[Disclaimer: I am not suggesting in this post that you try San Pedro or any other type of plant medicine. I do not endorse it or believe it is the one way to emotional or spiritual expansion. This is the story of my personal experience. I am not available to give recommendations, I would say that if you are considering working with plant medicines, do your full due diligence first because it can be dangerous and risky!]
It’s many days post working with San Pedro plant medicine, and I’m still feel its effects, although I have a feeling those effects will last much further into the future.
It does live up to its name of being the plant medicine that “chops off your head”, which sounds really violent, but what it means is that it quietens the mind so that your heart can open up: to feel itself, to become the conduit for your emotions and the messages carried through the body. It is a powerful plant teacher and has been in use for healing traditions in Peru for over 3000 years.
I’m not sure what called me to this experience; they say that the medicine finds you when you are ready, and intuitively when I received the call I new it was time.
Knowing little about plant medicine, I thought naively that all plant medicine IS ayahuasca, but upon arrival at the weekend, I was comforted to hear that we would be working with San Pedro “Grandfather Spirit”, a far more gentle and loving spirit compared to Grandmother Spirit, ayahuasca.
We spent the weekend based in the beautiful countryside around Glastonbury. The sun had been blazing for days throughout England, but no fiercer than in the deep south of the country. The opening ceremony was beautiful and grounding, yet my nerves quaked. The first cup tasted like a cold watery slush of green tea, and it wasn’t too difficult to receive, at least nowhere near as awful as I’ve heard ayahuasca tastes!
Shortly afterward we took a second cup and then began our pilgrimage into the valley to find our spot to meditate for the day.
I was already feeling nauseous and a couple of the group were already feeling very sick. We walked through a field that I had intense deja vu around. In fact, it wasn’t deja vu, it was the memory of a dream I had many years ago, but we passed through this field and continued on. I put the thought behind me.
We arrived in the field that had been chosen by the shaman, and soon after we put together the altar for our work. No sooner had we done so than a huge group of cows came over, they must’ve been in a part of the field that was beyond view. We attempted to herd them away but it was clear: this was not to be our field. We headed back and found ourselves back in the field where I had experienced my dream memory, how funny I thought.
As we moved through the field, a hawk appeared flying high above and the shaman pointed to it saying “do you see our guide?” We followed this circling hawk as it led us higher and higher up the field where it circled a few times around a lone tree before disappearing off behind the trees.
“Here is where we will do our work”, said the Shaman.
By this point I was feeling really nauseous, but I didn’t give into it. The Shaman had already told us that when you feel nausea it is the plant spirit unravelling the resistances that you hold within. When you feel it, you have two choices: either breathe into it and ask, “what are you?”, go deeper into it until you are shown what needs to take place within to energetically unravel it, so the nausea can pass. Or you simply purge that energy from within, also releasing it.
I set up my blanket on the far east side of the field, sprayed myself with sun screen and tried my best to not vomit! It was so interesting because I could walk around, talk, and fully function when I brought my awareness externally, but as soon as I sat down and relaxed it was like sinking into a hole, immediately falling into a deep meditation that would ordinarily take hours to achieve – if at all – due to the usual chatter of the mind.
I realised pretty quickly this was going to be a huge internal battle for me. I felt my mind coming to arms, ready to fight Grandfather Spirit with all it has and, my oh my, did it put up a fight. It was warring on all fronts. When I received sentences, words, sensations, or knowing, I couldn’t tell if it was my mind trying to rally me to its side, or if it was a genuine message from beyond the veil. My frustration was running deep, and I was exhausted trying to sift truths from fiction.
The Shaman said that it was time to have a third cup and really drop into it. We spent some time together, and I said I felt like I was drunk, hungover and high all at once, which was a great description of how it felt! I explained the battle I was having with my mind, the amount of resistance it was putting up, and we concluded that I simply wasn’t allowing myself to feel.
I have spent 34 years being conditioned that anything that is not of the mind is both a weakness, unsafe, and unreal. I had spent my life not allowing myself to feel, and it was made starkly clear because so far on this journey with San Pedro, otherwise known as “the heart opener”, my mind was doing all it could to shut down my body and my consciousness from the experience.
After my third cup I threw it all up immediately, and right next to me.
