In 2012, at the behest of one of my employees, I had a phone consultation with a renowned shaman and author in New Mexico. I was told that he would only accept appointments through a referral and that I was privileged to be allowed to speak with him.

Going into the call, I was utterly skeptical. I’d never had such a meeting before and expected it to be a side-show sort of experience. Before the appointment, I was asked to provide photos of any people I wanted to ask questions about. I gave him three.

During the call, the shaman was very matter-of-fact. He didn’t come across as if he was trying to convince me of anything, earn my business, or upsell me. As I asked my questions, there would be a slight pause followed by an answer with minimal commentary. He made a bunch of predictions about my life. As of this date, all but one of them has come true.

One comment he did make near the end of our time is that I was a “good candidate to reap the benefits of Ayahuasca.” I had barely heard of Ayahuasca at the time. He suggested I come to New Mexico to take it with him or find someone locally here in Costa Rica. I had heard rumors that people with addictions were getting clean using this medicine, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I had never watched a video, read a book, or anything else.

After the call, I put the word “Ayahuasca” on my vision board and began to study the medicine. What I learned was both intriguing and frightful. Experiences and physical reactions could vary wildly from person-to-person. More importantly, real scientific evidence about Ayahausca was extremely scarce. I feel that my mind is my most valuable asset. I avoided trying most drugs in my life (and pharmaceuticals), motivated by keeping my brain safe and operating at full capacity.

Fast forward to 2017. I got betrayed in business by a life-long friend that put me into a financial crisis unlike I’d ever experienced. I thought that I would be forced to leave Costa Rica and return to the states. The betrayal caused me to detest a profession I’d always loved, and I found myself devoid of passion. We made plans and started selling everything.

A couple of weeks before we were going to fly back to the US, a friend called from the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica. I had met him when I first got to the country, and we maintained our friendship at a distance through the years. During the conversation, after telling him our plans to return to the US, he said, “Before you do that, you should move here where I live and give it a try.” When he said it, something clicked in my heart, and I knew it was good advice.

I told Adri the next day that I felt God was leading us to stay in Costa Rica rather than move to the states. After a little convincing, she agreed. Two weeks later, we moved to a little town called Tinamastes. The home we rented was at 1,100 meters at the highest point between San Isidro de General and Dominical. On most days, we only had sunshine until around 11 or noon. After that, clouds would form and pass through our windows. The surroundings were pure jungle with over fifty species of birds that visited our yard and various other mammals. We dubbed it the “Casa de las Nubes” – house in the clouds. When it was clear, the visibility was 25km or more.

Just down the mountain in the little town of Tinamastes was a farmer’s market. What the Ticos call a “feria.” Adri and I named it the “hippie market” as it is a mix of gringos, Costa Ricans, and many other nationalities all trading in handmade, natural, and artisan goods. During our second week attending the market, I met a man who asked me if I’d ever tried Ayahuasca. He consequently invited us to attend a three-day ceremony stating, “Your first time, you really want to do a multi-day event to get the whole effect.” And thus we did.

Less than a week later, we spent three days drinking Ayahuasca (the Yage variety, to be exact) with a Columbia shaman and numerous other “shamans” and attendees. Typical reactions to the medicine include violent vomiting and diarrhea. We experienced some of both.

Drinking the brew is anything but pleasant. Imagine if you scooped up some dirt and then mixed it with water and a bunch of fowl and bitter herbs. The consistency is like syrup. The smell of it sets off the gag reflex in some folks. Also, after drinking a cup of it, you’re only allowed a tiny bit of water to cleanse your pallet. Once you take it, you must sit with it as long as you can without vomiting.

The first ceremony started around 11 pm. That night I ended up drinking two cups and vomited quite a bit. The feeling I felt was a mild high, somewhat like smoking potent marijuana. Indeed, there was no mystical experience or hallucinations. I drank it, vomited, slept outside under the stars, and woke up feeling good but nothing revolutionary as people had described the effects.

When the sun started to come up, the shamans started leading us in indigenous worship music. Afterward, I started a conversation with the Columbian who was leading the service and one of his Costa Rica disciples. We were sitting by the pool in three patio chairs, staring at the Diamante waterfall, when all of a sudden, everything shifted.

I entered into a group consciousness with everyone in the ceremony – about twenty people. I could freely access the information in their mind (and spirit) as they could access mine. Judgementalism and condemnation in such a state are non-existent. Everyone accepts everything about everyone. It is as the yogis describe enlightenment – you know you are one with everything and every being.

I began to describe what I was feeling and experiencing to the shamans. Within a few minutes, the Columbian got up and walked back to the house. Meanwhile, I continued my conversation on the patio with his counterpart.

A few moments later, the shaman’s face started to shift. It changed many, many times into every face of Jesus I had ever seen. As I witnessed them all, my heart broke, and I felt incredibly repentant of my ego before Him. We went on to have a conversation with Christ through the shaman that lasted about forty-five minutes by my best estimation.

I never lost track of what was happening. Reality changed before me and then changed back again. The experience wasn’t fuzzy or distorted in any way. Writing this, I can picture it clearly. As far as my memory is concerned, I honestly believe I spoke face-to-face with Jesus. I still recall much of what He said word-for-word. There were still two more days to this ceremony. The things Adri and I witnessed and experienced from just this one event could fill a book.

Over the next eighteen months, we participated in many different ceremonies where we tried more than twenty various psychedelic medicines in ritual settings. We volunteered to work and cook for events so we could observe all of the benefits and effects of these substances first hand. For clarity, all these medicines are legal in Costa Rica when used as a sacrament for religious or spiritual purposes.

