Familial Ties: Drinking Ayahuasca With My Family


In October of 2019, I, a spiritually curious psychonaut, traveled alone to the Andean mountains of Peru to drink a potent psychedelic plant medicine known as Ayahuasca.

During the course of my travels, I encountered a series of profoundly moving spiritual and emotionally healing experiences. The following is a piece of that magical journey captured to paper.

I saw his dose of brew: it must have been three or four times larger than mine. I thought, either my dose is so small that nothing is going to happen to me, or his dose is so large that he is going to die tonight. Either way, he is going to meet God.

I then proceeded to have the most cataclysmically intense, soul-altering experience of my life.

In the depths of the medicine, he sat near me and I could hear his breathwork; he sounded like a dragon. Deep, lung-filling inhalations. Long, sharp exhalations. Alternating fast breaths, almost hyperventilating, and slow, perfectly controlled breathing patterns. These patterns of breathing morphed like the geometry and thought processes swirling in my neon-lit mind. I knew he was working with the medicine and his breathing, neither he nor the compound in total orchestration. Partially in control, partially being led by this magnificent ‘other’ that was speaking to us both. I knew this because he told me, though we never spoke of it to each other.

Our minds became interconnected quickly as the ceremony began. Maybe it was our shared love of the mystical experience, maybe it was our closeness in age, but somehow a psychic connection was opened between us and we were communicating to each other on a plane I had thought impossible until this very moment.


Photo: Quinten de Graaf

We were sharing visions, we were exchanging energies. The sound of his breathing and the audible aspects of his work signaled to me in the dark. In my mind, I would shoulder some of his load as our connection thrummed. Our various modes of wordless communication made it clear: he was considerably deeper than I was. But he was a warrior. He did not purge. He did not need my help. Maybe the assistance of the powerful shaman, but certainly not my meager attempts to uphold him.

However, I came to realize that my attempt to ply him with strong energy was a work that I needed to do. To practice giving of myself to someone from the deepest part of my heart and soul. To give with no expectation of return on investment. What I thought was an aid to his work was a simultaneous lesson to me. We were working in unison, our minds partially melded together as we pushed forward into this massive unknown, the mammoth weight of the infinite pressing down and reaching into us both. On many levels, we are alone in this abyss, but somewhere we are together. In truth, somewhere we are one and the same.

I crossed back into this plane well before he did. My legs wobbly, my vision still fractured as I made my way out of the maloka into the crisp Peruvian night. My bladder ached. I had held my piss much longer than I wanted to, but walking hadn’t been an option until moments ago. Behind me in the blackness I could still hear his enormous breathing echoing into oblivion; powerful, focused.

Photo: Larm Rmah

I ate soup and waited. My mind an erratic, galloping kaleidoscope of thought and emotion. None of it seemed possible, but there was no denying it. That had been spiritual warfare. That had been telepathic communication, deep healing for myself and others, prophetic visions of possible futures, and impossible windows into an ancient past. Exhausted as I was, I could not lie down until I saw my friend. I waited an hour. Eyes wide, body buzzing as one of the most potent neurotransmitters on the planet faded out of my system. I waited most of another hour, outside, scribbling in huge, arching letters. Feverishly expelling fragmented and chaotic thoughts, black ink wildly splattering white paper under a gorgeously pale moon.

At length he came around the corner and stepped onto the veranda, aided by Jimmy, the retreat facilitator. Our dinner-plate eyes met, a wide grin spread across both of ours faces. I stood and approached him, he let go of Jimmy, and we embraced one another. He was massive, strong of body and mind. Our hearts thumped in time and the brisk night of the Andean mountains filled both of our lungs and emptied in a thin fog as we stood, man to man: battle-hardened, both. Vulnerable. our minds and souls wrenched open and away from us by the events of the evening. He is my brother; the shaman: a surrogate father. Family, bonded via extreme experience though I had only met both men earlier that same day.

Photo courtesy of Clinton Kaley

We did it,” he said, squeezing me tightly. His large frame shivered against the chill and I knew everything he meant, clearly.

This experience was deeply significant as it symbolized to me a moment of authentic masculine connection between male siblings and a father. My own communication with my father had been totally severed earlier in the year. My relationship with my father was, and remains, nonexistent and this was weighing heavily on me at the time of my journey.

I feel that I was being shown that deep connections to other men are accessible, regardless of the wounds sustained in relation to my father. Sometimes this connection can even be found in a man who I had never met. Although the relationship and connection struck me more as brotherly, it felt like a lesson in fatherhood, brotherhood, masculinity, and love.

To hear an audio version of this story and more about Clinton’s journey in Peru, listen to Episode 8 of Psychedelicast here.


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