I was horrified and apologised profusely to the Shaman for having done it so close to the altar. A new awareness was floating in, that I was also not allowing myself to fully drop into the plant medicine because there were people all around me and I had this fear of “being seen”.
I didn’t want to lose control, or be looked upon in all my humanness, judged by others, ashamed to be seen crying, purging, and worried I would look weak. It was so strange in many ways that I put this upon myself when at least half the group by this point was heaving all over the field!
I went back to my blanket and dropped in some more, feeling better for the release. But the battle continued. I was receiving many visions, and feeling energies and beings around me, but somehow I couldn’t quite touch them or receive from them fully.
Because this process was so exhausting, I felt like I kept drifting off into a wakeful sleep, where I couldn’t hold enough awareness to tune into the guidance, but I wasn’t falling fully asleep either because my being was so stimulated.
There was a point where I couldn’t stop laughing because it felt like someone had taken me in a headlock and pushed me under water saying “YOU WILL FUCKING MEDITATE!”. The ridiculousness of this image really tickled me.
For the longest time I remember lying on my side and watching a lady bird trying to climb to the top of a blade of grass. I wondered what message this was sending, vaguely remembering that this totem was a sign of good luck and wishes fulfilled.
The day went on and on, hours passed, the nausea returned – along with a headache – as my resistance perpetuated. No matter what technique I tried I could not release the rule of my mind. I tried breathing into the nausea, I tried persuading it, I tried turning from my mind and trying to listen to my body but, no matter what, I couldn’t let go, and I always felt like I was hovering above the true depths of this experience.
As the sun began to set, I realised I was starting to come around and my awareness was becoming more tuned into my surroundings. After a bit of watermelon we ended with a beautiful despacho ceremony where we expressed our gratitude to all the spirits that has been by our side on this journey, and sealed our intentions going forward.
On the walk back to the camp I felt my mind celebrating: “I did it, I won the battle!!”, it was snidy and I felt the part of me that really wanted to fully embrace this experience with both arms shrinking in bitterness from it.
For the final leg back to camp, I found myself walking alongside the Shaman and I said that I realised from the meditation that I am continuing to hold onto this resistance because there is more that I need to learn about the many routes to surrender AND when I finally do surrender, it will be the ultimate release.
To which I received the firm response:
“No. This is a story of the mind. You desire to serve and hold space for people, you cannot from a place of resistance. I can only hold space in the way I do BECAUSE I am surrendered.”
Suddenly my nausea came back intensely, I couldn’t stand up properly, the mind’s rule was once again being questioned and my resistance was clearly going through the roof!
Soon enough I was on my hands and knees and purging absolutely everything. Right at the end of the day after sunset, AND in front of EVERYONE getting ready for dinner in the kitchen.
Oh thank you Universe, for someone who hates to be seen in front of everyone you couldn’t have planned it any better! “Well, I was always late to the party”, I said.
At this point I was totally exhausted, I had finally completely and utterly surrendered to Grandfather Spirit, and my mind, which was so convinced it had won the battle, at the eleventh hour of the day, completely gave in.
I skipped the dinner feast and went straight to bed, and I finally felt like I could feel my body.
A wave of bliss and calm, tenderness and security swept over me as I was falling asleep. Finally Grandfather Spirit could begin his work on me. I was surrendered. I can’t even describe how profoundly supported I felt, there was a warm blissful sensation moving through my entire body from head to toe and I felt like I was floating away on calm waters into sleep.
The gold I took away from this experience is to realise the extent of the hold my mind has over my experience, how many layers of release I have to do around this, and the disservice it does me to hold on.
I also realised that the reason why I struggle to exhaustion with this resistance is so that I can learn deeper and more broadly than most what it means to surrender into trust. If I am to pave the way for others to do the same, I have to walk the path myself first.
Even now a few days following this experience my mind still feels like it has been shut down, and I can drop into long meditation effortlessly. I received guidance that this won’t last forever, but that this is a good opportunity for me to practise body-connection while my mind tries to reorient itself and isn’t able to sabotage any progress I make.
I’m wondering if this is the start of full surrender into trust. I would definitely co-create and release through San Pedro again. Now I know what to expect, and I have done some work at releasing some resistance to body-communication, I’m hoping that next time my mind will see that it is safe to take a back seat so I can learn my next lessons for a deepening unfolding.
Thank you Grandfather Spirit for your loving and gentle work with me!