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Staying Present: My Second Night with Ayahuasca

On the second night of the Ayahuasca retreat, I went into the ceremony room already feeling a little nauseated. My sister and I were among the first to take the rapé, a snuff-like powder that’s blown into your nose and is meant to ground you and help control nausea.

My sister’s experience was much better this time. She only took a half-shot of Ayahuasca, and she dressed warmly: three pairs of socks, double pants, two jackets, and a hat. She enjoyed the hallucinations and had an overall good experience without vomiting.

I took one shot, and this second night I didn't vomit. Instead of yearning to have an outer-worldly adventure, I focused on the lessons I had learned the previous day and had fun observing the visions.

Starlit night sky in pinks and blues against dark cliffs
Photo by Pawel Nolbert from

Every time my mind wandered, I brought my attention back to the present. Every time I started thinking about the shaman not being a true shaman, or not being compassionate, or the singer singing out of tune, I said to myself, “No judgment!” Every time I started comparing the experience, or people, or anything, I thought, “No comparing!”

Every time I started rehearsing in my mind what I would tell others about the visions I was having, I told myself, “No talk practice!” or “No talk track!”

This way, I spent the whole night, from around 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM, in the present moment, just observing the hallucinations and listening to the music. The visions included some kind of machinery, mechanics, buildings of all sorts, underwater worlds, as well as tiny elephants, the size of rats.

At some point, I realized that to truly experience the music, I needed to open my heart and ALLOW the music to enter me, not try to forcibly PULL it inside me.

It was a beautiful night with profound lessons I have since brought into my life. I'm especially keen on using “No judgment, no comparison!” and “Stop the talk track!”

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