These are challenging times. It feels like life as we knew it changed overnight when COVID-19 swept the world. When things change this rapidly, and this drastically, it can feel like a total sense of upheaval. The ground beneath our feet feels unstable, and the path before us uncertain.
I personally know what this feels like to have the rug pulled out from under me. I’d like to share this story with you and what I learned through that experience, as well as what ayahuasca has taught me about navigating through crisis situations.
Whether you are on the medicine path or not, these teachings may help shed a glimmer of light if you are also finding it emotionally and mentally challenging to make peace with the immense changes that are afoot.
There are some moments in life you never forget. This moment was one of them, because, in this moment, one of my deepest fears transmuted into manifest reality.
Bent over in the garden, the taste of salty sweat seeped into the corner of my mouth. I looked down at my hands, fingers stretched out as I noticed the semi-circle of dark brown dirt outlining the tips of each of my fingernails, like an organic manicure I just received from the earth.
With the help of a few friends, we were planting turmeric for next seasons harvest, a welcome change after running our last retreat of the season. We were home on our beloved land on the Big Island of Hawaii, and after 8 years of being married and 5 years of pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into that land and business, Noah and I were about to take our first vacation for three entire months.
I looked up from the garden as our friend Henry was running over. We just caught word: the pavement of the road in a subdivision close to our land had cracked open, and lava started to slowly pour forth like a chocolate lava cake ever so gently oozing chocolate from the cracks.
At that moment, all space and time stood still. We knew we had to evacuate.
We had a small staff living with us on our 10 acres of land that we bought bare, rugged, and raw about 5 years prior. We started that project with almost no resources; nothing but an inner vision of what that project could become and prayer that it becomes a place for healing, growth, and transformation. Little did we know the depths of just how true this prayer would become.
When we bought the land, we didn’t yet know that we would tap into a volcanic reservoir of hot water and that this would one day become Sacred Source Springs; a place for ceremony, for healing, for laughing and singing. A place for gathering and growing, in more ways than one.
Over the years, many people would come to experience profound transformation on that land. One morning, I witnessed a woman participating in one of my retreats, with her feet on the earth, sobbing in the garden. After living in the city for so long, she began to remember an ancient connection that offered her a kind of nourishment she had long forgotten, but her Spirit quietly yearned for. On our land, she became reacquainted with a part of herself that she had forgotten she so desperately needed to stay in touch with.
We held an inner vision of that retreat center, and the more we believed that it was possible, the more miraculous things unfolded to support the fruition of the vision. As we dreamt into possibility, and then watched those dreams manifest on that land, the essence of miracles became woven into the fabric of the structures we built. Like a rippling effect, these physical spaces would continue to support many more people’s inner visions coming to fruition, including my own.
As a result, the spaces we build resonated at the frequency of this magic. And because we bought that land on a shoestring — a short, fraying one at that!–– what people received, more than anything on that land, was hope. The hope that their inner visions could also transmute into reality. The hope that living more harmoniously on this planet is actually possible. The hope that it’s possible to create something out of nothing. They soaked in hope when they immersed their bodies in the miracle of the 111 degrees of volcanic hot water, they ate hope from the fruit birthed on the land, and drank the hope of possibility in their cups.
After we heard the initial news of what would become the 2018 Kilauea volcanic eruption, shocked with disbelief, we came together in the garden. We put in place a plan to evacuate. My mind screamed in protest — this couldn’t be happening — while my heart told me to trust in the great unknown.
A few nights before, I had a deeply profound journey with ayahuasca, my primary plant teacher. After working with ayahuasca for almost ten years, I have gone through some significant initiations with her. This night was one of them. I received a vision, more like a full body-knowing, that something life-altering was about to unfold.
I had already been sensing this, like I was on the precipice of some cataclysmic change in my life. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen, but I could feel it in my bones; I knew something was coming.
I’ve been on this same precipice of massive change before in my life, so I was already familiar with the eery yet exciting and nervous feeling of the calm before the storm.
Journeying into the dark hours of the night with grandmother ayahuasca, I experienced a profound shift. As I described it to a friend, it felt like the tectonic plates deep within my being had shifted.
At that juncture in time, I too was at a crossroads in my life. I was holding on and clinging to what I had created in the past, and I knew that this was preventing me from opening up to a greater possibility of what could come. As I already knew, sometimes an old way of being has to completely burn to the ground for something else to rise from the ashes.
I was feeling the call to publicly step out as an advocate for psychedelics and sacred plant medicines. Ayahuasca has had a significantly positive impact on my life, and I wanted to start openly sharing about it. Not only have psychedelics and sacred plant medicines help cure me of addiction and manage depression, they have taught me what it really means to be a visionary and create my reality from the inside-out. These are powerful allies that can help us foster greater emotional resilience and unlock our capacity to create with a purpose.
After leading transformational retreats for almost 10 years, I was slowly starting to formulate an inner vision of a new kind of ayahuasca retreat. The vision was to weave together a unique type of framework I had been developing, weaving together the Bodhisattva teachings with the latest research in science (biology, neuroscience, quantum physics, and psychedelic studies) to teach people how to become the visionaries of their lives. I know it sounded crazy, but I kept getting the message, the visions, and curriculum directly from ayahuasca to pursue this path.
