How Ayahuasca Saved More Than My Skin_Featured_, Spirituality Monday, August 6th, 2012
by Mark Flaherty
Seven years ago, ravaged by an extreme and aggressive skin disorder, every day was a battle of agonising pain and sanity-threatening itching that drove me to the brink of suicide. Doctors were less than helpful. “Eczema is incurable,” several specialists told me. “All we can do is manage the symptoms.” But even their strongest steroid cream could do nothing for me. I tried every kind of alternative treatment I could think of without success: acupuncture, Chinese herbs, raw foods, fasting, Reiki and hypnotherapy. All the while a little voice in my head kept saying, “Ayahuasca can help. Ayahuasca can heal you.”
Ayahuasca is a sacred visionary medicine that has been used for thousands of years by shamans in the Amazon jungle to heal all kinds of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual afflictions.
The brew is administered in a ceremonial context by shamans who have gone through years of demanding apprenticeship in which they learn to manage the medicine spirits of the trees. Through the use of icaros (medicine songs) they guide and direct the spirits to travel through the body and remove illness-causing blocked energies.
The ceremonies are known for their intensity—ayahuasca can bring you face to face with repressed parts of yourself that cause pain and suffering. Experiencing these energies in their raw state—feeling them for what they really are—can be overwhelmingly difficult. Previously I’d travelled through South America and partaken in some ceremonies. While they’d been profoundly enlightening, they had also scared the absolute bejesus out of me. “Never again,” I said.
Yet I’d run out of alternatives. I really didn’t want to kill myself, but I simply couldn’t go on living with the level of pain my daily life subjected me to. I wore clothes and moved only when necessary, spending most of my life watching TV to try and distract myself from the physical torture of the inferno raging inside my body.
Ayahuasca was my final hope. The last roll of the dice. To say the ceremonies were tough would be an understatement of colossal proportions. I’d spent my entire life running away from problems, using alcohol as a distraction from self-loathing and crippling fears of anything and everything in life. The plant medicine immediately brought me face to face with the buried demons of my past—in a literal way. As I flew at breakneck speed through a three-dimensional technicolor landscape, grotesque faces emerged from the patterns, some twisted in agony, others laughing menacingly. With each came a corresponding emotion—anger, shame, guilt, sadness.