In our experience, no other medicine is as spiritually uplifting, cleansing, and fulfilling as Ayahuasca. In time it makes the body spiritually clean, and the vomiting and diarrhea subside. A person can then sit with the medicine with minimal discomfort and meditate on the Divine or serve and care for others going through their spiritual journey.

In December of 2018, we were invited (by the same shaman whose face had transformed into Jesus) to a two-day ceremony to commemorate the opening of his new temple near Tinamastes. On the second day, he encouraged us to drink more Ayahuasca than we ever had previously. And so we did.

I had recently re-read Be Here Now for the third time and had been wrestling with the idea that Baba Neem Karoli was indeed a full representation of the most high God. Having followed Ram Dass’ teachings for a decade, I’d never bought into the idea that God could be a little old Indian man with only a blanket. It was on my mind that night.

Around 2 am, I began to feel and see several presences around me, including Yogananda, Sri Yukteswar, Babaji, Jesus, and others. I started to cry, and the shaman came over the check on me. I told him I felt “horribly homesick” and that “I didn’t want to be here anymore.” As I continued to cry, he didn’t know what to say, and he went back to his position at the front of the ceremony.

A few moments after the shaman walked away, Baba Neem Karoli shoved my soul out of my body. My experience was then sitting in front of my own body, looking into my own face. What happened next I can only describe as a download of information. My entire perspective of reality changed for good. He removed something permanently from my mind, whereas I stopped feeling anger and jealousy altogether. He stripped away my remaining fears of death.

After that, I knew for sure that Maharaj-ji is as fully God as any man can be. I left that ceremony entirely in love with Him. His presence has been with me in a powerful way ever since. That was the last time we participated in any Ayahuasca ceremonies. Shortly after that, Baba instructed us to move back to the city.

Everybody wants a spiritual shortcut. No one desires to do the work of austerities to detach from this world. Instead, they’d rather take an “enlightenment” pill and get instant gratification. Many people treat Ayahuasca as if it’s the end-all, be-all of spirituality. It isn’t.

I’ve spent my entire life ministering to people. During my nearly two decades in the evangelical church, I served in many positions, including children’s, youth, college, and men’s minister. I served as Sunday School teacher and director. During that time, I led hundreds to Christ, memorized thousands of scripture verses, and mentored hundreds of people. I’ve had a regular prayer and study time since I was a teenager. I’ve been meditating now for thirteen years. I’ve actively practiced ahimsa and went three years without touching money. I worked five years as a volunteer with the sheriff’s department and US Customs Service to serve my country help protect children. I’m not saying this to brag or for praise. What I wish to convey with these statements is that my Ayahuasca experiences and benefits were a culmination of many previous spiritual and temporal investments.

One of the leaders from that very first ceremony I discovered was a highly negligent, emotionally disturbed sexual predator. This person lost their medical license and has a criminal record in the US for having a patient die while under the influence of Iboga, a very volatile psychedelic. The thing is, the shamans knew it and kept letting him participate because he brought them so many clients. In other words, they ignored his behavior for money. This had been going on for years.

I confronted them about it, and as a result, the ceremonies they were doing together are no more. The sexual-predator has a pending rape charge against him here in Costa Rica, and hopefully, he won’t be able to hurt others for a while. However, had I not intervened, it would still be going on.

In total, I drank about fifty cups of Ayahuasca during the various ceremonies we attended. The shamans mentioned above had all had hundreds (if not thousands) of cups of the medicine. For all their ceremonies and ritual, the Ayahuasca did not / could not detach them from their worship of money and power. It didn’t make them love people more than they loved their own egos. It didn’t cause them to tell the truth or put God first.

I met dozens of participants in these ceremonies who claimed to have gotten some benefit from the medicine. I also witnessed many of them say “Mother Ayahuasca” had directed them to do things that would create negative karmas and consequences for their lives in the future. It is far, far from a fool-proof way to get to the Divine. Ayahuasca is a powerful method, but just like all others, it requires complete surrender of self for the most significant benefits. To keep drinking and drinking without changing is just another form of addiction.

There are many spiritual methods globally. Most of them function at some level for souls who sincerely desire to change. For folks who want fame and power, all methods are fruitless. The spiritual journey is one of giving up self to the point of nothingness. The goal is to be free, not to be proficient at spiritual method or practice. True freedom comes through surrender to what is. If you’re not willing to do other spiritual practices (i.e., meditation, chanting, japa, etc.), then what you’re likely to get out of Ayahuasca is marginal at best.

I met Maharaj-ji through this medicine. As such, it’s precious to me. I’ve never had such a profound spiritual presence in my life. However, any recommendation I can give must come with some significant caveats.

Set and setting are vitally important. Try to attend a ceremony with folks who are vibrating at a higher spiritual frequency than is typical. Take the medicine around people who will lift you up spiritually – not a group of disconnected strangers on vacation. More critical, carefully vet whatever “shaman” offers it to you. They will most certainly pass you their intentions and desires along with the medicine. That’s the way it functions. If they worship materialism, they might lead you further into it rather than help you escape from it.

More effective than Ayahuasca for your life is to devote yourself to a pure being – the practice of devotion (Bhakti). Print a photo of Maharaj-ji (or Jesus or Anandamayi Ma or Ramana Maharshi) and put it in a prominent place in your home. Choose whatever Being inspires you the most to be kind and compassionate. Then light candles and incense in front of the photo each day. Dwell on the saint’s character and deeds. Doing this for even thirty days will cause a massive positive shift in your life…without all the vomiting and diarrhea!

Sending blessings for your holistic healing and wellbeing.

Sat Nam, Ram Ram,

JC

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