exotic substance. This is plant medicine for healing and realisation. Using the psychedelic component for anything else (including ego-gratification) could backfire big time.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this with people and facilitators you don’t know well. I wouldn’t recommend doing this several days in a row unless you’ve done this before and somehow have an agenda that cannot be tackled in one trip. (Even if massive healing is needed, it may happen by gradual realisation and understanding, therapy, or following one’s astrological clock, instead of an over-ambitious week in Peru or someone’s basement. The healing journey always continues with various tools; it has for me even after Ayahuasca.) 

The opportunity to partake is a gift, and the experience also means that one who has been through it carries the energies that can help others access realisations for their own healing, with or without Ayahuasca.

If you call yourself a healer, but more, if you’ve worked on yourself enough, you carry energy that activates and triggers others for their own healing journey. And you need do nothing else except to share your presence in the times and places, and with the people whom you meet.

And so it is.

Further Reading

Title image: “Lubok” by Carl Jung

About Janet

Janet is the artist and creator behind the Self-Love Oracle. Drawing fantastical subjects since childhood and holding a B.A. in Journalism, she's worked in tourism and publishing, and is currently studying Counseling Psychology. After her experiences with motherhood, divorce, Tibetan Buddhism, healing, and the supernatural, she pushes others to heal through self-exploration and self-expression. She can be reached for her intuitive and creative services here.

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