Who was I to do anything remotely like this? I had no “authority.” I am a white woman with no lineage. I was terrified of the idea of stepping out publicly in this way. I knew there would be a lot of people who would judge me. Yet I intuitively knew that something unique that wanted to get shared was coming through me in all my journeys and that the risk of stepping out was worth taking.
In the darkest moments of that journey, on that auspicious night, something happened. Through the portal of consciousness, I met Great Spirit at my altar.
In that moment, I offered my life up at the alter, and I made an agreement with the Source of all of Creation. I expressed that I was ready and willing to go through whatever needed to happen to bring me in full alignment with my heart path so that I may be of greater service to as many people as possible.
I know at the heart of it, my highest service is to inspire: inspire people to awaken to higher potential, to remember how powerful they truly are, and to expand the boundaries of what they believe is possible to create with their lives. I knew this meant I also had to expand what I believed was possible and fully dedicate my life to the medicine path.
After this agreement was made, I sat in the middle of the infinite vastness of the void. In an instant, the channel opened up, and a full song came through, literally falling into my lap as I sat in meditation. Leaning into the feeling that my life was about to drastically change, but not yet knowing what that even meant, I leaned over, picked up my guitar, and sang a song I now call “Trust in the Great Unknown.”
The very next morning, I awoke to the literally shaking of the earth, movement that would be the catalyst for enormous change in my life. In the following week, thousands of earthquakes would rattle our lives as the tectonic plates shifted deep beneath the ocean and the volcano we happily lived on, awakened.
For two weeks, we got out as much of our belongings as we could. There were only two roads in and out of lower Puna that we could use to access our land, one of which soon became covered by lava, and the other of which was splitting open and steaming with volcanic gases.
It sounded like bombs being dropped in a war zone as the earth violently split open, releasing vast amounts of toxic gas emissions.
We didn’t know how much longer we would have to evacuate, and over the course of about 12 days, we proceeded to rip apart something we had spent 5 years building. With gas masks on our faces and shoes on our feet, we walked over broken glass shattered from the earthquake. We shoved anything we could into bins and boxes, piling it into as many truckloads we could, drove it up the coast, and stored our most precious belongings outside, strapped down under tarps, in three different locations.
Amidst the shock, disbelief, and fear, the entire time we evacuated, the only thing repeatedly going through my head were the lines from the song that had just come through only a few days earlier in my ayahuasca journey, playing like a loop in my mind:
“Trust in the great unknown,
Trust that the way will be shown, and
Trust that the highest will unfold”.
Look into your hands…those are the keys you hold…
The key to unlock the portal in is your breath, so let’s begin,
Take a deep breath in….
Without a doubt, this song was a beacon of hope. It was the pinhole of light at the end of what I knew would be a long dark tunnel. It was my future self reaching through dimensions to throw me a lifeline. This song was Spirit’s way of anchoring me into trust, reminding me to not lose sight in the darkness.
I believe that Spirit knew that the sheer shock of what was about to unfold in my life would be devastating. This song was the sound-frequency-compass to help me find my way, over and over again, back to center. When fear, despair or anxiety would hurl me over the edge, that song was my sole saving grace. It was a constant reminder of the agreement I made that night, a reminder to not to succumb to the fear, doubt, anger, and grief as I watched my entire known reality crumble to pieces right before my eyes. Everything I currently knew to be true, drastically shifted.
This experience made it viscerally clear that the real work I had been doing with ayahuasca was training for shifting tides. In some ways, I feel like her mission is to help prepare all of humanity for the enormous changes to come.
In a sense, ceremony offers us an advanced training ground, preparing us with the necessary toolsets to traverse through the unknown, turbulent, and murky waters of uncertainty with as much grace, calm and ease as possible.
Despite my training, I still largely flailed about. I still clung to what was, resisted what would be, grieved, complained, fell into depression, and had moments of total despair as I searched for meaning and kept asking why — after everything we put into that land — why?!
But under the surface, I still had a glimmer of hope.
Unable to be on our land due to air toxicity, Noah and I got on a plane to Costa Rica where we watched and waited for months as the lava continued to flow, praying that it wouldn’t consume our land.
We had topography in our favor, and even though the lava flowed only a mile above us, there was a slight ridge above our land that caused the flow to channel down the other side, covering vast areas as it merged with the ocean. Our community was ripped apart, and many people were not as lucky as we were, as we all watched the lava take their homes and land.
While the lava was still flowing, someone made an offer to buy our land. It was a painful and agonizing decision. This land had become a visceral part of my body and selling it felt like cutting off my own arm, or selling my own baby. Many who lost their homes would be appalled at hard this was for us, considering they lost everything, but we also lost the dream of our future there. We decided to take the offer.
Letting go of our home and land spiraled me into the darkest period of my life. But it was in the darkness of this cocoon that I could still see an inner vision of what could be. I still had that glimmer of hope.
Through this tumultuous inner process, I reemerged from this time by launching the most successful retreat of my career, birthing that inner vision into fruition. Only two months before coronavirus forced the entire world to shut down, I launched Aya Visionary. Forty people came together for this retreat over New Years 2020, and leading this retreat changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.
This journey has taught me the importance of hope. It’s taught me the importance of trust. It’s taught me that we don’t always know why things happen to us, and that the spiritual path is full of hidden surprises. Crisis can be a profound catalyst for our transformation.
When we cling and grasp to what was, our hands are not open to receive what’s to come. This is a time for letting go. This is a time for trusting in the great unknown.
For aspiring Bodhisattva’s on the plant medicine path.